Louise was one of four a dual heritage children raised by white parents in England. She had a fantastic childhood. So much so that she has adopted twice. But along her impulsive journey into reunification, Louise was exposed to uncomfortable situations including her biological grandfather’s impending death, overt racism in her mother’s family, and total rejection by her biological father. Unfortunately, Louise’s mother’s withholding of facts also prevented her from knowing her sister, who once was interested in reunification.
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If you rush these things, you can really damage any sense of long term relationship with people and I think you need to think more widely of the implications of your actions to other people, I didn't even consider how my birth mother would feel.
Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I?
This is Who Am I Really, a podcast about adoptees that have located and connected with their biological family members. I'm Damon Davis and on today's show you'll hear the journey of Louise. She called me from London, England, so at times you may have to listen closely to hear her voice through the connection, but what you'll hear is the story of a woman who's youthful curiosity about her biological mother led her courageously and impulsively straight to her mother's door. Louise's poorly thought out approach in her twenties may have cost her the deep relationships that a more cautious and measured approach could have yielded and put her in some very uncomfortable situations. Her journey has repetitive rejections on three fronts. After locating her biological mother, father and uncovering the news that she also had a sister. However, Louise now has some sage wisdom for other adoptees and her own adopted children about their own possible journeys through reunification.
Louise's heritage is a racial mix of white English descent on her birth mother's side and Jamaican English descent on her birth father's side. Louise's parents had already adopted an older brother, then her, followed by two more multiracial children. They were very open about adoption partially because they all looked very different from one another. Each child's individual adoption situation was their business to discuss with their parents if they chose to. Louise was able to grow up with the comforting information about her biological mother.
Well, I was born in 1978 and I was relinquished for adoption by my birth mother. Um, at birth, really, um, she did change her mind and she went back and forth, but I never left the hospital until I went to live with foster carers and I was then adopted by two wonderful people. Um, it's worth noting that my birth mother's, uh, of white English descent and my birth father is a Jamaican and English descent. And the people that I was adopted by, um, who I refer to as mom and dad, uh, are actually Black English. And, um, I believe about six months after, um, I was born, I was placed with my parents. They already had adopted an older brother who's just under 18 months older than me and we have the same heritage. And um, they obviously went on to adopt two more dual heritage, mixed race, to put it in quick terminology.
As children, we grew up always knowing we were adopted. They really, I mean it was hard for them to hide it cause people look so different. But they were always incredibly open about, you know, being adopted, about our birth mothers. I don't know so much about my brother's birth mothers. I mean quite selfishly and quite rightly, I think my parents didn't necessarily share that information with us because it was for the individual child. It wasn't, you know, everybody else's business. But, uh, for me, my mom always spoke about my birth mom, but she actually met her, which I think really helped me growing up knowing that my mom had an opportunity to meet her so I mean, growing up we were no different from any other family as far as we could tell because for us that was the norm. We went on adoption days out with other children that happened to be adopted, but my mom's still friends with, you know, that's your DA's later.
So we were very much, we were, at the time, there weren't many mixed race or dual heritage children around where we lived, but as time grew on, there was, you know, more and more, you know, were present. So we had a happy childhood. I mean, all the angst of being a young lady was there. I think being adopted did play a little bit of a role in me being a little bit more uncertain of myself or emotions that my mom had always and my dad had always spoken highly of my birth mother and answered any questions I had, you know, very, very honestly.
Tell me a little bit about your, your teen angst as it applied to being an adoptee. How do you think that it played in, in terms of your identity and sort of coming of age?
Well, I think everyone could agree, who doesn't know where they come from, wants to know, do they look like somebody. Have they got the same resemblance to somebody else. And I think for me that was quite important because, you know, my friends grew up knowing that they look like, you know, their mom or their dad or their aunt or their uncle. Whereas I had, I really did have nobody, that looked, you know, that much like me, apart from my brothers, but we were all non blood related brothers and sisters. So that was quite tricky. Um, I know it affected one of my brothers, more so than it did myself. But I remember I do, you know, really remember thinking, who do I look like? Because people used to comment and say to my parents, to my mom, you know, she looks like, you know, I used to think, Oh but I'm sure I don't.
