…there was…well.. nothing. This is the story of creation in the bible. I have just realised..with no small amount of wry humour, that this could also be my story.
The very earliest I knew of myself when I was small, was that I didn’t exist, and then I did. Unlike most individuals when they’re born, they have an ready made ancestory pool to look back to. I did not. I just arrived, like the proverbial baby the stork carried, or the “cabbage patch” kid …sigh. one minute I was not, and then I well…was. at least that’s the view you have when you’re a kid. No pregnancy stories, nothing. I have to tell you it’s really confusing…all this before I knew I was adopted.
Looking back as an an adult…and with the benefit of some added knowledge…it isn’t really a great deal more comforting…
What I found out through researching was this. In 1968, the year I was adopted, adoption was commonplace, encouraged (I use this term loosely) for single mothers by the government policies of the day, and viewed as “the best thing for a child” by generally anyone that you would speak to in that time – a mechanism for “giving a child a better life”
My understanding subsequently is that this was, in Australia (where I live), a time without a single mothers pension, and a time of what is called “forced adoption” which to my best understanding went through to 1974 when the adoption laws were changed.
I’m not here to write on social justice and equity, although, in this respect, I could I suppose. My point is, this is my best understanding of the social and political context at that time. Girls out of wedlock gave up their babies out of shame and necessity… they after all, had no way to support their offspring.
I was born in Ashford hospital in the summer of 1968. Other children have birth photos on the wall and in frames, I do not. Born in Ashford community Hospital, with hip dysplasia, placed in plaster cast, then onto “Torrens House” until six, nearly seven months of age. Torrens House was a place run with a strict religious ideology/ ethos that was enshrined in governing policies and procedures at that time.
Of course a child so small doesn’t consciously remember any of this time… it’s probably just as well. My understanding is that babies were given nourishment, hygiene cares, however, Im not sure how much ” cuddle” love tenderness time these babies would have received, given the political and social agendas that prevailed, and the strong social stigmas that were attached to these children. Looking back now many years later, we all know now how important caring warm human touch is for an infant, and how vital that bond is for healthy brain development.
In 1968, most girls who became pregnant were as I said previously, “strongly encouraged” to give up their child. The pressure not only came through lack of social security and therefore financial means to singularly support a child, as a woman. Moreover, the pressure manifested more discreetly by baleful looks at a girls pregnant belly, the judgement, and behind the hands conversations of passers by…the social stigmas attached. This was magnified greatly I strongly suspect in The more rural locations…where everyone knows everyone anyway ie a small town.
Looking back at an “adoption report” that came out recently, of the children who were adopted in South Australia, the highest level of adoptions occurred and hit their peak in the year of 1968. I’m not sure what the significance of this is, perhaps I could research further. However, it would be fair to say that by the mid 1970s society had “changed and mellowed somewhat in their views to both babies born out of wedlock – to coin the old phrase, and the women that were the mothers to the little ones. Society and culture were changing very very slowly at first – with old views and stereotypes challenged initially one by one, with a reprieve in between for the old society to catch up and “get used” to new ideas. Then decades later, with ever increasing velocity to the current time, when change is always present, and reasonably well accepted, by mostly everyone as a reminder of life that keeps moving and evolving.
Adoption in polite society (read old society), was in 1968 a relatively “dirty” word, due to the political climate, stigmas, and I suppose I must say “christianity” to a degree. There was an awful lot of “fire and brimstone” recriminations, and “Hell talk” that was circulating via the religious aspect of society, all directed at the “pregnant unwed Mothers” and sometimes towards the “adopted children” Believe me, when I tell you, I have heard it all. I have to say, that to “adopt” a child in this culture must have presented some pretty unique societal challenges as well from this perspective, for those famillies whose background is more religious.
So it was that I was born into the world at that time in history, and, for younger readers, It is important to understand the culture and ideas that predominated that time. As the culture and society, and doctrine (if applicable), forms the basis of the lens through which we as individuals view the world – our context. It is this context around which we form our personal views, and how we then relate to the world, and the people in it.
I’m still not sure exactly when I was adopted. I’m not sure how that worked. Was it like picking up a puppy from the pound? I’m really not sure. I do know there were a multitude of babies to choose from. I wonder what happened to those not chosen? Orphanage? I really don’t know if all the children were eventually placed (I hope so), or even if the parent vetting process was robust, or If there was a process really at all – way back when. This is a pretty scary thought when you put the potential for child molesters, murderers etc., into the equation.
At some point in my first six or so months of life, I was adopted by a Christian couple who lived in a small rural town.
This brings me to… “the silence” the reason I don’t know about the process etc is because I have never asked. Why is this you wonder? It is because in some families where the child or children are adopted, there is an unwritten rule that “you don’t talk about it (the adoption)”. This means nothing is ever said, and you grow up completely ignorant and wondering. Moreover, there is a definate understanding, even from a young age, that it is “something we dont talk about” in the home, and absolutely never in polite society. In all fairness to my adoptive family, this was quite a common occurrence in that time, is my understanding. Equally reasonable is it to conclude that they likely had limited information themselves, again being a time when adoption was “hush hush” and were more secret and behind closed doors.
My adoptive parents could not have children and so adopted me. I had blonde hair as a baby, and the whitest of white skin. I only know so because photos of me as I was months later at home, showed me so. I don’t think I was pre-term as an infant – a good weight. The only stipulation my birth mother had wanted (apparently, and I don’t know how I know this by the way), was that I be raised Catholic. I wasn’t in the end, but still mainstream Christian – Lutheran to be exact.
My understanding now is that when I went “home” my adoptive maternal Grandmother didnt accept me well at first, this my adoptive mother told me many years later, and came out in a teenage argument I think. It hurt.
However, I don’t have any personal memories of course, and as I said, things were kept very very quiet…taboo, unspoken. My earliest memory would be when I was just over three…