I Am Lucky

I am lucky to have been born when I was born.

I am lucky that my parents were married to one another.

I am lucky that my mother survived my birth.

I am lucky that my father was not sick, or unemployed, or addicted to anything.

I am lucky that I was raised with love and stability.

I am lucky. Simply that.

Other babies, born just as I was in Ireland, the country I call home, were not so lucky.

They were born to women young enough to be called children themselves.

They were born of rape, or incest, or simple love relationships not ‘sanctified’ by marriage.

They were born to women who could not care for them.

They were born into families where too many children existed already.

They were born to women who were committed to institutions against their will.

They were born to women who fought for them, who begged for them, and who were told ‘no’.

They were born to women who never knew that they’d been sold to good, decent families abroad.

They were born to women who never knew they’d died, unloved, and were buried in unconsecrated ground.

They were born to women who loved them desperately, but who were torn from them before an ‘attachment’ could form.

None of this was their fault, just as nothing about my birth had anything to do with me.

 

It’s the tiny cruelties which break me open the most – the fact that these children were stigmatised by being called ‘illegitimate’, sent to school at different times to the ‘ordinary’ children so that friendships couldn’t grow between them – for fear, the horror, the very idea that an illegimate child from a Mother and Baby Home could be friends with a legitimate child of a married couple. The fact that information about families was kept from the members of those families – names, birthdates, addresses – meaning that parents couldn’t trace their children, children couldn’t trace their parents, inquiries were met with stony silence.

Hush it up. Brush it off. Ignore them. They’ll go away.

Ireland did this – my country, which I love. Members of my church, the Catholic church, were intricately involved with this decades-long conspiracy of silence.

Let us be silent no more, and let the names of the lost children shame us all. Let the memories of the lost women remind we who are lucky enough never to have seen the inside of a Laundry or a Home exactly how lucky we are.

And let every single one of them be counted, claimed and told – too late – you belong.

 

 

 

 

5 thoughts on “I Am Lucky

      1. susanlanigan

        Some of them are still alive. That vile unnatural thing Prone let the cat out of the bag when she mentioned that “some of them are in their 80s”. So, if evidence can be found of deliberate neglect causing death – I believe in some places they called it “letting babies cry”, – they could be arrested for murder.

        The Simon Wiesenthal Centre went after Nazis and they were put on trial age 96. There was no special pleading, no exemptions, no “ah…shure”. They prosecuted them.

        I have little faith that any ethnic Irish born individual will do this. It was never about the law. It was about power.

  1. Jan Hawke

    I’m the product of a Roman Catholic primary and secondary education (latterly in a single sex grammar school). I now see that I too was lucky in that this was in Devon and not in Ireland – I had no idea the segregation went so deep (the children born out of wedlock went to lessons at different time?! How sick is that?). There were layers upon layers of prejudice at my senior school – between scholarship girls and fee-payers (non Catholics had to pay whether or not they’d passed the 11-pluis!); ‘domestic studies’ streams weren’t as nurtured as the ‘brainboxes’ who got to do Latin. Children whose parents could afford to send them on pilgrimage to Lourdes or Oberamergau were favoured over those who couldn’t afford the travel fares, of make large enough donations to the various fund-raisers the convent was involved in.

    Stigma is an awful thing, especially when it’s so fundamental and undeserved. Moreso when it comes from those who profess to officiate in a church that follows one of the most tolerant philosophies ever conceived . What a world – I hope all those affected get the redress they deserve, however late and pointless it might be. 😦

    Reply
    1. SJ O'Hart Post author

      There is such a wound in this country where religion is concerned, I think. Not that there aren’t good priests and good nuns; there are, and I feel very sorry for them, because they’re left to carry the can for the others. But this? There can be no redress for the children who died. Those who survived have lost everything that could have given them a meaningful life, in many cases. And as for those responsible – well. They are, for the most part, beyond any sort of earthly justice, now. It’s tough to be a person of faith in modern Ireland; sometimes, like right now, I wonder why I even bother to try.

      Reply

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