All I want for Christmas is to find Mum and say goodbye
When Carolyn Jones was born prematurely over 40 years ago, her mother was told that her baby had no chance of survival, so she left the hospital thinking her newborn was dead. But that baby - Carolyn - survived…
Christmas, Mother’s Day and my birthday are the worst. Special occasions tinged with sadness… I look up at the sky and wonder if my mum is out there, somewhere, looking up at the same stars.
I was born in St Mary’s Hospital, London, on 28 March 1973. On my birth certificate, it says that my mother is Patricia Ross, and that she was 19. But all the other details are scant.
What I do know is that my mother arrived at the hospital in labour. She was only six months pregnant and she must have known her baby was
coming too early. I was born weighing just 1lb 10oz, and my mother was told I would not survive. Babies born that small and premature had very low odds of surviving then. My mother filled in the birth certificate, then left the hospital thinking her baby was dead. But I didn’t die.
I’m 44 now. I have had a happy life, but there has always been the shadow of ‘what if ?’. That Sliding Doors moment, that things could have been very different if my mother had known I had survived. At the time, social services attempted to trace her – but she’d left no clues to her real identity.
At six months old, I was fostered by Derek and Roz Jones, a lovely couple from Maidenhead, Berkshire, and later they adopted me. Along with their two kids – my big brother, Murray, and sister, Sam – we were a happy family.
Growing up, I always knew I had been adopted and, as I got older, the story of my lost mother was gently told to me.
When I was seven, Derek – who worked for British Airways – was offered a job in the United States and we all moved to Simi Valley, California.
In 2002, aged 29, I met Robert, and we married a year later. In April 2003, I gave birth to our son Atlas. I’m a nanny and I live in Henderson, Nevada.
But, on special occasions like Christmas, I still wondered about my English mother. Was she thinking about me? Did she ever wonder where I was buried? Becoming a mum really focused my curiosity. The fierce love you feel for your baby takes you by surprise. I couldn’t stop thinking about the woman out there, somewhere in the world, who had carried me for six months and didn’t even know I existed, or that she had a grandson.
But, of course, the really big question is: What would have happened if she had known I was alive? Would she have left the hospital that day without me? I wanted to know. So I contacted St Mary’s Hospital in London and studied my birth certificate for clues.
The certificate was filled in at the hospital and I found out that, at the time, police went to the given address – a squat in west London – but the occupants claimed they had never heard of Patricia. She gave her place of birth as Newcastle, but investigations in the northeast again drew a blank.
I tried other methods – a psychic, a private detective – but nothing threw up any concrete leads. I joined a few website groups for adopted children searching for birth parents but, again, nothing.
Then, in July this year, I posted a video on Facebook begging for help. My dream was to find my mum in time for this Christmas. I explained who I was and the unusual circumstances of my birth. The post went viral – I couldn’t believe it was watched by 1.6 million people and shared 49,000 times.
I desperately hoped it would trigger someone’s memory. Even if my mum kept her pregnancy a secret, she must have confided in someone.
Eventually, I joined an ancestry website where you can register your DNA. From that, I made a heartbreaking discovery. I was put in touch with a man who shared my DNA, who turned out to be my birth mother’s brother. It seems she lied about her age and her name on my birth certificate. She was called Grace, not Patricia, and she was 17, not 19, when she had me. From what I have discovered, she was born in Newcastle and had four brothers. She ran away from home when she was 16.
But the most bitter discovery I’ve made is that Grace passed away in 2003 aged 47 due to kidney failure. I never got to meet her and, sadly, she’d lost contact with her family by then, so I’m now searching for her ex-husband. Hopefully, he will know where she is buried, and I’ll be able to stand at her grave and say goodbye.
I can’t change the past. What I’d most like for Christmas is to be laying a place for her at my family table – and that will never happen now…
But if anyone reads this and knows who Grace’s ex-husband is, I would like to hear from them and put all this uncertainty behind me. So next Christmas, when I look at the stars, I will know my search is finally over.
‘I have had a happy life – but there has always been the shadow of “what if?”’
Toddler Carolyn was adopted by a foster family
Carolyn has spent years searching for her birth mother
Having son Atlas made Carolyn even more determined to find her mum
Carolyn’s birth certificate