The idea of giving up custody of their children would be unthinkable for most mothers, but for these three women it was one of the best decisions they have made.
In the last documentary, The Last Taboo, three mothers spoke to Topic about what made them distance themselves from their children – and the verdict they received for it.
Maria moved out of the family home when she divorced her husband after the death of her daughterPhoto credit: Subject
Here we share their extraordinary stories …
Maria desperately wanted to be the perfect woman and mother, but was not prepared for the unimaginable.
She says, “I’ve tried very hard to adapt and adapt to be the person I expected to be a mother.
“But I also had the feeling that there was a completely different part of me that didn’t have an expression yet.
Maria says she struggled to keep the role of an “ideal mother”.Photo credit: Subject
“I had the feeling that another life was beating under the surface of my skin.”
The family was upset when three-year-old Maria’s daughter Hannah was diagnosed with cancer.
She died just a year later and led Maria to the breaking point.
“Hannah’s death was the moment my life turned,” she says. “In this deep grief, I didn’t even have room to think about another person.”
Maria’s marriage came to an end and she made the difficult decision to move out of the family home.
She recalls, “That first night I drove away from our family home it was incredibly painful, and at the same time another part of me felt an incredible sense of relief and opportunity.
I definitely felt judged as a mother – I was told I should have been sterilized and not allowed to have children.
“It gave me essentially the first time in my life to find out who I was as a person without being defined by my marriage or my children.
“It’s so angry with other people that I made the decision that I made.
“I definitely felt judged as a mother – I was told I should have been sterilized and not allowed to have children.
“(But) sometimes it is best for the children and the family when the mother is the parents to move out.”
Rebecca from London has no plans to settle down, but when she fell in love she quickly found that her life was taking a turn in a direction she had never planned.
“I’ve always felt a little different, I can’t say that I necessarily thought I would get married and have children,” she explains.
“But I met this very interesting Estonian man and there was an instant connection and we got together very quickly and decided to be together forever.”
Her partner moved to London from Estonia to be with Rebecca. The couple lived in a squat – and she became pregnant when she was 23.
Rebecca had never had children and when she moved to Estonia to raise her son, she tried to escapePhoto credit: Subject
“It felt amazing,” she recalls, “my body was doing what it was supposed to do, it was a really, very exciting time.”
In order to create a more stable environment for a baby, Rebecca suggested returning to Estonia to create a home there.
But she was quick to regret it.
“Even after a day, I thought, ‘No, that’s not okay, I made the wrong decision,’” she recalls.
“It was just strange, I was just about to go through the scariest thing of my life and left it all behind.
“When my son was weeks old, I really wanted out, I just wanted to come home. I felt like a caged bird.
It is strange for a mother and her little baby to be so miserable and unhappy
“I knew, even though it was very difficult for me, that I couldn’t walk. It was like a bad nightmare that had gone terribly wrong.
“It is strange for a mother and her little baby to be so miserable and unhappy.”
When Rebecca received an invitation to her brother’s wedding when her son was almost two years old, she made the decision to leave Estonia for good – without her son.
“I just didn’t think I would have the strength to bring my son back and take care of him and raise him on my own,” she says.
“I’ve never seen a mother abandon her child in the world, but that doesn’t mean I can’t do it.
“If I were a man, I wouldn’t be sitting here doing this interview. It’s the most normal thing in the world for dads to do, but I’ve never met another woman in the world who has done it. “
Rebecca initially agreed to return to London for a few months, but continued to extend her stay and never returned to Estonia, despite maintaining contact with her son.
She adds, “We see each other a few times a year. It’s a very tactile, very warm, very loving relationship.
“I’m sure it’s a very different relationship from most mother-son relationships, but it’s beautiful, there’s so much love.”
Nataly had a tough upbringing and never intended to bring kids into it, but family pressures left her no choice.
Natalie felt pressured to have children because of her Jewish backgroundPhoto credit: Subject
Nataly was born in Israel and came to America when she was five. She was raised by her aunt after her mother struggled to cope with it.
Nataly grew up in a Hasidic Jewish family and was brought up with traditional values.
She explains: “In our church we are encouraged to have children. It is like the height of our existence to become wives and mothers.
“I saw my life become unstable and I didn’t want to have children in this world.
“I wanted to be a career woman, I wanted to be a business woman, I didn’t want to have children.”
She didn’t want her children to have the same “unstable” upbringing that she had as a childPhoto credit: Subject
Nataly was pressured to marry a man who showed interest in her and her family assured her that “no one will love their husband if they get married”.
And soon after their marriage, Nataly would start a family.
She explains, “Even though I wasn’t emotionally ready to have children, I forced myself to have a baby and another baby 12 months later.
“I felt like my brain was going to give goosebumps.
“I’m stuck here at home with a baby and other women go and work, explore the world and travel.
I don’t have to be perfect anymore because everyone can see how imperfect my life is. I am a mother with no custody of my children
“I had problems, but I wouldn’t tell anyone I had problems. I always looked happy. “
Eventually, Natalys’s perfection collapsed and she gave her 4 year old son and 6 year old daughter to her father.
She says, “I don’t have to be perfect anymore because everyone can see how imperfect my life is. I am a mother with no custody of my children.
“It’s hard not to see my kids all the time, but every time I visit it’s like seeing them again.
“I have to subdivide my brain. There is mom and then there is the single woman.
“There’s no one who tells me that I can’t do something.”
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