A compelling and perceptive story of adoption, motherhood, love, loss and the search for identity. 1960, Manchester. The Pope has banned Catholics from watching unsafe TV, Kennedy is to run for the US presidency, the government is considering a bill to curb the activities of Teddy Boys and Cliff Richard is the latest heart-throb. Three young Catholic women find themselves pregnant and unmarried. Three hopeful mothers-to-be, approved by the Adoption Society wait for news that will tell them a child is available. Three little girls are born, relinquished and placed with their adoptive families. Trio follows the lives of these mothers and daughters over the ensuing years.
Trio - a new departure - the straight and narrow
‘Staincliffe turns part Marge Piercy, part Rosamunde Pilcher ... a captivating story filled with tears, tragedy, humour, and happiness’
I took a break from writing crime to work on a very different book about adoption, inspired by my own experience. Trio tells the story of three young unmarried Catholic women forced to give up their babies for adoption. Megan, lively and in love with sweetheart Brendan; Caroline, a shy nature-loving girl who fell pregnant on her first date; and secretary Joan whose boss has no intentions of divorcing his wife. It's 1960 when the three little girls are born, relinquished and placed with their adoptive families. Trio follows the lives of these mothers and daughters over the ensuing years. Trio explores the relationships of the adoption triangle with honesty, flair and compassion. At a time when society's understanding of the meaning of the family and family ties is undergoing radical change, this topical book explores the issues of identity, blood relations, love and loss.
There was an incredible amount of interest in the book and fascination with my own adoption story. My birthparents, an Irish couple, had gone on to marry after giving me up, and had seven more children. I had been reunited not only with my birth-mother but also with seven full brothers and sisters. The press release generated coverage in newspapers and magazines here and in Ireland. In January 2003 an Irish television documentary in the Would You Believe series about my adoption and re-union was broadcast amidst keen interest.
Trio is proving popular with readers and was recently selected as a title to read by the Central Manchester Reading Group.
‘Poignant and true to life. I couldn't put it down; I really wanted to know what happened to the characters’
Maureen Crank, MBE, Chief Executive and founder member of After Adoption
Trio is now available in paperback from Fresh Press, my own imprint. For a signed copy at £7.00 (inc. UK p&p) via the website.
‘Stop your noise,’ the nurse said. ‘Remember your dignity.’
She felt like laughing at the reprimand. Dignity? How could this ever be dignified. Lying here with her legs apart and everything leaking and she’d even dirtied the bed. She had been mortified, the smell alerting her to what she’d done. She felt nothing beyond the fist of pain that kept squeezing at her, pulling at her insides, sticking its nails like knives into her spine and bruising her bowels. Making her scream to her God, to her mother. Why have you abandoned me?
The baby inched a little further down the birth canal with the next contraction. One fist was pressed between shoulder and ear, the other tucked under the chin. The ripples of muscle shifted the baby, twisting it a little, squeezing the head, which was cone-shaped from the pressure and from the last couple of weeks spent lodged tight in the cup of bones. As it moved forward the plates of the baby’s skull slid together, reducing the circumference. The baby could still hear the familiar drumbeat that had marked its time in the womb and feel the vibrations that rocked its world. Though the sloshing and roaring of the placenta was more distant now and there were new sounds, fast and high-pitched, that quickened the baby’s heartbeat.
‘Give a good push,’ the nurse said. ‘Push from your bottom.’
She didn’t want to push. She wanted to die instead. To be anywhere or nowhere. Not to be here. If she pushed she would split wide open, bleed to death. She’d rather die before the push than after it. Spare herself more agony. The ring of pain sickened her and she tried to swallow.
‘No,’ she managed.
The nurse tutted at her loudly, cast a look of contempt.
‘It hurts,’ she whimpered. Wanting her mother, wanting a cuddle, someone to gather her close and make it all better.
‘You should have thought of that, shouldn’t you?’ The nurse snapped. ‘I’ve other girls to see to. I can’t spend all night with you. The baby won’t be born by itself you’ll have to push.’
She lay back as the contraction faded, weak, her limbs trembling, eyes closed.
‘I’ll be back in a few minutes. You’re not the only one having a baby, you know. All that fuss.’
She heard the door close. Gave in to sudden hot tears.
Please God, she prayed, help me – please, please help me. She was cold now. Shivering and too weak to reach the blanket folded just so at the bottom of the bed. She felt a roll of nausea, a sour wash in her mouth and throat but nothing came.
I hate you, she cursed the nurse. She was too young for this, barely a woman. She wanted her childhood back. To run home to her mother and show her the pain. Help me.
