The heartache of losing a child through death must be unimaginably painful. For women who have had their children taken by social services the terrible pain is no less intense. They long for their children. They miss their children. They feel a suffocating loss, but often compounding this is shame. These mothers carry the judgment that no woman would ever wish society to make against them – ‘you are unfit to be a mother’. As a woman this may very well be the ultimate stigma.

Most people have no understanding or even compassion for a woman who loses her child because a court has ordered her child to be taken away. They must have deserved it. They should have changed. Right?

What I discovered as a barrister specialising in Family Law was that these were women who had experienced great trauma in their lives. Many were let down by organisations and professionals in their early lives and had very little friendships or support around them. Often they experienced control by abusive partners who stripped them of their worth and dignity. Is it any wonder that they found themselves struggling to parent, let alone flourish as a woman?

My experience at court would invariably involve looking at the woman’s background. This would be highlighted as ‘facts and reasons’ that she should not parent. How many times did I read, “She was sexually abused”, “Her childhood was one of serious neglect”, “She grew up in a home where there was domestic violence”, “She was taken into care”, “She experienced violence and abuse at home”, She began experimenting