In 1963 when nineteen-year old unmarried Brenda Rhensius gave up her only daughter Joanne for adoption, she cannot have predicted how much her life would change in the years afterwards. Brenda married, had a son, forged a successful career and moved to South Africa. But she never forgot Joanne. “Every year on her birthday my insides felt like they were being ripped out and that never went away, even after 48 years,” Brenda tells the Daily Mirror.Brenda began her search when Joanne reached her 18thbirthday, but without success. So when she contacted the team at Long Lost Family it was with the assumption that Joanne was untraceable or simply didn’t want to be found. It took the television team just a few months to find Joanne. And she was also living in South Africa.
“I couldn’t believe she had been found, let alone that we had both ended up living thousands of miles away in the same country,” says Brenda. “When we finally met it was so emotional. All I could say was, ‘You’re beautiful, you’re beautiful’, and gave her a great big hug. There was no screaming or crying, we just sat down and started talking and instantly it was as if those 48 years apart had just faded away. Until that day I’d always felt a part of me was missing, but meeting her made me feel whole again.”
Brenda gave birth to Joanne at a mother and baby home in Manchester. “My parents felt it was the right thing and actually I thought it would be the best thing for my baby too – there was a huge stigma on illegitimate children and I thought her only chance was to grow up with a mum and a dad,” remembers Brenda. Mum and daughter stayed in the unit for six weeks after birth, until the adoption day arrived. Brenda and Joanne were driven to the Methodist Adoption Society and asked to wait in a room. The adoptive parents waited in another room. “A nurse came in and said, ‘Joanne’s new parents are here’. She took her off me and walked out and that was it – it was horrible and so brutal,” Brenda says. “I could hear her new mother squeal with delight through the walls and I felt so bereft.”
When the two women finally met, they discovered a shared love of animals and a silly sense of humour. Joanne says, “I like drama and singing and I’m very outgoing but my adoptive parents were very shy, quiet, gentle people – I always felt totally different to them. Brenda is much more like me. We actually found ourselves finishing each other’s sentences and we have the same mannerisms – we both talk with our hands and we both waffle! And there were some incredible coincidences. The fact that we both ended up in South Africa was the biggest one.”
Read more details of Brenda and Joanne’s story.
Helpful ‘adoption search’ resources, suggested by the team behind the Long Lost Family television programme.
Want to appear on Long Lost Family?
Help with late discovery adoption.
Why not try a fictional story about adoption reunion. Ignoring Gravity is first in the ‘Identity Detective’ series. Rose Haldane is confident about her identity. She pulls the same face as her grandfather when she has to do something she doesn’t want to do, she knows her DNA is the same as his. Except it isn’t: because Rose is adopted and doesn’t know it. BUY
If you’d like to share a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
How #birthmother Brenda found her daughter after 30 years #adoptionreunion https://wp.me/paZ3MX-8F via #AdoptionStoriesBlog