As 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 .