"It must be understood that the concept of mothers’ exercising a "choice" cannot be taken in isolation or viewed simplistically. It must be examined in tandem with the other parts of a system that was designed to facilitate the adoption process." – Releasing the past: Mothers’ storis of their stolen babies, p 27, Editor: Christine A. Cole
As I left my home yesterday to visit a friend at his place of employment, I noticed a package at my front door. The package was obviously from overseas based on the stamps and packaging material. I wondered if my friend in Austria who is known to send me little gifts now and then had sent me something from her recent trip to Corfu.
I bent to pick up the package and noticed the from address as one in Australia. The packaging label said "books". I knew instantly what it was without opening it.
I carried the package to my car with my heart beating a bit faster. I placed the package on the passenger seat of my red Honda Accord and started the car. I was not sure I wanted to open it. I was headed out for a nice light adventure with a new friend. Did I want adoption aches to invade that day? Did I want to open that package sent from so far away and release tiny demons that could surely send me spiraling into the dark abyss I visit too often?
With the car running, I adjusted the air conditioning, switched the radio to my favorite station and reached for the package. I had to open it. The sender was kind enough to take the time and money to send this to me all the way from Australia.
I ripped off the end of the white bubble envelope and as I did my hands felt not one but two books. I took the smallest one from the envelope. The brown and gold cover bears the title of "Women’s Adoption Stories – Australia – 1960 – 1995". The author is listed as Jan Kashin.
I crack the spine and quickly flip through the small book. On the left side of each page there are paintings by the author. On the right side of the page there are short vignettes that explain the painting.
My book falls open to
Hornsby Maternity Hospital,
NSW – 1963
Acrylic on Canvas
After 24 hours of labour, the mother was handcuffed to labour ward bed by her right wrist.
The handcuff was shaped like a figure 8, and made of leather and two buckles.
When both buckles were done up, the whole had an "8" shape.
This picture capture the moment when the wrist was secured, just before the nurse took hold of the woman’s hand.
I start to cry. The birth of David Brundson happened in Australia in 1963. I don’t know David or his mother. I do know my friend M who was strapped to her bed in 1984 in southern Illinois so her child could be taken away from her by Kurtz.
I cry for David Brundsons mother and I cry for my friend M. I cry for their sons who were taken from mothers who wanted them. One boy was born in 1963 in Australia and the other twenty years later in the United States.
I flip through more of the book and am reminded of the artwork of Julie Rist. Something in the paintings touches me like Julie’s work has touched me.
Page 30 of the book has a painting of a nun between the legs of a women. The words on the painting say "This’ll teach you, the nun said, "We’ll stitch you up a little tighter. You wont be using this for a while".
My throat constricts, my eyes swell with tears.
I put the books back in their envelopes. I continue on with my day.
Today, I read more, I flip open the second book titled "Releasing the past: Mothers ‘ stories of their stolen babies". The book is signed by the editor Christine A. Cole. She has a written a nice note to me inside the front cover. I smile. I have made so many good friends, so many women that I deeply respect and admire through all of this horror. Even still, I rather wish I hadn’t. For having not met them might mean I would have never lost my daughter.
I open the second book and notice more paintings by Jan Kashin. Again, the book opens to "The Birth of David".
I cry again. I cry for us all.
When will it stop?