Tuesday, May 24, 2011


I am adopted. My brother is adopted. No, we are not "blood" brother and sister as is often asked. I used to think that a weird question. Like, did people think Mum and Dad found some baby making duo who  had my brother, handed him over and then 2.5 years later, gave them me as well? But now I realise people thought we came as a package.  That Mum and Dad took the two of us on, me at birth and Les as a toddler. I get that now.

But no, my brother has his own story and I, mine.

In 1974, my mother fell pregnant to her boyfriend and being the “good Catholic girl” that she was, had me in June 1975 and immediately put me up for adoption. I am unsure whether she ever got to hold me. Or see me. From what I gather, she wasn't given the option to keep me. She wasn’t married, she was barely 19 and she had parents who wouldn't have it any other way.

I wonder what it must have been like. To feel me kicking inside her, to go into what I’m guessing was a painful labour, and then to hand me over to the nurse without even being granted a glance at the baby she had just given birth to. I feel so incredibly sad for her. After having given birth to three babies myself, I can't even fathom how she would have coped with her grief. Her pain.  Her loss.

But life goes on. Hers and mine.

My childhood was a typical Australian one. It involved being forced into playing backyard cricket with my older brother, riding bikes, playing in the local creek, recycling cans for pocket money.  The usual.

I grew up, stuff went down as it does with all families, but one thing I remember vividly was that Mum was extremely open with us about being adopted. She made absolutely no secret about it and I guess that’s why it never felt like a massive deal to me. Well until I hit 18 that was.

I got this sudden urge to find my "real" mother. This wasn’t because I suddenly didn’t want Betty as my Mum any more or love her any less, it was because I wanted to know why I looked like I look. Curiosity. But you know what they say about curiosity don’t you? Yep and I didn’t even have a cat to kill. As it turned out, it certainly was not the right reason to interrupt established lives and luckily I was counselled out of going any further before I did. I truly am grateful for this.

I did manage to get identifying information which gave me some details about my mother and father.  Their country of origin, their eye colours and builds. I also learnt some medical history (double mastectomy in grandmother – eek) that is terribly important. I can’t tell you over my life how many times a doctor has asked me if anyone in my family has say for instance, a heart condition, and I’ve just had to say “I don’t know, I’m adopted”.

When I was about 19, I received the following letter from Lyn, my biological mother;


Wish I knew a name to call you, I don’t feel I have the right to call you daughter. I have thought often of writing but didn’t know where to start.

I often think of how you are, my biggest worry has been that you have been safe and happy.
It’s funny when I fell pregnant with you I was still so incredibly naive and went through it all in a blur. Ian, your father, and I , had been going out for years but it’s funny, I just never thought of marrying him. I haven’t seen him for a long, long time but I hear that he became a wanderer and isn’t married now.

I’ve been married to a great guy, Rod for 14 years now. He knows about you and has been at me for years to contact you. We have 3 beautiful boys, who do their share of fighting. Ryan is 12, Luke, 10 and Joshua is 6. I guess I’ve been punished in a way because we would dearly love a girl but..

My family, my parents mainly, never spoke of you. I had the apple of my father’s eye and it took many years before he spoke to me again – Good Catholics!

I’ve gone back to work after twelve years and so far am really enjoying it.

Belinda, that’s what I named you at birth, I hope with all my heart that you have had a happy life and forgive me for giving you up. I still believe in my heart it was the best for you.

Hope this finds you well and happy,


After that I had no questions. It was like I was, and excuse me for being a bit wanky for a sec, at peace. I no longer had the urge to know more.  Sure, I found it interesting to know I had three half brothers out there somewhere and yes I did wonder about them for some time. But time passes, I have my own family to care for and to be honest, I have a mother and a brother. And they were the best that anyone could ask for. Love was on tap - what more do you need?

I recently found this letter after going through my mums stuff (after she passed away). My brother and I agree, it’s like we were puppies in a pet store. Plus I cost 5 bucks. Bargain.

It reads:

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Clarke,

There is now a baby girl born XXst June, 1975 available for adoption. The baby weighed 8lbs 4 ozs at birth.

