- Family and Parenting
Adoption - My Story
A personal account about being an adopted child
I've written this to share my personal story. It is not intended as a guide to fostering/adoption, it is just my account of what life was like growing up in a family where none of my siblings were blood-relatives.
I'll share some of the ups and downs and also one or two of the surprises I had in later life.
How did I feel? What was it like? What were the positives and what were the negatives? Would my life have been better or worse if I hadn't been adopted? Read on if you'd like to know...
Where my story began
The minute I was born that day in August 1967 I was taken from my mother and placed into care at a local children's home.
Within six weeks I had been selected by a young couple looking to adopt. The story goes that I was chosen after promptly being sick down the woman as she picked me up from my cot. It's not every day a child christens its mother!
So after a rocky start to which I was blissfully unaware, I was taken to live in a fairly affluent part of Bolton in Lancashire, England and become their third child.
Growing within another family
I shared my home with brothers John and Richard. Three years later my sister Anne came along and we were just one big happy family that shared the same parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.
I always knew I was different. I was told all along that one day Sandra and Michael - the people I called Mum and Dad - would adopt me. So despite not being treated any differently than the others, inside I knew I could never be their equal.
I have happy memories of my younger days, I was a very lucky girl indeed. We lived in a lovely property overlooking what was Bolton Wanderers Football Club training ground. The football pitches were our playground, we were gone for hours out there balancing like tight-rope walkers on the railings that surrounded the pitches or swinging from them, rolling down the embankment to the second pitch below or just minding our own business and relaxing in the summer sun.
My grandparents always seemed to be around, the house was never empty and was usually filled with lots of children, including many others that mum and dad fostered from time to time.
Family life was great. We may have lived in a big house but we weren't rich or posh like the kids at school used to think - they thought our house was a mansion when infact it was just a large semi-detached. Money was fairly tight and we all had hand-me-down clothes, second and third hand and sometimes from dress agencies. Mum was fairly thrifty and used to make dresses for my sister and I, or knit jumpers and cardigans. No new clothes for us, perhaps only at Christmas or birthdays.
So despite being treated like everybody else why did I feel different? Why did I feel like an outsider? Three reasons I think:
1. One brother didn't accept me
2. My surname was different to everyone else's
3. Regular trips to the house from social workers
It wasn't nice growing up knowing someone didn't like me. My brother could be very cruel and would often goad me to the point where we'd end up fighting. He'd call me names and then tell me to go home to my real mum, or he'd call me by my birth surname as if to rubber stamp the fact we weren't related. I often ended up in tears, he really used to upset me.
This carried on even into our teens and still today there is that sense of resentment, he tolerates me. We get on face to face and he'd be the first by my side if I was in trouble with a man yet he can still make me feel like I don't belong in the family. Fortunately the other two have never made me feel like that.
I hated my birth name: Marcia Rose Wolstencroft - what a mouthful! When I was very young the other children at school couldn't pronounce my name and called me Marzipan instead, they thought I was foreign with a name like Marcia. I vowed to change it when I got adopted to something I really liked.
I have vague memories of them coming to the house but just the fact they did was probably what rubbed my brother up the wrong way. It was like special attention, favouritism almost, a privilege. There was nothing special about it, he had no reason to feel jealous for they were only checking on my welfare and preparing me for the day I was going to be adopted.
So family life was fairly typical and ordinary. I was neither spoilt or neglected and enjoyed nursery and primary school just like any other child and never gave my real mum much thought. It also never occured to me that I may have natural brothers and sisters, for some reason I think I thought I was an only child.
What about my natural family?
I was seven when I discovered I had a sister. I received an invitation to a birthday party through the post and remember asking my mum who Melna was. She explained she was my sister and that she lived with another family.
That was quite a bombshell. I had no idea I had a sister. Not only that, I had a brother too and the pair of them lived together, fostered like myself. My family had grown overnight, I now had three brothers and two sisters!
I was allowed to go to the party and even though I didn't know a single person there I remember it being a happy event and coming away thinking to myself that one day I would find Melna and Danny again. Even at seven years old I knew I may never see them again.
