Child holding parents hands

Adoption

In Children and Family, Community and Relationship, Insight and Experience by Elizabeth Jewell StephensLeave a Comment

I remember sitting on my mother’s knee in the window in the lounge room when I was a toddler, asking her where babies come from. She told me they grew from a seed in the mummy’s tummy in a special little nest there. Of course I then asked, ‘So was I a seed in your tummy?’

She explained that her little nest was broken and she couldn’t have her own baby, but she’d got me from a mummy who was too poor to keep me. I was satisfied with that explanation and went about my life thinking this was quite okay. In fact, I felt it was more than okay, since she also explained in the same conversation that she got to choose me. She and my father had it planned to adopt a boy rather than a girl, but when they went into the nursery to choose their baby (something that couldn’t happen these days) they saw this nice little boy, whom they nicknamed Butch, but then their eyes strayed to me in the next cot and they became unsure. They had planned for a boy, but gee, this little girl was appealing. Even the matron said I was pretty good and that she took me into her room at night, rather than being out in the nursery with the other babies. So they went home and thought about it (I’m always an advocate of ‘sleeping on’ a problem myself), and of course came back next day and took me.

So I spent the whole of my childhood knowing I was adopted, and mostly feeling quite good about it. On occasions when I felt angry with my parents, I thought, ‘I’ll run away and find my real mother, and then they’ll be sorry’. On other occasions when I was let down by them or embarrassed by them (as happens in all families), I consoled myself with the thought that I was probably the daughter of a princess or someone from another planet and didn’t belong to these foolish people anyway. However, these occasions were very rare, as I had a normal happy childhood, with just the usual amount of angst. We all deal with certain situations, and my overbearing father had a big influence on me – and the rest of the family – but, again, nothing particularly out of the ordinary. I’m a firm believer in the concept that it is our family that pushes all our buttons, hence providing our growth opportunities.

While I was feeling quite ‘normal’ about the situation, my adoptive parents were apparently still in a lot of pain, because they didn’t ever mention the situation again. I was feeling so normal and accepting of the situation that a dear friend whom I first met in 1968 suggested I may have imagined the scenario, because she’d never felt quite right in her own family and, as a late teenager, was told that she was adopted. She couldn’t see how I could feel ‘right’.

When I was about 45, Nanditá, my Reiki healer, urged me to look for my mother. She said she’d had a lot of clients from the adoption triangle and that it really made a difference to find out where you’d come from, and to face the real situation by meeting the real people. I confided in her that, far from feeling my mother was a princess, I was actually worried that she was a whore or an alcoholic, and I would be depressed by what I found. However, she nagged me, and I eventually applied to the authorities. I was born in Adelaide, South Australia, and was living in Melbourne. The Victorian authorities ultimately contacted me (may have been a year or two after I applied, from memory) and I had to be interviewed by a social worker to ascertain whether I was balanced or not – they didn’t want an axe-murderer to be finding her mother.

They gave me some information to read about the situation. One of the articles was written by an adopted guy who said something which I considered extreme, ‘Ordinary kids have parents. Adopted kids have a filing cabinet.’ I figured that guy had a real chip on his shoulder.

Time passed, and one Friday afternoon I opened the mail to find an extract of my true birth certificate. Now, as you know, I always accepted that I was adopted, but didn’t ever stop to consider that my name was different. I found that my legal middle name was my birth name – Elizabeth. I was amazed. I suddenly remembered my mother seemed to bristle when I one day, at the age of about 8, told her I much preferred Elizabeth to Helen and I wished she’d called me that.

But two absolutely amazing things happened when I received the birth certificate, which carried the name of a woman who was in fact my mother. Of course I knew I had a mother, but I just burst into a little song, ‘I’ve got a mother; I’ve got a mother’, and I sang it all weekend long. It was like a little kid trying out a new toy piano at Christmas. It gradually subsided – and my family were very thankful. Not long after singing the first little ditty, I involuntarily whispered, ‘I’m real. I’m really real.’ And all weekend I was interspersing that with the song, although I was almost shouting it at one stage. As I said, the family soon thought I was tiresome.

