Nothing to do with luck

I’m a member of a few closed Facebook groups that provide a forum for adoptees to ask questions or tell their stories but more importantly where they can vent.  It’s forums like these where adoptees feel safe in knowing they won’t be judged or patronized and it is a place where it’s very unlikely you’ll hear the same old bullshit comments we all hear from non-adoptees.  And this week’s post is no exception when the topic of conversation was around being told one is lucky for being adopted, usually in reference to the adopting family.

Firstly, it’s not luck that brought me together with my family, more than likely they had their name on a waiting list for some time since 7 years previously they adopted my brother.  On the other hand a young women found she had an unwanted pregnancy and put her name on a list so as to adopt her baby to another family. At some point throughout this process someone from the adoption agency went through the waiting list to see which family was next to receive a baby – and the match was done.

I wouldn’t call that luck, I’d call it paperwork!

I could say I’m lucky that my family didn’t turn out to be arseholes. I had a loving caring and close family and was never told I was different or didn’t belong, it just was’t mentioned.  I do know this wasn’t the case for many other adoptees and that is sad.

In my experience when someone says that I was lucky to have such wonderful parents in the context around adoption, they are usually trying to be sympathetic to my plight – that being my search may never have an end.  I would rather they give me encouragement or at least say the whole damn business sucks, because it does.  I don’t want to hear how lucky I am or how lucky my parents were to have me because in order to have me they lost three babies – that’s not lucky, that’s tragic.

I’ve thrown the “I’m lucky to have had a fabulous family” line out many times and in the context of the topic of my adoption so I guess I’m hypercritical when I call others out for the same thing so I guess my hypocrisy highlights the mixed emotions that comes with adoption and those mixed emotions can dance around simple words such as ‘lucky’.

Lucky is a great word, and it’s free for everyone to say and I like to think I am lucky and my family are lucky but not because of my adoption for every other reason – we live a good life surrounded by good people – family and friends, we love, we laugh and we cry together as one.  But when we talk about adoption everyone needs to be mindful that adoption is blanketed in raw emotions so using a relatively simple term such as ‘lucky’ can be harmless for some but poison for others.

My awesome family

It’s that time of year when it’s my official duty as a grandmother to attend end of year dance concerts.  This year was the first concert for  Mr 5yo Charlie and for Miss Tildy (aka Matilda) this was her 6th concert – not bad for a 7 1/2 yo.

Calling it an ‘official duty’ may imply my attendance at these events is under sufferance and now that I’m years into attending these events it’s safe to say on the most part it is under sufferance because to see my grandchildren perform, and don’t get me wrong I love to see them on the stage, one must sit through endless dances of the other children.

This year I had the pleasure of suffering through 2 dance concerts. First up was Mr Charlie.  Charlie, although very much a little macho man, enjoyed dancing in the background at his sister’s dance lessons since he was old enough to sway his little hips. He even joined her dance company as soon as he was old enough – around 3.  However, it wasn’t long before he decided dancing was for girls and refused to go.  We suspect he was teased at day care and was shamed out of it – at least this is the most likely reason we could think of because this was the only interaction Charlie had with other children other than his mothers friends’ children and his seven girl cousins. And although Charlie’s dad Rhys is very much a beer and sport’s man, he could see the benefits of Charlie learning ballet – balance and coordination would certainly help Charlie’s future soccer career.  So Charlie’s sudden refusal to go wasn’t from his Dad.

Fast forward to the beginning of this year (2015)

My daughter Kristy heard of a boys only dance class at another dance academy near their home. In actual fact it’s a 5 minute walk between Tildy’s dance academy and Charlies such is the popularity of dancing in the area.  So Charlie joined the all-boy class and hasn’t looked back.

I love the idea of my grandson dancing and to see him on stage performing was a hoot. He truly took on the character of his two dance routines. He made damn sure he was front and centre on stage and he also make sure his face reflected the character he was performing.

Maybe there’s an element of truth that my birth uncle was an actor!

Tildy on the other hand performed in 6 dance routines reflecting the 6 different styles of dance she learns. Next year she wants to do another dance style to bring her grand total to 7 different  classes. We were trying to encourage her to take on a team sport such as soccer and for a time she was rather keen but she’s had a change of heart and is insistent on doing another dance which incorporated gymnastic routines.

