I’ve always known I was adopted, and that it was a private adoption. My adoptive mother gave me a letter when I was 4 years old saying that she and her husband were considered too old in 1966 to adopt at 45 and 55 years old, and so arranged a private adoption with my Irish birth mother. Unfortunately, my adoptive mother’s husband died 8 weeks after she took possession of me and so my adoptive mother kept me secret and didn’t tell my birth mother that her husband died until 3 years later when she applied to officially adopt me.
My birth mother wanted to challenge the adoption but felt she couldn’t upset the bond I now had with my adoptive mother. I always wanted to find my birth parents but to do so would hurt the feelings of my adoptive mother. I knew that my mother was Irish and that my father was South African and a successful businessman. I think my mother secretly thought that my father would stand by her when I was born. I had a privileged, albeit, a slightly dysfunctional upbringing with an adoptive mother I now realize was suffering from depression as a result of losing her husband. I never mentioned that I was adopted until I met the man I am now married to. When I mentioned I was adopted he was all for finding my birth parents, but when he met my adoptive mother he thought we should wait.
I went on to have a highly successful career as a lawyer. At the age of 36 with 3 children we decided to retire to the South of France. We decided to buy a house near a medieval village because we liked it. My adoptive mother had a stroke and eventually had to go in to a nursing home. I had still made no efforts to contact my birth parents. One day my husband surfaced from the recording studio, having written a song:
“The message I bring you is peace to you all. I hope your heart will find the way.”
He did not know where the words came from but suggested that we go for lunch in our local medieval village at a famous hotel. Usually you cannot get a table there, but that day we did. We sat next to an Irish couple with a baby and after a few drinks got talking to them. They were from Cork. My mother was from Cork. I had never asked the question before but thought I would ask them if they knew of a Miriam Sullivan-Cody. She said she didn’t but she thought her mother might!
Two weeks later I received the phone call to say they had good news and bad news. The good news was that they had found my mother and that she had been a successful model and fashion designer. The bad news was that she had died of breast cancer at 44. They were having a christening in Cork the following weekend and would we like to come. She hoped I could meet some of my mother’s friends and show me some pictures. Her only surviving sister unfortunately lived in Spain.
The following weekend we went to Cork and agreed to meet up with everybody in a local restaurant. When we entered the restaurant there was a quiet hush and a woman approached me who looked just like me and said “Hi I’m your Aunty Ursula!” There were many tears and then Ursula brought out a folder with lots of photos of my mother as a model and in the papers as a designer. (It turns out that I am a direct descendant of the famous Buffalo Bill-Cody!) I am now in search of my father with the help of a private detective. It turns out that he was probably in his late 50s when he had me. It is very unlikely that he is still alive. He abandoned 4 daughters from 2 previous marriages. Two of his daughters have been in email contact with me from South Africa, who are my half sisters. I hope to meet up with them when I have found out a bit more about my father.