Source: The Guardian
By Sarah Marsh
Val Bynner, 74, from London, who was forced to give up her baby for adoption, recalls her experience and says apology can’t take away the pain
Someone told me that giving up my baby for adoption would be “like recovering from a nasty case of measles”. I was expected to just get on with it afterwards as if nothing had happened.
I was 21 and had got pregnant after my first sexual experience at university. My mother organised for me to go to a guesthouse in Devon for the birth, and immediately after my son was born he was taken away.
I was given a rock crystal necklace by the adoptive parents, and I remember thinking that it was no replacement for a baby, but they were being kind – it wasn’t their fault.
I had no choice but to pull myself together and never mention my baby again. I blocked it out and thought it was a well-kept secret but it turned out that most of my friends and fellow students knew.
One in particular reminded me recently that I had written her a letter saying I was having a baby and I should be happy and surrounded by flowers, but instead I had to give my baby away. I warned her: “Don’t let it happen to you.”
It wasn’t until 47 years later, when my son came to find me, that I realised what a weight of shame and guilt I had been carrying around.
It was a relief, a joy, to be able to tell my friends about my experience and know that in this day and age they would not judge me.
At the time, there was no real separation between social norms and what the church thought was right. My mother was working class, strong and domineering, and when I told her I was pregnant she did what they did then to terminate a pregnancy – she put me in a hot bath and gave me lots of gin.
It didn’t work. I remember saying “I want to keep my child”, but at that time it was unthinkable. I knew I had to do what I was told because being an unmarried mother was something you kept quiet.
Lots of women who this happened to were naive and very frightened. There was no counselling or support or help, so you just got on with it. The approach was: “Let’s do this as efficiently as possible and then pretend it never happened.” There was no question of any psychological impact.
But of course, you cannot experience something like that without it affecting you. It coloured many parts of my life. When my daughter was born I was terrified. I remember looking at her and thinking: “How am I going to keep you alive?” At some deep level I must have feared another child being taken away from me.