The mother of the child is a single girl aged 19, a Student Nurse by occupation with Junior standard education. She has brown hair, blue eyes, fair complexion, is 5' 7" in height and of medium build. She is of Australian nationality.

The father of the child is aged 22, single, a motor mechanic by occupation with Junior standard education. He has blond hair, blue eyes, fair complexion, is 5' 8" in height and of slim build. He is of Australian nationality.

If you would like to see this baby, would both journey to Brisbane as soon as possible. Please call this office between 9am - 2:30pm on any week day so that the necessary authority to see the child may be given to you.

If you do not wish to see the infant, kindly communicate with me immediately so that I may offer her to someone else.

Would I be different today had I been raised by Lyn? Hard to say. Nature over nurture? Would I still be me but with different friends and family? In a different job? Who knows? All I do know is that I wouldn’t change a thing.

On 4 June 2010, the Community and Disability Services Ministers' Conference (CDSMC) announced that Ministers had agreed to a joint national research study into past adoption practices, to be conducted by the Australian Institute of Family Studies.
The focus of this study is on understanding current needs and obtaining information to support improved service responses for individuals affected by past adoption practices, and is the largest study of past adoption practices ever conducted in this country. 

If you think this study could relate to you, click HERE to participate.


emlykd said...

Bern, you are amazing! That is all!

kerri sackville said...

Good lord. I am shivering all over and have tears in my eyes. For so many people - you, your birth mother, and your parents. Mostly that letter - that simple letter, devoid of any emotion - offering YOU.
What a story. I'm happy for you all, though. It truly sounds like everyone ended up exactly where they should be.

Jodie at Mummy Mayhem said...

Wow. An amazing post, Bern.

I imagine when your biological mum called your biological Dad a "wanderer", she meant someone who has never settled down anywhere, and has just moved from place to place. Perhaps relationship to relationship (or not bothered with any). Some people aren't great with settling in to routine, i suppose.

I'd say, you probably have some traits etc that you have inherited from your biological parents, which I guess would only become apparent if you met them.

But in essence, the person you are today...the way in which you interact with your own family etc, has been, no doubt, influenced by your parents and brother. They have raised you, and helped you develop in to who you are today. I'm sure you and your brother have been very much loved. People go thru so much just to adopt a child, they have to want them with every fibre of their being.

Thank you so much for sharing this. x

KittenFlower said...

Thank you for sharing! :-) xxx

emjaystar said...

Bern, yet again you are able to tell us a personal,heartbreaking recount of your life in such an open and honest way, but of course with your signature touch of humour. I'm so happy to hear that,you knowing you were adopted is not something that has consumed your life.I say this as I know someone who even now at age 40 struggles with the fact they were adopted.

Bern I also just have to say how 'easy' your blogs are to read.As you know everyone has a blog nowadays,but yours is one I always try to catch. Thankyou for sharing.

Taryn Rucci said...

Bern, that was a great post.

That matter of fact letter to your Mum is truly remarkable.

I can just imagine what she and your dad were thinking when they read it. I am sure it was a dream come true for them.

I am a big believer that we are the product of our surroundings and how lucky you are to have been blessed with such a loving adoptive family.

Taryn xxxx

Megan said...

Thanks for sharing that, Bern. I too am in awe of that adoption letter - it seems such a bizarre way to tell someone they have a baby.

You sound like you've been raised by amazing parents. xo

Brash & Sassy said...

Bern, you are an amazing person!

You know, sometimes when I was little, I would hope to one day discover that I was adopted. Only as I grew up and witnessed the struggles and dilemnas that friends who were adopted went through, did I really start to appreciate knowing where I came from - the good and bad.

I thank you for sharing such a personal part of your life with us. My two cents? I think you are a fabulous person Bern, and I wouldn't change a thing ;-) xo

So Now What? said...

Lovely comments - thanks everyone. My daughter keeps coming over to me and saying "I can't believe you were only five bucks" To which I reply - "more expensive than you, you were free".

Sharpest Pencil said...

That was truly one of the most beautiful posts I have read. Eye opening, emotional, raw and honest and just simply beautiful.

