Thursday, February 21, 2008

SHE AND I




I wonder about her today as I do every year on or around my birthday: I am speaking of my biological mother, who made the greatest sacrifice any woman could make. It seems incredible today but she tried to keep me for three months and the parting must have caused her unimaginable pain.

I have the adoption documents in front of me as I write and I quote verbatim from one of them:

1st May 1950
“The mother of this baby wishes for her to be adopted as she cannot afford to keep her. She has one child already, a girl aged 2, and she and this elder child live with her mother, a widow, who does occasional domestic work to support herself.

The father of Patricia is an American [not coloured – mother says he has blond hair]; little is known about him. He is thought to live in Miami, Florida and is a Captain in the Regular American Airforce.

The mother has no brothers or sisters to help in the financial running of the home.”


Underneath this statement someone has typed in capitals, in a different colour: 

“FAIR, TYPICALLY ENGLISH-LOOKING BABY.”

What a cruel world! Sociologically, the most interesting thing about these documents is the fact that “fair hair, blue eyes” is repeated throughout them, with reference to the father and to me, for who would give a toss these days?

The documents contain happier sections, one of them being this, from the Church of England Adoption Society on 4th December 1950:

“Dear Mr and Mrs Eggleton,
I was delighted to receive your telephone communication and to know that your meeting with baby Patricia was such a very happy one and that she is now in your care. I am so glad to know that she was so good on the journey home and that she is settling down very contentedly.”


And later:

“I was very pleased indeed to receive your letter and to have such very good news of your baby daughter. I can well imagine how much Patricia must already mean to both you and your wife , and I am more than delighted to know that she makes your happiness complete.”

Even now, that last extract brings tears to my eyes, for it shows how very much my parents [by which I mean the two wonderful people who brought me up] wanted a child. In fact, so impressed was the Adoption Society’s officer by the fact that my father was as keen as my mother to adopt that she actually bumped them up the list and here is the proof:

29th November 1950
“Dear Mr and Mrs Eggleton,
I was very pleased to be able to give you the good news that your application had been approved by the Committee. I was intending to write to you today to let you know that your name had been placed on the waiting list until a suitable child becomes available for adoption, but it occurs to me that you might like to have the opportunity of knowing a baby called Patricia although she is rather a long way from Bristol…….”


It seems to me that a lot of nonsense is talked nowadays about the supposed bond with the “natural” parents, to the extent that I have read suggestions that adopted children should have links with them from early on: I can see this idea bringing nothing but heartbreak and confusion for all involved. The strict regulations of the 1950s stated that the natural mother would never be able to have news of the child again and this was, indeed, harsh, but it is easy to forget that those who made these rulings did so for what they thought was the good of the child. If an adoptee or natural mother wish to trace each other later in life then that is up to them and I can understand the reasons other than emotional ones that might lead them to do so [simple curiosity, needing to know medical history, etc.] But such reunions are not always happy and I do not believe that an adoptee has the “right” to suddenly appear and disrupt a life that has been partially repaired. So no, I have never tried to find her, although my parents would have helped me if I had wanted to. This would have broken their hearts and I just couldn’t do it to them; then later on I decided that such sadness as my natural mother went through in 1950 was best not stirred up again. The fact that I have a half –sister somewhere is something I am curious about but one thing that an adopted child learns early on is that blood is not necessarily thicker than water. We become what we are largely through our environment.

I cannot remember a time when I did not know about the adoption: as a child, it was told to me as a story and I loved it! My “real” parents weren’t mentioned in this tale and I wasn’t bothered about them: I was more interested in the fact that I was “special”, that I had gone beamingly and willingly into my father’s arms that day at the orphanage whilst I summed my mother up a bit before surrendering myself to her, and that I had been a good girl on the drive to Bristol in the snow. And I was so happy, so warm , so loved that I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else anyway. But, being a precocious child and reading everything I could get my hands on, including the women’s magazines from our shop, I soon put two and two together and when I asked about my biological parents I was told the truth. So the documents were available to me from an early age, too.

What, then, do I wonder about on my birthday? How my biological mother feels [she would be 87 if alive ] or felt on that day, of course, whether she loved her airman and whether he had any feeling whatsoever for her. He probably knew nothing about me and she perhaps didn’t feel she could tell him. He was back in the USA by the time I appeared and she had no address for him. And I suppose any woman of my generation would ponder upon what would have happened had she had the option of abortion. Regular readers will know that I am ambivalent on the subject and, as I have never been in the position of having to have one I probably shouldn’t pontificate about it. What I do know is that there have always been abortionists – what else were witches? – and you only have to watch Vera Drake to realise that desperate women will resort to desperate measures. It is a subject much on the agenda in Italy at the moment and no woman, having made such a difficult decision, should have to go through this as well. Would my natural mother have done it? Would she have known more or less pain if she had? That I shall never know. But if I have a hope for her it is that the ensuing seasons of her life were kinder to her than that cold, unforgiving winter of 1950 and if I could say anything to her it would be, “Thank you”.