Well, that's what I thought but my curiosity got the better of me when I was in my late thirties. I decided to look for them on Friends Reunited going off the very little bit of information I had, such as their names and their foster family. Within days I struck lucky, I traced Danny and we began to email on a regular basis.
I was thrilled! By the most amazing set of circumstances it turned out we were both working for our local authority in the same department (social services) doing the same job (admin) and had actually been in the same room together at one point without even realising!
We corresponded a lot by email and eventually plucked up the courage to meet each other. It was fantastic to see him again after all this time and he filled in some missing blanks for me about his life and that of Melna's. I'll not go into detail about our reunion, that really is another story which I got published in a magazine (that's life!) in 2005.
A few weeks later I was on a first-aid course at work when a woman approached me during the tea-break. She'd been on the course too and hearing my name as the register was read aloud raised her curiosity. She asked me if I was adopted to which I replied Yes and then she totally shocked me... It turned out that this woman was yet another sister of mine, Angela and not only that, I had another sister, June, too! I was stunned. I had no idea at the age of thirty-seven that I had two more sisters! What a sheer stroke of luck, if I hadn't gone on the course I would never have known - nobody ever told me about them, but apparently they knew all about me, always had.
As you'd expect I was reunited with both my sisters who are much older than me (now 54 and 58) and in turn I met their families. It was marvellous to meet all these new and wonderful people - real blood relatives. The photographs came out, medical concerns were answered for both my sisters lived with our natural mum on and off, things began to make sense and I felt like I gained some identity.
So by this time I had discovered that I had three natural sisters and one natural brother . I have since been told I would have had two brothers but one died when he was young, he was a twin to my sister.
The things I found difficult about being adopted
1. My name. It sounds silly to declare that my name made me feel different but it did. Names are our identity with the outside world, we are addressed by our names, we address ourselves by our names, our names make us who we are. Or do they? I made a pact to change my name when I got adopted, I really didn't like it. However when push came to shove I kept my forename, by that time the kids at school had got used to it. Instead I changed my middle name and took the family surname. Until that time my name was probably the biggest issue I had.
This carried on though into adult life. Filling forms out used to bug me. When it said Father's Name or Mother's Name I never knew what to write - did I put my real dads name down or my adoptive mum? Any questions concerning mothers, fathers, brothers or sisters were sometimes quite difficult and frustrating to answer.
2. Being accepted. This will always hang over me because even though my early childhood was fantastic, my teenage years and later life were not so rosey. Not only did my brother not accept me, neither did my father as time went by but that's another story. There is a certain amount of tolerance within the family and I know my place within it.
3. Medical History. I really didn't like being asked questions about my mum and dad. I found them confusing. Did they mean my real mum and dad or my adoptive ones? There were times when I really needed to know something about my family background from a medical point of view and often I had to shrug my shoulders and say I didn't know anything. Things like heart problems, asthma, epilepsy - I had no answers to.
4. The truth about my birth family. I still don't know the answers to this one. Why was I put into care? Why did I live in a separate place to my brother and sisters? How old was my mother when she had me? Who is my father? Why did it take so long to adopt me? I have lots of questions but there's always been a voice in my head saying 'Don't go there'. I think I've been afraid of discovering something I didn't like but not only that, I have a real sense of loyalty to my adoptive parents - I feel immense gratitude to them for the life they have given me and it would be like rubbing salt into wounds if I were to start trying to get some answers.
First and foremost I was very lucky. I had a fantastic upbringing and some of the hardships within that upbringing were very character-building. Even down to ice on the inside of the window panes in winter or sharing a bath because the immersion heater had gone off made me really appreciate the smallest of things.
I lived in a beautiful place. There was plenty of room, it was a place I could let my imagination run riot and even on rainy days there was always a great game to play indoors such as sliding down the bannisters or making a tent with my mums clothes maiden! There was never a dull moment and always plenty of laughter.
I was loved.
I was very fortunate
I had an identity
I had a family!
I was finally adopted in February, 1977 at the age of nine and it was like being re-born. I had a birth certificate and also an adoption certificate - I felt like the Queen with two birthdays!.
