forced

Wearing my mask

Not talking about a baby being lost to adoption is a bad idea but it was my way of coping for too many years.  When a mother loses her baby to miscarriage, stillborn, or genetic condition people can be supportive even though they don’t understand the (personal) loss.  Of course today there are different charities that offer support which is priceless.  One of our nieces and nephew-in-law lost their second child to Trisomy 18 (Edward’s Syndrome) when she was a day old.  They were well looked after by their midwife and ARC but it doesn’t make the loss any easier.  They were given a card with their daughter’s hands and feet imprints on it.   They also received a teddy bear with the name of another baby’s name on it and one day parents will receive a teddy bear with their daughter’s name on it.

When it comes to adoption people think it’s wonderful, farting unicorns and in the child’s best interests.   In reality, it isn’t and unless the child is at real risk of any type of abuse it’s better to keep the child with his or her mother/father.  If the parents die then special guardianship with the child’s family member is the next best thing otherwise with another guardian. I am not completely anti-adoption as there are other ways a child can be raised in safety and retain their name.

What people don’t understand is that when a mother is forced to let her baby be adopted it is loss and the mother suffers for the rest of her life.  Her baby is still alive but she will never raise her child.  It is a different type of loss to mothers whose babies have died but the result is the same both types of mothers never get over it and just learn to live with the loss.

I lived too many years hiding my pain as I was never offered any counselling so I put on an act.  Eventually, I did find my son without actively searching for him when he had just turned 23 years old on Genes Reunited.  The rage and pain I actively controlled came out finally but I still mourn the loss of my baby, I will never get him back.   My son was shocked I found him without actively searching and had been searching for 5 years.  He found my family but at that time my family didn’t know where I was due to a massive argument I’d had with my sister and by this time we had moved.  My son was hurt that my parents hadn’t told me they had contact with him for two years when I got back in touch with them.  There was absolutely no good reason why they didn’t tell me and the poor excuse was they didn’t know if my husband knew about him.  My sister told me they didn’t know where I was so I don’t know what they were telling her – I didn’t have contact with her for 12 years.  I didn’t want to fall out with her again as we have got on better since our dad died.

My son and I don’t talk now.  We both made mistakes but he won’t accept he was just as much to blame as me when we had disagreements.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Women urged to speak out in Victorian historical forced adoptions inquiry

https://www.thesenior.com.au/story/6779595/ill-never-forget-living-with-the-scars-of-forced-adoption/?cs=6776

Women urged to speak out in Victorian historical forced adoptions inquiry

Geraldine Cardozo

Geraldine Cardozo

Barbara Pendrey with her dog Ella. She hopes sharing her story of forced adoption will encourage other women to speak out.

Barbara Pendrey with her dog Ella. She hopes sharing her story of forced adoption will encourage other women to speak out.

Drugged, with her arms and legs restrained, Tasmanian Barbara Pendrey will never forget the day her newborn son was taken from her.  It was January 1966. Alone and frightened, the 16-year-old lay on the bed in labour for hours in Melbourne’s Jessie McPherson Hospital before giving birth to a child she would not get to raise.  “I was drugged to the point I did not deliver my baby in a natural way,” Mrs. Pendrey told The Senior. “He was taken from my body.”

Mrs Pendrey was just 15 when she found out she was six months’ pregnant. In December 1965 her family sent her away to the Presbyterian Babies Home for unmarried mothers in east Melbourne more than 400kms from her home in Lower Barrington for the last weeks of her pregnancy.  She is one of the thousands of women across Australia who were young or unmarried whose babies were taken for adoption by force or through coercion – a practice common throughout the 1950s and 60s and up until to 1980s.

Barbara Pendrey, photographed here as a bridesmaid in July 1966, was 15 years old and unknowingly three months pregnant. Photo: Supplied

Barbara Pendrey, photographed here as a bridesmaid in July 1966, was 15 years old and unknowingly three months pregnant. Photo: Supplied

Now Mrs. Pendrey is one of several women sharing her experience as part of a Victorian inquiry into responses to historically forced adoptions in the state.  The inquiry is a chance to give people affected by forced adoption the opportunity to tell their stories and consider the best way to respond to harm caused by forced adoption.  In her submission to the inquiry, Mrs. Pendrey details how she was bound during the birth. “We were treated like animals, there for them to take our babies and give them to someone else,” she said.

