Wednesday 24 January 2018

'They took my children to save me… it ruined me' - Distraught mother recalls forced adoptions

Sharon was sent to St Patrick's Mother and Baby home - a 'special institution' for single mothers
Sharon was sent to St Patrick's Mother and Baby home - a 'special institution' for single mothers

David Kearns

A mother who was forced to give up two daughters when she was a teenager says the country is ignoring the plight of those who were made to give up their children for adoption in Ireland’s mother and baby homes.

Having given birth to her first child aged 15, an emotional Sharon told RTÉ’s Liveline that her life had been ruined because her own mother had been allowed to force her to give up her children.

“It was illegal to have my children adopted because I was a minor but that didn’t matter to anyone involved,” she said.

“My mother couldn’t have done what she did without society allowing her to do so.

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“If the nuns, the religious orders, and the state bodies had stopped her, I would still have my children.

“People forget that it was the Eastern Health board ambulances that took the girls in Dublin to St James to give birth.”

Speaking on behalf of the support group ‘Irish First Mothers’ Sharon said Irish society at the time given her and many other mothers no other option but to give up their children.

“They took my children to save me… I wasn’t saved, it ruined me.

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"There are women, like myself, who were told not to say anything about what they experience and still haven't - these women deserve as much help as another else who suffered at the hands of institutions.

“When my mother found out I was pregnant, she contacted some nuns from Iona Road in Glasnevin,” she said.

“They put her in contact with an adoption agency and off to St Patricks on Navan road I went. It was the week before Christmas, 1980.”

Told to pack a bag, Sharon asked why she was being sent away.

She had done “something that needed to be shunned” she was told.

The young teen’s mother said she could not stay at home “while she was pregnant”.

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Having never been away from her home before, Sharon said the experience of being left at St Patrick's Mother and Baby home was terrifying.

The former workhouse was converted for use as a “special institution” for single mothers in 1906.

Run by the Daughters of Charity, between 2,000 and 3,000 children perished there.

“I didn’t know where I was going and all my mother did was dropped me off in the hallway of this old imposing building and left," said Sharon.

“From that moment onwards, any privacy or dignity I might have had was stripped away from me.

“I was literally cut off from everything; I suffered greatly with depression, though I didn’t understand what it was at the time.

“The one time I was allowed to mix with the other people there was Christmas morning when I was given a parcel by the nuns. Nothing had arrive from my parents – I never saw them while I was there.

“New Years Eve I gave birth to my first daughter.”

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The 50-year-old told Joe Duffy that years later she confronted her father on why he had allowed her to be taken as she was.

“His only defence was that he didn’t know what had happen or where I was – I pushed him, where was I for weeks? Where was I Christmas morning? He just said he didn’t know,” she said.

Kept in St James for five days following her daughter’s birth, Sharon said she use to sneak up to the nursery to hold her and kiss her baby.

“But then my mother came and I was told I had to go home. I had no idea were her baby was going and I didn’t want to go. I’d have given anything to stay there. I still would.

“But I had no choice – I was told I was never to speak about it again. That it had never happened.

“When we were driving home I was told not to get emotional but I couldn’t stop crying. One day when I was in a salt bath for my stitches I started crying because the heat was causing my milk to leak.

“My mother got quite aggressive with me and said ‘What would the rest of the family think!’

“Apparently her fear of telling the truth mattered more than the welfare of her child or her grand-children.”

Speaking about the experience, Sharon left Joe speechless when he was asked her why she had wanted to stay in the hospital.

“Had I been allowed to stay in that hospital from that day to this I would have… Why? Because it would have meant I could have been with my baby.

“I would have stay there the rest of my life Joe, I really would have.”

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