A mother’s story: Ann

from The Irish Times 11th May 1996
[Items in square brackets have been added since publication]

Ann’s son is 34 and lives somewhere in the United States. She last saw him when she handed the 18-month-old baby to a nun at the door of the mother-and-baby home in Castlepollard, Co Westmeath, to be sent to adoptive parents in the US.

Ann’s own mother was unmarried. Ann grew up in the family home and got no affection from her mother. “The only time I kissed my mother was when she was dead.”

When she was five her mother, still unmarried, became pregnant again and put Ann into a foser home. “In other words I was rejected by my own mother.”

In the foster home “I was a Cinderella. All the dirtiest work to be done I had to do it. There were no proper toilets so I had to look after that.”

When she was 16, a social worker sent her to the mother-and-child home in Temple Hill, Blackrock, Co Dublin, to train as a children’s nurse.

“I met my son’s father and became pregnant. I had no home. The lady running the nursing home where I worked wanted me out.”

The social worker was called and had her admitted to the home in Castlepollard, run by the Sisters of the Sacred Heart.

“At Castlepollard, there was no feeling, no emotions or anything. We were not allowed to wear our own clothes.

“The nun I worked with was kind to me. Some were dreadful. She used to bring me back a sweet and I used to give it to my child. I had no money. I had two very good friends who were priests. One used to come to Castlepollard to see me. He used to give me a few pounds and that was the only money I had.”

Ann denied to herself that her baby would be adopted.

“I had a dream which was that the child’s father was going to come and take me and him away from there. Many’s the Saturday I sat at the bedroom window waiting and hoping he would come up.”

He never came. There was no question of being able to contact him.

Your letters were always read. You had to leave the envelope open.” She never got an opportunity to leave the building.

Mothers had bonded with the babies before they were taken away for adoption.

As the time for the adoption came up, “they weaned us off them. We used to see them three times a day, then two times, then once. We used to sneak up and look at them at night.

“We were brought to the parlour on three occasions to sign papers. We never read the papers. You were told to put your name there and told that’s it.

“One day I was told, you child’s going to go tomorrow. You were allowed to dress him and to take him down to the side door and then he was just wrenched away from you. You would charge across to the top of the house to try to get a look at him.”

She left Castlepollard some months later.

“I had absolutely nothing. I came to Dublin in clothes that were two years old.

“The priest had got me a job to mind a six-month-old baby that had been adopted. I stayed in that post for a year. I used to cry myself to sleep. I used to cry holding that baby, pretending she was mine.”

She made a career in nursing and got married. “I have three girls and a boy.”

It is only within the past few months that she has told her family about her son. She had said nothing about him because “I didn’t want to be rejected by them. I didn’t want them to think of me as I had been thought of all my life.”

Now, her family can’t wait to find and meet her son in the US. “They are waiting for this baby to walk in the door.”

She is frustrated by the delay in making the information in the Department of Foreign Affairs available.

She keeps in touch with Barnardos through their birth mothers’ group and urges other birth mothers to do the same.