When J came into my life at the age of six and three quarters, and after four years in foster care, he seemed to know very little about himself: who his parents were, where he had lived, or how he had come to be in care. He had siblings he hadn’t met and didn’t know about. There wasn’t much anchoring him except his committed foster carers and their extended family. And he certainly had no identity as a Yorkshireman.
Once he had begun to settle down with me, we started work on writing down his life story for him. I had been given quite a lot of information, so it was a question of pulling out what seemed to be the most significant events, to try to help J make sense of them. The only pictures we had of him though were ones taken by his foster carers after the age of three, so one of the first places I wrote was to the hospital where he had been born. Could they send us a photograph of the building housing the Special Care Baby Unit for his Life Story Book? The people at PALS (The Patient Advice and Liaison Service) were extraordinarily generous, and took pictures especially for him of the ward where he had spent his first weeks, the clothes he would have worn there, and the incubator he might have slept in. They could not have been kinder.
Three years later, we drove north to visit the town where he was born. The day before we left, I wrote off our car barely 100 yards from home. Good friends understood the significance of this 200 mile journey, and lent us their car, again an act of great kindness.
I think in the end the journey might have had more significance for me than it did for him. I wanted J to have that same comfortable attachment to the place of his birth that most of us do. I am not sure he has that yet, although I do hope he may be starting to develop some pride in being a Yorkshireman!
I wrote this post for Weekly Adoption Shout Out #WASO 45