There I am above with my mum, the one who changed the nappies, bought the first sanitary towels, wrapped me in her arms as I sobbed about boys and later men and endured my taunts [for I was no angel] and moods for 43 years. She is pointing at the camera but I like to think she is pointing at life.


VERA DRAKE

42 comments:

Bretwalda Edwin-Higham said...

I'll e-mail on this one.

Mopsa said...

Extraordinarily moving things can be found on blogs; what a fabulous post.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

OK, James. Thanks. Many thanks, Mopsa.

Anne in Oxfordshire said...

Such a very moving post WL...your parents were wonderful, you were Happy, Warm and Loved..:-)

So are you Welsh? Were you born in Wales?

Crushed by Ingsoc said...

The Baker has never met his real father. Back in 1999(?), he had a phone conversation with him and his real father invited him to visit. At the time, I thought he should take up the offer, but he didn't, and in retrospect, he may have been right.

The statement about 'not coloured' is quite interesting, but note, as late as 1903, a white woman and a black male were unable, in this country, to find a Cof E vicar who would marry them.

Ardent said...

Thank you for sharing such private and emotional information about yourself to your privileged readers.

It must have been a difficult choice for your biological mother, to actually admit financial and emotional defeat and hand to the state her beloved child.

But I am so happy that you became part of and lived a life within the embrace of a loving, happy and secure home. They are your true parents and what a good job they did!
Cheers
:)

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi and thanks, Anne. No, not in Wales. But my parents were Welsh and I was brought up to think of Wales as "home" and with a Welsh accent. And it is the place where I have spent most of my life.
Hi, Crushed. I think the Baker might have been right, too. Didn't know that was true as late as 1903. Incredible.

jams o donnell said...

A very moving post Welshcakes.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Thanks, Ardent. Yes, it must have been a terrible thing for her although I think we are viewing things from a 21st century standpoint here. She certainly did not have the choices that we have. My parents were, indeed , wonderful. They wanted me and loved me and there was never a day when they did not make that clear - even when I was at my most impossible!
Thank you again, jams.

tooth fairy said...

Your biological mum did a very unselfish thing - thinking about what would be best for you.
My father who is 84 now lost his mother when he was 8 years old. He never knew why she died, only that she went to the hospital one day and never came home. My sister and I did some family research a few years ago and learned that our grandmother had tried to give herself an abortion and got an infection which took her life three weeks after she went to the hospital. She was 29 years old and had four sons already. She didn't feel she could handle any more. I believe the subject of abortion should be left between a woman and her doctor.

jmb said...

I'm sure your biological mother did not give you up lightly Welshcakes but she did what she thought was best for you.

How fortunate you were with the parents who brought you up.

Ah, abortion. Another issue. I like to think of myself as being pro choice in theory but once you have had a child it seems to me it would be impossible to have an abortion, unless there was some biological or health reason.

The numbers performed today prevent a whole lot of potentially wonderful but infertile parents from having the joy that your mother and father found in you.

Very moving post Welshcakes.

leslie said...

I'll email you, too. :)

Abbey said...

A beautiful post Welshcakes.. I loved the last paragraph especially...& the photo... ta for sharing a beautiful personal story...x

Winchester whisperer said...

What a story - for all you know you have half-brothers and sisters in England and America who read your blog...I vaguely know Kate Adie's sister and her children always used to comment on how similar they looked. Then one day Kate Adie turned up on her doorstep (for some reason she'd been adopted at birth) and told her the news. They've had a very happy "reunion"

kissa said...

Your parents sound as if they gave you the most wonderful childhood, teenagehood and then adulthood in as much as they were always there with support and love. This is a compulsive read charged with emotion. This is a beautiful post.

Sally said...

What a wonderful post Welshcakes, and what very special people loved you as a small child. Your biological mother I think was both loving and brave - she tried her best but knew that you would have a better life than she could give you, real, selfless love. And your truly wonderful parents who brought you up and loved you from day 1 right to the end of their lives. It is an inspiring story, thank you.

mutleythedog said...

Its a great post Ms L. I agree that there is a lot of almost mystical nonsense spoken about biological parents - your parents are the ones who worked hard and loved you and took care for you. Being a parent is not about biology but about parenting. Thanks for sharing - no silly remark from me you will notice.

PinkAcorn said...

I am so moved by your story, what a most fortunate child you were and for what it's worth you were pretty darn cute,too...

CherryPie said...

This is a very beautiful post, I was very moved by it.

I am happy I found your blog today.

emmanuele lazaridis said...

DEAR LIMONCELLO!
thank you for having visited my little blog !!!

Mountaingirl said...

This is one of the most powerful and moving posts I have ever come across. I ended with tears in my eyes - not for anyone in particular and they are somewhere between happy and sad tears. Thankyou for sharing something so personal Welshcakes ...

Ellee Seymour said...

I found this a very brave and honest and very moving post. thank you for sharing it with us. You know you were truly loved, so many children don't have that. And you both look so beautiful.

Mark said...

