|Judi Dench played Philomena in the film|
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Friday, 6 December 2013
Which is more important: a mother's love or a life of opportunity? A few weeks ago I went to see the film Philomena, a true story about a mother trying to trace her illegitimate son, fifty years after he was sold into adoption by Irish nuns. I won't spoil the ending, but it enough to say that her son went on to have a high-flying career as legal counsel to President Reagan in the United States. At several points on Philomena's journey to find her son, she remarks, "I could never have given him this." It is some small measure of consolation for the suffering she has borne - the fact that her boy made good in the land of the free. He would never have achieved such dizzy heights had he remained with his Irish mother, stigmatised by the circumstances of his birth - or so she believes.
It is a well-worn argument used to justify the adoption of children in the cases of unwed mothers sixty or seventy years ago. In the aftermath of the second-world war, many unfortunate women were persuaded to give up their babies to save the children from the stain of illegitimacy. It plays on every mother's instinct: do the best for your child, at any cost. There were practical considerations as well since many unmarried mothers could not afford to bring up a child on their own. Indeed such a dilemma faces one of the characters - an unmarried actress who falls pregnant - in my novel, A Sister for Margot.