Given my and her mother’s inability to do a simple floor tumble with it being an accident, I dare say the genetics are against my little Tildy but I”m confident her determination will break through that genetic disability.

Which brings me to the point of my story

It’s always at events like these that I really miss my Mum and wish she was enjoying the moment with me. I reminisce back to Kristy’s first dance concert when she was 3yo and Mum proudly watched her granddaughter performing two dances, one in a little monkey outfit and the other dressed in an old fashion swimming costume.  From those thoughts I imagine my birthmother watching her great grandchildren – surely she’d be proud of her heritage as I am.

I don’t think she’ll ever meet me let alone her grandchildren or great-grandchildren and that’s sad because she’s missed out on meeting some pretty amazing people. And that goes for my sons Josh and Ty and Josh’s soon-to-be new addition to the family – a daughter due in March 2016.  And Josh’s partner Lauren, who comes from a talented dance background, will ensure in years to come I’ll be sitting in the audience suffering through endless dance routines of other children to see my little granddaughter dance into my heart.

I might not find my birth mother alive but I certainly hope that one day I’ll find half-siblings or close cousins and possibly aunties and uncles.  Regardless of who I meet, I want them to see how wonderful my family is – their blood. How pretty OK I’ve turned out and how lucky they would have been to have had us in their lives.

Adoption isn’t just about finding a birthmother or birthfather, son or daughter, it’s much bigger than that. It’s family traits, gifts and talents. It’s heritage, it’s genes, it’s bloodline. It’s a blossoming branch on the ancestral tree.  It’s a story of a families evolution.

I can only hope that one day I’ll find my little family’s place on our rightful ancestral tree, know our heritage, our genes and our bloodline and I also hope that one day I can share my awesome family with the family I wasn’t given the chance to know.


Swimming in DNA

Ethnicity estimate1It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog – a very long while.  A few years ago I was well into this blogging thing, then the website was born and not long after died a decommissioning death.  Around the time I decommissioned the website, I decided enough-was-enough with the topic of my adoption BUT then I decided to send my DNA to and here I am, drowning in my, and other people’s DNA.

I’ve been a member of for some years now, I’ve completed my adoptive family’s family tree as far back as the records allow.  I’m also an avid viewer of ‘Who do you think you are’ and was enticed by the DNA related adverts, so I checked it out. As luck would have it there was a sale on the test and being the cheap-scape, I completed the form, paid the reduced rate and waited for my DNA kit to come in the mail.

After about two weeks I received the kit.  I spat in the tube, carefully packed my precious DNA and sent it off.  The information provided with the kit said the results would be ready in 6-8 weeks.  I was pleasantly surprised when I received an email two weeks later informing me that my results were ready.  This meant I could login to Ancestry and activate my DNA test results.

The first information I saw was my ethnicity estimate.  I was expecting to see predominately British with a splash of Western Europe. But low and behold I’m 59% Irish.  I was of two minds about this information:

  • Firstly, this would likely indicate I originated from poor Irish stock either brought to Australia in chains or through the free settlement deals of the mid to late 1800s as the new colony needed men to work.  I’d always dreamt I was the bastard child of a British aristocrat.
  • Secondly, wow Irish – I love their accents and I certainly approve of their dry and mostly cutting sense of humour and of course I too love a drink or more – many more, I digress!

Ethnicity estimate-matchesThe other information, and the most important, was the DNA relationship matches of which I had 37 4th cousins (figure raising steadily).

Wow, I have blood cousins! I would never have thought I’d ever find another person who share my DNA besides my kids and grandkids- how exiting!

My first task was to find out what a 4th cousin looks like, not in the physical sense but how am I related to a 4th cousin?

It’s important to note that DNA doesn’t know the concept of cousins, a cousin match is just a way of describing the amount of DNA shared between people. A 4th cousin could mean we share a great-great-great-grandparent (3rd GG), more or less. To put this into context – everyone has  32 x 3rd GG (ie. sixteen sets – refer to figure below).

Tracing a family tree and uncovering great grandparents is moderately simple if you know where to begin which is usually with yourself, your parents and/or grandparents.  To go beyond grandparents gets a little tricky but still doable. It’s not until you reach your 2nd GG that the information starts drying up so researching 3rd GG is getting into the late 1700s/ early 1800s and the records are well and truly scarce.  To add salt to the wound, the Irish records are mostly none existent as many records were lost in fires or through the English occupancy – just my dumb luck!

