Health – Making a family

I would like to tell you about a special woman called Eunice Eichler. She died in March, without much fanfare, as she lived. But to me she was a pioneer and a hero. Major Eichler was the matron of Bethany Home in Grey Lynn, and she was involved in the adoptions of both of our children.

For the last few decades, out-of-family adoption has been declining rapidly in New Zealand – from about 2000 per year in the 1960s to just 21 in the whole of 2012.  Even in 1986, when we found out we couldn’t have children, we understood that we would be lucky to adopt. But we went through the nerve-wracking process of proving that we were suitable. I remember my wife tidying up the drawers in our bedroom before our visit by the social worker.

Funny how your mind works, as if they would be basing their decision on how precisely my socks were arranged!
Subsequently we moved to Auckland and registered with Bethany, a Salvation Army home for single mothers which operated for nearly 100 years until its closure in 2011.  There we met a group of young women who were being cared for, trained, supported, loved and encouraged. Sadly, the public view of adoption, of late, has been dominated by stories of brutal estrangement, secrecy and heartache. Nobody can doubt the pain associated with those old-fashioned practices. I have seen the impact decades later.All I can say is at Bethany we experienced just the opposite. The mothers were non-judgementally supported in their decision making. If they chose adoption, the files of prospective parents were carefully vetted for compatibility, and then the mother herself selected who her baby would go to. In 1988 and 1989 two brave young women chose us.

At that stage we moved into Bethany and shared care of the child for a few days. This was an incredibly tender and heartfelt process. At all times the mothers’ sole concern was what was best for their baby.

So our children have grown up with complete knowledge and an ongoing relationship with their birth parents and extended families. When I took our son as a pre-schooler to visit all his birth rellies, he left with the statement, “There’s a lot of people who love me, eh?”

Like everybody we’ve had our ups and downs, but in our house we have a saying:
“We haven’t got a chromosome in common, but we made a family.”