“I put my child up for adoption in the 60s – and now she puts me to shame”

Dear Richard,

I am a 75 year old woman. In the 1960s, I gave birth to a daughter whom I gave up for adoption as a newborn because I was unable to provide her with a home. She found me recently and we met: she seemed happy and stable, with a loving family, for which I was and remain extremely grateful.

I had hoped for some sort of relationship with her, but I realized that was up to her. She asked me to tell her about the circumstances of her birth, which of course I did. At that time, she became very angry and stormed out. Since then, there has been no contact and no response to my messages.

I suppose I could have been more tactful in my choice of words. But I would really like to write to her to reassure her that she was neither unwanted nor forgotten – only I fear that such an approach would not be helpful.

– Kathleen, Leicestershire

Dear Kathleen,

Why not write to him? What harm can it do? What if you received a “return to sender” (remember that?), a hostile response, or even an angry silence? At least you tried, Kathleen.

If you’re a regular reader of this column, you’ll know that I’m a big believer in writing when it comes to resolving tangled disputes. A thoughtful letter or email can explain and define things in a way that face-to-face conversations often fail, even with the best intentions on both sides. As you discovered during your first and last meeting with your adult daughter, speech is open to a thousand misinterpretations.

You say you could have been more tactful in your choice of language – so you can now take your time to find the precise phrases that may have escaped you in all the understandable stress and emotion of your reunion.

I definitely think you should try to give your daughter a sense of the historical context – i.e. how different and difficult times were for single mothers in the early 1960s. The social and state pressure to abandoning babies born out of wedlock was massive. Many young women like you have been subjected to enormous constraints – moral, financial and practical – to consent to adoption. Your daughter should be made aware of this harsh reality and that it was not your fault.

Finally, tell her you love her. Tell her you loved her the moment you first held her. Tell her you loved her when you had to say goodbye. Tell her that you never stopped loving her and that you love her to this day and beyond.

I don’t think you can do more. Good luck.


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