by Jenny Molloy
Having a baby, as a young person in care or as a care leaver, is not a time of joy.
Your baby is not seen as a beautiful gift of life. It’s seen as a problem – a big problem.
I got pregnant while still in care, aged 17. I knew that once social services found out, I would move from being the looked-after-child to a pregnant woman who was a potential risk to my baby. Why? Because I was in care.
Automatically, a risk assessment is ordered.
I knew that I was considered to be unable to love my baby ‘right’ due to my childhood trauma and because of, what I later found out when reading my files, ‘attachment issues’.
‘Jenny over identifies with adults from a middle class background and seems unable to identify with people from her own, working class, background. As a result, Jenny struggles to build attachments with like-minded people.’
What does this mean?
Damn right I didn’t want to identify with people who reminded me of my own parents’ impoverished life, devoid of aspiration and dreams. I looked up to and aspired to be like some of the adults who worked with me, who were, as many social workers are, middle class.
Of course, I understand class with the barriers and judgements that can go alongside it far better now, and don’t always associate poverty with class any longer. But, surely, it was far more positive that I found identification with people who did not remind me of my childhood?
‘Girls in care have their babies adopted. Right?’
So, I find myself pregnant, and know from many of the other girls in my kids homes, that girls in care have their babies adopted. Right?
This wasn’t going to happen to my baby, I was determined.
I hatched a plan, I became invisible to anyone who was professional, avoided any discussion about my history and stayed off radar.
My sadness at having to give birth alone, scared and in desperate pain, was deep. The memory of deep loneliness and fear is what I remember from my baby’s birth.
I had avoided antenatal classes, I was not prepared, I had no idea. However, this was, I thought, a small price to pay to keep my baby.
‘If you get told often enough that you are bad, you begin to believe it’
My daughter got pregnant at 16. The saddest thing about this for me was that I carried that judgement through to her. I judged her ability to be a loving and nurturing mum on the basis that I believed that I hadn’t been that. If you get told often enough that you are bad, you begin to believe it.
Luckily, my husband didn’t share the same views and he showed me how we could wrap ourselves around our daughter like a comfort blanket and to stay right by her side, lovingly, until she was ready to go it alone.
Lily, my granddaughter, is five years old, a beautiful, confident and cheeky little five year old, with a mum who is just about to embark on her degree in social work.
Funny what can happen when love is the main component in the relationship, isn’t it?
Jenny Molloy writes more about this and other experiences about her journey through the care system in her new book ‘Neglected: