Australian Formerly Closed-Records Adoptee

Until the closed adoption records were opened in the 1990s, I grew up with a powerful feeling of loneliness, despite having a brother (biological son of adopters) and an adoptive younger sister. Our adoptive status was so taboo that adoption was not even discussed with my sister and I our entire childhood. I had no access to any biological family and was stripped of my entire identity, including my name and forbidden by the State to have any knowledge of my kin, origins, and ancestry. The invention of the World Wide Web in the 1990s coincided with the opening of records to revolutionize my life. When I got my real birth certificate and non-identifying information it was like receiving an "identi-kit," which fundamentally changed my identity: I had to relive my entire childhood with this new information informing all my memories and changing my entire past. No wonder so many adoptees had breakdowns when they were allowed access to the truth about who they were.

My story begins in Sydney, Australia where I was taken from my mother in 1972 because I was born out of wedlock. Her breasts were bound for three days while my hospital records record me screaming for her in another room, refusing food and sleep. Ironically, we were sent to the Catholic Unmarried Mothers Home in the same taxi, but after this, I never saw her again until reunion when I was in my 20s. As a teenager, I would often seek refuge in the back seat of my car and sob. I believe this was because of the unconscious memory of my loss.

My reunion lasted for about 20 years until the birth of my first child. I could no longer continue to humor my biological family, in the way that I had been forced to humor my adoptive family my entire life, that adoption was something in my best interests. My biological family needs to believe that they sacrificed to give me a better life and therefore they cannot hear the truth about the trauma it actually causes to the adoptee. I am tired of protecting the adults in my life and now have children who deserve my attention. My biological father is a thoracic surgeon who refuses to have contact with me, accused me of "invading his privacy" and who obviously thinks of himself as merely some kind of sperm donor despite having had a four-year relationship with my mother in his early 20s. Did my parents start off selfish and that is why they abandoned me? Or is it because of their abandonment of me that they have developed into selfish adults? This is a constant question in my mind.

I do not regret reunion with my mother in any way: now I know the truth of my family, I have extensive family trees on both sides of my family due to Ancestry.com and DNA testing and the luck of having distant relatives who have already compiled the trees. For the first time in my life I know who I am and can understand how traumas, patriarchal and religious bigotries, convict transportation and emigration, wars and suffering in my family history enabled the cruelty that was enacted on me by my own family and a wider society who forced and endorsed neonatal removal from unwed mothers.

I was adopted by a loving and loyal Catholic family who funded my education and did not abandon me even when I became extremely distant (and perhaps even hostile).

Growing up in a house full of strangers, with people who seem nothing like you is one of the hardest things you could ever do. Children are narcissistic and believe themselves responsible when bad things happen to them. As a consequence, I thought that I was being punished for something. My first powerful emotion that I remember was shame. To expect a child to be "grateful" for this is extraordinary. You must play a role and try to fit in, suppress your natural inclinations because they are so different. 

overcoming odds

I wouldn’t say that I encountered challenging “moments”, but rather that I am in a constant state of the challenge by a society which endorses neonate removal for adoption and surrogacy and deliberately turns a blind eye to the cruelty of this.

Today, in my forties, I have achieved some level of happiness. With my husband, I have created my own family and for the very first time in my life, I have long-term healthy relationships with people who are actually related to me – with people who are just like me – my children. Combined with these first real connections with kin, my work as an anti-adoption and anti-surrogacy activist gives me satisfaction in knowing that my experience of the loss of my gestational mother has produced at least one good thing: the education of other people about the trauma of maternal-neonate separation and the commodification of babies that is inherent in adoption and surrogacy markets. One day the "penny will drop" for the wider public and the needs, desires and rights of neonates to remain on the bodies of their mothers and be raised by her will be respected and protected and only ever overridden in cases of necessary child protection. One day all forms of surrogacy will be outlawed and adoption reformed so it will no longer be recognizable as adoption as it stands today: with its closed records (still in some countries like the US); its disinheritance; its veto and non-contact provisions; its paper orphans; its difficulty or impossibility in searching its difficulty or impossibility of discharging; its replacement birth certificates; its complete lack of monitoring of child welfare after adoption; its exploitation; its trauma; its abuse, murder and suicide and complete lack of research and statistics to record these things.

My work is hindered by time and money only – it is volunteer work that consumes my life. But I am driven by the truth. The Australian Adoptee Rights Action Group has produced a video and I have published on the ethics of both adoption and surrogacy.


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