Throughout my childhood, I don’t think I ever really thought too much about finding my biological parents, probably because I knew at that time I couldn’t do anything about it anyway. That doesn’t mean I didn’t think about them though. I always wondered things. What did they look like? Did I look like them? What part of my genetic make up came from each of them? Would my personality be anything like them? I would especially think about such questions when I heard my friends at school talking about what they had inherited from their parents, whether positive or negative!
In writing this, a couple of earlier memories, both significant and special, have sprung to mind. As I mentioned before, I have always known I was adopted, my parents handled it exactly right. I can remember, being about ten years old and sitting on the bed in my bedroom with mum, together looking through my baby book. I have no idea what prompted us to do it but I do remember her carefully lifting out a blue envelope, that I’m not sure I’d seen before but must have always been there, and seeing, carefully handwritten in blue ink on the front, the name ‘Caroline’. I remember mum gathering me into a cuddle and explaining that that was the name my biological parents had given me when I first born, before mum and dad changed my name to Abigail.
I carefully opened the envelope to find a beautiful letter, written by the very special person that had given birth to me, my biological mother. She explained a little bit about the situation and the fact that I was very much loved but that it would not have been possible to have given me everything I needed and therefore they had made the decision to have me adopted in order to give me the best life possible. Mum read the letter out aloud to me and as we both took it all in, we both cried tears. I think we both felt the reality of the fact that behind the piece of paper we had in front of us, there was a young girl who had taken the time to sit, compose and write the words that enabled her to say what she needed me to know. I can honesty say, as I sit here now, that I have never felt anything negative whatsoever for the brave decision they made back then and actually only hold respect that, being as young as they were, they were mature enough to know their own minds and see things through.
Another memory I treasure, ironically is one of going to the dentist as a young teenager, while being fitted for a brace (ironic because these days, the dentist is the last place on earth I’d chose to go and therefore highly unlikely to produce any fond memories!) I had always had quite a significant gap between my two front teeth and I remember the dentist saying such gaps can often run in the family, looking over at mum (who has a small gap herself) and winking. We both looked at each other, for a second wondering if we should say, then smiled, gave each other a secret shake of the head and just agreed right along with the dentist! It was a moment I treasured.
Turning eighteen I thought would be a pivotal point but I found it all just became a little too real and possible and if I’m honest, fear of the unknown outweighed any curiosity so I just pushed it all to the back of my mind. I was fearful that I’d start the ball rolling and that things would then spiral out of my control, I was fearful I would be rejected, I was fearful of creating any kind of upset, being so acutely aware that both my biological parents would by now, almost certainly have gone on to have their own families and that would need careful and sensitive thinking, I was fearful of hurting and upsetting my mum and dad, quite simply I was fearful of the enormity of the whole thing and the fact that from one decision from me, so many lives would be changed forever in one way or another. It was a lot to carry.
So in the reality of how big it all was, I buried my curiosities, hid from it all and got on with life, occasionally wondering about the big unknown that was my biological family. I went to university, got my degree in English and Psychology, did my Post-Graduate Certificate of Education, became a Christian, got married to Luke, started a new job as a Primary School Teacher and was living life content and happy.
After a few years, Luke and I found ourselves in hospital room after hospital room, being asked question after question about our medical histories. Luke would always go first and spend time answering them all, then it would be my turn and I’d hear myself time and time again simply saying ‘I don’t know’. I believe in the power of the tongue and the ability words have to build up or destroy and every time I felt something rising up, stirring deep inside of me, the desire to one day be able to answer every single one of those questions, with the true facts.
Around roughly the same time, two of our closest friends, Neil and Jenny Reid-Chesworth went ‘home’ to Liverpool for the weekend to see their family and returned late Sunday afternoon to make the evening church meeting. At the end of the meeting I casually asked Neil how their weekend had been and I remember him saying he had thought about me and the fact that I was adopted because he had just been told that weekend, at the age of 31, that the man he had grown up calling ‘Dad’ wasn’t in fact his biological father at all.
My adopted sister and I could obviously talk to each other with understanding about the feelings and thoughts that come with not knowing anything about your genetic background, but in Neil and his situation, I found someone else who had a sudden understanding of needing to know, history, background, biological roots, ancestry, who suddenly realised all the questions and needed to find the answers. Neil, being one of the most confident people in their own skin that I know, someone who knows what his goals are in life, someone who knows his own mind, someone who thinks things through, makes decisions and goes for gold, knew he needed to find his biological father and straight away. I was impressed and challenged by how certain he was and how he seemingly was able to face the situation without letting fear intervene and taking over. The ball was set in motion.
