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So you know I’m adopted…

It’s still a line to which most people are unsure how to respond……but having never known any different and having always known I was “especially chosen”, I never had the level of disconnect that I know other adoptees have experienced.  That’s not to say I’ve never wondered about my birth mother, her family and ancestry and particularly my medical history, let alone if I have any half brothers or sisters out there.

I’ve known I was adopted from my first ever memory and I’m grateful this is the case.  I can’t imagine how I would feel to have believed I was someone’s child and found out later in life that this wasn’t true.  I am a lucky one.  I am lucky because my adoptive family, including my grandparents, aunties, uncles and cousins (and there’s many, many of them!) have loved me unconditionally and have always been a support to me, my family and each other.  I was adopted at 10 days of age and brought into a home with Mum – an angel on earth, Dad – a doctor, literature lover and a gentle man with an incredible intellect, and a big sister who is Mum and Dad’s natural child 8 years older than me.

For all the love given to me I was a horrible child – a loud, selfish, independent, tantrum throwing little brat.  On reflection, it really was evident that perhaps I had no natural characteristics of the beautiful people who adopted me, but they loved me anyway.  I remember being a toddler in our old two storey home with a massive yard, Dad’s surgery downstairs and the cat I used to adore and played with endlessly.  Dad had a few very special patients – one fellow in particular would buy me Crunchies and Fantales, fostering my lifelong love for chocolate.  I remember swinging endlessly on the big boat swing in the back yard and just singing (and swinging) my day away. We had a great life and went on lots of holidays just like most families. Although I was unaware, Dad became unwell around the time I was six years old. I remember vividly and understood completely when we got home to my Uncle’s place after Mass one Sunday and he told me Dad had died.  I was seven.

Life got a little harder then.  I missed Dad terribly and Mum was struggling without her beautiful man.

I’d joined a folk choir at the local Church and made some great new friends there and I had some really great and supportive friends at school.   A couple of these friends were also adopted so I think we had a special bond and all of these girls are still my friends today – I don’t know how I’d have coped without them.

So when did life stop being just about me? When Mum had to undergo a leucotomy on her brain, it made me re-assess everything, including my birth heritage. When I was in my late teens, I found out there was an adoption meeting taking place with those who were adopted through the particular Catholic Agency I was adopted through. Mum and I attended. We filled out papers and had interviews and they outlined to us that they would approach my birth family and let them know I’d be interested in a meeting.  I was told that they would have to honour their wishes if they chose not to have that meeting which, sadly, was the ultimate outcome. I was, of course, disappointed but didn’t let it get me down too much.

Once I was married and had fallen pregnant, I really wanted to know more about my birth family.  I attended a State Government run series of sessions about adoption which advised how to go about finding and contacting my birth mother and family.  At that time, in order to apply for any papers such as those from Births, Deaths and Marriages, it was a requirement to prove that you’d done this course.  I found my original birth certificate with my birth mother’s name on it and also her birth certificate, which had my birth, grandparents names, the city and state where they’d lived.  I also was able to find my birth mother’s wedding certificate.  From these documents I was able to find my grandparents’ address and phone number in the white pages but no amount of searching brought me any luck with finding my mother. So with finally being pregnant and really wanting to know more and possibly meet my mother, I wrote my grandparents a note. I had no way of knowing whether they knew their daughter had been pregnant so I had to word it carefully. The note was along the lines that I was investigating my ancestry and that I had some documents with their and their daughter’s name on them. I signed the letter with the name my birth mother had given me along with my birth date. I suggested that if they prefer I not investigate further, I would respect their wishes. I figured that if they knew about me, they’d know who was sending the letter; if not, I could be anybody. I waited nearly 3 weeks for a response but unfortunately they said they were happy I’d agreed not to pursue it further. They told me their daughter had been married but that her husband was an army officer who’d been killed in a tragic accident and that their daughter had finally found a new partner and wanted to leave her past behind her.  That rejection actually affected me very badly however I respected their wishes and didn’t pursue it any further.  They made no mention as to whether she’d had any other children.

Moving forward about 6 years I had two sons and a daughter.  I had found out when my first son was nearly 3 that he may have mild autism.  That was not an easy reality to deal with and I was well into my second pregnancy at the time.  My second son was born and he was a very difficult baby – then their sister was born 16 months later.  Confirmation of my first boy’s diagnosis hit pretty hard, but then it went from bad to worse when my second boy was also diagnosed with moderate autism and our daughter was also showing signs of a similar delay.  All my time was dedicated to their early intervention and researching how I could give them the best possible outcomes for their development and their future.   I can’t tell you how much I loved and appreciated my Mum more than any other time in my life.  She was a saint, a Godsend and my rock.

By this time I’d started taking kids for music classes.  A friend from that choir I mentioned earlier put a friend of hers on to me. She thought I may be interested in teaching kids music with a new business she and some friends were starting.  Although a little reticent, I thought “why not”.  I sure needed something.  I really enjoyed presenting these classes but more importantly, I discovered that all the research I’d been doing into childhood development to help my kids was also an incredibly valuable tool for the music sessions too.  I started including many of these strategies I’d used with my kids in that music program.  I purchased and ran a hey dee ho music franchise for 15 years. Now as I have sold my business, all three of my kids are grown up and successful in their own way with my eldest now working as a surveyor and about to return to his civil engineering degree; my second son graduated last year with his bachelor of music and is considering a masters next year and my daughter, having taken a year off this year, is contemplating going back and finishing her degree next year.

However, my beautiful Mum never got to see her grandchildren develop into the beautiful adults they have as she died in 2005 aged 79.  She would be so proud of them.  I think of her every day and treasure every precious moment we shared.  I miss her so much.

So, now that I have a little more time on my hands, I’ve become reflective about trying to find my birth mother again.  I have no idea what her surname is these days so it will mean returning to Births, Deaths and Marriages again to find out if she’s re-married and what her current name is – and if, indeed, she is still alive.  I recently did a search of the electoral role and found that she and her first husband lived in Queensland.  I’m thinking this may be where I start – again.

However Joan, if I never find you, I want you to know that I am grateful every day that you had the courage to have me and even greater courage to give me up.  For all the lows I’ve endured in my life, I’ve had equal highs with family and friends who love me unconditionally and I them in return.  I wouldn’t change any of it, except maybe to meet you.

Cathy Beckham

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