I’ve since thought many times of that guy who said that adopted kids have a filing cabinet. Although my forebrain knew I had a mother and I was real, somewhere along the line I’d doubted both those situations. I know that rebirthers report that it’s a not an unknown phenomenon for people who were separated from their mothers at birth to have a deep-set opinion that they’ve killed their mothers. There must be some sort of trigger in a baby to look for its mother. When you think of it, that’s not surprising in terms of survival of the species.

The S.A. authorities who’d sent the birth certificate said my mother had in fact put her name on the register when the Freedom of Information Act was passed but that she had withdrawn it when she left the country to live permanently overseas.

They eventually gave me her married name and the fact that she’d gone to New Zealand. I knew of a family in N.Z. and asked the mother if she’d look up the electoral role. This took a few months, but one day she phoned with six phone numbers.

It’s easy enough just typing this now, but it was a terrible ordeal to ring a person and ask if she was your mother. My heart was palpitating and I thought I might throw up. Thank God the very first one on the list was my mother. I established that she was from Adelaide first of all, and then blurted out of a totally dry mouth, ‘I was born on 1st September, 1945. I think I could be your daughter.’

She said ‘You are’ in such a lovely warm way. Of course I cried instantly – I’m crying now in fact. We had a very long and beautiful conversation during which she told me this was the happiest day of her life. When she told me that, it was as though a huge key turned somewhere inside – heaps of things suddenly fell into place, just felt right, and I felt a sudden okay-ness about myself. (Of course, a lifetime of low self esteem doesn’t go away easily – so there’s more work to be done.)

I asked her if I was actually half American, as I had meditated on my conception and that idea had come through for me. She confirmed that was the case, and I had a double whammy of excitement since that proved my meditations worked from time to time.

A couple of days later we spoke again and I asked her why she had chosen not to look at me at birth. (You see I’d done clearing processes on my birth, and, through those, knew I had been ignored then. Interestingly, at the time of my birth, I got the feeling, ‘Okay – if no-one is here for me, I’ll do this by myself’, and all my life I’ve carried that energy with me.) She explained to me that because the hospitals and the system were so authoritarian back then, they gave the unmarried mothers a choice – you can either get to hold your baby or you will be told the names of the adoptive parents. She didn’t want to know their names, but wanted to be strong and to ensure that she didn’t weaken and decide to keep me, since she couldn’t afford to support me. More turning and clicking of a key in a lock somewhere deep inside of me.

However, since then I’ve decided to advise people that, if they’re ever in the position of having to reject someone, the better to keep themselves from the pain, just don’t do it. Remember Alfred Lord Tennyson’s famous line: “’Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all”.

Both my mother and I would have been better people if we’d opened our hearts to each other at that time. I stayed in my hard casing – I can do it alone – and she was trapped in guilt, which ultimately hardened her too. She confided in me that, after she married and had her son, she lost a few babies, and figured it was a punishment for giving up a girl that she was not able to have another. This must be a case of creating your own karma, since I’m quite certain that the Universe does not punish for these things. Her own guilt was what punished her.

I’m also quite certain that we agreed, before incarnating, on these roles. I had to have her genes (and those of my father) and the upbringing I did have. However, when I made comments like this she thought I was somehow having a dig at her, and so our relationship didn’t ever get off to a very good start.

I confess that she was a better correspondent than I, and certainly I was tardy in thanking her for gifts. My magazine work was all consuming and I was lucky to be able to find time for family and friends in the flesh, let alone penning a letter to a daunting personality, relatively unknown.

However, we met at the Adelaide airport (she’d returned from N.Z. at this stage). It was very scary. I think she was more scared than I was. We got on well, had lots to say, and it was rather like meeting the mother of someone you’d been to boarding school with – you knew her general characteristics and merely had to be filled in with the details.

