Writing this next part of my story is one of the hardest things I have done. Not so much for the gathering of words, more the gathering of thoughts. When I first wrote an outline of my story on ESMB I covered this era in a few sentences, this time the depth of emotions revealed were somewhat shocking to me and I need to write it out. Thankyou to some precious friends who have helped me put it all in perspective these last few weeks.
Working in any scientology organisation is not a 9-5 job and I think that’s an important point to mention. Dedication to the ideals lead you to want to help to the best of your ability, so you join staff and sign a contract for 2 ½ or 5 years (or in the case of the Sea Org it’s a billion years). Once you are absorbed into the machinery ‘working’ becomes virtually your total life and any room for individuality and personal time is rare.
I still don’t know how I managed to work with a newborn baby under my desk! Perhaps it was that I had a ready smile and she was so cute. My memories of this time are so hazy, in fact one of the few things that come to mind are of her being taken for walks by a lovely helpful young girl who later became my dearest friend of 40 years.
At the time I was living in the Stables, originally the actual stables of Saint Hill Manor which had been converted into some living areas. I had a tiny room and communal use of other facilities. Two other memories seared on my mind are of sobbing in absolute despair while my newborn baby screamed and I didn’t know what to do. It was just me and I had to try to keep things quiet for other residents. The other was of sitting by the window for hours, watching and waiting for the lone motorbike headlight that would be my baby’s father coming to see me, as we were together again for a short period. I still lived with the hope that somehow, someday, we could be a family and had named him in her birth certificate for this very reason. It was not to be, he was as young as me and subject to his own family issues with the added life changing challenges of having just returned from the ship where Hubbard was at the time.
I can’t remember the exact arrangements I had with my parents; I know we shared the care of my baby during week staff times and weekends. They were working too, studying and raising all my siblings and somehow we managed to hold it together, despite the long hours all round. (Having raised three other children since then, I understand why this period is a blank to me now.)
In scientology, it is part of the indoctrination that you don’t show your inner turmoil, you don’t have “case on post” or “human emotion and reaction” – a great description of this is here, written by John Peeler.
This concept and conditioning has been one of the hardest things to shed and has affected my whole life. You just ‘get on with it’, you smile and you pretend no matter that your heart is breaking inside. And my heart was broken, no matter how it appeared to others, as it became plain my romantic family ideal was never to be and life continued as a constant round of coping, until an incident where dirty nappies were found in a cupboard meant I had to move out of the Stables. I was working long hours, it became my whole life as tends to happen on staff. Gradually mum took over the mothering role more and more, it just sort of happened and my baby became another child in our large family.
The point came where my parents formally adopted her and changed her surname to theirs to make life a little less complex. The Adoption Court had a requirement that she know who her real mother was, and she and I had many conversations over the years about it all, starting when she first learned to talk. In fact the last conversation I had with her some years ago was on this subject, prior to the real reason for her visit. She had come to “handle” me to stop me telling my scientology story, and when I refused to do so she disconnected.
The problem is that those conversations were when I was still a scientologist or just newly ‘out’ – and now I’m not. I no longer choose to believe that I was just a vessel for her birth into her scientology family of choice. That she was ‘there’ at her conception and chose the way it turned out. As I’m getting into the realm of beliefs, and I am happy to let people think what they may, I repeat – I no longer believe that. This whole concept negates me as a person who had dreams and free will of my own – I wanted a baby and I went against convention to carry her to term with hopes it would all somehow miraculously turn out right. The reason it didn’t was that there simply wasn’t any support for me to do that back then.
Last year a counsellor said to me, after hearing the bare outline of my story, “You lost your baby, you had no control.” At the time I didn’t really see that as it was not the “acceptable truth” I had lived with for so long and “control” and “being cause” is a huge issue for anyone who has been a scientologist. However that simple statement opened the door to the part of my heart that I had bricked over and shut down. No-one had ever said that to me before. Many months and tears later I agree with her, I had not realised what lay behind that brick wall. I remembered the last 40 years of having to pretend she was my sister, when to me she never, never was. Grandparents adopting their child’s baby is not that unusual in times gone by, hence the Adoption Court’s sensible ruling; it’s just in this case it was complicated by a belief system. Coming to understand my own actions, the guilt of taking what seemed the easier route, the grief of loss unacknowledged, the decades of distorted truth and strange family interactions is a huge step towards coming to understand who I am, my hidden feelings of failure and so on.
I love my parents dearly and thank them for everything they did to raise us all, which I know they did to the best of their ability. Unfortunately something went wrong along the way and in her mind my mother actually became my baby’s birth mum as well. We were at a wedding about 10 years ago and commenting on all my sister’s dresses and she said, “XXX just has a different father, same mother”. That was somewhat shocking to say the least and explained a lot, yet in my mind I had abdicated responsibility, so who was I to argue when decades had passed? If that is what my mother had come to believe, then I would let it rest for the sake of family harmony. I didn’t understand then that my silence was condoning an outdated lie and that there was absolutely no considerations of my feelings and really never had been.
Many people knew the truth anyway so my daughter and I agreed at one point that when she was in Melbourne where I was, she would be introduced as my daughter, and when in Sydney where my parents were, she was my sister, and we did this for mum’s sake. It was really just a band-aid solution and didn’t address the real issues, as we could not. My mother was her mum, she had raised her and in respect of that I had to allow her to be called my sister. It should never have gone that far, it was only a solution for when she was a child. A sad consequence has been that my daughter’s baby – my granddaughter – did not know the truth of this until she was in her teens, I was her ‘aunty’. I have had almost no contact with her (now exacerbated by disconnection) and hope one day I can be who I really am with her.
A few years ago I had what is probably the last real conversation with my mum, as she has had strokes and is unwell and far away. She said to me very seriously, with tears in her eyes “I have something to say to you…..I’m sorry.” She didn’t have to specify anything; her words covered all the bonds between mother and child. And I told her I was sorry too, and we forgave each other and we hugged each other. God bless you mum.
I look forward to the day the same thing can happen with my own firstborn.
And now I send these words out into the world, with love.