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I found my birth mother after 45 years, then she rejected me again

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I’d agonised for decades over whether to try to find her and now that I had, did she even want to know? (Picture: Owner supplied)

There was a tight knot in my stomach, my pulse was racing, as the terrible truth dawned on me. She wasn’t coming.

For 60 minutes I waited outside the fading department store to see the woman I had been reunited with only weeks earlier after 45 years.

I was meeting Margaret Connolly, my birth mother, who put me aged five weeks old into Nazareth House orphanage run by Catholic nuns in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire.

It was my home for almost three years until Margaret, who used to visit me regularly, put me up for adoption. Back then I was Patrick James Connolly.

Why didn’t she have me adopted straight away? I hoped she would tell me.

I had travelled down from London to Birmingham where she lived. I checked in with her when I was 40 minutes away from the BHS café, where we had our first ever meeting since she gave me up for adoption when I was two-and-a-half.

Margaret gave me up for adoption when I was a toddler (Picture: Owner supplied)

‘Yes,’ she said in her distinctive Irish accent. ‘I will be there.’

She was lying.

I had a terrible foreboding, even before I arrived, that she would not be there. But I was desperate to be wrong. So I went up to every woman of a certain vintage, with white hair like Margaret, to see if it was her.

Of course it wasn’t. How would I be able to forget the face of the woman I had agonised for years over whether to try to track down and who I’d spent 60 minutes with in the same BHS café just a few months earlier.

Margaret’s letter to Andrew asking him to come to Birmingham (Picture: Owner supplied)

It was during that first meeting that I learned Margaret didn’t approve of homosexuality.

I have been in a civil partnership for more than a decade and had been debating whether to tell her I was gay – but her stinging words swiftly solved that issue.

I knew that, a woman of a certain generation, she was already 80, would be rigid and inflexible on the issue. When she asked if I was going to marry my friend Amanda, who’d come with me, I let her think we might.

I was so desperate to see Margaret again I didn’t want to do anything which might jeopardise that chance. 

Not only did Margaret not show up for our second meeting, she never even called to say she had changed her mind. There was no call the next day to apologise or to try to explain. I had to call her.

Andrew and his siblings (Picture: Owner supplied)

Unbelievably, we went through the same routine twice more. Leaving me in the cold for 90 minutes at a time, at the same venue, yet again no call to explain why.

Margaret was rejecting her firstborn son all over again. Three times. The pain was excoriating.

When I started the search for her, as my 50th birthday was approaching, I assumed that she was a teenager when she had me out of wedlock in 1961. But in fact, shock followed shock.

She was 34, only weeks from her 35th birthday. She lived in Birmingham, and I had spent two years on the Evening Mail, the city’s newspaper, the head office just a few miles from her home. Did I pass her in the street?

Andrew at his birth mother Margaret’s house (Picture: Owner supplied)
Margaret as a young woman (Picture: Owner supplied)

The reason I’d agonised for decades over whether to try to find her was because I did not want to do anything to upset my real mum, the one who adopted me aged three.

Betty Pierce loved me the same way she loved the three children she already had with her husband George when they took the brave decision to adopt for the first time.

One of my main motivations to find Margaret was to let her know that I was okay and that I’d enjoyed a happy and successful life.

Mistakenly, as I was to discover, I thought that each year my birthday came round Margaret would gaze wistfully at the calendar and wonder what happened to the little shy, tongue-tied boy she gave away.

Andrew with his parents, and as a young boy (Picture: Owner supplied)

In fact, it was me who was doing the wondering about her at every birthday.

Before we met I went back to the same social worker who handed me my adoption file to see the best, most sensitive way to approach Margaret.

We had an address. Should I telephone? No… she might hang up. But then, if I wrote to her, someone else might open her mail.

The social worker told me the best way is to do it directly: ‘a friendly female face armed with facts in large capital letters on a piece of card,’ she told me. Name of orphanage. Date of birth. Place of birth. Name of baby: Patrick James Connolly.

I planned it with military-style precision.

On the day, my friend Amanda knocked on her door, there was no one in. As I looked out of the back window of the cab, which was parked out of sight of her house, I saw a tiny dot on the horizon. I knew that it was her. I was right. The powerful link between mother and son had clearly not been broken 48 years on.

Andrew and his adoptive family at Butlin’s winning third place in the ‘Happiest Family’ competition(Picture: Owner supplied)

Sadly, at that first proper meeting in the BHS café in Birmingham (her choice) Margaret never asked me one single question about my upbringing. Didn’t she care? Or was it too painful to hear that I had become a happy, successful man?

Despite the rejections, I persevered and even used to visit Margaret when she moved into a care home when Alzheimer’s struck.

I used to tell her who I was, and she’d smile and stroked my face. There was clearly an emotional connection, but I never got any of the answers as to why I was in the orphanage so long or who was my birth father.

Andrew with birth mother Margaret in the care home (Picture: Owner supplied)

Eventually, I decided to write a book about all I’d been through. I thought it was important that adopted people like me know that if they go down this route it doesn’t always end up like Davina McCall’s Long Lost Family show.

It can have a messy, untidy end. I’ve been on an emotional roller coaster taking me to Birmingham and to County Galway and County Mayo in Ireland in search of answers. There were shocks, surprises, twists, and turns from beginning to end.

I also, though, wanted to encourage people to search for their birth parents and have since been overwhelmed by the response from dozens if not hundreds of people who were given up for adoption.

My story chimed with their own experiences and it brought memories flooding back, often unhappy. Others said they were inspired to try now to track down the parent especially as they saw I was nearly 50 when I did it.

Some of the letters were so heart wrenching, I actually called them to speak to them which they found comforting.

I always say to everyone, ‘it’s never too late, do it’.

Andrew in County Mayo (Picture: Owner supplied)

I’m glad I found Margaret, who passed away in February 2021, and I think she was pleased to know that Patrick James Connolly is now a very happy Andrew James Pierce.

But I never wanted another mother, nor wanted to be part of Margaret’s family. I’m part of a happy family and had a wonderful mum who could never be bettered.

I just wanted to get to know Margaret a little bit so that she could really know that I had been happy, loved, and had no bitterness. I’m glad she gave me up because of the great life I have had.

Of course, I hoped she would give me a chance to get to know her and find some answers. Why I was in the home so long? Who was the Dad? But Margaret chose silence.

I think even if I’d found her 20 years sooner it would have been the same response -a brick wall.

My original aim was to let my birth mother know that the little boy she gave away had enjoyed a gloriously happy life. And, at least that, I was able to tell her.

Andrew’s book Finding Margaret: Solving the mystery of my birth mother is out now.


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