It was to be one big secret.
I was aged 15 and still at secondary school studying to take my GCE's and CSE's. After my first time of sleeping with someone, I suddenly realised I was pregnant. My feelings were mixed between being horrified, petrified, angry and elated. I told no-one of my situation. I sat my exams and even got a job as a receptionist when I left school in the June, when I was four months pregnant. I carried on with life as if nothing was happening to me, still going to discos and pubs, even though the changes going on in my body did not let me do this often due to overwhelming nausea and just generally being worried sick. I became very clever in hiding my body with baggy cardigans and wearing a corset that I had taken from my mother even though it was the middle of summer and an extremely hot one at that.
In August 1977 I told my Mum I was pregnant. She was absolutely devastated (to say the least), and would not believe I was six months pregnant as I had only put on a small amount of weight and was still wearing the same clothes. I was taken straight to the doctors, who soon confirmed that I was six months pregnant. The doctor was very concerned that I had not been seen before and wanted me to go straight to hospital for routine tests and a scan. But all my mother could keep saying was, "So is it too late for an abortion?" I think, at the back of my mind, this was one of the reasons I left it for so long to tell my mother, as I had always been against abortions.
My mother came to hospital with me and all the tests were normal and, finally, my perfectly formed baby (a true person) was all now becoming so real and not a figment of my imagination.
Once home, I was informed by my mother that I would not be allowed to go back to work, leave the house (except to go to the hospital for my ante-natal check ups), or have any contact by telephone with anyone. It was to be one big secret. I felt so dirty, disgusting and so alone, as if I was the only person in the world that this had ever happened to. Work was telephoned and told I was sick and the only people told I was pregnant at this stage were my Step-Father, Nan and Grandad. I was being pressured and pressured to give the father's name. There was no way I was going to do this, as my mother was making it very clear that she would contact the police and have him prosecuted, and I loved him too much to do that to him. In retrospect this was silly, as they say it takes two and it should also be two that decide what should be done if possible.
The loneliness and despair that I was feeling was overwhelming. My days were taken up by knitting, watching television, doing crosswords and housework with no-one to talk to. Even when I did talk, none of my feelings or opinions was taken into account. It was as if I was not there. My friends would keep telephoning, but they were always told I was out. It was like I had disappeared of the face of the earth. I had been completely taken over. The only time I was allowed out was for a walk late at night with my mother. This was a drama in itself. I would be covered by a blanket to get to the car and then we would drive to a location where nobody knew us. (Talk about worry what the neighbours think).
It was during the last three months that my mother and step-father decided that the only route to take was to put you up for adoption. (I was told that if I kept you I would not be welcome in the family anymore, and would not have any support or anywhere to go).
At 16 it is very daunting to think of yourself on your own with a baby and nowhere to go. So in the end I had to agree. Fear now engulfed me. I was in a black hole, spiralling down and floating aimlessly. I wanted to scream to the world in hope that someone would hear me and help me out of this nightmare. My father and step-mother were now told of the situation regarding adoption.
Quite a few times at this stage I was tempted to contact the father and tell him, but I always backed out. I felt I just could not lumber him with this out of the blue, when he could be in a new relationship. I was still protecting him and taking all the flack myself. Those last couple of months of pregnancy were awful. I cried most of the time when on my own in bed, knowing that my baby was going to be taken away from me. This is especially hard when you have felt new life move and kick inside you, and a bond has already been made. I was now going through life in a dream-like state, completely taken over by everybody around me.
The social worker was processing the adoption papers, each time I saw her I could see the smugness on her face, I felt like a criminal that would be punished for the rest of my life. Little did I know at the time that this would be exactly how I would feel.
On the 25th November 1977 at 10am, I awoke with stomach ache and I then knew I going to go into labour. I would not telephone anybody to let them know (even though I was still tempted to contact your father). My mother took me straight to the hospital (covered in the blanket, of course). My mother was told that it could be hours yet before anything happened and was sent home. I was left in a ward of eight people, in so much pain, but not given any painkillers of any sort, not even a paracetamol, I was just left to get on with it. I could not even cry so as not to upset the other patients on the ward. At approximately 2am my water broke, (I thought I had wet the bed), I rang the buzzer and I was taken straight to the delivery room and my mother was called to return to the hospital.
