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.