The New Zealand Herald

Adoption by force: two tales of pain

I spent years looking for my boy in every pram, one mother tells politician­s

- Nicholas Jones

Women who had their newborns taken from them and adopted out to married couples from the late 1950s to 1980s are calling for an inquiry into forced adoption.

Maggie Wilkinson gave birth at St Mary’s home for unwed mothers in Otahuhu aged 20, and her baby daughter was adopted out shortly afterwards. Now 72, she started a petition for a Government inquiry into forced adoption.

That effort has so far fallen on deaf ears — Justice Minister Amy Adams has no plans for an inquiry, saying other issues that affect more New Zealanders like domestic violence law reforms will take priority.

Wilkinson — who told her story in yesterday’s Herald — and other women with similar experience­s made emotional submission­s to Parliament’s social services committee yesterday. These are edited summaries of two of their stories.

Maria Hayward

At 18 Hayward got pregnant to her boyfriend, a fellow university student, and ended up in the Catholic Home of Compassion.

“The building was behind a huge cement wall so we could hide our shame. I worked all day and cried all night.”

Her son was born in April 1974 and taken away immediatel­y: “I asked if it was a boy or girl and was curtly told. I asked if I could see him but was not allowed.”

Her boy was briefly shown when her parents visited.

“My mother sobbed when she saw her first grandchild,” Hayward said, her voice breaking. “I didn’t know at that point that she had visited the home several weeks earlier and expressed that she and my father wanted to adopt this child . . . She was told, no, we already have a family for this child.”

For some weeks after the birth Hayward was in physical pain. She went to a law office 10 days after the birth to sign the adoption papers.

“I was very frightened but by this stage I was used to doing what I was told and used to being silenced. The lawyer gave me papers and reminded me that I was not permitted to see my child ever again . . . I knew I was doing the wrong thing. I had no choice. I signed the most terrible piece of paper in my life.”

Years later Hayward said she read her notes and saw her son’s adoptive parents had asked for a child with tall parents, a boy, not with “dark blood”.

“The key point that I want to make is that everything about the social, political, ecclesiast­ical and legal environmen­t conspired against allowing a young mother to consider keeping her child. My records show I clearly expressed a desire to keep my child,” she said. “I spent the next 12 years looking for my boy in every pram, every picture of a child that age . . .”

Christine Hamilton

Hamilton travelled from Sydney to tell the committee her story.

She ended up in St Vincent’s Home of Compassion in Auckland after a referral from a nurses clinic GP at a public hospital, who told her she didn’t want a baby to ruin her life.

Her son was born in September 1973. Her records showed she was given a cocktail of drugs before, during and after the birth.

“I lost the capacity of functionin­g normally and thus was prevented from having a normal delivery and access to my baby.

“My son . . . was removed from the delivery suite and hidden from me. He was not given to his mother, me, to see and hold. None of this had been discussed with me. I had not signed any documentat­ion to [allow this].”

Hamilton said the common practice of removing children immediatel­y was a “cruel, brutal and calculated act” to break a sacred bond between mother and child.

“After my traumatic delivery days passed and I asked for my baby so I could love and feed him. But all requests were denied by Sister Jay, the only nun that came near me.”

In 2005 Hamilton read her records that observed the new mother “appears rather depressed”.

She later met her son but the reunion was fleeting: “His emotional pain was too great.”

 ?? Picture / Nick Jones ?? From right, Christine Hamilton, Merilyn McAuslin, Maria Hayward and lawyer Rebecca Hay appear before the select committee in Wellington.
Picture / Nick Jones From right, Christine Hamilton, Merilyn McAuslin, Maria Hayward and lawyer Rebecca Hay appear before the select committee in Wellington.

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