If I stare at this sheet of white paper for much longer I’ll have snow blindness. I pick my pen up again. I want to do this, I do, but I don’t know what to say or even how to begin. Dear…who? This letter is my chance to make a good first impression so I want to get it right. Well, my first impression as an adult. We’ve met before, but a long time ago. I have no idea what kind of impression I made then. I sigh.I know that if I don’t get started soon, I’ll lose my nerve and this won’t get done at all. Will I regret that, I wonder.
I think about the journey to Edinburgh, feeling nauseous and over heated, my baby moving and kicking in my belly, in time to the movement of the bus, nudging me, with wee waving elbows and wee kicking feet, as he or she had nudged me to begin this journey. The idea of finding out about my adoption, about my birth family, grew as my baby and my belly grew. It was strange, the way this need for information, for contact, had come over me, a real pregnancy craving, stronger than the need for choc chip ice cream at eight a. m.
I was glad to get out of the bus and to feel the cold fresh blast of December air. But I soon realised what a stupid idea it had been to come into the heart of Edinburgh on the Friday before Christmas. Crowds of Christmas shoppers marched along Princes Street and I braced myself to walk against the shopping tide. I pulled my heavy red woollen coat around me in the hope that it would protect my bump from flying shopping bags and sharp shoppers’ elbows.
I found the building I was looking for, hiding in plain sight at one end (or maybe the beginning) of Princes Street. New Register House, home of records and secrets, including my own. I walked in, in awe of the building and it’s contents, in awe of the tumult of mixed feelings I was experiencing. I waited, impatiently, uncomfortably, while my document was located. Eventually I was invited into a small grey room. It felt wrong to be receiving such big, bold new information in such a small bland space. Then I was informed that I could not have it. I was shocked. Surely I was entitled to see my own original birth certificate. I had presented my adoption certificate and proof of my identity. But my identification was in my married name. Although I had been married for seven months, and was now used to having my husband’s name and being this new married, pregnant person, I hadn’t anticipated that my marriage certificate wouldn’t have caught up with me. I’d arrived here before my paper documents had. So they could not accurately verify my identity. So no birth certificate, no knowledge, for me. I couldn’t bear the unfairness of this, of the clerk having my details right there yet not handing them over. I felt faint. The clerk, probably about my own age, wavered. He made his decision just before I had to cry. He must have wanted rid of this heavily pregnant, heavily emotional woman. He handed over the piece of paper, explaining why he shouldn’t be doing this and justifying why he was. But I was not listening. I was reading greedily, giddily. I read my mother’s name. I read my fathers name: unknown. I saw my first, my original name. In all the time I had thought about what my name could have been, this one had never entered my head. I felt disappointed in myself that I had no intuition about this. This new/ old name made me feel, strange, alien, disoriented, like I was, or could have been, a different person entirely. A person called Caitlin.
My baby nudges me again. So I take a deep breath and begin.
I hope you are well and that this letter does not come as too much of a shock. I am Caitlin. [Should I write “your daughter?” No, too demanding. But what if she knows another Caitlin. I’ll tell her my age and hopefully she’ll put two and two together and work it out.] I am 21 now, married and pregnant. It’s really being pregnant that’s made me think about looking for you and contacting you, apparently this is very common. It started at antenatal appointments, when they ask about family medical history and I had to say I didn’t know any, and it grew from there.
I’ve had a very happy life with my mum and dad. I’ve always known I was adopted and I was content with that knowledge and with the life I have. And I didn’t want to risk upsetting you or your life now. I know that things were very difficult for single mothers when you had me and I realise that it could not have been easy for you.
I’ll not write any more just now as I expect I’ve given you enough to think about. I hope you decide to contact me but I will understand if you decide not to.
[How do I finish the letter now? I can’t write “love” and I can’t write “yours sincerely.”]
Thank you for reading this.
[x or no x? X might be too much, too soon, too much expectation. But no x might seem cold, clinical, matter of fact. I don’t know.]
If you've been affected by this piece, please see our support page(this will open in a new window) for help and advice.