40th Anniversary Publication
Your Adoption Stories
Send us your stories...
This year, Jigsaw Queensland celebrates its 40th anniversary. As part of our celebrations, we are creating a publication filled with Queensland adoption history, Jigsaw's story and most importantly YOUR stories. The publication will be launched at the Spring anniversary party.
The stories will be collected confidentially and condensed for publication and remain anonymous unless otherwise requested. Jigsaw exists to Connect, Support, Inform and Advocate for people affected by adoption and more recently donor-conception. Your stories, are our stories. Throughout the year we will share snippets on our website, social media and in the newsletter.
To share your story, please send a few sentences or paragraphs to firstname.lastname@example.org (Subject: Anniversary Story) or mail to PO Box 912, New Farm Q 4005 or you can call us on (07) 3358 6666 to schedule a time to be interviewed.
A Mother's Story
I was born with normal hearing but after a bout of measles and whooping cough at the age of twenty months, I became deaf. It was difficult growing up as a deaf person in a hearing family. My mother used some signing and fingerspelling to communicate with me, but it was only superficial communication rather than full communication.
On my twenty-first birthday, in 1967, I realised that I had skipped my period. The following day I felt very sick and Mum seemed cranky with me and suspicious. She took me to the doctor who did a test and told me I was pregnant. Mum was very angry and kept asking, 'Who was the boy, who was the boy?' I didn't want to tell her and I was frightened and embarrassed.
During the pregnancy, I felt very nervous and scared. I had to stay at home as my parents were ashamed and when I did go out I had to wear a coat to cover my pregnancy. At seven months I had to go to hospital because of swelling and at eight and half months I had to stay in hospital for three weeks. In those days there were no sign interpreters for deaf people so I had no way to get information or communicate fully. It was very frustrating and frightening.
When I was in labour someone gave me a paper to sign. I didn't understand what it was, but realise now, in retrospect that it was a consent to adoption - I refused to sign it. After the birth I was not allowed to see my baby. She was taken away.
An adoption lady arrived with a form already completed and asked me to sign it. I said 'no' and kept saying 'no', but my mother was there and she continued to pressure me to sign the form. Finally I signed.
Afterward...I felt heartbroken and became depressed. No one in the family spoke about the baby or the adoption. Not one word was said. I had no support from family or others. There were no sign interpreters or support services for deaf people at that time. I didn't know how to cope, so I went out socialising and playing sport in an attempt to forget what had happened. But I never forgot. Over the years I always thought of my daughter...especially on her birthday – every birthday. I was often depressed.
In my forties I became a member of a church that had an interpreter for the deaf. The interpreter told me she would pray for me to find my daughter. Finally, in 1991 she told me that the Government had “opened the doors” on adoption information. She helped me to find a counsellor and we got the information about my daughter. They assisted me to write a letter to her. My daughter wanted to meet me as soon as possible and I was in shock. I was not ready to meet her but agreed to go.
I went with an interpreter to meet my daughter and granddaughter in a park. I couldn't look at them as they walked towards me. Each time I looked at my daughter, I felt confusion and shock. She didn't look like me...she looked like her father and I kept thinking that she couldn’t be my daughter. I'd then feel terrible for having those thoughts.
The reunion was all too fast and I wasn’t prepared. When I met her I felt empty and this was awful. She wanted to know everything all at once. I felt like there was no connection and this was shocking and awful.
Over the years I have continued to feel upset that I didn't get any family support at the time of the adoption or afterwards and that I missed out on having a family. I experience great grief that I was not able to keep my daughter and raise her. My daughter appears to be angry with me and I realise that both of us have been hurt by what happened. We have very limited contact as she lives interstate and I find it difficult to cope when she seems angry with me. I have some contact with my granddaughter...which is good. However she too lives interstate and communication is limited as she does not sign/fingerspell.
For a long time I didn't know there was any support for mothers like me. People in the deaf community often miss out on information about support services. I didn't know there had been an apology for forced adoptions until after I found a counsellor who knew about forced adoption.
I have found going to counselling with a signing interpreter has been very helpful and now I also go to the Jigsaw birth mothers support group. It has been very healing to hear other mothers’ stories and realise that many mothers have problems with post contact relationships and ongoing grief.
I want other people in the Deaf community affected by adoption to know about the support available.
Jigsaw uses a service called NABS (National Auslan Interpreter Booking Service) to provide assistance to deaf people who wish to access their face-to-face and telephone support services and support group meetings and can organise this on your behalf. Email email@example.com to arrange.
"After the birth I was not allowed to see my baby. She was taken away. An adoption lady arrived with a form already completed and asked me to sign it. I said 'no' and kept saying 'no', but my mother was there and she continued to pressure me to sign the form. Finally I signed. Afterward...I felt heartbroken and became depressed."
"In every way she was mirroring back at me, 'me'."
I have no memory of being told I was adopted.
