In April 1965, I was born in St Patrick’s Mother and Baby Home on the Navan Road in Dublin. Since then, I have always been astounded by the ‘knowledgeable’ opinions people espouse on my beginnings. As a fellow adoptee says, “The minute you see the head tilt, you brace yourself for what is to come.”
There is a spectrum of opinions that adoptees are used to. At one end, there are the kind and caring views, the ones who listen. Then there are those who think that if you were adopted, your beginnings and life are identical to all those who were adopted and try to convince you otherwise if you object. And then there is the other end of the spectrum, the ones which are judgemental and often, cruel. Surprise is constant as you can never predict who in your life will say what.
Being adopted is always public. Efforts to keep it private are futile. It is the inevitable response to questions like “Who in your family do you look like?”, “You’re the image of your mother/father/brother/sister/cousin/family pet,” “Is there a history of heart disease/diabetes/rabies in your family?”
And with origins so visible come comments, quips and judgements. Here is an example of such:
A friend told me recently that my birth mother and others like her were so “lucky” to have the nuns to take them in when their parents threw them out.
The Catholic Church condemns these girls for committing a sin. Family throws them out. Church (which created the problem by judging these girls) now takes them in and, in many cases, brutalises many physically and mentally before, in many cases, capitalising on their unpaid labour. They seek to temporarily or permanently separate child from parent with no care for the long-term impact on the psychological health of either person.
“Lucky” is therefore not a word I’d use to describe such a situation.
And where were the unmarried fathers’ homes if sex before marriage and pre-marital pregnancy were such grave sins?!?
As both an adoptee and a birth mother who gave up a child for adoption, your comment about watching for the head tilt made me laugh out loud. I’ve gotten plenty of unwelcome, ignorant advice over the years.
In 1982, when I was expecting my daughter, my parents put me in a Catholic home for unwed mothers in New York. But though I expect they thought they were punishing me, it turned out to be the best thing for me. There was a lot of love there, and very little judgement. I have since moved away from the church, but I will always think fondly of those remarkable nuns who dealt with living in a house filled with desperate, terrified, unwanted teenage girls with grace and humor.
I have heard many horror stories about young women who were taken in by the nuns when they were “in trouble,” and I know how lucky it was that I landed in such a good place. I’m so sorry you and your mother had such a terrible experience. And you’re absolutely right. The church created the problem in the first place, and never seems to hold the fathers accountable. Thank you for sharing your perspective.
Great comment. So lovely to hear you encountered such warm at a trying time. Being from a few decades before, the situation was a little more stark for my birth mother. Good to know it has changed. I had my daughter in the 1990s and the freedom I enjoyed and ability to keep her was not lost on me (even if the judgments were fast and frequent). Tomorrow I will stand with others to protest what happened to the mothers and other ‘crib mates’ while others attend mass said by the Pope nearby. It is a small gesture but I suspect you understand its importance. x