Wednesday 13 December 2017

Dear Mary: I'm wondering more and more about who my birth parents are

I am 18 and have just left school. Hopefully, in the autumn I will be starting college. I am an only child and my parents have given me every opportunity -- good schooling, great support, and every chance to see if I was good at piano, ballet, and various sports. I love them and can't thank them enough. But I am adopted, and that has given me increased worry over the last couple of years.

Mum and Dad (and I will always call them that) will always have my love and affection and they told me quite early on that I was a blessing to them that they never thought they would have. They explained about being adopted and I loved the fact that -- as they said -- they "chose" me!

Even though some girls in school tried to give me a bad time about it I was always secure in the knowledge of the love that they poured on me. But over the last few years I have been wondering more and more about who my real parents were and why I was put up for adoption. I don't like to mention this to Mum and Dad, as it seems very ungrateful to them and somehow I feel really guilty about this. I would feel totally disloyal if I said it to any of my friends, and as I have no other close relatives I don't know where to turn.

Mary replies: You have just ended a very important part of your life, and it is only natural that you are looking back as well as forward, and in doing so are wondering about all the components that have gone into making you the person that you are.

You rightly acknowledge the very big part your adoptive parents have played in all of this, and they will continue to be the most important people in your life for the foreseeable future. However, you also have biological parents, and they are also part of your story.

Almost all adopted people I have worked with have had lots of conflicting emotions and unanswered questions regarding their adoptions, and you will have to accept that some of your questions may never be answered and you may never know the full story.

The first people to concern you are your mum and dad, but I'm absolutely sure they will have anticipated your desire to go down this route. So instead of feeling guilty, take them into your confidence and tell them you would like to have more details and ask them how they would feel if you were to start to search for your birth parents. You should reassure them that nobody will ever replace them in your affections, and that you are looking for answers more than anything else.

They have protected you all of your life and so they will want to continue to do this. I say this because they are aware that there may have been some form of rejection connected with you when you were given up for adoption, and there is a possibility that you may face even more rejection if you locate your birth parents as they may not wish to meet you.

This is something that you will have to prepare yourself for, as it can result in huge disappointment.

Another thing to bear in mind is if you do meet them (or more than likely just one of them) they may not be at all what you envisaged, you may not actually like them and you will then be left with more conflicting emotions.

I realise that I am putting forward all sorts of negatives for you to think about and the reality may be quite different -- you may become friends with your birth mother or father and establish a very special bond.

But it is necessary to warn you that sometimes the story has a very unhappy ending.

In any event, you are probably anxious to know what sort of a genetic background you have medically, because at some stage in your life you will be asked about inherited conditions.

As a first step, you should contact Barnardos at 1850 222 300 or which is a service specifically geared towards children. Among other things, it offers advice regarding contacting the National Adoption Contact Preference Register, which was launched by the Adoption Board in 2005 to give adopted people and members of their natural family an opportunity to register their wishes about contact.

The people at Barnardos will also be able to give you lots of practical advice as they have seen countless people through the process of attempting to be re-united with their birth parents and are aware of the pitfalls and indeed joys that can ensue.

But above all remember that your mum and dad, in common with all parents, want only the best for you and for you to be happy, so whatever it takes to ensure your happiness will make them happy too.

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