Adoption Loss and Reunion

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Born in England, I have lived in Australia since 1980. At just 17 and still at school when I became pregnant in 1961, my boyfriend was, 22, and I did not have my parents’ approval of our relationship. When I told them of the pregnancy and that we planned to marry, they refused their consent and I was taken to a social worker to arrange for my baby to be adopted. Nothing was discussed with me and as a minor, the age of majority then being 21, I was dealt with by the Children's Department and threatened with court action if I did not comply. I was powerless and overwhelmed by lack of support from both sets of parents, who shamed and blamed me as if I alone was responsible for being pregnant. Also feeling betrayed by my boyfriend I was sent away first to an aunt, then to a mother and baby home.

Silenced by secrecy, it was a miserable, frightening and isolating experience. The losses were huge: the respect of my parents, my boyfriend, my friends, my education and my sense of self. I gave birth to a beautiful son with nobody but me to welcome him into the world - no gifts for baby, no flowers for his mother. What a sad and cruel start for a baby and his mum.

At that time, for the benefit of a baby's attachment, it was seen as important that mother and baby should be together until he went to his adoptive family. Though heartbreaking, it meant that I cared for his every need and was rewarded by his first smiles, beginning to see his character developing.

I still hold dear those 2 months and the memories that are mine alone, to reflect on at will. I was not prepared for the void that followed with no counselling, nobody to acknowledge the grief, and shamed into years of painful secrecy.

I didn't see his smile again for 45 years, but it was clearly recognisable in the man he had become when he gave me a big hug and acknowledged me as his first mother. He promised he would not disappear from my life again but the impact of adoption separation and loss is lifelong.

 

The impacts of adoption loss are lifelong and the associated losses continue beyond reunion. Adoption separation brings pain and grief that is difficult to resolve even with the best counselling and support. An ideal society would ensure that no parent/child relationship would endure such a separation.