19 October 2008

Since when does being against adoption mean pro-abuse?

I don't get this. Just because I am against mothers and their children being unnecessarily separated doesn't mean I am advocating to keep children with violent parents - regardless if they are biological or not.

Over the past few years I have often been accused of trying to keep children with their violent mothers/fathers/parents which is completely ridiculous. That goes against what I believe in as well. But where does it state that to be against adoption completely means you are okay with children being abused? Its just not logical and these people who think that is what I'm about are really cracked in the head - or lacking some vital intelligence.

In saying I am completely, 110% against adoption definitely means I want it eradicated. Abolished. Gone forever where it can no longer cause any more harm. However, this doesn't mean that if adoption suddenly didn't exist, there couldn't be something in its place to care for children who really need it. Permanent Care is one idea I am very fond of.

A system where children are in care only where necessary, they get to keep their original birth certificate, no names are changed unless it is for the child's safety to do so and the children and natural family are able to have a varying amount of contact; dependent on the needs of and in the best interests and welfare of the child. Adoption does not allow any of this. Adoption is not even about children today; rather it is about having what one wants and cannot have naturally, money, meeting demands etc. No one thinks about the mothers of these children nor the children themselves.

So, if you are spitting mad with steam pouring from your ears because you have read somewhere I am anti adoption (and that somehow offends you), you now have no excuse to accuse me of being pro child abuse because that is just plain stupid, totally illogical and completely irrational. I could say you are pro child abuse for being pro adoption but I won't. Rather I will say you are ignorant of the damage adoption has caused and are blinded either by your own needs/desires or those of a friend/family member and I would ask you to see past that and learn something. If you choose to stay closed minded to the ugliness that is adoption, then don't bother reading what I write here or anywhere else. Its that simple. Oh, and enough with the emails asking me ‘advice’ if you have decided to block a reply. Really, grow up already!

10 October 2008

Open Adoption - My paper from Melbourne Conference

In 2006 I was asked to share my experience at a Conference held in Melbourne about the effects adoption has on Mental Health. This is my paper. Again, it is another long post, not quite as long as the last one though! Thanks for reading. Myst xxx

Open Adoption. Closed Adoption. Either way you look at it, ‘Adoption’ features in both phrases which means at some point, a mother and her baby must be separated in order for strangers to become parents of another woman’s child.

My name is Myst and I am the mother of a precious 8 year old girl who was taken for open adoption in New Zealand. I hope to share with you today a little of my journey through an ‘open adoption’ and the private pain I have had to live with daily since I lost my daughter.

To introduce this paper, I would like to share with you a short story. It portrays a little of the raw feelings I experienced shortly after losing my daughter in 1998 and as such, is rather emotive.

Eyes closed, she steps forward. She doesn’t need to see nor does she wish to feel what is about to happen.

The night air grips her, shrouding her, feeding her fear; her terror. Pain ignites her body as he plunges the knife in. Her mouth automatically opens to scream but she cannot.

She drifts into unconsciousness – one from which she will never wake, at least not in the physical sense.

When she next opens her eyes, she feels no pain, merely a hole – a gaping space in her middle. Picking herself up, she happens to see a body lying where she had been. Clenching her eyes tightly, she waits a few moments before opening them, hoping the body will be gone. When she does reopen her eyes, she finds to her horror it is still there.

The body is covered in blood; saturated in the crimson life force that had only moments before flowed through her veins. The face is the face of a woman, a woman that she knows?! Struggling with herself she tries to remember where she has seen that face before. She knows but doesn’t want to believe or accept it. The woman’s body before her cries out to her in silence, a sound more agonising than screams. In her chest there is a wide hole exactly where her heart had been. Only now there is nothing.

She finally grasps the reality of the cruel sight before her. The body is hers. She is nothing but a ghost staring at the remnants of her life, once young and innocent, now lost, gone in the cruellest way possible.

Why? It makes no sense to her, but then none of it does. Why?

Then she remembers: her baby…they stole her baby…. They had wanted her baby and she had fought for her, fought to keep her motherhood intact.

She screams but no sound fills the air. She is condemned to drift the earth, a mother without her baby, a ghost with no chance to rest…

(Break for 5 seconds)

My nightmare began in 1997, whilst I was living in Christchurch, New Zealand. It was during this time I was sexually assaulted by an old ‘school friend’ and shortly after, discovered I was pregnant. My family had moved to Sydney Australia 6 months before so I was isolated and vulnerable. I made the decision to keep my child, however I did not realise this very personal decision would be challenged and I underestimated my vulnerability and the determination of others.

Indeed, from barely two weeks into my pregnancy until the day my daughter was taken out of my arms, I was told on a daily basis how I would ruin my child’s life if I kept her, I was selfish, unloving and my child would grow up hating me for not giving her up. I was told if I loved my baby, I would give her to a deserving couple who could not have children so she could be raised in a good home.

A good home? A deserving couple? What made me such an unsuitable candidate to raise my own child? After all, I was not a smoker, rarely drank alcohol, was not promiscuous and I was a good church going girl, you know, the twice on Sunday kind of gal. Not only that, I was a trained professional in Early Childhood Education and Care, and, up to this point in my short life had cared for up to 50 children. So, why did my daughter need to be adopted? When I voiced these questions, I was told I was merely an incubator, growing this child for someone else, to see myself as a surrogate mother and that God was using me to bless another couple with a baby.

These statements day in and day out did my head in to the point I was like a robot, systematically programmed to do its masters bidding. My essence, my voice, was frozen inside, only daring to come out at night when I would cry over my belly, sing and talk to my ever growing babe. I would whisper to her repeatedly how much I loved her and how much I wanted to keep her but wasn’t allowed. I look back and barely know that girl but I do remember being her and it scares me I was once so fragile.

A was born on a warm blustery February morning in 1998, after I went into labour only hours earlier and literally ran away to have her. The adoptive couple, chosen by my church and whom had ‘befriended’ me during the latter half of my pregnancy, had pressured me into having them present at the birth. I had been, at this stage, trying to find any way to get out of the adoption. I strongly opposed the idea of the adoptive couple being in the same room with me or even at the hospital when I gave birth but the pressure was intensified. It was due to this stress I went into premature labour and my daughter was born 6 weeks early. Running away and not telling anyone except my family in Australia ensured the adopters would not be present and so I had my baby alone.

