LAST week I wrote a personal piece about how my oldest daughter, Bo, has never knowingly met her biological father.
It was triggered by the possibility of her meeting him for the first time at a time when I couldn’t be with her.
And it brought up a whole host of emotions and memories from the past. The article was met with a huge response.
I had people contact me from different perspectives and in similar or the same situation as my daughter and me, which I found very moving.
I realise this is a more common phenomenon than I thought and many children and parents have been through the same or a similar experience.
For me and Bo, this has been a cathartic process. In fact, it is the first time I’ve heard her share her inner thoughts and emotions. Here is what she has to say…
BY DAUGHTER BO, 20
MY name is Bo Jonsson, I’ll be 21 in November and I have never knowingly met my biological dad.
Last week, my mum Ulrika wrote a piece for this paper about how I’m working in Greece and my biological dad will find himself on the same island as me in a few days.
She described her anxiety about this. The article got a big response and I wanted to put my side and my experience across, too.
As I write this, I’m in floods of tears. My mum has always been open to talk about this situation — how a relationship in her past led to the creation of me and all that’s happened in the past two decades.
And yet, it’s something I’ve struggled to feel connected to.
I think I was about eight when Mum sat me down to talk about it. She had been married and already had a child — my brother, Cameron — before I was born.
As I write this, I’m in floods of tears.
Then she married again when I was three and had my younger sister, Martha. Both my siblings had their dads and, as a toddler, I had called Cameron’s dad, John Turnbull, “daddy” because that’s what Cameron called him. He was so good to me, and my mum made him my godfather.
I also had a father figure in Mum’s second husband, Lance. So when this conversation came up at the age of eight, I honestly didn’t know what to make of it.
‘Being left out’
I talk about having a “biological” dad because it’s just a genetic thing to me. I haven’t been able to make a connection emotionally. I was a bit confused by Mum’s explanation because of my age and I remember going off to play straight after as I didn’t have anything to say.
There may have been a slight feeling of being “left out” — I don’t know how but it just did.
How can you ever be prepared for being told you have a “real” dad somewhere in the world, somewhere in your past or present?
It’s not something you’re taught to deal with at school. I imagine this must be what it feels like to be told about being adopted. That’s the only comparison I can draw. And I’m sure there are a lot of children out there who have to go through a similar thing.
I never really spoke to my friends about the situation — initially because I was so young I suppose but, ultimately, I felt very settled. I had a great family — we were strong, close and solid. Every so often, Mum would check in on me and ask if I wanted to talk.
By this stage she would use his name, Markus, to normalise things, I think. She would ask me if I wanted to see pictures of him and, to be honest, I wasn’t that fussed.
She did show me a couple and I can honestly say I felt nothing when I saw them. She might as well have showed me a stranger.
I just felt no connection and no real intrigue either which might sound strange but I believe it’s because I had such a settled childhood that there was no real longing for that “missing piece”. What I didn’t ever do was ask Mum about their relationship and what happened — how and what went wrong.
How can you ever be prepared for being told you have a ‘real’ dad somewhere in the world, somewhere in your past or present?
I should explain, I was born with a congenital heart condition called Double Inlet Left Ventricle, diagnosed when Mum was pregnant.
I’ve had to have one closed and two open-heart surgeries so far. Because of that, and because I went through that with Mum on my own, our bond is incredibly strong. I obviously clung to her for survival and she must have had to endure so much — felt so much fear and felt so alone that our connection is utterly unbreakable.
It’s reassuring and bonkers to think that Mum never, ever talked badly about Markus to me. She was just matter of fact about it. What is really bizarre is that it wasn’t until I found myself in Corfu this summer, nannying for a family, that I came across her autobiography “Honest” on their shelves. I read the chapters about me and what happened.
It made me cry my eyes out because this “person” just left. How could they just leave us? I really had no idea what she had to go through. All the visits to hospital, all the life-threatening heart operations, worrying when I was ill. I can’t imagine what anxiety she’s carried all these years on her own.
From time to time, I’ve wondered about Markus. Why did he leave? Were Mum and I not good enough? Why would you have a child and not play a part in their life?
I’ve chosen nannying as a career (Mum says I was always a little mum to everyone) and I love the children I come across. So I find it impossible to imagine how you can have a child but not be in their life — not feel the kind of love that makes space for them in your life.
How can you have a child somewhere in the world and not want to be close to them? Markus has always lived abroad — he’s German and has always worked in holiday resorts around the world, as far as I know. Yet, I’ve wondered if he’s thought about me and, most of all, if he’s ever felt any guilt about not being in my life.
Mum has had no regular contact with him. Occasionally he’s dropped her an email to say where he finds himself. She says she wanted that because, if at any point I wanted to meet him, she wanted to be able to contact him. But I didn’t.
‘A lot of feelings for me to process’
I was about five when Mum met her third husband, Brian Monet. I felt an immediate inner link with him — something I’d never felt before. We made a good team and he took time out for me. I felt I belonged with him. Looking back now, I think I’ve always felt the need to be wanted and somehow feel “complete”. When I was 13, I couldn’t get the idea of having Bri as my “real” dad out of my head.
I actually asked Mum about the idea of him adopting me. I had to ask her first because I was terrified if he rejected me then no one would want me as a daughter. When I asked him, he welled up and we were both overwhelmed. But the adoption process was hard. As to be expected, social workers and officials get involved and it’s a process that takes time.
There was a lot of paperwork and lots of meetings and interviews. Most unnerving for me was my biological father would need to give consent — despite the fact he has not known me nor was even around long enough to be put on my birth certificate. That threw me a bit and I know Mum was nervous. She knew this is what I wanted and the idea he could potentially scupper it was devastating.
Mum made contact with him and explained she felt she wanted to put things in order in case anything happened to her – if/when she dies.
He responded that “if it makes Bo happy, then, yes”. The adoption was granted in Oxford Town Hall on June 26 2014. I finally felt I had a legitimate person I could call dad. I took his surname while keeping Mum’s: Jonsson Monet. A few years ago, Markus connected with me on Facebook. I told Mum straight away and she asked how it made me feel.
Again, I didn’t feel anything. But we’d exchange the odd message, like polite acquaintances. It was hard to feel a connection. Then a couple of weeks ago, he let me know he would be in Corfu at the same time as me and asked if I wanted to meet him. It gave me a bad feeling in my stomach because I wondered how it would feel and what might be said.
I know I’ll find it hard to face the man who, I believe, has put the person I love the most in the world, my mum, through the worst pain and hurt.
Worst of all, I wouldn’t have Mum by my side and that scared me. I don’t have any angry feelings towards him because of anything he has done to me. But more because I feel he caused my mum so much pain, especially during all those worrying times when I was poorly. On this occasion, I’ve decided not to meet.
I’m worried it’s going to open up a can of worms for me and Mum, although she has been fully supportive if that’s what I wanted. I believe I do want to meet him at some stage but when that is I don’t know.
There are a lot of feelings for me to process because I know I’ll want to ask him: “Where have you been the past 20 years of my life?”
But I know I’ll find it hard to face the man who, I believe, has put the person I love the most in the world, my mum, through the worst pain and hurt. What I’ve realised, and perhaps what I’ve always known, is that blood doesn’t make someone family.
I see Brian as my daddy — he has done more for me than a lot of biological fathers might. I’ve also looked to my brother, Cameron, 26, for support and guidance over the years.
So there is no space for Markus in my life at the moment. But I know the day will come when we will meet and it makes me nervous and full of anticipation. But as long as I have Mum by my side, I think I’ll be able to deal with it. I’m just not ready right now.