NSW Parliamentary Inquiry Into Adoption Practices

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Origins Inc.

A Personal Submission

To The NSW Inquiry

I gave birth to my son, Craig Anthony, on 22nd August 1968 at 3.56am, at the Womens Hospital Crown Street Sydney. He was my only child.

I was sixteen years old.

My mind blocked out my experience for almost 23 years. It was upon obtaining my prescribed information, medical records and social work report in 1991-3 that I began to confront and recall my pregnancy, birth and the theft of my son.

(see attachment No.1
psychiatric report)

It was confirmed that I was two months pregnant at the outpatient section of Fairfield hospital, but my parents did not learn of my condition until three months had passed. Whereupon, my father arranged to take me to Macquarie Street for a termination which I understand had cost $400.00. I believe the location was either in Park House or nearby. Nevertheless, it was an old building with a caged elevator.

After having my number called I got as far as the couch and being put into stirrups, but I became hysterical and upset so I was swiftly ushered back down stairs where my father drove me back home. He was disappointed but understood.

When I arrived home my mother said there could be no turning back now and I would have to go through with the pregnancy. A few weeks later she took me to the Womens Hospital Crown Street to book in for anti-natal care.

....................................


The Social Worker
Womens Hospital, Crown Street

1. First interview with Hospital Almoner.
at 4 Months Pregnant.

Before we were permitted to see the doctor, my mother and I were instructed to meet with the hospital almoner (social worker) who took particulars about my marital status, and discussed plans for the baby. Until this first meeting when I was four months pregnant, no-one had mentioned the word adoption.

My records show that my father wanted my child adopted so my career would not be interrupted. I become upset when my baby was mentioned and I was sent outside to sit on a bench while the social worker spoke with my mother. I was booked into a Tresillian Home in Second Avenue Willoughby.

(see attachment No.2
social work report)

....................................


Ante-natal Visit All I remember of the first doctors visit was the nurse in attendance asking when my last period had been, to determine the baby's due date, I couldn't remember so I told her the date I fell pregnant as it had been the first time I had sex. The doctor just scoffed at me and said I couldn't be that sure but I was. He never spoke to me but would get the nurse to ask if he wanted to me know something. It would always be "tell her to take these once a day" or "tell her to get dressed now." He was rough and impatient. I was always ashamed.

At the home I was sent to, I was allocated one of the little stable-like rooms that ran in a row off a verandah at the end of the yard behind the laundry. The rooms were as narrow as a single bed with enough space at one side to be able to walk up to your pillow and nothing more.

I worked from 6am to 6pm, six days a week, setting and clearing tables for the nurses in the dining rooms in preparation for three meals a day, and spent the time in between polishing silverware. I was not allowed to sit down while I polished the cutlery. I was often dizzy and my legs ached all day. I was forbidden to go past a certain point and was forbidden to speak to any staff.

I stayed there for a few weeks I think, until I woke up to hear a girl screaming and crying. She had gone into labour and the staff refused to let her stop working because her contractions weren't frequent enough. We all got scared and I called my sister to come and get me out of there. Other than talking to a new girl called Sandra about keeping our babies on the day prior to leaving the home - I never spoke to anyone.

I have no other memory of the place.

....................................


When I got back home I told my mother I wanted to keep my baby. She didn't know what to do but said if I really wanted to keep the baby we could go up to Burleigh Heads to my Aunty Jones place for a few months and when we came home she could pretend the baby was hers. I didn't want that. Mum then spoke to the social worker about it. She told Mum that it would destroy my life to keep the baby. So Mum believed her.

2. 2nd Interview with Social Worker
- at Five Months Pregnant

A few days later I was taken back to Crown Street to be further interviewed and to find another hiding place for me. Before we got to see the social worker, my mother was ushered to a small table in the middle of an open space where she was being asked a lot of questions as another woman filled out some forms. I was sent to another spot to wait. (twenty five years later I realised it had been the social and medical history that was being filled in, although it is dated as being filled out on the day before I left the hospital, and indicates I provided the information.

