17 February 2015

17...

Another year has passed and today you are 17. Happy Birthday my beautiful girl. May your day be filled with the knowledge of your family's love and most of all, your Mama's love.

Hoping this is another year closer to when we are together again.

17 February 2014

Sixteen Candles...

Happy 16th Birthday Amber-Rose.

Wishing you a happy day and the knowledge that whatever you feel about me and regardless of what you have been told, I love you very much.

Tonight we will celebrate your day with a 'red velvet' chocolate birthday cake - having never tried one before I hope its yummy!  Your sister and brother are certainly looking forward to it!  Maybe one day we can eat birthday cake together...

Love always,
Your mother 

22 March 2013

Courage of a Nation to look at wrongs as well as accomplishments

Yesterday, March 21 2013, the Prime Minister of Australia, Julia Gillard offered an apology for the forced adoptions that occured in Australia between 1950 - 1970.

It was an amazing moment to witness.

It was also an important speech.

Saying sorry and meaning it, takes courage.  It is easy to offer a flippant apology however that is not what was offered yesterday.  As Ms Gillard said, "As Australians, we are used to celebrating past glories and triumphs, and so we should. We are a great nation.  But we must also be a good nation.  Therefore we must face the negative features of our past without hesitation or reserve."

This is not about blame.  This is about a country looking into its past and saying "Yes, we did do that and it was wrong".  And you know what?  That takes courage.  Strength.  It is never easy to apologise or admit when we have wronged someone but it is a vital part of being a mature adult, a compassionate human being.  Without this ability, we stumble along, hurting others as we go.

Offering this apology was also more than just saying sorry.  It was about acknowledging what was done and saying it was wrong, because it was and is wrong.  Countless people lost their voices and have been treated in an appalling manner by society at large because this issue has been so readily dismissed.  Because it was not recognised as a wrongdoing.  So mothers, fathers, children and other family members were forced to not only endure this trauma but also the trauma of living it alone.  Of knowing if they spoke out, they would be ridiculed and treated abominably.

By acknowledging this wrongdoing, it brings about a sense of freedom.  A freedom to express what was done to us... a freedom to hold our head high and feel validated.

So many people question "Why are you not over this yet?"  or they jeer "Get over it already, stop playing the victim".  These statements are part of the damage.  They are unhelpful.  And they invalidate the suffering of the person who has walked this journey.  Validation is important.  If people want to see healing then they need to uplift, show empathy and allow the voices to be heard without shouting them down, without insulting and basically bullying them.  Because when a voice is closed down, when the person sharing their story is instructed to "get over it" or they are simply not believed, it is only causing more damage and the person causing that damage, is as guilty as the perpetrators of the original crime.

Below, I am including the transcript of the apology and speech by Prime Minister Julia Gillard.  It is powerful in that it validates, acknowledges and recognises a body of people so wronged, silenced and now, given a voice to their suffering.  I share this also because it is my story.  Whilst what happened to me was in New Zealand and in 1998, much of what happened in my case was similar.  And the result was the same.  This apology, although not offered to me, spoke to my core, to the pain and the cold places there that have seen no human warmth in validation for so very long.  Thank you Australia.  Thank you Julia Gillard.

National Apology for Forced Adoptions

THU 21 MARCH 2013

Prime Minister

Canberra

[ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS OMITTED]

In just over an hour’s time, the following words of apology will be moved in the Senate and the House of Representatives:

Today, this Parliament, on behalf of the Australian people, takes responsibility and apologises for the policies and practices that forced the separation of mothers from their babies, which created a lifelong legacy of pain and suffering.

2. We acknowledge the profound effects of these policies and practices on fathers.

3. And we recognise the hurt these actions caused to brothers and sisters, grandparents, partners and extended family members.

4. We deplore the shameful practices that denied you, the mothers, your fundamental rights and responsibilities to love and care for your children. You were not legally or socially acknowledged as their mothers. And you were yourselves deprived of care and support.

5. To you, the mothers who were betrayed by a system that gave you no choice and subjected you to manipulation, mistreatment and malpractice, we apologise.

6. We say sorry to you, the mothers who were denied knowledge of your rights, which meant you could not provide informed consent. You were given false assurances. You were forced to endure the coercion and brutality of practices that were unethical, dishonest and in many cases illegal.

