It is 4am here in California, but being roused from my slumber for this news is worth the lost sleep. Women have been losing sleep over this issue for years, stifled in heartbreaking silence over the loss of their children. Alice Perman of Ronachan Films has done more than produce a documentary on the subject of forced adoptions, she has aided a movement which has finally been granted an apology by the Catholic Church. There is more work to be done, more stories to be told, more hearts to be mended. But when ITV’s “Britain’s Adoption Scandal: Breaking the Silence” airs on November 9th I’ll be among the sleepless women watching teary eyed as this long hidden history sheds another layer to be revealed to the greater public. Kudos to Alice and to the many women who have worked tirelessly for this acknowledgment and apology. I honor you and feel blessed to have played my small part.
I have recently undergone a transformation, and have been debating whether to share it here. But it has given me such new perspective on so much of my research that I’ve decided it fits here, it makes sense here, and I hope you will indulge my desire to share. I’ve joined the tribe of motherhood. My son, Dashiell, is just four-months-old now. His presence – from the moment his life took shape inside my womb, through those nine-months of constant awareness that I was carrying this little person around in me, to the moment he entered the world, and every day in between – his presence, has changed how I see everything. Relationships I’ve had a lifetime take on new light. Interactions with friends and strangers, have a different hue. My sense of self, of being in this world, has a completely new tenor. And my research, this research that is so close to my heart, now has a new lens with which to be viewed.
Every woman that I interviewed for this project is a mother. Those that kept their children, those that lost their children, those that had other children later in life, those that didn’t. They all are mothers. I am so glad I had the opportunity to interview them before my own transition into this tribe. Because I could approach the subject with wonder, with the untainted curiosity of someone from a different tribe. Details of pregnancy, of childbirth, of separation – all of these were a foreign land that I could delve into with no experience of my own to impact my perspective.
Now, I have been on this journey. A different journey, a unique journey – as we all have had. One of privilege, the privilege of choosing to get pregnant, the privilege of being ‘older’ and therefore have a better understanding of what the process looked like, and most exceptionally in this context, the privilege of keeping my child. Of holding him to my chest and watching him grow from the moment he entered this world. And that privilege, has given me a deeper understanding of the hardship of each of the women who endured an unexpected pregnancy, a (sometimes forced) confinement, the childbirth practices of the 1960s for unmarried women, and the unimaginable hurt of losing a child. This new perspective on my research is still something I’m teasing out, exploring in the quiet moments as I look at my son and think of the many women and children impacted by the history of mother and baby homes. But for now, what I can say, is that my respect for the difficult decision each of these women made has grown deeper, my empathy for their journey has grown richer, and I wish only to continue honouring this often hidden history by revealing it to the larger public.
For the moment, I will simply introduce you to my new favorite person – Dashiell Elon Bell, born on March 19th, 2016.
He has reintroduced me to all of you in new and unexpected ways.
Thank you, again, for entrusting me with your stories. With your histories. With the intimate hurts and loves you have endured. I honour you.
I have been in touch with Ronachan Films, which has been commissioned by ITV in the UK to produce a documentary exploring child adoption in the UK from post war until the early 1980s. The film is due for broadcast in the summer of 2016.
The one-hour documentary will examine the changing attitudes to single motherhood in the second half of the Twentieth Century, when tens of thousands of babies born to unmarried mothers were placed for adoption with British couples.
As part of their film they are in need of any photographs or moving images of Mother and Baby Homes. If you have any of these that you would be willing to share please find their contact information below!
The production team would be grateful for your help in finding professional and personal photographs and moving images of Mother & Baby homes during the 1950s, 60s and 70s.
If you are interested in contacting the production team, please contact Alice and Rory at firstname.lastname@example.org
I have been woefully absent from these pages for some time. For that, I apologize. The subject matter has been no less present in my thoughts, merely my availability to give it energy has been tapped by the day-to-day demands of life. I have moved back to California. I have been working full time. Moving. Living. But I am still here. I continue to get messages, and emails from women who have been impacted by Mother and Baby Homes. From curious researchers, inspired production companies, interested students. This thread between myself and the women who were impacted by Mother and Baby Homes has not disappeared. We are still linked, I have just been on something of a sabbatical. But I can feel that sabbatical drawing to a close, and my energy slowly turning back towards the topic at hand. Back towards the Homes. Back towards the women. Their babies. Their grown children. Out in the world, needing to know more. Needing to connect to each other. Needing to connect to their own experiences. To contextualize and contemplate what the impact of these Homes has been to themselves, their children, and the world around them.
I have a few ideas on where I want to go with the research. What I want to pursue next. What I’m curious to know, and share, and uncover. I would like to accumulate more imagery from the homes, the women and their children. I would like to flesh out the stories of some of the individual homes. I would like to highlight the experiences of some specific women. I would like to consider the lives of their children.
However, I would also like to hear from you. What are you curious to know? What would you like to read more about? See more of? Who would you like to hear from? Please leave a comment below to let me know so that this can be a dialog, not a lecture. That is my goal. That is the goal of oral history. To create a dialogue. With you.