Authors launch new book at PJ’s Sept. 2

Marie with her siblings and mother.
Megan and Marie overlooking the Wicklow Mountains before they found out her mother was still alive.
Megan meeting her cousins.

Could you imagine growing up not knowing who your mother is? Her hug? Her laugh, smile, and even smell? 

The search for a mother and grandmother they had never known led Megan (Wydra) McKercher to Ireland with her mother Marie O’Leary Wydra exactly five years ago this August 27. 

“My mom and I do everything together,” says Megan. “She is a nurse and I run a residential care facility, and just as our mother-daughter relationship grew, it made me so sad to think that she had never known her own mother.” 

“So many things had to fall into place,” Megan explains. “The kindness of strangers had to come into play,” she says. 

Marie, Megan’s mother, was separated from her mother at infancy as a result of forced adoption. In their search, the mother-daughter pair learned some pretty shocking secrets about how pregnancy was handled by the Irish government and the Catholic Church, only decades ago. This historically intriguing aspect of their journey, along with the miracles and characters so to speak it took for them to find the missing piece of their family, is what inspired their book, “I Knew You Were There.”

There will be an event at West Park’s PJ McIntyre’s on Sept. 2 at 6 p.m. to celebrate the launching of the book. 

Marie embracing her mother for the first time in 62 years.

“We actually went on this journey five years ago,” says Megan. “That is why we wanted to launch the book at this time.” She says what truly inspired them to begin their search was watching the film “Philomena,” which also follows a young Irish girl who gives birth out of wedlock and is forced to give her son up for adoption.  

“That really set our souls on fire to search for her birth mother,” she says, referring to the movie. 

“We learned of these mother-baby homes in Ireland. Sadly, there were mass graves found on a site about 10 years ago which really started unleashing stories from these mothers that had children out of wedlock.”  

According to Megan, it was uncovered that the Catholic Church colluded with the Irish Government to sell these babies born outside of marriage to wealthier American and European families. 

Megan says the remains of around 800 babies and children were discovered at one of the mother and baby homes in Tuam, Ireland, approximately a decade ago. “That’s when all these people and stories really started coming out of the woodwork,” says Megan, “because they started finding all these mass graves.” 

“Overall, there were 18 of these sites in Ireland,” she says. “A common thread,” she notes, “was not only did they feel that they were stolen from their mothers but their Irish heritage as well.” 

Deciding to write a book and finding Marie’s mother 

“We didn’t actually think we would find her (Marie’s mother),” says Megan. “And we wouldn’t really have if it wasn’t for the kindness of strangers and DNA tests…” 

Armed with only Marie’s mother’s name, Anastasia O’Leary, Megan says they were able to narrow their search down to five birth certificates. “We’re lucky it wasn’t a very common Irish name,” says Megan, meaning Anastasia. 

What happens next? You’ll just have to read the book! 

Stop by at PJ McIntyre’s Irish Pub, 17119 Lorain Ave., at 6 p.m. on Sept 2 to commemorate the release of the book. 

A Note from Megan: 

Once my mom told me of her longing to know where she came from and who she came from, I made it my mission to help her any way I could. We departed on a journey back to Ireland 5 years ago with our small bits of information and a DNA test linking us to two towns she had cousins. With a bit of luck and angels guiding us every step of the way, we found her, just in time. Marie’s mother took a turn and passed a few months later. We know we lived and witnessed a true miracle. 

There are so many pieces to this story that bring many people joy and hope. We want to reach anyone who has overcome a difficult past or is currently trying to get out on the other side. Marie’s story can inspire everyone! We also want to let people who were adopted or given up for adoption know that there may be a way to connect to their mother/child. Not every story has a happy ending, but this will also give them peace. Lastly, we are excited that we are able to donate a portion of the book proceeds to Providence House, a local non- profit organization, who helps protect abused and neglected babies and children. 

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