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A true story that reveals the strength and resilience of the human spirit in the face of betrayal, grief and loss.

About the author For thirty six years Margaret has worked in the areas of social justice and welfare services. Her life and time is divided between the NSW far north coast and Sydney. Autobiography ISBN 978-0-9805055-7-3

A&A Book Publishing www.aampersanda.com

9 780980 505573

Margaret Watson

At age forty, Margaret Watson learned she was adopted. This shocking and confronting truth was previously unknown to her and turned her whole world upside down. Faced with a major identity and life crisis, Margaret embarked on a physical and spiritual journey to find her birth family and discover her true self. By sharing her story, Margaret offers hope and understanding for those people who have discovered in their adult years that they were adopted.

Surviving Secrets

'Brave, honest and inspiring, this book takes us inside the fractured heart of adoption. Like all the best memoirs, Margaret Watson’s story is ultimately a healing gift. It builds a bridge of hope and courage for others to cross.' — Alan Close, Author, The Australian Love Letters of Raymond Chandler

A journey of resiliance and courage

Surviving Secrets Margaret Watson


Surviving Secrets Margaret Watson


SHORT STOP PRESS An imprint of A&A Book Publishing admin@aampersanda.com www.aampersanda.com www.shortstoppress.com First published 2010 Text Š Margaret Watson 2010 This book is copyright. Apart from any use permitted under the Copyright Act 1968 and subsequent amendments, no part may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted by any means or process whatsoever without the prior written permission of the publishers. Cover design, text design and typesetting: David Andor / Wave Source Design www.wavesource.com.au Photographs of the author by Sandy Bullon National Library of Australia Cataloguing-in-Publication entry Author: Title: ISBN: Notes: Subjects:

Dewey Number:

Watson, Margaret. Surviving secrets / Margaret Watson. 9780980505573 (pbk.) Includes index. Watson, Margaret. Adoptees--Australia--Biography. Adopted children--Australia--Biography. Adoptees--Australia--Family relationships. Adoption. 362.734


Introduction

O

19 NOVEMBER 1949 a baby girl was born to a single, twenty-one year old woman in Crown . Street Women’s Hospital, Sydney. The baby was born after a long, arduous and painful labour. The baby’s mother was young, frightened and without support of a partner or family. The mother intended keeping and raising her baby. A Crown Street doctor and his wife approached the mother, wishing to adopt the child. The mother refused. The doctor and his wife then suggested that mother and baby reside with them in return for the mother working as their housekeeper. Again, the mother declined the offer. The hospital social worker repeatedly urged the mother to place her daughter for adoption. The mother repeatedly declined. The social worker confronted the mother, highlighting her inadequacy to support and raise her child and her inability to provide a family environment. The mother remained steadfast in her intention to leave hospital with her daughter. Eventually, the social worker took matters into her own hands, announcing to the mother that a married couple known to her wanted a baby. The social worker took the baby from the mother’s arms. Later, the mother was to claim that she was informed the N


baby would be fostered by the couple. She claimed to have given no consent for any fostering or adoption, nor could she recall having signed any documents relating to fostering or adoption. On discharge from hospital, the mother returned to her rented accommodation at Mosman, packed her belongings and went to Central Railway Station. There she observed that the next train to leave was bound for Wagga Wagga and she purchased a one way ticket. On arrival in Wagga Wagga, she found a boarding house and sought work in the town. Living in the same boarding house was a young man in the air force. He fell in love with the young woman, later describing her as the most beautiful woman he had ever seen, with the spirit of an untamed colt. As they grew closer, the young woman confided to him that she had given birth to a baby girl who had been removed from her. The young man came from a family of nine children and he valued marriage and family life. About a year after her baby’s birth, the young couple married and travelled to Crown Street Hospital in Sydney, to retrieve the woman’s baby. They considered that as a married couple, they would now be acceptable to authorities in reclaiming the woman’s child. On arrival, the young woman introduced her husband to staff and enquired about having her baby returned to her. She was informed that her baby had been adopted by a married couple and that she should forget about the child and start her own family. The mother protested that she had never given consent for her baby to be adopted. She was advised by hospital staff there was nothing that could be done, except for her to get on with her life.

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I was that baby whose private adoption from Crown Street Women’s Hospital in Sydney, Australia, was organised by a social worker employed there. She was a friend of my adoptive family and became one of my godmothers. This is the story of a life lived in ignorance for forty years, as I was unaware of my adoption. The eventual revelation of my adoption and its subsequent impact changed my life irrevocably and launched me on a journey of immense personal and spiritual growth, including an emotional two and a half year search, culminating in a miraculous reunion with my birth mother. The emotional path I have walked during the subsequent years has enabled me to come to know my true self, redefine myself and my identity; resulting in a self that has had to manage, heal and integrate from the traumatic event of separation from my birth mother. Along the way, I have obtained my birth and medical records from Crown Street Women’s Hospital. These indicate irregularities and possible unlawful and unethical practices which were the subjects of the NSW Government Inquiry into adoption practices from 1950 to 1999 and heard by the parliamentary Standing Committee on Social Justice Issues in 1999. By writing my story, I hope to complete my healing and contribute to others affected by adoption, especially those still searching for their biological family. I believe my story will resonate with those who have experienced abandonment, trauma, identity, grief and loss in their lives. My story honours the journey and resilience of the human spirit — the tenacity and courage it takes to reconstruct a life from the ashes of despair and loss to rise triumphantly and

