Fathers Day comes and goes every year, but for some the challenge of searching for a birth father is a challenging mountain to climb. We discuss the climb and surrounding questions at:
TTAG International Searchers’ Get Together 17th June 2017
Firstly, I would like to congratulate Perlita Harris and all the team behind this really exciting group that helps overseas adoptees to the UK to understand some of the complexities of the adoption journey. If you’re interested at joining the group or know someone who you think would benefit from being a member please do find the group on Facebook and join – TTAG.
The day’s agenda
We would view and discuss Olympic athlete Jamie Baulch’s documentary about searching for his birth father, and then in the afternoon (part 2 of this blog)
Adoptee/psychotherapist Andre Radmall special guest speaker would discuss his own search for his father and the implications of the search pre and post on his life.
Jamie Baulch – watch clips/download the film in BBC Documentaries
On an exceptionally hot and sticky day the light and airy workspace that we where meeting in was awash with anticipation as questions littered our conversations; How difficult is it to search for a birth father? Why search? Is it the same as searching for a birth mother? Would Jamie Baulch be successful? And what is the cost of the emotional journey? Desire and expectation passed around the room as effortlessly as we passed around the popcorn.
Simply… What learning would we discover today?
Jamie Baulch used the professional search organization ‘After Adoption’ to do his initial search. As we discussed using professional companies to search, we all agreed that really your searching journey is just that, yours. There are countless alternatives to paying hard earned cash to find family members, such as the internet, there are many online guides available to aid the novice searcher to turn detective. However, we all agreed that if the search becomes overseas then it is really useful at times to use the professionals too, as the complexities of adoption overseas often historical government information can become a minefield. However, using the community, local knowledge, speaking to local people alive at the time all are an integral part of the searchers search.
As the film revealed, really anything and everything is relevant in this very emotive journey into self-discovery and the emergence of self.
The film was gripping, many who had similar experiences of searching in the group concurred that the past is full of incongruences, false names, vague timelines, people’s emotions, emotional walls of silence and cold paper trails. Having a strong emotional team behind you was paramount.
The question of ‘What’s in a name?’ leapt up into the discussion.
In the film Jamie asked the question was his ‘real name Jamie?’, as we shared it became apparent that a mother being forced to give up her child the name was often the only thing that a mother could give her child was – their name. It’s a hidden gift, an invisible link to the mother’s world as names are not arbitrary things dished out whimsically… The significance of name and it’s importance for the searcher could hold the secret to a searchers identity, a mother may name a child after a kind uncle, location or friend indeed something of great relevance and significance. And that name is handed over to a child as a parting gift. I had tears in my eyes and I wasn’t alone, as we discussed this simple but seriously thought provoking fact.
As a foundling I had no birth name so this link was never achieved, some have their birth name changed by a new family, some have multiple names as they are moved around the local authority system. The undermining of a name to some in the light of a rushed adoption can become harrowing years later to a searching adult, as the complexity of identity and the reverberant question ‘who am I? Is echoed again and again throughout many a searchers journey.
Its not unusual for a mother to forget a birth of a child if experiencing extreme levels of trauma or pain, as this can eradicate the birth memory as the body shuts down as the pain is so destructive. This once again can be an unimaginable pain for a searching adoptee and a birth mother, again when searching the complexity of the emotional search always requires support. If you are interested more on Trauma and it’s effect in families checkout thetraumatherapistproject.com
**an interesting (controversial) side note.. when I was told that in severe trauma cases mothers could forget their children, it reminded me of a Bible verse in Isaiah 49:15 that says ‘“Can a woman forget her nursing child, And not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, Yet I will not forget you.’ I love this as it encourages me that Father God understands trauma and uses it to encourage humankind that even in severe cases of trauma he will never forget us.
We discussed in the film the importance of searching in a local community as Jamie Baulch visited new communities for him, we watched as he walked from door to door with his story gaining respect and hope from strangers, desperate for connections. Some people said go to this cornershop or that Barber’s as a lost memory could be triggered, and the constant hope that an older person could look at a searcher and say the magic words ‘you look like so and so’s son or mother’. For the searcher the heritage of family resemblance is as mythical as a unicorn, the notion that you may actually resemble someone is another piece of the jigsaw waiting to be recovered.
The search documentary showed powerfully the full plethora of this man’s emotions, his drive, his focus and the joy of the DNA test that he felt would lead to his new family and the sting of sadness as doors closed and slammed in his face.
The documentary had us all on an emotional knife edge! Would he find his read dad? Would he continue anyway? We wanted a good outcome as much as he did.. But in the end there was no sign of his birth father, but what he found was a sense of identity beyond his wildest dreams! The truth of who he was and what defined him was under his nose all the time. He was who he was.
The hope and love he had in the present was a new healing power, the new community who had supported him, new friends he had found on his adoption search journey, the great characters and kindness that had lifted his often heart breaking walk and kept him going. Jamie Baulch I felt had confronted the broken pieces of identity in his life and out of it woven a new identity for himself.
He discovered he was actually unique and unique can be GOOD! The intertwined patchwork of answers and questions, new beginnings and endings was now laid bare, but not in a shameful way, but in an empowering way.
In facing fears and past pain he had learned the freedom of inner peace, self-acceptance and that his identity was always in him ready to be discovered.
The glory of celebrating who you are is what everyone wishes. This was the rainbow in the forest of discovery. This was the hope and door into the next chapter of life, a life free of the bondage of fear and inadequacy.
I believe self discovery never finishes as the more we challenge ourselves the more roads and paths to the beauty of existence can be opened in all their complexities.
*Please read part 2 of this to find out what happened when we spoke to Andre Radmall – picture below
thank you for reading, sending you peace, joy xx