On January 16, 1964, Angela Patrick sat in the waiting room of an adoption charity in west London. In her arms she held her sleeping baby, eight-week old Paul. When an adoption worker took Paul from Angela’s lap to ‘take him to show to the couple’, Angela waited for Paul to be returned so she could say goodbye. But Angela would not see Paul for another thirty years.
Angela Patrick & Katharine [photo: Sarah Lee for The Guardian]
Nineteen year old Angela was raised in a Catholic family, told she would meet a man, marry him, then children would follow. But Angela went to a party, forgot her mother’s warning of ‘Never let a man touch you’ and found herself pregnant. Angela clearly remembers the emotions today. “From the moment I found out I was pregnant, I felt sheer panic,” says Angela, 68. “I was in denial for weeks. My overwhelming feeling was shame – at how badly I’d let my mother down. But when I finally accepted it, my one thought was: how can I get through this without anyone finding out?”
The fling having ended before Angela found out she was pregnant, she lived first with a supportive friend and then, for the last two months of her pregnancy, at a Catholic home for unmarried mums-to-be. There was no alternative but to have her baby adopted. Having been in denial for so long, it was too late to have an abortion. “I’ve been over it a million times and wondered how I could have kept my baby, but I’ve never come up with an answer,” says Angela. “I would never, ever have been able to go home with a baby.”
Angela’s delivery was difficult and, as a result, she stayed at the home with Paul for two months after the birth. Time for mother and son to form a strong bond. Adoption day was unbearable. “It was impossible to think of another woman mothering him,” she says.
Thirty years later, on January 19, 1994, Angela received a letter from the adoption charity saying Paul had been in touch and would like to make contact with Angela. “I imagined how much it had taken for him to track down the charity. To think he had searched for me, not knowing if I would want anything to do with him, and might reject him all over again, broke my heart.”
Angela went on to marry and have a daughter. Katharine, now 35, has a child of her own and cannot imagine doing what her mother had to do. And she is angry with her grandmother. ” I wasn’t brought up religiously, so I don’t understand the indoctrination my mother had, or the society that she grew up in. My mum is a good person, a nice person, and her own mother behaved in an inhumane way. I can’t imagine letting those beliefs win over what I felt for my child. I have a 10-week old baby, and the thought of being forced to give her up is unimaginable.
“My grandmother died when I was eight. I don’t think, once I’d found out about what had happened to my mum, that I could have forgiven her like Mum did, or would want to have continued a relationship with her.”
Read Angela’s full story at The Guardian.
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