She was the most beautiful, amazing little girl I had seen and I bonded instantly with her despite knowing there were people waiting to get their hands on her. My stay in hospital was strange. It was as if I lived two existences. Most of the time I was by my daughter’s side in the Neo Natal Intensive Care Unit, encouraging her, telling her I knew she would get better, that I was there and loved her very much. The other time was spent in my room under a barrage of pressure from the prospective adopters, church people and my so called crisis pregnancy counsellor, an adoptive mother with her own agenda. I decided, despite the pressure I would keep her. My only support during this awful time was my family, in particular my mum who had flown over from Australia to be with me.

After deciding to keep my baby, the pressure worsened. Confused and at breaking point, I spoke to my lawyer about other alternatives to adoption. Being an adoptive father himself, this lawyer, also handpicked for me by my ‘counsellor’ sat me down and told me adoption was my only choice while showing me photos of his adopted daughters. Still not happy or satisfied, a meeting was called with my mum, adopters, social workers and myself, to discuss my feelings. I asked the couple to consider a Guardianship Order so I wouldn’t lose A as I really wanted to keep her. They told me they were only interested in adoption. I was devastated and let them know I didn’t want to part with her. They persuaded me to sign the consent and promised if I still felt the same way after signing and wanted my daughter back, they would return her to me. There was to be a ‘3 day trial period’ after which, if I still wanted to keep A, the adopters would return her to me. I trusted this promise.

Eventually, under extreme duress which I just wanted to stop, and not realising the full implications or legalities surrounding the consent, I signed. My daughter was taken out of my arms at Christchurch International Airport and I flew back to Sydney with my mum. After arriving in Sydney with my front wet with milk, barely three hours after she had been taken out of my arms, I told my mum I still wanted my daughter and was going to get her back.

I thought this would be okay, the adopters had promised me I could have her back, right? Wrong. First, I found out under the Adoption Act of 1955 in New Zealand, once signed, an adoption consent is irrevocable, unlike Australian law which gives a period of 30 days. I was not informed of this before I signed and had believed my consent was not binding until the Final adoption Order was made, 12 months later. Second, I found out the promise the adopters made me was merely a way to get me to sign the papers.

I decided to return to New Zealand and fight for my child. Against all odds, I won my first court case and the order for interim adoption was denied. I lost this case on appeal but the judge redirected it back to the family court to be heard on the best interests and welfare of the child. I was elated as I thought I would win this, I should win this….until I heard who the Judge would be and then I knew I would lose. I did.

By this time my beautiful girl was now 8 months old. I decided, to reduce further confusion in her life, to end the fight. This decision broke my heart. I returned to Sydney empty handed and prepared to die. I lay in bed for weeks praying and begging with God to let me die in my sleep. He didn’t think it was such a good idea.

My mum convinced me get a job and while I hated it at the time, it was the best thing she could have done as it helped integrate me back into ‘normal’ life.

Since then, I have married and had another equally beautiful and precious daughter. But the wound remains, open and raw, equally painful with no relief in sight.

As for the Open adoption bit? Open Adoption is really a farce; a term coined by adoption professionals to entice young women to part with their babies. Why? Adoption figures, which had been so high in the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s due to the unethical practises of that time to literally take babies, were falling. Government assistance and contraception had become more readily available. However, the demand had not changed. The professionals came up with an ‘idea’. It had been known for many years the pain and loss Adoption causes to both mother and child. Adopted babies, now adults, had grown up and spoken out, wanting more information about their roots and families. To ensure the future of adoption, Open Adoption was introduced. It is basically a system that encourages women to adopt their children out with the belief they will not really lose their child. Unlike the closed adoption system, Open adoption supposedly means names are disclosed and there is a varying degree of contact, from annual letters or photos to phone calls and visits to the very ‘fortunate’ few. However, Open Adoption has not worked as well as those facilitating them would have you believe.

From the research I have conducted and mothers encountered participating in open adoptions, all too often, within the first couple of years or as in some instances, even weeks and months, once the adopters have the baby they covet, their address and telephone number is changed and they move to where they cannot be found. Open Adoptions are not legally binding in many countries and while they are in some states of Australia, the Open Adoption agreement in most places is reliant on merely the 'good will' of the adopters. The adoption can be, and in most cases is, closed. In other instances, the effect of seeing your child with another couple and seeing all you are missing out on means many mothers cease contact when the pain gets unbearable. Open Adoption is like dangling a meaty bone in front of a starving dog. He is allowed to sniff the bone, lick it even but just as he goes to take a large bite, it is whisked away, leaving the poor dog desperate and still just as hungry.

Open Adoption is torturous. In my case, the adopters closed the adoption shortly after claiming my daughter. They wrote courteous replies to my mother’s letters but had no contact with me. When my daughter was 2, they moved to Sydney Australia. Knowing she was in the same city and country as me was too much so I wrote to the adopters and begged to see my girl. They met with my Mum and I first and laid out the rules. Desperate to see her I agreed to whatever they said. I have now seen her a handful of times since she turned 4. Dictated by the adopter’s rules, each visit is a farce, a game of pretend where we play at being happy about the situation. My daughter is not allowed to talk to me on her own and the adopters stand over my shoulder at every turn. Each visit is like ripping open my ever present wound. I relive losing her at the end of each visit and watch with a breaking heart as she is driven away. I do not sleep, eat properly or function well in the weeks leading up to a visit or in the weeks afterwards. I lie in bed wondering what she is thinking, hoping she is thinking of me like I am her. I cry myself to sleep nights after these visits to the point I have no tears left.

How can this be better? Sometimes, I truly wish I could separate myself from this situation, live the next ten years of my life without this torture. I have been told to count myself lucky that I get to see my daughter at all, that I know what she looks like. Lucky? To see my own child? Lucky? Those who have told me I am lucky have not walked in my shoes, have not lived in my skin and experienced my heartache. I am NOT lucky. My daughter should never have been adopted.

