Nobody's Child

£5.00

By Anna C Young

ISBN: 1-84747-059-9
Published: 2007
Pages: 45
Key Themes: neglect, disability, abuse, parenting, care homes, courage, determination, success


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Description

“Why do they say it’s wrong that I’m reaching for the stars?”

The night I was conceived Norma, my biological mother, was at a party and met the man who would be my father but whom I would never meet, and about whom I would eventually discover only the barest facts. That’s all she can remember of the event, or so she has told me on the few occasions when I’ve plucked up the courage to enquire about it.

My official files, which are the only means I have of finding out who I might be, tell me that he was a Pakistani called Khan. My mother has never plucked up the courage to mention that fact. I suspect that interracial relationships were something of an embarrassment to a working-class girl at the time. The Sixties might have been “swinging” in London, but I doubt very much if they were in the suburbs of Manchester. I was also later made to feel that having an Asian father was in some way shameful.

Norma was old enough to know better than to get pregnant by accident. She was twenty-two by then, not sixteen, but it seems that pregnancy still took her by surprise. Perhaps she’d led a particularly sheltered life until then. She lived alone with her mother, her father having been drowned at sea in 1943, just before Norma was born; at least that’s the story that has found its way into the files. Maybe my grandmother went to a party as well and was infected by the sudden drop in inhibitions that times of war can sometimes bring about. Perhaps the “lost at sea” story was just a useful cover for the truth.

Norma and my grandmother lived as a respectable mother and daughter in a corporation flat, where the corporation did not allow children; or so I’ve been told. Norma was working as a shorthand typist, no doubt hoping to improve herself by meeting and marrying a middle-class businessman, someone who would allow her to rise in the world, someone who would take care of her. My imminent arrival must have seemed like a catastrophe to them; the ultimate shaming for a young woman trying to feign respectability.

‘There’s no way that baby is coming through my door,’ my grandmother warned. It seems I was bringing with me a double stigma. Not only was I illegitimate, I was also going to be half coloured. Even if the corporation had allowed babies in the flats, I doubt if my grandmother would have been willing to adjust her principles.

Nothing in her world had prepared Norma for the responsibility of being a single mother. If my grandmother was not going to back her up, she had no-one else to turn to. There was no boyfriend or husband to counsel her or encourage her. She didn’t have a single clue what she should do with me or for me. When it came to starting a family she was entirely socially inadequate. I might as well have been born to another child for all the use she would be to me on my appearance in the world.

I, of course, knew nothing about any of this when I arrived, dependent and needy, helpless and vulnerable. I was born like any other child, entirely innocent and completely reliant upon the woman who had created me. And she had no idea of the time-bomb that was ticking away inside me, a condition biding its time before showing its face and creating another problem for those who were going to have to look after me.

Unable to take me home, Norma gave me away to a friend to look after, much as you might give away a kitten which was an inconvenience to keep, or a goldfish you had won at a fairground stall. I know nothing about the woman she gave me to. I dare say she was thrilled initially to have a little baby to look after; helpless infants are designed by nature to be appealing, otherwise they would never survive their early years and the human species would soon disappear. I dare say I was as appealing as any other.

Whoever this friend was, the arrangement did not last long and by the time I was two weeks old I was in a children’s home and Norma was trying to make up her mind whether or not she wanted to put me up for adoption. It was a decision she was never able to finally make. If she had taken that one decision and shouldered the responsibility I might have had a chance at having a real family, but it was never to be. As it was I was left stranded in a limbo, neither wanted by her nor released by her so that I could be wanted by somebody else.

She must have toyed with the idea of adoption from time to time because somewhere in the piles of folders that make up my case files a social worker has made a note that it was hard to find a home for a “half-Pakistani” baby; even harder if the mother can’t make up her mind whether to sign the baby away or not. So, I stayed in the children’s home and received occasional visits from Norma who would take me round to meet various relatives; everyone playing at being a family to me for a few hours, until it was time to go back to the home.

When I was eighteen months old they realised I had cerebral palsy (CP). In those days sufferers of that disability were still generally known as “spastics”, with all the connotations that word carries with it. CP comes in a wide variety of degrees of severity and I was only lightly cursed. Damage to my brain meant that I had trouble co-ordinating my movements. I was, in other words, a clumsy child and as time went on and my body weight increased I would have more and more difficulty walking, making me slower than other children of my age. In the eyes of the majority, however, there are no degrees of disability, particularly spasticity, you either are disabled or you aren’t.