From a young age when other children would ask their parents to tell them stories of the day they were born, I’d ask my mum to tell me about the day they picked me up. She would tell me how a letter arrived in the mail on a Saturday morning (when such a thing was possible), saying there was a baby girl available for adoption in Nambour. My dad wasn’t home that morning, and after a quick consultation with her neighbour, she had the bags packed and my tiny brothers dressed and ready for the drive, as soon as he walked in the door.
When they arrived at the hospital, the Matron was very kind and asked my brothers if they’d like a sister. My eldest brother asked if I would cry and the Matron told him that all babies cry. My other brother just grinned and nodded his head. My favourite part of the story was that they stopped at a restaurant on the way home, and the waitress asked for the name of the new baby girl. They looked at each other and didn’t actually have a name. My mother quickly blurted out ‘Lois Nancy’, a name she’d already settled on to honour her sister who was dying of cancer.
My mother always spoke of my first mother (Rhonda) with love and respect. She said she had loved me, but for reasons we didn’t know, she had been unable to take care of me. I found out years later in a letter she penned to Rhonda after we reunited, that she prayed often for her and that she would somehow find peace in the tough decision that she’d had to make.
Fast forward 23 years and it was January 1st, 1992 and at ‘high noon’ under the Sydney Harbour Bridge I met Rhonda wearing a bright green dress. I don’t really remember much because I was too busy trying to comprehend that the thirty-nine-year-old standing in front of me looked like she could have been my sister! We looked alike, talked alike, laughed alike, and in every way she was mirroring back at me, ‘me’.
We had followed the experts’ advice, we’d written letters over several months and then met on neutral ground, Sydney! We rode the ferry to Manly and I don’t remember either of us catching our breath, we just talked nonstop.
Months later Rhonda came to Brisbane and spent Easter weekend with my family. She slept in my childhood bed, and I camped on the floor in a sleeping bag. Mum did her daily ritual squeezing the oranges and delivering them to us before we got out of bed. I didn’t recognise it at the time, but my mum was mothering Rhonda. There seemed no hint of competition; just another person to love and take care of.
I knew Rhonda for eight years before she passed away of cancer. She was still in her forties.
Things weren’t always easy between us, but she often told me she loved me. It would be many years after she passed, when I’d reached my forties, before I found out the trauma of her childhood. In many ways, processing my reunion with her took twenty years. That’s when my adoption journey of understanding really began. Thank you Jigsaw. Saturdays spent taking the perspective of others, as we hear of the joys and struggles from the adoptees and the mums, has really enriched my life and helped me to continue to grow in my own adoption journey.
Mundane to Unforgettable - The Day it All Changed
‘After the break, Queensland parliament approves landmark legislation giving adoptees and birth parents access to identifying information for the first time.’
- Evening News 1991
There are dramatic moments in everyone’s life when location and occupation become irrevocably tied to the memory of an event itself; elevating mundane tasks to unforgettable.
The day Queensland amended its adoption legislation was a day like any other. I was drying dishes after a typically early dinner at my adoptive parent’s house when a black and white graphic of a crying baby in a circa 1960s hospital with the words ‘Adoption amendment gives hope’ overlaid appeared over the shoulder of the stately newsreader.
‘Adoptees and birth parents will be allowed to apply for identifying information for the first time, following amendments to Queensland’s Adoption Legislation today,’ he said. I leaned forward and sensed my parents had now honed in on the story.
The vision cuts to a group outside parliament, crying and hugging. The journalist in front of them explained the amendments would allow Queensland adoptees and their biological parents unprecedented access to their adoption records, providing no party had lodged a veto blocking their identifying information from being accessed.
‘I just never thought I’d get the opportunity to find out who I am,’ sobbed a blonde woman into the microphone held to her face.
The following day at the age of nineteen, I picked up the phone and called Jigsaw for the first time. Since then, I've reunited with both my mother and father and spent more than two decades exploring adoption with the assistance of Jigsaw support groups and literature.
Through the support and advocacy offered by Jigsaw I have found an authenticity and peace I craved since I first understood I was adopted at age five.
The Life I Longed For
It seems an eternity ago that I was seventeen and a new mother. It probably was. Next week I turn seventy-one years-old and my life has been shaped by events that occurred then. We were told to "forget this event and just get on with your life" and that's largely what I did. And didn't. How can one forget such a momentous event?
I lurched through life, going from town-to-town, job-to-job, through various relationships, but the spectre of my loss and the hungry emptiness was always with me.
Happily for me there is a great ending. With the help of Jigsaw I was able to begin the emotional search for my child when she was twenty-five years-old. It was a dream I had for years, but I didn't know how I would handle my dream coming true. But it did. My mother rang me one day to say she had a letter from a young woman looking for her birth mother. We were reunited twenty-eight years ago and have a loving, ongoing relationship.
I have two, wonderful, teenage grandsons whom I may never have known had my daughter and I not found each other. What a rich reward I have in my life.
Reunion may not be successful for everyone, but in my case it has healed the primal wound of separation and given me a life I longed for.