Ellie Simmonds on being adopted and meeting her mum after 28 years: 'My mother gave me away after finding out I had dwarfism'

Virgin Radio

30 Jun 2023, 15:38

Ellie Simmonds on being adopted

Credit: Getty / Instagram

Strictly Come Dancing's Ellie Simmonds has opened up about being adopted and meeting her birth mum for the first time in nearly three decades. The five-time Paralympic gold medallist is set to appear in the upcoming ITV documentary Ellie Simmonds: Finding My Secret Family.

The TV presenter, 28, who was put into foster care after her birth, told The Daily Mail: "My life’s been amazing and I have a loving family who taught me never to let my dwarfism hold me back. But the start of my life was a different story. Although I’ve always known I was adopted it was something I knew very little about, and I’ve never wanted to ask why until now."

The disability campaigner continued: "I went straight into foster care at ten days old, and the last time my birth mother saw me was at two weeks. I didn’t know anything about what she went through."

Ellie grew up with adoptive parents Val and Steve in Walsall, West Midlands, and was the youngest of five children. At 13, she won two golds for Britain at the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing and retired from sport in 2020.

She said: "I’d achieved everything I wanted to. And then without the pressures of being an athlete, I had the time and space to find my birth parents. 

Ellie Simmonds

Credit: ITV

"All my life I’ve had so many questions and I’ve often wondered if my birth mum looks like me. I didn’t want to leave it too late and I’m going into a new chapter of my life. I’m starting to think about settling down myself.

"It’s the perfect time to find out who I am and where I started from. When I was born, despite reassurances from medical staff that I was normal, she was convinced there was a problem,’ says Ellie, 28, who’s traced her official adoption files and photos that had been locked away for 27 years.

"A few days later the hospital confirmed I had achondroplasia and my mother told the midwife she felt she wasn’t bonding with me. 

"Then, after saying it would be best for me to live with a foster parent for a short time, she requested I be put up for adoption just two days later. 

"Two days isn’t a long time to make a monumental decision like that. But she was a single parent so you have to try to put yourself in her shoes.

"It sounds like she had a fear of not just me, but of living with dwarfism. If I was average height, like my older birth sister, would I not have been adopted?"

She continued: "It’s very hard, isn’t it? You’d hope that whether your child is different or not, you’d still stick with it because there’d still be that love. 

"I’m just small. It’s never affected me emotionally before, it’s never made me feel rejected, thinking why did my birth parents not want me?"

"...But I don’t want to be angry – I wouldn’t be who I am today without that journey, and that involves pain.

"When my birth mum was handed these papers, that’s all she had to rely on as there was no Google. This documentary is so important, to highlight the importance of education and awareness."

In the emotional documentary, Ellie receives a letter from her birth mother, explaining how she ‘struggled with mental health’, it was ‘a very sad and traumatic time in my life’ and she has 'suffered with guilt and self-hatred’.

Ellie Simmonds

Credit: ITV

On meeting her birth mother earlier this year, Ellie said: "I was so nervous before we met but we spoke for over five hours and were howling with laughter as we’ve got the same sense of humour. 

"I kept looking at her and thinking, 'Wow! That’s my mum!' And yes, I felt her face was just like mine. 

"What touched my heart was that she thinks about me every day. And that really got me because she’s always seen me as her daughter.

"Finding out who I am, seeing the mother who gave birth to me and having the questions I’ve carried for years answered makes me feel more whole."

Watch Ellie Simmonds: Finding My Secret Family on Thursday July 6 at 9pm on ITV1 and ITVX.

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