Ireland, 1951. You’re unmarried and pregnant. The Sisters of the Sacred Heart have agreed to take you in. And you’re about to learn a lesson you’ll never forget.

June Goulding tells her story of practicing as a midwife in a home for single mothers. It promised no night shift. What she didn’t realise was that after her 12 hour day, she was also the sole person available to the girls who went into labour during the night.

She describes the horror of realisation that she was to offer no pain relief to any of the girls, no stitches, regardless of need, and that only in the most extreme cases was a doctor to be called. The girls were made to perform hard manual labour up to the day they gave birth, on the most meagre diets, and with strict rules against fraternizing with each other, or the nurse.

At every turn they were reminded by the nuns of the sinful state that brought them to their current circumstances. Perhaps the cruelest twist of all, was the practice of requiring them to raise their children until they were three years old, then adopting them out. No woman, regardless of financial or social status, was allowed to keep her child. No information was ever given to the mother, of the fate of her child once it left the home, and the mother was given a false name to use during her confinement.

Jean Goulding, while unable to take on the system controlling the lives of these poor souls, endeavored to offer kindness, and a measure of comfort, during what would surely be terrifying and tragic circumstances for the women involved.

While it is not a brilliantly constructed account, it is certainly a story to make you grateful for the more compassionate practices of today, and caused me to cast a glance at my little ones, and wonder how the mothers survived the pain of giving them up after loving them for three years….

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