Even at this stage I did not know what was going to happen to me, I still thought babies came out of your tummy. Once in the delivery room I was still not allowed any painkillers, as one of the doctors said "that it was too late now and they would not take effect". He then added, "This is your punishment for getting yourself into this situation. You won't do it again, will you?".
My mother arrived in time to see my perfect baby girl born finally at 3.47am on 26th November 1977 weighing 6lb 14oz, with jet black hair and dark eyes. My mother was trying to get the midwife to take you away, and kept saying that you were going to be adopted and that I should have no contact. I was once again all alone, but now in bed crying without a baby inside of me, but taken away. I was very upset and bewildered that my mother could have seen my baby born and still insisted you were adopted. I took care of my beautiful baby girl for ten wonderful days, it was just like being in our own little world that no-one else could destroy. It was the first time I felt safe for a long time. She was now part of my life.
The day of reckoning finally arrived on the 6th December 1977 when we were discharged from hospital and my mother and a social worker were waiting for me. I was taken to a house where I had to hand my baby over to foster parents who were going to take care of her until a suitable couple could be found to adopt. I was still hoping that my mother would change her mind when the time came to hand my baby over, but, of course, this did not happen. This was the most heart-breaking experience of my whole life. All I wanted to do was grab her from the foster parent’s arms and run as far away as possible, but where would I run to? I was so distraught on the way home I really thought that any mother could not see their own child go through this and we would turn around and return for her.
It was about six months after you had been fostered that I signed the adoption papers. I now knew that your name would have been changed and the only decision I had any control over had also been taken from me. I now became a very angry person, still not understanding how all this could have happened, going through the hatred of my mother and step-father for hurting me in the worst way possible. Not one day ever went by without me thinking of my baby girl.
The day of her 18th birthday I began pestering Social Services but to no avail as adoption records in 1977 are still red-taped by the Government. Finally, after many phone calls and visits to Social Services they agreed to act as intermediary and see if they could find out where she was now living and write to the family, but they did not hold out much hope. In the meantime, I joined a charity who knew of a private searcher and my father agreed to pay for this service.
More or less simultaneously, Social Services and the searcher found by baby girl, 25 years later. A social worker acted as the contact and went to see the adoptive family also armed with a letter from me to my daughter. I was then advised that all I could now do was sit back and wait. All the emotions returned - the hurt, the anger, the depression, the disbelief. A few weeks later, I suddenly received a phone call and it was my daughter. I was so overcome that I had to ask if she could give me a few minutes to compose myself and call her back.
It was a very difficult conversation at the beginning but we were on the phone for hours and then every day and evening for the next week. We then arranged a place to meet in October 2002. (As it happened we lived quite close to each other and she had also been adopted about 12 miles away, so close but so far). On the day we met, we were both having the same feelings. Would we like each other? Would we look alike? Should we actually turn back home? But both being of the same character we arrived at about the same time in the car-park and we knew each other instantly.
Strangely enough we shed no tears. We hugged and went and had a drink and sat for hours talking. It was such an unbelievable day. I was extremely lucky that my daughter's adoptive parents had been open with her and she had always known that she had been adopted and the reasons why. The other amazing thing is that I now have twin boys born by IVF due to secondary infertility after having my daughter and also I have been back with her natural father for the last ten years. She now has two lots of loving parents. I am now awaiting the birth of my first grandchild next year.
I have been one of the extremely lucky ones, but I am very aware that there are still thousands of birth parents that will never get to meet their natural child due to all the red tape or missing records. I am still very angry over what happened and nothing can ever make up for all those missing years. These days it would be classed as child cruelty at the very least.
Editor’s note: Thanks for sharing your very moving story…the pain of what you had to go through is very evident. Powerlessness, grief, loss, anger, hatred, depression…feelings you are in touch with even now after all these years. I do hope that, now your daughter has been restored to you that you will feel able to work through these emotions with some support from a counsellor, if you haven't already.
Nothing can bring back those lost years, but maybe now it can be time for you to be unburdened of your feelings and find greater peace within yourself now that you have - at last – been reunited with your lovely daughter. Thank you so much for telling us your story.