In the mental health arena, I have encountered many professionals who have no idea how to deal with this issue. Each session seems to earn me a new label, a new mental illness. To date I have been diagnosed with Bipolar Mood disorder, Anxiety disorders, Severe Depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder and Separation Trauma. Could it be I am just suffering indescribable grief from the unnecessary adoption of my daughter? This trauma is not validated by most in the Mental Health profession. The counsellors I have visited want me to close this chapter of my life, to move on to bigger and better things secure in the knowledge I have done the best I can and nothing else can be done. Do they not think if this was possible I would have done it by now? I walk out of these sessions in utter disbelief and usually angry at the lack of understanding and compassion these people have. Due to the social conditioning surrounding issues of adoption, many do not want to change their thinking and see how negative adoption is. The majority of society I have spoken to about adoption chose to see it as a beautiful act of love, apparently ignorant of the ugly truth lurking under all the gloss.

So far today, I have spoken of my experience of open adoption, from a mother’s perspective. I do not and cannot speak for the adoptees who have had to live through this as well but, in closing, I would like to share a story I found while researching on the Internet. It shows the perspective of the open adoption experiment from an adopted person, written by a 16 year old girl.


“I am a product of the Open Adoption experiment. I was born on December 24th, 1988 and I was soon transferred from one mother to another because my first mother, wasn’t married to my birth father.

I have been told that December 24th, 1988 was a cold and cloudy day. The black clouds meant much more than a weather forecast of rain to come; it was the day that the lives of four people would be profoundly and forever altered; much more like a forecast of doom, rather than rain. I went home with a new family, new name and a new life while my first mother went home to her old life; one of high school parties, dates and the prom.

My second mother began to write letters to my first mother during my second month of life, updating her on what I was wearing, what I was doing, and to remind her of how thankful she was for the gift she freely gave, ‘the gift’ being me.

I would grow up never having to question who I looked liked, where my strawberry blonde hair came from or where I got my green eyes, because I had a picture of my first mother taped on my vanity mirror. I also had a photo album full of pictures. I would never have to wonder where my smile came from.

I remember the day I found out my first mom was having a baby. I was barely nine years old, and confused because she wasn’t married. When my second mother explained to me that my first mom would be raising the baby, more confusion set in.

Just before thanksgiving vacation, my little sister was born. I went to bed knowing that in the morning, I would be woken up to the news, but what they didn’t know; was that I was awake until almost morning crying into my pillow and praying that she would arrive safely and unharmed.

I was unable to see my little sister until she was 10 days old. My second mother took me shopping to buy her a present and I picked out a small, brown stuffed hippopotamus. My second mom was less than thrilled with my choice and wanted me to choose something else, something cuter. After begging, pleading and pouting, she decided on a pink bunny for the baby, and agreed that I could have the hippo for myself. Today that hippo is my favorite possession and he is kept on my bed, maybe someday I will give him to his rightful owner.

At about the age of 12, I started becoming an out of control pre-teenager. I would test both my first mother and adoptive parents constantly. As punishment, I would lose my video games, cds, and phone privileges. Eventually I would start losing my visits with my sister. I was unable to see my first family from the age of 13 until age 16. But every year, like clockwork, a basket on Easter, a present on both Christmas and my birthday would arrive.

Last year I finally learned that if I truly wanted something, I would have to keep my emotions tucked inside and play by the rules. It’s still working.

I look at the photographs of my childhood and I can see the big smiles. I can see how most people would look at me and see a happy adopted 16.5 year old girl. Most people would think I am lucky to have two families, other adopted people may think I am fortunate to know my genetic history, my heritage and where I came from. But what I see is different from what other people see; I can plainly see the pain behind the smile.

My memories are more than just visits with my first mother and my sister. My memories are of a constant battle between happy appearances with an inner turmoil.

My memories take me back to that cloudy and dreary December evening. The day that my life would drastically change and the person I was meant to be would never be.

My memories take me back to the day that I was a ‘happy’ toddler running around the park, laying my eyes upon my first mother for the first time in two years. I must have learned very early. My memories take me back to that horrible night, etched into my brain is the memory of pure terror that my little sister would die, or I would never see her, or she would be given away. I will never forget those tears in my pillow and all the prayers said that night in fear.

My memories take me back to being a little girl who fell in love with an ugly hippo and wanted desperately to give it to her 10 day old sister, but was unable to.

My memories take me back to the feelings of jealousy and inner rage, each time my first mother would pull out of the driveway with my sister in the truck. We would stand on the porch and wave. Damn that hurt.

My memories are of missing my sister’s Kindergarten and first grade graduation.

My memories are built around being what some refer to as a chosen child, but I call it being broken at birth.

My memories are of fighting feelings of being unloved and unwanted, even though I was constantly told how much they loved me.

My memories are of sitting on the same fluffy pink vanity chair and staring at her picture, the picture that was still there, throughout all those years, while trying not to allow the tears to smear the makeup I was putting on.

My life is not a solution to a problem or the fix for another problem. I am angered that I was a part of a failed experiment and that my life was devalued by trying to prove that it could work.

On Friday June 10th at 11:15 am, my little sister will graduate from the second grade. Of course I won’t be there.”

Thank you.

08 October 2008

My Story

I wrote this at the beginning of 2006 for someone in the legal profession who was interested in my story. This version is the 'straight facts' version, I tried not to fluff it up, just state the facts, at least most of them. In reading it through I am surprised how much more of the coercion I left out, it was too hard to write about I guess.

Sharing this is scary but if people want to know more about what I went through, then I guess I need to start somewhere... beware, it is long and rather detailed!

In November 1996 my family moved to Australia to live. I went with them for the initial 2 months and then needed to return to New Zealand in early 1997 to finish an Early Childhood Diploma I had started in 1996.

I was sexually assaulted in late June 1997. I did ring the police and asked about a ‘hypothetical’ situation as to not commit myself to anything and found out that unless I had witnesses I would not have much chance in Court. I decided not to press charges.

