I heard a very affecting and thought-provoking adoption story recently told to me by Maureen (the names have been changed), a retired professional, sadly and suddenly widowed a few years ago. She has a son, Brian, a daughter Angela, and grandchildren. Maureen has always wondered about the baby boy, Donald, she had to put up for adoption when she was a young girl abandoned by her boyfriend. She had no information other than the area of the country in which he had been placed. However, she knew that adoptees are now given background information on their family of origin so when she received a call one morning from a charity she ‘just knew’ it was going to be about her son. There was a message: please tell her I’ve had a good life.
A meeting was subsequently arranged in a park and Maureen was confused as she saw someone she took to be Brian, her younger son, walking towards her. It was actually her son Donald but the likeness was so great she momentarily mistook him; there was no doubt they were related. There followed a period of getting to know each other and an exchange of histories but the outstanding feature of this story is of the compelling parallels in the lives of the son who had been adopted and his birth family. Donald’s adopted parents, now dead, had loved and nurtured him, although his father died early when Donald was still a schoolboy. His mother encouraged him to find his birth-mother and Maureen was saddened not to have been able to meet her. Donald had married and had children of similar ages to those of his half-siblings and shared the same academic strengths, choosing the same career as Brian and living at the same socio-economic level.
His integration into his extended birth family continues with great warmth and generosity on all sides and he, his wife and family, have now shared a significant trip with Maureen to her holiday home, a place very dear to her, her late husband and their children. She is both delighted and bemused by receiving her first-born back into her life and admitted to having allowed herself to ‘howl’ with grief and pleasure – in private. What was a grievous loss has transformed into an unexpected gift of new and developing relationships with goodwill and commitment through the generations.
Maureen posed the question: what is nature and what is nurture? It seems to me in this case that both have been allowed to flourish together, uncompetitively, with the result that the adopted son can find a place in his birth family where there is a willingness and desire to accept him and he them.