The desire to have children is a primal urge for many women. Jemma, who is now in her late 30s, might find that this urge almost unbearable.

Jemma is 38 and has no plans to have babies. It’s not that she has cause to think she can’t have them, or because she doesn’t love children. 

Instead, in what many would say is one of the biggest sacrifices a woman could make, she vowed not to have children of her own after adopting her brother and sister — then aged just 11 and nine respectively — when she was in her early 20s.

Jemma Bere, 38, (pictured) vowed not to have children after adopting brother and sister then aged just 11 and nine respectively — when she was in her early 20s

Jemma Bere, 38, (pictured) vowed not to have children after adopting brother and sister then aged just 11 and nine respectively — when she was in her early 20s

Jemma (right) with her brother, Alex (left) and late mother, Jayne, then 40, (middle), who was hit by a speeding truck as she crossed the road to go to a shop in 2001

Jemma (right) with her brother, Alex (left) and late mother, Jayne, then 40, (middle), who was hit by a speeding truck as she crossed the road to go to a shop in 2001

They have always been Alex and Billie’s priority since she brought them on nearly fifteen years ago as a young lady. Even though she is now a young adult, that promise still holds.

‘I already have two children,’ she explains. ‘Whatever I imagined, the responsibility didn’t magically disappear when they turned 18.’ Not that it’s a decision she’s ever had bitter feelings about.

‘It’s been an incredible rollercoaster,’ says Jemma who lives in Brecon, mid-Wales. ‘But I had no choice and absolutely no regrets. It’s the best decision I have ever made. I can’t imagine how their lives would have been otherwise nor mine. I’m just ridiculously proud of them.’

The story of Jemma’s incredible altruism is one that would melt even the hardest heart. When she was 23, Jemma had just graduated from University and worked for a campaigning organization in her home country. She had always wanted to be a member of the UN.

Then overnight she gave up her carefree life after Alex and Billie’s mother — whom they shared with Jemma — died suddenly and their father was no longer able to care for them.

The children were brought back by her from Spain where she had lived. She nurtured them and always put her needs first.

They are both a testament to Jemma’s mothering abilities. Jemma keeps close contact with Jemma who works as Keep Wales Tidy’s policy and researcher manager.

The situation 15 years earlier was much more difficult because of a family that loved but was increasingly chaotic and Bohemian.

Jemma prefers to not talk about her father because she was just a teenager when Jayne, her teacher, met Richard Williams. Richard Williams had returned home to Brecon from years spent travelling and Jemma is happy to share her memories.

Alex was born to her in June 1997. Billie came in November 1998. ‘Up until then we had been travelling a lot,’ says Jemma. ‘Mum was a free spirit who hated to settle down. My younger brother Calvin and I were home-schooled by her while we moved from Turkey to Middle East.

We would all benefit from learning languages and cultures, and being educated through osmosis according to Mum. It worked because Calvin and I both later did really well at school and university.’

Jemma (middle) with her sister Billie, (left) and Alex (right) who adopted her bother and sister after their father could no longe rcare for them

Jemma (middle), her sister Billie and Alex (right). Alex adopted Jemma’s bother and sister when their father was unable to care for them.

The family appeared happy at first. Jemma enjoyed playing with her little siblings. She was a good reader and taught swimming to her children.

Soon, it became apparent that Richard was addicted to alcohol. Sadly, Jayne — a charismatic woman with a zest for life — also began to drink heavily.

Jemma would often be left with babysitting duties, and she was not happy about the job. Jayne made it clear that her family was moving to Spain in Jayne’s final year.

Jemma moved in to live with her maternal grandparents to complete her A levels. There were frequent phone calls to Jemma’s mother.

Four months later on June 16, 2001 disaster struck. Jayne (40 years) was struck by a truck while crossing the road in order to reach a shop. Richard witnessed it.

She passed away in the hospital just a few hours afterwards. ‘I was just 17 and I had lost my mum,’ Jemma recalls. ‘I was so grief-stricken, I was in physical pain. Despite our problems, I adored Mum and couldn’t imagine life without her.’

Jemma was aware of Alex’s and Billie’s traumas as well. Two-year-olds and three-year olds, they saw the accident and were stunned and confused.

‘I rang them every week,’ says Jemma. ‘Billie just kept saying: “Mummy has bumped her head.” She repeated it over and over for months. It was heartbreaking.’

The children clung to Jemma at their mum’s funeral — held two months later in Brecon. ‘I had one on either side, just clinging to me,’ she says. ‘At home, they followed me around like puppies.’

Jemma believed Richard would be staying in Brecon as he was supported by his family. He announced that he would take the children to Spain, where they were happy.

Jemma, who had been unable to start her degree for over a year because of her grief, started her studies in sustainable development and peace studies at Bradford University in September 2002.

‘Mum valued education so highly that I knew it was what she would want for me,’ says Jemma. Billie and Alex kept her in touch. Marisa was a young, lovely nanny who looked after Richard even though it was clear that Richard had been drinking again.

‘I visited virtually every holiday,’ says Jemma. ‘The children were always thrilled to see me but I rarely saw their father because he was either working or in a bar. Although I attempted to argue with him, he insisted that he was an alcoholic and needed treatment.

‘Mercifully their nanny, Marisa, was wonderful. She doted on the children and did everything for them.’ But in September 2006, Marisa said she would have to quit to look after her sick mother.

She called Jemma three weeks later to inform her that Alex had been placed in care and Billie was also taken. That was the moment Jemma had feared.

‘I got on the next plane and set up a meeting with the social worker,’ says Jemma. ‘Neighbours had reported the children were being neglected. I couldn’t deny it.’ Richard had three months to turn his life around to get them back. Jemma was unable to convince him to quit drinking, no matter how hard she tried.