July 22, 1997. The day I was told I was pregnant. At this time, I lived with close family friends, the A's (adoptive parents) from the church I had been raised in. I was very involved with my church at this point, being a volunteer for the café that the people I lived with set up, I went to a weekly prayer group, had attended camps and I was also attending a support group for Sexual Abuse survivors. I confided in this group about the pregnancy with the belief that as it was shared in the group setting, it was private and confidential information. One of the persons involved in setting up this group, D M, was the first to tell me I should consider adoption. She informed me there were many deserving couples who couldn’t have children and I should consider a church couple. This conversation was the first of many to come.

The day I found out I was pregnant, I was very scared and upset as I knew my family would not take it well. However, I was not upset about the baby rather I felt excited. I remember very clearly getting home and shutting myself in my bedroom. I stood in front of my mirror and pulled up my top to rub my tummy. I told my baby that I loved him/her and that regardless of what happened (i.e. how I had become pregnant) I did not hold him/her responsible and how I couldn’t wait to meet him/her. I came from a Baptist background which is very strict and forceful in their views. I knew people would judge my family and I which made me fearful.

A couple of days after discovering I was pregnant I made a visit to the local welfare office to find out what support was available for single parents. It was here I came across a brochure for ‘Crisis Pregnancy Counselling’. I took the brochure as it seemed to be exactly the kind of service I would need to help support me in my pregnancy as the brochure spoke about assisting expectant mothers prepare for the baby etc.

That same night I called the guy who sexually assaulted me (I knew him from school) and told him of the pregnancy. My aim had been to confront him with the sexual assault too but I didn’t get a chance that night as he told me he wanted to speak with his sister about the pregnancy and get back to me. The following night after waiting for his call, I phoned him back and he told me to get an abortion. I said no, I didn’t want to do that, I was anti abortion. I said I wanted to keep and raise the baby and I was only calling him to tell him about the pregnancy as I wanted to do the right thing by my baby by letting his/her father know. I also confronted him about the sexual assault to which he admitted and told me that I couldn’t do anything about it as I had no witnesses and it would be his word against mine. He also abused me verbally about the pregnancy and said if I didn’t have an abortion and went ahead with the pregnancy, he would take the baby off me when he/she was born. He then put me onto a person he said was his brother in law who proceeded to threaten me by saying they could force me to have an abortion or they could take my baby. After yelling at me for a while and calling me slut, I hung up on him.

After this phone call I telephoned Crisis Pregnancy Centre in tears afraid my baby would be taken from me. I spoke to a woman (H E) who assured me that he couldn’t take my baby. I cannot recall if it was this conversation or one after this one but she said to me that she knew a way for me not to let the father get my baby (I didn’t want him near my baby as he was into drugs, alcohol and sex at the time, not a healthy environment for a baby). I asked her what that was and she suggested adoption. She also ‘counselled’ me very strongly against abortion which I had already ruled out. I told her I wanted to keep my baby. She told me about how ‘wonderful’ adoption was so I told her I would look into it, without any intention of doing so.

Shortly after this conversation I told my parents about my pregnancy who did not take the news very well for the first couple of months. This time left me feeling very depressed and suicidal. My Mum told me I had three options and to think of all three but Dad coming from a Catholic background said I had two and when I told him I didn’t want to adopt my child out he asked me to at least ‘take a look at it’ Again, without intention, I agreed. My family and I sorted out our differences and by the time I was three months, things were better.

Over the next months, there was much talk of adoption ‘at’ me. I was not asked what I wanted for my child, nor was I ever asked whether I needed assistance to set up a home somewhere. I visited Holly House but was scared off by the stringent rules they had and felt I was at risk from the church there.

H E (an adoptive mother/crisis pregnancy counsellor) started pushing the issue of adoption very heavily around eight weeks into my pregnancy. I started lunching with her and seeing her on a fairly regular basis. During these lunches she would speak often about how terrible other girls were for wanting to have abortions or keep their children when there were so many childless couples who deserved to have babies. H spoke a lot of her own adopted girls and how happy they made her. She also had a pile of profiles of prospective adoptive parents that were the same ones as Social Welfare, or so she said. I was told I should not let anyone know she had them. She would go through them with me and tried to push one couple on me in particular. I recall they lived in or around Hanmer Springs. She said they were lovely people and would make fantastic parents. I felt like I didn’t exist anymore. As one person (R O) in my church had said, I was more of a surrogate mother than a mother, and I was being used by God so He could bless a couple with a baby. She would say ‘this isn’t really your baby’.

On October 29, 1997 I met with a social worker at the Children’s and Young Person’s Unit in Christchurch. The crisis pregnancy counsellor, H E, arranged the appointment and went along with me. Before we went she coached me not to listen to anything the social worker had to say, she would only want to make me have an abortion. This was also the time she instructed me not to mention my Maori heritage because then the baby would be taken and put with a Maori family. By this stage, I was very much confused as to whom I should listen to. I recall the social worker was not the person H E said she was but I obeyed and did everything I was told to do (by so called 'counsellor').

On Monday 3rd November, 1997 I met a solicitor, for the first time in an appointment set up and accompanied by H E. She used to make appointments for me and I would go to them, usually accompanied by her. By this time I felt like there was two me’s; this person I was watching who was pregnant and having her baby taken and me, the one keeping the baby.

Meanwhile with the church people, the pressure was intensifying as more people found out I was pregnant. Some found out through the lady from the sexual abuse group (breach of confidentiality) and others found out as I told them. An older girl, (J R) an adoptee and art teacher also from my church, befriended me. I confided in her I was pregnant and she asked if I had considered adoption. I told her I was looking into it like my Dad asked but wanted to keep my baby. She strongly ‘encouraged’ me to adopt my baby out; keeping my child ‘should not be an option’. She took me ‘under her wing’ and started seeing more of me, always keeping the focus on me adopting my baby out. When I said I wanted to keep her, she would tell me off, saying that I was selfish and that I should consider the amazing life my baby could have. She showed me photos of her family and told me how adoption had been great for her. I saw her roughly every week until my baby was born.

