A Scottish mother who fell pregnant while unmarried in the 1970s and was forced to give up her baby at birth has told how the enduring shame and grief ‘ruined her life’.
Jeannot Farmer, then 22, from Glasgow, considered putting her child up for adoption after failing an exam during her fourth year at university, but intended to make an ‘informed decision’ once her son had arrived.
But she claims that decision was ‘taken away from her’ when social services turned up at the hospital after he was born in 1979 and took him.
She told how the birth was ‘brutal’ and she was treated very differently by NHS staff to what she’d experienced leading up to it.
Speaking to BBC Breakfast this morning, Jeannot – who is a member of the Scottish branch of the Movement for an Adoption Apology, which is demanding the government says sorry for the scandal which saw thousands of babies taken into care – said it ‘ruined her life’.
‘I’ve had very good things happen in my life and I’ve had many happy moments, but there’s always been a kernel inside of me that was holding onto that and keeping it tightly bound inside so that it didn’t impact on me and people around me, and that will not necessarily be fixed,’ she told hosts Naga Munchetty and Charlie Stayt.
‘There’s always a part of you that feels that you don’t deserve the nice things that other people deserve, you’re an unmarried mother, someone that those things should have happened to, so it’s very debilitating for us.
‘It’s complicated also by the fact that there’s no one to talk to. If you lose a child in any way, there’s a tremendous grief that goes with that and you never forget that child – there’s not a day that goes by where you don’t think of that child.
‘And your thoughts of that child are shrouded in the grief, shrouded in the shame that you’ve endured, and for some of us the trauma we endured, so that’s very complex feelings to be having every day when you’re thinking of your child, so you can’t talk to anyone about it, you’re very isolated, and it’s something that you learn to keep under control within you, you crush it.
‘An apology doesn’t fix it, but an apology will lift some of shame all of us are still enduring and walking around with the stigma of having gave our babies away.’
Jeannot Farmer, then 22, from Glasgow, considered putting her child up for adoption after failing an exam during her fourth year at university, but intended to make an ‘informed decision’ once her son had arrived
Jeannot is among tens of thousands of then unmarried women in the UK who were forced to give up their babies for adoption in the 1950s, 60s and 70s.
She fell pregnant in 1978 and was ‘very keen’ to keep her baby and had turned down the chance to have an abortion.
‘I very much wanted my baby,’ she said. ‘[But] I had a bit of a disappointment academically and became a bit concerned towards the end of my pregnancy, I think as many mothers do, first time mothers, of “will I cope, will I manage?”‘
Jeannot approached social services to seek advice and discuss the options open to her, including adoption. However, she never formally agreed to go through with it.
‘I knew that people changed their mind about such things, and I expected that I could make an informed decision when my child was born,’ she explained.
‘However when I went to the hospital to give birth it was very clear from the outset, from the arrival, I was treated in quite humiliating ways from the outset, that something had been written on my file about adoption, and that I was already in a process, on a pathway towards adoption.
Jeannot told hosts Naga Munchetty and Charlie Stayt that she approached social services to seek advice and discuss the options open to her, including adoption while pregnant. However, she never formally agreed to go through with it
‘I didn’t understand at that time that I had lost the decision, that the decision had been made for me. I didn’t understand that until the social worker appeared after the birth.’
She added that the process in the hospital was ‘so brutal’, which included ‘a very difficult delivery which resulted in me having stitches without any anaesthetic’.
‘It became apparent that I was being treated in a way that I had never ever expected to be treated in the NHS, and it was so different from the experience I’d had leading up to it,’ she recalled.
‘I hadn’t suffered any family pressure to have my child adopted, I hadn’t suffered any social pressure, I thought it would be difficult to be a single parent but I didn’t think it would be impossible, and I certainly didn’t think it would be immoral and I didn’t think the state would see it as immoral and imperative to have my child adopted.’
Jeannot was finally reunited with her son 31 years later, which she described as one of the three best days of her life – the other two being the days she gave birth to her subsequent children.
Jeannot said she hopes an apology from the Scottish government would help other women who had their children removed from them would realise they were not alone in what happened to them
She told how connecting with other women in 2012 which went through a similar ordeal has been helpful to her personally, because for 40 years she was in ‘complete isolation’.
Head of the Catholic church in Britain apologises for the adoption scandal
In 2016, the head of the Catholic church in Britain apologised for the adoption scandal following the Second World War, when young unmarried mothers were pressured into handing over their babies.
More than 500,000 women had a child adopted in the three decades after the war. But many of them have now come forward and claimed they were given ‘no choice’ by agencies acting in the name of the Catholic Church.
Several women have said they were not told about the financial support they were entitled to, in order to help them to keep their children, had they wished to do so.
Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster, apologised for the ‘hurt’ caused by the agencies and said he understands the ‘grief and pain’ that the women went through and described some of the behaviour of the Church and State as ‘lacking in care and sensitivity’.
His comments came as a team of lawyers investigating the issue called on the Home Secretary to launch a public inquiry into the scandal. In 2017, the government rejected a demand for a public inquiry, saying there was ‘insufficient justification’.
Earlier this year Sue Armstrong Brown, the chief executive of Adoption UK, said: ‘What happened to these women is heartbreaking and indefensible. Apologising to them is the right thing for the government to do. Today, adoption is only used when it is not safe for a child to stay with their birth family because of abuse, violence or neglect… But we owe it to these women and their children to face up to the wrong that was done to them in different times.’
‘What happened to me in the hospital and afterwards was a very isolating experience, and you believe that perhaps you just caught people on a bad day, that perhaps you just met people at the wrong time, but when you start to talk to other mothers in the same situation, what you find is that we all have common features that happened to us,’ she said.
‘Things like removing the baby at birth and not being allowed to see them, being put in nurseries, the abuse, the neglectful practices of some of the nursing staff, there are so many common features around what happened to us and the words that were said to us, and the things that occurred, it becomes very apparent that these were not rogue characters exerting their own moral influence on your situation, there were policies and practices that caused these things to happen.
‘I always blamed myself for having ever spoken to social services, but I’ve since learned that some mothers went to hospital unmarried and then doctors phoned social services to come and say, “You must have this child adopted,” and those same practices of removing babies so you couldn’t see them – they were put into nurseries where you had no access to them – and as happened to me, quite brutal obstetric violence occurred in various degrees to various women, so there’s been a healing effect for me in making contact.’
Jeannot said she hopes an apology from the Scottish government would help other women who had their children removed from them would realise they were not alone in what happened to them.
‘These were policies and practices of the state, they weren’t public opinion and private moral standards, this was institutional systematic shaming that occurred to us,’ she said.
‘We were so shamed, we were shamed and humiliated before the birth, then after the birth you’re also shamed because you’re a person who has given your child away, you didn’t care enough about your child to hold on to them, so there’s shame at both sides of that.’
Today the Movement for an Adoption Apology will meet the Scottish Children’s Minister to discuss the proposal of a formal government apology.
Last month mothers in England who were subjected to the same ordeal wrote to Boris Johnson asking him to issue a government apology for historical forced adoptions because of the role played by NHS staff and social workers.
Source: | This article originally belongs to Dailymail.co.uk