'She said, we'll book you into a mother and baby home then you'll have the baby adopted. That's just what we do.'
Once the parents were informed of the pregnancy, their attention shifted to the most expedient way to deal with their daughter’s visible pregnancy and expected child. A number of parents turned to their local parish for guidance, while others called upon social workers for help. Parishes had listings for Mother and Baby Homes and the family’s vicar would frequently recommend an institution far from their locality, and within the same faith as the family. According to a 1968 study on Mother and Baby Homes, the majority of the homes were run by the Church of England (58%), followed by Roman Catholic (11.6%), the Salvation Army (5.3%), the Methodist Church (3.5%), as well as other church and religious organizations (7.6%). The remaining homes were run by local authorities including health and welfare departments (14%). Often the local church would refer the mother and daughter to a social worker, either within or outside of the faith, while others found the social workers on their own accord. Once they met with a social worker they were frequently told that ‘we book you into a Mother and Baby Home, you go there six-weeks before the baby is due, the baby is adopted, then you can get on with your life. That is what we do.’ There was an efficiency to the assumption this was the only route, that the pregnancy was to be hidden and the baby given up for adoption so no one would find out.
The women who were under 21 were only permitted to keep their baby if their parents agreed, which in the case of this study none did, and were only able to marry the father of their baby with their parent’s consent, which none of them did. For all the women in this study, including those over 21 which may have had additional options at the time of their pregnancy, none were given information on resources for housing or financial support to allow them to keep their babies and all were encouraged to give their child up for adoption, regularly told it was ‘best for baby and best for you’. It was not considered acceptable for a child to be raised without a mother and a father, and for these pregnant women any desire to keep their baby was perceived as immature and inconsiderate to the child’s needs. There was never a discussion as to the birth mother’s needs as far as her mental or emotional state was concerned in regards to the pregnancy and relinquishment of her child. Most spoke of ‘getting on a track they could not step off of’ once they confessed their pregnancy to their parents. From that moment onwards they were told what to do, where to go, and how to feel about it. They unanimously believed there were ‘no other options’ and for many were just pushed along by the flow of the social worker’s process.
One woman fought desperately to keep her child, applying for every kind of employment and aid she could think of, but no one would help her and she was consistently told she had to give up her baby and move on with her life. The common belief at the time was that a child would be better off in a two parent family, that a woman who could become pregnant outside of marriage was not mature enough to raise a child on her own, and that it was best to give up the child for adoption and never speak of it again thus ‘moving on’ with their life. As a result women entered a process they could not extract themselves from, and were never given any kind of counselling or therapy to help them deal with the difficult emotions that arose from such a process.
No Other Options
Parents gave no other option
'I think they thought I could go away and have her, and just not come back sort of a thing. I remember my father turning around and saying, 'well, you can't have her here...you've got two choices. Go away and don't come back, or have her adopted.'
I decided I didn't want to give him up
'I went to see this woman, and she said, you know we'll book you..what we do is we book you into a mother and baby home, and that's for six weeks before you have the baby and then for six weeks after, and then the baby is adopted.'