Since my mother couldn’t make up her mind whether to get me adopted or not the children’s home started looking for a family who would foster me. I was four when they found the Youngs, a family who were willing to take in a lost puppy of a child in exchange for the income she would bring to the family.

For ten years I called Colin and June “Mum” and “Dad”, but it doesn’t feel right on the tongue any more. It doesn’t feel right to refer to them as Colin and June either, even after all these years, but I think that’s what I’ll have to call them, so you’ll know who I’m talking about. It’s ironic that I should have two people who might rightfully be referred to as “Mum” but feel that I am completely alone in the world with no family and no real relatives.

Colin and June lived better than Norma. They had a proper house, in a close. It even had it’s own front doorstep. They both held down mundane jobs from time to time, and managed to squeeze as much money from the system as they possibly could to make ends meet. A disabled foster child was a good potential earner.

They were prisoners of their own ignorance. They lived in a world without thought or discussion or theorising. Abstract concepts were an impossibility; there was just Coronation Street and The Sun and everything else that surrounds those institutions of working-class life. Nobody had any ideas or formulated any plans for the future; no-one stepped outside the comfort zone of the couch unless they had to, least of all me.

In many ways they were claustrophobically protective of me; allowing me to do nothing for myself. They cooked and cleaned for me, fed me and bathed me, brushed my hair and made sure I was in bed by eight o’clock, yet they refused to accept that I needed the help of a wheelchair in order to get around faster. They would protect me by not allowing me to go to Brownies, “in case I was knocked down” and yet they would constantly bombard me with criticism; great tirades of shouting that would often culminate in beatings that left heavy bruises. A social worker noticed the bruises on my back and shoulders when we were on a trip away from home. In a report it says that they learnt they were inflicted with a dog’s lead, but I can remember Colin Young coming at me with a cosh when he was angry with me. They said I was provocative, but I was bored and frustrated and angry with my lot in life and they had no idea how to help me, they simply tried to beat me into submission, venting their own frustrations at the same time.

“I can never understand,” a teacher wrote later, “why Anna was placed with Mr and Mrs Young. The marriage is very tenuous. Anna has always been used as a ball between them. When Anna’s mother was in the picture Anna was used as a ball between all three of them. I could not understand Anna remaining there.” He also expressed the belief that the Youngs kept me as long as they did because they felt they were “expiating their sins” by looking after me. Colin frequently used to visit the school and tell the teacher how I’d wrecked the upbringing of their natural children, claiming that he wanted to “send me back”. If the teacher asked why he didn’t do that he would change the subject and come back round to how I was wrecking his family.

I knew no different. I assumed this was what life was like. The Youngs had a daughter of their own, Shelley, who was three years older than me. She was kind to me, but I could see that they treated her differently. She went to Brownies. When Christmas came she received a full length fur coat while I received an alarm clock. Three years after I arrived at the Youngs June gave birth to Adam. It was a diversion to have a new baby in the house, but it meant I was going to have to share my room with him.

Then there was Norma, who couldn’t look after me herself but somehow couldn’t quite let go. The Youngs didn’t like her coming around, although there was little they could do about it. They resented the fact that when Norma took me out she was given the use of a car, while they had to push me about in a heavy pram. They thought she had got off “scot free” by dumping her child on them. Norma’s conscience kept dragging her back to see me, but wasn’t strong enough to make her want to take me home with her.

‘I feel used,’ June would say, ‘as soon as we get a better job you’re going back.’

‘I’m going to dig a hole and bury you,’ Colin would say during his regular rants, ‘and let the rats and worms get you.’

All I could see as a child was the adults around me fighting. On my twelfth birthday, which fell in December, my mother came round to the house with a present. They wouldn’t let her in and I could see her through the window, huddled against the cold on the doorstep, crying, the rain pouring down on her. I felt numb; too confused to be able to work out what emotions I was experiencing.

Anger was my foster parents’ first reaction to anything they couldn’t cope with, which meant most things. When I spilled scalding milk over my legs they were furious and sent me to my room, neither of them thought to help me deal with the burns, which later required skin grafts. Such logical, caring thoughts were beyond them, everything was panic and anger and resentment. There were complaints that I was still soiling myself at eleven, but it never seemed to happen when I wasn’t with the Youngs.

By the age of twelve my maturing body weight had become too much for my legs and I could no longer manage more than a few steps without a wheelchair. With maturity I was becoming more and more frustrated with the restrictions that were being put on my life. In the endless hours that I spent staring at the television I could see a world outside my own which was huge and fascinating and tempting, but could visualise no way in which I could ever reach it. During the week I attended the spastics’ home and then went back to the Youngs for the weekends. It was a tedious, dreary routine. I wanted to travel, I wanted to study, and I wanted to be a famous actress.