To understand my dilemma, my starting point is to find  a common set of 3rd GG I share with any one of my 37 4th cousins.  Of course this task made all the more difficult since I don’t have a starting point as in a name as it’s most likely that the name of Watkins given by my birth mother is false.   So needless to say when I stare at a cousin’s family tree it’s anyone’s guess as to which set of 3rd GG we share.  To top off my dilemma, very few of these cousins have a family tree in the first instance and those that do don’t go beyond 2nd GG.

In order to find a common relative, I need to find several 4th cousins who share the same 3rd GG, meaning their 2nd GG would be a siblings to each other and so would mine – confusing isn’t it? didn’t provide tools for finding matching cousins until now, however, it’s still not a useful tool.  In the meantime I’d sent a few emails to various cousins and one or two of them suggested I upload my DNA results to a free service called – is a service that allows you to match with people who have had the DNA tested from other ancestry sites such as 23andme and FtDNA (Family Tree DNA).  GEDmatch is for the more serious DNA researcher and it appears that’s what I need to become.

After I uploaded my DNA to GEDmatch and waited the obligatory 24 hours, I received my unique ‘Kit’ number, this helps in the various searches you can perform on the website.  You can also find people who match your kit as well as other cousin kits.  I can even run a test that predicts eye colour, which was spot on in my case – bloodshot – at least that’s the colour they have been every since I received my DNA results.

Since uploading my DNA to these sites, I can’t count the time that has been consumed running diagnostic tests, contacting cousins, scouring ancestry trees and running test after test.  I’ve had help along the way from cousins. One cousin who understands DNA suggested I check out a possible 3rd GG by the name of Hayman. The Haymans immigrated from England to New Zealand and some moved to Australia in the 1800s.  His suggestion was based on a shared cousin relationship between three people, me being one. He knew this other cousin shared the Hayman’s as 3rd GGs so the likely conclusion was I too shared the Haymans.  This means I need to identify which of the Hayman’s children are my 2nd GG and down the line I go.

How hard could that be?

My joy was short lived once I knew Mr and Mrs Hayman had 20 children – 20!  OMG, kill me now!  One of these 20 children MAY BE my 2nd GG and if I knew which one I’d have to find out which of their kids was my 1st GG and there are 72 to choose from – YES THAT’S RIGHT, 72!

Needless to say my job is definitely set out for me and this research is only based on someone’s calculated guess which in all likelihood is wrong.  Regardless, I press ahead with endless hours of searching trying to find some glimmer of hope, some correlation between the search results and the information provided by my birth mother, any information that seems to make sense.  I go to sleep thinking about the search. I wake up at 3am thinking about the search and I wake up in the morning thinking about the search.

I really am swimming in my own DNA.  However, it seems on most days that I’m drowning in it.  And today is no exception!

My parents

Don’t be confused as to who I’m referring to when I say “my parents”.
They were the ones who brought me home from the hospital.
They were the ones who loved me unconditionally.
They were the ones who taught me right from wrong.
They were the ones who never made me feel like I didn’t belong.
They are the ones who I miss with all my heart.
I love you Mum and Dad – Forever your daughter!

My parents
My parents – Bede and Daphne

Daphne and Bede were married on March 24 1945, just before World War II ended.  They started dating before the war commenced.  Their story is an enduring one.  A story of love, loss, heartache and joy.

Dad died at 58 when I was only 20. Mum died ten years later at 65, I was 30.  I never got the chance to talk to dad about his story let alone my adoption. He died thinking that both my brother and I didn’t know.  The sad truth is, we found out as a result of him dying.

As for mum, my beautiful wonderful mum, she was an emotionally fragile woman and it wasn’t until after her death that I uncovered more of mum’s story, a story she wore in silence and a story I want to share.

He’s got mail, we’ve all got mail

I know I’ve been quiet for a while except for one teasing Facebook status update that was a little premature because I hadn’t digested the news and at that point it was still very surreal….

