‘I spent my life feeling I was ‘leave-able’’
Susannah’s story | Coming home to my birth mother, and then to God
“I always knew I was adopted. I didn’t look anything like my life parents or my brother: they were peas in a pod … and I looked like I was photobombing the family photo! While there were some issues growing up about where I came from, I knew I belonged with my life parents. My life mum stitched our family together so well and so lovingly, and it was a happy and stable home.
Then, in the 1980s, everything changed. Research into attachment theory showed the wounds that closed adoption could cause and the adoption laws changed as a result, allowing contact between the child and birth parents. Before that, neither side could make contact. But a baby in a womb, especially in the last months, has already made contact, has had an experience of her mother and she is, I was, waiting, expecting to meet my mother. There’s a bond that exists pre-birth and when that bond is broken, there’s a wound. I don’t have anything against adoption, children need to be in loving homes that can look after them, but there is still a wound that comes from the separation, a sense of being ‘leavable’, and I think I have carried it subconsciously all my life.
In the late 80s, my birth mother (Robin) sent me a letter, requesting contact. I was totally unprepared to receive it. It felt too risky – why would I risk losing the mother I had, for the one who’d left me? So, I wrote a polite letter back saying thank you but shutting down any idea of contact. I then went about my life normally … except occasionally I’d drive down the street where she lived (she had put her address on the letter), looking for people who looked like me. But, besides that, I didn’t do anything about it for another 25 years.
Then two things happened: I had my own children, and, later, my life mother died. My thoughts went back to my birth mother and the letter I had written when I was 23. I decided I wanted to write a ‘better letter’. So, in 2014, when I was 49, I made contact. We first met, mediated by a social worker and over email and text. There was an immediate connection. It was both wonderful and scary – it felt like something big had been unlocked.
There were many discoveries, but perhaps the biggest was that Robin was a Christian, a full-on, hands-in-the-air Pentecostal who kept talking about God as a person. I’d had a nominal Anglican upbringing, but no one ever talked that way or said you could have a personal relationship with God. To be honest, I thought she was a nutter and I was scared that her belief in an imaginary friend was going to ruin our reunion.
So, I decided to prove to her that God wasn’t real. I thought that if I could set her straight, our relationship would be okay. I began to research the historical facts of Christianity and came to the resurrection, the epicentre, I now see, of faith. I realised, reluctantly at first, that it was true. Not only did Jesus exist and was crucified but he came back to life. If that was true, the rest of the Bible must also be true, and God was real and He loved me. I started to read the Gospel of John, and three weeks later, I came to the end of myself and gave in. I said, ‘God, you’re true. I’m yours.’ The first thing I did was tell Robin that I was wrong! She was very gracious – and thrilled.
I can see now what an amazing work God had done on both of us, in reconciling me first to my birth mother and then to himself. Very few adoption reunions succeed, with unforgiveness a key factor in their failure. I truly believe the difference in ours was God: He made it possible for me to forgive Robin for leaving me.
After spending my life feeling ‘leave-able’, I now know I have an anchor for my soul and that I will never be left again.”
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you or forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6).
Susannah’s story is part of Eternity’s Faith Stories series, compiled by Naomi Reed. Click here for more Faith Stories.
Hear Susannah share more about her story on Eternity’s Run Like a Woman podcast: