For years after obtaining that information I searched through phone books, made random calls, looked in newspapers and hung around the CURA building in Cork City wondering if I would ever see this person who was my mother but nothing. I continued to visit the nuns and received the same response that they didn’t have anymore information.
I remember one such time, I was told a nun named sister Anthony looked after me in the mother and baby home and she had met my mother. I have a memory of being in the back seat of the car, going up the Bessborough drive and dad slowing down to stop and mum asking sister Anthony to tell me what my mum looked like. She said she looked like me with the same eyes and fair hair. I learned years later that actually my mother never had fair hair but then there were a lot of things I learned later on about the nuns in Bessborough.
My family remained connected to the adoption society in Bessborough. At the time they were part of a panel that helped and gave parents support who were thinking of adopting children. They were very involved with Sister Sarto and I guess they were so grateful they were able to adopt 3 kids, this was their way of giving back to others.
Along with my multiple yearly visits to discover myself, Bessborough hosted sports days and christmas parties for the families and children that were adopted from there. Again as I mentioned earlier, being in Bessborough was the closest thing to my mother, so it was comforting in a way. I would often walk the grounds wondering if I was walking over my mother’s footsteps. I was so troubled really.
I couldn’t switch it off, I couldn’t switch off this feeling of needing to find my mother and find out who I was. I felt isolated in my mind sometimes. I had a teddy bear, he was red and brown/orange, apparently my mother gave me it when I was born. I called him Timmy and I never left him out of my sight. I’ve lost count of the amount of tears Timmy soaked up. Timmy got me through some very low moments.
Where do I start?
I was a child of Bessborough adoption society in Cork, Ireland back in the mid 80’s and let me tell you for the following 20 years after I was born is very interesting…
Like many of you, I grew up wondering who I was and where I was from placing my natural mother, whom I never met on a pedestal. Always wishing and wondering if the grass was truly greener on the other side?
I have memories of starring in the mirror and trying to work out my features and what potential celebrities may be my mother – oh I was so young and naive. I remember sneaking into my adopted parents room and going through their filing cabinet because there was something which was so deep inside me telling me that I needed to know more. The only information I had was scattered brief descriptions from Sister Sarto (Head nun in Bessborough) about my adoption and a very small slip of paper with my given name (allegedly), my weight, my mother’s first name (allegedly), a statement that they thought she may have been married and a descriptive trait of my mother’s which my adopted mother scribbled out because she did not want me to be upset by the fact they (the nuns) considered her manipulative at the time…
I found it hard to believe at the time when other adoptees said they did not want to find their families, I guess I perhaps thought they were having a happier childhood than I. One thing I do not believe is when adopted people say they are not damaged by the experience but then maybe it was just me. I remember as a child always longing for the family I felt was taken away from me. I didn’t have a terrible childhood but I guess I was very much wrapped in cotton wool, in a bubble I guess and my adopted parents were incredibly strict and protective. I found that difficult.
I spent much of my childhood daydreaming and thinking of scenarios in my head. The affair story seemed to pop up frequently but then I guess at that age I couldn’t and wouldn’t have understood for any other reason why a mother would give away her baby.
I would pester my mother constantly to take me to Bessborough to talk to the nuns, to find out information about my mother. Thinking back now, although they were so strict, the pain of my longing for my real mother must have been very difficult for my parents but they loved me and supported me all the same. I felt that going and being in Bessborough was the only connection I had to my real mother and I needed to be there.
On one occasion, I must have been around 7 years old. I asked my mum to go to Bessborough to speak to Sister Sarto. If you are a child of Bessborough you will remember the long drive with the white fence all the way up to the stoney convent building. My body shudders thinking about it now. I was brought into Sister Sarto’s office and I sat in front of her. She took out a paper file and told me the usual information that she always told me BUT she slipped up this time. While reading out what my name was, she reeled it off too quickly and clearly accidently mentioned a name after my given name, a name I had never heard before. I knew that this was special. I remember very innocently asking if that was my name too, to which Sister Sarto replied and said no that’s your surname and then quickly told me that she shouldn’t have disclosed that……