In the 35 years before my adoption confirmation I’ve only been to two support groups. First one in 1986 just after the confirmation phone call. The session was held in the Parramatta Town Hall. The second session was in 2007. It was held in the State Library of NSW and was just up the road from where I was working at the time.
The first meeting in Parramatta was held on a weekday afternoon and a two hour drive from my home town. I had to take the kids along because asking Mum to babysit would involve me conjuring up a story and I wasn’t a good liar especially to Mum. The hall was in a small square which was a closed off section of street. There were a few people hanging around the square and on the most part they looked like a bunch I’d would avoid in a dark allay. I assumed there was a homeless shelter nearby or a methadone clinic. But as it turned out they were waiting for the adoption session to start. I remember thinking I must have been brought up in the bubble if this what adopted people look like – I was slightly horrified but we made the journey and I was going in.
The attendees turned the discussion into a whinge fest, at least I thought they did. They complained how being adopted affected their health and prosperity. Up until that point and for many years after I never thought for a moment I was affected by being adopted but that was before my search started and before I was old enough to start making all the mistakes I did in life and many I can attribute to having an identify problem.
One positive outcome from that session was I learnt that adoptions before 1965 included the mother’s name on the adoption order. Well that was it for me, I had a duty to perform and that was to ask Mum for my adoption papers. At least after I tell her I know I’m adopted and how I achieved that is a whole other story!
I didn’t go back to Parramatta for another group hug!
The second meeting in the Library was with a group of people who like me worked in the city and this venue was handy and they looked more like my type of people. However, the story lines in this group was around successful and not so successful reunions. At this point in time I was a bit over twenty years into my search and had come to the conclusion the name Watkins was false. It was also this realisation that I may never have a reunion so this group session just made me feel depressed. I left the session early, finished work for the day all the while holding off from crying until I got home where no one could see me. MOTH was playing squash so not even he knew how painful that session was.
As the years rolled on and the chances of meeting my birth parents grew slimmer by the year, I was veering into the depths of depression. I had recently dealt with an adoption search agency who suggested I attend a group session they were organising and I thought I’d give the group sessions another try. If nothing else I might get some tips on searching.
There were six sessions in total over successive weeks. I was prepared going in to be a minority within this minority group. There were 8 of us in total. Seven women and one man. At the first meeting one of the women told us she was meeting her birth mother the next day. Oh great, would this mean we’d have to listen to this women’s reunion story for the next six weeks? As it turned out no. Four others besides me hadn’t met their birth family but unlike me they hadn’t applied for their paperwork to kick off the search.
Two women of the group were slightly scary and fucking crazy to say it bluntly. One was a large disabled women with mad eyes that wouldn’t stay still in her sockets. Her adoptive parents were mongrels and I felt sorry she drew the short straw but she interjected to every discussion with a terrible story from her own experience. I know I might be sounding a bit harsh but we’ve all got our own battles, adopted or not, and they can’t be overshadowed by who’s got the saddest story. She annoyed me from the gate post and over the next few weeks we discovered that she had found her birthmother who suffered from physiological issues, which didn’t surprise me.
The other women was large, loud, and rough as guts with tattoos and bright blue coloured hair. She was a recovering drug addict who found her birth mother who was also a recovering drug addict, again not surprising. She was disruptive in the sessions and could turn nasty if she didn’t like the topic of conversation especially if the view didn’t fit hers.
By the third week I had had enough of these crazy bitches. They had way too many issues and both obviously needed one-on-one therapy and not look for free counselling in a ‘group’ session. The disabled women didn’t come back after the 4th week, for that I was thankful and I’m sure everyone else was. The blue haired women missed one week and we all got to tell another part of our story without interruption.
After each session I’d cry on the way home. My tears were out of frustration because I couldn’t find another adoptee I could relate to. They were either crazy or had met their birth family or hadn’t started searching. I’d tell MOTH about the sessions, he said if I felt that way not to go back but when I start something I tend to stick it out and this was no exception, so I completed the six weeks not really achieving much.
And then there is now
All my previous group sessions were before I found my family and I was in the middle of a long drawn out search that I was convinced had no end. Now I have a beginning, a middle and an end to my story. But maybe, just maybe, my adverse reaction to group sessions was more about me and where I thought I belonged or didn’t belong. Because I did belong in this group with all the different stories, experiences and where we were in our adoption journey. We all share one fundamental thing, we were separated at birth from our true birth family and by being separated from our family meant we all had to muddle along on our life path not knowing where we came from or where we were going.