Am very interested to know more about the Church of England Adoption Society... or whatever it was called... i've already forgotten. Does it still exist?

Am American, adoptee, studying the Church and its relations with the world of adoption. (episcopalian over here).

Warm regards.... and thank you for your post... which now I will have to finish reading...

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, TF. That is such a sad story and thank you for sharing it here. It shows again how harsh the world was then.
Thanks, jmb. I agree with all that you say.
Thanks, Leslie. I have replied.
Hi, Abbey, Thank YOU, for reading x
Ciao, WW. Nice to hear of a happy ending.
Thank you, kissa. My parents were, indeed, wonderful and I could always tell them both about ANYTHING and knew they wouldn't be shocked or judgemental.
Thank YOU, Sally, for such a nice comment. Yes, I'm sure my "natural" mum loved me and even today, I cannot imagine her pain. I was so very lucky after her sacfifice.
Thank you, Mutley. I really appreciate that.
You are kind, pink!
How nice to meet you, cherry pie and thank you.
Ciao, Emmanuele. Mi piace molto il tuo blog! Non è cosi "piccolo"!
Mg, many thanks. I am touched.
Ellee, you are kind as always. Thank you.

Indigo-Daisy said...

So beautiful and so touching. The picture almost says it all, the happiness and love they found in you. I can't thank you enough for sharing this little piece about yourself.
~Deborah

Sharon said...

A wonderful and sensitive post written so beautifully. Tiyr writing is easy to read, in an emotional sense. I am happy that you had a good childhood. That is something special.

CalumCarr said...

WL

It is rare to read a post so beautiful and uplifting. In fact, I haven't read a post to compare with this.

Thank you.

Trubes said...

What a moving and poignant story of your life Welshcakes. I, like many of your other 'posters', was deeply moved by your words.
Thank you for sharing this with us.

Di.xx

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, Mark. Nice to meet you. I understand that the Society was founded in Victorian times as the "Waifs and Strays" by two philanthropist brothers. It still exists under the name of the "Children's Society." I remember my Dad telling me that nearly all the questions on the application form were about church attendance and that the ones about reasons for wanting to adopt were at the very end of it! I'm sure the Society always did its best in the climate of the times in which it was operating.
Thank you so much, Deborah. That is very kind.
Thank you, too, Sharon. Yes, I am aware of how lucky I was.
Calum, that is indeed a compliment and it means a lot to me. Thank you.

Crushed by Ingsoc said...

It is a tricky one, and I'll be honest one, that really has got me thinking, for a variety of reasons.

I've always been in the situation that I know I would make an atrocious father, in terms of actually bringing up children.

By the same token, the idea of dieing childless, isn't something I relish.

When I visualise about the grand vision for the future I wants for our descendants, part of my hope in that vision, is that it will include my own, actual descendants, that's partly why it takes precedence for me.

But to go looking for Ms Right, thinking predomimantly about looking for a potential mother of four, does seem to mean one loses out, on the human side of these things, or potentially could do.

I'm starting to think I need to actually find out the answer to one of those questions I don't know the answer to, as in, whether or not I already am a biological father. There is one case where I think I am, but I really have no idea how to find the mother, and I can't remember her second name.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Many thanks, Trubes. I always appreciate your kind words about my blog. Coming to see you later! x
Crushed, agreed, it is a difficult one. You are, as always, honest. As for looking for a "mother for children" in a potential partner, I think you should fall in love first, then the rest will follow or not. I do not think that having children is a right. Sometimes it just does not happen and we do not know about the "path not taken." But, as I keep telling you, you have years ahead of you yet!

Crushed by Ingsoc said...

:)
This last time last year I was seeing a girl whom was obsessed with having children. To be honest, I soon started to feel that I was more a prospective donor/husband then being seen as a person, so I bailed out.

I don't like being seen in quite those terms.

I guess I do worry though, about falling in love with someone who doesn't want, or can't have children.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi again, Crushed. I can understans that you didn't like being viewed in that way. As to marrying someone who is unable to have children, if you love the person, it should not matter.

Richard Havers said...

Beautiful

Sean Jeating said...

There's nothing to add. Thus, I do keep silent and ... bow.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Many thanks, Richard.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

You are very kind, Sean.

Liz said...

A wonderful post, welshcakes. What a happy story.

kyles said...

wow, i am so moved by that post WC. How amazing is the human experience, your ability to know but move on and the respect which you show for your birth and adoptive mothers is so touching, may i ask if i could print this off for my mother, i will tell her story one day soon in a post? i know she would be touched to read your post if thats ok? thanks for sharing, kyles xo

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Thanks, Liz. Thank you for your kindness, Kyles. I'd be honoured for you to print the story for your mother.

Claudia said...

Thank you for sending us to this post. I am moved to tears. It's an honour to meet your parents through your story. And they raised incredibly well a gifted child who has a beautiful soul. It's a joy to know you, Welshcakes. A big hug from Canada.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Thank you, Claudia, for commenting here and for your kind words. Hugs to you, too.

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