7. We know you have suffered enduring effects from these practices forced upon you by others. For the loss, the grief, the disempowerment, the stigmatisation and the guilt, we say sorry.

8. To each of you who were adopted or removed, who were led to believe your mother had rejected you and who were denied the opportunity to grow up with your family and community of origin and to connect with your culture, we say sorry.

9. We apologise to the sons and daughters who grew up not knowing how much you were wanted and loved.

10. We acknowledge that many of you still experience a constant struggle with identity, uncertainty and loss, and feel a persistent tension between loyalty to one family and yearning for another.

11. To you, the fathers, who were excluded from the lives of your children and deprived of the dignity of recognition on your children’s birth records, we say sorry. We acknowledge your loss and grief.

12. We recognise that the consequences of forced adoption practices continue to resonate through many, many lives. To you, the siblings, grandparents, partners and other family members who have shared in the pain and suffering of your loved ones or who were unable to share their lives, we say sorry.
13. Many are still grieving. Some families will be lost to one another forever. To those of you who face the difficulties of reconnecting with family and establishing on-going relationships, we say sorry.

14. We offer this apology in the hope that it will assist your healing and in order to shine a light on a dark period of our nation’s history.

15. To those who have fought for the truth to be heard, we hear you now. We acknowledge that many of you have suffered in silence for far too long.

16. We are saddened that many others are no longer here to share this moment.  In particular, we remember those affected by these practices who took their own lives. Our profound sympathies go to their families. 

17. To redress the shameful mistakes of the past, we are committed to ensuring that all those affected get the help they need, including access to specialist counselling services and support, the ability to find the truth in freely available records and assistance in reconnecting with lost family.

18. We resolve, as a nation, to do all in our power to make sure these practices are never repeated. In facing future challenges, we will remember the lessons of family separation. Our focus will be on protecting the fundamental rights of children and on the importance of the child’s right to know and be cared for by his or her parents.

19. With profound sadness and remorse, we offer you all our unreserved apology.

This Apology is extended in good faith and deep humility.

It will be a profound act of moral insight by a nation searching its conscience.

It will stand in the name of all Australians as a sign of our willingness to right an old wrong and face a hard truth.

As Australians, we are used to celebrating past glories and triumphs, and so we should.

We are a great nation.

But we must also be a good nation.

Therefore we must face the negative features of our past without hesitation or reserve.

That is why the period since 2008 has been so distinctive – because it has been a moment of healing and accountability in the life of our nation.

For a country, just as for a person, it takes a lot of courage to say we are sorry.

We don’t like to admit we were mistaken or misguided.

Yet this is part of the process of a nation growing up:

Holding the mirror to ourselves and our past, and not flinching from what we see.

What we see in that mirror is deeply shameful and distressing.

A story of suffering and unbearable loss.

But ultimately a story of strength, as those affected by forced adoptions found their voice.

Organised and shared their experiences.

And, by speaking truth to power, brought about the Apology we offer today.

This story had its beginnings in a wrongful belief that women could be separated from their babies and it would all be for the best.
 
Instead these churches and charities, families, medical staff and bureaucrats struck at the most primal and sacred bond there is:  the bond between a mother and her baby.

Those affected by forced adoption came from all walks of life.

From the city or the country.

People who were born here or migrated here and people who are Indigenous Australians.

From different faiths and social classes.

For the most part, the women who lost their babies were young and vulnerable.

They were often pressurised and sometimes even drugged.

They faced so many voices telling them to surrender, even though their own lonely voice shouted from the depths of their being to hold on to the new life they had created.

Too often they did not see their baby’s face.

They couldn’t sooth his first cries.

Never felt her warmth or smelt her skin.

They could not give their own baby a name.

Those babies grew up with other names and in other homes.

Creating a sense of abandonment and loss that sometimes could never be made whole.

Today we will hear the motion moved in the Parliament and many other words spoken by those of us who lead.

But today we also listen to the words and stories of those who have waited so long to be heard.

Like the members of the Reference Group personally affected by forced adoption who I met earlier today.

Lizzy Brew, Katherine Rendell and Christine Cole told me how their children were wrenched away so soon after birth.

How they were denied basic support and advice.

