JACQUELINE Marriot was 21 when she got pregnant by a man she met at a dance hall, the result of what she describes as 'a seedy stupid one night stand in a motel'. She was living in Canada at the time and flew home to her parents in England, believing they would understand and support her so that she could keep the baby.

She says: 'Although I was disgusted with myself, I felt a bond with the baby growing inside me. I talked to him and patted my stomach as a way of telling him everything was all right. But my mother's reaction was to say I had ruined her life and it was very clear I couldn't stay at home and have the baby.

'My mother gave me money to return to Canada and told me to find the man, marry him and then she would be happy to be a grandmother. Instead, I ended up completely alone in a hospital having the baby I knew I couldn't keep. I had been befriended by a priest and he convinced me I should give up - sacrifice - the baby for his own good.

'I remember holding him just after he had been born, saying to him it would all be all right. But then when the nurses brought him back to be fed I screamed at them to take him away, that I never wanted to see him again. And I never did. I felt in despair and I knew there was a terrible pain and that I should grieve, but instead I shut everything down, all my feelings, all my thoughts. I found it was possible to simply exist and get through time by being busy and very social.

'I married a couple of years later, and when we had our first child I remembered Brad and felt a searing anguish, but I pushed that down and got on with enjoying the baby I had. I went on to have three more children. And the year Brad would have been nine we adopted a boy. I have never thought of him as a replacement, but I felt that he was absolutely my child. In a way I feel he has taken up the emotional space that might have been there for my first child.'

Since the regulations for finding parents were changed in Canada, Jacqueline has wondered whether Brad might try to trace her and sometimes she imagines him standing on the doorstep, a man in his forties, announcing that he is her son.

She says: 'Of course a part of me would be fascinated and curious, and it is possible I would feel liking and affection, but the idea of what feelings, what well-buried pains might be released, terrifies me. I have a settled, happy life and I feel things are in my control, but I also know that I have never dealt with the anguish I suffered at letting Brad go, and I simply don't feel I have the resources to do it now.

'If he came to find me at this stage it would, presumably, be because he wanted something from me. If it were just details of what happened, why I gave him up, anything about his heritage, I'd be very happy to provide this in writing. But if he wanted some deeper emotional bond I don't feel I could give it. I also fear that if I did become close there would, inevitably, be a sense of recrimination, an anger at the rejection which adoption inevitably is, however good the reasons. If I could not somehow make that better I might end up disappointing him more than ever. He would surely want to know in detail about his father and it would be very difficult to tell him that he was conceived in drunken stupidity, in an act of sex which was not pleasurable and had no love in it. I was disgusted with myself and repelled by the man.'

One reason natural mothers may not want their children to turn up is because they have families who do not know of their existence, and they cannot face the consequences of explaining. Jan Hanmer at the National Association for Natural Parents explains: 'Parents who refuse to see their children can sound cruel, but you have to remember that they have had to find a way of coping with that terrible loss. I know, I had a child adopted. While Jacqueline's worry is that the child will want something she cannot give, a lot of mothers worry that they themselves will want an emotional relationship which the child cannot offer, with all the pain that entails. They don't want to take the risk.

'I am adopted, and when my husband and I traced my natural mother she refused to see me. She wrote a very formal letter to Dear Mrs Hanmer, saying she could not see me and not to contact her any more. But something in that letter made me feel she was worried, so I wrote back saying I was not looking for a replacement for my adoptive parents, that I understood what she had done and simply wanted to meet her. Later she got in touch and we met. The wonderful thing is we have a lovely friendship, but I don't feel the need of her as a mother.'

Pam Hodgkins, founder of Norcap (National Organisation for Children of Adoptive Parents) has heard too many sad tales of children turning up on doorsteps of parents and being told to go away, to believe this is a good idea. Instead she suggests using Norcap as an intermediary to negotiate a meeting and if there is a rejection they can offer support.

Meanwhile, Jacqueline, sitting in a warm, light kitchen, is surrounded by proudly displayed photographs of her grandchildren. Outside in the garden, a stable with a pony, a makeshift swimming pool and a set of swings, tell of devotion to the family she has brought up. She says quietly: 'I hope my son never finds me. If he turned up on the doorstep I would be horrified. I know I sound heartless, but I don't believe he has the right to disrupt my life. Of course there is sadness at what had to be. But I am convinced it is better as history. I am happy to die not having seen him since birth.'

Norcap, 3 New High Street, Headington, Oxford (telephone 0865 750554).