The church people (including the senior pastor I had known my whole life and others as they learned I was pregnant, some whom I had never met) started telling me that I was selfish for wanting to keep my baby; God wanted her to go to another home; I wasn’t her mother merely growing her for another couple; to see myself as a surrogate mother; If I truly loved her I would adopt her out; True love was to adopt her out; I would ruin her life etc,. This was when the church couples were suggested to me, one of them being a couple who had just returned home; ex missionaries like my family who had come home from Cambodia. (Altogether there were 3-4 couples waiting in the wings for my child) People in the church, I don’t remember who they were, (my church was fairly large), began to comment in front of me and to me that the X's couldn’t have children of their own and what wonderful parents they would make. I went to a women’s breakfast and Mrs X was one of the women to speak and I am fairly sure that is the day D M told me I should consider them. They were not the only couple waiting for my daughter. Presented with the fact I would not be allowed to keep my child, I attempted to get to know one of the couples who might be getting my baby. This was the X's.

By this point I did not feel I had the right to even want to keep my baby, let alone make that decision. Even the Minister of my church, would come up to me and make sure I was going ahead with the adoption. I was brainwashed so effectively by what the church folk and my counsellor was saying, I honestly believed I was not going to get through to the other end with my child in tact, no matter how much I wanted to keep her.

R O was another person heavily involved in pushing the adoption issue heavily with me. She also discussed couples in the church with me and I told her that the X's had been suggested to me. (Feeling I had no choice in losing my child I had already asked another friend of the X's to approach them but she didn't believe it was the right thing to do and so declined. How I wish it had been left at that) RO offered to ask them and see if they would meet with us. I said no and told her why but she decided to approach them anyway to see if they would be interested in meeting with me. I hoped like hell they were not but they were. A meeting at McDonalds was set up for one Sunday morning in October as I had recently had my 20 week scan and recall knowing that my baby was a girl.

The night before the meeting, J R stayed the night with me and suggested I write the X's a letter. I told her I didn’t know what to write so she ‘helped’ me write the letter. R O turned up in the morning to pick me up and she held this intense prayer session about how wonderful it was I was giving up my baby and how great the X's were and to ask God to help me continue with the adoption. I remember it as I was very uncomfortable.

R accompanied me to the meeting with the X's. They basically talked and asked me what I was having. I remember them asking as Mrs X was very happy I was having a girl and said they wanted a little girl, preferred little girls. I wished from then on that the scan was wrong and I had a boy as I wanted to keep my baby although I was happy with having a girl (I didn’t mind what I was having as I had been an Early Childhood Carer for many years).

After this meeting, the X's had me come around to their house to talk about ‘their’ baby. I just remember thinking they must have been speaking about someone else. They never asked me if it was something I wanted to do; they only wanted to talk of their plans for the baby. It never really occurred to me they were talking about my baby until they visited me in the hospital.

My sister came to visit her friends and me in September 1997. She stayed for about two weeks. During this time she met HE (pregnancy counsellor) and saw first hand the pressure I was under. She was only 16 so didn’t feel like she could do anything either but I confided in her how I truly felt.

When she left mid October, I felt very low as she had been a lifeline so to speak. I was again isolated and surrounded by people pushing the adoption.

I was to spend Christmas and New Year with my family in Australia. To save for this I babysat and nannied a few times. When I wasn’t babysitting or Nannying, I remember going to shops and looking at baby things. I even bought clothing for my baby which was frowned on by J R, R O and H E (and a few others who I cannot recall names as there were too many faces who had an opinion!) as it showed them “I was too attached to the baby”.

Before flying to Australia, I had to arrange a new place to live so H set up a place for me with an older woman, J C, a friend of hers. Had this not worked out, the prospective adopters had offered me to live with them. I also received a small gift from the X's which increased the pressure I felt from them tenfold.

While I was in Australia, I started to relax. I made it clear how I felt about my baby, that I wanted to keep her. I talked to her often and read her ‘Winnie the Pooh and the House from Pooh Corner’. She had started moving a lot and it was visible to others and I used to get my sisters to put their hands on my tummy to feel her move. My youngest sister felt a bit weird about that, after all she was only 14 at the time. We went up to Queensland for two weeks and stayed with my parents’ best friends. They turned out to be more who were very much in favour of adoption and only further heightened my feeling of hopelessness in my situation.

While I was in Queensland I bought my baby a few more things and a gift for the adoptive parents, H and JR as I felt obliged. (They had all bought me gifts before I went to Australia)

A few days before I left to fly to New Zealand (January 12, 1998), I phoned the Post Adoption Resource Centre in Sydney and spoke to LP. I told her what was happening and I recall she told me that if the baby was born in Australia I wouldn’t have to have my baby adopted out and that the X's wouldn’t be able to have her as she would be an Australian citizen. I remember thinking how much I would like that to happen but my plane ticket was already booked.

Arriving back in Christchurch on 19 January 1998, I was picked up at the airport by J C. During those two weeks I bought a baby book for my baby and started thinking of ways I could keep my baby. I didn’t tell anyone these plans as I was afraid of what people would say. I think I may have confided in one of my best friends at the time. I lived with J C for two weeks and then had to run away as she became rather possessive and weird. I moved back into the A’s while I looked for somewhere else to live. Amber-Rose was not due at this point for another 2 months. I eventually arranged to move in with R O when I couldn’t find anywhere else. This move was to take place around the end of February.

R O also started to pressure me to allow herself and the X's in the delivery room or just outside. She liked the American idea of having the adoptive ‘father’ cut the cord. I was extremely uncomfortable with this idea and remember starting to feel very stressed at this point as I was really wanting to keep my baby by now and the pressure just kept mounting. On Sunday 15 February 1998, I met with Mrs X at Le Café as she wanted to see how I was going. She too broached the subject of being in the delivery room; I remember being very upset at this thought. I was strongly opposed to this idea. I was by now suffering from extreme stress. I need to point out at this stage I was very afraid of being anywhere I was not familiar with. I was also suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after being raped and from going through a traumatic experience in 1993 (my family was all suffering PTSD from the same incident, this had been diagnosed.)