A fierce contraction tore through her thoughts, catapulting her upright. She tried to press her fingers deep into the flat bones at the base of her back, trying to match the pain with more of her own, but it didn’t help, she couldn’t push deep enough. She would move when the pain stopped. She moaned, her mouth apart, her lips cracked, a long, slow, deep sound. The pain ebbed away. Shakily she pitched forward, shuffling to get where she wanted. Simple movements demanded such concentration, as though nothing was working right anymore. She managed to get on to her hands and knees, facing the end of the bed.
The baby hiccuped twice, its head only a couple of centimeters from the opening. The roaring sound was fading, the drumbeat went on. The baby’s heartbeat speeded up.
Then it came. Relentless, like a log rolling through her, an overwhelming compulsion to push. She was amazed at the power of it. She hadn’t wanted to before, didn’t even know what she was supposed to do, though some of the girls had said you just pretended you were bunged up and going to the toilet, but now it was all happening. Her body knew exactly what to do. She closed her eyes, aware how her breathing had changed; she was panting now like a dog in the sun. Appalled and energised by the sensation, she began to make a curious growling sound deep in her throat. Like a wolf, for heaven’s sake. She felt herself stretching, opening, the unstoppable force bearing down through her and on and on. Then it receded and she hung, quiet, hearing only the harsh stuttering of her breath.
It came again, before she was ready – faster, wilder. She made the noise in her throat, shifted her knees a little further apart, gripped the sheet and wound it tight in her hands. Stretching wider, feeling her mouth stretching too to let the howling out. Feeling the hard, round, solid lump forced through her vagina, gristle against gristle, bone on bone. A stabbing, stinging pain in the midst of it all.
As the baby’s head was born, the upper torso swiveled so that one shoulder presented itself for the next push.
She lowered her head to rest between her arms on the bed. She gazed back but could not see anything beyond the swell of her belly and behind that her knees. Summoning all her strength she pushed herself back up, kneeled higher, steadying herself with one arm she reached back between her legs with the other hand. She felt a thrill of shock as she felt the hot, slippery hair of the baby’s head, the scalp loose and wrinkled under her fingers.
‘Oh God,’ she gasped. ‘Oh, God.’
The next contraction rolled in. She shuffled forward before it built, and clutched at the metal bed frame for leverage. Pushing it to counteract the force. She felt the new friction of the mass forcing its way from her, stretching her body, bursting her open.
The roar she made grew louder and culminated in a gasp as the weight slithered from her with a sucking sound. She knelt, her muscles twitching with spasms, and looked beneath the bridge of her body to where the baby lay. A coil of life, shock of black hair, red skin streaked white, as though it had been dipped in dripping, eyes, nose, mouth. One fist tucked under an ear, as if it was considering something. The other fist moving, waving to and fro. Long, curving cord like something from the abattoir, snaking from its belly.
She looked at the baby.
The baby looked back.
The door swung open.
‘Lie down,’ barked the nurse, ‘you’ll fall, you silly . . .’ She faltered as she neared the bed and saw the infant. ‘You could have crushed it,’ she scolded. ‘What on earth were you thinking of? Turn this way, carefully.’ She issued instructions until the woman was lying on her back again. She raised the baby and slapped it on the bottom. A thin wail cut the air. The woman wanted to cry too. The nurse proceeded to cut and clamp the umbilical cord, wipe the mucus from the baby’s face and wrap the baby in a cloth.
A second nurse came in. A younger one, who had been more sympathetic when she had been admitted. She looked at the baby. ‘A girl,’ she observed. ‘Bless her. Have you got a name?’
‘She’s for adoption,’ the other interrupted.
‘Can I see her?’ the mother asked.
‘You’re not finished yet. You’ve still to deliver the afterbirth. Then you’ll need examining and see if there’s any stitches required. You probably tore yourself leaping around on the bed like that. You’ll need cleaning up and Baby needs to be checked and weighed. Sister will take her to the nursery.’
‘I have a shawl,’ she said, hating the tears in her voice.
‘I’ll take it with her, shall I?’ The younger nurse offered. The simple kindness robbed her of speech. She nodded quickly.
‘In your bag, is it?’ Another nod.
The nurse took the wool-and-silk shawl and the baby and left.
She felt a fresh contraction, leant her head back against the metal bars of the bed, eyes squeezed tight shut, lips compressed. A ring of grief swelling in her throat, choking her. Theresa, she thought, remembering the black pools of the baby’s eyes. That’s her name, Theresa . . .