Tuesday, 10 January 2012

How I felt when my birth family made contact

(c) Phae
As the new year begins, many people with an adoption connection consider tracing their birth relatives. Adoptive father Paul recalls the moment his birth family got in touch and explains the complexities of his relationships with both his birth and adoptive families.

When my mobile rang I remember that I was rather annoyed by the interruption - it had been a very busy day at work and I remember thinking that I could do without the disruption of my thought process; I looked at the number - withheld.

"Hello," I snapped and waited for a response that told me there was a person on the other end - after a pause,
"Ahhh, hello, is that Paul?"
"Yep." Australian accent on the other end. Must be an agent I remember thinking - as an IT Contractor I would sometimes get several phone calls a day.

"Hi Paul, my name is Kylie and there isn't any easy way of saying this, I am your sister". Hang on I thought, I don't have a sister called Kylie, in fact, I have no relations in Australia.

I was born in Northern Ireland in the Seventies, I'm the eldest son and always knew I was adopted - I never thought of tracing my birth family. I was brought up with my brother and sister, who are also adopted, in what many would consider an idyllic family home.

"Sorry, I think you have the wrong number," I said, "I don't have an Australian sister" - 17th of September, not April 1st, I thought.
"No, not one but two - you are adopted right?" This conversation was going in a different direction and one I certainly hadn't foreseen.

"Yeah, I am..." – I had always felt a bit special because of it.

"Well, your Mother and Father gave you up for adoption in Northern Ireland and together, they emigrated to Australia; got married and some years later had me and my sister, we are related, we have the same parents."

And so I found out, this was the way it happened - I had two full sisters, a birth mother and father who were still together and who all lived in Australia. To this day my Dad apologises for giving them my mobile number, he panicked he said, when they phoned the family home and asked for it – I think I would have done the same if it had been me.

The relationship went on to be a difficult one, I didn't really have anything in common with them other than heritage and I didn't feel that they had considered my feelings when they contacted me; nobody asked me if it was OK. In a few days I got a photo and remember thinking that I didn't look anything like them, whereas my girlfriend, now my wife, met my adopted Mum and Dad in a busy Dublin hotel foyer and spotted them before I did. "You’re like them," she told me later, "I just knew it was them." I guess people grow alike.

Eventually it was OK. We have a relationship now which works for all but not before a period of no contact (over a year) - they were not able to deal with the guilt of giving me up all those years ago.

When my wife and I began the adoption process for ourselves, this time as parents, I contacted my birth family because I didn't like the way things had been left between us. They are now Nan and Pops to our wonderful little girl, but they will never be my parents, I already have the best Mum and Dad this proud parent could ever have wished for.

BAAF's search & reunion expert Julia Feast adds: "Paul’s account of the being contacted ‘out of the blue’ really highlights why it is so important to make that initial contact through an intermediary so that people are not put on the spot and have time to consider how they want to respond. When contact is welcomed, either initiated by the adopted adult or a birth relative, good, satisfying and long lasting relationships can develop, without affecting the strength of feeling the adopted person has for their mum and dad.

"As with any relationship, renewed relationships with birth family members are likely to have their ups and downs. It is important to work through these and address any issues that arise to ensure that the contact meets everyone’s needs." 
For more info, visit: http://www.adoptionsearchreunion.org.uk/contact/reunions/

The British Association for Adoption & Fostering (BAAF) is urging the Government to undertake a full consultation exercise with relevant agencies over a Parliamentary Committee’s recommendation to abolish the Edited Electoral Register (EER). Read more on the BAAF website.

Join BAAF for a live Twitter Chat on the pros and cons of tracing birth relatives online Wednesday, January 25 (7-8pm).

1 comment:

Alex Brown said...

Paul, you're amazing and I feel proud to be your wife xx

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