And just as I thought I would not be able to stem the flow of tears your comment to your daughter "more expensive than you, you were free" brought me back .

Thank you for sharing!

Aussie-waffler said...

Yet another insightful and refreshingly honest blog post Ms Morley. Thanks for sharing your stories with us, you are Da Bomb. xxx

Jayne said...

What an amazing post.Keep telling your beautiful stories.

Nomie said...

What an amazing, beautifully written post. Thanks for sharing.

Belinda Samson said...

At least she gave you a beautiful name...Belinda!!

Again a very moving blog by my favourite blogger.

So Now What? said...

Ha Belle, we could have been twins :)

Gabfran said...

Bern Morley just when I think that your writing cannot possibly get better it does. This is the most honest, open account of adoption that I think that I have ever read. Being a fellow Catholic there were a few people at school with me who were adopted. One of my friends was the daughter of a 14 year old mum. Another friend tried to find her birth mother only to discover that her birth mother had little or no interest in her. Both went on to have families of their own as a way of creating their own family history in their own way. As you are doing - never stop writing lady, ever x

elliefreeman said...

As an adoptee myself I really enjoyed reading this post. The medical history thing is a real pain in the arse! I do wonder about the nature/nurture thing a lot, mainly because I'm Korean but have been raised as an Aussie. But like you, I don't think I would change anything either. Apart from the questions about my background and whatever, I don't think being adopted has hampered on my life that much. Adoptees deal with the same joys, the same bullshit and indeed the same family problems in life that everyone else does. The only differences are biological.

Jewels Diva said...

Wow, that must be rough and tough on anybody, but at least you dealt with it and realised you didn't need to dig up a lot of stuff.

Seraphim said...

You are one of those rare gifts. A beautiful writer. Hard writing I suspect, but easy reading for those of us you share with.
You were blessed with some wonderful parents regardless of the road that led them to you. The letter just blew me away. And not in a good way.
Thank you for sharing.

Anonymous said...

I can't imagine how you felt finding that letter in your Mum's papers. For such a life altering event it is so matter of fact.

Like The Sharpest Pencil the lump in my throat went away with your "more expensive than you, you were free" comment to your daughter!


The Girl With A Suitcase said...

Wow, that was an amazing read. Thank you for sharing. xx

Cate P said...

What an amazing story, very brave of you to share it. Not everybody has the courage to talk about these things so honestly and openly. You have a fantastic attitude, which I guess you have Betty to thank for. That's nurture for you, and it's good.

Permanently twenty three said...

That's an amazing story. I can kind of see why you never would have pursued your biological mother further. It's almost a bit like, what else could there be to know?

Love on tap. I love that phrase. So true of those special people around us all.

I'd rather be watching Charlie's Angels said...

thank you for sharing your story. it is almost identical to my own. i was adopted in 1970. i have 3 half brothers. was never interested in finding my birth father. and i'm as happy as larry with my adoptive family.

Kristen said...

A child of the early 80s, conceived on the Gold Coast to a 17yo mother with strict Catholic parents who ordered her to abort the baby, 5'7" and blue eyed, with a biological father "of no fixed address", knew from the start that i was adopted, i have one brother... i'm a mother & a wife and with the birthday of JUNE 21st, on the cusp of Gemini & Cancer = this story is ME!
So obviously, your story really struck a chord.

Bronnie Marquardt said...

Wow Bern, I never knew. I interviewed many women who were forced to give up their babies for adoption in my past life as a journo. I always felt so bereft and shocked on their behalf of the hardships they went through, and the cruelty of having to carry their baby, give birth to them, and be forced to sign them over to someone else. I can't begin to understand your feelings or those of your (biological) mum and your (real) Mum ... but I just wanted to let you know that your story really moved me. As a child, I often wished and even believed I was adopted, being so different to my parents and my siblings. But I do believe we find our families - just as we do our lovers and closest friends - for a reason. Whatever the hell it is!

Bronnie Marquardt said...

Oh, and I didn't mean that to come across as negative of adoptive parents. Far from it. With a few sad exceptions, most of the adopted children were cherished and grew up with the knowledge that they were really, really wanted by their parents who chose to have them. I don't blame adoptive parents for wanting desperately to have a child.

