Sunday, August 1, 2010

5. New parents

I was born one month before my parents met me. They were living in Narrogin when I was born, busy being a nurse and policeman, and running a restaurant and pub called the Woolly Bull.  It's very strange to think of my parents as one-time pubilcans.  One night when my dad was on chef-duties at the pub, he telephoned my mother at home to ask her "how do you make batter stick to fish?"  Their reign over the Woolley Bull didn't last long.

Viv and Ray already a son, Jason. He had been adopted too, three years earlier. Viv and Ray travelled the long and dusty trip along the gravel roads from Narrogin to Perth to collect him. My mum had bought a baby outfit from Coles Fossey's to take along with them, so they could change Jason for the trip back home. I can only imagine the excitement that both my parents must have felt during that long trip to Perth. It makes me get quite teary thinking about how they must have thought that all their dreams had come true and that their prayers had been listened to and a child delivered to them.

Luck wasn't smiling on them the whole time.  My dad Ray ended up getting food poisoning from the roasted Red Rooster chicken he bought to eat whilst my mum ran into Target in Carousel to buy Jason some extra booties.  Well, every day has it's ups and downs.

God answered their prayers again in 1977 with the news of a baby girl.  In the 1970s there was a scarcity of children who were put up for adoption. Due to a mixture of a decrease in the public outcry at unmarried mothers, the ready availability of contraception and various abortive methods, babies were either not being born or weren't adopted out.

My mum was unable to have children of her own. She, like many women had been on the early version of the contraceptive pill, which had catastrophic levels of hormones, and the pills had subsequently rendered her unable to conceive. Most devastatingly, my mum had always wanted lots of children. I think she had dreamed of at least five or six. She herself was one of five children, and quite possibly hoped of having children and providing them with a better childhood than she herself had had.  And she did.

My parents already had a three-year-old son when they received a second call to let them know that there was a baby girl available.  Maybe "available" isn't the right word, but how do you describe these things?  It makes me sound like a empty car park, or spare seat on an airplane.

My mother accepted the offer of a daughter sight-unseen.  So my dad and her travelled up to Perth a second time to meet their new daughter - me! My brother also made the journey, and repeatedly informed my parents during the journey that I was to be called 'Riki Tiki Tavi'.

At this point I had been languishing in King Edward Memorial Hospital for a month. I believe that this was due to there being a ‘cooling off period’ where birth mothers could change their mind about the adoption. Therefore, as a safety precaution against the precarious state-of-mind of a post-natal teenager, I was put in a holding pen, until such time was up and I was definitely to be adopted.

Bella told me that they never let her hold me when I was born.  I was whisked off by the nurses, never to be seen again, and in all probablility to prevent any attachment on her part. The social workers, doctors and nurses all probably thought they were doing the best thing. 

Bella named me Amanda Scharfenstein. My birth father was not named on my birth certificate.

When I was 13 I had a friend called Larissa. Larissa and I were the same age and went to the same school and lived in the same suburb.  Larissa had been adopted too. Larissa had been born in Perth, two weeks before me. And by sheer luck and chance I was adopted by my parents, and not by hers. I always thought, how lucky I was.

My parents eventually decided on calling me Sarah Jane, in favour of other such options and permutations as Briony Rose or Sarah Louise.  I can only thank whatever name-gods there are out there that my parents didn't call me Briony Rose.

In April 1977 I became their daughter and sister to my brother.

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