If I voiced any of these longings to any of my carers I was either laughed at, patronised or dismissed as a lunatic. If I became angry at the Youngs they would batter me until I was silenced. If I lost my temper at the centre they would hold meetings and write worried notes about me. More than anything else I wanted to succeed in life in every way possible. They were the same dreams that almost any child nurtures at one time or another. If I could become famous, and qualify for a degree, so that I could have a string of letters after my name, then I would have proved them wrong. I would be able to show Norma what a mistake she made in giving me away and I would show the Youngs how wrong they were with their constant negative taunts and physical bullying.

Things changed in my biological family. Aunts who I’d been taken to meet on outings died, but Norma didn’t bother to tell me. My grandmother died but I wasn’t informed until months later, and Norma got married. She married Bruce, but I wasn’t invited to the wedding. ‘I can’t invite you,’ Norma explained, ‘because I haven’t told Bruce’s family that you exist. I will one day, when the time is right.’

She still hasn’t, over twenty years later. I guess I would spoil the picture of the happy little nuclear family that she has constructed for the world. I would make it all too untidy. I would make people wonder whether Norma was quite such a good catch for Bruce.

She and Bruce had a child, Jacqueline, my half sister. They brought her up just as any other couple bring up their child, listening to her problems, helping her with her homework, reading her bedtime stories. I only ever met Jacqueline once. From then on Norma stopped coming to see me. She would write me occasional letters, perhaps enclosing twenty pounds for Christmas and my birthday. She still sends the letters, although she’s stopped including money. She writes like a distant aunt might to a niece who lives overseas and who she can hardly remember. They are friendly, chatty letters, filled with family trivia that doesn’t involve me. She gives me news about her husband and her daughter and what’s happening in the garden. There is no sign in anything she says that she remembers that Jacqueline is my sister or that she is my mother.

By the time I was fourteen I couldn’t stand to be with the Youngs any more. I thought it would drive me mad if I didn’t get out into the world and get some mental stimulation. I’d been attending a disabled school, but they weren’t providing the sort of education I craved either. I wanted to stretch my brain and find out about the outside world. I suspect I was not easy for people to handle. I didn’t seem to make any friends.

One day, after school, I boarded the community bus to go home as usual, but instead they dropped me off at a home for “maladjusted children”. The authorities, the people who filled in the endless forms that now sit in bulging files around my flat, had made a decision without consulting me and without even informing me. Overnight my life had changed. I was no longer living in the same house I’d lived in for ten years. There were two choices; I could adjust or go mad.

Now that I was away from the stifling atmosphere of my foster parents I could see glimpses of freedom, empowerment and independence, but they were still tantalisingly out of reach. I still had to rely on other people and they didn’t seem to understand what I was talking about most of the time. They might be more intelligent than the Youngs, but their horizons were almost as restricted.

Once I’d left the Youngs the space I’d occupied vanished as if I’d never existed. Shelley had had her first baby and the child had been put into my room. Although I’d not been happy there, I was upset to see how quickly I could be excluded and forgotten. I wished with all my heart that Shelley would get married and leave the house so that my room would be there for me again, even if I didn’t choose to use it. It was the only place that held any history for me. It was my past. Shelley went on to have five children, all with different fathers, and didn’t get married. I had nothing more to do with the Youngs. I was moving on, like a character in a Dickens novel, buffeted by the fates, unable to take control of my own destiny.

I stayed at the home for maladjusted children for two years. When I asked why I was there the authorities told me it was because “there’s nowhere else to put you”. The other kids would drink and swear and throw eggs and rice pudding at me. Most days I went to school covered in stains that bore witness to my unpopularity.

The social workers’ files of the time report that because of my “immature personality” I was “unable to cope with the gap between my high aspirations” and my own “practical limited competence”. There are notes about my periods of hysteria, when I would be alternately screaming and laughing. Perhaps I did allow myself to go a little mad in order to fit in with their expectations of me.

As to these high aspirations they were talking about, they were just the dreams that any young girl might have. I talked incessantly of going to America, or changing my name, or having plastic surgery to improve my appearance, or becoming a famous actress. They are hardly unusual dreams for a girl who’s suffered an unhappy childhood and wants to escape into a mixture of fantasy and future plans. Some of these dreams have come true anyway. I got myself to San Francisco, just as I got myself to India and Tunisia and a whole bunch of other countries. I changed my name and had surgery to help a squint. Why couldn’t they just have encouraged me instead of telling me that my aspirations were unrealistic? Maybe it was because they were the ones with “practical limited competence”. If they couldn’t imagine themselves doing these things, how could they imagine a disabled person in their care doing them?

