The Circle of Life
The Circle of Life
It was Valentines night 1961. Julia and her friends were agog with the news. Their favourite show band was finally appearing in town. For just over a year the three friends had followed the Sparkles all over the county. Like every other female in town, they had visions of being picked out from the crowd and swept away by one of the handsome lads. Marjorie declared that Mark was the only one for her, while Bridget claimed that the best looking one was David. Julia said little, but secretly she had her sights on Pete. He was the lead singer with the group and had charisma in abundance.
It was more than obvious to the rest of us that Pete was equally besotted with Julia. Many nights, in the interval, Julia and Pete slipped quietly outside to share a cigarette, and maybe more. Julia always came back from these trysts with a contented smile on her lips and a strange glow about her person. Mind you, Pete didn’t look too unhappy either!
This particular night, however, something was different. I can only describe it as a sexual tension that was flickering back and forth between them. It was heavy in the air. Julia was restless; it was as if she had something on her mind. If only I had known what.
St. Patrick’s Day arrived and it was obvious that something was seriously wrong with Julia. Always the life and soul of the party, she had become withdrawn and had lost her usual sparkle. Over a quiet drink in the local, Julia finally broke down and spilled the beans.
Apparently, on Valentine’s night, herself and Pete had finally succumbed to the passion of the moment. The inevitable had taken place and the end result was pregnancy. Needless to say Pete was nowhere to be found.
Back then, abortion was unheard of for a good Catholic girl, unfortunately so was being an unmarried mother. Julia cried softly as she shared her guilty secret. One thing was certain, once her family found out she would be banished from her home. She was desperate.
Eventually, Julia decided to head for England. Her sister was living there, and could be relied on to help out. While she might not approve of Julia’s actions, she would not let her down.
On a dreary April morning, Julia boarded the ferry for Liverpool. The day matched her mood, gloomy and unhappy. Hugging her tummy to protect her unborn baby and give herself comfort, Julia sat through the rough crossing. Every mile brought her further away from home and all that was familiar.
Thankfully, when the boat docked in Liverpool, Ellen was waiting to take Julia home to some strong tea and words of wisdom. For the first time since discovering that she was pregnant, Julia began to feel that maybe things would work out for her.
A week later, Julia took up residence at St. Bridget’s home for expectant mothers. Run by a religious order, it took in women who had fallen pregnant and needed care. As luck would have it, these nuns were caring and understanding, unlike some who were judgemental and harsh.
Relieved to have somewhere to stay, and surrounded by others who were in the same situation, Julia began to relax and enjoy her pregnancy. Together, the girls talked about their dreams and thought up names for their babies and generally began to experience a certain sense of normality.
Then, one morning in mid October, Julia began to feel the first twinges of labour. Five hours later Julia gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. The loneliness and fear of the last months faded into insignificance when she looked into her baby’s eyes.
Although Julia had agreed to give her baby up for adoption, it proved impossible to take the final step and sign the legal documents that would take her daughter away from her. For six long months, Julia kept Caroline with her while she explored every option under the sun.
Eventually, she had to admit defeat. There was no way that she could keep her baby. In 1961 a single mother could not get work or accommodation, or indeed a child minder. The time had finally come, there was no choice, and those documents had to be signed.
In March 1962, Julia and ten other women boarded a boat for Dublin. Their destination was an orphanage in Dublin, from where their precious children would be taken to new homes and parents. Despite all their attempts at bravado, by the time they reached their destination, there wasn’t a dry eye among them.
The nuns at St. Edel’s orphanage took their babes and instructed them to leave. A chapter of their lives ended in a few short minutes. The girls, bereft and confused, left St. Edel’s and made their way back to Liverpool, and whatever life was left for them.
It’s 1965, I have just started school. The other children keep asking me why I am ‘indopted’, what ever that is. One thing I know is that I am different. I am full of life and endowed with a rebellious spirit.
