It can be hard to explain to someone who has grown up in a family that looks like them, what it really is like to grow up not looking like anyone. It’s probably quite insignificant to most and not something you normally think about, but it’s probably the one thing that affected me the most. Not while I was growing up, it affected me when I met someone I looked like.
My birth mum took longer to reply to the first letter, as she had married and now had three children with her husband. He knew of me and my adoption but her children didn’t. She, sensibly, took the time to discuss if replying was the right thing to do and to also explain to her children what was happening.
It was several months after I had met my birth father that my birth mother and I arranged to meet. As the two grandmothers still lived in the same houses, which were actually just streets apart, she had arranged to stay with her mum for a few days and I went up to stay with my birth father. It was arranged that we would meet up on Sunday afternoon at her mother’s house. Nerves were starting to get to me, so my birth father dragged me out for a walk.
We were walking down the street talking about nothing when he suddenly stopped and said he was sorry it was going to happen like this. He was looking at a woman walking down the street with some groceries in her arms. She looked like any other ordinary woman in the street, apart from one thing; she was the exact image of me. The hair, the eyes, the bone structure, her height, her build, everything was just like me. She, of course, didn’t look like me; it was more that I looked like her, as she was indeed my birth mother. There was no need for introductions; we all knew who each other was. The closest way to explain the impromptu meeting on the street is to imagine you never saw a mirror in your life and then suddenly seeing yourself for the first time. I think I just stared at her for what seemed like hours and not the seconds it actually was.
By the afternoon ‘meet up’ I had composed myself and got over the shock of looking like someone and managed to stare less. I met my grandmother and my birth mum (again) over good old fashioned tea and cake. Family photo albums were dragged out and dusted off as I had a whistle stop tour of the family tree in pictures.
Over the following months, I met her husband and my half sister and half brothers. There was never any resentment or atmosphere, but I was very aware that this was her family now. I stayed in contact with my birth mum for many years, although now we have no correspondence. I know where she is and she knows how to get in contact with me if she ever wanted to. I never asked why she put me up for adoption nor has she felt the need to explain. She had her reasons and I am very sure she didn’t go into the adoption without agonising and thinking about it first.
One good thing that came out of it all was my friendship with my half sister. We have spent time together and got to know each other. We have children of similar ages and they have all met. We’re not great talkers, but the moment we do contact each other it’s like there has been no silence in-between. We both know we are there for each other like any other sisters would be.