“When I heard the baby cry, I twisted to look at a clock and couldn’t move”. It is this, she said, which damaged her wrist and has left her with permanent pains in her arms and legs. “I have been told the body doesn’t forget.  I remember feeling so out of control it was like people who didn’t know me or care, were making huge demands on me. Just being told what to do, like I wasn’t even human or didn’t have feelings. I so wanted to take my baby home with me.”

Instead, they took him off her. “Something so precious. They didn’t treat me as a person with emotions and feelings. This little baby grew inside me. He was my baby, my beautiful baby boy who I never saw.”

More than five decades on, the horrific ordeal has left Mrs. Pendrey with enduring physical and emotional scars including post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic fatigue syndrome and medical bills running into the thousands.  And for Mrs. Pendrey, like many other women, getting hold of hospital records from that time has been difficult.

Barbara Pendrey hopes in sharing her story, it will encourage other women to come forward and help bury the shame associated with forced adoption.

Barbara Pendrey hopes in sharing her story, it will encourage other women to come forward and help bury the shame associated with forced adoption. She is calling for hospital records to be made available so she can understand what happened, and what drugs she was given and for how long. Despite writing to many places, Mrs. Pendrey is yet to get hold of her files and said she can’t move forward until this happens. “If the Government knows where they are, they should be released.”

The Victorian inquiry comes after various state governments, including Tasmania and Victoria, issued formal apologies to the victims of forced adoption in 2012. This followed a recommendation from a 2012 Commonwealth Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs report on the Commonwealth Contribution to Former Forced Adoption Policies and PracticesThe resulting senate inquiry in 2012 documented forced adoption policies and practices across Australia drawing on the personal accounts and professional perspectives from 418 written submissions and community hearings in every capital city except Darwin.  Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard then delivered a national apology in 2013.  Mrs. Pendrey was one of the women who gave a submission to the senate inquiry. She hopes that in sharing her story again, it will encourage other women to come forward and help bury the shame associated with forced adoption.  “I’ll never forget when the church minister arrived to give me ‘counselling’. He said: ‘Now you’ve been a naughty girl – don’t do it again’.  The shame of this ‘counselling’ has left me with so many issues.  I want these women to know: you didn’t do anything wrong. Don’t allow the people who did this leave you with guilt and a lack of self-esteem. Write into the inquiry put the words in writing, cry a little or a lot, make a statement. Be brave, it will make you feel strong.”

‘The last opportunity’

In its submission to the inquiry, not-for-profit post-adoption search and support services organisation VANISH said as mothers and adopted people from the forced adoption era steadily age, the inquiry may be the “last real opportunity to provide meaningful redress for past adoption practices”.

VANISH manager Charlotte Smith said many of the 2012 senate inquiry recommendations have not been implemented, including a redress scheme and the provision of counselling services.  VANISH is calling for a “sensitive” redress scheme which includes the removal of the statute of limitations so the responsible institutions can be taken to court.  “The separation of a mother and her infant is a traumatic loss for both and can be for the father too. Yet this trauma often went untreated and the grief and loss unrecognised and unmourned,” said Ms. Smith.  She said in many cases, mothers whose babies were adopted without their informed consent have not spoken to anyone about their son or daughter who was adopted. “They might feel nobody would understand, or that they cannot bear to revisit the distress they experienced,” she said.

“This traumatic event and loss completely changed the trajectory of some mothers, and fathers’ lives. Their relationships were broken up, their education halted, their self-esteem crushed. Their plans to marry, have a career, have children were shattered, and some now have few social or family connections, struggle financially, and suffer from anxiety, depression, or other issues.”

She said adopted people also experience grief about the loss of their mother and father, their loss of identity, of belonging, and of being around people like them.   “This loss is often overlooked and they are expected to be happy and grateful about their adoption. It can be very distressing for adopted people to find out that their adoption was forced and that they were wanted.”

It is her hope that through the inquiry, mothers and fathers who were separated from their babies and adopted adults will find out that they are not alone and that there is specialist support available.  VANISH hopes that this inquiry will establish the truth of what happened and the devastating lifelong impacts on those who suffered such cruelty at the hands of people they should have been able to trust.  We hope that the victims and survivors of these unethical and sometimes criminal practices will be told ‘we believe you, it was wrong, it was not your fault, we are truly sorry’ and the institutions involved take full responsibility and focus on restoration.”

