Grace Hospital in Calgary

Adoption separation: A tragic end for one natural family

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I have a friend, Rowena, who is a natural mother who lost her son to adoption.

Rowena was only 17 when she gave birth to her son Blaise, and in Grace Hospital in Calgary, they only allowed her to see him sparingly for few days after his birth, and then one day the nurses took him away and refused to let her see him ever again. That was the power that hospitals had over us unwed mothers. The professionals around us, often government social workers, we trusted as no-one else showed any care for us. Little did we know of our rights to our babies – the same as the rights of any older or married mother – or that the hospitals’ actions were illegal. Beaten down emotionally and psychologically, and often cast away into exile by our parents and society, we did not know we had any rights at all.

So, in 1967, Rowena’s son was born. And the government social worker that came with the surrender papers made her believe that her only option was to sign, that an unwed mother could not be a mother at all. The growing list of “waiting parents” was more important to the worker than the emotional trauma she was doing by dismembering this one young family. Rowena wanted to keep her baby, and he was taken from her.

Because of the traumatic loss of her son, Rowena never had another child. She yearned for him for what seemed like unending years, thinking of him every single day, and doing what she could to deal with the PTSD and unrelenting grief.

As soon as Alberta set up an adoption reunion registry, Rowena signed up for it. Her name was on that registry for over twenty years as she waited to hopefully find Blaise again. All she had known was that he was supposedly adopted into a “good home” with a stay-at-home mother and a professional father.

Rowena began coming to our monthly Origins Canada support group meetings early this year, and we offered to help her find her son. Thanks to adoption records opening in Alberta (after a hard-fought campaign by people separated by adoption), she was able to apply for and obtain her son’s full adoptive name.

The search began in March 2009, and forty-two years after Rowena lost her son to adoption, he was found again!

The break came when we found Blaise’s adoptive family’s genealogy listed online, including an adoptive sister, “Alice.” We found her in the phonebook, and Rowena phoned her.

Yes, it was the right Alice. Yes, her adoptive brother was Rowena’s son. But, no, Rowena could not contact him as he was a drug-addicted homeless person living on the streets of a city far away. The sister promised to pass on the message to him, if he eventually got a contact number.

Eventually, when Blaise got a temporary cellphone, Rowena and Blaise were finally able to talk on the phone. He told her how his adoptive parents had divorced when he was young, and his adoptive mother was cold and distant. He had little contact with the adoptive father. No, Blaise had not graduated from high school. Yes, he was doing hard drugs, and when Rowena asked what drugs he used, he told her, “Anything I can get my hands on.” Rowena was shocked that her beloved son had been treated this way and was in this state, as she had been forced to surrender him by a system that had told her that these parents were fit and deserved her son more than she did.

Rowena and Blaise talked on the phone three times, when he was able to temporarily get a phone. By the second call, he was calling her “Mom,” and hoping to travel out to the coast to visit her and even live with her. He wanted to start a new life. Rowena offered to send him the bus fare for him to come out.

Rowena sent letters and photographs to Blaise through Alice. Unfortunately, Alice and her family opened up Rowena’s mail to Blaise, which hurt Rowena a lot.

In her third and tragically last phone call with Blaise, Rowena was happy to find that he had finally received the photographs and letters.

In early October, a phone call came from Alice. Blaise was in hospital with a serious heart infection, and Alice said that if Rowena wanted to see Blaise she had better hurry out to Edmonton fast. Alice offered to put up Rowena at her place. Rowena bought the tickets to travel the 1300 km trip and packed her bags, but 20 minutes before she left the house, the phone rang. It was Alice, who told Rowena in an angry voice that she “couldn’t have Rowena staying there” and that she would have to stay elsewhere.

Rowena phoned the hospital to find out how her son was doing. The staff there told her that they were not allowed to release any information, other than to people on the visitors list, and she was not on it. The adoptive father was in charge of the list. Even if Rowena had travelled, she would not have been allowed to see her son.

Last week, the final phone call came. Blaise’s adoptive father told Rowena that her son had passed away. When she asked, he stated firmly that, NO, she was not permitted to come to the funeral, as “They had enough people already.”

Thanks to adoption, Rowena never saw her son nor held him in her arms since his birth 42 years ago. Thanks to adoption, she will never have that chance. The adoptive parents had the right to ensure she would never be able to be there in his final days. Rowena is devastated. The hope of reunion with her son, the hope that sustained her for 42 years, has ended.

I write this post in dedication of the love that Rowena and Blaise had for each other, as mother and son. She never forgot her son. I hope that I am not the only one who sees the tragedy here.

If you are a mother considering the surrender of your newborn infant, please realize that you are losing the right to ever see your beloved child again. Even open adoptions may close at any time (they are not legally enforceable), and not only will you not have the right to see your child, but not even the right to know about his or her welfare. That is a right only the adoptive parents have, and even if your child is an adult — as next-of-kin — they have the right to deny all information or contact to others in case of a medical emergency. Adoption loss is a tragedy in so many ways. Please consider if you can live with this loss as well.

In Memory of Blaise
1967-2009
Loved and missed by your natural mother, Rowena,
even since you were born

This is a true  story about a natural mother and her son, and how forced adoption separation led to a heartbreaking tragedy.  Every time a mother and child are forced apart for adoption purposes, it is a tragedy; but for Rowena, the hope of seeing her son again was forever lost.

See Rowena’s article “Reunion Attempt

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