I became interested in this subject after watching a TV show called Lost Families on UK’s ITV 1, a show trying to reunite parents and the children they had, had adopted. As I watched again and again, the same story was repeatedly coming up a young woman getting pregnant from the 1930′s to the 1970′s (ish) and being sent away in shame and disgrace or removing themselves to mother and baby homes, ran by Nuns to give birth alone, spend mere weeks with their children (who were desperately loved by their mothers in the majority of cases) and being put up for adoption often leading to years of guilt and heavy secrets for the mother. I was wandering around the library (where else?!?) and I saw this, it was new in and the front cover just captured me, however what I read on the blurb made me need to read this book and learn now about an era that is only now being spoken about.
‘I’d been denied saying goodbye to my baby,
denied that last chance to stroke his cheek
and feel his fingers grip mine,
to kiss his tiny mouth in loving farewell’
That alone is heart wrenching. The year is 1963 a young nineteen year old girl forced to wear a fake wedding ring, to go alone to a convent run by so called ‘women of God’ (which made me seriously consider why people don’t think religion is about power), to endure a horrendous labour with no comfort and no idea of what was going on, then to fall in love with her perfect little boy Paul only to have to give him away and why? To avoid stigma and ultimately to make sure she did not disgrace her family in the eyes of the Catholic Church. Although Angela forgave her mother and step father (after the death of her own beloved father passed away when she was just 14) knowing and repeating throughout her story that it was the way of the time, something that was done and she felt lucky.
However it haunts me that throughout in all aspects of things going wrong or Angela feeling pain, she repeatedly asks God if he has forgiven her yet, desperately praying for her personal hell to be over, for her sins to be forgiven. To me this in itself is pretty alarming here is this young intelligent woman, with a job in London and what seems to be a loving family (even though some love cannot be expressed) who does what she needs to do in societies eyes but ultimately pays the price her entire life because of wondering what God would think? It just proves that too me religion is so dangerous and don’t even get me started on these lovely nuns! Sister Act they were not, women were forced to work in heavy labour jobs until the day they went into labour, not laughing, no smiling, insulting these vulnerable women, leaving the babies all night long with no feeding and no changing, no holding the babies and god forbid you give your own child a kiss goodbye! It makes me sick to the stomach especially after looking after my lovely little 2 and a half month old ‘niece’. Even after leaving the nuns behind Angela is terrified not to mention heartbroken after leaving her son to others, she is sure that being unable to conceive is God still punishing her for having sex before marriage!
Angela does move on although never forgetting Paul even after happily marrying and having a ‘miracle baby’ her daughter Katherine. Although the joy that pours from these pages when Paul finally gets hold of his mother is euphoric, it really makes you ecstatic even though you know it will happen!
This story has made me realise the true bond of mother and child. I do not have children myself, although I desperately wish to have them in the future, it seems strange to think that within the next ten years if I am lucky I will have my own child. Although I have no children I know that when they happen, I will love and fiercely protect them, I couldn’t even think about giving them away and I know that none of the women in my family could of done it either. It’s so clear that Angela truly loved this tiny baby boy the agnoy she must of had to endure hearing him crying and not being able to say goodbye, just to hear your baby taken away from you by voices and then having ot wait so long to have another child, it is so heart-breaking. People would assume that because of this the book makes you sad and yes it does there was a period where I had to just leave it for a little while, I had to think hard about what I had read and it even made me tear up. This said it is also so beautiful we know from the blurb that Angela will find Paul again for the reunion she dreamt of for thirty years but in the thick of it you forget that, you feel her pain (I may have felt it more simply because I have maternal feelings). For me what Angela experienced is the worst pain possible, I could never give a baby away for adoption or listen to him cry and not be able to even hold him.
However even if this is a tale with a happy ending, there are many adopted children who do not share the same story. Some women never told a soul and when contacted, their children were told they could not possibly see them. The lies were too deep even now, they could not tell anyone the truth, it would break them apart. This is a valid part of history that cannot be forgotten we must learn as a younger generation from these poor women and children’s stories and make sure that it never happens again.
This book is truly unique, heart breaking and inspiring
I give it 5 plus stars!!!! *****
Go and buy it or borrow it, NOW!!!
The Baby Laundry for Unmarried Mothers by Angela Patrick with Lynne Barrett-Lee
Simon and Schuster
Review by Chloe Metzger