How the removal of their children led to a lifetime of anguish and pain.

Their experiences echo the stories told in the Senate report.

Stories that speak to us with startling power and moral force.

Like Linda Bryant who testified of the devastating moment her baby was taken away:

When I had my child she was removed. All I saw was the top of her head – I knew she had black hair.

So often that brief glimpse was the final time those mothers would ever see their child.

In institutions around Australia, women were made to perform menial labour in kitchens and laundries until their baby arrived.

As Margaret Bishop said:

It felt like a kind of penance.

In recent years, I have occasionally passed what then was the Medindi Maternity Hospital and it generates a deep sadness in me and an odd feeling that it was a Dickensian tale about somebody else.

Margaret McGrath described being confined within the Holy Cross home where life was ‘harsh, punitive and impersonal’.

Yet this was sunny postwar Australia when we were going to the beach and driving our new Holdens and listening to Johnny O’Keefe.

As the time for birth came, their babies would be snatched away before they had even held them in their arms.

Sometimes consent was achieved by forgery or fraud.

Sometimes women signed adoption papers while under the influence of medication.

Most common of all was the bullying arrogance of a society that presumed to know what was best.

Margaret Nonas was told she was selfish.

Linda Ngata was told she was too young and would be a bad mother.

Some mothers returned home to be ostracised and judged.

And despite all the coercion, many mothers were haunted by guilt for having ‘given away’ their child.

Guilt because, in the words of Louise Greenup, they did not ‘buck the system or fight’.

The hurt did not simply last for a few days or weeks.

This was a wound that would not heal. 

Kim Lawrence told the Senate Committee:

The pain never goes away, that we all gave away our babies.  We were told to forget what had happened, but we cannot. It will be with us all our lives.

Carolyn Brown never forgot her son:

I was always looking and wondering if he was alive or dead.  …

From then on every time I saw a baby, a little boy and even a grown up in the street, I would look to see if I could recognise him.

For decades, young mothers grew old haunted by loss.

Silently grieving in our suburbs and towns.

And somewhere, perhaps even close by, their children grew up denied the bond that was their birth-right.

Instead they lived with self-doubt and an uncertain identity.

The feeling, as one child of forced adoption put it, ‘that part of me is missing’.

Some suffered sexual abuse at the hands of their adoptive parents or in state institutions.

Many more endured the cruelty that only children can inflict on their peers:

Your mum’s not your real mum, your real mum didn’t
want you.


Your parents aren’t your real parents, they don’t love you.

Taunts vividly remembered decades later.

For so many children of forced adoption, the scars remain in adult life.

Phil Evans described his life as a:

rollercoaster ride of emotional trauma; indescribable fear; uncertainty; anxiety and self-sabotage in so many ways.

Many others identified the paralysing effect of self-doubt and a fear of abandonment:

It has held me back, stopped me growing and ensured that I have lived a life frozen.

I heard similar stories of disconnection and loss from Leigh Hubbard and Paul Howes today.

The challenges of reconnecting with family.

The struggles with self-identity and self-esteem.

The difficulties with accessing records.

Challenges that even the highest levels of professional success have not been able to assuage or heal.

Neither should we forget the fathers, brothers and sisters, grandparents and other relatives who were also affected as the impact of forced adoption cascaded through each family.

Gary Coles, a father, told me today of the lack of acknowledgment that many fathers have experienced.

How often fathers were ignored at the time of the birth.

How their names were not included on birth certificates.

How the veil of shame and forgetting was cast over their lives too.

My fellow Australians,

No collection of words alone can undo all this damage.

Or make whole the lives and families fractured by forced adoption.

Or give back childhoods that were robbed of joy and laughter.

Or make amends for the Birthdays and Christmases and Mother’s or Father’s Days that only brought a fresh wave of grief and loss.

But by saying sorry we can correct the historical record.

We can declare that these mothers did nothing wrong.

That you loved your children and you always will.

And to the children of forced adoption, we can say that you deserved so much better.

You deserved the chance to know, and love, your mother and father.

We can promise you all that no generation of Australians will suffer the same pain and trauma that you did.

The cruel, immoral practice of forced adoption will have no place in this land any more.

We also pledge resources to match today’s words with actions.