Annieb25 said...

You know I love this post and totally understand everything you have written. We still need to have that coffee. So much to talk about. xx

MultipleMum said...

There was a lot of that happening in the 1970s in Australia. I've never considered that one might feel like a commodity after adoption. I don't know how I would feel, but as a mother, I bet you have greater understanding for how difficult it must have been for Lynn? It shows some strength of character to go through with it! This is a beautifully written post - not sure how I missed the first time around x

Lucy said...

Bern, I am crying my eyes out reading this. I knew you were adopted, but for some reason had never read this post before.

The details in your post make it so real, so sad, and so happy and normal, all at once.

Bern, you seriously rock at writing evocotive people tales, especially your own.


Maxabella said...

I believe you would be very different if you had been raised by Lyn (if that letter was anything to go by) and definitely different had you been raised by a wanderer... It is just amazing to me how 'easy' adoption was back in the seventies. It seems strangely uncomplicated and good. I am so happy that it worked at so well for you, Bern. I am glad your parents found you and made you into the funny, thoughtful, wise woman that you are today. x

therhythmmethod said...

Wow, this is the most amazing story.
I am sure that $5 was the best your mum ever spent. What a treasure you would have been to her. I feel for all of you. So glad you are happy now and have answers. I feel like giving you a big hug. Thank you for sharing.

Frog, Goose and Bear said...

Wow - great post! Thanks so much for sharing this part of your life story with us.

Life In A Pink Fibro said...

Bern, this is quite a post. All I can picture is The Gypsy Rover when I think of people wandering... or that other song, Valderee Valderah etc etc. I'm with Maxabella - what a straightforward process. "We have this child, do you want her?" I'm glad Betty did. She did a great job.

Thanks for Rewinding at the Fibro!

deerbabyalison said...

Wow - what an incredibly moving story. I'm so glad you shared this. What a heap of emotions you must have gone through.

I'm not adopted but my husband is (at 6 weeks - we know absolutely nothing about the circumstances bar the barest of details). My mother is too but hers didn't work out quite so well - she was adopted at 3 and adopted by an abusive mother. She traced her biological mother when she was in her 30s to find out about her medical history principally (my sister had leukaemia and they kept asking about family history) and that didn't really work out exactly as she'd imagined. I can't watch those shows where they reunite people - I just want to know what happens when the cameras stop rolling.

So glad yours worked out and that you're happy. Great story.

Louisa said...

Thanks for sharing this, I am speechless.

Miss Pink said...

You have inspired me to tell my almost adoption story of my own.
I think women who continue with a pregnancy and adopt their children out over abortion are such strong brave women. It is such a gift they give and such a heavy burden they carry.
The only thing that worries me about adoption is not enough medical history details. Maybe the government could keep it and open and ongoing thing where parents check in every 5-10 years or something, as obviously circumstances change. I know if i were adopted my fears would be not knowing my medical history. But you're right, the parents you knew, they were your parents. Family is about so much more than sharing the same blood.

theshawdaily said...

That was a really amazing post. My grandfather was adopted and we know nothing of his biological family. He was adored by his adoptive family and he only found out he was adopted after overhearing a neighbour referring to him as "that adopted kid". He never talked about it to any of us though and we were never to mention it.

You sound as though you are one of the lucky ones. Adoption is a tricky area, so many ways to get it wrong, but sometimes, staying with a biological family is just wrong, and in my work, I have seen the results of this. Thanks for sharing Bern.. I'm so glad you have your mum and your brother and that things worked out well for you.

bigwords is... said...

I just read this post for the first time tonight and I can not begin to tell you how I identify with it, but for different reasons. My mum was 21 and single when she had me in 1973. Her parents were both dead, though supportive her older sisters had families of their own, some members of her family/friends shunned her and she was largely alone. She did not adopt me and for that I am grateful. She is a wonderful mother. But I have never known who my father is and I have not been blessed with brothers or sisters. we both have knowing and loss in our lives, but also such love. xx

MsKymOG said...