I was notified by phone by the Benevolent Society’s Post Adoption Resource Centre (PARC)  to say they have contacted a man they believe ‘could’ be my birthfather.  I was flabbergasted for several reasons:

  1. A man?  How could this be so, I never gave them a name, only the details my birthmother gave at the time of my adoption.
  2. I only ever put my attention to finding my birthmother, not my birthfather. Not because I didn’t want to know who he was but he so much older and the likely hood of finding him alive diminished as every year passed.
  3. He’s from one of the wealthiest families in Australia (although I had never heard of him).

PARC did tell me they haven’t actually spoken to him. After two letters and a follow up phone call they were contacted by his Lawyer who told them he refuses to help PARC with enquiries.

PARC said  it’s now up to me to contact him as I’m not bound by any privacy issues, and I did, I sent the following email.

Hello Mr X,

I’m writing to you in the hope that you can help me find a women of interest to me, a woman who gave her name as Anne Watkins in 1960/61 and whom is my birth mother. However, it appears she as given a misleading surname but I assume Anne is her first name or middle name.  Thankfully, Anne provided in-depth information about herself and of my birth father.

My search for Anne commenced  immediately following confirmation that I was adopted, I was 21. That search has continued for over 32 years but in that time I have concentrated my efforts mostly on Anne but over the years with more information becoming available through changes to Legislation and the internet, more information has come to light about my birth father and this is why I have contacted you as I believe you can help uncover some of the missing pieces, especially about Anne.

Firstly, a little about myself:
I was born in Camperdown NSW on the 9th January 1961 and immediately adopted by an amazing couple.  My father died when I was 20 years old and my mother when I was 30.  It was my father’s death that resulted in the confirmation of my adoption as certain paperwork was found.

“I must add here that my search is not about replacing my parents, I adore them and miss them terribly. They provided me with a wonderful childhood.  But as an adopted adult not knowing who gave me life and my genetic makeup leaves a very large gap in one’s life and that can only be filled by knowing who and where one comes from (as cliché as that sounds, it’s very true).  Not to mention every time I meet with a Dr I’m asked about my medical history, it upsets me more and more as I get older.  And the most disturbing fact is that the older I get, the older my birth parents get and the chances of meeting them diminishes with every year.  I have always envied anyone who can look into the face of a relative and recount a common features or talent. Although I can do that with my children and grandchildren, I don’t know where those features or talent came from.

Please be assured this email has not been prompted because of your prominent standing in the community but a genuine plea for help in this matter.  Please respond to this email or you can call me on [mobile number].  I’m happy to come to Melbourne to speak to you personally if that is what you would prefer.

It’s not everyday you get to write an email like this so I find myself reading it every now and again wondering if I could have said more or less.

If he’s not my birth father wouldn’t you think someone, anyone, including his Lawyer would call to tell PARC they have the wrong man so they can turn their attention elsewhere?   But no, after a follow-up phone call asking his secretary if Mr X received my email, I received the following email from the Lawyer within 10 minutes:

Dear Ms Leigh,

I have been notified that you contacted the Mr X  this morning making further enquiries. Can you kindly refrain from contacting or trying to contact Mr X any further.

As I have previously advised you, Mr X cannot assist you.

We trust that you will now direct your enquiries elsewhere and not endeavour to contact Mr X again.

Firstly, Mr Lawyer, I’ve never been told he can’t assist me because this is my first email and maybe he can’t assist me – but why didn’t he tell PARC he can’t assist because it’s not him.  From what PARC told me, he refused to assist – two very different things in my book.

My reply email to the Lawyer

I find it rather curious that Mr X is getting his Lawyer to relay
this email when it’s a personal matter not a legal one. And I have
never been informed by Mr X that he cannot help me.

And the response:

Dear Ms Leigh,

I am not going to quibble with you.

Kindly leave Mr X alone. If you persist any further in trying to contact Mr X, then it will need to be treated as a harassment matter.


Really? Harassment?  Not to mention his condescending comment about not quibbling with me. I’ve only sent 1 email and 1 follow up phone call, that hardly constitutes harassment.  He must be counting the letters and phone calls from PARC.

What is surprising me the most is that I had no qualms calling my Brother’s birthmother uncovering her secret after 58 years.  I even found his half-sister on and Facebook,  although it wasn’t me who contacted her and spilled the beans on her Mother’s secret – so why am I so worried about doing the same in my own case, after all what do I have to lose?

