Abandoning your child is something that the vast majority of parents could not even begin to contemplate doing. Most parents would do anything, jump through whatever hoop, walk on fire or in front of a bus to keep their children safe and make sure they were there for them throughout their lives.
When we started on our adoption journey, my thoughts were often occupied with birth parents in general and how they must feel fighting to keep their children. The reasons children are adopted now are very different from the reasons 40 or 50 years ago. In those days, the shame of having a child out of wedlock was often enough reason for a child to be reliquinshed by their mother. The removal of children born out of wedlock into some religions was often done without the consent of birth mum, sometimes even without their knowledge.
The story of the man who came to talk on our preparation course really moved me. He was born into a staunch catholic family out of wedlock. His birth mother was sent out to the hairdressers one day and when she returned, her baby had been removed, all sign of his existance erased. She was expected to just accept that and get on with her life without him.
Thankfully, feeling you have no choice but to relinquish your child because you’re a single mum in the UK is now very rare. The issues that lead to adoption today are usually to do with drug or alcohol misuse, violence or extreme neglect which lead a court to conclude that there is no other option but for the child to be placed for adoption outside of their birth family. I felt that would be something that our child could understand – they had to be removed because it wasn’t safe for them to stay with their birth family. If they had stayed they may not have survived, or they would have been very unhappy, ill or abused.
Explaining to your child that their birth mum didn’t fight for them is a whole different kettle of fish. It’s a scenario that I will always struggle to understand. How can a mother who has felt her baby kick and grow and move around inside her, not fight with every ounce of her strength for the right to parent her child and watch them grow and flourish? Walking away might have been done with the best of intentions but to a child it is rejection, no matter what age they are when it happens.
Being a parent isn’t something where you get to pick and choose to be around for the best bits and then leave when something difficult crops up. Having a parent walk out of your life at whatever age is heartbreaking but when you’re an adult it is crushing. You understand things so much more than you ever could as a child. You have more memories, experiences and adventures that you shared with your parent. They were someone you looked up to all your life, who you went to for advice or to just be a shoulder to cry on. They loved you unconditionally. Or so you thought.
Your role in that type of situation as an adult is different too. Even though you’re the child, you often have to be a parent for the parent who’s been left behind. You have to be strong, take control, pretend everything will be ok even though you feel like you’re dying inside. It’s the worst kind of grief because the person whose loss you are mourning is alive and well. They’re living their new life to the full but that life doesn’t have room for you.
I can’t imagine what it must feel like for a parent to walk away from their child and out of their life, whether it was their decision or one made by a court. My daughter is my life and I will do all that I can to make sure I’m there for her throughout hers.