We will provide $5 million to improve access to specialist support and records tracing for those affected by forced adoptions.

And we will work with the states and territories to improve these services.

The Government will also deliver $5 million so that mental health professionals can better assist in caring for those affected by forced adoption.

We will also provide $1.5 million for the National Archives to record the experiences of those affected by forced adoption through a special exhibition.

That way, this chapter in our nation’s history will never again be marginalised or forgotten again.

Today’s historic moment has only been made possible by the bravery of those who came forward to make submissions to the Senate Committee and also of those who couldn’t come forward but who nurtured hope silently in their hearts.

Because of your courage, Australia now knows the truth.

The report prepared so brilliantly by Senator Siewert and the Senate Committee records that truth for all to see.

This was further reinforced by the national consultations that Professor Nahum Mushin and his reference group undertook to draft the national apology.

Their guidance and advice to government on the drafting of the apology have been invaluable.

Any Australian who reads the Senate report or listens to your stories as I have today will be appalled by what was done to you.

They will be shocked by your suffering.

They will be saddened by your loss.

But most of all, they will marvel at your determination to fight for the respect of history.

They will draw strength from your example.

And they will be inspired by the generous spirit in which you receive this Apology.

Because saying ‘Sorry’ is only ever complete when those who are wronged accept it.

Through your courage and grace, the time of neglect is over, and the work of healing can begin.

17 February 2013

15 years on... taking back more power and making a sad day into a day of celebration

Today, February 17, 2013 is Amber-Rose's 15th Birthday.  It seems almost unreal 15 years have passed since she was born... a lifetime ago.

Every year, this day has been about pain, much as it was the day she was born. And I think that is where I took my cues.  When a baby is born, there is supposed to be joy, celebration.  When Amber was born, for her, there was a double whammy.  First the fact she was born 6 weeks premature meant she was not well and so there was fear surrounding whether or not she would make it beyond those initial hours and nights.  Once it was established she would, what followed was not a celebration of her life, but the relentless pressure on me, her mother to give her up so someone else could be a mother.  So what did that mean?  It meant there was no celebration of a life, there were no flowers, no "Welcome to the world", there was simply an atmosphere one would expect following a child's death.

I can remember that very well and I wanted to scream at them, "BUT LOOK AT MY BEAUTIFUL DAUGHTER!!"  She deserved the same celebration of life as any other child who was born.  So it was me who celebrated that with her.  By loving her, nurturing her and spending every minute I could with her.  She was real and living but to many she might as well have been dead.

This atmosphere of grief has permeated every single birthday since.  Her first birthdays were simply awful and those days were written off.  My body went into its own grieving pattern and for the first two - three years, I would have milk come in and an unexpected guest regardless of where I was in my cycle.  Following those years, it was just a day of focusing on the loss and how much pain came with that.  Memories would flood this day and I would curl up and wait for it to pass.  

This day, a day where one celebrates their life with those who love them, became a nightmare, a cause for pain and I dreaded it as so many mothers do.

And yet, this year, this year it is different.  Anger has replaced the pain and determination that this day will no longer be about mourning the loss of her as I have every other day of the year for that.

No, this year I have decided to make it about Celebration.  Celebration of her life.  Celebration that this day cements the fact I am her mother and she is my daughter and no one in this entire universe can change that - pieces of papers and laws be damned. Celebration of her, who she was, is and will be.

From now on, I will celebrate this day because it belongs to her and to some extent, me. It marks a time in history before all the bad happened and as such, is pure.  It was HER day and remains HER day.  Not theirs and it is something they cannot take from me regardless of what they did.

My beautiful girl, I love you so much.  One day I hope we will share this day together and you will know how much you have always been loved.  Until we get to that day, may you know we are here, waiting for you, celebrating YOU and loving YOU.  Happy 15th Birthday.

As always,
Mama xxx

(Picture courtesy of Google images)

10 July 2012

Neverending...

Life for me has been fairly good of late... okay, I have fought to make it good of late.  We are currently in the throes of sorting through our shoebox (what we all call our home) for the move across the ditch.... or New Zealand for those who don't know our slang terms!

