There are some things I read that stop me in my tracks. Stark reminders of the complexities of adoption.
I recently spotted a post on Instagram by a lady I really admire. Just a year after adopting her daughter, she welcomed her twin full birth siblings. She was sharing her experience of final contact with birth parents. And this really struck a chord with me.
This possibility was not on the table for us. Not something birth parents wanted. Due to location proximities, even if they had, it was deemed too risky.
The truth is, I don’t know how we would have dealt with it. Would we have even done it? Hand on heart I can’t say we would have. Not fully appreciative at that time of its significance.
Things have changed since we entered the adoption process nine years ago. There is now increased emphasis on keeping more open channels of communication with birth families. Final contact appears to be more frequent. Of course, I see this. Understand the benefits. But I can’t help but wonder what experience this creates for the children. Does it add confusion? Or comfort? Sadly, I’ll never know first-hand.
To add some perspective, I am so grateful to Kirsty from @mamma_a_and_her_girls_ for sharing her story. Here is her honest account of how she approached it:
“When we were asked if we would meet birth parents again, we had to think about it a lot. I say meeting them again, as we had already met them a little over a year ago during introductions with our older daughter who is the twin’s full sibling.
Our adoption agency encourages adopters to meet birth parents as it can be beneficial to the children when they grow up. Hearing that you met can help them with their identity. Now I’m not going to lie, when I first started our adoption journey my thoughts towards birth parents in general were very negative. Why should I meet them? They don’t deserve my time; they had their chance. But the truth is, they all have a different story. My girl’s birth mother (BM) is far from perfect, but she’s always wanted the girls to be well looked after and importantly, kept together.
I won’t talk much about birth father (BF) as that’s a very different story. The first time we met was negative. So, this time although we did agree to see him, it was very short and heavily supported by both agencies involved.
Unfortunately, BM had stopped engaging in any contact with the twins after they were 3 days old. She said it was just too hard. But what she had agreed to, is this final goodbye contact. It was not straightforward though. Leading up to it, she wasn’t responding. Not having contact with any social workers.
I was really worried that she wouldn’t attend. Not for me, but for the girls. I didn’t want them in later years to question why she didn’t come and say goodbye to them but did for their sister Sass.
After speaking with my husband and our social worker, I asked the twins social worker if it would help me writing BM a letter. She thought it was a great idea. So, I wrote just a short letter asking her how she was, but also saying I was hoping to be able to bring the girls to say goodbye. Finally, she agreed.
The morning of final contact came around. The night before me and Sass sat making pictures to give her. She is still so young with so much understanding still to grow. But we were as ready as we could be. Although I was a bit apprehensive, I knew it was the right thing do.
We had been in the car about 30 minutes when the phone rang – she was cancelling. I was gutted for the kids. As we were having final goodbyes with BF the same day, we still carried on though and headed to the meeting.
Things got more uncertain as the day went on. She later rang to say she had changed her mind and that she would now come. We waited and waited but still no luck. She rang again, this time to say there were no trains available.
Of course, naturally there was more to it than this. The social worker could tell she was anxious and had over thought the situation. To help, I told the social worker to ask BM if she wanted to speak to me on the phone first. She did. She just needed a little support. Reassurance. I told her I would either stay in the room when she said goodbye, or I would leave. Whichever was best for her. Either way I would be what she needed me to be.
Her saying goodbye to the girls was a huge deal. It was for me too. But I had so many people supporting me through that day – my husband, my family, my friends, professionals, not to mention the whole online adoption community. So, if she just needed some support, then I could do that. That’s the least I could do.
She finally arrived. Three hours later than originally planned. But she was there. I took the twins into the room and popped them down, thinking she would go straight to them. Instead, she came to me. Gave me a big hug and told me I was “doing a grand job”. I can’t even explain how that made me feel. She asked about all three girls. About me and my husband. Showed a genuine interest.
