I’m a secret, a mistake, an incident, a skeleton in another woman’s closet, and countless other depressing names that I’ve given myself, and joked about, over the years. I’m adopted. I’ve always known, and it’s always affected me, even though I’ve claimed it doesn’t. During 2015 (the bitch troll year from hell), I realised I’d been ghosted by my birth mum on Facebook. Deleted. Gone. Erased forever.
It’s probably one reason I had an existential crisis. The worst thing was, I wasn’t blocked, so I could still see photos of her new, perfect, oblivious family. I think she’d done it some time before, but I hadn’t fully realised.
I first contacted my birth mum, R, out of the blue after Googling her number in an IT class aged 14. “Hi, I’m your daughter,” were the naive words which fell so easily out of my mouth. It wasn’t a sagacious decision. She felt everything; denial, anger, confusion, and then relief. She wanted to meet me. We sobbed, hard. A river of tears flowed down my pale blue shirt as I sat on the school steps.
I wrote about it in a jovial manner five years later for a newspaper, although we’d still not met (at one point, my social worker read me a letter which said she didn’t want to be in contact), we’d started messaging again. I was hopeful. I thought we’d come face-to-face eventually, when she could really deal with it all. My parents were supportive, but I didn’t realise I’d opened Pandora’s box.
R said she wanted to make up for the years she’d missed out on. She’d never be my mother, my mother is an incredible woman, someone who has been there my entire life, but I wanted to get to know my birth mum, my half-brother and sister, and other blood relatives. She claimed she didn’t know my father’s surname, and she never told him she was pregnant.
It was hard at first, but I felt the door was open. I thought I’d finally be rid of the heavy, overbearing feeling of abandonment, and I could get the answers to so many questions I’d wanted to ask. Another social worker visited our family home and quizzed me on what they were. I knew, but I wasn’t telling them. Why should I? God, I was an obstinate little brat.
We finally met when I was 21, after a row. We hadn’t been in touch for a while. She blamed me mostly, saying she wouldn’t hear anything for months and then I’d be back on her radar. Utter crap. I’d said to her so many times; ‘Let’s speak regularly, let’s do this properly, I’m not angry, I forgive you, I want to wipe the slate clean.’ Her reaction later was merely an excuse.
It was too complicated for her. She would feel guilt no matter how close we got. I would be the fuck up staring her in the face every time we met, the past she tried to bury. I got frustrated, I pressured her, said she’d never forgive herself if something happened to me, so she caved. I never should have done that. We struggled to see things from each other’s perspectives.
The day she came to visit, I’d spent hours in tears. I told one person, but I dealt with it alone, for years I chose to deal with it alone. She opened the door and was just a stranger, frankly. It wasn’t the emotional meeting you see in films; a girl bounding through a terminal at an airport, throwing her arms around the woman who carried her for nine months.
“Hi,” I simply said. “Come in.”
Neither of us cried, it was probably the most bizarre moment of my life. I’d never met anyone related to me. It was peculiar. She had the same teeth, identical big eyes, she was blonde, but her hair fell the same way, and she was a total motormouth dealing with a love life drama. I stood, smoking the same cigarettes as her in the kitchen, thinking: ‘Jesus Christ, she’s me in 20 years time.’
We spoke for a few hours about life, nothing too deep; my career, my family, any burning questions I had. She was too far along to abort me, and she didn’t hold me when I was born. I wanted to ask a lot more questions but we had years, right? It wouldn’t be the only meeting. R was happy, she knew it was the right decision to put me up for adoption, and so did I.
The last thing she said in person was: “I don’t know what you want from me?” Like a boyfriend who has just dumped you for the 7th time in your teens. “What do you want? Because I don’t really know what I can give you”. We exchanged a few messages until last year, mostly about urgent family matters, but she’d wiped me from social media. I felt she’d deleted me entirely from her life, her past, her mind. But I know now that’s not true.
No matter what you go through in life, I know my shit is nothing compared to some people’s, I don’t think anything affects you more than death, or ‘family’ rejecting you. Sometimes you have to deal with them in a similar way. Come to terms with things, realise there is NO closure. Paint a smile on your face, get on with life, when inside you’re secretly torn apart.
At the end of the day, R is not my family. My parents went through IVF and years of heartache before they adopted me. I love them to death. They are my family, in my eyes, they are my blood. But it was tough, and it’s taken time to realise I won’t get over it, but I will move on. I swallowed my bitterness like many adopted children, stopped looking for answers, and most importantly – I forgave her, and myself.
I’m here because of the fact R didn’t have an abortion, and I’d like to think I’m becoming a stronger woman after coping with the shit of last year and coming out of the other side. I’m not only the things that happened to me in the past. And now I can write about this, like I do most rubbish situations, when I’ve jumped over a few personal hurdles, and when I’ve risen above it.
Writer’s note: This year I’m supporting Adoption UK through my charitable donations.