Giving birth on board a sailing ship on tossing seas had been a terrifying ordeal, but the baby in her arms made it all worthwhile. Taking her first footsteps on land she felt contented for a moment. But not for long.
Once inside the gates of the Cascades Female Factory she would encounter the full disaster of the convict nursery. Here nursing mothers from the ships joined women returned to the Factory to give birth after becoming pregnant while under sentence, an “offence” for which they would be punished by time in the crime class after their babies were weaned. At least they would still be in the Factory and might see their children once a month, while this newly arrived mother would be sent out as an assigned servant as soon as her baby was weaned. She had no choice in the timing: wean the baby at six months and hand it over to another mother still nursing. The weaned babies were the most vulnerable in this dark smelly enclosed space where diarrhoea and dysentery were rife, and so many children died before they reached the age of two or three and could be sent out to the Orphan Schools.