Woman Nursed Her Dying Birth Mother Without Ever Revealing Her Identity

Phyllis Whitsell was dropped off at an orphanage in the U.K. when she was just 8 months old, then adopted at the age of 4. She was told that her mother died of TB, but she never believed it.  And so, as an adult, Phyllis searched.

“Motherly love was missing from a very early age as a young child. I just wanted to understand the reason why she gave me up. And then maybe I wouldn’t have been so curious to find out my true identity,” said Phyllis of her need to search. She found her birth mother, Bridget, who was known in the local pubs as Tipperary Mary.

Phyllis, a nurse by trade, found a way to spend time with her birth mother without revealing her identity. She simply added her mother to the others she visited. She’d stop by to care for her, bathe her, bring her necessities—all the while never telling her secret.  “The day she spoke affectionately of ‘little Phyillis’ and told me my birth date accurately was the best, and the worst, day of my life,” Phyllis shared.

Because of her extraordinary story, Phyllis was encouraged by a friend to write her experiences. The result is the book, My Secret Mother, recently published by HarperCollins Publishers Ltd.

Phyllis cared for her mother for 8 years as a nurse, then she spent the next 13 years visiting Bridget, who had dementia, in the care home. Through all these caring, tender visits, Bridget never knew that her caregiver and friend was actually her daughter. Phyllis shared her feelings in an open interview with The Star. In the interview, she reveals her familial love for her mother, why she kept her identity a secret, and bits and pieces about their visits.