On my way home from dropping Joshua off at daycare, I get to listen to Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour – he tends to turn the radio off when he is a passenger, unless they are playing his favourite tunes. On the way home I was glued to a feature about adoption : I missed the start of the feature but a lady was talking about seeking a Government apology for all of the forced adoptions of babies born out of wedlock in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. There was a 75 year old mother sobbing on the radio because she had been forced to stay in a ‘Mother & Baby’ Home until she gave birth when she was 16 due to the shame she had brought on the family. She was expected to give her weeks old son up and return home to her family as if nothing had happened to her. Another caller had been married and her husband had been ashamed that she had had a baby before they had met and so she had been sworn to secrecy all of her life. She was only able to tell her ‘children’, when they were in their sixties, that they had an older sister, once she was widowed. I had to pull the car over to listen and to weep for those poor mothers , they were heartbreaking stories as the emotion was still so raw in their voices.
I am so thankful that society is progressed now and their teenaged pregnancies are no longer hidden away and that there are benefits and social housing available to support young unmarried mothers these days. Abortion is legal as an option if that is how the young mother chooses to handle the situation nowadays and that was not feasible in the 1950s or 60s. It is hard to believe that families would reject their own daughters in this way but often financial struggles also meant that an additional mouth to feed was untenable. I love the TV programme ‘Long Lost Families’ when abandoned babies seek out their birth mothers or mothers search for the baby that they had given up for adoption years earlier. They want to see their faces – to see if there is a family resemblance – and to learn the stories of what has happened since they were last together. I love to watch the reunions, perhaps they gain bonus siblings or grandchildren, that they knew nothing about. It is magical and of course, it never fails to make me cry.
My husband and I looked into adoption ; we spoke to adoptive parents and we went on the course organised by the council to warn you of the realities of adoption. Naively , we thought that we had enough love to give to another child and that Joshua would benefit from a sibling. We pictured an abandoned baby or toddler coming to live with us, for us to bring up as our own. My Mum was very supportive of the idea. The Training Course explained that the reality was very different and it was older children, often with problems such as being victims of abuse , who needed to find new families. In the end we decided that we already had our work cut out for us taking care of Joshua, that we might not be equipped for another child with behaviour or attachment issues. In addition we were both working at the time too, life was already pretty hectic. We agreed that it would not be fair on Joshua or the adopted child to have our divided attention and so we withdrew from the process. But I still ponder how life might have been, what an asset another child in our family might have been and whether we could have made a success of it. Our family dynamic would have been very different but we are a strong unit as we are, there was always a risk of spoiling what we already had.
So instead it seems that we have given all of our extra love to our four dogs, which bring a lot of pleasure, and chaos , to our lives.