petite anglaise

December 6, 2004


Filed under: adoption, navel gazing — petiteanglaiseparis @ 9:00 am

Home from work, I reached into the post box and pulled out a handful of junk mail. And also a cream coloured envelope with an unfamiliar postmark. I had seen the handwriting on the envelope once before: it matched the signature on my adoption paperwork. It felt as though all the blood was draining out of my face as I stumbled blindly along the hallway to the apartment, clutching the letter. I didn’t allow myself to open the envelope until safely inside.

“Thank you so much for your letter which I hoped you would write one day…”

Tears streamed down my face as I read and re-read. One passage made me sob out loud. After some time had passed I became aware of my surroundings again and realised I was sitting on the stairs, my bag still around my shoulder, in semi-darkness. The front door stood ajar, my keys dangling from the lock.

And so, finally, I was able to read my biological mother’s version of the events surrounding my birth. She had been hoping against hope for almost thirty years that I would make contact with her one day. Having me adopted was not exactly her choice, as her parents (with whom she had always had a difficult relationship) had pressured her into taking that course of action. I was shocked to read that my sixteen-year- old mother had spent ten days in the maternity hospital after the birth, feeding me, bathing me and holding me in her arms, before giving me up. She remembered vividly driving away from the hospital in her parents’ car, her arms empty.

A couple of years later my mother got back together with an old flame and they married when I was four years old. More than a decade passed before she felt able to try for any more children. Eventually they had twin boys. The thing that she found hardest to explain to me, the main reason for her feelings of guilt and regret, was that the man she had married was my biological father.

When I finally made the decision to write, first and foremost I wanted to contact my mother to let her know that things had turned out well for me, that I was happy, that I was contemplating starting a family of my own. In return I hoped to find out that her life had not been ruined by her teenage pregnancy, that she had moved on and been happy too. I didn’t know for sure whether the address I had used was correct, whether my grandparents would pass on the letter to my mother, or indeed whether she would ever reply if she did receive it.

The one thing I had never contemplated, and I don’t know why, was the fact that my biological mother and father might actually be together.

I was a mess for a while. I couldn’t read the letter without crying and I read it every single day, more than once. I suppose I was unprepared for the emotions I had stirred up: I had no inkling I possessed such strong feelings, but they must have been lurking beneath the surface all along.

It was overwhelming. Far more than I had bargained for. I had wanted to find out about my biological mother. Instead I had found a whole family. And I wasn’t sure I knew what to feel about that.


  1. Wow. I’m riveted. From the way the story is told, I’m not sure what point you’re at now, but good luck to you.

    Comment by srah — December 6, 2004 @ 9:14 am

  2. …and THEN? Hoo, you definately have my attention now. I hope there’s a part three! :)

    Comment by ViVi — December 6, 2004 @ 10:15 am

  3. Wow. I suppose we’ll have to wait until tomorrow to know.

    Comment by Chninkel — December 6, 2004 @ 10:27 am

  4. A close friend of mine met her older sister when she was 20. In this case as well, her mother had been pressured into giving up her baby because her parents didn’t approve of her boyfriend and wanted her to marry someone more “suitable”. Like your biological mum, my friend’s mum ended up marrying the man she loved and having 4 more children with him. Parents really don’t always know what’s best for their children.

    Comment by céline — December 6, 2004 @ 10:48 am

  5. I can’t even imagine the feelings and emtions you must have experienced. I am not sure what kind of response I would have wanted from my biological mother. I know I would have theorized on all of the different possibilities. But, I don’t think I could have come up with the one she provided you.

    This is an incredible story and I hope you can share more with us. I feel like I am reading a Charles Dickens’ novel.

    Comment by Jason Stone — December 6, 2004 @ 11:21 am

  6. Hello!

    Have been reading your blog for a few weeks and never commented thus far, but am finding your story really gripping – absolutely Dickensian! Hope things have turned out well for you, if this latest instalment is also 2001.

    Au revoir…

    Comment by Kitchen Witch — December 6, 2004 @ 11:41 am

  7. I hope you found peace of mind

    Comment by andre — December 6, 2004 @ 11:47 am

  8. Oh wow…

    Deja vu.


    Comment by deeleea — December 6, 2004 @ 12:28 pm

  9. I’m at work and I am nearly in tears. Not the way Monday morning was meant to start and I’ve shut myself in my office so no one can see.