You’ve got mail

I recall saying at some stage that the Finding Anne Watkins website was setup as my last hope, long shot, stab in the dark chance at finding Anne Watkins but in reality I lost hope in finding her about 10 years ago because at that time I’d been searching for over 20 and I hadn’t uncovered one piece of information that lead me to her, or anyone else for that matter.

All roads have led to nowhere when it comes to finding Anne Watkins. Needless to say when I received the following email from a researcher at the Benevolent Society I got excited for about 5 minutes.

I hope all is going well for you. Just wanted to let you know what’s been happening. About a month ago I sent a letter to a person I am following up. I did not hear back, so I sent another today by registered mail, person to person. This means I should either get a notification that the letter has been signed for, or it will be retuned as having gone to an old address. This letter is to a person I am hoping could provide some information so it is a looooong shot.


I have also emailed a number of odd places for tiny pieces of information but these have so far been unsuccessful. I will let you know if anything comes of the letter. I am expecting that the letter may not be well received so don’t keep your hopes too high. I will continue to do what we can here. I hope you are hanging in there. Let me know if I can support you in any way while we wait.

I can say with confidence that nothing will come of it. You could say that is just my way of arming myself for another let down or maybe I have a sixth sense about the whole situation. In reality I can’t believe I missed something in my search.

I wish I could be more like my brother who doesn’t care too much for the whole adoption thing. I asked him while having lunch with him and my sister-in-law if it bothered him that he replaced a baby, he said it didn’t bother him at all. This seems to be very common response amongst adopted blokes especially the ones around my age. Or are they just covering up their true feelings in good old Aussie bloke fashion?

Regardless of the outcome from this mysterious registered letter, I’m intrigued as to whom this person is that may provide more information and why wouldn’t they be receptive? So many questions rolling around my mind and I understand they can’t give much information until they know more or nothing if it’s a dead end. If it does come to a dead end as expected, then that’s probably the nail in the coffin. If I can’t find her and the experts can’t find her then she needs to find me and thinking about that just raises 100 more questions starting with ‘what if she’s dead?’.

Consider yourself one of the family

My family never told me I was adopted but I always felt something didn’t quite fit when it came to my place in the family.  It’s not because they treated me in a way that made me feel at odds, on the contrary, I can only suggest the feeling was either innate or perhaps something I overheard as a young child. I suspect the later to be the case because of an incident that occurred when I was around 4.

The sandbox

I was happily playing in a sandbox with kids visiting with their parents when I overheard someone talking about me. I don’t recall what was said and I don’t know who by, but whatever was said that day disturbed me and forever left me with a feeling of detachment.

That detached feeling would surface in one way or another at various times throughout my life.

Consider yourself one of the family

My aunty took me to see the movie Oliver in 1969, I was 8. I recall throughout the movie feeling distraught that he was an unwanted child. Why didn’t anyone want him? Where was his family? Why was he treated badly? It wasn’t his fault he was an orphan.

I understood that this movie, although a musical and set in a by-gone era, wasn’t entirely fictional as many children the same age as me and living within Australia didn’t have a family – I saw it on the news and documentaries.

For months afterwards I couldn’t shake off the feeling that I could wake up one morning and be an orphan just like Oliver. It disturbed me so much that every night I’d wake up in a cold sweat, sobbing. Mum or dad would come into my room each night to console me back to sleep. If they didn’t wake and come in to my room, I’d crawl in between them as they slept feeling safe surrounded by my parents.

One day at school, I was called into the principles office. The principle, a nun, said my parents were worried about me and asked if I would share with her what was troubling me. I felt uncomfortable and embarrassed and I wasn’t about to tell a nun about my fears and worries, besides I was too young to articulate what they were. She told me that if the nightmares continued, I would have to talk to a priest. Needless to say the nightmares disappeared soon after.

For the next 22 years I avoided watching the movie and when I finally did, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the little girl who was terrified she’d end up a poor little orphan.

PS:  I haven’t watched the remake of Oliver and I don’t intend to.

Love Child

Love Child is a new television series on Channel Nine. It’s set in a fictional Kings Cross Hospital with an adjoining hostel where unwed mothers live and work until their babies are born then adopted, some forcibly. Love Child has come onto our screens not long after Julie Gillard, the former Australian Prime Minister, said sorry to all those affected by the practice of forced adoptions.

