So I don’t know how I got to this place. Somehow in my fourth or fifth month of pregnancy, I gave up my job, shifted out of the place some friends and me shared and came here. I must have booked in ahead of time but I have no memory.
It has big heavy doors right onto the road. Inside it is cold and silent. There is a staircase with polished wooden banisters. Up there is where I sleep – in a cubicle with a curtain. I can hear the other girls as they sleep and I can hear someone going into labour and being taken off to hospital.
Downstairs as you come in, on the right is an office with the lady in charge – Sister B… I don’t see a lot of her. She is the boss. Then there is Sister C… who I think has more to do with the girls. Both ladies conduct the chapel services – daily I think. I think Sister C… taught me to crochet. Someone did, and I still have the pattern book. I made a jacket. On the left as you come in is the chapel. Then I remember the kitchen with a lady who did the cooking and a nursery for the babies. I had an aboriginal baby who I looked after. I think those assigned to the babies fed them at set times. Although I was detached, I felt closeness to this little girl and I still remember her with tenderness. I think I was either induced or I was taken to hospital for that to be done and the labour started itself. As I write I feel sick and frightened. I can’t recall the pain of the birth although I remember women screaming. I remember having a mask put over my face and I remember being cut. Being sliced into by something that felt hot. After it was over, I remember the gross indignity of a man sitting between my tied up legs, sewing me up. It makes me cringe.
My stay in hospital was more than a week. Other women had babies. I had none. I had no entitlement. My baby was not mine and they had taken him. Someone else was going to keep him. I had no right to complain. I lived silently, doing what I was told. Shut down and alone. Somehow I got taken back to the home. Other girls there had seen ‘my baby’. I remember being told how perfect he was and how beautiful and how good and I remember feeling happy about that. Because ‘my baby’ was in the nursery, I wasn’t allowed in there any more. I think I was assigned to the laundry.
I don’t know how long I stayed. I remember being summoned to the office to sign the documents. I know I would have appeared to be quite rational and settled about signing and I would have just done it. I didn’t ever have an opportunity to talk about alternatives. I have no memory of anyone counselling me or helping me. Inside, I did not allow myself to feel anything. I know that part of me well. I still live with it.
I remember going to the nursery door just before I left, pushing the door open and looking in. I didn’t walk in but I saw the steel trolley with ‘my baby’s’ name and I saw the top of his head. His hair was blonde and quite strong and spikey. That is all I ever saw of him. The memory of standing at the door and the vision of the cot and ‘my baby’ with ‘my name’ is very real. Not surprisingly, it is the most detailed solid image I have.
Then there are no more memories until I was on the train coming home and I met a young man and they are memories of me – again behaving in a manner outside myself. Being someone who I wasn’t and behaving in a way I was not comfortable with. One that was destructive to how I wanted to feel about myself.
I ached with the need to be needed but my grief was inconsolable and inaccessible.