Running home to mum, I ask, ‘what is indopted?’ She tells me that it means that I have another mother somewhere, who didn’t want me, and, because she (my adoptive mother) is a good person, she gave me a home. This wasn’t exactly the answer I was expecting. Who wants to feel like a charity case? It was then that I made my mind up; I was going to run away and find my ‘real’ mother.
At the age of 16, I went to the local Adoption society, full of innocence, expecting a quick fix. How naive can one be? The word ‘no’ became very familiar. You are too young; you are not entitled to the information, and so on and so forth. Doors slammed in my face every which way.
Finally, in 2006 I got a lucky break. A friend suggested that I contacted the Children’s Society in Liverpool. I thought ‘what the hell, I have nothing left to loose.’ So I placed the call.
A week later I received a letter from the Society complete with all the details of my mother’s life and current address. I would like to tell you that this was the solution, but sadly, it wasn’t. I was still legally obliged to inform the authorities that I had the details.
After numerous phone calls and counselling sessions, I was allowed to make contact with Julia. She immediately responded, asked for a letter and photograph, followed by a meeting. I have no words to describe the joy that I experienced on receiving the news that ‘my mother’ wanted to see me.
Here I am laid up in bed, I’m on oxygen for my emphysema, and I haven’t been able to leave my home for very long for the last four years. But yesterday, I had some news that made my heart soar. My daughter Caroline, my first born, wants to meet me. I have no words to describe how that feels.
It is Thursday 13th July 2006, today is the day. In a few hours I will be reunited with my baby. I am tearful, joyful, scared. Will she like me, will she be angry? I am nervous but full of joy. 45 years is a lifetime. Will Caroline understand why I gave her away or will she hate me for what I did? So many questions, so few answers. I wonder if she is like me, has she been happy, has she children, the list is endless.
1.45pm Thursday 13th July 2006
I am sitting in the priest’s house waiting. The clock on the wall is crawling forward. In a few minutes I will see her. Please let her love me.
Caroline 13th July 2006
I’m here at last! She is beautiful. I belong at last. She looks at me at and utters the six most amazing words I have ever heard – ‘I knew you would come back.’ At last I am home.
When Maggie and Caroline were reunited Julia was suffering from emphysema and other breathing problems. In fact four years previously, Julia’s children were called to the hospital to say their goodbyes. But true to her courageous spirit, she refused to give up. I believe she was waiting for Caroline to come home.
Julia was one of the lucky ones; she met a gentleman who didn’t judge her for her past. They married and had seven more children. But she never forgot her first born. A religious woman she offered up the rosary for all her children every day. Unknown to all, except her husband, there were not seven, but eight rosaries recited every day.
I am humbled in the light of Julia’s faith.
Life is slipping away. Each day brings me closer to God. I am happy to believe that I will be going home to peace. But my heart aches to leave my children behind. God has been so kind to me. Eight healthy children – or should I say pests. But no matter, they have given me so much love and joy, that I can die a happy woman.
Jim, Pat and Joe have many problems but still remain loyal and honest. Megan, Ruby, Maggie and Kate are well settled and in loving relationships.
Caroline is in a relationship and has her own home. I am so proud of them all. What more could a mother want, than to see all her children happy and settled?
Caroline 1st October 2007
The last 16 months have been the happiest of my life. I found the last pieces of the jigsaw of life. I found my mother and a new family. I discovered myself and learned to understand who I am and where I come from. I never belonged to the family that raised me, but I now belong to the family that I never knew.
My real father passed away in 1964, leaving behind a wife and three children. What a tragedy. I do not place any blame on my mother or father. I know too well the life force that cannot be denied.
The only truth I know is that, if we look at nature versus nurture – nature wins every time. I spent a lifetime trying to fit in; it was a waste of time. By virtue of my genetic make up, I belong to the lady that gave me the privilege of life; I am the proudest woman on earth.
Maggie 31st December 2011
Sadly Julia passed away in October 2007. Before she left this world she confided in me. ‘being reunited with Caroline was my greatest wish.’ Her wish has been fulfilled. She now rests at peace with her son Peter, who sadly took his own life in November 2010.
May they all be at peace.