On Tuesday morning at 1:30, 17th February 1998, my waters broke. Being 6 weeks early and my mum not yet over here (she was to be my birth partner), I panicked. I called my midwife and arranged to meet her at the hospital at 3:30am. I then rang my parents and told them. I also rang and told Nicole. After this, I phoned a taxi and left a note for the A's explaining where I was and packed my bag. The taxi came and I was at the hospital by 3:00am. I pretty much decided to ‘run away’ and have my baby on my own that night. I had been asked by R O to contact her when I went into labour and I was also supposed to let the X's know but I really did not want them to take my baby and so decided to go through the labour and birth on my own. Again, this was an indication of how I truly felt.

Amber-Rose, (her name chosen by myself when I was around 4 ½ months pregnant) was born at 9:17am on Tuesday 17 February 1998.

Being premature, she was taken away to the Neo-natal Unit and I didn’t really get to see her. I remember finally getting taken to my room in the ward and the reality of what was happening to me hit me solidly. I kept asking to see my baby but I was told I couldn’t because she was having tests. I was given a photograph but kept persisting. I remember finally being taken to the NICU and at first the neo-natal doctors wouldn’t let me in to see her; they asked me what I was doing and I told them I wanted to see my baby and they said it wasn’t wise as she was up for adoption; yet that ‘decision’ (for want of a better word) had not even been made. I told them I was her mother and I wanted to see her. I finally got to see her.

Back in my room I started getting visitors. I don’t remember who they all were that day as I was tired but I remember all my visitors treating me like my baby had just died. Comments like “we are so sorry”, “how sad for you”, “the X's must be so happy” etc were said to me within hours of giving birth. No one asked me how I was, how I felt now or what I wanted to do. I felt angry as I wanted the congratulations and support but no one was there for me and my daughter. J R visited me the afternoon of February 17 just after 4pm and I remember her visit as the first thing she asked me was had I signed the consent and when I said no, she asked me why not and when I was going to. I told her I didn’t want to. She told me it was all arranged, I had no other choice.

I requested that I not see the X's as I didn’t want them there to pressure me but they came the day after my daughter was born as well as the next day and I was to exhausted to fight so I said nothing. They bought me an expensive gift from the Body Shop, just for me, nothing for my daughter. This only increased the pressure on me. I sent this gift back to them during the court case with a note telling them they couldn’t ‘buy’ my daughter. I requested they not visit me a couple of times but this was not respected.

I found out that the nurses’ board had BFA next to my daughter’s name; I saw it there and asked what it meant. They told me it meant ‘Babe for adoption’ and I told them I didn’t want it there as I hadn’t yet made that decision and didn’t want to give up my baby. For some reason (still to this day I don't know why), they couldn’t take it off, another thing that pushed the fact it was inevitable whether I wanted it to be or not.

After that visit, I just remember the next few days being very depressed. D M was another one who kept visiting me (she was with the Chaplain’s service at the hospital) with the same demand and then there was R O. She bought me a present and then when I told her I was keeping Amber, she told me I was so awful, selfish, breaking the X's hearts etc. She also told me my daughter would grow up to hate me if I didn’t adopt her out as I couldn’t give her anything she needed but the X's could. She bought me a baby book another mother had made for a child she had adopted out and photocopies of it and said I needed to start a book like that one for Amber. She even had paper and pens! She also bought a copy of an article about open adoption and other adoption propaganda and made me read it with her.

I was in two worlds during this time. One world was back in the ward with ‘visitors’ hounding me every day to sign the consent forms as well as telling me I was selfish etc if I didn’t; and the other world where I was in the Neo-Natal Unit and there was just Amber and myself. I would get up early every morning (sometimes as early as 4am) and race down to see if she was awake. I would then change her nappy, clean her mouth and eyes and hold her while the nurse changed her bedding. I sang to her and spoke to her and she would look up at me. I started breast feeding her although I was supposed to bottle feed her. In my mind I was keeping her. There was no reason to put her on bottles unless she was being adopted. Adoption was something out there waiting to get her. While I was in the hospital, I felt safe. No one could take her away from me here.

My mum arrived from Sydney on February 19. She was supportive of me keeping her and we had discussions to this effect. She bought me some nappies and more clothes with her and a big teddy bear. Shortly after my mum arrived, I was transferred to the Nurses hostel while waiting for Amber to get well. I was told I could be there for a couple of weeks depending on how Amber fared. I loved being in the hostel. No one knew where I was and I told no one. No one from church was given my number and I spent most of my time with Amber or my Mum. I went to Pregnancy Help to find some clothes and things for her and started thinking about things I would need to keep Amber. At some point I went to see M K the solicitor to tell him I didn’t want to sign an adoption consent. He acted like he didn’t hear me and kept saying ‘I can’t take your consent yet’ while I was saying that I wouldn’t sign! My mum was there for that visit. During that visit, he also ‘encouraged’ adoption strongly, saying it was the best option for my child and showed me photos of his children and told me they were adopted. He went on to say their mothers were happy with their decision and had ‘gone on’ with their lives. Even my mother felt this was very inappropriate, unprofessional and felt uncomfortable with him.

During my days with Amber, there was a Neo-Natal nurse who was supportive of me and she encouraged me to do what I wanted. She told me there was a system where I could take my baby out for a walk as long as I knew infant CPR which I did from my early childhood course. We were going to set this up. I don’t know why it was never set up but it never got mentioned again and I was brushed off when I asked about it. I also don’t recall getting to see that nurse again.

I found out that Amber was having visits from people unknown to me, without my permission.  I should point out that legally, she was still my daughter at this point and no one was supposed to be admitted to the NICU without a legal parent present!  They were never identified to me either but I saw it on her medical records. When I found this out I was angry and told the nurse no one was to have unsupervised contact with her, they had to be with me if they wanted to see her.

Amber was finally moved into Intermediate Nursery and out of NICU which meant I was readmitted to the hospital as a border Mum. Before moving back into the Ward, I had called the adoption off and told everyone I was keeping my baby. Moving back into the hospital, things went really bad; I had visitors again: the X's D M, friends of the X's, R O, H E and J R among others. Again, the pressure was on but now it was worse as I had made the decision to keep Amber. The X's told me I was their only hope of being parents and pleaded with me to go through with the adoption, while others told me I was being selfish and I had no right to want to keep my baby, the X's were being so hurt and how dare I do this to them. I was told again my child would hate me, I was ruining her life. Finding the pressure too much, I went back to M K and asked him about other ways of letting the X's have Amber without adopting her out, so that I could still have her too. I was told there was nothing but he mentioned the Guardianship Order and I opted to look into that. He again showed me his children’s picture and reminded me his children were adopted.