Where I'm at today
updated 6th July, 2011
There's been a lot of water under the bridge over the years. The family dynamics have changed several times through divorce and death to name a couple of things, but my place has always been the same - on the outside.
I don't know whether most adopted people feel like this or whether it's just me but I have never felt on a par with my adoptive brothers and sister, there is always this underlying fact that their mum and dad is not my mum and dad. It causes indifference no matter how hard people have tried to make me feel included and equal. It will never be so and I'm quite sure that whilst my brother is around he will affirm it.
In my lifetime I met my natural mother twice. Once just before I was adopted and once when I ran away to her house after a patchy time at home. She has since passed away. I have never known who my father is/was.
After the curiosity wore off I began to lose touch with my sisters and brother until eventually it was just Christmas cards and birthday cards. I have only recently started to see one sister again. It was me who put the brakes on, I felt like I'd come between Angela and June and that was the last thing I wanted to happen, so I backed off. However, Angela kept trying to maintain contact and in the end I decided I owed it to her to make an effort. So, I'm trying to be a better sister, she deserves it and I'm enjoying getting to know her.
I have not seen my sister Melna since that birthday party when I was seven.
I have never seen a copy of my full birth certificate.
I have never read my adoption records.
I really am very very grateful for the opportunity I have been given to live within a family and I'm pretty sure my life would have been far worse had I not been sick on my mum that day. In comparison to my natural siblings it seems I had the better life. I didn't have to witness my natural mother having her head shoved through a glass window by an alcoholic partner. I didn't have a foster dad who blew his brains out in a quarry.
I have learned that blood isn't necessarily thicker than water, in my experience it's been the other way around. My family is the family I grew up with and will always be so. My natural mother and family are just people I've met in my lifetime, some of whom I could not form a bond with.
Being adopted has taught me to be immensely grateful for things in life, my life could have been far worse and I believe I had a fantastic start where I was taught right from wrong and all those good qualities.
With this gratitude comes loyalty. I also feel immense loyalty to my parents which is why I haven't done any further research into my past. I don't want to upset the apple-cart, why should I be digging and delving when they have provided so much for me? I can get those answers later on, I believe adoption records are kept for one-hundred years (or at least in my local authority).
Having a family of my own is what really brought a lot of things home to me. I never understood my parents until I was one myself, now I know why they acted like they did at certain points in my life and being adopted wasn't always what it was about.
We are still a happy family even though both my parents have since re-married. We are a family that have learned to overcome a lot of issues and difficulties and who now can all be in the same room as one another, re-married or not, and be friends. We aren't particularly lovey-dovey, nor do we live in each others pockets but we do care about one another.
So being adopted to me has meant indifference for most of my life, but it hasn't meant I am not loved or not wanted - sometimes I placed those feelings upon myself because of where I felt my position was within the family. I'd like to bet there's not a family on Earth where one member hasn't felt loved even though the reality is probably the opposite.
Adoption caused me confusion with filling out forms and not knowing family medical details.
But most of all adoption changed my life. If I wasn't sick on my mum that day who knows - it could have all been very different.
I have literally just received an email since writing this article and now I'm sharing it with you because it was so timely and appropriate. it just seems the right thing to summarise what i've written. Here it is and thankyou for reading this lens:
The value of a sister/brother
Who doesn't have one.
The value of ten years:
Ask a newly
The value of four years:
Ask a graduate.
The value of one year:
Ask a student who
Has failed a final exam.
The value of nine months:
Ask a mother who gave birth to a stillborn.
The value of one month:
Ask a mother
Who has given birth to
A premature baby.
The value of one week:
Ask an editor of a weekly newspaper.
The value of one minute:
Ask a person
Who has missed the train, bus or plane.
The value of one second:
Ask a person
Who has survived an accident.
Time waits for no one.
Treasure every moment you have.
You will treasure it even more when
You can share it with someone special.
To realize the value of a friend or family member:
The origin of this letter is unknown,
But it brings good luck to everyone who passes it on.
Hold on tight to the ones you love!