Today is my natural mother’s birthday. Yes, I just turned 34, she just turned 49, you do the maths. I didn’t intend to write about this today, it’s not something I have actually written that much on and I’m not that sure why. I guess becuase it’s complicated, with multiple points of view, there are layers of time and emotion and so on and so forth. It’s also a subject that affects many many people, and – for once – I am very conscious of unintentionally upsetting people who maybe come at it from a different perspective or a different role in the whole adoption saga that is. Well, that was quite the disclaimer wasn’t it.
Anyway, I was having a really SHIT day today, peppered with incontrollable tears and blind rage. Delightful really. Then I finally rang H to say happy birthday, had a 40 minute chat with her and felt a whole heap better.
KIDDING. As a NYE special, here is the adoption story that is allconsuming’s.
I’ve known for as long as I can remember that I was adopted. My mum told me this story about fairies down the back of the garden and that there were some fairies that loved their babies so much, they gave them to fairies who couldn’t have babies of their own, because they knew just how special and loved those fairies would look after their babies.
That is probably the worst grammatical sentence I’ve written in quite some time and the likes of Bec and Suse have probably looked away in horror. Suckers.
Mum has a big family – six siblings – and Dad’s isn’t bad either – there were three of them. I don’t think my Mum will ever trully appreciate how alienating it was to see cousins who looked and were like your mother, when you had nothing. I see how sophisticated I have to be in dealing with Felix in particular (for you see, he is so like me) because I get his psyche. I never had this. I never had that compassion or understanding from my parents about who I was. They had NO idea that I had depression and quite frankly, by the time I was a teenager both of them were so caught up in their own personal worlds relating to divorce that short of a suicide attempt neither of them would have had a clue. That probably sounds pretentious, but this is my story, so fuck off.
My Mum’s family is deelpy competitive and not very nice to each other at all. It took a long long time for me to realise that their attitude and approach to me was very much related to the fact that I (and my brother) were an unknown quantity, and well, what you don’t know, you fear. Right? So, when me, the loud, sarcastic, drama queen with no arse and big boobs came along, the family of small waisted, big-arsed teacher/nurse brigade got seriously spooked.
The way they handled this was to treat me as the butt of most jokes. To pass judgment on my looks (and my weight) from around the age of 6. I’m sure it started earlier, but it was Boxing Day 1978, in my yellow crochet bikini which I LOVED at our annual family picnic at North Beach, Wollongong, that the first comment about my weight – and subsequent hearty laughs from the entire family, my mother included – was logged in my memory. It was the last time I wore a bikini and the start of life very focussed on my body and my weight. Thanks Aunty J, thanks very much. The last comment about my weight came at my cousin’s wedding two and a half years ago when I was in a size 12 skirt, size 14 shirt and some mighty fine kicky heels. My uncle – the husband of Aunty J – came up behind me as I was having a delightful conversation with my cousins, grabbed me around the hips and said, “ah, there’s a good bit of meat”. Yep. Mighty fine.
Now please, don’t get me wrong – I’m not even going to touch the whole arguement of would I/wouldn’t I have been better off with my natural family – this was the life I’ve had and I’ve gotten on with it, so really, the what if? hypothesis isn’t really that helpful.
Anyway, my natural parents H & L – were young randy things. Instead of going to the Easter show as they had told their parents, they stayed home and did it in L’s sunroom. It was H’s first time – and really, at only 14 you’d kinda hope it wasn’t happening at all – and the mentality at the time was you couldn’t fall pregnant on the first time. Apparently every time after that fateful evening protection was used. Too late!
H thought she was hiding my existence pretty well, but her Mum was clued in to the lack of – ahem – soiled underwear each month. Then she ran in the school cross country, and curiously, fainted. She was four months pregnant. When the school nurse asked her Mum if there was anything wrong, she collapsed in tears and wailed, “I think H is pregnant.” Which she was. So off she was packed to the single mother’s home. Curiously, they told the school she was going to a private girl school – the one where I went. Weird huh.
One of the most endearing parts of this story is that H’s two brothers, who at the time were only 8 and 10, or thereabouts, would every.day.after.school. make the trek from Sydney’s Northern Beaches to Sydney’s North Shore to visit her. On their own. Amaznig huh.
Meanwhile, L was kicked out of school half way through Year 11 and the principal tried to have him charged with carnal knowledge but due to him and a mate witnessing a bank robbery when they were about 10, and subsequent bravery awards, the local cops wouldn’t have a bar of it. Still, he never really recovered, dropped out of school altogether soon after that and went on to become a surfboard shaper – then a house husband. L and his wife S and their kids (my half sister and brother) just rock my world. I love them dearly.
When H had me, the hospital would bring groups of student doctors around claiming her to be the epitomy of a textbook labour and more people should be having children younger. Classy. She wasn’t allowed to see me, but said the glimpse she got was of these extraordinarily long fingers. L’s father and mother offered to keep me and raise me as L’s sister. H’s parents – her father – wouldn’t have a bar of it. She called me Lisa.
The day after she had me – her parents picked her up from the home and they went straight on their annual family holiday. Can you imagine? The day after giving birth, being picked up and expected to just go on with life as if nothing had happened, without your child? Oh, and that holiday? At the beach. H spent the entire time lying on the beach on her stomach because her boobs were leaking and like rocks and she didn’t know what to do.
Her mum and dad had counselling – the sum total of which was “the best thing you can do for H is pick her up and make no mention, no reference to the whole experience at all.” Nice. Can you imagine??? Here you have a 14 year old CHILD, and the advice is not to mention it? I mean, not even post-natal care. I get so mad about this on her behalf.
Cut to 18 years later. H was travelling overseas and got really sick in London. She was in hospital and this voice in her head just said, “go home.” So she signed herself out, got on the next available flight and got herself home. When she knocked on her mum’s front door, her mum couldn’t believe it. After all the squealing, hugging and kissing, she said to H, “Do you know what today is?”, to which H replied, “Lisa’s birthday” and for the first time ever, they talked about me.
Four years later I applied for my natural birth certificate, for no other reason than I discovered because I was a student and had a healthcare card it would only cost me $20 rather than $120. Sad but true. I mean, I always knew I’d look, but that was pretty shallow incentive, even by my standards.
My initial reaction was – OH MY GOD SHE WAS 14. The next reaction was “they called me Lisa, I had a name” – this was something I wasn’t expecting. And then their address – my neck of the words. Not the same suburb, but a nearby area. I was on the north shore, they were northern beaches. Yep, where we live now, L is about 8 minutes drive away and H is about 15.
I went to the state library and tracked her down in about 10 minutes. Then spent two hours looking harder, thinking it couldn’t be that easy. It would have been quicker but it took me a while to work out the microfiche. Then I looked up her mum in the phone book and got her number. I got home, rang, sounded all friendly and light – she gave me her new number. Then I rang her.
K: Hi, is H there?
H: This is H
K: I was after H
H: yes, I’m H
K: Oh shit. Oh. Sorry. Hi. Um. Look this is going to sound really weird, but did you give
H: is that Lisa?