I was keen to see the first episode since it would reflect closely to my story but only insofar-as the era and location. I didn’t conceive the notion that my adoption was physically forced, and here are the reasons why:

I believe all adoptions where forced, physically or emotionally. Physically without consent, emotionally because of shame, guilt and societies condemnation

1. My birthmother Anne, was 24 at the time of my birth. Hardly an age where she would be forced into giving her baby up without her consent.
2. My birthfather, name unknown, was 40 and as the story goes was helping Anne with expenses. This leads me to believe that Anne didn’t work out her confinement in a single mother’s hostel as depicted in the TV program.
3. The address Anne gave was a private boarding house in Woollahra run by an elderly spinster named Lucy. At least that’s what Lucy’s great niece told me many years after her aunty died.

When you can’t verify the information you have, one has to fill in the gaps with assumptions



Because of the assumptions I’ve made surrounding my adoption, I didn’t immerse myself into stories of forced adoptions that graced our news and current affair shows around the time of the national apology. I simply didn’t believe that story was mine but belief can be born out of ignorance.

I was immersed in my story, as an adoptee with little information to go on and developed a story that I was happy with. I was ignorant to the story of birthparents, especially birthmothers and over the coming weeks I hope with the help of the show to get a better understanding of what it was like as a birthmother.

I understand that TV doesn’t always reflect life but in the case of Love Child, there’s plenty of evidence to support the storyline. And while this show is causing headlines, it’s a good opportunity to keep the discussion going and in my quest to find Anne Watkins I hope to get an insight to what her story may have been.

The confirmation

Finding out I was adopted was more about confirming what I’d already suspected.  The confirmation itself would come from a stranger at the end of the phone and the conversation went something like this:

“I’m sorry Katherine,  I am unable to disclose confidential information of this nature.”

As unbelievable as it sounds, that statement changed my life and started me on a search that’s still going today – 30 years later.

The lead up to this phone call entailed a night at the pub for my husband Mark who ran into my brother Chris which inevitably ended up in the two chatting over a few beers. The next morning, which was probably a Saturday since Mark only went out on Friday nights,  he recounted his conversation with Chris.


Chris’s and my father died on the 9th July 1981, he was only 58. He didn’t wake up one morning.  If my memory serves me well, I think my brother Chris was living at home at the time so he was there when mum woke up and discovered her husband of 36 years lying dead beside her.

Our mum was a beautiful soft soul who didn’t cope well with her emotions so sorting out all the paperwork one has to deal with on these occasions was left to my brother. I was tending to mum and my three month old baby girl Kristy.

Mark’s recount…

While Chris was gathering paperwork to provide the undertaker, he discovered two Order of Adoption certificates, his and mine. Chris had no idea he was adopted, he was 28 at the time and we all knew mum breast fed Chris. He told Mark that he wasn’t surprised to find my adoption papers, after all he was 7 and one day out of the blue mum and dad bought home a baby sister.

And that was about as much information as Mark could remember. Knowing my brother that was about as much information he knew. Like me, my brother adored mum and dad and I think he was devastated in finding out he was adopted so he wasn’t interested in getting to the bottom of the story.

You would think that this information was the confirmation I needed but on the contrary, Mark was recounting a conversation held in a pub between him and my brother both of whom enjoyed the odd drink or two or three.

I didn’t want to ask Chris for confirmation of his story. I certainly wasn’t going to ask mum, that would be devastating for her.  Asking questions would uncover my desire to find out who my birth parents are and I didn’t want my family to think I didn’t love them. Asking for my Order of Adoption certificate was also out of the question, at least it was at that time.

Looking back at that time, I conclude that the moment my adoption was confirmed was the moment I wanted to know – where did I came from and how did I get  here.

If I couldn’t ask my family maybe a stranger could provide the confirmation I needed.  If there was an Order of Adoption certificate, my name most certainly would be on a government list somewhere. What government department I didn’t know but it was Saturday and I couldn’t wait for Monday to come sooner so I could start calling.

Monday and the search begins

I can’t remember the exact date my search began but I do recall being in my newly renovated lounge room which was the home my father was raised in. So it must have been 1984. By this time I had two kids – Kristy 3 and Josh was a newborn.