My refusal to keep quiet and accept whatever was given to me gained me a reputation for being difficult. All the reports from my young adulthood are the same. They don’t paint a very pretty picture. They talk of tantrums and sulking and needing to be the centre of attention. But I never found anyone who seemed to know how to help me. I was always alone in my frustrations and anger, struggling to find a way towards a better life.

These were the years when I was out of it for much of the time. I see things in my files that tell me what I was supposed to have done, and some of it seems to ignite dim lights in the darker corners of my memory. I know I tried to take my life several times during my adolescence and early twenties. It may even have been as many as five times. There was one time when I almost succeeded. I remember repeating the mantra “I just want to die” and the tablets began to work. My head and my chest were screaming with grief and pain at the knowledge that I had never been anybody’s child, never known the protective, unconditional love of caring parents. I’ve always felt I was truly on my own in the world.

I used to ring the Samaritans a lot. Telephones are hard to come by when you live in institutions. I used to inhabit public telephone boxes for hours on end, telling my sad story to one patient Samaritan after another. My carers told me I couldn’t go on doing this, that they were becoming fed up with hearing from me. But who else was I going to tell my troubles to? Norma? June and Colin? Shelley or Jacqueline? None of them were there to listen. When I complained to those whose job it was to care for me they told me to stop feeling sorry for myself, they told me I was an attention seeker and always wanted to be the centre of everything. Of course I was an attention seeker. If someone has been starved of something all their lives they are going to be hungry for it, aren’t they? A consultant psychiatrist reported that I was suffering from, “a very severe personality disorder with hysterical features in a brain damaged girl without immediate relatives.” No-one seemed to know how to respond to me. There was no-one who I could talk to about how I felt.

They put me into a psychiatric ward. They said it would just be for a couple of weeks but in the end I was there for seven months. There were people wandering around the dingy, badly lit corridors who’d had lobotomies. The nights were full of haunted sounds and the cries of people who had given up hope. They did nothing for me, just kept me under observation.

Another time they put me into a home which was mostly old people and expected me to fit in, but I was still young. I hadn’t even finished growing up. They never knew what they should do with me but all the time I hung onto my dreams. I wanted to be an actress! I wanted to be famous! I wanted to show them all that they were wrong about me; that they were the ones who couldn’t make their way in the outside world, not me.

The day they discharged me from the psychiatric ward, telling me there was “nothing we can do for you”, they bundled my possessions up in a black bin-liner and I was out on the doorstep with no home to go to and no family to contact. It wasn’t a new sensation for me. I’d come down from Manchester to Sussex on my own and survived in the depressing world of bedsits as I tried to make my way. I knew how to get what I needed from the system. I didn’t need to be looked after any more, but it still felt lonely, not having anyone to ring; no-one to come and pick me up; no-one to chat to and formulate plans for the future with. Any future I might want I was going to have to construct on my own. But perhaps it’s the same for everyone, except that everyone else has that fact hidden from them, whereas I had to face it. Perhaps it made me stronger and more determined than ever to achieve my dreams.

I knew that if I was going to make my way in the world and show them what I was made of, I was going to get myself an education. Nothing can happen for you if you are uneducated; that much I had learnt from the Youngs. I was thirsty for learning, and I wanted to be able to get those letters after my name. I wanted to be on an equal footing with the educated people I saw all around me and heard talking on the television. I wanted to escape from the ignorance and stupidity I’d been forced to live amongst for the first part of my life. I wanted to feed my mind, nourish it and feel it grow. And I also wanted to be a famous actress. I set out to achieve both goals.

Everything I read told me the best route to becoming an actress was to go to drama school. Most of the famous schools seemed to be in London, so that was where I headed next. I went knocking on all the doors, just like every other hopeful young would-be drama student. I knew the odds against success were enormous for anyone and that being disabled was going to make things even harder. Some of them rejected me out of hand. RADA told me they’d had a student in a wheelchair once and it “hadn’t worked out”. Others treated me fairly and listened to my auditions just as they would to anyone else’s, but none of them were able to offer me a place. I was being rejected again, but at least it was fair now, with some of the schools willing to give me a chance. I was being given opportunities to compete with the rest of the world on equal terms at last. After the schools in London I went as far a field as Birmingham, Scotland and Wales. It took all the courage I could muster to clamber up on stage after stage and do my audition pieces, sitting amongst the able bodied auditioners who, I assumed, had all come from stable family backgrounds and received reasonable educations. I felt disadvantaged in so many ways, but I was still determined to try my best.

