Abandoned in a public toilet: Cheadle man Steven Patrick speaks of search for his mum ahead of Mother's Day
As the rest of us prepare to celebrate Mother’s Day, Steven Patrick is issuing an appeal for information about the birth mum who abandoned him as a newborn baby. Zita Collinson meets the 23-year-old from Cheadle to discover more about his campaign...
I T WAS one March morning nearly 24 years ago when a female passerby discovered a tiny newborn baby in the public toilets opposite Wolverhampton Wanderers football club.
He was wrapped in a blue blanket, alone and suffering from hypothermia. There was no sign of his birth mum but it’s believed he was delivered between 6am and 10am.
The woman immediately took him from the toilets in Wadham’s Fold and carried him to the football ground, where staff from the club shop called an ambulance.
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The baby was taken to New Cross Hospital, and he received treatment for his hypothermia. Nurses there named him Steven – after Wolves hero Steven Bull. Patrick is a reference to his birth date, on March 17, 1989, or St Patrick’s Day.
Steven spent a month in hospital before he was transferred into foster care.
A local newspaper backed a campaign to help trace Steven’s mother. The public was touched by his story and Steven Bull donated a hat and scarf to the little tot.
But despite the attention, there were still no leads. A teenage girl came forward to say she was Steven’s mum but tests showed she wasn’t telling the truth. There was no question that the woman who discovered him was anyone other than an innocent bystander.
When he was one year old, Steven was taken in by a family in Cheadle and he moved to Staffordshire.
He always knew he was adopted but only really began to understand the circumstances of his birth when he was a teenager, as a pupil at Painsley Roman Catholic College.
And when he was 19 he told his adoptive family that he was going to try and find his birth mum.
“My mum and dad were always open about me being adopted,” says Steven. “I had a cake to celebrate the day I was adopted. We turned it into a good thing, which it was, it was a brilliant thing.
“I had an ace childhood.
“They knew absolutely nothing about my birth mum but always said it would be nice if I could start building up a picture.
“They understood the need to know.
“The problem was that I needed a name to start looking and I literally had no information.”
It was the beginning of a long and difficult search that has so far proved fruitless.
There were no signs, no clues left at the scene to help him.
His mum has, it seems, simply vanished.
With only scant information about what happened that distant March morning, Steven can only guess and conjecture about the woman – or girl – who gave birth to him.
He got in touch with an agency called After Adoption, who put together a file including the original press clippings and a few photographs taken when he was in hospital.
“It was nice to just get that information,” says Steven. “It was strange to see the file, and read about the campaign.
“We did a radio interview and another newspaper interview.
“Nothing came from it but the manager who used to run the shop at Wolverhampton football club rang in and said he remembered the day I was found. It was nice to hear his side of events, and for him to get in touch.
“He wasn’t expecting to find a baby that day. It’s not what you go into work thinking will happen is it?
“The people who have got in touch have told me that they still think about that day. Something like that must have some kind of impact on your life.
“The woman who found me phoned me a couple of years ago. She told me she always thought about me on March 17.
“I would like to meet her, to thank her. I did send her a one-off Christmas card with a bit more detail about my life, but she didn’t get back to me. I think maybe a phone call was enough for her, and that’s fine.
“I suppose I didn’t really expect anyone to come forward because of the circumstances. I started the campaign as a way of building up a picture of my past because what my mum and dad knew is slightly different to what we know now.
“They were always told that there was a football match on and the lady who found me was on her way to get tickets, but it turns out that the match was the day after.”
Steven has the support of his family and his girlfriend, Sam Muir, in his hunt for answers.
He’s even since visited the spot where he was found. But when there’s nothing to go on, answers aren’t readily available.
He continues: “The facts as I know them are this. On March 17 I was born.
“One of the questions I had was if that was definitely my birthday. The answer is yes because of tests that were done at the time. The time was put as taking place in the early hours of the morning, at about 6 o’clock. Then between six and 10 I was left in a public toilet.
“It’s now some sort of cleaner’s store with offices above.
“Before the woman crossed over to the stadium, she nipped into the toilets. There was a baby in a blanket on the side where the mirrors and hand-dryers were. She picked me up and went into the stadium.
“I don’t know what condition I was in. I know it was very cold and I had hypothermia.
“I don’t know how heavy I was. From the photos I’ve seen I was very small, so I probably didn’t weigh much.
“The blanket has been lost. It’s been described as blue but I don’t know anything more than that.”
S teven is currently working as a teaching assistant in a primary school, a job he loves. He is also a talented artist, who exhibits his drawings of comic book heroes and is hoping to take part in the forthcoming Cheadle Arts Festival.
He’s understandably curious about where his artistic streak comes from.
“I love art,” he says. “Mum and Dad were happy that I found something to do because growing up, I couldn’t do the traditional things like ride a bike and it was annoying and frustrating.”
Steven has Arthrogryposis, or hooked joints, and his left arm and right leg are underdeveloped.
“I couldn’t go out and do the normal things when I was growing up,” he says. “Dad bought me a trike so I could go out and I used to do a bit of gardening with him, so he adapted a fork I could use.”
Steven had numerous operations during childhood and was told he would never be able to walk or drive.
Today he does both, driving an adapted car and defying his doctors in the process.
“My limbs are very thin,” says Steven. “I went to a genetics’ lab and the doctor’s best theory is that if it was a genetic thing, all four limbs should have been affected.
“They think it was accidental because only my left arm and right leg are affected.
“They think that my birth mother may have tried to hide being pregnant by pulling something over and crushing her stomach.
“That would explain a few things. She could have been scared. But the only way I can find out is to ask the one person who knows.
“If I do ever want kids of my own, there’s a possibility that it won’t be genetic, but again it’s all guesswork.
“I possibly think she was hiding it. If you think back to the back end of the 80s, it was all changing.
“She may have been married, may not have been. But having a child out of wedlock – it was frowned upon.
“People are more accepting now and circumstances are taken into account.
“If anyone does come forward now, we just want their side of the story. There won’t be any trouble. I just want the truth.
“I am inclined to think she was just young and scared and just needed to get out of the situation. If she had been more secure, she would have come forward sooner but something personal could have been stopping her.
“Maybe it’s still stopping her now, I just don’t know.
“I also think that if you didn’t care for something you wouldn’t have left it in a public place.
“There’s never been anger from me at all. I suppose it would have been ideal if there had been a note but in moments like that, in moments of crisis, you just need to do what you need to do and just go.
“She would have been frightened. I can understand that it would have been the hardest thing to go through. If you’ve got no support, to go out and give birth, then leave your baby in a public place, it’s quite a feat to do – especially on your own.”
He continues: “I’m not a Wolves fan because I don’t like football as much as my dad but occasionally I’ll check the results to see that they are what they should be – which they never are.
“After Adoption told me that it was always highly unlikely that anybody would come forward now and for that reason, I’ve always tried not to get my hopes up.
“For me, it’s about building up a picture but it would be an added bonus if someone did come forward.
“My dad once described my search as a jigsaw. While I have most of it, there are just those one or two pieces that need putting in. Even if I go through this and there’s nothing, I can still shut it for now and leave it.
“I just want to know her side of the story. It’s unfair to judge someone until you know what’s happened.
“If it was a genuine reason – which I think it probably was – that’s fine with me. It would just be nice to have an answer from her.”
If you have any information about Steven Patrick, contact After Adoption on 0800 0 568 578.