Cornerstone: One woman’s journey to find her roots
A poignant and revelatory book that gives us a glimpse into the heart and mind of an Australian adoptee through her lived experience. The pain of adoption seeps through the earlier pages. For those, brainwashed by government lies and adopters’ assertions that adoption is “in the best interests” of the child, that “fairy tale” is seriously challenged. The reader will be confronted by Kerri’s sense of alienation, anxiety, deep fear of abandonment and the terror and trauma that stems from being removed from one’s mother and entire biological family.
Kerri portrays, throughout the book, numerous painful psychological themes that she battles most of her life. She refers to herself as a “second class citizen”; “alien”; “slave” and “not fully human”. A person who always feels the outsider, has no sense of belonging and never feels at home. She is not tethered or grounded by belonging to those who reflect back to her familiar physical and personality traits. She never hears what is very ordinary for most: Oh, she has her Grandfather’s chin, her Aunt’s nose her mother’s laugh her father’s sense of humour or love of the bush. These are things we take for granted when we grow up within a family of our kin. This is how we form our identity. Adoptees suffer from identity bewilderment and confusion. Children are not blank slates they come with every gene encoded with ancestral traits. Those traits are reflected back to us by those with similar DNA – this gives us our sense of belonging and that inexplicable feeling of being home.
Adoption was used primarily to serve the interests and desires of infertile married couples. This was well accepted in adoption literature and it is clearly demonstrated by Kerri’s lived experience. She refers to herself as a “tool” to be used for the benefit of others. In her case her adoptive mother is an alcoholic who uses Kerri to clean, cook and take care of the home. Kerri wonders if that is the reason she was adopted, to be the maid/slave. She never felt as if she belonged to the family she was “grafted onto”. It is revealed that her adoptive mother had two stillborns, and was told by a doctor to adopt a child as this would help her fall pregnant and heal the grief of her loss. As was the case during most of the 20th century infertile women and/or women with mental health problems were told by their usually male doctors to adopt to solve their infertility and mental health problems. As you follow Kerri’s journey you realize the nonsense of this advice.
Kerri was used as a fertility tool, to keep a marriage together and then to be a cleaner and cook. She describes her life as she perceives it, dark, lonely and alienating as if she is in a prison, a prison made up of the walls of adoption, a locked garden, but one without colour. She states: “The ball and chain of adoption was killing me slowly, painfully”. Kerri’s clearly portrays her sense of almost claustrophobic entrapment, the walls closing in, as she is isolated amongst people who use her for their wants and needs without ever recognising hers. As she repeats throughout the pages: “I am nothing but, a ‘doll’ a ‘raggedy doll’ a person made by ‘Government men’”.
Kerri describes the journey she takes to break out of her adoption jail, her colourless walled garden by finding a home with her real family, “a garden with colour”. A Cornerstone. However, she describes how adoption workers create obstacles, lie and send her correspondence that often contradicts. Only when she challenges a particular adoption social worker and begins to demand what is rightfully hers, information about her biological family, does her prison door come ajar. She then begins the slow journey to find her Cornerstone.
It is a powerful story revealing the greed and lawlessness of the adoption industry and how those who worked within it played god with people’s lives, whether adoptees or mothers from whom they stole the babies.
I write this review from the perspective of a Sydney born mother, who had her newborn stolen, sight unseen, whilst heavily drugged and forced to sign a consent form before I was let out of my prison/hospital. Drugged and traumatised I knew I had no choice. Adoptees certainly had no choice and as Kerri states were “pawns” in the “Government’s game”.
There are some marvellous pieces of poetry sprinkled throughout the book, some laughter and in the end a lot more colour and sunshine. Kerri has focused her pain on something very productive setting up an organisation that uses DNA to connect family members – the Australian DNA Hub and a Facebook page to support those separated by barbaric adoption Within These Walls. DNA matching is particularly helpful when bureaucrats still play god and refuse to release the names of mothers and fathers, to which they have easy access, whilst adoptees do not and are left begging for information, which should be their god given right – knowledge of their biological relatives. Adoption bureaucrats are still promoting adoption and adoption ensures that adoptees will not know the truth of their birth as they receive a fraudulent birth certificate. It does not reflect the truth of the birth. It states the adopters gave birth to a child they did not and hence the real parents are expunged. Secrecy and lies are still very much a part of the adoption industry.