I mean it just made me more self conscious I suppose. And you do wonder. But then I remember it's really strange, but I remember going somewhere with my dad when I was in the front of the car with my dad and he does this thing where he clicks his fore finger and his thumb together and I just know, I think I do that. So that was kind of, I know that sounds really silly, but that was kind of a really big reassurance for me because it was, I was similar to somebody else, but they just happened to not being biologically related, but I was just inquisitive about my birth mother as much as I could. But I wanted to know more.
Louise says that her search for her biological mother began with a haphazard impulse. Her adopted mother maintained contact with someone who knew her biological mother, and that was all Louise needed for her impulsivity to take over. But impulsivity without some forethought can lead to trouble. The moment of reunification turned out to be completely different than Louise expected it to be.
It was before my 21st birthday and I knew that my mom had taken a copy of my birth certificate and I knew my mom has kept in contact with somebody who knew my birth mother. So she was able to keep tabs on her as I grew up. And she said to me, I don't know what house number she has, but she lives on this road and if you ever want to find her, I will help you. I don't know how I can help but I'll help you. And one day I was with my friends and we were wondering what to do for the day as you do. And I said, well, why don't we just go down and try and find her?
Oh my gosh!
I really didn't think it through. And so off we trotted, uh, down on to another part of London into Fulham and I knocked on her door. I got out of the car and my friends remained in the car. I just got out of the door and knocked on her front door. And yeah, I tend to kind of, I can't seem to, you know, ever leasurely or step back for most days.
Tell me a little bit about that moment right before you sort of went up to her door. So what did it feel like? You're walking up, you probably didn't quite grasp the gravity of what you were about to unleash. Like what did you think as you walked up to her door?
I think the magnitude of what I was about to do, um, and the implications it have would have on everybody, cause it's not just on me completely, you know, something I really did not think it through. It's something that I deeply regret. I mean, if I could do it differently now, obviously I would, you know, my children are both adopted and I would absolutely, you know, encourage them to do it the better way. Nevertheless, what's done is done. But you know, I thought, you know, it'd be nice to see her. I think really I'd got past that full place that I knew I had questions. I didn't know what those questions were and I didn't know what the answers could be, but I knew, I felt that she would be able to give me this one thing, whatever it may be. So I needed answering and I think selfishly, that's what I continued to think right up until I pressed the doorbell.
So you pressed the doorbell. What happened next?
Brace yourself. So I ring the door bell and a little girl came to the front door. She must have been about eight years old and you know, and I just said to her, you know, is Pamela there? I used her surname. And she said absolutely nothing. She just stood there staring at me and then a man came to the door and said, you know, I said the same, you know, is Pamela there? And he kind of didn't say anything. And in the background, I could see this woman walking from one room to another and I just knew, I just knew that was her. I'd seen a picture of her maybe nine years before. She had done a letterbox contact with my mom. I chose not to do it. My mom did it to share some information and I'd seen a picture. She had completely different hair coloring, but I just knew, I just knew it was her and the man kind of just said, yes, hold on a minute darling, I'll go and get her.
And it was kind of at that point I realized I had not thought this through. So she then comes to the door. And I just panicked and I just said, look, I'm really sorry but I think I've actually got the wrong person and I'm really very sorry. Um, thanks very much. Have a nice day. Take care. Turn to walk across the way where my car was and she started calling out my name that she named me at birth, which was Tracy and just said, you know, Tracy, Tracy, is that you? Is that you? And I, at that point I thought, well I can't really lie. I just turned around and she threw her arms around me and said, come in, come in. I said all my friends are in the car, I can't come in, can't come in. And I, it's really weird because I specifically remember going as soon as I hugged her I went, oh is this to cry because I thought that's what I've, you know, I've been waiting for this moment for 20 years. I'm definitely going to cry. I'm nothing came out.
I remember holding onto her, thinking this is not right. Something's not right. Something's not right. And in the moment, I specifically remember feeling at this point in time, I've seen the films, you know, I watched Annie. Which one of these programs, but at that exact moment is when you're supposed to, you know, be a blubbering wreck. Nothing. I have nada. Uh, I have nothing to give. And she kept saying, you know, let's get your friend, lets get your friend, you know, your granddad's in the front room and he's dying. And I just thought, Oh my goodness, I'm in trouble.
Oh boy. You showed up at the door and the first thing she says is bring your friend inside and your grandfather's in the front room and he's dying.
I kid you not.