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Adoption Contact Register Link- Carla & Julia’s story

The Birthlink team always celebrate when a link is established on the Adoption Contact Register by ringing a little bell, a gesture to symbolise the significance of facilitating “connection”.

Carla had been adopted as a baby in 1966. She registered on the Adoption Contact Register in 1991. Her details remained on the register until the summer of 2015 when the bell rang to acknowledge a link with her sister Julia.

Julia was elated to discover that a link had been established. However, due to the length of time that had passed, we did not have up to date contact details for Carla. Birthlink searched public records for any information that would lead us to Carla. The search team found that she had married and had two sons since she had registered with us 24 years previously. With this new information we were able to locate Carla and write out to share the news about the link. In January 2016, Carla called the office, she expressed feeling pleased about the link, however she needed some time to consider what the implications may be having contact with her birth family at this stage in her life. She shared that life was so different now than when she had registered back in 1991, so busy and hectic, she worried about how much time and emotional energy she actually had to invest in this new relationship. Carla was a full-time teacher, mother of two, with elderly parents to care for. She spent her whole time juggling these competing demands and worried that she would be unable to commit to Julia in terms of time and energy.

Carla took some time to reflect and decided that she was willing to try. Letters and photographs were exchanged. Each sister shared details of their lives and families and swapped warm and friendly accounts of life past and present. After a couple of months the flow of letters and cards slowed down….Julia shared with me her worries and anxieties that she had scared Carla off, she expressed feeling disappointed by the fact that their letters had never really developed beyond a superficial level “like a pen pal”, she had hoped for more….Julia was very reflective and did not wish to be a source of stress in Carla’s life but felt that her own needs and expectations of the relationship were not going to be fulfilled. We agreed to give Carla some time to consider what she wanted.

One day Julia phoned the office to share that she had been in her local park walking the dog when she seen a woman that looked just like Carla ( she recognised her from the photographs she had shared). She said while she wanted to call out her name to check, but an inner voice stopped her, her instincts told her this would not be welcomed…..Julia was left feeling a sense of sadness and regret, her sister was so close physically but so far away on an emotional level. During her teenage years, Julia had day-dreamed about having a close bond with her older sister, the reality felt very different.

Julia had indeed crossed paths with Carla in the park that day. The sisters lived just a few streets away from one another but neither knew this to be the case.

Carla did take some time to think things through. She talked openly about the fact that the only person who knew of her contact with Julia was her husband. While he was very supportive, Carla had decided not to share this news with her sons as both were studying for school exams, and was adamant that she could not tell her parents as she did not want to hurt them. Carla felt disloyal to them; she felt guilty that she was betraying them, after all, her life filled with love and opportunities in comparison to the life Julia had, being raised by her birth mother who struggled with mental health difficulties and addiction.


The sisters agreed to move to email communication in an attempt to develop a bit more fluidity to their conversations, but both felt “stuck”, that their relationship was not developing naturally as they had hoped it would. After a period of time Julia made the decision that continuing was just too painful. She wanted a meaningful relationship with Carla, “something real”. She felt no sense of connection, “we are sisters, but we are strangers; different people; different lives; different perspectives on the world”.

By the autumn of 2017, both Julia and Carla decided to call time on the contact. Both needed to be honest with one another and with themselves. The door has remained open at Birthlink, Julia and Carla know that support is at hand should either wish to try again in the future.