Note – adoptees have varying opinions on their 2 sets of parents: Mum and Dad – for 43 years, the only parents I knew, provided me with the experience of family. Mother and father – my biological parents, provided me with my genetic material and ethnicity – the essence of who I am and my sense of belonging to a wider family.
Story: I am a late discovery adoptee; I discovered I am adopted through a ‘chance’ meeting with a stranger, rather than through my family who maintained the secret. At 43 I was the last to know.
I was separated from my mother at birth and had no contact with her. For the first weeks of my life, I stayed in the hospital’s nursery for ‘babes for adoption’. After being assessed medically as free from disease and defect and suitable for adoption, I was picked up by my mum and taken home.
I remember vividly the moment I was confronted by the possibility that the adoption process could involve trauma. I was attending a counsellors’ Professional Development workshop on Trauma and raised my hand to ask the question burning within me, quite oblivious to others in the room “you mean my being separated from my mother at birth was trauma?”
It’s the only explanation that makes sense of the difficulties I experience in my life. Yet if I look through support websites and texts on early childhood trauma, I find no mention of separation at birth for adoption as one of the adverse early life experiences of children, or describes the adoptee as a survivor of trauma. It’s an unpalatable concept for the adoption industry.
Trauma continues to be the main issue for me as I deal with being triggered, my thinking brain ambushed by my ‘baby brain’ and the delay in being able to make sense of the event and move forward. My recent writings are about my commitment to analysing, or autopsying recent events that have been traumatic, and to work out a way forward.
How I found out I am adopted
On a fateful day in Sydney I met a woman I knew only as a name, a beneficiary in my dad’s will. My quest was for information regarding my daughter who had died, and my son who has a disability; her agenda, to prove the legitimacy of her legal claim on the estate. ‘Not my concern’ I thought, ‘What’s done is done and it was never about the money’.
We said our farewells and parted. She continued to add morsels of information on their life together. ‘The lady next door said that he had said two of the children were adopted’. This was third hand information but the seed was planted and this information demanded to be proved or disproved.
Letters sent, suspicion grew regarding my Particulars of Birth certificate which did not contain the details of my parents. Research on adoption suggested that people who adopted children were reluctant to talk to the children they had adopted, about their pregnancy and birth.
I tested this on my mum and was astonished by her text book dismissal of my question about her pregnancy and my delivery as “Oh it was all so long ago” but she happily recounted details about the pregnancies of two of her children. My heart sank and all that remained was the letter dispelling or cementing my fear.
In October 1998 I sat in my car across the road from the Whyalla Post Office, opened and read the official letter from the Adoption branch of the Child Welfare Department. It told me the truth about my life: I was adopted. I was forty three years old.