Anna’s meeting with her birth mother is typical of the stories we hear – Dr Gary Clapton

Heartache and happiness are all in a day’s work, says Dr Gary Clapton

The need to understand why a parent would give up their child for adoption can be overwhelming. Picture: PA
The need to understand why a parent would give up their child for adoption can be overwhelming. Picture: PA

Often those we work with will sit down, write out their story and mail it in. The following came in from Anna last week.

“I have known that I was adopted since the age of five. I carried this knowledge throughout my childhood, adolescence and early adulthood without doing anything about it.

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“My decision to search became important to me in my late twenties. Before this I had thought regularly about the two people who had created me but life was just too busy to find the time to search. I faced all the challenges of lots of young adults, studying for a degree, getting established in a profession, settling in a new area, making friends and so on. I also experienced a few set-backs that meant that I didn’t feel good about myself to begin a search.

“As I got older, I talked more and more about adoption to my close friends. When friends started to have babies and I saw the joy that a new-born child can bring. I felt the need to connect with my birth mother. It was also important for me to search and meet my birth father, but this took second place to my increasing need to meet the woman who had nurtured me and brought me into the world. In 2015 I went through the right channels to get my full birth certificate and registered on the Adoption Contact Register for Scotland. I had several changes of address during this time and it wasn’t until summer 2018 that I called Birthlink with my most recent address.

“At this point I need to write that my adoptive parents were fully supportive of my need to search. I explained to my parents (adoptive) that I wanted to meet the two people who I might have a physical likeness to. I wanted to find out about their personality traits, quirks, likes and dislikes and also to have some knowledge of my grandparents. What I didn’t voice to my parents was that if my birth parents wanted to meet me (particularly my birth mother) I would feel accepted and from that I would feel better about myself. I needed to overcome the feeling of rejection that I had identified only as an adult.

“It was a bright summer day when I received the news from the Birthlink social worker that my birth mother had her name on the Contact Register.

“I remember feeling elated and incredibly nervous at the same time. I was rooted to the spot as the social worker gave me advice on what to do next and also asked me a few questions about myself. My mind was whirring, my body was tense with a whole range of emotions. I wanted to run and shout and grab hold of someone but instead I had to politely (and willingly) give information about myself to a kind-voiced stranger.

“This phone call led eventually to contact by letter. A steady exchange of letters and photographs followed. I enjoyed reading each letter, card and postcard. These pieces of paper are the most precious things I own. One of the first photographs I got was a family one showing (Frances), her husband and two sons. There were smiling and I thought, these are people that I can feel comfortable with.

“In December 2018 I travelled to Scotland to meet my birth mother for the first time. Our meeting happened at the train station and my first sighting of my ‘mum’ (I have two mums as far as I’m concerned) was of her walking across a footbridge. I took pleasure in seeing that she was attractive, youthful and vibrant-looking. We hugged and stifling back the tears I said `You’re lovely!’ I had no time to savour the moment because the late arrival of my train meant that she was worried about the car getting a parking fine.

“On the way out of the city centre we passed the building that had once been a maternity hospital and was where I was born. I had often wondered about this place and was happy as well as emotional to see it at long last. I felt that this was one of many pieces of a missing jigsaw that is my past. I felt very happy to be in the city of my birth, which as the capital, is a beautiful place and to be sitting with my birthmother. It was a pleasure to be with her and to study her – looking for similarities in appearance.”

The walls and desks of our staff are covered in poems and stories like this.

*names and dates have been altered

Dr Gary Clapton for Birthlink.