When we applied to adopt, it never occurred to me we might have a face to face relationship with our children’s birth mothers. During assessments, only limited discussions around this took place. We were always open to letterbox contact. Welcomed this. But when it came to direct contact, this wasn’t something that sat comfortably with us. It feels terrible writing this now. But it was the truth at the time.
We were asked if we’d consider a preplacement meeting. The importance of this for the future just didn’t resonate with us. Not as it should have. The idea actually made us feel a bit uneasy. What were we scared of – confusion, rejection? Looking back, we were probably thinking more about us than our future child. So, we said no. And it was never mentioned again.
As it happens, when we were matched with both of our children, the circumstances around the adoptions meant that a meeting was never going to be possible. So that was that. No face to face meetings were to take place.
I am delighted to share a poignant and powerful account of someone that took a different view to us. Kerry (you can follow her on Instagram – @kezzabods) has had the privilege of meeting the women that made her a mum. She has taken the remarkable tentative steps in starting a face to face relationship with her adopted sons birth mother. Here she tells us why she feels it’s the best option for him.
“The first time I laid eyes on my son, it wasn’t in the delivery suite of a midwife led unit during a miraculous water birth as I had originally anticipated. Instead, it was a grainy photo on a Child Permanence Report that made him look a bit like the baby in the sun at the start of the Tellytubbies. Slightly less romanticised. But every bit ‘love at first sight’.
Baby J, was a baby we had been fighting for. For months. Social workers had repeatedly told us he was matched with another couple. They were not pursuing any further links. Of course – I knew better. Of course, Baby J was meant to be our baby.
It boggled me that the social workers couldn’t see this. It was blindingly obvious to me, but they were thinking logically. They found perfectly suitable parents to love and look after him. He was going to get his happy ending. I couldn’t help myself though, and continued to check in with the social workers. They assured me if anything went “wrong” they would be in touch. And it did.
A month after we were approved as adopters, we got a phone call from our social worker. “Remember Baby J? It’s fallen through”. And so, it began. More meetings with more social workers. More chocolate digestives put on fancy plates that nobody touched. An introduction with Baby J’s foster carer was scheduled. And the following month – we were approved to adopt our baby. The baby I always knew was meant to be.
J’s history was neatly compiled into his report. His time in foster care, some information on his birth mum and her pregnancy. She was just like him – a name on a piece of paper. A grainy photograph. Not really real. We empathised with her story. Understood she wasn’t a bad person, but our focus was entirely on our baby.
Meeting up with birth parents had been discussed with us during the adoption process. Something more commonplace amongst adopters and birth parents in the UK than you might imagine. Clearly as long as it is safe to do so. Six weeks after he moved in – I met her. We had expected this all along and so a meeting didn’t come as a surprise to us.
What happened over the next ninety minutes changed me forever. This young woman was real now. Our son was her double. She thanked us for being his parents. Referred to him as “our son”. Told us everything he would need to know. Shared intimate moments of her time with him. Showed photographs she hadn’t shared with anyone else. She even gave us a family tree she’d sketched for him. We hugged, we cried, and most importantly – we connected. This young woman was now a part of my life. My son’s mother. She had given me everything I had ever wanted.
Our annual letterbox contact started shortly after. I sent photographs of him, and a month-by-month diary of things we did and what he’d learnt. I struggled to filter photos so ended up sending about fifty! These were moments she wasn’t able to be part of and I wanted her to be. I wanted her to see the life he was having – not to make it harder for her, but because I knew he was having the life she wanted him to have.
I worried I was overdoing it, and ensured she knew she could say if it was too much to cope with. But she didn’t. She loved it. She sent me more precious photographs from her contact time with him when he was in care. Some of her and what she was doing more recently. She mentioned a book she was reading, which I had read the previous year. I made some recommendations – and so our ‘letterbox book club’ started.
I met her again recently. Almost two years to the day since that first meeting. Seeing her brought back all the emotions and love I had felt the first time around. I know it was the same for her too. We caught up. I showed her videos of our son, including one I had filmed the night before of him saying hello to her and telling her he loved her. We talked about some new projects we were each working on. We even discussed potentially collaborating on a book together in the future – something that I’m very keen to do.
We are cautiously taking steps forward in our relationship with her. In her relationship with him. This is new territory for all of us, but I truly believe that the best thing for our son is to know the woman who gave him life. It won’t be easy, but it is fuelled by a mutual love and respect for each other – as parents. We understand he is the most important person in all of our lives. And if I get to have this wonderful friendship with her, it only seems fair that he does too.“
I’m so glad Kerry has shared her story. A refreshing perspective. All adoptions are of course different. Countries like America are well known for having successful open adoptions. But it’s fair to say, face to face contact with birth families needs a great deal of consideration. The long-term positive outcomes for adopted children are believed to be very strong. For their identity. For the answers to their questions. But it can also be troubling and confusing if not handled in the right way.
Birth parents are sometimes vulnerable themselves. The reasons children were placed in to care must be factored in. It can of course be very emotional for everyone. Not always a positive experience. Ultimately, the safety and impact on the child is paramount. They must be the top priority. But clearly it can work. Kerry is proof of that.
Her story has really made me think. I wish we’d read it when we started the process. Maybe my initial views might have been different. My fears allayed. My worries softened. If I’d had the chance to meet our children’s birth mothers, I’d have told them how incredibly brave their decisions were. I’d thank them from the bottom of my heart. Show them the incredible impact they’ve had on our lives. Without them there’d be no us. Above anything else, they gave me the most precious gift of all. A gift I never thought I’d ever have…the gift of motherhood.
Thank you so much Kerry, I’m sure many readers will connect to your story. Don’t forget you can follow her and her ongoing adoption journey on Instagram @kezzabods.