Nevertheless, I was given a position as live-in housekeeper with a family at Elanora Heights where I stayed for the duration of my pregnancy. During this second interview at five months, (as my records show) I kept telling them I wanted to keep my baby.

N.B. My mother has told me that she recalls giving the information when I was five months pregnant and said I would not have been aware of when or how my grandparents would have died, as subjects like death were not mentioned in our house, nor did I know my father had been a chiropodist before he married my mother. Nor did I know the level of intelligence of my sisters, or their height etc. as was recorded.

Also, the records state that I had taken an abortion pill, when in fact I had refused an abortion my father had arranged.

Also, the social worker had tracked down my child's father to try and extract money out of him, three days after I had left the hospital. Not to get maintenance to help me - but to get money for themselves. I am told this was routine procedure.

I was described by the consent taker Elizabeth King Goss who had spent no more than a few minutes with me to take my consent while I was sedated with Pentobarb, as "fairly attractive but not terribly bright".

(see attachment No.3
Social and Medical History)


Live - In Housekeeper

My job as a live-in housekeeper was to keep their two year old out of his fathers way whenever he was home from the Yacht club, which wasn't often, and to help around the house, and to help with their newborn who had been born when I was seven months pregnant. After a heated argument with each other one morning, Mrs H. Told me she felt in many way as though her children were as fatherless as mine. They were kind to me and left me alone a lot.

....................................


3. 3rd and Final Interview with Social Worker
- at Seven Months Pregnant -

My third and last visit to the social worker at seven months was the only interview I had without my mother being present. I told her I was keeping my baby and had already begun lay-buying baby clothes with my $10.00 wages. She began to tell me that babies don't stay cute and cuddly forever, and questioned me about how I though I would manage getting a six year old to school, and did I really think I wanted to cope with a ten year old. She wrote that I `agreed' that I didn't want to cope with this sort of problem. She seemed to think I was going to be sixteen forever. I agreed that I didn't want a six year old or a ten year old. I wanted my baby! Just like any other mother - I was having a baby - not a six year old!

She wrote that I was conflicted as I wanted "to own a small baby" and do things for it as I've seen friends do. I wanted my own baby!

She wrote how I had a need to give birth to a child, Implying that I had some psychological problem to be pregnant and want to keep the baby - like human beings do.

She had written how my situation was complicated by my employer bringing a new baby home and the husband opposing it, (having another child) because I had told her what my boss had said about her children being as fatherless as mine. And she discussed my career prospects. And that was the extent of my counselling.

We never talked about adoption. She never even discussed what adoption actually meant or that it was permanent and final. I was never told about a thirty day revocation period. I first heard of it in 1992 when I phoned a woman after reading an article on the front page of a Sunday paper titled National Shame, about adoption.

Although she knew I wanted to keep my baby and had written that my mother would not have turned me away from home with the baby and had described me as "confident in my pregnancy and elated by it" I wasn't advised of any financial provision, child care facility, foster care facility or any other provision which was legally available to help me keep my child. Not that any of that would have really mattered, as my mother would never have allowed my baby to be taken if she had been made aware of the severe psychological consequences I would suffer by being separated from my child, instead of being told by a so-called professional that it would destroy my life.

....................................


I had to make it my own business to discover that I had even had legal rights and that they had treated me with criminal negligence.

My social workers boss, Mrs Thorne (nee Roberts) is the same woman who, as witness for the state Government in my court hearing, declared in her written statement that health authorities had been aware of the potential for psychological harm in forcing a mother to surrender her child to adoption.

....................................


Until I obtained my social work and medical reports when I was legally allowed to apply for them under FOI: 1. I had no idea that my records had already been marked with the code `UB-', which meant `unmarried, baby not keeping' meaning my baby had already been earmarked for adoption with my first visit.

2. I had no idea that I had been heavily sedated.

3. I had no idea that I had been transported to another hospital.

4. I had no idea that I had been administered Stilboestrol in three time the legal dosage.

5. I had no idea I had been `socially cleared' to allow me to return to the community.


The Birth

When I went into labour two months later, after being prepped, I was given a sedative of Doriden and wheeled into a semi-dark room where I was told to ring the buzzer if I needed help.