What followed was a new found common ground in our friendship and me quietly waiting in the wings, watching Neil’s journey unfold before my very eyes. It was Jenny who made initial contact with Neil’s biological father and I remember finding out they’d actually found him, had a conversation to explain things and had arranged to meet in person. For the first time, in an almost ‘too real for comfort’ way, there was the reality that I could do it too. And that it might actually be ok. I could even have the opportunity to meet them.
Shortly after locating his dad, my phone bleeped one evening with a text from Neil explaining that he had purchased some credits to search the national online registers and still had some left, should I wish to use them before they expired and were wasted. There was no pressure on me whatsoever but I felt my heart quicken as I realised that maybe this was the jolt I needed to propel myself into actually stepping out and acting on the desire I had suppressed for so long. I think if I’m honest, in that moment, I knew I was going to seize the day and grasp the opportunity for all it was worth.
There was just one thing that would stop me. And that was whether my adoptive parents would be understanding, supportive and not upset about it. My life has been so happy, I’ve been so loved and my family mean everything to me and if for one minute, that would be put into question, for only that reason and that reason alone, would I not go ahead. I just needed to ask. And bringing it up was harder than I thought it would be. I tried a few times but always bowed out at the last minute and had almost got myself to a place where I thought maybe I should just give up, when suddenly the situation presented itself.
It was a beautiful hot summers day. The sky was a vivid azure blue, there wasn’t a cloud in sight and the sun was shining brightly, warming mum and I with its rays as we stretched out next to each other on sun loungers, in the peace of the back garden. We had huge glasses of iced water and sat happily chattering away as we caught up on what had been happening over the last couple of weeks as mum and dad had just returned from holiday. Suddenly in my spirit, I felt it was time and conversation naturally seemed to come around to a point where I could easily have brought up where I was at in thinking about trying to search for my birth parents. But, I hesitated for a second too long and the moment passed. As I laid there in the sun, I felt like the metaphorical swan, gliding over the water, on the outside looking completely relaxed and at peace, but underneath, inside, paddling away like mad, panicking that I’d missed my chance and wondering if I could somehow get it back.
I started to pray in my head. Pray that God would give me a second opening in the conversation, another opportunity and as I lay there with my eyes closed, the sun shining directly on my face, I felt as if the warmth was God Himself, touching me and filling me with peace and reassurance. Before I could even engage my brain I felt my lips begin moving and heard my own voice suddenly say to mum, “I have something to ask you”. She opened her eyes, sensing the moment and again I heard my voice, “If I said I was thinking of trying to find my biological parents, what would you think?”. I’d said it. The words were out there. No matter what the response was, I’d asked the question and it was hovering in the air between us. I could feel my heart pumping in my ears in the natural, but total peace in my heart.
Mum paused for no less than a second, leant over towards me and replied, “Ab, I’m surprised you’ve waited this long to bring it up. I have always thought if I was in your shoes and I had been adopted, would I be curious and want to find the answers to my questions …” She looked at me and with her eyes shining and finished with the words that were to change my path forever, “Yeah … I think I would!” In that moment I loved her more than I ever had and found a whole new level of respect, which had always been crazily high anyway. We chatted away about the whole thing and agreed I needed to have the same conversation with my dad but that the upshot was they both loved me, understood and would support me and help with whatever I needed them to. I had opened the gate and the path was there, laid out in front of me.
Shortly after, I had the conversation with my dad, we sat on the bed in mum and dads bedroom and I asked him what he thought. He responded in the same way as mum, told me he loved me and nothing would change that and that he’d support me and do whatever I needed of him. I’m never sure if it’s the right way around for a child to feel proud of their parents but in that moment I was proud of them, thankful for them and in awe of how they had both responded. They never once showed any kind of crack, at least not in front of me. And I will forever be grateful.
And there I suddenly found myself. Free. Nothing to stop me, except myself. So before I could, I picked up the phone, dialed the number and heard Neil’s voice. I filled him in, told him I was ready, to give me the details of the search credits and instructed him to not let me change my mind, no matter what I said. And so the journey began. First stop. Wild Goose-Chase Hill.