First Hand: She was like a mirror image of myself: Lord Archer has found he had a family he never knew: John recalls the shock of discovering three new siblings

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Indy Lifestyle Online
I FOUND out that I was adopted when I was in my teens. It wasn't until I was married and thinking of starting a family, that I began to wonder about my identity and consider contacting my birth parents. When I was 27, I began to have dreams in which I met my birth mother. The dreams were comforting, I took them as confirmation that I should find out about my background.

Five years ago I went to Somerset House and, after a counselling session with the Registrar, was given my birth certificate. I was told that I had been adopted through the Children's Society. I made contact with the Society, who counselled me further before telling me that my birth parents had passed away. Although I felt sorrow, it was kind of a relief because it made it easier on my adoptive parents, who never liked to discuss my adoption.

Four months later I had a shock - the Children's Society had found my sister] Her name was Sandra and she was a year older than me. My initial reaction was to laugh: it felt really good. Sandra had approached the Children's Society a year before me, and they asked her to send me a letter and photographs of herself. I replied and we spoke on the phone to arrange a meeting. That was weird because our tones were quite similar. My wife and I went to stay with Sandra, her husband and children for the weekend. I didn't have any romantic ideas about what Sandra would be like. The Children's Society counsellor encouraged me not to have any preconceptions but to accept her how she is. As we pulled into Sandra's drive I was very nervous - Sandra says she was too. When I came face to face with her it was like looking at a mirror image of myself: we closely resembled each other and had identical mannerisms.

We soon relaxed - there was this strange feeling that we'd known each other for a long time even though we'd only just met. We stayed in the house and had make-do meals: we were too busy talking to go out anywhere or to think about preparing food. Sometimes when birth siblings meet not much happens and they don't stay in touch, but after the weekend Sandra and I wanted to keep the contact going.

That just one sister existed was good enough for me, but six months later something else came up - an older brother. When Sandra and I heard about Arthur we were over the moon. He was approached by the Children's Society through his adoptive mum. A meeting was arranged, and I spent a few hours with him one afternoon. He seemed really shocked and I did most of the talking. Then I didn't see him for quite a while, at least a nine-month gap.

Finding Arthur gave us an incentive to see if there was anything else, and three months later we found our youngest sibling, Janice. Janice was over the moon to be found. I think she had been feeling like me, that she wanted to find out about her roots, so she could become a more complete person. Arthur came forward again after we had found Janice, and now has a lot of contact with her. Maybe he feels more able to open up to a sister than to me, man to man. Also, they both live in London, so it is easy for them to meet up.

All four of us got together for a reunion. It was the first time that we had all been together, but there was a kind of normality about it. We didn't throw our arms round each other - perhaps that happens in other cases but it didn't in ours. I gave Sandra and Janice a peck on the cheek and shook hands with Arthur. There were resemblances between us all - we've all got the same eyes and two of us have the same chin. The reunion was brilliant. I had anticipated that it would be a bit weird, but communication was natural between us. The conversation flowed and there were no uncomfortable silences.

At our first meeting we talked initially about things we were doing now, then we turned to what had gone before. We were all excited about being together and, perhaps wanting to keep the excitement going, decided that we would all find out as much as we could about our parents. There was a lot of homework to do: we rang up different libraries to trace addresses where our mother had lived and various nursing homes where she had given birth.

We discovered that our mother grew up in the same neighbourhood, possibly even the same street, where our father lived with his wife and two children. She was 17 when she fell pregnant with Arthur. Our impression was that our father decided that he and my mother shouldn't have a family in such a relationship, so as each of us was born, she gave us up for adoption.

We found out all sorts of little details - such as where our mother was when she conceived Arthur and Janice - and even got hold of a photograph of our mother and father together. We traced our birth father's wife. She knew about my mother and, amazingly, had kept a photograph of them together. You would have thought she would have ripped it up. It's almost as though she was waiting for someone to come along.

We spent three years tracing our background. I don't know if there are any final endings, if you turn round one day and feel complete, but there is an overall feeling of identity that gradually locks into place. I am 32 now and my wife and I have a daughter. I meet up with my siblings two or three times a year, but we feel we've come to the end of our search.

One thing I would still like to do is visit my mother's grave with my brothers and sisters: I feel it would complete my personal discovery. Our mother died at 35 and was buried in an unmarked grave. We have discussed having a headstone made, and I am sure that will happen.

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