Helen, a toddler, in a pram, with her mother and father on either side

The Story of My Adoption

Helen Hodson

I was born on January 11, 1951 in the English Lake District at a home for unmarried mothers run by Sacred Heart Sisters.

My mother had arrived there, accompanied by her own mother, on December 5th by bus from Lancashire—not a short journey. As was often the case in those days, my birth mother entered using another name. I was baptised Marie Philomena in the chapel there when I was two days old.

Apart from a weekend when she went home, my mother, Elizabeth [Betty], remained with me for the first four months until Catholic adopters were available. Apparently boys were more easily adopted than girls, and there were more Protestant than Catholic adopters. Hence the wait.

The adoption was arranged through the Lancaster Diocesan Protection and Rescue Society. Years later, a canon who was involved in arranging the adoption, wrote:

“At the end of 1950, your mother was an 18-year-old girl living at home in a three-bedroom house with her father, mother, and five other children whose ages ranged from two to twenty.

“Betty asked that we find a good Catholic couple who could give you the security which she could not offer.

“In those days, a child could not be put into the care of prospective adopters until it was six weeks old. When you attained that age, there was no suitable couple waiting.

“In March, Betty went home for a few days and during that time satisfied herself that the decision she had made was the right one.” [While home, she heard that Protestant adopters could probably be found immediately, but she rejected that possibility.]

The visit home was not easy. Her mother wrote to the social worker: “Do you think there is any chance soon of getting Betty’s baby adopted? I am terrible worried about her. She cried all the time and was so quiet. The only thing is to have her home and help her to forget.

“Her father said if there is no chance soon, we could try ourselves to have her adopted. He is not like myself about things. You can get plenty of Protestant ones—but Betty and myself don’t want that. So you see, I have a lot to stand for…”

Betty was told that: “At the moment we have no vacancy, but as soon as there is, we will let you know—whichever comes first, a place in a home or adoption.”

Fortunately my mum and dad, Alice and Wilfrid Hodson, came along. They brought me home on April 22nd and my name became Helen Marie. They didn’t meet my birth mother, but Mum told my cousin that she had seen her through a window, and she was tall with long hair.

I still have a feeding formula that was sent home with me, that one of the Sisters wrote out. She also told my mum and dad that I was coming potty trained!

There seems to have been a reluctance on the part of my birth mother to actually sign the adoption papers, but the adoption order was made by the court on September 14th, the feast of the Triumph of the Cross.

Mum and Dad had been unable to have children, and by that time, they both were 45. So it was quite a commitment to take on a new baby. I still have one of the references they needed—for Mum from her doctor.

It recommends her and comments that as she suffers from what they then called “nerves,” having a baby around would be of great help!

My birth mother married two years later, not to my father. They had five children, three sons and two daughters. So, although I grew up as an only child, I have five half-brothers and sisters somewhere.

No one seems to know the name of my birth father; it is not recorded anywhere. And when I made contact with my birth mother through third parties in the late 1980s, I was still unable to get his name.

I tried a number of times over the years to get together with my birth mother, but she would never agree to meet me.