Only a couple of weeks after we met, we had occasion to meet again, this time with my husband. We were sitting eating cakes at the Hilton. She suddenly said something about someone at another table, making a joke in exactly the same way I would have. It was like you see in the movies – Terry nearly choked on his cake because he could hear me in her. So, if anyone tells you that a sense of humour is learned, take it from me, it’s genetic!!!

Another interesting thing that we found out, and that we’d never have guessed, is to do with the use of metaphors. Both my mother and I mix metaphors, and interestingly, at times we cannot help it and other times we do it for effect. I suppose it started when we saw people falling around the floor in hysterics because of our innocuous mistake, and we enjoyed the response and continued doing it even when we knew it was incorrect. Of course, the very funniest moments are those when we make a natural error. It amazes me that there must be a little spot in the brain that’s in charge of metaphors, and we have a crossed wire in there.

I’d like to go back for a moment to when my mother decided she did not want to know the name of my parents. She told me that it was always her intention that she would not look me up, not even from a distance. She was not going to follow me home from school to check out that I was okay. I believe I have her to thank for the fact that I felt quite settled as a child. There was never that tugging energy to upset things. Here’s another paradox – life is full of them, isn’t it? The young woman who was strong enough to be able to do this was also the one who was strong enough to not handle her baby. You get the good with the bad!

And here’s another bittersweet tale to relate. Remember I told you that I felt quite chuffed to have been chosen. Not everyone in life gets chosen – mostly we take what we get (although now, at this age, I understand we did actually choose our incarnations). I was totally surprised to find myself at some stage in my mid 40s, during one of those workshops that dig out the psyche’s hidden secrets, stamping my feet and saying I didn’t want to have to live up to Butch, the boy in the next door cradle, the one who was overlooked for me.

After that, I’m totally convinced that no parent can ever do the ‘right’ thing by his/her kid. If I could take a lovely positive story about being chosen and twist it so that it was also a negative story, one where I felt compared with this boy and judged, then there’s no hope for any well-meaning parent. So, drop the guilt about doing ‘wrong’ things when they were little – if it hadn’t been that, it would have been something else that pushed their buttons, contributing to their dysfunctionality, and rendering you the big bogeyman (bogeyperson doesn’t have the same ring somehow).

I can never thank Nanditá enough for talking me into finding my mother. I would recommend to everyone with anything to do with the adoption triangle that they should fess up, if they haven’t done so already, and go ahead with relationships based on truth.

I’ve experienced great difficulty giving birth to my children, and my midwife for Pete said that she has observed this phenomenon in other adopted women. I wonder, if I’d met my mother before becoming a mother myself, would I have ‘let them go’ with ease?

My birth mother told me that she and her husband had planned a trip to Europe, had their itinerary and tickets and all, and then on the spur of the moment cancelled the trip, sold the house in New Zealand and went back to Adelaide to live. (She subsequently returned again to New Zealand to be with her son and his family and then again to Adelaide.) It was only later, when packing up the house, that she looked up the old itinerary and found that the day she was to have been in Chernobyl was the day the nuclear power plant exploded.

It must have been in my lucky stars that this happened – not to mention hers of course. I cannot begin to explain the settled feeling that happened somewhere in the middle of me after I met her. The interesting thing for me is that I didn’t know I was unsettled. As I’ve said, I felt quite normal and complete and happy with just the same amount of hang-ups as anyone else. So, again, if you’re part of that triangle, know that real healing can come from absolute truth.

The thing which is so obvious to me, and I hope to you, is that, while we are related only by adoption in this lifetime, because we’ve chosen each other before incarnating, we’ve definitely shared lives in the past. I’ve received insights into a couple of lives with my adoptive parents. So, while there is some perhaps biological need deep down to be able to touch your birth mother, and it makes an unspeakable difference when you can, your adoptive mother is the one that’s taken all the flack, been there for you through thick and thin, and loves you totally.

