Saturday, October 2, 2010

Mum's Unsent Letter

I recently came across a blog titled 'Unsent Letters.' The concept is one that I find interesting! How often have we been told the solution to many disagreements is to put the problem in writing and then to burn the letter? Maybe there are letters that should not be sent.

The following is not one of those letters; my Mother wrote it in 1975. It was addressed to my sister Toni in response to a statement made by Toni regarding her political views. Somehow this letter found its way into my personal papers.

On 19 October 1965, as a 17 year old, I was admitted to the Mater Hospital in North Sydney where I safely delivered a beautiful baby girl. On that day I became an unmarried mother.The following is taken from Mum's letter;

..'has left a scar in my heart and mind that nothing can erase.

Ten years ago, in October this year I turned a deaf ear to a cry of "Mummy, please take us both home" and in my [as I thought] wisdom, I turned a deaf ear to that face, with tears running down both cheeks and two days later she signed away her child and my grandchild. I did not have the courage to "give it a go" as my sister Paul Mum's sister] did with Gregory, and face the barrage of ridicule that would have followed. I try to pretend that I did what I did for Cheryl's future happiness, but deep down I know that it was to preserve the facade of respectability that had been ingrained in us all. I used to condemn Paul's way of life, but now I know that she had the courage I never had. She is now rewarded by the love of a grandson whom she adores and to him "Nanny" is probably the best and most important person in the world. She is so good to him too. He is spoilt rotten, she has not got the tortured mind of wondering where her grandson is and is he happy and do the people who have him love him that I have. I can only say "God take care of the little baby and fold her in your loving arms" on 19 October each year. I can say Happy Birthday darling but she can't hear me. I only hope her new mother will tell her that her birth mother did not give her away because she did not love her but because her Grandmother "thought it best" because she was a widow and 42 years old and was afraid she might get sick and not be able to care for her until she was grown up and just lacked the courage to give it a go. It is easy to be wise after the event but as the years go by the scars get deeper and believe me Toni, the agony of a stroke of a rattan could not be worse than the scars of guilt I'll live with for the rest of my life. I now know I was wrong. How easily we could have made a second mistake 6.5 years ago when WE decided Robyn [now daughter-in-law] could do the same thing. Fortunately, against bitter opposition from my side of the family Glad and Horrie were the wise ones. They used the "right" words "It would kill Dad and me if you gave your baby away Robyn" Glad and Horrie were more fortunate, they had security and proved to be wonderful backstops. I often wonder if they look at Kylie [Garry and Robyn's first born daughter] and wonder what might have been. I thank God every day of my life for their God Given Wisdom.

Toni, there will be unmarried mothers right through civilization but thanks to Bill Hayden [Labor Politician] they are now given a chance to keep their babies in Australia because of the Unmarried Mother's Pension [A Labor Policy] Cheryl could only get $4 per week in 1965 for 6 weeks after the birth and then 50 cents per week endowment for her baby.

When I mentioned to her in Singapore that Lee [Amah] worked hard she said "Mum, I know what it is like to work from daylight till dark for nothing." That was the price paid for the sin of having a baby out of wedlock. She got nothing at all at the hospital at Nelson Bay, except to work all day and help to lay out dead bodies in return for her keep and a shelter to hide her "shame." I keep looking at the wedding ring she wore which she got from Dinny O'Brien [Pawnbroker] and I'll never take it off because it is a reminder of the saddest period of my life [not that I need the ring as a reminder.] I had the tag off the baby's wrist, but Cheryl asked me for it and also her Birth Weight Card. I know I was wrong to see the baby because her beauty made it all the harder to bear when I look at my other grandchildren, but it put the 'crown of thorns' on my head as I already had the cross on my back.

I did not refer to it on the 19th in Singapore and Cheryl said "How come" and I replied "What's the use," but that was not what was in my heart. She said "Between you and Ray I'll never be allowed to forget it." Ray always gave her flowers on 19th October. As Cheryl gets older the scars will get deeper, because that is a fact of life. I just hope she will have enough compassion not to blame me too much for the part I played, because I already have enough guilt of my own.  I've often thought about giving the money I have to Saint Anthony's Home for Unmarried Mothers because it broke my heart to go there when I tried to get Cheryl in, but perhaps my first obligation is to my family.'

Cheryl 1995, after 30 years, I reunited with my daughter Carla giving my Mother the opportunity to make her peace.

You may find this Post appears again as I originally scheduled it for 2nd October @ 1012pm thinking it would show Australian time however, it appears to be 'floating' in cyber space. My apologies.

Love and peace to all.


Kaz said...

Chez what a letter to come across, so happy you did and to know how your mum felt,her aching heart.I am hoping your Mum also got to meet Carla.Thanks for sharing Chez it touch my heart deeply.

Love & Hugs always.Kaz.xo

diane said...

What a letter to find. It is very emotional for me too as I also had a child in 1960 and went through a similar thing, except my mother didn't make me have him adopted, it was my decision but I've always wondered if it was the right decision. It has been hard to cope with at times. I also reunited with my son when he was 30 but it hasn't been easy.

artistdeb said...

What an emotional story you've shared Cheryl. It is a story of love in the end, as we are all doing the best we know at all times. I am so glad to know you have had a chance to know your daughter. Reading your story broadens my own. Thank you - Deb