She asked if I would stay with her. So that’s exactly what I did. There were two social workers there as well to offer additional support. But I knew it was me she wanted. Needed. We chatted about the girls. I then said I was going to leave her to have some time alone with them. I felt this was important for her. Although she was the one who asked me to stay, I did feel a little uncomfortable and like I was sitting on top of her. I knew she needed some space and privacy. To say her final goodbye without everyone peering on.
When I came back in, I told her I would bring Sass in for 10/15 minutes. She had been asking about Sass a lot and was really excited to see her. I know it isn’t normally something that happens – seeing birth parents after adoption. But in that moment, it felt right. For then. For the future. Everyone agreed. Sass is only two years old so didn’t really understand what was happening, but I know she will when we look back in years to come. I hope she understands the significance and that it helps her to piece together her story.
When we went back in, Sass walked up to BM and gave her the pictures we made the night before. BM asked her for a hug which Sass did. It was lovely to see. She only used her first name and never called herself mum. It was really nice of her to think of that. Not to confuse Sass. I have so much respect for her for that.
The first time we met birth parents I always regretted not getting a picture taken with them. So, this time I got a picture of Mammy, Birth Mum and our 3 girls. I think this is amazing for the girls to have. I won’t ever share that picture. It’s very personal and just for them. I’ve framed it and popped it in their room. Where it will forever sit proudly.
Time was coming to an end and I could sense BM knew this too. She started saying goodbye to the girls. I had to look away. Hearing a mother say goodbye to her children was heart wrenching.
She then came and gave me the biggest hardest cuddle I’ve ever had. She was squeezing me asking me to keep her girls safe. She was literally breaking her heart on my shoulder. I couldn’t help it; my heart was breaking too. We cried together. A moment I’ll never forget.
I pulled her away so I could look at her face and promised her she never needed to worry about the girls. That I will always look after them. She hugged me again and it was clear it was all too much for her. So she left. One of the social workers took her home and supported her. I must say the social workers were amazing. As BM hugged me and we cried saying goodbye, they distracted Sass so she didn’t witness anything. This was very important. To ensure she didn’t pick up on the emotions or upset.
I feel a huge connection to BM. It actually shocks me how much I do. Without giving too much detail BM didn’t look after any of the children when she was pregnant. I should feel negatively towards her for this. If I’m honest, there is a part of me that does. But the bigger part of me loves her in some crazy way.
The girl has no one. Sadly, the reality is she stood no chance. My instinct is that I want to help her. It even crossed my mind about adopting her. That’s how strongly I feel. She will always be a huge part of my children’s life. Without her they wouldn’t be here. And we wouldn’t be a family.
It took a couple of days to recover from that final meet, but I’m so pleased I did it. I say I did it for the girls and I absolutely did, but I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t some part of it that was for me too. It gave me closure. It gave me a story to tell my girls once old enough. It was beautifully heart-breaking. If that sentence even makes sense. I’m guessing to the adoption community it will. Adoption is many things, but I think a lot of it can be summed up with this thought – it really is beautifully heart-breaking.”
I totally get this parting sentiment from Kirsty. What an incredible thing she and her husband did for her girls.
I love how connected she feels to BM. How she did all she could for the meeting to take place. Knowing it was the best thing for her girls. Another chapter to add to their life story book. One to hold on to. And cherish.
What strikes me about his story is that despite everything. Despite what she had been through. BM was thoughtful and appreciative. There are no words to describe how incredibly hard this meeting would have been for her. I hope it gave her the comfort and assurance she needed. Looking the women who her girls call mammy in the eye. Seeing how loved and precious they are to her. This is so powerful.
Thank you Kirsty, for being open about something so personal. Her hope – as is mine – is simple. To raise awareness of goodbye contact. That if the professionals deem it right, that adopters really consider it. Don’t just dismiss it. Think of the longer-term benefits. There is no taking it lightly though – it will be incredibly emotional and sometimes not as positive as this story. But it could just be the missing part of the jigsaw.
My daughter asks me all the time when she can meet her birth mother. How meaningful it would be if I could say to her…“I met her once…”
If you have any questions, Kirsty is kindly happy to answer anything she can. You can follow her and send her a message through her Instagram account @mamma_a_and_her_girls_