Keeping busy has been good, most of the time.  I am getting more done now than I ever thought and I am hoping this move will truly be a great step forward for me personally as well as for our whole family.  I make plans more now, I laugh a lot, I see glimpses of my old self in the mirror.  We were sorting through photographs the other day and I came across a photograph of myself from only 4 years ago and I literally gasped as I saw eyes which held so much pain and so little life.  I am so very happy with how much my life has progressed of late and I don't miss the person I was from that time.

But still... in amongst all that joy I am holding so desperately to, there is the anguish, the pain.  The neverending saga of what adoption does in a person's life no matter how much we fight to live and look at the positives.

I miss Amber.  I miss her a lot. And the latest events which led to my earlier post 'Betrayal' have done much damage.  I cannot disclose what happened so openly here however suffice to say things have been harder.  Mainly because I felt I had been travelling so well and this event came and knocked me right out of the water.  Worse, this person cannot and refuses to accept what they have done is betrayal - neither do they wish to take accountability for their actions and expect others to wear the responsibility for it.  I have withdrawn from this person almost entirely, although right now I have left a partially open door so we can try and talk soon.

I just want a break.  Away from adoption, away from the anguish and the heaviness of it all.  Even with all the great things and the working on looking at all the positives, it remains. All I know is currently my daughter 'hates' me based on the lies and manipulations she has been fed (expected that when the people who took her were liars from the start).

14 years and 5 months into my life sentence... and I just want it to be lifted.  I want to be a normal person who deals with normal things.  Anyone who says dealing with adoption loss (whether it is as an adoptee or a mother) is normal obviously has no idea what it is like.  It is not normal and it should not happen.  It isn't an unpreventable event; it is wholly preventable and mostly unnecessary... and in my case, outright criminal and abusive. Ugh.  Just so over it and exhausted by it's mere presence in our lives.

30 June 2012

Beautiful...


Beautiful

I'd love to look at you. In your eyes. Just once. Once
To see how our eyes are the same. I have have your eyes.
Your hair, your lips, your hopes, your self, your everything.
What force pushed us away? What will bring us back? Anything?
I'll know someday. Is what you carried in your womb still in your heart?
Grwoing. Kicking.
We are connected by more than just blood. Our feelings, our dreams, our souls.
Our connection.
Somewhere. Deep inside, I can feel you. I hear your voice calling me.
Young and breathless.
We are. I dream. Of your face. Laughing. Crying.
Embracing what is so far away.
What I long for. Bringing me salvation in my time of need. A bond.
Never shattered, never replaced.
Only put on hold. To be discovered. I love what you represent.
My being, myself.
I have no photos, no misrepresented images of a mystery.
Why can't I look in the mirror and see.
You. Behind my smile, my hands, my eyes. There you are.
Waiting. To be discovered.
Or are you hiding from the inevitable thing we call lonelines?
Sing to me. I want to hear your voice.
Talk to me. I want to feel your pain.
Listen to me. I am your own.
Hear me. I need. See me. I want to be educated.
Be me. I am you. Dreams of embraces are lost in glass pillows.
Reality. I am not yours to have and hold.
Iron walls. Close in.
You are somewhere, anywhere, nowhere.
I can't see you.
Are you running? Do you dream of me?
Darkness. My, your, our mind.
Plays with my eyes and teaches my heart to fly from pain.
Did you whisper to me at night? Inside you.
Did you rationalise leaving me?
Did you cry on me, in you, when everyone else was asleep?
Dreaming.
Did you look at me? Did you see me?
What were you thinking as they tore me from you? How do you sleep?
Do you sleep?
I don't.
Dreaming of the day your heart.
Your door, your mind, your pain, your eyes, your ears, your arms.
Will open to me and I can call.
Scream. Cry.
Your name.

Mother.

Written by Anonymous - found online 1999

I discovered this poem in 1999 when I first made it online after losing Amber.  The pain in the words - the wondering - it spoke volumes to my heart as it felt like the questions to the answers I had.  I wish I could find who wrote it and if they ever pass by my blog, thank you for articulating the other side so eloquently.

 

20 June 2012

This...

I saw this picture on my wall on Facebook the other day... how apt and perfectly it describes the living with adoption loss... whether for the mother or the adoptee...


I will live my life, hold my head high, and do what I can but the pain and grief of losing my child unnecessarily and by force to adoption will never ease until the day I die.