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Author Topic: Louise Burmester met her biological mum decades after she was forcibly adopted  (Read 1305 times)
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Donor offspring from Perth, WA

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« on: March 15, 2013, 04:34:21 AM »

Louise Burmester met her biological mum decades after she was forcibly adopted out

AS a child, Louise Burmester enjoyed crafting tulips into embroidered bookmarks. But little did she know the significance of the country famous for those flowers.
Louise grew up in Sydney and Canberra believing her family was of British and Scottish stock.

But in the days after her mother's death in July 2007, adoption papers surfaced during her family's search for will documents.

They contained the name of her biological mother Ingrid, a Dutch migrant, who was 17 when she gave birth.

"It was earth shattering. I was no longer the person I thought I was. My identity changed in an instant," Louise told AAP.

With little time to properly digest the news, Louise spoke at the funeral about her wonderful, loving and selfless mother - a mother who had taken her secret to the grave.

"I think she had wanted to tell me, but it was never the right time," Louise says.

It was difficult, facing the aunts and uncles who had known the truth all along. One aunt told her to "forget it and get on with your life".

In the days before the funeral, a search on an immigration archive website unearthed a black and white photo of Ingrid, aged 13, and her family arriving in Australia in the late 1950s.

"It tore me apart wondering if it was her or not her," Louise says.

Four years after the picture was taken, authorities sent Ingrid, an unwed pregnant teen, to the home of a wealthy Sydney family to work 12-hour days cleaning, babysitting and scrubbing floors until her baby was born.

Louise, a mother of four now in her 50s, is one of the estimated 150,000 Australian babies born between the 1950s and 1970s who were forcibly adopted under a practice sanctioned by governments, churches, hospitals, charities and bureaucrats.

The practice has been described as "baby farming for infertile couples".

Hospital records show doctors had marked the baby for adoption in February at a health check-up, three months before Louise was born in May.

"It was so calculated," Louise says.

Ingrid was heavily sedated on a cocktail of drugs, including some that are now known to be carcinogenic, before, during and after labour at the Crown Street Hospital in Sydney.

The drugs weren't for pain relief but a tactic used to get the mothers to sign adoption papers and prevent them chasing after their babies.

The baby was whisked away behind a screen of pillows before Ingrid got a chance to catch even a glimpse of the daughter she had wanted to name Kitty.

"She never saw me, but heard me cry," Louise says.

Immediately after the birth, still groggy from the drugs, Ingrid was forced to sign the adoption papers and was shackled to her bed, where she drifted in and out of consciousness.

Within four weeks, Louise was adopted by a married Sydney couple with a toddler son, where she had a loving home and enjoyed a happy upbringing.

Ingrid married and went on to have other children. Denial, trauma and fears of disrupting her lost daughter's life overpowered her desire to start searching. For Louise. the photograph of Ingrid stirred up a sense of urgency to find her mother.

She first made contact via email, although Louise wouldn't recommend that method, suggesting a third party assist with the reunion process. When they met in person, Louise looked for likenesses.

"Her hands were similar to mine ... they were beautiful," she says.

"She had the same colour grey eyes as my daughter ... we always thought, where did that come from?"

But it was a bittersweet day. Ingrid had thought of her daughter as a baby, so meeting her grown-up child was reminder of what she had missed.

"The way she coped was to shut down and close out that memory," Louise says.

"We were parent and child but we were strangers to each other."

The pair now share a close bond after years of hard work, but in the beginning there were difficulties understanding each other's pain and expectations.

Although Louise didn't look like members of her family she never suspected she was adopted.

But there was always a lingering sense of "something being missing" from her life, which she couldn't quite put her finger on.

"When I knew Ingrid I felt complete," she says.

Louise believes her adoptive parents would have been horrified if they had known how Ingrid had been treated - and the federal government apparently agrees.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard will formally apologise to victims of past forced adoption practices at a ceremony in Canberra on March 21.

There's some anxiety about how the event will be handled and some unease about a perception in some parts of the community that victims only want compensation.

"It's not about that at all, we just want to be validated for what we suffered through and we want justice," Louise says.

"These mothers have felt ashamed and guilty all their lives about this. They need to be told that they're not alone, that it wasn't just them and it wasn't their fault."

Louise says adoptees need to know that they were not rejected or abandoned by their mothers.

She wants the government to put up money for trauma counselling and travel costs so mothers and adult children spread across the country can reunite.

Qualified counsellors need to be a part of the reunions to help the healing process and create long term relationships, she says.

"Even the most loved adult child will never replace the baby lost," Louise says.

"The adult child wanting desperately to reconnect, to bond, will never be able to re-enter the womb to hear and feel her mother's heartbeat, to hear her voice and be reborn."


Donor conceived adult from Perth, Western Australia. Searching for a donor who donated to Dr Colin Douglas-Smith in 1976.
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