There are few stories as powerful as this one. I have been privileged that Kerrie has allowed me through the wonder of blogs, to join her on the journey she has taken to meeting the women that made her a mum.
If you haven’t already read it, I suggest before you go any further that you take a look at her first guest blog – “Face to Face Contact with Birth Mother”. This is the start of the amazing and welcoming road she has taken to building a relationship with her son’s birth mother.
Since then, their connection has strengthened. Their bond cemented. So, I guess it was only a matter of time before Kerrie felt it was right for her son J to meet her too.
Now, this is not something to be entered into lightly. Involvement and initial mediation from social workers is essential. Receiving appropriate support is vital. Every situation is different and for some this is not possible or practical. Or safe. It needs careful consideration of both short and long-term impacts. The positives, and any potential negatives. This is exactly what Kerrie did, and this is what happened:
“I laid the picnic blanket onto the cold pebbles of the south-east coast and watched as my son’s life was about to change, once again, forever.
For a not-quite-four year old, J had been through more in his life than most could ever imagine. Born by caesarean section at 34 weeks, he was immediately placed in the care of a foster family. Before he was a year, he had what social services would call “Goodbye Contact” with his birth mum (renamed by her in this instance as “TTFN Contact”). He was introduced to the family he was placed for adoption with. At the very last minute, they had cold feet and changed their mind. Another chapter to his story. A few weeks after his first birthday, my husband and I were formally matched with the little boy who we had been fighting for months to be our baby. Introductions soon began and then we brought him home for good.
Not quite happily ever after. What followed was a rocky settling in period, an extended period of calm before the storm. Then the huge upheaval that COVID19 brought to families across the world. Add to that the separation of his parents this summer, and you might wonder what on earth possessed us to contact his birth mother just days after we agreed to split and extend an invitation for direct contact with our son.
The answer is simple – we had a good feeling. We met Charlotte at the start of J’s placement with us before he was legally adopted. We clicked instantly. The young woman we saw before us was intelligent, thoughtful, caring, and respectful. We walked away from the meeting knowing that when our son was able to make the decision for himself, he would undoubtedly want to know her.
All the preparation as prospective adopters told us how difficult it can be for adopted children, particularly teenagers, with access to social media. Despite it being a decade or so away, the thought of him reaching out to her in such a way had potential for disaster written all over it. You see, teenagers are not known for their control over their emotions.
Direct contact was not something we discussed for quite some time though. I met Charlotte again earlier this year (facilitated by Barnado’s), to discuss a project I was working on. It came to light that Charlotte was aware of what this was all about. Essentially though, it gave away details of our hometown. The meeting was to provide assurance that this new information would not be misused in anyway. For some, this would cause great distress, but in reality for me, it was just an opportunity to see a person I cared an awful lot about. And who I missed.
Before this meeting, I raised the idea of direct contact with my husband, who seemed as keen as I was. We discussed this with the social worker at Barnados, who fully supported our decision, but asked that we not raise it with Charlotte until they were able to determine whether it was something she would be receptive to.
Like most things, Covid changed everything. It put our plans for potential direct contact on hold, and threw up issues with letterbox contact. When my husband and I split up, I realised that Charlotte was one of the first people I needed to tell. I mulled over the decision for days, before finally reaching out via social media to apologise for letterbox being late and explain that my husband and I were no longer together. As expected, Charlotte took some time to respond, but when she did all my emotions came pouring out. I was reminded that she was a person I had always felt connected to, and I believed she brought a lot of value to my life. The realisation hit me – it did not seem fair to deprive our son of this same value.
A few weeks later, in July, my husband, his older son and I video called Charlotte. This was her first interaction with my stepson, and they hit it off instantly. I felt so proud that she was able to see what a wonderful older brother our son had. We agreed on a date at the end of August to meet as a family – us four, Charlotte, and her best friend. Until then we did weekly video calls between J and Charlotte so that he became more familiar with her. We had spoken to J about his adoption and Charlotte since he first came home to us, so none of this was news to him. In fact, we spoke so openly about Charlotte that her name was thrown around several times a day by us all. Her existence in our lives was already so prolific that it made sense to bring her to life for our son.
As I watched the boys play by the sea, I anxiously checked my phone – she was on her way and would be with us soon. Emotions came like the waves; I was scared, of course, but not for J. I knew that this is what was best for him – there was no chance we would be doing it if we had any doubts.
Despite feeling secure in my role as his mum, I feared how I would feel seeing him with his birth mother. Was worried about how it might affect both him and her. But I was excited to see her again and felt lucky that I was about to witness something beautiful unfolding. For each emotion that came to me, a wave of calm melted it away. This was right.”
And now, it is a huge honour that I can say…here is Charlotte’s story:
“I knew the judge was going to side with the adoption. I didn’t agree; however, for me it was not about admitting defeat, it was now about acceptance and doing what was right for the 6lb 7oz baby boy I gave birth to only 9 and a half months previous. My wishes were now of little importance, but I made it known that I would like to, if allowed, meet the adopters. Not to show any negativity, but instead, I wanted to thank them.
After being told that they wanted to meet me, I begun “planning” so many different conversations in my head. Thoughts came and went; did they hate me or held a judgement on what they had been told about me? Were they angry, or were they curious?
Then the morning came when we would meet. There was a lot to take in especially as I had only been told their name the week before.
