Joanne faced pregnancy alone and frightened

"I was a nurse aged 24, attending a party with my boyfriend. The last thing I clearly remembered was drinking a glass of Lemon and Paeroa, unaware that he had spiked it.

He took me to the bedroom, placed a pillow over my face and told me to be quiet. I can’t recall any sense of physical force, it was all very hazy. A flatmate found me later and took me home. Then soon after, I found I was pregnant.

I just couldn’t believe it. The matron at the hospital where I worked was very supportive and I found out later that she herself had once been in my situation and had given her baby up for adoption.

Out of sight
My family were stunned. They arranged to send me to a farm down country, near where one of my sisters lived.

I saw my sister as often as it was possible but the farm was isolated, and the couple running it tried their best to understand what I was going through but I felt desperately lonely) I helped out with the domestic chores, but all through this horrible waiting period, I was apprehensive for my baby and the future.

When my time came, I gave birth to a beautiful daughter. In those days, you weren’t allowed to see your baby, but I waited and sneaked along the corridor to where the babies were being kept. I picked her up and held her close. A few days later, I signed her away to an adoptive home.

The good news is that thanks to Jonathan Hunt’s Adult Adoption Information Bill, I made contact with my daughter 22 years later. She was looking for me and I was looking for her.

She’s a wonderful girl, a real treasure. She’s certainly enriched my life.

The thing is that before we were able to make contact, I carried this burden of guilt and loss. There was no counselling available in those days for women like me. We just had to get on with life as best we could.

Unexpected news
Fours years later and in another relationship, I fell pregnant again. We were using contraceptives and it wasn’t supposed to happen. Here’s how I found out.

I was planning to travel overseas and it was arranged to have my tonsils out. The doctor at the hospital did a routine pre-op test and discovered I was pregnant. I was in total shock ‘Not again!’.

He quickly called in a gynaecologist who assured me that the problem could be taken care of immediately. ‘We can wip you into theatre now – and wip you right out again. No one will ever know.’

Decision time
It was the most incredibly awful moment. I couldn’t believe I was pregnant again at 28. I looked at the gynaecologist who was waiting for me to give the word. ‘What is he saying here? There’s a baby growing inside of me – and he wants me to get rid of it. I can’t do that to this baby. I’ve got to go through this pregnancy – again.’

I told my parents, who were much different this time. My experiences through the first pregnancy and the adoption had obviously made them feel this time they couldn't send me away. They said I was welcome to stay with them and they would help me as much as they could – despite Dad being an invalid and on a benefit.

It seems incredible now, but single mothers were frowned upon in hospital. At National Women’s I was separated from the married mothers and the first nurse who attended me said disdainfully: ‘Oh, you’re one of those…’

The other nurses were fine and I managed to contact a sympathetic obstetrician for the delivery. This time I was determined that no one was going to take my baby away.

Little choice
There I was with a lovely baby boy, but I had no income, there was no DPB then, Dad was on a benefit. I so much wanted to be his mother, but in the end I had to face reality and allowed a second adoption.

The Department of Social Welfare contacted him ten years ago, but the parents vetoed any contact and refused to give his address. He is over in Australia, married with a child and now his birth father wants to make contact, so I’m more optimistic that I’ll get to see him one day.

In retrospect
A number of people who know my background have asked me if I wouldn’t have been better off having two abortions. But I don’t see it that way. My daughter is here for a purpose. She has given me so much richness, and although her adoptive parents were difficult, she said to me: ‘Mum, there’s no way I didn’t want to be born. Thank you so much for allowing me to be born and live my life.’

With my son, there is part of my life still missing, but I am sure that I will see him in the future. With adoption, you’re wanting to do the best for your baby. You’ve given them life.

Yes, I could have had abortions and no one would have ever known. But I would have missed out on so much. Life hasn’t been easy, but I have become a better and richer person in so many ways."