Caroline West-Meads: ‘I gave her up. Should I contact her?’

Ask Caroline

Q. In the 1960s, I gave up my daughter for adoption as I was unable to care for her. I am now a widow in my 70s. Some years ago, she traced me through an agency and we were reunited. My other children met her, too. We had hoped to get to know her and have an ongoing friendship but when we met, she was very cool towards us. She wasn’t looking for any kind of relationship. We all respected and understood her feelings but were very disappointed and surprised as she has no other family – her adoptive parents have died. She told me her adoption had been very happy and I am so grateful to her parents for doing what I couldn’t. However, subsequently her manner changed and she became angry. My response was not good as my emotions were running high. She said she didn’t want to keep in touch. I accept we may never meet again but I would like to write to reassure her that she was loved and wanted by me and that giving her up was heartbreaking. I don’t want to upset her any further or to make the situation worse. Should I write?

A. This is such a sad situation and I do feel for you. Adoption is an extremely complex situation which produces a wide range of emotions and reactions. I have known people who were furious with their birth parents for ‘giving them away’ and others who imagined their birth parents as perfect beings and that they would have a joyous reunion with them. And, of course, there are some where good, happy relationships are formed. Unfortunately, when the birth parents have had later children, the adopted child can be very resentful that they were the one given away. However, it’s not the same. You would have been very young when your daughter was born and I expect the choice to give her up for adoption was not yours alone. Things were very different and family pressure and societal conventions will all have played a part. You probably also had no financial means of supporting her and perhaps no father in sight. Sadly, I suspect you were also made to feel ashamed. These days, a lot more support is given to keep babies with their mothers when possible. If I were you, I would most definitely write. Be careful not to justify your position for reacting badly, just fill your letter with love and explain the heartbreak giving her up caused you. Tell her you’ve thought about her every day and if you could go back and make a different decision, you would. Explain what you have told me – that you accept the situation and you don’t want to make things worse but that you would love to try again. It may not get you anywhere, but it is worth a go. In the meantime, do get support for yourself. (part of Family Action) offers post-adoption support and counselling to all parties, no matter how long after the adoption.

‘Our sex life has become nonexistent’

Q. I am 74 and I have started to suffer erectile dysfunction. My condition has deteriorated and the tablets I’ve been taking have stopped working. My wife refuses to participate in any other sexual activity saying it leaves her frustrated and unfulfilled. To satisfy my urges I have been masturbating when my wife is away. I feel guilty as we have always had a loving, honest and understanding relationship. Should I tell her of my secret activities? But, in so doing, am I jeopardising our loving and happy life? I’m so confused.

A. Firstly, you have absolutely no need to feel guilty. Unfortunately, I think your wife is not being as supportive as she could be and perhaps a little selfish – which is disappointing when you previously had a good sex life and a loving relationship. This can set up a pattern of feeling anxious about not being able to get an erection which then becomes a vicious circle. Talk to her about how much you miss the intimacy that sex brought as well as the physical act. Explain you have resorted to masturbation but it is simply not the same and you miss sex. Secondly, please be reassured that erectile dysfunction is very common and often there are solutions. Frequently, there is a physical cause – but if you’re managing an erection during masturbation it is more likely performance anxiety. Still, check with your doctor to rule out any medical problem. You and your wife would benefit from sex therapy and counselling, so try or Also, visit for further help with erectile dysfunction.