Final call for submissions

Individuals and organisations have until June 26 to make submissions to Victoria’s Legislative Assembly’s Legal and Social Issues Committee on responses to historically forced adoptions in Victoria.  Committee chair Natalie Suleyman said she wants to ensure anyone who has been affected by forced adoptions can have their say.  The inquiry is exploring support services and responses provided to the people in our community who endured the past policies and practices of forced adoption going back several decades.  With all that has happened over the past few months, we wanted to give community members a final opportunity to share their experiences and views with the Committee before we move to public hearings in the second half of this year,” Ms. Suleyman said.

“The terms of reference for this inquiry are broad, so the Committee will consider all issues raised by community members who make submissions and present at public hearings.”

The terms of reference for the inquiry and details on how to make a submission are available from the Committee’s website.

  • VANISH 1300-826-474 or visit vanish.org.au
  • Forced Adoption Support Services (Relationships Australia) 1800 210-313

Disliked adoption phrases Part One

I am giving credit back to this post https://medium.com/@Flip.Side/phrases-from-adoption-ideology-ad3caf09c6a2 for giving me the material to write about.

After spending so many years of hiding my feelings of loss and not dealing with my son’s adoption my eyes were finally opened up.  The support has been great and I wish I had known about it years earlier ago.  On the other hand I also found out people can be very cruel and hurtful by their words and actions.   I was shocked in the early years how judgemental people can be towards other sides of adoption. After 16 years I am much more ‘hardened’ to the unkind side of adoption and naivety of people who think surrendering a baby is ‘the right thing to do/mother to young to parent.’

One of the early comments that made me laugh as it is stupid.  It’s when adoptees are asked if they know their real parents.  Even if I didn’t have an adoption connection I would still think it’s a ridiculous question.  A real parent to me is the one raising the child whether they are the mother, father, adoptive parent, foster carer, family member to the best of their ability.  All parents make mistakes and not all parents are decent.

My son’s adoptive parents are real parents and so am I.

In the early days of the reunion I got sick to death of the ‘you were chosen’ lines given to adoptees.  Adoption in the UK has evolved since the 1940s but even so, adoptees haven’t been ‘chosen’ they’ve just been the next available baby.  Over the years changes have been an end to private adoptions, the number of babies adopted has dropped, and, open and semi adoptions have been introduced.  Since the contraceptive pill, abortion easier to have, changes in benefits and social housing has made it easier for mothers to either raise their children or not to have a child.

Telling an adoptee they were wanted is terrible because the person asking doesn’t know the circumstances behind their adoption.  The mother could have died in childbirth, the mother (or father) may not have been given the chance to prove they could be a good parent.  Not all adopters should have adopted in the first place.  Just because a single person or couple has been approved to adopt (in the UK) doesn’t mean they will be good parents.  There are cases where adopters have killed their adopted children or abused them, it’s not just natural parents who abuse their children.

Telling an adoptee their mother loved them enough to give them up is cruel as far as I’m concerned.  I loved my son so much I didn’t abort him but neither did I plan for him to be adopted.  His adopters believed the adoption agency when they were told I wanted him adopted.  It took a reunion for them to find out I never agreed to the adoption.  In fact they found out the three letters I supposedly wrote to them were written by someone else and I only received one of the letters they wrote.  That was bad enough as they thanked me for allowing them to adopt my son.  It was devastating to read that as they didn’t know the truth. Yes there are mothers who choose adoption but I’m not one of them.

Adoption isn’t a selfless sacrifice generally – I get back to my comment that some mothers do choose adoption.  I felt worthless when my son was adopted, that I didn’t matter and it reinforced what a family member said to me that I wasn’t capable of raising a child.  It has been a lifelong feeling of worthlessness.  Nobody knows what kind of a mother I would have been because I wasn’t given a chance.  There are other reasons why I didn’t have other children but that is going off-topic.`  I was a victim of forced (illegal) adoption and had I known my rights I would have raised my son.

I don’t like the ‘adoption is in the bible’ argument either.  Yes I know Joseph wasn’t the biological father of Jesus but Mary was his natural mother.  Oh and Joseph didn’t pay a huge wedge of money to buy Jesus he stepped up as a father figure as he was commanded to do.  For Jesus to fulfill a prophecy he had to be born into this life and God wouldn’t have been in the physical world as nobody could look at his face and live.

