Sunday, June 6, 2010


I had promised to continue the story of 'meeting' my birth mother (EM) and just realised that it is 5 days since I said I would tell more, so here goes.

I have already mentioned that I'd been told by mum (my adoptive mother) that my birth mother had died when she was quite young, only to discover many years later that she had married at age 35 and was still very much alive in the 1990s and living a short distance from our home.

Having established where she was I decided to contact Jigsaw and received a lot of help from Glenys (the lady in charge of Jigsaw at that time). I first of all had to put my name on a waiting list to be counselled (1988) before I could receive my original birth certificate and was disappointed on receiving this certificate to find it did not show the name of my natural father.

After this I attended a couple of meetings at Jigsaw meeting other people who had either been adopted or had relinquished their child to be adopted and was very interested in the different stories people had to tell. Sadly some parents/children can block their names ever being divulged which in this day and age seems so sad but I am sure they all have their reasons for taking this course of action.

Next step was for Glenys to make contact with EM to establish that she was in fact the lady who had given birth to me back in 1932. I can't imagine the shock EM must have felt to have someone unexpectedly ask her if she had had an illegitimate child all those years ago. I hope it was not too cruel a thing to do to her but she willingly admitted that she was who we thought she was.

Glenys then made an appointment to meet EM and on that afternoon my hubby and I sat in our car outside the retirement home in the hope that EM would agree to meeting with me. After about 30 minutes Glenys came to us with the disappointing news that there was no way we were going to get to meet my birth mother. Glenys said EM and I looked very much alike and she felt the thought of her secret being divulged was just too much for her to contemplate and seeing the two of us together (EM and me) may make people ask questions. We felt this highly unlikely but this poor dear woman had been made to feel so bad about becoming pregnant (especially by her own father from what I have heard) that it would be more than she could bear for her secret to be exposed. One can only imagine how she must have been feeling have all this suddenly happen after nearly 70 years had gone by.

I then decided I would write to EM and send her a photograph and also my telephone number and asked if we could perhaps talk by 'phone. I received a nice reply but she declined the chance of a conversation. We exchanged several letters and she sent a Christmas card and then one day she actually telephoned me and we had a short rather stilted conversation. She shared a room with a lady who was apparently intent on knowing other people's business and as this lady was virtually bedridden it made it difficult for EM to speak privately on her own 'phone. (I know this to be true as this other lady was an aunt of a friend of mine who confirmed that this aunt was indeed a real busybody).

We did over a couple of years have several converations which became more and more personal and one day she actually told me that my father had been tall, dark and handsome and had a way with him (I couldn't help thinking to myself that he'd certainly had his way with EM). When she discovered she was pregnant by him she told him and he apparently denied it could be possible and apparently his mother backed him on this but how on earth she would know I can't fathom at all. Strangely this man married another woman 4 months before my birth. Maybe this was his way of escaping making any commitment to my mother. Incidentally this marriage of his only lasted a few years although they did have a son born in October of 1932.

Having later have met several of EM's family and learned quite a lot about the family I feel they were very honest people and the fact that she actually named my father and had received a maintenance order against him proves to me that he was the man who was my natural father and with whom EM had had an affair in the early part of 1932.

EM mentioned she had a book of Australian poetry which she would like me to read and would my hubby pick it up at the desk of the retirement home. This he did for me and I still have that book to this day. She even went so far as not want to meet him either; could it have been a feeling of shame perhaps? I also sent her a book I thought she would enjoy and I often wonder who now has that book. I have several letters and cards which I treasure very much and photographs given me by members of her family.

I noticed there was to be a fete held in the grounds of the retirement home where EM was living so my daughter and I decided to attend. While we were there we noticed a white haired lady sitting in a chair on the front verandah and somehow we just knew it was EM (our mother and grandmother) as there was something about the way she looked. We noticed she seemed to have an eye on us but would look away if we looked in her direction. Neither of us felt we had the right to approach her but just had to be content feeling we had actually seen her in the flesh. When speaking to EM the following week I asked her is she had indeed been sitting on the verandah and was she wearing a white cardigan. Her reply told me nothing; she just said "lots of us have white cargidans".

In early 1996 EM told me that she had cancer and at first I thought it was breast cancer as she said "I have a little cancer up there" but apparently it was ovarian cancer and she refused to have an operation or treatment of any kind. She said to me that it was her body and she would make the decision what would happen to that body. I tried talking to her about having an op but her mind was made up and I rather feel she was not happy where she was living and quite welcomed her death being not too far off. I feel she suffered quite a lot during the following months and felt so helpless at not being able to do anything to make her feel better.

I knew she was quite lonely and I frequently asked to be allowed to visit her (I even suggested I could pretend to be a hospital visitor) but she was adamant that this would not happen and I could do nothing but accept her decision. A number of people said if they were me they would just front up but I could not do that to her. I had been taught to respect other's wishes and particularly to have respect for older people so would not go against her wishes.

One Saturday night at the end of August in 1996 EM rang me and I knew something was wrong. She didn't say a lot but it felt as though she was saying goodbye. The matron knew who I was so I rang her and asked her to let me know if anything happened as she had promised to keep me posted. I rang EM's number on the Sunday but a stranger answered the 'phone (I think it may have been my cousin who visited her frequently) and she told me that Mrs N was too ill to talk to anybody. I was very disappointed to read of EM's death in the newpaper as nobody from the retirement home had bothered to let me know she had died.

I pondered on whether or not I should attend her funeral service but decided against it as I knew none of her brothers or sisters knew of my existence and felt it was an appropriate time to disclose who I was. I have often regretted this decision as I now know the people involved would have been delighted that I was there but it is so easy to talk about that in hindsight.

All I can say is I am glad I found who my real parents were and that EM and I became friends (unfortunately only at a distance) and I can at least rememeber voice and the conversations we had over several years. I can only hope I did not cause her too much distress bringing up the past as I did but she never complained about me doing so which made me feel that perhaps she was glad we finally did 'meet'. I told her all about her grandchildren and great-grandchildren and sent photographs and also that she was about to become a great-great-grandmother and this seemed to quite delight her. Sadly her g.g.granddaughter was born on the day of her funeral.

P.S. I rather think EM may have kept some of the photographs, letters etc., that I had sent to her because my cousin (who I later met) told me that one day when she was visiting EM she went to open a cupboard and was told very sternly "Don't look in there...those are my private things" or words to that effect. I think EM possibly destroyed those items before she died as nothing was ever said about them by members of her family.

Apologies for this being rather long-winded and perhaps a little disjointed but I write as I remember. I would perhaps like to eventually tell the story of how Angela from Family & Children's Service assisted me to find EM's brothers and also my brother and sister (the children of my natural father from his second marriage).

Incidentally I found who my father was because EM named him firstly when applying for maintence and also in whe she relinquished me for adoption so I have 2 official documents showing his name.

1 comment:

  1. wow, what an amazing story. I'm glad you got to have a relationship with her in the end and have a few answers. I didn't find that long winded at all!