‘He wasn’t a bad man,’ she says. ‘But he was sick and wouldn’t get the help he needed.’ Back in Bradford, Jemma was allowed a phone call every two weeks with the children, who had been placed in a children’s home, and their social worker. It was January 2007, when Jemma received the phone call that would forever change her life.

As their father hadn’t been able to conquer his drinking demons, they were being put up for adoption.

Jemma says: ‘When they told me there was no guarantee they would be kept together or that I could see them again, I suddenly found myself saying: “Then I will look after them. Just send me the forms.”

‘Then I put the phone down in shock. It is easy to think that when faced with major life decisions you will have the time and space to consider all of them. But this was not true.

‘I wrestled with the idea all night — not whether it was right but whether I was the right person to do it. The majority of people who adopt have jobs that are secure and money. It was so young. I had nothing to give apart from love.’

Jemma’s student friends thought she was either bonkers or brave. ‘They thought I was throwing my life away,’ she says. ‘But I’m really stubborn and, eventually, they came round.

‘Besides, I told everyone that it was only a short time. When they hit 18 I could stop being a mum and I would still be only 32 — no age at all. Now, of course, I know that responsibility never stops.’

Jemma quit her job, and she moved back to Brecon with her children. The Spanish courts took 18 months to approve the adoption. Jemma didn’t dare mention her plans to the children. It was difficult. Friends were supportive but uncomprehending.

In July 2008 Jemma received the call she longed for from her solicitor. Spanish social workers said that they could take the children right away.

‘I had waited so long. Now it was all systems go,’ says Jemma. In just six days, she found a large enough flat to accommodate all the family and furnished it herself.

‘I got everything from beds to a cooker by begging friends and scouring charity shops. Finally, I flew from Spain to inform the children that they would be coming to Spain with me. I was held by them and we all cried. It was magical but also very scary.’

It’s almost impossible to imagine those first few months. Jemma learned to become a full-time mother at breakneck speed, while Alex, 11 and Billie (9 years old, respectively) had to adjust to a new country, and a life that was unfamiliar to them.

‘For the first few months they were very loving to me but clearly terrified I’d disappear,’ she says. ‘Billie thought they’d been sent to the care home because of something she’d done. Alex followed her around as if she were a shadow.

‘I’d lie awake at night wondering what on earth I’d taken on and terrified something would happen to me and I wouldn’t be able to see it through. They would then have none.

‘The first job was teaching them English. Post-it Notes were placed on every thing in Spanish as well as English. Their enthusiasm and bright minds made it easy for them to pick up the subject quickly. Then, I was required to know how to make proper meals everyday. I couldn’t believe how much growing children eat or how fast they grow. Alex grew four sizes in one year. There was also laundry. The washing machine was on night and day.’

It was difficult to find the right balance between being a loving big sister, and being a no-nonsense mom. ‘I knew if they didn’t respect me as a mum they would walk all over me,’ she says. ‘I told them there were only two rules: Do your homework and never, ever lie to me. Maybe because I’m only 14 years older, I was fine-tuned to when they were fibbing.’

She felt at ease and her children were settled in school after she got back on track.

‘It wasn’t the high-flying career I’d dreamt of,’ she says. ‘But my priorities were totally different. The children have always come first.’ There were other sacrifices, too. Although she was in her twenties, nights with her friends and dates were rare.

‘Dating honestly didn’t occur to me,’ she says. ‘I was busy and I had fought so hard for the children, I didn’t want anyone else to come in and interfere. I wanted to bring them up in my way.’

After that, there was the teenage years. ‘They never said: “You can’t tell me what to do, you’re not my mum,” but inevitably the lines blurred,’ says Jemma.

‘Sometimes that was good. Siblings could openly discuss issues such as safe sex. If I was their mom, I would be a joker which would have made me very embarrassed. I did end up crying at times, though, when things got heated.

‘Then they were terribly apologetic. We got along great. We still do.’

That’s undeniable to anyone meeting this extraordinary family. It’s also clear that Jemma has done a magnificent job. Both are extremely self-confident. Alex is 24 years old and a huge sports enthusiast.

He is currently living in Cardiff, having worked as a snowboard instructor in Canada and New Zealand. ‘The sister in me is eager to join him,’ says Jemma. ‘The mum in me is terrified he’ll break his neck.’

It’s a dual identity that can cause confusion when they’re all out together. They look similar enough to each other in their age and appearances that they could be considered siblings, but the bodies tell a completely different story. ‘People can’t quite figure the relationship,’ Jemma smiles. ‘And who can blame them? To us it’s normal but it’s pretty unique.’

Although the children have never called her Mum, they give her Mother’s Day cards. Unfortunately, they did not reconcile with their father. He moved to Wales and died at 53.

Billie, 23, has just completed a degree in travel and tourism and lives close to Jemma, who’s enjoying her empty nest. ‘I’ve craftily turned their bedrooms into overspill wardrobes for my clothes but they both really know they are welcome home any time.’

Jemma and Kes are now in a committed long-term relationship. Kes Seymour is a 49-year old administrative assistant. She first met Jemma at a 2007 wedding. ‘The children were there, too, so he knew from the start we came as a package,’ she says.

‘I was nervous how we would all get on. But, apart from being shocked by how noisy teenagers can be, he has embraced it all.’

In typical of how she tried to manage her role she took a photo Jayne of herself and talked to her kids about it. Sadly they don’t remember much about their vivacious mother.

Typical also of Jemma that when I ask whether Jayne would be proud of her, she’s quick to respond. ‘She would be proud of all of us.’