Thursday, 14 June 2012

Bumping into birth mum

No don’t panic, this hasn’t happened…yet. But it is something I have worried about and have spent time considering.

Mini's adoption was a UK domestic adoption. We adopted him through our local adoption agency/social services, and he comes from the same county as us. We only have limited letterbox (i.e written) contact with his birth family, and that is sent to/from the letterbox co-ordinator at the adoption agency so neither us nor the birth family knows each other's addresses.

We live in a large town within our area, birth family live quite close by and would certainly visit our town to go shopping, to the cinema and similar activities. We know that birth mum has relationships with people who live here, some quite close. Of the few buses that operate between our town and where she lives, one of them passes *very* close to our house, and it often passes me when I’m out and about with the kids. On top of that, she knows what town we live in.

A few years ago when Mini was still in a pushchair, I had a major panic as I was convinced that birth mum had just passed me on the bus and had seen and recognised me. (We have met birth mum, so it’s a possibility…I haven’t changed much since then). I legged it home as fast as I could, shut the curtains, locked the door and phoned hubby. Then I waited for someone to knock on the door.
The knock, thankfully, never came. I still don’t know if it was her, but I’m 90% sure that it was and I hope I never have to experience that panic again.

Knowing that it’s quite likely birth mum comes into our town, I must admit that I don’t hang about when I need to go into the town centre, although I’m not really one for traipsing around the shops for hours on end anyway. I only tend to go with Mini if the NC and Dollop come too (they’re my ‘security’), otherwise it’s usually just me and Dollop during the week. I had thought about pimping Dollop’s buggy with spikes and the like so I can take out ankles if we are approached, but I think that might invalidate the guarantee!
I do have a loose plan too – lock self and children in a changing room such as M&S, immediately ring hubby, and if under threat – police too.

Now, years down the line, I’m less worried about it happening. I am Mini’s mum and I will protect him fiercely. I would have always fought for him and never let anyone take him, but in those early days I think I would have found the confrontation much harder and I wonder what the after effects of such an event would have been. These days, woe betide anyone who tries to get in between us.  Emotionally I’m much stronger and could cope (for both of us) better. I would also like to think that after all this time, Mini's birth mother could now recognise that he is settled (ish) and happy here.

It might sound like paranoia to some, but it’s been a real possibility for us. We do as much as we can to protect his identity – he’s not allowed in school photos in case they are seen by birth family, he can’t have his photo in the local paper, we changed his name, we don’t include photos in our letterbox contact letters with his birth family. I hope that is never jeopardised by a chance meeting…


  1. I am a little confused. As you have adopted him, why do you need to keep in touch with his birth family? Perhaps cutting all contact is the option? I know an adopted man who considers his adoptive parents the only parents he has. He has never had any inclination to find his 'birth mother'. His adoptive parents have never had any contact with the birth parents.

    Likewise, my brother-in-law and his wife have adopted two children, now 8 and 10. They have never been in contact with the birth parents and have no intention of ever doing so. Of course, the children both know they have a 'tummy mummy' but they also have never expressed an interest in knowing who she was. That may change of course.

    Not having gone through this I may be speaking naively and apologise if I am but it seems that contact fear is preventing you from enjoying some of the lovely things about childhood - such as the school photo.

  2. Thanks for your comment. The only contact we have is via the letterbox written contact. This was agreed by myself and my husband when we adopted Mini, and is similar to many adopters.

    This post is about the fear I have of bumping into Mini's birth mother whilst going about my normal daily business. It's not about keeping contact with them, it's about avoiding it, which is hard to do when they live nearby...

  3. Its not paranoia at all! :D We adopted our girls from a county some 400 miles away, Yet still, sometimes in a crowd, I'm sure I spot birth mum's face! Now that's paranoia! :)
    Ps we have letterbox contact too, its quite common in the uk.

    1. Thanks for your comment. I think most of us have letterbox these days don't we?
      I think it might come across as paranoia to non-adopters who don't recognise how scary is could be - because of course they've never had to consider it...

