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Adoption: Son finally meets birth mum after 58 years
2023/02/06 [By Jared Evitts/BBC News]
Timothy Welch was one of the thousands of babies who were given up for adoption from a mother and baby home in the 1960s.
He was only six weeks old when he was separated from his birth mother, June Mary Phelps, who was 18 at the time. He described how he traced his family roots and met June in Monmouth, where she now lives. Timothy, 59, a teacher from London, grew up with his adoptive parents Bill and Eunicé.
"My adoptive parents always said to me 'you were special - you came to us in a different way'. They couldn't have their own children so they started the adoption process and when they were 36 they adopted me."
Timothy described his life with his adoptive parents as "really happy", and never considered trying to find his birth mother until his adoptive parents died: Bill in 2018 and Eunicé in 2020.
"As an adoptive child you always think about researching your birth family, but whether or not you act on it is another matter," said Timothy.
"A lot of it goes back to identity as a person over the years. I wondered who I was, certain personality traits that were different from my adoptive family. When my adoptive parents died, it makes you feel differently about the world and yourself. A counsellor said to me that after people's adoptive parents die they often re-open the curiosity about their own heritage because we are all searching for connection. I think that's really what it was about for me. It gives you a permission to think - OK what now for myself?"
Timothy started his search for his birth mother in January 2022 after going through some old family photos.
"I found a photo of my birthplace - Yateley Haven, Hampshire" he said.
"While looking I noticed there was a closed Facebook group for families mothers and children who were born there. I requested to join the group and the moderator Penny Green replied and asked me about my story. As an enthusiastic amateur historian, she was very interested and offered to help me trace my birth parents."
Penny Green, an ex-charity worker from Bedfordshire, created the Facebook group for people who were born or have a link to The Haven, a mother and baby home run by the Baptist Church, after being born there herself.
The 62-year-old explained unmarried mums applied to go there to give birth and their babies were adopted - often forcibly.
"The theory was back then that they were doing all these unmarried mums a favour because it was not the done thing to be an unmarried mother," she said.
According to the Yateley Society, The Haven was open from 1945 until 1970, and almost 1,800 babies were born there. Penny's own mum was 36 when she was sent there by her parents as she was single and pregnant. However, unlike many younger mothers, she refused to give Penny up. According to Penny, her mother then changed her name, and told people she was married but the baby's father had been killed in a car crash. Timothy also believes his mother was a victim of forced adoption, due to the fact she was so young.
He said: "June didn't really have a choice, particularly if she wanted to keep working. How would she support me without having a job?"
Penny said although some mothers at The Haven knew their children were going to be taken away, they didn't get told when or get to say goodbye.
"One mum made a toy for her baby to have when they were taken, but as she wasn't told when they were taken, she never got to give it to them," she said.
"Some of the mothers were so traumatised they had hidden away and were so scared of bringing up the past."
Following Penny's advice, Timothy applied to the General Register Office for a copy of his original birth certificate which contained his birth mother's full name, date and place of birth. Penny then used the electoral roll on and internet searches to locate her. After Penny made the first contact on his behalf, Timothy found his mother's current husband, Michael Mortimer. Timothy gave Mr Mortimer his email, which he passed on to Timothy's brothers and they arranged a day to meet up in London.
"They are both wonderful men - kind, thoughtful and reflective," he said.
"I feel very fortunate to have met them at this stage of our lives and am going to enjoy getting to know them and their respective families very much.
"An extra bonus for me was meeting Chris's partner, Amanda, and Greg's partner, Gemma, and some of their children who are all lovely."
After 58 years apart, on Saturday, 19 September 2022, Chris and Greg took Timothy to be reunited with his birth mother.
He said: "It was the first time I was able to see myself in my mother's eyes.
"It was emotional but at the same time it felt natural.
"We spoke about a variety of things but the part I enjoyed the most was just looking at her and taking in the person that she is."
Timothy explained that despite long-term health challenges, his mother has a good memory of him and can "eat an Olympian under the table". Timothy said since the meeting, he is now beginning to piece together details about his early life.
"My mother was 17 when she was pregnant and just 18 when she gave birth to me. She had another baby boy a year or so earlier when she was 16, who was put up for adoption and she has not seen since," he said.
"She was the youngest of three children - she had a sister Audrey who was 10 years older and a brother Bill who is eight years older. He is still alive.
"My father's name was Hedayat Mamagan Zardy, an Iranian Muslim. They had a fleeting romance and loved dancing on nights out in Oxford.
"Attempts to find my birth father and older brother are at very early stages."
Timothy explained that June went on to marry in 1966 and had two more sons - his brothers, with whom he is now in contact. Reflecting on his experience of finding his family, Timothy said: "You have to remain open minded and strong within yourself.
"Now, I've got brothers so it is interesting to have this extra layer and it's exciting to me.
"I shall be visiting my mother and look forward to getting to know her as time goes on."
News from: BBC News