Lying down tucked into pink flowery duvet covers, my mother sits down beside me and pulls out a new bedtime story to read.
I lie awake while she softly reads “Jane Is Adopted,” a book that gently explains the adoption process to children. The main character tells a story about being wanted more than unwanted.
I must have been about four at the time; but unlike the character in the book, my Mum explained, there was more to my story. She only knew as much as anyone else did. I was left in the stairwell of a department store in Chesterfield one March morning in 1987.
I was well cared for and dressed in good quality, worn baby clothes. I was in a zipped-up canvas bag, and it was only due to a bold move by the shops security guard, Robert Kynman, that I was discovered so quickly -- though I wasn't exactly the shoplifted swag he had expected to find.
I was named Katy Elder when I was born, although my adopted parents changed my name to Victoria Vardy when they got me nine months later.
My umbilical cord was tied off with an uncoiled paperclip and I was deemed less than 12 hours old. A bus ticket was found in the bag too, dated from two months before for an adult and child from Norton (a town between Chesterfield and Sheffield) to a bus stop just beyond Sheffield's Northern General hospital. But, seeing as the baby clothes were mostly likely second hand, this bus ticket may have been a red herring, left carelessly in a borrowed bag. At the age of 25, I’m trying to find answers to this question, and a whole lot more. I'm trying to find out who on earth I am.
At the end of July, I posted a YouTube video and the Who Is Katy Elder Facebook page to launch the search for information on my birth parents. All the brilliant publicity that my appeal has generated might mean that anyone who knows anything might be reluctant to get in touch (incidentally, the email address I’ve set up email@example.com goes directly to me and me only, so nothing anyone sends me will be made public).
It's possible I was given up over a birth defect; my left leg didn’t have a fully formed foot and later on it was found I was missing a tibia, which meant my growth was stunted. After a few operations at 18 months, I started wearing a prosthesis at age three. This didn't stop me swimming, dancing or doing gymnastics. But when I was 12 hours old, maybe my birth parent(s) felt that they weren't in a position to tend to such a disability.
This is part of what makes me wonder I was part of a travelling community. If you're someone who moves around a lot, getting treatment for something like this might have been difficult.
At 17, I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. This is often hereditary, and if you aren’t great at managing your sugar levels when pregnant, it can cause deformities in the child. Yet another possible clue to my heritage and another reason I would like to find out more about my family history.
I should point out that I'm not looking for a new family. I wanted for nothing growing up and my parents are the best parents a girl could wish for. Unfortunately our household of four has now shrunk to just two -- my Mum passed away suddenly of septicemia when I was 10 and my Grandma died of natural causes six years later. But my dad is most definitely the greatest man I will ever know.
However, the question mark over my origin remains. It can ultimately only be answered by the woman who carried me for those nine months and was in such a desperate state that she left me on those stairs.
If she’s reading this right now, I want her to know that I've had a happy life. I've been bought up by the best, I've done well at school, I've been in University and I get to travel the world doing a job that I love.
When I was younger, the mystery into my biology was a little more fantastical. I was influenced by all the super hero cartoons I saw on the TV. After all, Batman was an orphan and Superman was technically a foundling. I spent a portion of my childhood in my room willing objects to move with my mind. There was also the chance I was a secret princess and my whole life thus far was a massive cover-up until the horse and carriage arrived and I tottered off to a castle somewhere where cartoon mice would sing me awake every morning. I assumed Mum, Dad and Grandma could come too. But when you're six, these are the kind of things you take for granted.
Now that I’m older, when I think about the potential reasons my mother would have had for leaving me like that, everything seems a little bit sadder. I think some people find it strange I feel more empathy than anger toward my birth mother. But what person would carry a child inside themself for that long and be willing to leave it for strangers to raise unless there was good reason, and they genuinely thought other people would do a better job of raising the child?
So I suppose the future holds a lot of waiting, for my biological Mum or a relative to come forward. I’m hoping that the reasons my mother would have had for keeping my birth a secret won’t be issues any more, and that the problems that led her to that situation in the first place will have gone. On the other hand, I have to also consider the possibility she may not even be around anymore.
Of course I fear being disappointed if I don't get any feedback at all, but every little jigsaw piece counts.
There are things I'm setting up for the future, like DNA testing which will hopefully reveal my heritage -- my dark hair and eyes don't seem entirely English. But we'll leave science to figure that one out for sure. So even though I have to be patient and wait for others to add to my story, the things I'm finding out and investigating are exciting -- and all I can do is stay positive.
If you have any information about my birth parents and would like to get in touch directly please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keep up to date with any updates or also get in touch at Facebook.com/whoiskatyelder.