I was twenty seven when I entered reunion.
My adoptive mother’s response was as if her own rights had been violated. Everyone around her agreed with this. The opinion of me within my adoptive family hit an all time low. I had repaid generosity with unkindness. I understand that on the most basic level she had been let down in the deal which she had given her life to. The sheer gritty hard work of mothering, the sleepless nights, the dirty nappies, the making ends meet, the grind, the grind, the grind that is mothering was given on the understanding that this child would be hers and hers alone.
The world had changed under her. I was adopted before the children’s act of the early 1970s gave me rights to my birth certificate. I was born before the internet was even thought of. She was and still is unable to conceive of a world in which you can spit into a tube and find everyone related to you in a moment.
The years of suggestion that I had no right to break into the life of my natural mother, in case she had not informed a new husband about me, held me back from searching from the age of eighteen until the age of twenty-seven. I found her when I wanted to have children of my own.
I found her on Midsummer’s Eve.
The psychological impact on a family of an eldest child showing up are extreme. Everyone has their own journey. There is no help as there would be if a child who was kidnapped returned. I was miserable to see what I put them through. Loving her as they did they welcomed me in and assumed I’d be ok now by the saving force of their love.
I was not ok.
I was grieving over my adoptive family’s anger. I was grieving at the way family life in my natural family was like a fairy-tale of muffins and back yards. I was grieving at the way my natural mother kept house and the way she cooked dinners and the way she wore an apron and the way she smiled. When I thought of family I thought of these new and fabulous genetic creatures, my blood line. When I dreamed of family my dreams were and still are of the home I grew up in, of the parents who raised me.
I was blind to the fact that for my biological family I was only a half-sister. To me they were as genetically overwhelmingly full-on a biological experience as anything I had ever seen in my life. I was buffeted by the assumption in my adoptive family that I had chosen another family over them.
I wanted to wrap it all up into me. To bring them all together and have them teach me how to love them all. In my wildest dreams they loved each other because they loved me.
This was not how it was going to be.
The deal with my adoptive family was that they would forgive me and continue as normal if I never mentioned my relationship with my natural family. It upset my adoptive mother too much and she didn’t deserve it. Just get on with it. Things could be overlooked if you didn't go on about them.
The deal with my birth family was I would become one of them and be ok - not go on about the adoption, it upset my natural mother too much and she didn’t deserve it. Be light. They were light. They had been raised to a self-confident lightness by the woman who should have raised me.
I was not light. I was heavy as a stone weighing everyone down to the bottom of the river. I was as traumatised by the reunion as I had been by the separation. I shook, I had panic attacks, I behaved in ways that were deemed unreasonable by all. I wondered what was wrong with me that I could never be happy.
Twenty-five years later I am half myself in both places. I am the half-sister who never quite treats our mother right. I am the adoptee who was ungrateful enough to search. Everyone is exhausted by me. I am a thing of pain. In whichever place I am I bring sadness by not measuring up to how I ought to be now.
This is the truth of reunion. This is not a ‘perspective’. This is not a damaged outlook. This is how it is to live this way.