Another person who pressured me to adopt my daughter out was a paediatrician at Christchurch Women’s Hospital. She was very unfriendly and told me I was selfish for wanting to keep my child; that I could not provide for my daughter ‘like the adoptive parents can’ and everything is in place so I should do it. I recall having a conversation about the Guardianship idea with her and she told me I was being unfair and not to expect the adopters to go ahead with it and I would only confuse my daughter. I told her that I didn’t want to lose my baby and she again said I was selfish and I could go on and have more children etc. I remember her as she was particularly rough with my daughter and made my baby scream when she was doing the hip test. From my second child, I know this roughness was unnecessary.

During the days when the adoption had been called off, my mother and I would occasionally go into town for a quick break from the hospital. I recall one rare excursion where we met by chance Mr X' who was accompanied by a friend. I had a panic attack. By the end of the meeting, my heart was racing, I was wet with a cold sweat and I was so stressed that I suddenly let off a strong BO. I was very embarrassed about this but it has been explained to me since that it was a strong reaction to and an indication of the high level of stress I was under.

There was a meeting held in the hospital a day before I left or maybe on the day I left hospital to discuss what I was thinking. I then told the X's I didn’t want to adopt Amber out but I was thinking of the Guardianship Order.

I told them it was because I wanted to make everyone happy and still not lose Amber. They said adoption or nothing. Mr X also said that he and Mrs X didn’t want to ‘take my baby’ and worked by ‘God’s laws, not man’s law’ (meaning morals).

He also said that if I still felt the way I was feeling now after I signed the adoption consent, they would return her to me. (Both my mother and myself took this to mean that if I still wanted Amber after the papers were signed, they would return her to me. We were to ‘trial’ it first). I felt relieved hearing this as I felt I didn’t have to lose my baby after all. In the ‘open adoption’ agreement, an arrangement was set up for me to let them know how I was feeling in regards to whether I still wanted to keep my child or not. After returning to Sydney, within 3 days, either I or my mum was to ring them and let them know how it was all going ie if I still wanted Amber or if the adoption was to go ahead.

With this belief that I wasn’t going to lose her, under immense coercion, in shock due to the premature nature of the birth and out of my mind with stress (since diagnosed as PTSD), I was forced to sign the consent on 6 March 1998. To be honest, I could have signed my own death warranty that day, it wouldn’t have mattered. The pressure had been so very affective. I should mention during this time H E told me that if I DIDN'T sign the papers, there was a way around them as someone else could on my behalf - the Director General - which was confirmed by 'my' solicitor.  Basically this meant, if I DIDN'T sign, she could be made a 'child of the government' and this Director General (now called something else) could sign the adoption consent in my stead.   So it was either lose her or trust what her adopters said and hand her over. Hardly a choice. I have since found out that whilst this is true, it would not have happened in my case as I was not proven an unfit mother and they have to prove that first.

The day I signed, I put a birth notice in the paper. It seems strange now that on one hand I was doing normal mother things when I was also meant to be signing an adoption consent! To me now, it just shows I was never serious about the adoption; the adoption consent was just a piece of paper and I had signed heaps of pieces of paper up until this day. It didn’t mean anything.

Before the consent was signed, I received no counselling, no one asked me if I was signing free from pressure or coercion. M K himself assured me I was doing the best thing for my baby and that ‘I would get on with my life’. I also was not informed of the true effects of the adoption consent. I had no idea that once signed, I could not revoke it. M K wouldn’t allow me to leave immediately after the ‘consent’ was signed and made me sit down while he asked me questions about marriage and the future. He later put in his affidavit that I was ‘calm and collected’ and chatted about my future. To be honest I don’t remember much of what went on in that ‘chat’, I was just thinking of Amber waiting for me in the waiting area; my mum with Amber, had been told to wait out there.

Amber-Rose was taken out of my arms on the morning of 7 March 1998 at Christchurch Airport. I flew back to Sydney and, within hours of being home, told my mum I was going back to get Amber. My Dad was in Paris at this point, away on a business trip. I told him on the phone. My parents both supported me. As the 7th of March was a Saturday, I couldn’t do anything about the ‘adoption’ so on Monday (9th March) I phoned PARC (Post Adoption Resource Centre) and spoke again with L P about what had happened and made an appointment to see her on Wednesday (11th March). The Tuesday (10th March) before the appointment, Mum phoned the X's, asked about Amber-Rose and informed them I was still feeling the same way and that I still wanted to keep Amber, meaning I did not want to proceed with the adoption. They ended the conversation. Since this telephone conversation, I have realised if I could prove what was in this phone call, my consent would have been effectively withdrawn as neither copy of the consent had been received by their solicitor and I had let the adoptive couple know directly that I no longer wanted to proceed with the adoption.

I met with LP on Wednesday, March 11 and discussed the events. She told me I could still withdraw my consent (Australia Law allows 30 days cool off period) and asked me how long I had. I told her I thought I had either 10 days or until the final order was made. I gave her P M’s (head of Adoption Unit ) phone number and she said she would call him and inform him I wanted to withdraw my consent. I didn’t want to speak with M K again considering he had been so obviously in favour of the adoption and had even pressured me to sign the consent.

I received a phone call from LP on Thursday or Friday telling me New Zealand law had no revocation period. I was devastated. I phoned P M and asked him what my options were. He told me I could write to the X's on moral grounds requesting my daughter be returned to me, after all they had said they would return her if I still wanted her. I just wanted to point out that in Judge I decision even he himself was unsure when I had ‘changed my mind’. I say this is because I never did in fact change my mind rather free from the pressure and away from the people pushing the adoption on me; I was able to finally stand up and say what I wanted and make my own decision. Sadly, I had no idea the law was against me.