Moses isn’t, like Jesus, an example of adoption as we understand it.  His mother placed him in a basket and put in water to save his life.  He was raised by a pharaoh’s daughter and his mother was part of his life, in other words he wasn’t officially adopted.  Later on, in life, he killed an Egyptian, returned to his family, and led the chosen people to the promised life.

Telling adoptees they were given up is quite commonly used alongside placed.  I didn’t ‘give up or place’ my son he was in effect stolen from me.  I never agreed to him being adopted and as far as I know I didn’t sign the Consent to Relinquish form.  If I did I didn’t know what I was signing and very conveniently nobody can find the form so I can’t prove anything.

The blood/DNA doesn’t matter argument is open to debate but they do matter.  If they didn’t then parents wouldn’t care what baby they had as long as they were raising one.  Apart from that people have a right to know who their family is with medical information high on the list for being important.  I have had mother figures in my life but they’re not the mother who carried me for nine-months then raised me.  They have been important in my life but can’t be compared to my mother.  Some people should never have children but that doesn’t mean any child of theirs who has been adopted doesn’t have a right to know who they are.

I hate adopters referring to the mother of their adopted child as their birth mother as she didn’t give birth to either of them and it’s a type of entitlement.  When these people feel offended when they are pulled up about it they should then educate themselves.  I am not my son’s birth mother, I am his mother the same as his adoptive mother is also his mother.  Parents can love more than one child so why can’t a child love more than one mother?

I shall continue with this another day.

Flawed

My life ended the day I was told I couldn’t stop my son’s adoption.  Unless you have been a victim of forced (illegal) adoption you cannot begin to understand the profound feelings of loss.  It is heart-wrenching and for me, I emotionally broke down and from that day forward I mask.  I also lost my trust due to what my mother and the adoption agency did to me.  To the outside world, I was fine but inside I was an emotional wreck.  My friends used to joke I was an ice maiden towards men and kept them at arm’s length.  I vowed I would never get married or have any more children as I was so scared that I would be forced to surrender again.

I became very lonely as I was too scared to tell anybody how I was feeling nor did I understand I was severely depressed.  For too many years I was accused of being a drama queen, moody and that there were people who were far more in need of support.  In the early days, the closest my mother came to showing she cared was when I received a letter from my son’s adopters.  I broke down in tears and my mother hugged me tightly until I stopped crying.  Even then I couldn’t talk and suffered in silence.  Adoption is like an invisible amputation and every part of my body ached for and missed my son.  It was another 23 years before I could start talking about my son’s adoption.

It wasn’t until more recent years that I realised that I suffer from P.T.S.D. although I have never been formally diagnosed with suffering from it.  Doctors don’t seem to understand the trauma of forced adoption or make a connection.  My son will be 39 years old this year and I still suffer from the trauma of losing him, sadly it will be with me for the rest of my life.  I also have a history of self-harming as it was the only way to release emotional pain and I have tried overdosing over the years.

Since opening up about forced adoption I started educating people about the effect of forced adoption on mothers.  It really was tough going for the first couple of years particularly when I got the courage to state that the term birth mother is offensive.  I had never heard of the term until 2004 having joined up with adoption forums and groups.  It is a stupid term because mothers don’t just give birth they go through nine months of pregnancy.  Fathers don’t go through pregnancy or giving birth so it’s a ridiculous term to give them.  It’s also stupid to give the extended family the ‘birth’ title as they can’t collectively go through pregnancy and childbirth.  The real truth is it’s a term invented in America to make adopters feel better about themselves and came over to the U.K.  A couple of years ago I had a disagreement with a friend at bible study as she referred to herself as a birth mother.  I asked her not to as it’s offensive to mothers who have surrendered a child and why the term was created.  She really didn’t ‘get it’ and used the argument that as she had had children that made her a birth mother.  I explained why the term was invented but if all mothers had always been referred to as birth mothers it wouldn’t have bothered me.  In the end, I got so annoyed I had to walk away from the situation.  We have never talked about it since.

I am still friendly with other mothers who have surrendered babies. adoptive parents and adoptees although these days we keep in touch on Facebook.  We all still learn from each other for all sorts of reasons.

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