Personal Stories: Pat Rainey's story
Single Mother's Baby Taken Away In Mid 20th Century
A heart wrenching recollection of when Pat Rainey, as a young unmarried mother in the 1950s, had her baby removed and given away. And then, after many years of torment, found that ecstatic happiness again.
I was born in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, and brought up in a Christian home. So you can imagine how horrified my family was when I announced that I was about to become one of the many “unmarried mothers” of my generation – I was made to feel the lowest of the low because I’d brought such disgrace on my family.
I was sent to a Church of England mother & baby home as it was thought by my parents that it would solve all our problems. As far as was possible I was expected to keep out of the public gaze, i.e. not go shopping, etc. – but I still had to walk two miles each way to work where I was a Tax Officer with the Inland Revenue.
I was allowed maternity leave for four months while I stayed in the home – which was twenty miles away – very necessary in order to continue with the secrecy – which incidentally, I hated, but I had no choice but to go along with.
After our babies were born we breast fed and generally looked after them for eight weeks, then weaned them and by ten to twelve weeks the adoption took place.
I believed that in giving up my baby for adoption:
a) I was doing what God would want me to do ----- obeying my parents (although their motive seemed to me to be more to do with saving the family from disgrace than the well-being of my baby.
b) More importantly I really believed he would have a better life with adoptive parents and trusted that the adoption society would find the right couple who would be able to give him much more than I could. I’ve since learned that in a lot of cases these arrangements were not always successful.
When the day arrived for David to be collected by his new parents – I bathed and fed him, dressed him in a lovely new romper suit, left a book of prayers for children with a little card, kissed him goodbye, left him in the nursery and made my way to the cellar (not as awful as it sounds – we washed the nappies there, and it had quite a big window – nevertheless the rule was that I had to be locked in, in case I made a fuss when they came to fetch him. I didn’t cry, I was too numb – just as if it wasn’t happening.
After his new parents had left I was taken home by a lady from the Adoption Society and then expected not to talk about what had happened and just get on with my life and forget him.
Two days later I started work in another office twelve miles away – where it was considered by the welfare department within the Civil Service that it would be better for me because no-one would know about my past! Needless to say word had already reached them. In other words, my reputation had gone before me. I still didn’t cry – all that had happened had gone too deep for tears – I found work really difficult – my brain didn’t seem to function like it used to – “numb” just seems to sum up how I felt. I was taken to the doctor by my mother and he just told me to “pull myself together” - no such thing as counselling in those days – so pull myself together I did, pushing the past with all the hurt and guilt deeper and deeper down. I have always hated the secrecy.
I was always feeling guilty and had very low self-esteem because of society’s attitude – this was despite the fact that I knew I’d been forgiven by God because of Jesus’ death on the cross.
Two years later I was married to Ken – who worked in the same office. He knew about my past and was OK about it but like everyone else didn’t understand why I needed to talk about it.
We started our married life in Ken’s home town of Wellington. At first I went on my own to the early communion services at the parish church where I was impressed by the friendliness of the people, also there was something different about them. They talked about a relationship with God, and asking Jesus into your life, the like of which I’d never heard. Also when I eventually went along to the mid-week Bible study / prayer meetings, they prayed in a way I’d never heard before.
Ken was not too happy about all this – somewhat perplexed at my sudden enthusiasm – however he soon started going with me, he read the Bible from cover to cover (it helped that we had no tv in those days) and it wasn’t long (six months I recall) before he made his own commitment and ever since then we’ve not looked back. We joined a group of young marrieds (with some of whom Ken had been to school). We met each Saturday evening, having meals together – quizzes – Bible study – praying – we also went on holidays together and are still in touch with some of them all these years later.
Over the months and years I began to believe that it was wrong in God’s eyes to even think about David because he was no longer mine and in handing him over to the adoptive parents I was entrusting him into God’s care and therefore should have no doubts about his well-being. I was told I would never see him again – never know his new name or whereabouts – how he was, etc. but I did have a lovely surprise when he was six months old when the adoption society gave me a letter from his new parents with two photos – a lovely letter saying how much he was loved and has changed their lives and thanking me for letting them have him – I’ve always treasured that letter and trusted that all would be well – but I was still hurting inside – despite trying to be sensible.
After eight years (we had two sons by then, and had moved twice with Ken’s job) I confided in our vicar’s wife – we were good friends, we had become very involved in the life of the church – no-one would have suspected what was going on inside me. I was desperate for help.
I was listened to and prayed with and generally made to feel loved – so much that I then thought I should put it all behind me – after all I’ve been prayed for and mustn’t indulge any more in this self-pity!
Another two moves and eighteen years later, (as well as our two boys we now had an eight year old daughter), – having spoken to no-one about my past in all that time, still hating the secrecy but believing I was doing what God wanted, our curate Roger and his wife (Roger was a lecturer at Oak Hall Theological College and a very mature Christian - they had also been missionaries) came to our house for coffee after the evening service. Before leaving we had a time of prayer and when much to my amazement Roger said that he had a “picture” which he believed was from the Holy Spirit - and proceeded to describe in great detail what I immediately recognized as being the cellar where I waited when the couple came for David!!
He said “I believe Jesus is saying “I was there” – I don’t know if this means anything to you – we’ll leave it with you”. I knew immediately but said nothing until the next day when I went to see his wife Jean – who incidentally was a trained Christian counsellor.
I had a few sessions with her – still no tears – and it was felt that it was all now dealt with and I could get on with life – healed – and so it continued. Each birthday or any other time when I wondered how he was – whether he was still alive, etc. – I felt guilty and told God I was sorry because after all I’d been healed!