  4. Hey Stix, I totally understand this fear. The parents of the little boy we looked at initially lived the next town away, our nearest 'big' town, and the place my own parents have considered moving to. The idea of my parents living a street away from her or something was another one of the reasons we had to think carefully... The little boy we're looking at now is from a town quite a way away but still the same county. I feel like I know so much about birth mum, it's strange. When we did our workshops, the SWs talked about the rare occasions when birth parents and adoptive parents end up on the same street...eek. They also said that when accidental meetings do happen, everyone tends to be keen to get away as soon as possible, but when you read how fiercely some birth mums contest the adoption, it doesn't take the nervousness away, does it? Sounds like you've found your 'Tiger Mother' though, and would protect Mini through thick and thin...I guess that's part of the bag as adopters and something we get stronger through realising xx

    1. Hiya, thanks for your comment. Sounds like you've had the discussion with your social workers before adopting - which of course is the right way round. We didn' came later, too late because we were already emotionally involved with Mini...
      Mini's birth mother fought hard for him (and also subsequent siblings) and so that drives the fear. But yes, definitely attuned to my inner Tiger Mother now (except it's not so inner anymore!) x

  5. This whole topic fills me with dread. We used to share a local town as well - really wasn't amused when the social worker told me they asked them to the offices in the town near us - plenty where she lived! And yes, this week we have the 'keep Bonzo out of the preschool leavers photo' coming up. Not sure what excuse I'll give him!

    1. Hope you find one that satisfies him! It's an awful feeling isn't it...

  6. This issue is probably one of the most difficult for adoptive parents I think. I certainly understand where you're coming from. Katie's BM lives in another town to us but Katie's half sibling is being raised by his BF and lives 3 miles away. We have now had a really fab meeting with him and feel happy to have face to face contact with him but there is the concern that, although he is no longer with BM, that she might be in our local town (which is pretty small) and we might bump into her. I think much of my anxiety about bumping into her would be around how I handled the situation with Katie if she were with me and how she might feel. We've not officially met BM, although have tried several times but it has fallen through for various reasons. We do send pics once a year to her, although they are always a year out of date and Katie often has a hat on. We don't have a security risk, as far as I'm aware, but it would simply be awkward. I can't imagine how she would feel in that situation. It can be difficult to know how much is ok i.e. school photos etc. I allowed Katie to be in her class photo this year but at the Christmas/Easter shows she sits near to one of the teachers who shields her slightly when the parents are taking pics (just to prevent anything going on FB). I feel for our children as well who just want to be "normal" and do the things that other children do and don't understand why we are so careful. I do also wonder how much of the anxieties are ones we create in our head and how much fear is based in reality. Maybe there is that underlying concern that our child will want to go with their BM if we met them. The whole contact thing is confusing at times. It's hard to know what to include; how much info to share; what's appropriate etc. Not sure we were ever prepared enough for that pre-adoption. xxx

    1. Like you, I often wonder how much fear is in my head and how much is real. I do know that part of the reason we changed Mini's name was to protect him, because SS thought she'd try to find him and his unusual name would have made that easy for her. Unfortunately because she knows which town we live in, I think there is real fear there for us - or at least there was, I think the risk of her now trying to find us has diminished over time.

      Interestingly I've never thought about how BM would feel. Because I always think of the scenario as her having found us (through actively looking) rather than a genuine 'bumping into each other' situation. I ought to look at it differently. And it's never occurred to me that Mini would want to go with her...(although I'm confident that he wouldn't...he wouldn't with any other stranger).

      I think you're right about the lack of preparation around contact...I'd agree that we didn't have enough pre-placement. xx

  7. Interesting comments... In our first workshops, the SWs got all of the future adopters to stand in a line according to their concerns about contact with 'very concerned' at one end and 'not at all concerned' at the other. There was a little gaggle of people at the very concerned end, unsurprisingly, and a few more of us strung out along the line. I positioned myself somewhere near not at all concerned, as I'd done a lot of reading and thought I had considered it all thoroughly...ah, the naivety!! Now, as we read more about BM and her life, it all becomes more real. I am torn between an aching compassion for her - a 'there but for the grace of god go I' kind of feeling (with less of a religious feel to it but just recognising that it was because of the circumstances she was born into and the terrible treatment she received that she ended up as she did, whereas I was lucky to be born into the family/life I was) - and a kind of fear of her (the paperwork is disturbing). She gave birth to the little boy we want to adopt, she carried him in her womb for nine months, she will always, always be a part of his life and his identity. How we approach that will be dictated by our little boy and his feelings, but the idea of bumping into her - rather than a prearranged meeting when you can emotionally prepare - still feels slightly shocking. It seems that in the adoption triangle, she is the one who is left with nothing to move forward with. My friend, adopted herself, is pregnant and getting ready to give birth and admitted to me the other day, 'I feel afraid because I know that when I'm in labour I'll be thinking of my birth mum giving birth and getting nothing at the end of it.' Powerful stuff, it certainly made me think. Thanks for giving me more food for thought through these comments - I guess we just have to work it out as we go along!

    1. That is so sad that your friend feels she'll be thinking about her birth mother, rather than enjoying the experience of birthing. But equally, very brave of her to admit her feelings and very respectful of her birth mother's feelings. It must be really hard for her.

