True Stories

Laurence Peat, featured on ‘Long Lost Family’

“I’ve only ever cried three times in my life. When Dad died. When Mum died. When I got divorced.” Crying is not a problem to Laurence by the end of this programme. He was told he was adopted when he was seven. “We’re not your real parents,” his adoptive parents told him and he asked no questions, not wanting to upset them. “I don’t like people being upset,” he explains. For years he searched secretly for his birth parents, now that both his adoptive parents are dead he feels able to be open about his search, open about his need to ask ‘why?’

“Why did she put me up for adoption at that early age… If you’re not wanted, it hurts.”  Sadly for Laurence, his birth mother is found to be dead. But he has a half-sister who, from a box of family photographs kept by her mother, produces a black-and-white photo of an unidentified baby. This treasured box survived multiple house moves, proving its importance.

Laurence compares this photograph with one his adoptive parents have of him of the day they adopted him: it is the same baby, wearing the same clothes, photographed against the same background. So although Laurence will never meet his birth mother, he is reassured that “she never forgot me all that time.”

Denise Temple, featured on ‘Long Lost Family’

This adoption story from the 1960s belongs to a teenager whose father died when she was 15. Missing her father and growing apart from her mother who was distracted by a new husband, she sought love and attention elsewhere. She went clubbing, and at 16 was pregnant. The family agreed the child would be given up for adoption.

But Denise remembers looking at her new born baby, Deborah: “I thought I’d die for this child, I’d die for her… I just cried and cried and cried. I said ‘I’m not giving her up’.” But her stepfather would not have her in the house. It was finally agreed that Denise and her baby could go home on the understanding that she could expect no help from her mother or stepfather. In The Sixties there was little state support for single mothers. Denise went home, and the baby slept in a drawer. She had half a dozen terry cloth nappies. “I was so alone.” She struggled on for three months, before finally giving her baby up for adoption. “It was no life for her, or me.”

Denise never forgot Deborah. “She’s always with me… Has she been happy? I want Deborah to know that I’ve always loved her.” When Denise eventually began to search for Deborah she had no success, not knowing that Deborah’s name was changed.

According to the Long Lost Family team, this case is unusual because in England in the 1960s it was common for birth mothers to spend only a few weeks with their baby, before the baby was taken to its adoptive parents. Denise spent three months with Deborah, she battled hard to keep her.

Deborah, now called Susan, was told when she was 21 that she was adopted. She says she always knew. “Intuition,” she tells the programme, “I was so unlike my family.” But she didn’t search, “I didn’t want to poke that dragon”. When she did search, the file for the month of her birth in 1965 was missing. “That was the end of my search.”

When Long Lost Family approached her with the news that her birth mother wanted to meet her, Susan admitted to mixed feelings: excited, and interested. She tells Denise that she had dreams about sleeping in a drawer.

 

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