How wrong I was – it took another ten years for the Lord to show me that I wasn’t healed and that it was not wrong to share how it felt. By this time we had been living in Worthing for seven years and there was quite a, what is now referred to as, a move of the Holy Spirit – when if you went for prayer during or after a service, you were not obliged to tell what the problem was. So, having shared my “story” with our pastor Graham – I was advised to avail myself of as much prayer as I could – the real healing started. I certainly made up for all those years of no crying. My own quiet times didn’t seem to get very far. Each time I started to read my Bible – I cried and cried – I am so thankful to God for loving me so much that he enabled the healing to happen.
Through the process of forgiving my parents and all those involved I was enabled to arrive at a place of peace.
After all these years of secrecy I now feel as if my “wings” have been untied – I’m able to fly again! I see everything in a different light and realise just how angry and bitter I’d become – but no more!
There’s so much more to tell – not only have I been healed – but after several years, in June 2006 I was reunited with David who is now called Mark. He’s met his two brothers and sister, we’ve stayed with him and his wife – I spent several hours with his adoptive mum Kath who hugged me so tight I thought she would never let go. She told me that the book of children’s prayers and the note that I had written to them were in a box tied with a ribbon for Mark to have one day – she was then eighty three and not at all well and said she was so happy that I’d found him and please would I look after him after she’s gone!
Sadly she died in January 2007 – I’m so thankful to have met her and had her blessing - we had chatted on the phone many times during the months since our first meeting – what special times they were!
I do want to stress that although the reunion with Mark has been so, so exciting for me – it’s the fact that I was healed from the inner pain before I ever knew that it could be possible to be reunited with my grown up baby! Of course the reunion was more than the “icing on the cake” but I want God to get the glory for what he did for me – in preparing me for that wonderful reunion day, He knew that even in the midst of such emotional trauma I needed to experience His perfect peace, and I can honestly say that I did.
What amazing grace!!
I nearly forgot to tell you about the special times I was able to spend in the chapel of the mother-and-baby home, being quiet – reading the words of hymns and using them as prayers in addition to my own praying – and I know God has never left me.
My thoughts and feelings written on holiday 20th June 2007.
It’s twelve months since I awoke to the knowledge that my dear son was pleased that contact had been made and that I no longer needed to refer to him as “my son” but he’s called Mark! How wonderful to be able to use his name at last – what euphoria! - - - so difficult to put into words – forty seven years!!
A new phase has just begun. It was 8-45 on the evening of 19th June 2006 when I received the phone call I’d been so anxiously waiting for. Hessie the lady appointed by AAA Norcap as my intermediary had sent standard letter to him ten days earlier and had just had a phone call from my very excited, chatty, happy son who had just returned from honeymoon to find the letter informing him of my search and asking of he was willing to make contact.
She then proceeded to tell me he was called Mark, living in London, working in Kent. I live in Worthing with my husband of forty seven years – this was such a relief to find that he was not only alive and well but living so reasonably close when he could have been anywhere in the world or, as I later discovered, in Sheffield where he had spent all his early years until university. I could hardly take in all that Hessie was telling me yet amazingly I had an excellent night’s sleep when eventually I did get to bed in the early hours.
There were phone calls to be made to our two sons (born 1965 and 1967) and daughter (born 1978) who were all delighted as were our two daughters-in-law. We were preparing for our holiday in the south of France four days later. How I managed to pack I’ll never know.
Mark had said that he would write while we were away, hopefully for me to receive on our return. But before I write about that I want to put down some of my thoughts and feelings whilst on holiday which, by the way, was the ideal type of holiday – typical French house in a village in the hills in Languedoc-Roussilion region of France. Self catering - eating out a lot - plenty of wonderful walks –
My thoughts and feelings:-
It can’t be true – I can’t take it in – he’ll change his mind once he knows me – will I cope? I can’t wait, etc. etc. etc. Will we ever meet face to face? Couldn’t even allow thoughts like that to linger in case it never happened – slowly slowly, I’d been advised – letters – then phone calls --- the waiting was agony.
Having waited forty seven years you’d think a few weeks would be easy. The first letter was so very special. He enclosed a photo which was immediately put on our mantel piece for me to gaze at, he’d felt very apprehensive about writing. I’d had years to prepare, started searching twelve years before – the family had been told ten years ago, so the stage was set, so to speak!
But poor Mark – just married – now has all this to “get his head around”. Then I had to reply to his letter (he’d put his phone number but I didn’t have the courage to phone). “Tell him all about the family” was what I’d been advised. He had suddenly acquired two brothers and a sister having been what he thought an only child.
This must have been so difficult to take in. he said that his adoptive parents (father died fifteen years ago) had encouraged him to search for me but I beat him to it. So, hopefully, him hearing from me would not be a problem with his adoptive mum Kath. More about that later.
It took me a few days to reply to his letter. Being brief is not something I’m good at, as I’m sure you’re well aware of now! Our two sons plus wives and our five grandchildren went on a camping holiday together and took some photos especially for him.
Since writing this so much has happened – the usual roller-coaster of emotions, disappointments, etc. but great progress has been made, family gatherings, - holidays – the two of us have met up about once every six weeks as well as other family members meeting with Mark and his wife.
The next big family event - - - our daughter’s wedding in May 2009. I never in my wildest dreams believed that “my son” would be ushering at his sister’s wedding. Still pinching myself on a daily basis.
- - - and so it continues; I’ve just come back from spending a week with him while his wife was working on a charitable project overseas. Still a lot to catch up on. God is good.