How Adoption Shaped My Family For Two Generations
“There are no unwanted children, just unfound families.”
The year was 1982 and my father, Mike, a gregarious 32-year-old computer programmer, and my mother, Diane, a much more shy -- but very clever -- 23-year-old Qantas customer relations officer, had just said "I do" at a beautiful wedding at North Sydney Presbyterian Church.
Having married close to a year after meeting, it was evident these two weren’t messing around, and the plan to start a family was their first order of business.
In the ensuing months, I’m told they tried a lot. Details any daughter would be happy to gloss over, if not for the fact it was marred with such sadness at a desperate longing for a baby that just wasn’t ready to come along yet.
My parents tried for three years with no luck. And being the young and healthy couple that they were, it became heartbreakingly obvious a natural pregnancy just wasn’t on the cards for them.
But from there, the choice became very clear. If they were going to become the parents they deserved to be, then they would adopt.
You see, while it might be a foreign concept to the average person, adoption was all my parents had ever known.
My mum was just 10 days old when a beautiful Sydney couple by the name of Harvey and Yvonne entered the Crown Street Women’s Hospital and, after taking one look at the then red-headed bundle, uttered the words, “Wrap her up, we’ll take her.”
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My father, who was orphaned in his early teens, had been moved from foster home to foster home, before finally settling with Bill and June -- foster parents who would give him the love and support he so desperately wanted, needed and deserved.
Fast track to 1985, and Mike and Diane were about to embark on the same journey their parents had mapped out many years before them. But, as my dear old dad would say, “there’s no such thing as a free lunch,” and if you want something badly enough, you better be willing to work for it.
And work for it they did.
My parents began applying with adoption agencies in Australia. Getting all the necessary checks, dotting their I’s, crossing their T’s and baby-proofing the house to the standards deemed acceptable by the visiting adoption agent.
They would do this dance for another two years before almost giving up.
As anyone who has tried to adopt a child in this country will tell you, it is not an easy process.
It’s lengthy, expensive and at times incredibly frustrating, but for good reason.
Adopting a child is a decision not to be taken lightly, by all parties involved.
But that doesn’t mean it’s not a heartbreaking experience for the couples that wait year after year for a child to call their own.
Fortunately for my parents, they didn’t give up. Rather, they broadened their search a little and set their sights on an international adoption agency.
Granted, this one was a little further away, but it’s one that would eventually give them the beautiful, bold and bossy young lady who would become my sister.
Emma was born on the 8th of June 1987, in South Korea.
My parents brought her home to Australia when she was just four-and-a-half-months-old, and they couldn’t have been more enamored.
They had a blissful almost four years together as just the three of them, with my parents even looking into adopting another Korean baby.
That was, of course, until, they fell pregnant with triplets.
These surprising new additions meant my parents were suddenly raising four daughters under the age of four, and life in the Heap household became both chaotic and wonderful in equal measure.
Of course, growing up with a sister that is South Korean didn’t come without its fair share of curious questions.
“How is she your sister when you look completely different?”
“Do you get along with her like you do with your other sisters?”
“Ohh, I get it, so she’s like your ‘half’ sister?”
These questions used to make my sisters and I laugh. We didn’t understand people’s fascination. Emma was our sister, simple as that.
She was in our family for three and a half years before we even came along.
She was the one who gave my parents’ the privilege of being called Mum and Dad. She gave them the family they always wanted, and we got the big sister who, quite frankly, we couldn’t imagine our lives without.
November is Adoption Awareness Month. I hope by sharing my family’s story I help to dispel some of the myths surrounding adoption in Australia and raise awareness about the importance of permanency for children.