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Never-born Baby Scam
December 26, 2010 permalink
Australia had a way of stealing babies from their mothers even more thorough than the dead baby scam. They eradicated all record of the birth, even suggesting to the mothers that the birth had never taken place.
'Your son is gone. He's with his adoptive parents'
"The room was blacked out. There were no windows and just one door.
"They tied my hands and feet to the bed. I was in agony. I was screaming out in pain.
"Then there was silence.
"No one would have known a baby had been born. But I did."
There, in an isolated delivery room of the Royal Brisbane Hospital, Trish Large's quest to find the son taken from her at birth began.
Trish would be among 250,000 unwed mothers of the "white stolen generation" in Australia.
The young women were drugged, tethered to beds, and never allowed to see their babies.
It was a practice which has been described as 'institutionalised baby farming', whereby babies born to unwed women were forcibly taken from them and illegally adopted to infertile couples.
This was the accepted practice at the RBH for up to five decades from the 1930s.
As she prepares to celebrate Christmas with her family tomorrow, Trish remembers a time when her family was incomplete.
“The nurse told me I was unfit to be a mother ... that I didn't deserve to see my son,” she said.
“My son was whisked away out of the delivery room and I was taken to an unmarried mothers' ward in the hospital.
“I demanded every day to see my son ... for every day that I was in that ward.”
However Trish, at 20 years old with no family for support, was no match for the system.
“The next day my milk came flooding in. So they forced me to wear an extremely tight elastic bandage that covered my entire chest right down to my hips," she said.
“It was so tight I could barely breathe.
“They also gave me the drug stilboestrol to dry my milk, but it also made me very calm and very quiet, just as they wanted me.”
Trish has since learned the drug is used to treat incontinent female dogs.
“The next morning a social worker came in and demanded that I sign an adoption form. When I refused she told me I would be charged with 'seduction' and deported back to England and never allowed in the country again with no chance to see my son,” she said.
The same happened the following morning, and the following.
Finally, the seemingly exacerbated social worker told Trish she could sign a hospital release form and take her son home.
“I was so excited. I thought I had won. I thought I had beat them at their own game,” she said.
“The social worker came with some forms on a clip board and I signed them. Then I sat on my bed and waited and waited for them to bring me my son.
“I sat there until they put another woman in my bed.
“At five o'clock I asked the nurse for the final time when my son would arrive.
“She turned to me and said: 'Your son is gone. He's already gone with his adoptive parents'.”
The following morning Trish – now a desperate mother – went to the Department of Child Services seeking help. Her plight fell on deaf ears.
“So I marched right to the police station on Roma Street and told them my baby had been stolen from me," she said.
“The policeman at the desk said he would need some proof that I had in fact had a baby.
“So I went back to the Royal Brisbane Hospital. I said to the woman at reception, 'I had a baby here, I would like my records'. I gave her me name.
“She said, 'Are you sure you had a baby in this hospital?'
“She said there was absolutely no record of me ever having been admitted to the hospital. And there was no record of my baby being born.”
Two years earlier Margaret Hamilton, now 64, delivered her son in the same ward.
“But I have absolutely no memory of giving birth. I have no idea how my son came into this world,” she said.
“Perhaps it was such a traumatic experience I blocked it out ... perhaps I was drugged.
“I was 19 years old. I was engaged and pregnant, but my fiancé called it off. I was to be a single mother, so I went where all single mothers went ... to a home.”
There, Margaret lived with 50 other young women, all pregnant and unmarried.
“No one asked me what I wanted to do,” she said.
On May 11, 1966 Margaret was admitted to hospital.
“I was left on a bed in a corridor. I heard another woman scream and I thought, 'Oh I don't want to be like that',” she said.
“My friends tell me I must have had such a traumatic experience there I have blocked it out. But I can't imagine I would do that,” Margaret said.
“It's not unlikely I was drugged, but I have no medical records.”
Like Trish, Margaret was forced to sign adoption papers, but not before she caught a glimpse of her son in the hospital nursery.
“Yes, I saw him through the window ... but I was never allowed to hold him, or touch him,” she said.
“The adoption was illegal. I was only 19. It was not legal for a woman to consent to adoption until they were 21.
“My son was stolen from me.”
Once Margaret signed the adoption papers she was told she needed to leave the hospital.
“I was expected to return home, return to my job and never speak of it again,” Margaret said.
“I couldn't do that.”
In the weeks following the birth Margaret became increasingly depressed.
“I didn't care whether I lived or died,” she said.
“I would walk across the road without looking, hoping a car would hit me.”
Eventually Margaret could not bear her life in Brisbane.
“The streets were too familiar. Not only had I been abandoned by the man I loved, I had lost my child.”
Margaret moved to Melbourne where she regained some semblance of a normal life.
It was not until she returned to Brisbane, married and with two children, in 1990 that she once again yearned for her lost son.
“I wasn't coping. I had to find him,” she said.
Margaret, like Trish, found an ally in ALAS Queensland – Adoption Loss Adult Support – for mothers searching for their lost children.
One year later Margaret saw her son again for the first time.
“He was not the baby I saw in the hospital. He was a man. He was 25 years old,” she said.
The pair met at a country fair in regional New South Wales.
“There were people everywhere and I was so scared I would miss him," she said.
“Then I saw a man walking across a field. I recognised him by his walk. He has the walk of my family.”
There for the very first time Margaret held her son.
Margaret and Trish are among the fortunate few who have been reunited with their children, but their grief for the babies they lost has never faded.
“The grief never goes away. Adoption is a life sentence,” Margaret said.
She finds comfort remembering walking the streets of Brisbane's CBD when she was pregnant.
“I loved being pregnant, because then my baby was mine and no one could take it from me," Margaret said.
“I love my son, but I still grieve for my baby.”
For this, a formal apology from the federal government is crucial.
Margaret made a personal request to Prime Minister Julia Gillard at a community cabinet meeting at Clontarf, north of Brisbane, last month.
"My name is Margaret Hamilton," she began.
"I'm from ALAS - Adoption Loss Adult Support. There are over 250,000 white mothers who lost their babies to forcible removal at birth by the same past illegal adoption practices as Aboriginal mothers.
"How do you feel personally? Should they receive an apology?"
Ms Gillard replied: "I see in the media - and have heard sometimes face to face - some of the stories of women who face very devastating circumstances of having children taken, or being put under intolerable pressure to relinquish their children, in a different age and a different time.
"So, as a human being, of course you extend your sympathy to anybody who lived through that and through years of not knowing what happened to their child. So I think it's something we can all say, we're sorry that ever happened in Australian history."
Although this was cause of much excitement for Margaret and Trish, this personal “sorry” from the Prime Minister was not enough.
“We want our children to know that we did not give them away. We want them to know that they were loved and wanted,” Trish said.
“We do not want compensation, we just want healing.”
The "white stolen generations" are so-called to distinguish them from the indigenous stolen generations, but their suffering is shared.
Margaret last year received a handwritten letter from an indigenous elder.
"I applaud the Prime Minister's apology to our mob. But what about the white stolen generations that have suffered the same fate," the elder wrote.
"I know many white people who went through the same pain. So why can't the government do its healing again and apologise to the white stolen generation to bring closure to all this suffering.
"As we walk the same land. Breathe the same air. Drink the same water."
Source: Brisbane Times