I wrote a letter to the adoptive parents. It was changed quite a bit by my Dad to make it appear more gentle as we didn’t want them to ignore it or shut me out. He suggested I put things in the letter that didn’t speak about the coercion and pressure so as not to ‘scare’ them off. Hence why there are statements in the letter relating to my circumstances (eg financial) but it was not what forced me to sign. I put that in there as to not point the finger at the pressure they placed on me. The X's rejected my request that they return my daughter and I decided to proceed legally.

I found a lawyer who agreed to take my case and we began to build a case. My original claim was that my consent was never given freely without pressure or that it was informed. My lawyer advised we drop this avenue as apparently it is very difficult to prove this in New Zealand Courts. We instead proceeded with a legal technicality. We won this case. The X's appealed and won the appeal but it was sent back to the Family Court to be heard whether or not the adoption would promote the Best Interests and Welfare of the Child. At any point, the X's could have dropped this case and, as legally the adoption was not in place and now in question, I could have simply resumed my place as my daughter' s mother.

I truly believed I would win this case; after all I was not an unfit mother and I had a lot to offer my child within her natural family as well as the fact she is part Maori and I still have strong ties with my Whanau and culture.

A report was written by an adoption professional and and he found Amber’s best interests and welfare would be promoted by returning her to me, her natural mother.

What happened next still remains a mystery to me, even now. The Judge who was already on the case was mysteriously excused and Judge Inglis, a Judge from the North Island and a Judge I thought I would never be unlucky enough to have, took over. He decided I had no legal standing (it is up to the Judge’s discretion) which meant my lawyer was not able to represent me in my final hearing. This meant I had no representation in my final hearing at all. As I predicted the moment I heard Inglis would be taking over the case, I lost and an Interim Adoption Order was made.

Although this decision was wrong and goes against the policy of the Family Court, ie, to keep families together where possible, I was exhausted mentally and needed time to recover my strength. I also didn't want to see Amber being tossed back and forward as it was causing her confusion. I almost lost my sanity. I tried to commit suicide but because I was staying with caring people, every time I was in the process of doing it, someone would walk in on me and stop me.

I finally returned to Sydney Australia to live with my family (November 1998) and started the agonising process of trying to get people in New Zealand to listen to my story. I do not want anyone else to suffer as my daughter and I have. It is not selfish to want to keep one’s child; regardless of one’s status. Being an unwed mother is not a crime although it is still frowned upon by society. To take a child out of her natural family to place it among strangers, that is the true crime. This case has breached the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and the Rights of the Child; including the rules on Adoption and Fostering in the countries who are members of the United Nations.

I do not believe I was ever in a state of mind to give a free and informed consent without duress/coercion. My actions prove every time I had away from phone calls and visitors pressuring me, I was looking for a way out. Even the fact Amber-Rose had been out of my arms less than a few hours when I said I was going to get her back is proof I never wanted to part with her and that it was not my decision but that of others. Not only was my decision not free, it was not informed. I did not know the law and I was never counselled as to the full effects of adoption and what it would mean for both my child and myself. I was never warned of the mental health implications of adoption and it was known in the professional world before I was pressured to adopt out my child that adoption affects both the mother and child adversely; the child suffers a trauma and the mother suffers PTSD among other mental illnesses.

For me to make a free decision, I would need to have ALL the facts about adoption as well as all the legal implications; in other words I would have had to be informed. While the Act itself does not provide room for counselling for a birth parent, to sign a consent freely, the birth parent would need to make an “informed” decision. The word “informed” is defined as making a decision “based on a sound understanding of the facts” (From the English Oxford Dictionary). To be truly informed of the effect of adoption in order to satisfy making a free and rational decision, and sign a consent form it can only mean that there would indeed need to be some sort of counselling and knowledge given for the adoption consent to be valid in a legal sense. I received no such counselling, therefore I was not informed as I should have been and based on that I conclude my consent could never have been valid.

During the pregnancy of my second child I was worried about having another premature baby. This meant I had to explain what happened with my first child. I was told on several separate occasions by different doctors and nurses the most likely reason for my first child coming early was because of the extreme amount of stress I was under. From research into this subject, it is more than likely had I been left alone and not placed under an obscene amount of pressure, my daughter would have, most likely, been born around her due date as there were no medical problems with the pregnancy. In his decision to grant an adoption order, Inglis QC stated that I had not thought of my child as the amount of pressure I had placed on the adoptive parents would have affected my daughter. In the same vein, my question is, why then was I pressured so much? Why, when it has been proven that a mother under extreme stress during pregnancy can affect her as yet unborn child, was it okay for the prospective adopters to place me under an even greater amount of stress? This stress grew to the point where my body went into premature labour and my daughter was born before she was ready.

Had I truly been in a frame of mind to adopt my child out, I would not have breast fed her, would not have told all involved the adoption was off, would not have voiced my objections loud and clear to the solicitor involved and eight years down the track, would not be trying to fix this mess not of my making. Unfortunately, due to the pressure I was under, some of my actions appeared to look like I was in favour of the adoption, but at no point were these actions done without being initiated by someone else. These actions only show how effectively I was brainwashed.

My case highlights the injustice of the New Zealand Adoption Act 1955 to mothers and their children. It has long been known that an infant, unless in extreme circumstances, should not be separated from its mother. When born, the infant has a symbiotic relationship with his/her mother. The infant is not yet aware that they are indeed a separate entity altogether. They know the mother’s smell, heartbeat, sound of her voice and these are all important factors to help the survival of the child. From my own experience with other children, they do not realise they are separate beings until well into their toddler years between 1 and 2. Upon finding this out even at this age, it is a troubling and confusing time and children seemingly independent will suddenly become clingy and unsure of themselves. They are able to realise this at this age because their psyche can handle it. To force a newborn to face it within days of being born is cruel and inhumane. It is well known that a child separated from its mother at birth for whatever purpose will suffer a trauma unlike any other. Adoption encourages this trauma and offers no protection for the child or the mother. What needs to be realised is that for the child, the mother is what he/she needs. The mother whom he has trusted and been encased in for 9 months. In adoption, this trauma is not recognised and the child and mother are cut out from each others lives. If the best interests and welfare of the child are truly to be considered, adoption will not be an option for infants. There is no place in today’s society for adoption.