A heart-breaking story around a young teenage mother in 1970s Ireland who lost her baby boy to adoption will air on IRISH TV this week.

Sligo mother Maria Hayes recalls the painful details of having to part with her beautiful baby boy to give him up for adoption and the long-lasting impacts the separation had on her life.

Speaking to Claire Ronan on Sligo County Matters, Maria recalls feeling sick over the Christmas of 1976 and going to the doctor, who examined her and announced she was six or seven months pregnant.

“I could not believe what he was saying to me, even though I probably knew but I didn’t know until it was said to me. I remember him calling my mother in and saying to her, your daughter is pregnant. That’s when my story started.”

Maria recalls being put in the car and brought to Galway to live with a lady she knew briefly.

“It would have been a case of, what do the neighbours think; that’s the way it was back then. Out of sight out of mind was the thinking. That journey to Galway, I remember every bump and every corner on the route.  I’ve often taken it since and the memories still hit me.”

claire-ronan  maria-hayes-4 maria-hayes-5 maria-hayes maria-hayes-2 maria-hayes-3claire-ronan-sligo-county-mattersdanu-support-group-for-birth-mothers

After three months living with the woman Maria was admitted to hospital to have her baby.

“I was induced and I remember letting the doctor know how uncomfortable it was and his reply back to me was – you didn’t shout like this when you were having intercourse. That has always stuck with me. You don’t forget those things; they stay with you, like if you cut your finger.”

Eventually Maria gave birth to her son but did not get to see him until the day she left hospital.

“I got to hold him for a minute and I whispered in his ear, I’m going to come and find you – and I walked away.”

Because there was a delay in her friend coming to take her home Maria remembers standing in the long corridor all day looking down towards the baby unit.

“It was running through my head, you can go down there Maria, he’s your baby, you can take him home with you if you want. But yet that power was still holding me back; you have no place to go, you have no way of minding him, you don’t have any money to take care of him, you can’t bring the shame back home, so you’re going to have to leave him there.”

She spent the day in torture before finally her friend arrived.

“It was never spoken about, never ever spoken about again. I started doing counselling for myself because I couldn’t understand this emptiness that I was feeling. I did go on and got married and had my children in my marriage. You know each one of my children is so precious but you’re still missing your first born. You’re looking for this little face that you whispered in to the ear of, telling them that you’ll find him; That little person was missing out of my life and I needed to find that person, to complete what I was feeling, that emptiness.”

Thankfully there is a happy ending of a kind to the story as Maria recounts reuniting with her son as a young man. She did however seek out counselling to help her through the loss of her child to adoption through the organisation Danú, which she recommends as a support group to others who may also have walked around with a similar secret for years and years.

“I searched for a group where I could tell my story in an environment I felt safe in. I found it in 2007. We all had this one thing in common, we were all birth mothers.”

Maria found such sustenance in the group she now wants to get the message out to other birth mothers who may have also had to live through shame and secrecy and a sense of emptiness over the years.

See the full interview with Maria Hayes on Sligo County Matters Tuesday 18th October at 6.30pm.

The Danú Birth Mothers Group Sligo was set up in Sligo in 2005 to support mothers who have lost a child through adoption. Below is an excerpt from an information leaflet from the group. Please see the website for more. http://birthmothersgroup.com/

Danú – Information leaflet for birth mothers

Your pregnancy was most likely unplanned and represented a crisis in your life. You may or may not have shared the experience with family members. If you did discuss it with others, you may have been advised that your child would benefit from being raised in a stable, two-parent family and that you would be acting sensibly and unselfishly by agreeing for your child to be adopted. Allowing your child to be adopted was probably presented to you as a way to show your love for your child.

You may have also been told that you would be bringing happiness to a couple who were unable to have children. It may be that you desperately wanted to raise your child but you had no financial support with which to achieve that goal. You may have been very young or felt quite powerless and the decisions about your child’s future may have been taken out of your hands. You may have felt inadequate as a mother or may not have wanted your child raised within your own family, if you, yourself, had not experienced a happy and secure childhood. You have may have hoped that your child was raised in a stable home with loving dedicated adoptive parents who accepted and loved your child unconditionally.

The impact of the loss of your child

At the time of your child’s adoption you were probably told that you could expect to recover from the experience quickly and that it need not have a negative impact on your life. In fact, research shows that for the majority of mothers who have lost children through adoption, the sadness resulting from this event has been long lasting. Many mothers kept their pregnancy a secret. Others did not, but they did not share the information with new people who entered their lives after the adoption of their child. Some did not tell subsequent partners or children. Secrecy has been a major issue for many mothers. Whether or not the pregnancy was a secret, it was rare for mothers to be encouraged to talk about their lost children. You were probably told that it would be the best for you to forget your child and go on with your life as if the child had never been born.

For those who knew about your child, they may have assumed that as you did not discuss the subject, it no longer concerned you. Because it appeared to others that you had chosen for your child to be adopted, they usually did not understand that you may have suffered greatly as a result of the separation from your child. You most likely did not receive any gifts, flowers or support when your child was born. The loss and grief that you experienced as a result of placing your child for adoption was also not recognized, this lack of support and care that you experienced would not have happened if you had bereavement. This lack of public acknowledgement may have contributed to your grieving process being delayed. For many years you may have denied, to yourself and perhaps to others that this child existed. However, there will have been frequent reminders, such as your child’s birthday, the births of other children, Mother’s Day and other times of loss in your life. You may have continued your relationship with your child’s father and had subsequent children or you may have had no subsequent children and have lost your only child through adoption. Perhaps you lost more than one child by adoption. Your thoughts about your lost child may have been complicated by feelings of guilt and shame, depending on the values and beliefs which influenced your behaviour at the time of the birth. For many years you may have felt that you were not being your true self as you hid your emotions. This may have given you a low sense of your own 3 value as a person.

IRISH TV can be viewed on Sky 191; Freesat 400; Free to Air and www.Irishtv.com 

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