My guest today is Jackee Ashwin, author of Relinquished, Returned, Rejected, a true story about adoption and stillbirth. Firsthand, Jackee experienced being a young unwed mother in the 1970s. At the end of her pregnancy, she was coerced into relinquishing her newborn for adoption. Few other viable options existed at the time.
On her website, Jackee writes:
In 1974 I relinquished a baby boy as part of the adoption process. I faced the shame and ridicule of society of that era which sadly stayed with me until 2012 when my son found me and I was able to hold my head high and finally shout to the world, yes I am a mother, I have a son.
Jackee’s is the story of thousands of Australians, mothers of another stolen generation that was not defined by race or social status. Banished from their homes, many of the girls went on so-called ‘working holidays’ to hide their condition. For all concerned – biological parents, adoptive parents, and their babies alike – a blanket of silence stifled the release of information about the adoption process.
For the offspring, many remain unaware that they were adopted. Some are still trying to discover the truth of their origin, while others have been reunited with one or both of their original parents.
DEBBIE: Welcome Jackee and thanks for agreeing to this interview. First, can you tell me a bit about yourself and your writing journey?
JACKEE: Thanks Debbie, I am number four in a family of thirteen, a family of nine brothers and 3 other sisters. My family live in Tasmania, which is where I grew up. My husband and I left to seek adventures on the ‘big’ island over ten years ago deciding during that time to move on to a new destination every two years to experience different cities, meet new people and make lots of friends. We have travelled and lived up and down the east coast of Queensland during that time and only returned from Far North Queensland in June 2015. Our travelling days have finished and we find ourselves back in our home in Brisbane and feel very settled here. My writing however started in Cairns, my husband continually urged me to write my story for myself and for those affected by adoption and stillbirth.
DEBBIE: What gives you inspiration?
JACKEE: Inspiration to me is life events, especially those that are to help someone in need or a cause that is being managed to help a particular issue. Writing my book certainly gave me inspiration to ‘warn’ any adoptee or relinquishing parent of the potential pitfalls to be aware of should either party be considering searching for or reuniting with their lost family. I wish I had read my book before meeting my son. My other inspiration is my intended journey to meet the some of the other mothers who have experienced the shattering heartache of delivery a child already with the angels. I have been invited to meet with the CEO of Stillbirth Foundation of Australia in Sydney. I am truly inspired by this organisation and would love to be an ambassador for them.
DEBBIE: How did writing about such difficult times in your life affect you?
JACKEE: I found writing my memoir to be very very cathartic and also the process and journey of writing what was in my heart allowed me to finally open the door on the sadness of losing one son to adoption and my only other son to stillbirth. My emotional roller coaster was at an all-time high during the days and nights I put pen to paper, I had to relive all the emotions that for the last 40 years had been put into a closet in my subconscious mind. Thoughts and heartache of course was always there but by keeping that door closed helped me to keep moving forward.
DEBBIE: How has your book changed you personally and what impact has it had on your readers?
JACKEE: My book has finally allowed me to walk with my head held high and state to all and sundry that I was an unwed mother, that I did adopt out a son albeit not from my choosing and that the shame of that era I now refuse to acknowledge. I face the world as a proud person who has chosen to tell the world her journey. My book has connected (through social media) with many groups who are out there looking for their biological tree, seeking information on their natural mum and their families. Ironically adoptees tend to seek information on the natural mum more so than dad. I have learned that adoptees continue to hurt many years on even into middle age, so many are restless souls tirelessly looking for that cord that connects mother and child for life. I have read so many wonderful stories of reunions, some not so good, and some also where natural parents are too afraid to contact their child and vice-versa for fear of further rejection. A very sad fact.
My readers have sent so many emails and social media posts, each saying they too went through so many emotions whilst reading my story, from tears to laughter, from anguish to admiration. Some have forwarded the link to my book to loved ones they know are looking for their biological tree and hereditary line. Readers have left beautiful testimonies on my webpage also.
DEBBIE: Do you have other books in the pipeline?
JACKEE: I am now giving a lot of thought to helping with stillbirth families, information on how I conquered my darkest days with a view to working with the Stillbirth Foundation of Australia as a guide. Their website states categorically that 6 babies a day are born sleeping and never get to go home with mum and dad. That figure astounds me and that is the area I find I am being drawn to it.
JACKEE: Thanks Debbie for the interview, I have enjoyed being able to answer the questions.