This is what it’s really like to be adopted
Shannon Hall, 21, is a customer manager at an insurance firm. She lives in Peterborough. She was adopted at the age of four – along with two of her brothers, Nathan, now 24 and Tom, 19 – by Robert Hall, 61 and his wife Mandy, 58, who run a pub in Spalding, Lincs. Here, she shares what it was really like to be adopted – and what it was like meeting her real mother for the first time.
“Two years ago I met my natural mother for the first time in over a decade. She’d given birth to me aged only 17 and despite only being in her thirties now, the heroin addiction which had torn our family apart made her appear so much older.
It was strange meeting her again. I felt nothing for her. At one point she said to me: ‘It must have been nice to have had Mandy as a mum’ and straight away I had to correct her. ‘No,’ I said firmly. ‘She IS my mum. She’s the one who bought me my first pair of school shoes, she’s the one who picked me up crying when I broke my arm and took me to hospital.’
That’s how I feel. Mandy and Robert – or ‘mum and dad’ as I’ve always called them – are the best parents anyone could wish for. They’ve given me and my brothers a wonderful, loving upbringing and it brings tears to my eyes to think how lucky I am. They saved my life.
I was around two years old when I was removed from my birth mother and put into foster care. Staff at my nursery had noticed bruising on me and my brothers and alerted social services. We were unclean, hungry and neglected. I am a trained nursery nurse myself so I know the abuse must have been bad for us all to be removed. Thankfully, I don’t remember any of it.
For two years, I was ferried from foster home to foster home. I can clearly recall the same red taxi would take me to wherever I was meant to go that day. My birth mother was given regular access to us at a family care centre but I only remember good times. Laughing on the soft play and doing arts and crafts together.
I was four years old when Mandy and Robert Hall came into my life. They had been through years of miscarriages and IVF and longed for a family of their own so had chosen to try adoption. As part of the process, they were given the chance to take all three of us on holiday to see if we bonded. They took us to the Lake District. Apparently at one point I threw the biggest tantrum imaginable, screaming and throwing things. I can’t remember what it was about, but that’s the moment my mum fell in love with me.
Unwilling to split siblings up, they adopted all three of us. For that, I will always be grateful because it’s so rare for siblings to be adopted together. I don’t recall the last day I ever saw my birth mother but apparently I couldn’t wait to get in the car and start my new life.
I started calling my parents ‘mum and dad’ from the very start. They are the parents I aspire to be when I have my own children. Mum is a real laugh and strangely, I’m often being told how much I look like her! I take after her in character, whether it’s keeping my flat clean and tidy or even cooking boiled eggs in the same way – just a dash of salt in the boiling water – those little things she’s done have really rubbed off on me.
My dad is so loving, although he’s more likely to do something to show he loves me, rather than say it. ‘Give us your car keys and I’ll get your tyre pressures checked’, or ‘Here’s a fiver for your petrol for coming to see us’ – typical dad stuff, but it’s his way of showing me he cares.
In our early years, we lived in West London in a three-storey house. Mum and dad would take me to gymnastics clubs after school and encouraged my brothers to do football and rugby. We’d have holidays every year and were never short of cuddles. One of my favourite times was Sunday mornings when we’d all pile into their bed to watch television. They constantly told us from day one that they loved us. Compared to some of my friends – whose natural parents have split up – I feel very lucky indeed.
Even as a teenager, amid all the slamming doors and hormonal rows, there was never a moment where I’d dream of saying mum wasn’t my real mum. If anything, when I was feeling most vulnerable as a teen, I’d worry that mum would reject me when I hit 18. That she’d say: ‘Right, I’ve given her the best childhood I can and she’d on her own now’. I even had counselling at school over it and spoke to mum about my fears but she reassured me that I was being silly and she’d always be there.
Although I was aware that my birth mother was alive, I had no wish to meet her again. She hadn’t shown any interest in my life but when I turned 18, I began to get messages from aunts, uncles and cousins on Facebook. I’ve no idea how they traced me because my surname was different. But they found me and it was quite a shock to realise I had such a big family. I found out that my birth father had died of a heroin overdose five years earlier and that my birth mother had given birth to another girl, who had also been taken away.
My birth family were keen to meet and I was curious, too. If mum and dad were ever insecure about me reconnecting with this family, they never showed it. They couldn’t have been more supportive when my birth family arranged for me to meet some of them up to Cumbria (where I’m originally from). My birth mother was also there and in tears; the first thing she asked was for my forgiveness.
I was happy to forgive her. By giving me up for adoption, she has given me an incredible chance at life with the best parents any child could wish for. I love them so much.”