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continue living from a whole, healed heart and soul and integrated being. Since commencing to write this book two other profound experiences have also impacted and changed my life. In January 1998 my partner of three years, Robert Moses, committed suicide. Shortly after his death I discovered he had been diagnosed thirty years previously with manic depression, now more commonly known as bi-polar disorder. He lived and managed his condition in secret, driven by his fear of past losses and abandonment which trapped him in the belief that revealing his condition would cause him more loss and abandonment. He lived a life of magnificence and courage, never accepting himself or his condition, yet giving to others much love, support and acceptance. A few months following his death, I had a routine mammogram which showed changes in my left breast. Two subsequent surgeries revealed an invasive carcinoma which was removed, followed by an auxiliary clearance of lymph nodes. Fortunately, the cells had not travelled to my lymph nodes from the breast and I only required six weeks of radiotherapy. I have included both these experiences in my book as a way of assisting others come to terms with mental illness in those they love and to show that there is life after facing a diagnosis and treatment of cancer. I have deliberately chosen to write my book from the emotional fields where I have lived my life during these experiences. I believe our Western society today discourages in many ways, the expression and acknowledgment that we are spiritual and emotional beings. Grief, loss, abandonment, death and betrayal are as much part of the human experience as are love, happiness, excitement, adventures, joy and peace.

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However, the latter are those that society seems to find socially acceptable, relegating the former as negatives to be avoided. Much of my own journey has been in coming to terms with the fact that the suffering, pain and loss I have experienced are not due to anything I have done in my life. These feelings and experiences are part of the rich textures of life. I have learned on my circuitous path to self-acceptance, peace and contentment that pain and happiness and the spaces in between are the paradoxes in which life is lived. All emotions and experiences can be embraced and felt. It is in the acceptance of the two spectrums that healing, integration and new beginnings occur. It has been important to me to write my story as an acknowledgment to my inner child, that baby girl removed from her mother at birth, causing such a spiritual, psychic and emotional wound in my life. Every experience that has followed I see as contributing to my journey to embrace and heal that first life experience of grief, loss and wounding. I have been enormously privileged along the way to have the love, support and acceptance of so many friends, family members, colleagues and teachers who have come into my life and enriched me with their teachings and life affirming presence. Babies who experience adoption are not consulted for obvious reasons, as to their opinion, needs or feelings about the matter. The altruistic approach to adoption that it is in the child’s best interest totally overlooks the emotional, spiritual and somatic experiences of that child which are life impacting irregardless of the adoption being known or unknown. Past adoption practices gave little or no attention to the impact of the child’s removal from its birth mother and attempt for it to bond with a new mother and family. Having spent some years

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in therapy since the telling of my adoption, this has assisted me in developing inner strength and understanding of the magnitude caused at being removed from one’s mother. Therapy allowed me insights and healing otherwise not possible without professional support, or indeed without learning the truth about myself and my beginning. I have also been determined that, despite the trauma of my separation and removal from my mother, the late revelation of that event and the truth of my adoption, I will heal and integrate these events into my life. I believe it is my responsibility to continue creating the best of me and my life. I cannot change my story or my history. However, I can continue my personal and spiritual growth for the benefit of myself and those I love, and by so doing, contribute to the wider community. There have been times during the writing of this story, where the very nature of events and experiences seemed to exude negative energy that I did not wish to have present. What I have written is the truth of my experiences and my reality. The negative places had to be visited and embraced as much as the more positive places. I believe I have taken responsibility for every event and situation I have contributed to. I am aware that having written this memoir over a number of years, my writing voice has, I believe, travelled the evolutionary route from a very young, wounded place in me to a more mature, compassionate and developed person. It has not been my intention to harm or humiliate any person with the writing of this story. However, the truth of events and painful times were real for me and necessarily had to be visited in order to come to the oases of understanding, peace, compassion, forgiveness and acceptance of myself and others.

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A true story that reveals the strength and resilience of the human spirit in the face of betrayal, grief and loss.

About the author For thirty six years Margaret has worked in the areas of social justice and welfare services. Her life and time is divided between the NSW far north coast and Sydney. Autobiography ISBN 978-0-9805055-7-3

A&A Book Publishing www.aampersanda.com

9 780980 505573

Margaret Watson

At age forty, Margaret Watson learned she was adopted. This shocking and confronting truth was previously unknown to her and turned her whole world upside down. Faced with a major identity and life crisis, Margaret embarked on a physical and spiritual journey to find her birth family and discover her true self. By sharing her story, Margaret offers hope and understanding for those people who have discovered in their adult years that they were adopted.

Surviving Secrets

'Brave, honest and inspiring, this book takes us inside the fractured heart of adoption. Like all the best memoirs, Margaret Watson’s story is ultimately a healing gift. It builds a bridge of hope and courage for others to cross.' — Alan Close, Author, The Australian Love Letters of Raymond Chandler

A journey of resiliance and courage

Surviving Secrets Margaret Watson


Surviving Secrets  

'Brave, honest and inspiring, this book takes us inside the fractured heart of adoption. Like all the best memoirs, MargaretWatson's story i...

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