Mum left me to die
All I had to go on was my old, faded birth certificate...
My mum Roz walked out of the kitchen carrying a chocolate cake.
‘Happy birthday to you…’ she and my dad Derek sang to me.
As the glow of the candles lit up my face, I closed my eyes and made a wish.
I wish I could meet my real mum, I thought, blowing out the 10 candles – it was the same wish I made every year.
Ever since I could remember, I’d known Roz and Derek weren’t my real parents. They’d told me the truth about my adoption.
‘When your real mum had you, you were born very premature,’ Dad said.
I’d been born in London in March 1973, three months early, weighing just 1lb 3oz.
Back then, hospitals didn’t have the resources to care for premature babies.
Doctors told my birth mum it was unlikely I’d survive.
So she’d named me...then walked out of the hospital and out of my life forever.
Only, I didn’t die as the doctors had warned.
And, when the police and Social Services tried to find my mum, she’d disappeared without a trace.
But she’d signed my birth certificate. Her name was Pat Ross and she’d been born in Newcastle upon Tyne.
The police visited her London address, but it was a squat and nobody there had heard of her.
The case went cold, so I was put up for adoption.
‘We couldn’t wait to give you a loving home,’ Dad told me.
And my childhood was full of happy memories.
Aged 7, Dad was transferred to America for his job with British Airways. So we all moved to Southern California and I settled into my new home.
But nothing could make me forget about my birth mum.
Years passed and my mother was in my thoughts as I grew up and when I met Robert, 34 – the man I’d
marry – in 2002. She was always on my mind – never more so than in April 2003 when I had our son Atlas. He was my world. And he made me realise how hard it must’ve been for my birth mum to walk away from me.
‘I just wish I could let her know I survived,’ I told Robert.
But, other than a faded birth certificate, I had nothing to go on.
In summer 2007, I signed up to Facebook. I contacted a few ladies called Pat Ross from Newcastle – none were my mum.
I was disheartened... I needed to solve the mystery of me. How I came to be before I ended up alone on that hospital ward.
Then, in early 2017, I watched a video online of someone searching for a long-lost relative. I could do that, I thought. So Atlas, then 14, filmed me on my phone as I held up flashcards telling my story.
tell her I’m alive,
one card read.
Within days, the video went viral.
A few people suggested I contact Search Angels, a genealogy organisation with access to DNA databases, which helps find relatives. So I did. Years ago, I’d sent off my DNA samples but hadn’t heard anything back. Search Angels helped me to find the results online.
And, after a lot of digging, they found someone they
believed was my uncle.
I found his wife on Facebook and sent her a message.
Does your husband have a sister called Pat Ross? I asked her hopefully.
No, I’m sorry, she replied straightaway. I was gutted, felt so deflated. ‘I really thought we were onto something,’ I sighed to Robert.
And then she sent me another message.
He had an older sister. Her name was Grace Meers and she fled to London in the 70s. My heart thumped. Do you know where she is now? I asked. But she’d no idea. Search Angels agreed Grace Meers must be my mum.
‘She must’ve lied about her name on my birth certificate,’ I told Mum and Dad.
They supported my search and my uncle agreed to help, too. Over the next weeks, he spoke to other members of the family and filtered the information back to me.
We believed that my birth mum fled from Newcastle to a London squat – aged only 16 – after discovering that she was pregnant.
Her family had no idea about me. But, back then, unmarried pregnant women were shamed. My heart bled. ‘She was so young, she must’ve been absolutely petrified!’ I cried to Robert.
I carried on digging.
Then, this January, a friend made a shocking discovery...
I think your mum might be dead,
She’d managed to find a death certificate and sent me a copy of it. It was for a Grace Meers. And there, in black and white, were the details.
She’d died in September 2003, aged just 47, from kidney disease. I was devastated.
‘Oh, Mum!’ I sobbed – for years I’d longed to meet her, to tell her that I was OK. Now it was too late. I was inconsolable. Needing closure, I started searching online for the site of her grave.
Eventually, I learnt her boyfriend had laid her to rest in Northern Ireland.
I managed to find his sister on Facebook, and sent her
Grace had no idea you were still alive,
she told me.
She promised to lay flowers for me on Mum’s grave on Mother’s Day.
This year, I hope to travel to the UK to meet some of Mum’s family in Newcastle Upon Tyne. Then I’ll visit her grave. I’ll finally be able to tell her all the things that I’ve wanted to for decades.
That I’m her daughter, and that I survived.
And – most of all – that I forgive her.
She’d fled to a London squat, aged 16, pregnant…