From that first moment, it felt right. I distinctly remember saying “thank you for being his mum and dad, thank you for looking after “our” son. J’s parents sat in front of me, we smiled, hugged, and cried. I knew they loved him, and there was no resentment or judgement. These were two people who from that moment, felt and became family to me. I was grateful that they had given me a recent photograph of him. I had tried to give them what I could, photos of my time with J, a family tree, a set of books I had brought for J when I was pregnant. There was a gift given, but it wasn’t material, or even spoken words. It was the gift of a bond. A connection.
Letterbox contact followed at the end of the summer when I received my first one. I sat with a support worker from Barnardo’s, I was expecting just a letter and maybe a couple of photos, but as I read through the letter, and glanced at hundreds of photos that I had been so kindly sent. I couldn’t help but feel a sense of sadness. The format in which his mum compiled the letterbox allowed me to see and picture what he’d been doing throughout the year. The photos came with what the activity was and with whom. I know his mum had shown concern that it may be difficult for me, but despite the sadness, it was proof of everything I wanted for him.
When the contact agreement started, I was told by other birthparents and support workers, that I was lucky I had one letterbox a year, as some don’t get any. As much as I trusted, and cherished, his parents that they would tell him about me, show him the letters and photo, there was still that horrid thought of: would they really tell him about me, would he want to know me, and would I ever see him again, that made a cave in the back of my mind.
In February 2020, I had the delight of meeting his mum again. It came about after I was made aware, by pure coincident of a wonderful project she was working on. I mulled over whether or not to make it known that I knew. I did.
Again, she wanted to meet with me. Both fear, and gladness came from the though of meeting her again. Right up until I walked in the room. Thoughts of losing what contact I was allowed and if she would fear me crept into my mind. But I was over thinking. A rush of sheer happiness came at seeing her again. It was like meeting your best friend after years of being apart. After what was an amazing opportunity to catch up, I had hoped that we would soon meet again, and had expressed to the Barnardo’s worker that, if agreed, meeting with K and M could be a yearly thing. Little did I expect what was to come next.
Covid hit. I started shielding and then needed emergency spina surgery in June. All that kept crossing my mind was “are they all safe?”, “are they keeping well?”.
A little red dot appeared in my messenger on the 15th July “Hi Charlotte, it’s K….” I cried. I cried a lot that night to a friend. All I saw was the banner of the message – I was too scared to read on. What if this was her telling me something had happened? What if this was them telling me they are not sending a letterbox anymore? Was it sent in error? Was this the moment I was hoping for?
As a woman I knew how family’s mums/dads/brother/sisters of a child who had gone through foster care and then adoption might be viewed – sometimes seen as a bad person. Negatively stereotyped and shunned. As a birth mum, I truly believed the day I last had my contact (our TTFN) was the day I would last hold, kiss, cuddle and look into the eyes of my son. I trusted K and M, and I had then hoped that one day J and I would meet. I rested with the fact that wasn’t going to happen until he could make that choice himself. But that thought never goes from the back of that cave.
This “Hi Charlotte it’s K…” was the moment I held on to. What came next, is more than I can ever have expected. The conversation with K carried on via social media, videos and images were shared, as well as a video chat with K and M, and J’s older brother. We agreed a date in August for myself to meet them as a family. Video chats started as did the sharing of videos, photos and events. And then, it happened -I had a video call with J.
I promised myself I wouldn’t cry. The call was just so fluid and normal. It was as if it was an everyday thing. I knew they were open with J about myself, foster carers and the adoption, and I never once doubted that. But seeing his face (before the pizza filter came on), hearing him say my name, and then acting like any other 3-year-old. It was an incredible feeling. It was the cement that filled the cave in my head. I had a video chat with his dad and older brother a few weeks prior, and it was wonderful to see just how amazing they all are. I am so glad he has an older brother to grow up with.
I marked the days down on the calendar, there was no turning back. With a friend, I was about to meet J for the first time since I last saw him. I had kept K updated, and soon enough we pulled into the car park. Arms stretched out, the tears welling up, K came to meet us as we moved along to where they had set-up the picnic. It felt as if my heart was going to leap out when I first put my eyes to him. A whole rush of emotions came over me, much like how the sea had been crashing the pebbles the night before. I could not say much at first. I was just in awe of the family I saw before me. I tried to take in all the details – his eyes, his height, everything. I stopped and just took in the moment of us all sat, chatting, and sharing what was a beautiful and treasured moment of time. It felt natural, it felt normal, it felt that this was the start of a beautiful journey where two families were brought together by one special little boy.
I for one, cannot wait to see how the next chapter unfolds.”
I am blown away by this blog. It’s wonderful to hear how open Kerrie (Instagram account @kezzabods) has been about her gorgeous boys’ journey. But hearing directly from Charlotte is just so special. So powerful.
She sounds like a wonderful person. Her acceptance of the situation. Her longing to know that the boy she gave birth to is loved. Happy. Safe. I love how she constantly refers to J’s parents as his mum and dad. I don’t know why this gets to me the most – of course they are! But there is something quite poignant about how natural she finds this.
I can’t help but think of my own situation. I’m sure you are doing the same right now. Given the opportunity – would you do the same? Take these positive steps to direct contact. Encourage your child to meet face to face with their birth mother. I’d like to think I would, but the truth is I don’t know if I’d embrace it in quite the way Kerrie has.
This really is a tale of destiny. A sliding doors moment. Two women on different paths but who have been brought together by the love of one child. A child that will grow up knowing exactly who he is. Where his life began. How and why it took the turns it did. Above anything else, this is a boy who will know just how loved he is. By everyone.
Thank you both from the bottom of my heart for trusting me to share your precious story.