    Your writing is beautiful and powerful, and clearly comes from the first-hand and recent experience you’ve had. No one can ever say they know how you feel, unless they’ve gone through the same thing. But your description of the event, your emotions, and your thoughts gives me a small glimpse of what it would feel like.

    I wish you well through this sub-plot in your life. In a terribly voyeristic (in the 2nd definition of the word) way, I hope you choose to impart more on how this goes for you.

    Comment by Chris P. — December 6, 2004 @ 3:24 pm

  10. Your writing is lovely, and so are you. I’m rooting for you.

    Comment by Mike — December 6, 2004 @ 4:21 pm

  11. everyone’s story is different – everyone’s story is important. I’m really glad you are sharing yours.

    Comment by badger — December 6, 2004 @ 6:57 pm

  12. A beautiful story, Petite :) You take care now! :)

    Comment by chris holland — December 6, 2004 @ 7:01 pm

  13. It’s so great that you two have contact. I have no idea what your relationship is present day, but I hope only good things for you. :wink:

    Comment by yayaempress — December 6, 2004 @ 9:29 pm

  14. The social stigma attached to single parenthood in general and teenage pregnancy in particular is alive and well (for proof just open the pages of the Daily Mail on a quiet day when its journalists are not indulging in scandal-mongering concerning the concupiscence of cabinet members – the vitriol against benefit scroungers and council flat queue jumpers demonstrates that unregulated/transgressive female sexuality is still demonized), in spite of the fact that in the UK and elsewhere most children are now born out of wedlock. Thankfully the days when unmarried mothers were locked away in asylums to contemplate the error of their ways have gone for good. As a former single mother myself I am glad to have been born at a juncture when such punishments had already been outlawed. Now we just have disapproval and the occasional bout of moral censure to contend with. I just wanted to let you know that I have found the last couple of posts both sensitive and moving.

    Comment by Chameleon — December 6, 2004 @ 9:44 pm

  15. Thank you all for your lovely comments. I wanted to find the right tone and these posts have been drafted and re-drafted.

    I wanted to avoid at all costs sounding like an item from that dreadful old radio one show ‘our tune’, with Zeffirelli’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ playing in the background.

    Chameleon – your comment has reminded me of the film ‘The Magdelene Sisters’. Harrowing viewing.

    Comment by petite — December 6, 2004 @ 11:17 pm

  16. Really interesting. Tomorrow the third part of the stpry, please.

    Comment by Jesus — December 7, 2004 @ 1:10 am

  17. A neighbour of mine had a similar situation to you, her biological parents married and had another child. Hers was tragic as the one day she had the courage to knock on their door, after months of driving past, was the day after her biological father’s death. The first family event she attended was her father’s funeral.

    Comment by Popsie — December 7, 2004 @ 4:39 am

  18. Oh Golly

    Comment by Emma — December 7, 2004 @ 8:52 am

  19. Oh Petite – oh my goodness – I’ve only just caught up with this incredible, moving, touching story, thank you so much for writing it. And gimme gimme gimme more more more please!
    I guess this is a good moment in your blogging history for you to get an honourable mention in the Guardian, it’s at if you haven’t seen it yet. Go check out your stat counter, and then write us another of these thrilling, searing, glorious posts (no pressure though):lol:
    Take care

    Comment by Zinnia Cyclamen — December 7, 2004 @ 9:19 am

  20. Oh my. Can you begin to describe the emotion that you felt? I cannot imagine how powerful an impact that letter must have made on you. Did you ever go and meet her? Your bio dad? Your brothers? Did you think of them as family? Or just acquaintances? So true what one poster said earlier about parents really not always knowing what’s best for their teenage kids.

    Comment by Valkyrie — December 7, 2004 @ 9:40 am

  21. You write as if you have turned into your own twin – another being out there with another family. Scary.

    As for your mother – to have held you like that and then had to lose you. But maybe at 16 she might not have coped with bringing you up.

    I had to help a young woman a few years back – mentally ill, disturbed, who had to make the decision to give up her own baby. And did: very bravely. She really could not have looked after him. In due course he would have been taken away for sure – it had happened to 2 other babies she’d tried to keep. She refused to see him. I went for her and took some pictures. But she was still made to register his birth herself. She can’t read or write. I had to go with her. The registrar was kind – but why put her through it? Cruel world.

    Your story is so painful; but rather wonderful. Tread carefully. Good luck.

    Comment by grannyp — December 7, 2004 @ 10:49 am

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