A Birthmother’s Story (Story One)
Living in Hope
Mine is pretty much the usual story, except that I did not spend my pregnancy in a Mother & Baby Home.
Young and naïve in the 60s, my relationship with my fiancé ended in me becoming pregnant and him deserting me. Before my ‘bump’ even began to show, my father showed me the door, stating that I could only return home minus the baby. Fortunately, my sister had a friend who lived in Portsmouth who was pregnant herself and wanted company as her husband was a Marine serving in Aden. That person took me in – a complete stranger – and I will always been grateful to her for that kindness.
Living with the stigma was no mean feat. I felt really dishonest gaining employment knowing it would be a very temporary arrangement. It is hard to conceive how society has changed so dramatically over the years, but back then in the 60s unmarried mothers were treated as low life. At no time did Social Services inform me of any alternative to adoption or of any housing or benefits available. I felt I had no option but to consider adoption.
I had a difficult labour in St Mary’s Hospital but gave birth to the prettiest daughter ever. I loved her with a passion. The inevitable happened and I travelled back to London broken-hearted.
The following year I married (not my former fiancé) and went on to have two fine sons who are both now happily married. When the boys had left home, I had an overwhelming desire to trace my daughter whom I had never forgotten or stopped loving. I used the services of a Researcher who found her in a few days, still living in the Portsmouth area. I found out that she was happily married with two children, a boy and a girl. I was a grandmother!
In the first instance my daughter and I exchanged correspondence and photographs, but when the crunch came she decided that she did not want to meet me or have me in her life out of loyalty to her adoptive parents and to avoid confusing her children. The irony is that because of circumstances I am unlikely to get any grandchildren from my boys’ relationships. Talk about Murphy’s Law!
My daughter does send me a card once a year with photographs but there is no other contact. I can do no more than continue to live in hope that one day she will want to develop the relationship and like a fairy story, we shall all live happily ever after.
A Birthmother’s Story (Story Two)
I gave my little boy up for adoption in 1984 when there was no such thing as open adoption and certainly any form of contact was out of the question. Once the adoption went through that was it, no further knowledge of how he was, what he looked like, if he was happy – just a vast empty space where I had to hope and pray that I had really done the right thing but never was to know.
So I did what all birth mothers do, I pretended to the outside world that everything was OK, but I never forgot and all the time my guilt and loss was eating away inside until some 10 years later I had a complete nervous breakdown. One of the most serious aspects of this was that I wanted to kill myself because I really did believe that my son was dead. I was extremely lucky with the care that I received from the hospital that I was placed in as they got in touch with the local NPN support co-ordinator, Sheila. Because Sheila herself was so worried about me she contacted the local social services adoption department to see if there was any information that they could provide to assure me that my son was alive and well. The social services actually contacted my son’s adoptive parents and they agreed to write to me and enclose some photographs. In addition to this they offered to open post box contact every Christmas.
From this point on I began to get better, from their letters I could tell that I had done the right thing, from the photographs I could tell that he was happy and very well cared for.
Over the years I wrote to my son and his parents and received very lovely letters and photographs from his parents in return, until one year I received a letter from my son himself. The pure happiness that letter gave me is beyond words and to this day is one of my most treasured possessions.
On the 1st September 2002 I met my son again and subsequently went on to meet his parents. We all have an extremely good relationship and are all the best of friends. The contact over the years gave us all the opportunity to build a relationship so that none of us were entering the complete unknown when we met; it also meant that none of us were stuck in the past only knowing how things were some 18 years before. We all move on from that time in our life where we are so totally at a low that we can’t cope with our children and it is good to let your children and their new parents see that life has changed and that it is OK for them to meet you again.
I still yearn for all those lost years and yes the post box service does open old wounds but it is 100% better than not knowing, so if you get the opportunity to have any form of contact grab it with both hands because you will certainly be very glad that you did in the years to come.
I sit alone and wonder what I would have done
Had you not come into my life to say you were my son?
My life has changed completely since you first reappeared.
I cried so many tears for you, I searched for many years.
Now I feel so whole again, my life is now complete
I welcome you back into my life, to meet you was a treat.
You’ve grown into a handsome man from the baby I first knew.
I’m sorry things were like they were, there was nothing I could do
Forgive me son I beg you, your friend I want to be.
I hoped I’d get to know you in the years that are left to me
I’d like to right the wrong I did but I think that I’m too late,
You’re leaving soon to your new life, I find that hard to take.
So will I see you one more time before you all depart?
I’m thinking now that I’m alone, once more a broken heart.
Walking wounded we,
Our inexpressible pain hidden deep within,
The passing pains of childbirth supplanted
By the unending pain of separation, a life sentence.
Murderers receive time-limited sentences.
But we who gave life get no remission.
And so I walk and talk and work and smile
And nobody would guess the despair within.
Or that I feel like a life-size mechanical doll,
Hollow inside like an empty shell.