By Desley Gear
17 March 2008
“Adoption” – to me, one of the sweetest words in the English language. It is a reminder of two of the best things that ever happened in my life. The first, and of greatest importance, is of course being adopted into the family of God. Because of His marvellous grace, He adopted me into His family and I have found Him to be the same wonderful Heavenly Father that millions of others have, throughout the world, from the beginning of time.
The second happened in time some years earlier. At the age of three weeks, I went home to join a family of a mother, father, and two older brothers. My parents had been called in to the hospital within a couple of days of my birth. They would have taken me home immediately, but the matron advised that they should go on their planned 2-week holiday without me, since it was quite a cold winter, and I was fairly small. They could hardly wait for that holiday to end!
My childhood was a very happy one. I think it would be fair to say that I was spoilt, though I was never allowed to get away with bad behaviour. Mum was a strict disciplinarian, but she was also a doting mother, who loved to dress me up like a little doll. To this day, I still have the two books she kept with lists of all my birthday/Christmas/Easter gifts, and of all the dresses she made for me (with a description of colour, style, trimming, etc., and the years in which she made them).
She had had several miscarriages over the years after my brothers were born; one of her pregnancies went to 6 or 7 months. But she was determined one way or another to have a girl. When the doctor said “no more”, they decided to apply for adoption. This was over fifty years ago, and not many unmarried mothers kept their babies back then, so the waiting time was usually not much more than a year. I grew up in the security of a loving home with parents and brothers who cared greatly for me.
At 18, I married my childhood sweetheart, on my parents’ 33rd wedding anniversary. No prouder Dad ever walked his little girl down the aisle! My being married didn’t stop Mum and Dad from being there whenever we needed them and showing interest in everything we did. Four years later when our first of three children was born, they became doting grandparents, as they already were to their other grandchildren.
One day our daughter asked me, “Mummy, who was your ‘real’ mother?” My reply was, “You know my ‘real’ mother; Grandma is my real mother. She’s the one who took me into her home and who loved and cared for me, and who put up with me when I didn’t deserve her love. And that’s what makes a ‘real’ mother.”
In the 1980s my husband had major heart surgery three times – once while we were living overseas. My parents’ immediate response was to travel halfway round the world and be with us while he had the operation and for a few weeks after. Their support was invaluable, since we were only in our 30s with young children and no family outside Australia.
My mother died at age 77. I wish she could have lived longer and that I could have cared for her in her old age, but that wasn’t to be. Dad lived another 14 years, and for the last 12 of those years, I had the privilege of caring for him. His last 2 years were very full-on care; he was able to do almost nothing for himself – showering, toilet, brushing teeth. But every day I thanked God that I was able to do these things for him, and in some small way to express gratitude for all that he did for me throughout my life.
With a somewhat debilitating, terminal illness myself, there were occasional days when I couldn’t get out of bed. And then my husband had two of us to care for, as well as going to work. But we managed through those difficult days.
We always talked about and looked forward to celebrating Dad’s 100th, but 2 years ago he passed away at 95. His mind was so sharp right to the end, even though the body had become weak. He was a gentle, happy man, who was admired and respected not only in his home town where he lived his whole life, but throughout the state and beyond. His formal education finished at grade 6, but that didn’t stop his creativity. Some of his early machinery inventions became the basis for later developments in an industry where the family name has become known in several countries.
In the last few years of his life he went to day respite a few times a week, to enjoy the company of other elderly folk, and to give me a break. One day, each client at the centre was asked what they considered to be their greatest achievement in life, or the best day of their life. He came home and told me that his answer was, “The day we adopted Desley.” I thought he might have said, “My wedding day” or “The day I demonstrated my first successful machine”. But no, the day he got his little girl was his best day, according to him.
Do I have any regrets about being adopted in infancy? Yes, as I look back I have two regrets – 1) that I was a cheeky, disobedient child and a rebellious, obnoxious teenager; and 2) that I didn’t have more years to show appreciation and love for my wonderful parents.
I have several friends aged between mid 30s and mid 60s who also are adopted. All of them have had good lives with their adoptive families. Two traced their birth mothers; one had a very happy experience, the other most disappointing.
Have I ever tried to find the lady who gave me up for adoption? Yes, I took the initiative to track her down and went to meet her in a nursing home, but she did not want to admit my birth. It may be helpful for my children to have some knowledge of the medical history of their blood relatives. However, I just want to say “thank you” from the bottom of my heart, for my birth mother’s unselfishness in handing little Jennifer over to the two best parents any girl ever had.
Copyright (c) 2008 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 7 October 2015.