I set out to fill in the gaps in my education. It didn’t matter how old I was, I was determined not to be disadvantaged just because I had been put into the wrong schools as a child. I wanted to have the same GCSEs as everyone else when I applied for jobs. To do that I needed local authority support, but no-one seemed interested. I kept moving from county to county trying to get support for my applications to colleges. I wrote hundreds of letters and made dozens of phone calls. I would not allow them to convince me it was impossible, and I was finally offered help by Hampshire County Council.

I took mundane part-time office jobs to give myself an income so that I could put down a deposit on a flat while I studied. I knew that was the sensible thing to do, because that was what intelligent people did. They gave themselves secure financial bases to work from. The work in the offices was boring, but the money gave me independence. I arranged an electric wheelchair for myself, discarding the manual one which had ruined my clothes, made my arms ache and hardened my hands with the effort of moving it. I felt better about myself. I was as conscious of my image as any young woman. I dyed my hair from brown to black. I was re-inventing myself, expunging the little girl who was such an inconvenience to all around her, and changing into someone who got what she wanted in life.

I applied for work experience at the BBC, ITV, TVS, the Everyman Theatre and the Manchester Evening News and was accepted by all of them. I started to mix with the people I had previously only seen on the television or read about in the papers. I could do it. I could make my dreams come true. The people who had said it was impossible were being proved wrong, just as I had always known they would be.

I enrolled at university, studying publishing and then transferred to philosophy. I was starting my adult life ten years later than most people, but with ten times as much enthusiasm. I realised that what I wanted to do more than anything was journalism. I wanted to meet the most interesting people around, dig out the stories and see them in print. I wanted to do television work as well. It wasn’t that I’d given up my dreams of acting, but I was beginning to see there were other ways of getting my voice heard and of proving my worth in the world.

I made contact with everyone I could, appearing on over twenty television shows, including Wish You Were Here which took me to Tunisia for a destination report. I appeared on Question Time, asking Tony Blair a question, and Cherie Blair invited me to Ten Downing Street after I met her. My articles, many of them about myself and my life, started to appear in publications like The Guardian and The Daily Mirror. I wrote about my mother and my childhood, about my struggles to make my way in the world and my search for the files which contained everything that had been written about me as a child by other people, by those who were supposed to be caring for me and helping me.

Anyone who has ever tried to get files from the archives of a charity will know what I had to go through. It was literally a paper chase. Local files get sent to regional headquarters, regions send them to national offices, which then put them into storage. I was only allowed to read them if there was someone else in the room to supervise. I wasn’t allowed to make copies. That was “against policy”. Freedom of information is not a concept that bureaucrats will ever understand. I refused to give up until I found them, desperate to catch a glimpse of myself as a toddler or a schoolgirl, and I refused to leave until they allowed the files to leave with me. One of the earliest entries I found in the records tells of how stubborn I was, even as a two year-old. Nothing has changed there.

The people I meet now as a journalist vary from brain specialists like Professor Susan Greenfield, to show-business legends like Cher and Michael Caine. I don’t believe there is a limit to what I can achieve now.

Getting the files had been a triumph, but reading them made me angry. So many people had voiced their opinions about me, and so few of them seemed to have got close to understanding what I was really about. None of them could ever understand why I was so frustrated and angry with everyone around me, and none of them shared my belief in myself.

I wish I could meet my father. Since I have nothing in common with my mother, I must have more of his genes in me. Perhaps he would have understood me better, but it’s possible he doesn’t even know I exist. More than anything I wanted to have parents who would tell me they cared for me, they might get annoyed with me sometimes, but they would still say “I love you” and show that they meant it by their actions. Parenting is more than just providing three meals a day and a warm house to live in. Without an element of caring there is no safety or stability. Being unstable on my feet is nothing, being emotionally unstable is everything.

I have never been able to form a relationship with a boy, I don’t have enough emotional strength to be able to spare any for someone else. Sometimes I find it hard to even shake hands with people, because it feels like I’m giving away a bit of myself. Norma and I met again recently after a long gap. I couldn’t bring myself to shake her hand. I had a thousand questions in my head that I wanted to ask her, but we just had a polite conversation about class divisions, both of us too frightened to step onto the thin ice of personal and emotional issues.

