I wasn’t able to look after my baby, so she was put up for adoption
This article contains references to suicide and child sexual abuse
When the judge asked me if I could hand-on-heart say that my baby was always going to be safe with me, I knew I couldn’t say yes.
My biggest fear was – and still is – my daughter suffering. And although my decision to give her up for adoption hurts more than anybody realises, it wasn’t about me. It was about my child.
I had a very traumatic upbringing and was in and out of psychiatric units from the age of seven, the same age I was when I made my first suicide attempt.
Both my parents are alcoholics and my father is a paedophile who abused me from, I’m told, the time I was three weeks old.
When I was 12, I had a child through incest who died shortly after she was born.
Mine was not the upbringing any child should ever have and when I was 17, I finally fled to live in a refuge for victims of domestic violence.
I’d been diagnosed with PTSD and emotionally unstable personality disorder when I was 16 and had very typical symptoms – I was flighty, and suffered from severe insomnia. For years, I would get seven to eight hours sleep a week for around 10 to 14 weeks and then I’d crash, sleep for 24 hours and the cycle would start again.
Even just thinking about how anxious I was and how I used to struggle makes me exhausted now. God knows how I coped.
As a teenager I was very, very unwell. I would self-harm just enough to get into hospital or be sectioned. It was a cry for help, which is quite mortifying to say now.
But I didn’t understand emotions and couldn’t process them. We were never allowed to show how we felt as kids, so it often meant that I went into self-destruct mode as a way of coping with my feelings.
My last suicide attempt was between Christmas and New Year in 2014. I was heavily reliant on the mental health services as I had been for years, and I was incredibly unstable at the time.
I survived the attempt purely by fluke. The train that was due to hit me stopped less than three metres away.
When I was sectioned for it, one of the nurses absolutely ripped into me, saying how selfish I was, how the train driver probably can’t even do his job now and wouldn’t be able to support his family. I found out later her father was a train driver.
That was a massive wake-up call. I decided dying wasn’t working, so I’d better try something else.
I did an online CBT course and it took me just under three months to stop self-harming. I had to take myself away from the fact that yes, my life was terrible growing up and the memories are horrific, but I’m not there anymore.
In 2016, I left the refuge and moved into my own home. Even though I was still dealing with emotional instability and PTSD, I’d yearned to have a child for years and thought the time felt right for a baby because of how far I’d come.
It wasn’t, but at the time, when you’re in the midst of it all, you don’t realise.
By that point, I’d already found a sperm donor online – who I’m still friends with today – and eventually did at-home artificial insemination.
The pregnancy was horrendous. I had hyperemesis gravidarum – severe morning sickness – until the birth, which certainly didn’t help my mental health problems at the time.
I lost 22 kilos in 10 weeks and was on anti-sickness injections until I was 36 weeks along.
I’d always known social services would have to be involved during my pregnancy and after the birth because of my mental health history.
I even notified them myself when I became pregnant so I could get some support. I wanted there to be an outside pair of eyes to make sure that, if I did become unwell, it would be picked up straight away and the baby didn’t suffer.
When it was time for me to give birth, I was led to believe that after the delivery we’d be sent to a mother and baby psychiatric care unit.
Instead, a day after I gave birth to my baby girl via C-section, I was told by a social worker to call a solicitor. It turned out that I’d been served papers while I was under anaesthetic and the plan was to take me to court to remove the baby from my care as soon as possible because of my mental health. I also discovered that they’d gone to the High Court to get permission to not tell me anything about it.
I was given a list of solicitors to frantically ring until I found someone available, and went to court where an emergency care order was granted.
My daughter was taken off me just a few days after she was born, where she stayed until she was adopted, at the age of around one, in the beginning of 2018.
Throughout the process, the way I was treated felt despicable. I had no support, and the social workers were absolutely vile. One gave me a formal apology in writing for the things she was saying to me in front of witnesses. The other gaslit me the whole way through, saying to me one thing and then telling the other professionals the complete opposite.
Even though I was treated disgustingly and was devastated when I found out my daughter had been adopted, I could never have lied to the judge during court proceedings to decide whether she should live with me or not, and say she’d be perfectly fine in my care. Because even though I believed she would be, there was always that niggling fear of ‘what if?’
For me, the pain of her being adopted was 10 times worse than the hurt of losing my first baby, when I was just a child. The closure that death brought was easier to process than the ‘what if’ of them still being alive. She could potentially be laying in a hospital bed and I’d know nothing about it.
But as heartbreaking and hard as it is to say, I know that my daughter is where she should be. It takes a village to bring up a child and if you haven’t got that stability and support network then the child needs a different village.
I get letters from her parents twice a year and I know that the family has a little dog and she rides horses like I used to. She’s got an older sibling and an extended family.
An independent reviewing officer met the family and said she looks just like her adoptive dad, and I love that. I would hate the thought of her growing up and people saying: ‘You don’t look anything like them’.
I’m that little girl’s tummy mummy, but her adopters are her parents, not me. That’s her family, and I know they’ll do what’s right for her. She’ll know what she needs to know about me when she’s ready.
Sometimes I get sent pictures that my daughter’s drawn. Her parents tell me what her favourite things are and little funny stories about her – it’s lovely.
There’s definitely a stigma around being a parent whose child ended up being adopted, but I don’t hide it. People need to know that there’s light at the end of the tunnel.
I’ve had 100 hours of private therapy and when I was assessed in July I was told I’m no longer symptomatic of PTSD or emotionally unstable personality disorder.
It’s been a long road but I haven’t been in touch with my parents for years. While the nightmares are still there, I got a different name and different life now. If I can do it, anybody can.
When it comes to my daughter, I’ll be ready and waiting if she ever decides to meet me. My door will always be open – and I’ll always be there.
*As told to Aidan Milan
Need support for your mental health?
You can contact mental health charity Mind on 0300 123 3393 or text them on 86463.
Mind can also be reached by email at [email protected]
Adoption Month is a month-long series covering all aspects of adoption.
For the next four weeks, which includes National Adoption Week from October 14-19, we will be speaking to people who have been affected by adoption in some way, from those who chose to welcome someone else’s child into their family to others who were that child.
We’ll also be talking to experts in the field and answering as many questions as possible associated with adoption, as well as offering invaluable advice along the way.
If you have a story to tell or want to share any of your own advice please do get in touch at [email protected]
- Why we’re talking about adoption this month
- How to adopt a child – from how long it takes to how you can prepare
- The most Googled questions on adoption, answered
- How long does it take to adopt a child in the UK
- Adoption myths that could be stopping you from starting a family
- How to tell your child they are adopted
Visit our Adoption Month page for more.
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