I became interesting in this subject after watching a TV show called Lost Families on UK’s ITV 1, a show trying to reunite families with their loved ones, often due to a child being adopted. As I watched again and again, the same story was repeatedly coming up. A young woman getting pregnant between the 1930’s to the 1970’s (ish) and being sent away in shame and disgrace or removing themselves to mother and baby homes, run by Nuns to give birth alone, spend mere weeks with their children (who were desperately loved by their mothers in the majority of cases) and being put up for adoption often leading to years of guilt and heavy secrets for the mother. I was walking around my local library and I saw this blurb…
‘I’d been denied saying goodbye to my baby,
denied that last chance to stroke his cheek and feel his fingers grip mine,
to kiss his tiny mouth in loving farewell’
That alone is heart wrenching. The year is 1963 and a young nineteen year old girl is forced to wear a fake wedding ring, to go alone to a convent run by so called ‘women of God’ (which made me seriously consider why people don’t think religion is about power), to endure a horrendous labour with no comfort and no idea of what was going on, then to fall in love with her perfect little boy Paul only to have to give him away and why? To avoid stigma and ultimately to make sure she did not disgrace her family in the eyes of the Catholic Church. Although Angela forgave her mother and step father (after the death of her own beloved father) her story made me feel uneasy.
However it haunts me that throughout in all aspects of things going wrong or Angela feeling pain, she repeatedly asks God if he has forgiven her yet, desperately praying for her personal hell to be over, for her sins to be forgiven. To me, this in itself is pretty alarming here is this young intelligent woman, with a job in London and what seems to be a loving family (even though some love cannot be expressed) who does what she needs to do in societies eyes but ultimately pays the price her entire life because of wondering what God would think? It just proves that too me religion is so dangerous and don’t even get me started on these lovely nuns! Sister Act they were not, women were forced to work in heavy labour jobs until the day they went into labour, not laughing, no smiling, insulting these vulnerable women, leaving the babies all night long with no feeding and no changing, no holding the babies and god forbid you give your own child a kiss goodbye! Even after leaving the nuns behind, Angela is terrified and heartbroken after leaving her son , she is later sure that being unable to conceive is God still punishing her for having sex before marriage!
Angela does move on, although never forgetting Paul, happily marrying and having a ‘miracle baby’, her daughter Katherine. Although the joy that pours from these pages when Paul finally gets hold of his mother is euphoric, it really makes you ecstatic even though you know it will happen! This story has made me realise the true bond of mother and child. I do not have children myself, although I desperately wish to have them in the future, it seems strange to think that within the next ten years if I am lucky I will have my own child.
It’s so clear that Angela truly loved this tiny baby boy the agony she must of had to endure hearing him crying and not being able to say goodbye. It is both sad and beautiful, we know from the blurb that Angela will find Paul again, for the reunion she dreamt of for thirty years, but in the thick of it you forget that, you feel her pain. This is a valid part of history that cannot be forgotten we must learn as a younger generation from these poor women and children’s stories and make sure that it never happens again.
This book is truly unique, heart breaking and inspiring
I give it 5 stars.
Review originally posted in 2012.