Bits and Bobs

Kate Cocks Kate Cocks, founder of Kate Cocks Mother and Babies Home run by the former Methodist Church
cotsHere’s a piece, just published, which I wrote for the ABC’s Open Project Separated which is on adoption of the forced era. My mother resided at the Kate Cocks Home until one month after my birth.
I have been living the adopted life for 68 years so far. Adoption is for life, it never ends, the effects of mother-loss and the trauma of adoption and being placed with strangers, however kind, well-meaning and well intentioned adopters may be, never leaves us. It is thought by many that the damage to adoptees begins in utero and many of us suffer illness and diseases, some of those rare and hard to diagnose. All adoption begins with loss, trauma and is accompanied by ambiguous loss. We don’t know who exactly we have lost, what family we have lost, what life we have lost and who we might have been..
We lose our names, our birth details and sometimes our motherland, our language, our culture and our identity.
At the time of my adoption in 1944 babies were considered to be blank slates. Due to the war, babies were in plentiful supply and adopters could pick and chose which they wanted. It was considered that babies would be spoiled if they were cuddled, comforted or shown affection and love. We were left to cry in nurseries for hours between feed times, which were strictly regulated. My mother and I were together for four weeks, during which time she breastfed me and was responsible for my care. It saved on the cost of staff and had the ‘benefit’ of being a punishment for women who had been reckless enough to ‘get themselves pregnant’. The participation of fathers was little considered in those days and men who were married were sent on their way with no responsibilities and were excluded from appearing on the birth certificate or on any documents.
Adoptees of my generation generally have no proof of who their father is or was and only have their mother’s word for it if they are fortunate enough to have contact and she is able or willing to tell. Some are not. I was fortunate.
I am sometimes asked whether I would rather have been raised by my mother or by my adopters.
I usually answer Neither.
I had no choice, but if I had been given choice, I would have chosen parents very different from the ones who conceived me and the ones who raised me.
That does not mean I am ungrateful for the opportunities given me or that I judge them. They did their best, but adoption is never ‘the same as’ and the loss and trauma have to be dealt with time and time again throughout life in all their manifestations.
Adoption and the state of adoption are ever present in an adoptee’s life, ready to surprise, shock, devastate, confront, challenge, confuse, confound and for some annihilate. We have everything taken from us, including our name and sometimes our birth date and details, so that we do not know who we truly are. We take on an identity which is assigned to us in which we have no choice and are expected to be grateful for it.
We live with lies, sometimes deliberate lies and sometimes lies told out of ‘kindness’ because it was thought to be better for us. It never is, whatever the circumstances, as many adoptees who have lived through finally hearing the truth will testify.We were often unwanted and find ourselves unwanted again if we seek reunion with our mothers. I was fortunate in that I was loved but however wanted, could not be raised by my mother who was single although an adult. She was a hard-working woman from a hardworking family who served her country, was proud of her heritage and her beliefs.She happened during the tumultous times of war to fall in love with a man who could not marry her as she hoped. She suffered secondary infertility, another tragedy for a woman who adored children and was broken by her experience of adoption.
Whatever has happened to us, most try to make the best of it, to make some sort of life and try to deal with the effects of adoption on us. It is the work of a lifetime, the journey never ends. Birth and adoption were one off events in our lives but their effects continue as long as the adopted life is lived.

You’ll find it at https://open.abc.net.au/projects/separated-01du6ze/contributions/at-six-weeks-63zs3ji along with other accounts of adoption.
Latest from the NCFA Newsletter – “NCFA’s February 2013 issue of the Adoption Advocate, written by Michael Yates and Kristi Kulesz, provides an outline for the kind of consistent and high-quality post-adoption services that children and families need to thrive. Pre-adoption preparation alone is often insufficient for adoptive parents, especially when adopting older children and youth who have experienced trauma and loss. While much is made of “paper permanency” in adoption, true and lasting permanency requires individualized, comprehensive post-adoption support for both adopted children and their families”
And support for adult adoptees? Or are we included as children? Maybe NCFA you’ll get it right one day!

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