Although I had been booked into the most `respectable' obstetric hospital in NSW, and had never missed an anti-natal visit from my fourth month, no-one had ever bothered to explain the process of what to expect in labour.

I was so ignorant of birth that I wasn't even sure how the baby actually got out. And so some time later, when I felt the gush of hot water underneath me and I thought I had wet the trolley I was on, I was in a state of excruciating shame and terror that someone would come in and see what I had done. I was dying of shame but as I tried to climb off the trolley to find somewhere to hide my shameful evidence (the sheet), the pain of the contractions kept pinning me down and I couldn't move. My baby was coming but I was too scared to ring the buzzer, so I just closed my eyes and pretended I didn't exist.

Then a mask went over my face and I was wheeled into another room. It must have been the labour ward. I was given Chloral Hydrate.

I have flashes of being put into green booties and my legs being placed into stirrups. I have flashes of my right wrist being tied with a hospital green fabric strip. I was unable to move any of my limbs. And then nothingness.

I have flashes of being outside my body. I have flashes of excruciating pain. I have a memory of a voice telling me to push but I don't know how. I have the sensation of drifting out of myself. I sink into blackness. I hear a voice but I can't wake up. And then the pain stopped. My eyes open and a pillow is put near my face, pressing against my chin. My baby is born and I try to sit up but my left shoulder is held down keeping me pinned. I am too weak to resist. I asked what I had and was ignored. I asked to see my baby and was ignored. I fall into sleep.

My records tell me it had been a complicated delivery of a living boy. I never saw my baby.

Sometime later I woke up and asked for my baby and again I was ignored. I am anxious but can't stay awake.

I had been given 200 mgms of Sodium Pentobarbitone to top up the Doriden, Chloral Hydrate and gas I was given during labour. During the next 37 hours I had been administered 400mgms of Pentobarbitone. The weekend staff was to continue treatment.

(see attachment No.4 Medical Records)


Post Partum Period

I have little memory of the next six days. I am always sleeping. I am crying under the blankets, I am confused. Did I have my baby? I have no memory of being fed, or of having a shower, or of getting out of bed. I recall the clanging sounds of a trolley. The room is dark and quiet.

Some time later I was woken from my sleep by a woman who told me she had forms for me to sign. She sat down on a chair at the end of my bed. My heart began to race as I remembered adoption being mentioned earlier in my pregnancy and I hadn't seen my baby yet. I didn't know how much time had passed. It was day six.

She said I was to sign some forms. I knew it was adoption forms. I told her I didn't want to this. She told me if I didn't sign the forms my baby would be made a ward of the state and if I love him I wouldn't wish that fate upon him.

It was only then I discovered that I'd had a boy.

It was then I realised I was losing my baby.

She pushed the pen at me and I squeaked out that I could take my baby home to mums, but she doesn't hear me.

(She did not read me what was on the documents I was to sign. I was forbidden to hold the clipboard the documents were on. I never saw what was on the documents. There was another sheet of paper covering the words.

My baby's name is typed on my records but how can that be? As she would not have known it before she approached me to take my signature - unless I signed an empty document that was typed/filled in at a later date).

I don't recall holding the pen while tears wash away the mother I might have been as I sink into black and I feel myself die.

I have no memory from that moment on.


Discharge Summary

After having been denied my legal right to make a free choice, forbidden to see or bond with my own baby, transported to another hospital while my baby was hidden from me back at Crown Street, kept conveniently sedated and traumatised during my post confinement period, the Hospital Almoner had the audacity to write on my discharge summary: The mother is tearful about adoption but feels she is doing the right thing. She realises she is not in a position keep the baby".


Consequences

I have lived my life
with something on my mind
Although never knowing quite what it was
A life disconnected - distracted.
Never giving too much
Never getting too close
Never quite fitting in.
I seem to have lived only
on the perimeters of my existance
Never feeling quite whole.
Until the day came
when I realised my mind had been protecting me
from the pain of remembering.