After making several phone calls I was finally put through to the Department of Youth and Community Services. I told my story to a lovely man and I recall his genuine interest. I wish I knew his name as he is an important element in my story. He said he could look into the records over the next couple of days but he did warn me that if I was on the list he would be unable to disclose confidential information of that nature but he said he could confirm if I wasn’t on the list.

So the scene was set, in several days time this lovely man would either say he wasn’t able to disclose confidential information of that nature or that I wasn’t on the list.  It was the longest three days I’ve lived through.

The phone rang, he said he was from the Department of Youth and Community Services and that he searched his records and his next sentence changed my life:

“I’m sorry Katherine,  I am unable to disclose confidential information of this nature.”

Lil babes’ lost

babygravesAs a little girl I remember asking my mum about my sisters who both died around the time of their birth. I can’t recall how I found out about them but I guess mum told me at some stage.  The idea I had two big sisters, although dead, was a fanciful dream for a little girl who was one of two kids, the other being my brother who was seven years older than me. I asked questions such as how they died, their names, how old they would be. Simple questions a little girl would ask unlike the questions I’d ask now such as how my parents coped with the loss and why didn’t we visit my sister’s graves like we did for all other passed family members.

It wasn’t until after mum died and a visit to see her childhood and best friend, Aunty Anne, I discovered there was a third baby, a boy, stillborn.  I also learnt this baby boy was replaced immediately by my brother. Finally I understood how mum breastfeed my brother even thought he was adopted. Because this birth, death and overnight adoption occurred in Sydney, well away from the country where they lived, no one knew about my brother’s adoption, not even my father’s best friend, Alan, who was with my brother when he found our adoption papers. This was the same day my mum woke up and dad was dead beside her. My brother was 28 and he had no idea he was adopted.

Learning about this third baby and the events surrounding my brother’s adoption made me feel terribly sad for my parents and I wonder how they coped. Looking back I can only say dad soldiered on and had to be strong for both him and mum. Mum was a very soft woman who would tear up at the most trivial things and unfortunately I’d go crook on her for being a big sook. If I only knew then what I know now,  I would have given her a hug instead of a scolding – sorry mum.

My renewed interest in the lost babies came about during the June long weekend in 2011. I had already started to research my adopted families ancestry and during that research I came across the Family History section of Birth, Death’s and Marriages website. This website is a great source of information, especially when piecing together family generations. My maternal aunty and her dear friend who we always referred to as aunty, were visiting and I was busy doing all sorts of searches on the website. One search put to rest a family rumour that my aunt’s uncle was indeed her cousin.

I was about to call it a day when I decided to do a search with the hope of finding something on my adopted siblings. I figured it was a long shot as I believed all three were stillborn but I entered the search criteria and pressed submit. When the screen refreshed what displayed was a table with three records, three little babies’ names, the year of death and my parent’s names. Although I had known for most of my life about the baby girls and recently about the baby boy, to see their names listed on the screen made it all too real.

  • Robyn Maryee died 1950
  • Daphne died 1952
  • Christopher Bede  died 1953.

So many emotions swept through me at that moment:

  • Sadness for my parents who lost three of their own flesh and blood.
  • Sadness that my parents weren’t able to morn their loss, or so it seemed.
  • Sadness I had taken their place. I lived the life they should have lived with the wonderful family that they, not me, were born into.
  • And finally I felt sadness for these three little souls no one acknowledging their almost existence except for a couple of conversations with mum when I was little.

Since that June long weekend, I’ve discovered all three babies burial places. The two girls are buried in the town where my parents lived and the baby boy is buried in Rookwood cemetery. No headstones mark their existence or death. And I’m certain no funeral took place for all three.

It wasn’t entirely my parent’s fault the babies were not given a funeral or a headstone, it was fitting for the era when dead babies were whisked away and the parents left to deal with the loss the best way they could. There is so much more to this story beginning with a young couple falling in love just before the war broke out and marrying just before the war ended,  followed by the tragic loss of three babies through incompatible blood types, and a new beginning for two unwanted babies – me Katherine Therese and my brother Christopher Karl .

In memory of Robyn, Daphne and Christopher
I wish we got to meet you