Kerri states; “Adoption is no longer needed; what is needed is a biological family preservation system for children. A safe home environment, but which connects to biological family members is a must. There is no need to change a child’s identity just to be given a safe home…Adopters need to learn that wanting to adopt is a mental illness and medically they are grieving for a child; … to replace their lost ability to have a bio baby. That can’t be, because the baby has a mother and a father as well as other family members … It is the problem of society saying it’s ok to take. When … to get a baby from another source is seen as good societal behaviour, it is forgetting in the process the most important consequence: Humans doing harm to another Human for their own needs and greed …Why do we continue to force this ongoing trauma on other human beings? Why indeed!
It should be remembered when a couple get divorced both parties have every right to see their child. No matter who is in the wrong in the divorce. The child’s birth certificate is not altered to hide the truth of his or her birth and neither is either side of the extended family members banned by law from having contact with their grandson, niece or cousin. Why is it so different with adoption where the child is permanently removed from all his or her extended biological kin, has their identity permanently altered and the real circumstances of its birth hidden behind a legal document that in reality is a legally sanctioned lie. Further ownership of the child is transferred from one party to another via an adoption contract, that in past times was referred to as slavery.
Facebook Group: Within These Walls
Australians Affected by Adoption Reconnecting By DNA
THE NEED FOR A DNA BANK
During the course of my PhD I met others who provided further information about the abuses that were perpetrated on mothers and their infants. The following was the outcome of an accidental meeting with a person who knew I was writing this thesis. I include it in the Appendix because of the claims, though disturbing, also support that of the participant I interviewed who worked in the same era, 1941-1944, at Crown St.
Knowing from where we came gives us a sense of place, belonging and identity and its importance to good mental health has been well acknowledged in the literature (Kenny et al: 2013; CARCR: 2012). The following evidences the need for a DNA bank.
My mother did her midwifery training at St Margaret’s Hospital, Sydney, in the 1940s during World War II. She went on to run a community based hospital later. The things she told me that went on in the hospital were truly shocking. She stated: “The nuns were just so cruel. They would badger the unmarried mothers constantly, telling them that if they wanted to ‘do the right thing’ they should adopt out their newborns. They kept repeating, sometimes very aggressively, how selfish they were if they kept them because there was ‘this lovely married couple who couldn’t have children that would give them all the things they couldn’t’. It didn’t matter how distressed they got, or how much they begged to see their babies, the nuns refused to bring them. Instead they rushed them out of the maternity ward and hid them from their mothers. In the days that followed they never let them see them, and refused even to tell them if they had a boy or a girl. It didn’t matter what they did the nuns refused to let them have their babies. Other mothers though, were outright lied to and told their babies had died when they had not.
There was a whole stream of wealthy infertile Catholic women who would come to the hospital. They would come in with a pillow strapped to their waist and they would go to the floor above and wait until an unmarried woman gave birth then the baby would be brought directly to them, so they left the hospital with another woman’s baby whilst that woman was told her baby had died. I could not believe the lies the nuns told – and to think they were supposed to be god fearing.
They would even swap babies or show someone else’s dead baby to a woman who didn’t believe her baby had died. If one of the married Catholic women gave birth to a baby with a defect, a hare lip for instance, they would swap babies. They would give the baby with the hare lip to the unmarried mother and her baby to the wealthy woman. Nothing seemed beyond them. It was abject cruelty, really. The lies they told! It was a baby farm. I often wondered what happened to them, those mothers and babies, did they survive? When my mother ran the community hospital later, she would employ single mothers as nurses and make sure those giving birth got their babies and could leave the hospital with them.