Most people are able to find out about themselves by asking older relatives; they know they have red hair because their aunt was the same, or they inherited their diabetes from one of their grandparents. There should be elderly relatives who can fill you in on the time before you can remember, telling you about the early promise you showed or the terrible tantrums you were famous for. There should be frequently repeated anecdotes about the day you fell out of your high chair or the time you went missing in town and everyone was frantic with worry.

The only knowledge I have about my past is in the dense grey print of the official files that now squat in the corner of my sitting room. My mother will never answer any of those questions that every child asks of their parents. It’s as if she’s denying to herself that I am anything to do with her. She wants to forget that she ever had that one night stand and that it had such tragic consequences for her, scarring her life.

She seemed like a middle-class person to me now, but she insisted she had come from basic working-class stock. She had improved herself in life, which is what I want to do. I want to make things better. I want to live a better life, but sometimes the effort of moving forward is so hard. I want to have a peaceful mind so that I can let go of the past. Having a child to bring up must be such a wonderful experience and Norma missed out on all that with me, which makes me so angry with her. If I have a daughter and she turns out to have cerebral palsy the first thing I will do will be to buy her a pink electric wheelchair and some beautiful pink shoes, that would set her on her way.

About the Author

To be given up by an uncaring single mother at the age of only two weeks old would be trauma enough for most of us. For Anna C Young it was only the beginning of a cycle of deprivation and abuse that lasted until she was old enough to fight back. Note the C in her name. It is a crucial part of the identity that she has created for herself, in the face of her mother’s refusal to discuss her conception and an officialdom which blocks her every effort to learn the truth about her childhood.

At eighteen months old Anna was diagnosed as having mild cerebral palsy. Her mother flitted in and out of her life, anxious, as one social worker put it, to “assuage her guilt at bringing Anna into the world”.

Foster parents denied her the wheelchair that would have given her mobility, obsessed with the idea that she should “walk like a normal child”. They did not appreciate her burning intelligence and treated her with unbelievable insensitivity. “When we get a better job we will put you back in care” was their mantra. Her foster father threatened to put her in a hole where rats and mice could eat her. They bought their children lavish presents whilst Anna’s were always utilitarian.

At fourteen, after suffering scalding severe enough to necessitate a skin-graft, she was moved to a home for maladjusted children. Her crime, in the eyes of social workers, was that she did not accept her lot. Indeed, they felt that her foster parents had over indulged her!

The catalogue of misery continued with a spell in psychiatric hospital, from which she was ejected, her worldly possessions in a bin-bag, to sit on the doorstep because she had no where to go. She was nineteen years old.

Today, wheelchair bound, she works and a journalist, lives in Swiss Cottage, London and has a contacts list to be envied. She is attractive, stubborn, imperious and incapable of accepting that there are any heights to which she cannot climb. This book lays the pain of a loveless childhood and blows and hole in our smug certainty that children in care are cherished. It may lead you to conclude that Anna would have been better off brought up by wolves than surrendered to the combined forces of the welfare state.

Book Extract

I was born in the 60s, to an immature mother who rejected me and for most of my life I’ve been abandoned one way or another. The scars will never leave me and now I respond by not getting close to anyone. It’s a vicious circle, feeling unloved and not being able to love anyone. I’ve gone around it many times because I was nobody’s child, passed from institution to institution, with people judging me, criticising me and making decisions for me.

At least now I make decisions for myself. But let me tell you my story. You can then judge whether the new me bears any resemblance to the Anna of my history. I think I’ve been reborn, no longer ‘nobody’s child’ but myself. My story has been a long struggle; now, no longer a child, I have found confidence and fulfilment.

Here’s how my story started:

Norma is looking round the room. The lights are low, smoke fills the air, people are clutching glasses of cheap wine and the distorted sounds of the Stones are blaring out far too loud from the record player. She’s with friends but fancies doing something different tonight, something new and exciting.

“Have another drink, love!” Yes, she will, several in fact.

She sees a dark and handsome man come through the door. He brushes against her and she likes it. She follows him to the kitchen and they start talking, about nothing really, but they get on quite well. They dance, they smooch, grope a bit and end up in a bedroom surrounded by coats and bags. She knows she shouldn’t go ‘too far’ but it’s good and she doesn’t want to stop. And then it’s over. Except there is a reminder of this event that Norma has spent her life denying – me, Anna C Young. I say now the C is to remind myself of that moment of conception.


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