....................................


I spent the next twenty three years searching in memorium columns and death notices for dead babies and would weep inconsolably for the mother of the dead baby listed. I realise it had become almost a monthly ritual and I must have put it down to a macabre reaction to PMS. I didn't know why I would this until I came out of denial and realised I had really been searching for my own as-if-dead baby. Apparently I had found a way of expressing my own grief without having to face the reality of my own loss.

I would vomit whenever I heard a certain popular song relating to the time when I was pregnant played on the radio. I would have to switch it off but I didn't know why. It was The Stoned Ponies - A Different Drum. I collected only music about loss, and sadness, and saying goodbye. I didn't know why.

I lost my capacity to speak coherently for 23 years unless I had been drinking, otherwise I found it difficult to string words together, and would be almost dyslexic. I was always quiet, and was known to be a good listener but I just found it easier to listen than to speak. I lost my taste for alcohol about five years ago, soon after I began to deal with the loss of my son when I began to speak normally again.

Whenever friends had babies I cut off my friendship with them, I didn't know why. I never picked a baby up until 1994 at a Conference. I never saw babies near me, I would look straight through them. I have been unable to relate to my nephews or form any relationship with any child. I have been unable to bring myself to visit my young sister to see her eight week old daughter yet. I realise I have spent a good deal of my life avoiding the memory of losing my son.

In all the years since, I never felt that I was entitled to be like everyone else and have my own family. My experience at Crown Street made me understand that I wasn't allowed to be a mother.

When the adoption information regulations were about to be introduced in 1991, twenty three years later, allowing people to find each other, my mother woke me out of my denial by asking if I was going to look for my son. This was the very first time anyone had ever acknowledged that I had even had a baby. I had a dreadful break down as everything came flooding back to me. I could no longer work and still can't. My staff have controlled my business ever since.

Time had stood still and because no-one had explained what adoption meant, just that I wasn't allowed to have him, I had thought my baby was still at the hospital, waiting for me to come and get him. On some level I felt like I had been pregnant for all these years and could finally finish giving birth. It was a great shock to realise that my baby had lived with strangers and would already be twenty three years old.

I am violated and enraged that total strangers laid claim to my child. That total strangers looked into my own baby's eyes, know what he looked like, know his baby smell, and how his baby skin felt to touch, when he had come out of my body, and he is my flesh and blood and I never saw him.

My ability to complete my sons birth on a psychological and physiological level has been stolen from me.

I am suspended in a state of torment outside the realm of human understanding which forces me to live at a level of anxiety created by `unfinished business' not belonging to the human condition. There is no recovery.

I exist only by acknowledging myself in the detached third person.


Summary

1. I was forbidden to see or bond with my newborn infant son.

2. My baby was stolen from me at birth and hidden from me while I was still the sole legal guardian of my child. I had not signed any legal document to allow this to occur.

3. I was not told where he was being kept.

4. I was heavily sedated during and after birth.

5. I was transported to another hospital whilst heavily sedated without my permission and without my baby.

4. I was not warned of the psychological consequences of being separated from my child.

5. I was not advised of the support provisions available such as financial assistance under 27 aid, available child care, or foster care that were legally available to enable me to keep my child.

6. My body was assaulted by the administration of the carcinogenic synthetic hormone, Stilboestrol. at three times the legal dosage.

I was not advised of the hospital practice that would forbid me to see my own child and I was not advised of the medication that would be administered to me.

7. I was therefore not given my legal right to refuse such treatment.

8. I did not give my permission to have my baby removed from me at birth.

9. I did not give my permission to be transported to another hospital without my baby.

10. I did not give my permission to be administered a carcinogenic hormone Stilboestrol to pollute my breast tissue and suppress lactation.


Therefore, under the New South Wales Crimes Act 1900, I accuse the State of New South Wales of kidnapping my child at birth.

Copyright Dian Wellfare, Origins Inc, 1995

Supporting People Separated By Adoption