My birth mother, Lucy, didn’t know I was going to be taken away from her when it happened.
As the product of an affair with a married man called Tom, when I was born in 1951 we moved into a home for unmarried mothers.
Lucy always knew I was going to be adopted, but the way it happened was just heartbreaking.
She was called into a room on the pretence I was going to get weighed, but instead, I was taken away and Lucy waited and waited for me to be given back to her.
Eventually, she looked out of the window to see her baby son being carried off by a couple called Hilda and Eric Young. She could only watch as they got into a taxi and took me away to a new life and a new identity.
I find it cruel that she never got to say goodbye to me. But that’s just the way it was back then.
I didn’t know it at the time, but apparently my grandfather did not take kindly to the idea of having an adopted grandson. In his words, he said ‘I don’t want that bastard child in my home’.
Yet despite this early hesitance, I had a happy childhood and would often visit him to help him in the garden, feed the chickens, collect eggs and watch his dog Bill race around the fields.
I don’t know how old I was when I was told I was adopted, but it must have been when I was very young because I’ve always known.
In 1976 the law changed to allow adoptees to seek out their birth parents, while birth parents were forbidden from tracing their children. So the following year, not long before I got married, I found out who I was and the names of my birth parents.
At the time, I felt content just knowing who they were, however it wasn’t until 1988, after my wife had given birth to our second son, that I pursued the matter further. I was filling out a job application and a health question came up. It asked if there was any history of heart disease or cancer in the family, and I simply couldn’t answer because no one I knew in my life was a blood relative.
It gave me the kickstart I need to find my birth parents and using the information on my birth certificate, tried to find Lucy first.
When that didn’t bring me any success, I looked for my birth father Tom, instead. Eventually we found out that although he had moved, his old neighbour was still in the same house, so we visited him to find out if he had a forwarding address. He didn’t, but he knew the town he moved to, which was at least something to go by.
With this new information I visited my local library, where a really helpful librarian showed me to the microfiche where all the telephone directories were kept. She turned on the reader and, if by magic, the cursor was on Tom’s name, address and telephone number – she didn’t even need to search his name. I had finally found my birth father.
My wife phoned Tom on my behalf and asked if he knew the whereabouts of Lucy and if my birth date was significant to him.
He told her that he’d actually married Lucy in 1967, not long after his previous wife had passed away, and she was there with him by the phone.
He said they’d both been waiting for this call to come for many years.
Even though I let my wife do all the talking, I still felt very excited and nervous. I had only expected to find Tom, never in a million years did I think I’d find my birth mother too, but I did, so it was all a bit of a shock and surprise.
A few days later I went alone to visit them.
Tom and Lucy’s reaction to me seeking them out was a mix of surprise and delight as they’d both wanted this to happen for so long. It’s fair to say that first meeting was full of nerves, trepidation and excitement for all of us and I even got to meet my older half-sister Rosemary, who I didn’t even know existed until then.
I even learned that that after Lucy had found out what had happened to me, she’d gone to the cinema to try and distract herself, but spent the whole time crying, which is just so sad.
I’d not told my adoptive parents that I’d been looking for Lucy and Tom, as I didn’t want them to feel betrayed after everything they’d done for me. But I needn’t have worried as they couldn’t have been more supportive.
They understood why I was doing it and said there was no way they would have stood in my way. They even admitted that if I’d told them sooner, it could have been a lot easier as they’d had my original birth certificate with Tom and Lucy’s names and addresses.
Over the years, my mum and dad met up with Tom and Lucy a few times.
They got on well and were grateful to each other – and for seven years, my sons had the unique experience of having six grandparents.
Thankfully, Mum and Dad were never worried they were losing their position as my parents, and likewise Tom and Lucy had no intention of muscling in. They all exchanged Christmas cards for many years – and Mum and my half-sister Rosemary still do.
Sadly my relationship with Lucy and Tom took a bit of a turn after we fell out in 1998. I discovered my birth father was a very headstrong man and could at times be very difficult to be around, which eventually caused our relationship to falter.
I was so sad to lose contact with Lucy and Rosemary, but Tom had forbidden my birth mother from speaking to me and my sister didn’t want to get caught in the middle as she was caring for them under trying circumstances, so I understood why it happened.
We didn’t really get back in touch with each other until 2003.
I’d been told by Rosemary that Lucy had severe dementia and was now in a nursing home, and I really wanted the chance to see her at least one more time before she passed away.
I went with Rosemary to visit her and saw a frail little old lady, sat in a rocking chair staring out into the distance.
The nurse touched her shoulder to tell her she had a very special visitor – her son. Lucy looked up at me, she lit up, stood and hugged me, sobbing how she was so sorry.
On the way home we stopped by unannounced to see Tom who welcomed me with open arms. We reconciled our differences, left on good terms, and this turned out to be the last time I saw him, too.
He ended up having to also go into a care home and died in September 2003, when he was 93.
I managed to see Lucy a couple more times before she died two months later, when she was 91. In fact, I stayed the night in the nursing home with her just days before she passed.
As a child, I never discussed my upbringing and even made up stories as to where I came from, like being the illegitimate son of a film star. I think my adoption left me with a fear of rejection because, in my mind, I’ve already been rejected once.
I didn’t really come to terms with my past until just a few years ago, after I discovered quite a few other adoptees who were friends or colleagues or friends of friends.
We started talking about our experiences and gradually I began to lose that feeling of shame that I had been carrying around with me all these years.
There are a lot of us about, apparently. Oddly, it was the same with a birthmark I have on my arm. I always used to hide it, and if questioned, I told people I’d accidentally lent against a hot plate when I was a little boy. I still tend to hide it now and feel embarrassed if I have to explain it. For many years, my own sons even thought it was a burn.
I am of course so grateful that Hilda and Eric took me in as their son and provided me with a wonderful life.
Taking in someone else’s child and loving, nurturing and raising them as their own is one of the greatest things a person can ever do. They gave me a stable family life for which I will always be thankful for. I really couldn’t have asked for two better parents.
As told to: Rob Young
Adoption Month is a month-long series covering all aspects of adoption.
For the next four weeks, which includes National Adoption Week from October 14-19, we will be speaking to people who have been affected by adoption in some way, from those who chose to welcome someone else’s child into their family to others who were that child.
We’ll also be talking to experts in the field and answering as many questions as possible associated with adoption, as well as offering invaluable advice along the way.
If you have a story to tell or want to share any of your own advice please do get in touch at [email protected]
- Why we’re talking about adoption this month
- How to adopt a child – from how long it takes to how you can prepare
- The most Googled questions on adoption, answered
- How long does it take to adopt a child in the UK
- Adoption myths that could be stopping you from starting a family
- How to tell your child they are adopted
Visit our Adoption Month page for more.
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