Bern you are amazing - as a writer and as a person. I feel like we all get to know so much of you through your posts - and I really look forward to each one. The hippy in me believes that children choose their parents, and it sounds like you made it to the right parents, just with a slight detour. Because if you hadn't, you might not be the Bern we all admire so much.

Tai Tai said...

Wow - amazing story. I admire you for being so strong and knowing who you are. It sounds like you've got an incredible family by your side and that's all that really matters, right? x

Claudia said...

Wow! I already thought you were wonderful, now even more so. Beautiful post, story and insight xx

So Now What? said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Liz said...

Loved this post first time around Bern, still love it with that one little exception we've discussed before :) strangely my daughter uses that term now but only to me... is she pushing my buttons? lol

Wonder if my kids will be as comfortable with being adopted as you are when they're grown. Fingers crossed :)

Dorothy said...

Thank you for sharing that, Bern. I think it's a beautiful story. The way your adoptive parents have loved you and your brother, how open they were with you, how open and honest your birth mother was in that letter.

I think you've been very lucky to have had so much love in your life..

Andrea said...

You are so brave and strong. I know you didn't choose it, and you'll probably shrug it off. But you are.

•´.¸¸.•¨¯`♥.Trish.♥´¯¨•.¸¸.´• said...

Amazing story Bern. I appreciate your honesty in sharing.

We have an almost 18yr old son, we adopted at 1 yr old, the youngest of several siblings [some also adopted - 2 in one family as well]. Long story.

His eldest (half) sister was the first child adopted, as a baby.She is now in her 30's, close to your age. So I imagine it probably affected our son's birth mum in many more ways than I can understand. She was a good Catholic girl too.

We have had contact with some siblings when he was younger but we lost touch - mostly them.
When he turns 18 in a month, we'll offer up what we know and let him decide to pursue or not.

We know his birth mother never tried to contact his older siblings - even ones she knew were with other birth fathers. She never left addresses for letters we sent to the adoption agency either.

Thanks for sharing your story. I can relate to it in so many ways.

My grandmother was adopted too - nothing was ever known about her birth family.

BTW - We were asked almost the same question Betty was and let us know of you want him / interested meeting him or not so we can ask someone else. WE were also told we were not the first he was offered to (since it was technically a newborn adoption program).
Their loss. The end.

Life In A Pink Fibro said...

I remember this one. Thought about it for a long time after I read it the first time.

4 kids, 20 suitcases and a beagle said...

Bern, so beautifully written! Thank you for sharing your letter from your mother, absolutely fascinating to hear her story and her perspective. This post just makes me love you even more, your attitude to life and your incredibly giving nature it so admirable. I've read your posts about your father in the past and someone else could see life in such a different way....but not you. Mwah! Kirstyxx

Deanne said...

This was so honest, and beautiful...I almost cried over my morning coffee! I have a half brother who was put up for adoption around 20 years ago. I know to look for him would hurt my family but he is always in the back of my mind.
Thank you again for this blog, there is nothing like it xx

Melody said...

I just read this same post over at Mamamia. Beautiful Bern, I shed a tear (typically - doesn't take much for me to do so these days!)
My Uncle was adopted as a baby. I wish I knew more about his story from my Granny, but alas she died many years ago and we (as a big family unit) never spoke of Uncle Charlie's adoption. All I know was that back in Glasgow, my Grandparents desperately wanted a baby and eventually adopted one. After years of 'trying' for their own, and now with a new son, fresh from the arms of someone else, my Granny fell pregnant. Then after this baby was born (my Uncle Ralph), they then went on a few years later to have my father Harry.

Jodi Gibson said...

Thank you for sharing such an honest and personal piece of your life.
I cried and I smiled.
x J

Sannah said...

Thank you for sharing this wonderful story. My Mother In Law had a baby girl in the early 70s, and her story seems quite similar to your biological mother's in that she was from a Catholic family and went on to have only sons. She talks about it rarely, and feels that it would be wrong to try and contact the girl who was adopted, but she is such a maternal person that I can only imagine how excruciatingly hard it must have been for her to have been forced to give her up. Thank you for sharing your story, and particularly the letters.