The Register

Mammy Kelly stuck her head around the bedroom door. “So, have you thought about it? Are you going to fill out the form?”

“Not this again,” I muttered to myself and spat out a sullen “I dunno.”

My response, however, did not have the desired effect and instead of leaving me be Mammy Kelly came right into the room settling herself on the other bed.

“Are you not dying to know?”

“Not really like. And anyway there’s no point.” I got up and went rooting in a drawer for the form. “You need lots of information for the form and I don’t have any of it, I don’t know any names, any family information, any locations.” I could feel my voice getting tense as I slammed the drawer shut. “See for yourself.” I handed her the form and went back to my college assignment hoping that would be the end of it.

She sat on the bed quietly and looked at the form.

“Actually Lin, that’s not true.”

By the time those words had sunk in, my Mum had left the room.

“Mum? What do you mean?”

She re-appeared holding an A4 sheet of typed paper and a small jewellery box.

“Lin, I never knew when to give this to you. I kept planning to, but as you got older there never seemed to be a right time and then…” she trailed off and tears started to well in her eyes. “Then I was worried you’d be upset that I hid it from you. I was worried you might hate me.”

I went over to my Mum and hugged her tightly.

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The National Adoption Contact Preference Register launched in 2005 when I was 19 years old. Every house in Ireland received a form and there was a nationwide advertising campaign encouraging any citizen involved with an adoption (birth parent / birth relative of an adopted person / adopted person) to complete the form and send it back.

The idea being that if there was a match from the information provided, the Adoption Authority would put the two parties in touch with each other depending on the level of contact you wished to have.

Today there are five levels of contact listed on the website (although I only remember three at the ime):

  • Willing to meet;
  • Exchange of letters or information, contact by telephone or email;
  • No contact, but willing to share medical information;
  • No contact, but willing to share background information;
  • No contact at the moment.

Having previously only considered searching for my birth family in moments of intense teenage rebellion, the launch of the register, and my Mum’s insistence on talking about it, forced me to confront whether or not I was really interested in pursuing a trace.

The honest answer at the time was no. I had a mild curiosity about where I came from but not much more than that. A fleeting day dream in a boring lecture was probably the extent to which I thought about it.

But after Mammy Kelly’s big reveal, my interest was piqued. I now had some basic information from the Social Worker involved in my case in 1986 and the outline of a picture was sketched for me.

That same night, I filled out the form and sent it off to the Adoption Authority. I never heard anything back.

It would be another two years before I considered the idea of a trace seriously again.

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