Today an adoptee Alison Bates, tells us about her search for her birth parents and how this has lead her to writing a book.
Two years ago, as I approached sixty years of age, I decided to delve into my past. Adopted as a baby at six months old, I grew up believing that my biological mother had died giving birth to me, a fantasy as it turned out which has had considerable effects upon my life.
The start of my search was sparked off in the early nineties when I discovered that one of my cousins, also adopted, had set about finding out about his own origins, an action which first produced the idea that I might one day do the same. His journey of discovery was however quickly snuffed out by a resounding rebuff, and I was left in no doubt that to do such a thing might well be hazardous. Besides, my adoptive mother was still alive then, and given the social circumstances at the time of my adoption there was no way I was going to embark on research into an unknown quantity and cause us both needless distress.
After my Mum’s death in 1997 my life took on a new direction and I became immersed in relocation and the setting up of a business.
Always though, at the back of my mind, lay that missing puzzle piece. I began to question as well, began to wonder. What if I had not been told the truth as a child by my adoptive parents, what if my birth mother had lived?
Each advancing year I put the thought to the back of my mind – I’d do it later. But the idea that my birth mother might actually still be alive nagged at me, knowing that time was running out. Once, I even went so far as to lift the phone and dial the number of my local Citizens’ Advice Bureau but no-one answered. It was not meant to be – yes – I really would do it later.
Other seeds were planted too – a friend who was heavily into ancestry research, giving talks to a local historical society and spending much of his spare time looking at records and putting together his family tree. An archivist by nature this frustrated me, and I confess to being somewhat envious, and it set me wondering again, this time about where I had come from, who were my ancestors, who did I look like and were there any blood relations that I could perhaps get to know? Yet, still the thought persisted, did I really want to uncover a possible lie?
Then one morning in January 2011 I woke up, knowing that I had to do it, a compulsion so strong that I could put it off no longer.
This was the year I would take action, perhaps before it was too late. But what would I uncover? – facts too upsetting to contemplate, secrets too miserable to bear, situations too difficult to penetrate?
And so not only did I embark that morning on a journey of discovery which was later to be assisted by an adoption agency, a government body and a charity, but also through my own writing which began to take me on my own personal journey, reaching previously unknown emotional depths that forced me to re-appraise my entire life.
‘Adopted’ is a story in the making, as the journey now continues over two and a half years since that waking moment of decision. It started as a kind of diary in the form of communications with myself and others, knowing that one day I would tell it. Then, several months ago I reached the point at which I could no longer hold it all in and I began in earnest.
The delay had been partly due to other commitments, but also because I was unsure how to go about it. Then an idea started to emerge and I decided to experiment with it – I’d tell the story from different perspectives – mainly from my own, first in the form of a loose diary and, secondly, a kind of musing back over my past life. The third part is based upon the research into my past, my ancestry and my birth family, as they have come to light through different sources of information, and is being treated like a historical novel which gradually comes up to date. It is in its early stages but I have a plan of sorts and now that I have started it I know that I can tell it in the best way I know how.
It is the tale of a woman who has lived her life with guilt and regret, an older couple who adopt her child, and me, who is that child.