Friday, October 3, 2014

CHAPTER 3: THE UNFINISHED SENTENCE

     I rifled through the rest of the papers.   A medical questionaire with the same basic questions and answers as the admission form; a standard looking weight graph that showed my first eight weeks of weight gain- and then a "ghost" line reflecting what my projected weight gain should look like; a letter of release from the Methodist Babies Home; and a  brochure from the Royal Women's Hospital explaining how to make some sort of milk mixture.  It consisted of "Sunshine full cream milk" (7 tablespoons), ordinary white sugar (2 tablespoons) and boiled water (up to 20 ounces).  I assume that this was my diet (in lieu of formula?)  There were also hand written notes through out.  Above the title someone had penned the name "Katrina Ellen"- just like that- quotation marks and all.  It appeared to be expressing that, although this is what we are to call her now, it's only temporary.  Somebody had written in my birthdate, Weight (6lbs.11 1/2 oz) and length (19 3/4 inches).  Inside were various nurses notes; Normal Delivery; Satisfactory at birth; Feeding well;  Gaining weight now; Cord off; 12/4/65 fit for adoption.
     I may have been fit for adoption, but instead of being handed off to my new parents my next stop was The Methodist Babies Home.  What seemed to be part of my chart said that I was admitted on April 15th at 12.30.  Nice little baby. 8 days.  Following that were 8 lines of weekly updates about my eating, weight gain and sleeping habits.  On June 1st I was described as "snuffly", but was a "contented babe".  Finally, on June 4, 1965 I was "Discharged for adoption".


     So, I was exactly 8 weeks old when I was finally released to the couple who would raise me as their own.  Two months.  At the time I remember thinking that it seemed like a long time for a child to be a ward of the state, particularly if there were anxious adoptive parents waiting for her.  It wasn't until several years later, when I had my first child, that this really hit home.  I was finally aware of the ferocious protectiveness a new mother experiences.  How she is instinctively attuned to the needs of her baby and how that childs needs are her foremost priority.  I, in particular, experienced those feelings on what seemed to be a heightened level.  Perhaps I was especially hormonal, but I could not bear to be out of earshot of my daughter and my assumption was that she felt exactly the same way.  My ability to soothe her with my embrace alone told me that I was what she needed the most.  We were an actively co-sleeping household and, although many experienced mothers told me to get her into her crib as soon as possible, I just couldn't bear it.  Unless I could reach out and touch her, and nurse her on demand, there was no relaxing for me.  She needed me to be content.
     A couple of years ago, during one of my marathon searches in an effort to get some more answers, I googled "Methodist Babies Home".  I had done this several times over the years, but this time I was directed to some images.  Apparently, when the orphanage was closed, several items had been salvaged, and later put on display at Museum Victoria.  I scanned through old black and white photos of toddlers being held by nurses dressed like nuns. There was a picture of a trio of blonde cherubs feeding themselves with spoons with a caption above it that read "M.B.H.- Turning Slum Babies into Citizens".  There was an archaic looking bottle sterilizing rack.  But, the one image that took my breath away was this....
   
     Now,  I'm sure that this was meant as a cautionary reminder - but just reading those words drove home the fact that for the first two months of my life, I was without my caregiver.  That one person who loved me unconditionally and responded to my needs on cue.  Nowadays, volunteer strangers are invited into NICU units to just hold the newborns.  It has been proven that human touch (or Kangaroo Care) is vital in the nurturing and well being of babies.  I'm sure that there were qualified and attentive nurses there to care for me, but I can't help feeling that it's entirely possible that I may have been left to cry while someone else was being tended to- maybe for more than, what I would consider, a reasonable span of time.  One may argue that not having that sort of bond during your first weeks of life could be damaging to ones psyche.  Perhaps they may never feel completely and unconditionally loved.  Perhaps, unless there is an effort made to counteract feelings of inadequacy, that is what they feel the most.

     Not that I would know anything about that.

    So, it was my conclusion that the sentence, had it been completed would have looked something like this.

"Lynette to marry in about three weeks, has not decided whether or not to give up rights."

    Since before I could understand, my adoptive mother told me the story of the day they went "baby shopping".  They got a phone call from some lady.  The next day they dropped my brother off at Nana's and went to the baby store.  They were brought into a room full of lined up cribs and looked at the babies one by one.  When they got to my crib, my mother described seeing a baby "as wide as she was tall, with an enormous smile on her face" and she knew that this was the baby for her.  I've always loved that story- though one might think that she took the liberty of dramatic license a bit far with that "fat" comment....but I digress.

     The truth is, it's never been clear whether or not my parents knew that I was already born and hanging out in the orphanage before they got that call.  My assumption is that "Lynette" was preparing for marriage, and vacillating about whether or not to keep me and raise me as her new husband's child.  I think that her decision came down around June 1st and that was that.

     So, there it was; a whole bunch of information to take in.  I dreamily made my way back to my cruise ship- but not before calling "Mandy Bloom" to tell her that I was ready for the next step.