      I must admit during my own labour with Dollop, I did think about Mini's birth mother. As expected we got questions about whether she was our first, and had to explain that no she was my second child but first labour. It transpired that my labour midwife had been involved in Mini's birth mother's care when she was pregnant with him...although a bizarre connection, it made me consider her feelings.

      Contact is a strangely emotive subject. Even letterbox, where no direct contact takes place. And there are many feelings that surface when it comes to those times of year. As Mini gets older we'll be led more by him, for now we stick to our letterbox arrangement (made before Mini even moved in), and hope that we don't ever just bump into birth mum, or worse, get found by her.

  8. I was meaning to write a comment on this but it got eaten by my phone. Grr.

    I'm not sure anyone replied to the first comment by Mumof3 but I think it's worth saying that all the research shows that some contact with birth family if possible is good for adopted children. I know that most people who don't have information about adoption as it is lived out nowadays wouldn't necessarily know that.

    I can see that for some people different members of the birth family pose different fears, although it may be that in reality they don't pose any different risks (it's the same for us, where BF is a completely unknown quantity, but has the same genetic relationship to our son as his BM, where we know more what we are getting). So I do wonder if there are some people with whom we fear contact but it's partly through lack of information.

    I think that contact is basically a given - in some form - in adoption these days, though as Stix says it is for the child's benefit. I would hate to have Baby Spouse come back to us later and ask why we'd lost contact with someone, or not made an effort to get in contact. At the age he is, only we can do that. And yes, adopted children do later say that they want to stop contact - so we'll need to be prepared for that.

    I hope you don't mind, I'm linking to this post, along with another post from a US adopter who has a daughter adopted from very similar circumstances.

    1. Thanks for your comment and of course I don't mind.

      Contact should definitely be a given. I think it should also be discussed more during preparation courses and homestudies. In theory writing a letter twice a year talking about your children should be easy, but I've found that over the years it's become harder and harder to pass on information about MY child, and the longer he's here the more I feel irritated by having to do this task.

      I personally feel that more preparation should be done with adopters about how they'll feel. Before we agreed to proceed with Mini, I think I would have appreciated some time talking about how I might feel if I did bump into birth mum in future (birth father is not a risk - he has little interest in Mini, and wouldn't know what he or us look like). I didn't know that then of course, and wish the social workers had worked through that with me.

  9. I believe that when letterbox contact is granted between the child and his/her biological parents then it should not be broken.
    I do not agree with adoption as some children are removed from their parents for no reason what so ever.
    In my experience social services are in it for money and if any adopted parents could see how the perants are treated then maybe adopted parents would think differently.
    Most children come from loving families and have never raised a hand or neglected their children in anyway.
    Some parents have learning disabilities but that does not mean they can not look after their child.
    Maybe adopted parents should look at the way families are treated by social workers.
    I lost two children to the care system because I had been in care myself.
    Me and my partner were abused and threatened and bullied by social workers because of my partners learning disability.
    Adopted parents are told how a child has been neglected and stories are made up to the adopted parents in which they believe.
    We are not bad people and love our children very much.
    It is unfair for any child to be removed from a loving family home and being judged by courts, solicitors, barristers, social workers, family aides and so on.
    Each social worker receives over £20,000 for every case they win therefore motivated by money.
    I am motivated by love not money and I do not have a lot but have given our children everything

  10. We have letterbox contact although this has been intermittent coming our way. We do have real securuty fears. Although I understand the position of 'Anonymous' above and I appreciate that, in the case of my own adoptive children there was and continues to be a very real threat to their safety (obv I cant go into details sorry). I do have a fear of bumping into someone because of this but its really only because of this. If there weren't such severe concerns and safety issues then maybe I would feel differently.

  11. I have close friends who are social workers and can categorically state they do not get £20k for each case they win as suggested by annonymous...some cases may be dubious however for the sake of a childs safety and decisions to remove them from a family is always a last resort.....adoption is a much better direction for the child in many though not all cases. Clearly birth parents are likely to be defensive and bitter where their child has been removed-and understandibly.

  12. If SW were in it for the money they would be far more proactive and children would not be in the care system for so long as it stands a relinquished baby can wait for upto 2 years to be adopted costing foster care alone £39,000

  13. social workers do not have payment for completing adoptions, and "winning" care proceedings is not something that is celebrated. it is not just social workers who decide to remove a child and place for adoption, but the court and their officers who make the decision. Anonymous, please seek some support to come to terms with what has happened, I feel for you, but you are factually incorrect.

    Stix, this is another interesting blog, letterbox contact is so openly discussed during reviews etc, but we don't often talk about the "what ifs".... something for me to think about...!!!