My adoptive parents have not been able to talk about it still. I told you how the subject was dropped after I was told as a toddler. A few years after I met my birth mother I plucked up the courage to write to my parents. I told them we were living a lie and that they should talk about it normally and openly. I had hoped to be able to speak frankly and explain the real position – that I needed to find my mother in the end, but there’s no way I would trade them for her. I even fancied we’d all be able to meet at some stage. They received the letter a couple of days before Mothers’ Day. We all sat around the table in a very tense way and nothing was said about the adoption and very little said at all.

I got up to help my father clear the table – this very big overbearing guy – and he turned on me in the kitchen and spat out, ‘Who told you?’

To which I replied, ‘Mother – she told me when I was a toddler’.

He said, ‘You were only young; you wouldn’t have remembered’.

‘Well I did’ – and by now it’s as though I’m defending myself on two counts.

I started to speak more loudly and he said, ‘Sshh… someone will hear you’.

This is my birth we’re talking about – and he’s treating it as though it were a dirty thing. Then the penny drops. He loves me absolutely, but he does actually believe that it was a dirty thing. I’ve been conceived during the war, out of wedlock, and, although I’m beautiful to him and totally loved by him, there’s no escaping the stigma – another reason for keeping it all hushed up. And with that came the understanding of my underlying guilt which was so all-consuming that Helen, my previous business partner, brought up as a Catholic, used to joke that I could teach the Catholics a thing or two about guilt. She has a devilish sense of humour and, from across the office, she’d beat her chest and mouth “maya culpa” (Latin for I am guilty) when she saw me in action.

My poor father is in a nursing home now. He has dementia, and I’ve observed in his ramblings that it is the painful stuff, the things that he never quite came to grips with, let alone healed, that comes out. He goes on and on about some things, mixing them all up with present circumstances, and the nursing staff have no idea what he’s on about, as there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason, but I can hear the various painful experiences being expressed. I’m one of them, well at least my birth is. And this must surely be another reason for us all to look at our ‘stuff’.

This leads me finally to talk about the pain between my birth mother and me, although, as you’ll have seen, that’s being healed right now from my end, and because of the direction of the angels. (Interestingly, my Vedic astrology chart says that I will have a troubled relationship with my mother.)

At one time a few years ago I was speaking on the phone to my mother and, as the school holidays were almost upon us, and it happened to be a quiet time for the magazine, I suggested we’d bundle the kids in the car and bring them over to meet her, since she’d not met them. She got a bit flustered by this and said she was a bit scared to meet them, that they might judge her, or something. I reassured her, and said I’d let her know in a couple of days if I could arrange it, as the big kids were no longer at school, and had to get time off work. It all fell into place from our end and I rang her, but her husband would not put her on the phone. I then rang every night that week but could not speak with her because she was either out or had a headache and had gone to bed.

I figured from this that he was feeling threatened by the comparison of her grandchildren with their grandchildren. So we decided to hit the road with the kids and go over anyway, hoping to eventually fluke it to speak with her on the phone. We took two days to get there, going the long way, and called a couple of times, to no avail. Finally we got to Adelaide, stayed in a lovely place at Mount Lofty, but found that she would not see us at all. I didn’t ever get to speak with her personally.

I felt hurt on behalf of the kids as much as myself and tried to work on the situation in my inner space. When I got home again I wrote to her that I was disappointed that it had worked out like this, presumably because of her husband’s underlying fears and dysfunctions. She sent back a tirade. She told me she didn’t want any of my psycho-babble relating to her husband, who was not at all to blame, that my father had very bad genes, and it was obvious that I had inherited those. Furthermore, she told me she never wanted to see me again. I tried to contact her one more time, by sending a copy of the magazine to her, but she sent it back as unsolicited mail. I told you she was strong. I’m glad I inherited her strength, and am so grateful that I have an opportunity to heal the pain between us.

This is one section from the book, ‘Seven Angels Helped Me – they’ll help you too’ by Elizabeth Stephens.

If you’d like to purchase a hard copy, please email: advertising@livingnow.com.au

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