There is a poem by Sheenagh Pugh http://www.panhala.net/Archive/Sometimes_Pugh.html that I love. It is about optimism and the message that sometimes things actually work out ok. In a blog about challenge and struggle, I thought I’d share this – and that I would share the story of how I found my birth mother. I didn’t intend to, but this is a blog about mothers and daughters and this is a story which starts well, goes well and ends well. We need to know these things are possible.
When I was 29, I decided to find her. I had a son, and the story I had internalised all my life, that my mother had me and gave me away because she didn’t want to have a baby, and carried on with her life, no longer rang true. It didn’t seem as if it could be that simple. I was tired too of being asked about my family medical history and not knowing. Or if my son looked like my side of the family, which just consisted of me.
For children born before 1975, you must meet with a social worker who will find your birth certificate and give it to you. I did this, a lovely woman called Kate, who asked me why I wanted to know, what I expected, and also found my adoption file for me. My birth certificate had an address on it. I called Directory Enquiries, gave my mother’s surname and the address, and they gave me a number. Clearly a member of her family still lived there. I called it and asked for another name, wanting to hear a voice. An elderly man answered.
Approaching someone who is a close relative but may not know, is tricky. Weeks later, at home during the day, I was lying in the bath thinking things through. I had an idea and decided to instantly act on it. Wrapped in a towel, I rang the number again and pretended to be a researcher from the University my mother attended. I told the man we were doing a survey on former students and would he mind terribly if we sent her a survey, possibly to her home address. Would you like her home address, he asked, helpfully. Apart from thinking whether he really should give her address out so easily, I accepted.
Kate wrote to her on my behalf. A tactful, respectful letter, asking if she could help someone trace her family tree. No mention of adoption or motherhood. I waited and after an endless week or two, a reply came. I held in my hands a letter from my mother saying I was her daughter and she would very much like to meet me.
I wrote back to her. I included a photo, agonising over which one would be best. She wrote back and we agreed to talk on the phone. On the day she called, it was near Christmas. I had been out with J and my husband to a family lunch. On the way back we rescued a young woman whose car had broken down and her young daughter. They were in our house and her father had arrived to pick her up. While making polite conversation, the phone rang. As soon as I heard the voice, I knew. How could I have this conversation watched by strangers. I told her I would call back in two minutes and raced upstairs.
We talked for an hour. The first thing she told me was how glad I had found her, that she had so wanted to keep me but her parents had stopped her and no one would help her. She told me how she took me out to say good bye to me for the last time and wept. I was stricken at her distress, but at the same time a light went on and a voice inside my head told me that I was loved, I was wanted. We talked about so many things, cramming a life into a telephone call, but knowing this was just the beginning. I learned about my father (a whole other story), my brother and his life. It was like the moment in a film when the final piece of a missing puzzle is found and a miracle happens.
After the call, I went downstairs. J and his father were in the dark in the front room, looking outside. It had started to snow and Father Christmas was on a sleigh waving and children were singing carols. Of course it was a Rotary Club Christmas collection and while the snow was real, it wasnt Christmas Eve. But if someone had told me that Father Christmas really did exist and was outside our house, I would have believed them. Because something definitely magical had taken place.
So there you have it. No struggle, no challenge. A happy ending with no hitch. Sixteen years later everything is still ok. Things can and do work out. Life is full of challenges already and we have to hold on to the moments of joy as tightly as we can