At the start of each year we send out our contact letters. One goes to our son’s older brother who was adopted by another family, and one other go to birth mum&dad.

It’s a bit awkward to write letters so personal to people that are as distant as strangers, and as close as relatives. It always takes a little while to get started, but then the words just come out as naturally as they always do when talking about my son. When we mail those letters which are full of details of our son’s life, we post them together with our expectation to receive letters back, and our hope that the letters we will get back will be meaningful and significant.

Then we forget about them, because for the way the contact letter agreement has been organised, we are due to receive a letter back only after the summer, about eight months after we wrote ours.

When we receive a reply letter, it’s always an unexpected surprise. I recognise the envelope it comes from, the name of the department that wrote our address on it, and the PO Box return address is a giveaway. My heart beat a little faster, my head fills up with anticipation, and I feel excitement and apprehension all at the same time.

I posted three rounds of letters so far. I wrote them with love and passion, and I look forward to the day in which our son Ben will be able to help writing the letters. That’s because after all, these letters are for his own benefit and he should be the one who decides what goes in and what doesn’t.

Last year we got a wonderful surprise when we opened the letter Ben’s brother sent: there was a picture of Harvey, and his adopted family agreed to meet us. Getting the boys together for the first time was truly amazing. I hoped these meetings could carry on in time, but unfortunately, so far it has been a one-off. I should feel some kind of happiness that there was at least one meeting, but I feel angry that the boys might not have the chance to meet and get to know each other.

This year, like every other year, we received a letter back from Ben’s brother. The letter was was just less than half a page, written with the same passion of a homework that needs to be completed by a specific deadline, or a chore to get out of the way as quickly as possible. There isn’t really anything in that letter I can use to explain my son about his big brother, there are no personal details, just a list of insignificant activities. It’s sad for my son, and for his brother. His adoptive family is wasting away this great opportunity for the boys to getting to understand where they are coming from, and I’m complete powerless and unable to change the situation.

But this year wasn’t all bad news, and contact letter brought a wonderful surprise: the birth parents replied to our letter for the first time.

I cried joy over that handwritten letter, and I cried of sadness imagining the sense of loss the birth parents must feel having lost their boys. I tried to guess from the handwriting what kind of woman Ben’s birth mum is. I started to the recent pictures of his birth dad and tried to find commonality with my son.

I avidly read the long letter, full of details and anecdotes we didn’t know before. There is now so much more that we can tell our son about where he comes from. We know why he’s carrying his names, her birth mum favourite colour, his birth dad taste in music. We have a sense of who they are, it’s invaluable for us, as surely it will be for our son when he grows up.

I cannot reassure my son that birth mum&dad will write again, or that he will get to meet his brother once more. What I can promise is that I will keep writing more words of hope.

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