A mum whose son was taken from her into care says she wouldn’t know him if she ran into him in the street.
Rachel is one of three mothers to share their heartbreaking stories as part of a new BBC programme.
Having had him adopted when he was a toddler, she is seen struggling with the emotional intensity of writing letters to him for the first time.
“One by one, everything that has happened in my life, losing my children, did break me,” she said solemnly.
“It changes you.”
She gets a letter every year from her son but says that the first time she got one she was so upset she “decided to rip it to pieces”.
Rachel admits, “I wouldn’t even recognise my son if I saw him walking down the street.”
‘Child in Mind’ also followed Lyndsey and Melanie, all three from Hull, as they tried to rebuild their lives with the help of Pause.
The scheme is dedicated to supporting women who have had their children removed by the authorities.
Mum-of-four Lyndsey and Melanie, who has three children, both lost their kids to the care system after they suffered harrowing domestic violence at the hands of their ex partners.
Rachel, meanwhile, had her second child taken away three days after she gave birth, having put her first born up for adoption when she was 17 years old.
Her third baby was still born.
Some 90,000 children are currently in care across the UK, and a quarter of mums who lose a child to the system endure “repeat removals”, where more of their children are taken away, the Hull Daily Mail reports.
Run by Hull City Council, Pause currently helps more than 430 women to “break the destructive cycle” of losing multiple children, and gets them back on their feet.
“All I’ve ever wanted was to be a mother,” Lyndsey, who was a teenage mum, told the programme.
“Most 15 year-olds would have been like ‘Oh no, I can’t cope’.
“But I wanted to spend the rest of my life looking after this person.”
But the appalling abuse Lyndsey suffered afterwards meant the authorities ruled her children were in danger. She says she was spat at, kicked, strangled and raped.
Recalling the moment her son was taken away, she said: “I couldn’t have held him any closer to me. I could have broken his bones I was holding him that tight.
“I refused to let him go. I even asked them to take me with them. They never came back home. You don’t forget handing your baby over to complete strangers.”
Melanie’s daughter, who is now 12, was taken into foster care eight years ago.
She is allowed to see her for two hours at a time, three times a year, though she has no contact with her other two children.
“People think that because I got my kids taken off me that I’m a bad mum,” she said.
“I got my kids taken off me because I stayed in that (abusive) relationship.
“I call them (social services) kid snatchers. They decided to take my child off me because I was too emotional. The moment they take your child off you they might as well just chuck you in a ditch somewhere.”
With each woman assigned an individual support worker to offer emotional help, take them on girly days out and practical guidance with day-to-day tasks, all three mums are seen to make encouraging progress in their lives.
With the programme ending on a note of cautious optimism, Lyndsey is seen in a happy and healthy relationship with her new man James, Melanie reports how she has gone months without self-harming, and Rachel is shown writing her first letter to her son and getting to know him.
All three testify to how much good Pause has done for them.
Child in Mind is available on the iPlayer for another four weeks.