January 17th, 2021


mother and baby homes

I promise my lj is usually about my life, but is anyone else tracking the stories about the irish mother and baby homes that broke last week? All news is being completely overshadowed by US politics, and I'm finding articles but not discussions and I don't want this to be overlooked.

Ireland has discovered that something 9000 victims died in church-run "mother and baby homes" throughout the 1900s. These were places that families would send their unwed pregnant sisters and daughters. The women had no choice. The care as abysmal, they were subject to abuse. The babies were not cared for. Infant mortality those days was poor anyway, but at these homes estimates say it was 15%. Babies were taken from their mothers and sold into adoption without permission, or if they didn't make it, buried in mass graves.

The attitude was that these women just shouldn't have gotten pregnant in the first place so they gave up any right to well-being. That was the attitude. We've all heard stories of how it was when pregnancy was shameful, but abortion was out of the question. I know these homes were set up in the US, too. The last one in Ireland closed in 1998, that is my lifetime. These women are coming forward. This is recent.

The anti-abortion movement is very concerned with making sure women get their due "consequences" for having sex. I have been reading these stories all week because it's a glaring, disturbing confirmation. These church homes were set up in a society pretending to to be pro-life, but they let the babies die. Healthcare was poor. The new mothers were not allowed contact with their infants except for the bare minimum required to breastfeed. But anyone who's breastfed a baby knows you can't reduce the time, it is constant, for a newborn to thrive they can't be separated from us. A mother who's given birth needs care. We are STILL figuring out how to care for new mothers... and that's even for privileged mothers and wanted babies, and it's taken activism.

Pregnancy takes activism. Women's health care takes activism. Breaking this story required a lot of awareness, and I don't want it swept under the rug because this attitude is not limited to ireland.

"Half The Sky" was the book I read that echos in my mind. Nearly every culture around the globe has a creation story. Similarly, every culture has a story for why women are supposed to suffer and die in childbirth. We use myths and legends as an excuse to torture women, deny medical care, deny reproductive freedom, and this is just one story about the cost.