This is a true story.
It is one I wrote two years ago, but I am always reminded of it on Mothers Day (which in Ireland is today). As I’m pretty sure most of you have never read the original I’ll tell it to you once more.
Years ago I was on a training course. Towards the end of it we were doing a night on loss. The idea behind the night, is that unless you deal with your own demons you cannot help others deal with their difficulties. We were all nervous, as we had been informed that our guest tutor was extremely experienced in this area and most people ended up in quite a state. I attended that night like one going to a hypnotist. He would not get to me. I would not break.
The night was very interesting letting us know that loss is about so much more than bereavement, opening our minds and memories to the forgotten or ignored losses in our own lives. After a few hours, one by one, we were asked to share our stories. There was no opting out.
It was then I heard the beginning of this tale.
One of the trainee volunteers was a girl who I will call ‘Dee’, her loss was her niece or nephew. With anger she told us her youngest sister had told the family she was pregnant, aged sixteen.
Dee described how her normally progressive, easy going, caring mother, flipped. Within two days, following very little discussion,
her mother and young sister flew to England for an abortion.
As she spoke it through she became very upset, as did we all listening to her. We could hear it in her voice and see it in her tears, but greater than her sadness was her anger. Over and over she repeated, “I cant understand my mum and dad!”.
The whole group were gripped by her tale. Abortion is illegal in Ireland, yet each year thousands of women, for all sorts of reasons, make the lonely journey to England, and no one tells.
After that night her story stayed with me. I thought of her often as I went about my daily life. Anyone listening would have realized her family were broken. I wondered had time brought healing.
Fast forward two years.
I was on a train which was full. After much searching I found an empty seat… beside “Dee”. I had not seen her in the intervening years. We began to chat, but I could not bring myself to ask the one question I wanted to. Noting I was pregnant she brought up ‘that’ night herself.
It was then she told me “Part Two”.
After the night on loss she said she could not move on. The night had awoken feelings within her she could not suppress.
Within days communication had broken down between herself and her mum. She would not and could not forgive her so began to make plans to move out. One night, less than a week after the course her mum and dad called herself and her sister to the kitchen and began to tell them why they had done what they did.
Thirty years previously at the age of sixteen Dee’s mother had discovered she was pregnant.”Dee’s” dad was the father. In Ireland in those days it was a great shame to be unmarried and pregnant. Dee’s mother was packed up and sent to a special ‘home’ to have her baby. Within the community the story would be told she had gone to stay with a sick aunt. During her confinement her father came to visit only once. Eventually she gave birth to a little boy. For six weeks she looked after him until one day she was handed a present. New clothes, not chosen by her, to dress her baby in as he was to leave for his new home.
“Dee” at this stage got upset as she described her mother begging for the babies dad to be allowed see him just once. The answer was a definite “No”. So she washed him, dressed him, and kissed him goodbye.
She explained to “Dee” and her sister that she had never recovered and thought of her son almost every day. On hearing her daughter was pregnant at sixteen she agreed that her reaction was illogical, and accepted they should not have acted in such haste.
“Dee” said she began to understand.
So to “Part Three”.
The reason she was sitting on the train was because she was returning from a weekend away, the purpose of which was to meet her brother for the first time. He had two children. She had two nephews. Following the confession to her girls her mum and dad had decided to look for their son, and on finding him he was willing to meet them. By all accounts it had been a wonderful weekend,
and according to ‘Dee’ there seemed to be an immediate connection.
To this day I shake my head at the coincidence that I happened to sit next to her that day, allowing me to hear the final two chapters of her remarkable story. I think of her occasionally but it is on Mothers Day that I remember her always, along with all the other “hidden” Irish mothers and the pain they must feel on today.