Today we’re very honoured to have a guest post from the amazing Sarah Goldbart, on being adopted. This post is so heartfelt, honest, and moving, we’ve replicated it exactly ‘as is’.
You can find Sarah here, but before you go, grab a cuppa and some tissues, and enjoy her story of an amazing family full of love.
The very lovely Philippa Whipp asked me to write about what its like to be adopted, which is a wonderful excuse to talk about my much beloved and missed parents, Sheila & Len Goldbart. Pip’s only advice was to ‘just write from the heart’, so here goes…
My earliest memories are of being a happy and extremely well fed baby (think Michelin man in cute Parisian baby dresses). And cuddles, lots & lots of cuddles.
My parents, being chatty, informative, social, funny and attentive people also spent lots of time talking to me (that is, when I was awake, as the first two years consisted mainly of dozing, snoozing, and general sleepy times). I can’t remember exactly when, but somewhere around 2/3yrs, chats became explanations of where babies come from, and how our situation was different, insofar as I was already born when my parents got me.
They said that there were a lot of babies just born in the nursing home, and I was lying in the middle row cot fast asleep. My mum said that she knew I was her baby straightaway. The bond for her was instant, though she wasn’t allowed to hold me yet, and could only look at me through a glass, just hours old. The words ‘we chose you’ were and are so important to me. They say so much. ‘We love you, we want you, you are our family’. (And I’m breaking out my first tissue, as my parents live only in memory now and I need to reach back in time to hear all the words of love, comfort and support they gave me).
The normalcy they gave to the details of the adoption, and the openness with which they answered my questions, was incredibly important. I felt special, loved, supported, safe…they saw me and they chose me!
My mum was also very open about her miscarriages, and the loss of a baby girl at over 6 months into her pregnancy. She talked about the hysterectomy she had (in simple 3 year old language), and her overriding need to be a mother.
Then she told me how she had colluded with the foster mother to have me with her earlier, how she handed me to a neighbour when the social worker came round, and how, at 6 months, I was in her arms at the court that finally gave permission for the adoption to be completed. She said I was patting her back in time to her patting my back as we became one family.
My developing toddler brain completely accepted my adoption and I loved my parents all the more for the extraordinary lengths they had to go through to get me. I would highly recommend most adopters to take to same approach.
Two school friends of mine who found out at 12yrs/15yrs were devastated, completely lost confidence in their parents and proceeded to make life as difficult as possible for themselves and their parents. A shock like that, a sense of betrayal, and feeling like their lives were a lie, had a very detrimental impact, and badly damaged family relations.
Having said that, I know that there are complicated stories where professional assistance is necessary, particular when a child is born under difficult circumstances, has extra physical/mental/emotional needs, or comes from a difficult background. My birth story was straightforward so that’s the only type of adoption I can comment on.
Working it out
My only real issue, as I got a couple of years older (5/6yrs), was that I didn’t completely understand the rules and regulations around adoption, so my imagination started to seep into dreams. I repeatedly dreamt that two faceless strangers abducted me and took me away (as they were my genetic parents), and my much loved adoptive parents weren’t able to get me back.
I even made up a story to solve this problem. When my mum went in for her hysterectomy, she had in fact had me (though she didn’t know because she was unconscious). Then when she was presented to me, she didn’t realise she was, in fact, my birth mum too. I ignored the timing of all this because I was so desperate that she should be my one and only mum.
And yes, I was very curious about my birth background as I became a teenager. I asked endless questions. Sometimes my parents were positively interrogated for the smallest details of: what were the circumstances of the adoption? what did these birthparents look like? where did they come from? My mum said that she always knew that I would look into my background, but I always tried to reassure her that I was not looking for other ‘parents’ to replace them, if I did. My brother, adopted two years later, had no interest at all at the time.
At 26 yrs I traced my birth parentage. I discovered that my birthfather had died at 30 (from a rare muscle paralysing virus caught in Tunisia) leaving his parents without any descendants.
My birthmother (who had me at 19yrs) went on to have two further daughters 13/14 yrs later. So I’m from a line of eccentric, creative, nomadic Celts (on both sides of the family). This helped to explain my own passion to travel, be an artist…and a wee bit unconventional.
And it was good to meet all the grandparents. On my birthmother’s side to lay to rest the ghost of guilt at having orchestrated my adoption. And on my birthfather’s side to give them back the granddaughter they had wanted to adopt when I was born, and to be a living, female echo of their long lost only son.
Not all relations worked out perfectly, but I have a greater understanding of the part of me influenced by family DNA. And strong bonds were made with some family members. (It should be noted that my mum did have deep concerns as to how I would feel finding my birth parentage, but, as I said to her, I already have the best parents. I’m not looking for any more).
Nurtured and nourished
Having done all that discovering, I discovered something much closer to the home I grew up in. I am very much a person of nurture. The influence my wonderful parents, Sheila & Len had, runs deeper than genetics, flows stronger than blood ties, is so much more part of my very soul (and I’m a confirmed atheist).
They nourished my mind, my heart, my humour and my creativity. Even through financially difficulties, illnesses and worries, they showed how strong we could be by pulling together. And they showed me how much they loved each other. Of course none of us are perfect, but in a world of fallible human beings, they were perfect for me. The best of who I am, the best of what I do, the best that I create, is down to them.
Just as an aside, and naff as it sounds, my mum always liked us to call them ‘Mummy & Daddy’. She said it was more personal and it made her feel younger (she only liked to admit to ’39 and a widgie bit’. She died when I was 39, so we got to be the same age for 5 months). And they always really were the best Mummy and Daddy to me. I got to slip into their warm cocoon of their love and support anytime I needed it. As I grew up they became my best friends. And as an adult, they were greater advisors/ confidants as I banana-slipped my way through college, work, and relationships.
The only downside to this amazing, unconditional love was how to survive the loss of it when they died. It took 3 years of deep depression, including a year of counselling, to find a way to live without their physical presence. And though the loss never lessens, after all they gave me, did for me and showed me, the key to coping was to prove that all their love and effort was worth it, and to live the happiest life I could, with as much humour, joy and creativity as can be crammed into a lifetime. I still dream of them, I still talk to them in my head, I quote them and tell their stories socially, I remember them every day, I still cry at their absence then tell myself they are here with me. And if reincarnation is real, I want them as my parents every time.
So, if you are thinking of adopting, I cannot recommend it highly enough. And to those who are already adopters, to me, you are the best! xx
Thank you Sarah for sharing your beautiful story with us.
If you’d like to share your adoption story too, please do contact us here.
We are always keen to speak with people who’d like to write a guest post, on being adopted, or your experience as an adoptive parent, grandparent, or guardian. Good or bad, we’re interested to hear what you have to say. Sharing our stories strengthens this community and helps people in ways we probably will never know.
We’d love to hear from you.