Margaret was forced to give her baby up for adoption.

Margaret Hamilton was only 18 years old when her parents sent her there St Mary’s Home for Unmarried Mothers.

Margaret’s fiancé was unexpectedly pregnant and had left three weeks before their wedding, and by 1966 Margaret was completely dependent on her parents for support.

From the moment she entered the church-run home, Margaret was left in the dark. No one asked her if she wanted to keep her baby. No one asked her anything.

Occasionally, the matrons would remind the girls that choosing anything other than adoption would be selfish and endanger their babies. But it didn’t feel that way to Margaret used to be a choice. For this group of pregnant, unmarried girls, scared and alone, there felt like only one option.

Watch: Kristin Davis cries about adopted children’s experiences with racism. Article continues after the video.

“The night my labor started, an ambulance was called home and I was taken to hospital. I was very scared. I remember being left alone and in pain,” Margaret reflected in a document detailing her story was set out, shared with Mommy by her daughter Claire.

“I heard another mother screaming. I thought they forgot about me so I screamed in pain too,” she wrote.

Then a nurse snapped. “Shut up,” she said, telling Margaret that her shouting was disturbing the other mothers.

After that it was all blank. Margaret remembered being in the ward. She vaguely remembered signing a form. There was no discussion, she was not informed of her rights and was not given the option to keep her baby. Writing him away was just her thing had To do.

She felt like she wasn’t even there. Like it wasn’t real. “Nobody ever told me I could keep my baby. That he was mine,” she says. Margaret was then told to go home. To get on with her life.

“Once I got home, the nightmare started and lasted 25 years.” How could she move on with her life if a part of her was missing? Consumed by heartbreak, she lived recklessly, contemplated taking her own life, and did everything she could to numb the pain. She found herself searching through random strollers, looking for her son. Later also on playgrounds and schoolyards.

New beginnings bring new pain.

Eventually, Margaret moved to Melbourne, met her husband and had two daughters. But as her girls grew, so did her depression. After 24 years, Margaret still felt alone and lived with a desperate longing for her son.

Things changed after she joined a support group and reconnected with some of the girls she lived in the house with. Girls who were also forced to give away their babies. Girls who thought they were drugged during birth. It was the only explanation why none of them had clear memories of how their babies were taken from them.

After Margaret joined the group, she also discovered that her baby was likely being fed the excess milk of the married mothers staying at the hospital. Her baby, whom she named Paul, was not getting milk from his own mother.

She also learned that there had been a 30-day cooling-off period that she had not been informed of. She could have gotten her son back. At the very least, she should have had access to him during that time. But she didn’t. Even worse, the age of consent was 21, while Margaret was only 19. She never got a birth certificate for her son, of whom she believes she was the legal guardian, at least not for those first days of his life.

Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Margaret Hamilton and Claire Hamilton. Image: supplied.

Meet Michael.

When adoption laws changed, Margaret finally found her son, whose name was now Michael. He was raised as an only child, would later marry and have two children of his own. It was during this time that Margaret’s daughter, Claire, discovered she had a brother, that her mother had been enduring a silent pain all along.

“I remember her crying on her bed as a child. I didn’t understand what it was about. I didn’t know I had a brother until she found him and then the story unfolded in my life,” says Claire.

For her mother, finding Michael woke her up from the nightmare she was living, but the trauma of losing her firstborn son never went away. Because although Michael was open to having Margaret in his life, he already had parents.

“Mum’s relationship with Michael was ‘always striving’. She always wanted to connect and reach out to him,” says Claire.

“Often her efforts were gently pushed aside just because he was struggling with the fact that she was looking for a son and he already had a mother and a father.”

But Margaret tried to build a relationship with him as best she could, visiting him, and later he and his family, in Penrith at least once a year. He also made the effort to visit her in Brisbane several times.

She always said, she got as much from Michael as he could give.

“It would never be enough because she lost a baby, and I don’t think she ever came to terms with that loss.”

When she was just 11 years old, Claire was excited to have a new brother in her life.

“I naively thought that a new brother might give me some nice brotherly experiences, just like other people. Another best friend to share family life with.

“I was very young and had not taken the age difference into account. When we met, I was open and irritable. He was cautious and quiet. Looking back, he was definitely in a vulnerable position, but at the time I didn’t notice. , I was too young.”

One thing was clear, however: how much her brother meant to her mother, and the ongoing trauma her mother continued to endure after being separated from him for so long.

Injustice recognized, and a cruel blow.

In 2010, Western Australia became the first state in Australia – and the first government in the world – to formally apologize to mothers and their now adult children who had been wrongly and illegally separated through adoption. In 2013, Queensland and New South Wales followed suit, officially apologizing and acknowledging that forced adoptions were illegal, unethical and immoral.

Then-Prime Minister Julia Gillard apologized unreservedly on behalf of the Australian people for the lasting harm caused to mothers, adopted people, some fathers and wider families by forced adoptions.

Claire says the experience was bittersweet for her mother, who served on the advocacy committee and was responsible for securing the acknowledgment and apology.

“She was happy to get recognition, but the media didn’t pay much attention to it, so they all felt like it was swept under the rug… most people don’t even know it happened.”

But the following year, Margaret suffered a cruel and unexpected blow. Two days before Mother’s Day and three days before his 48th birthday, Michael suffered a heart attack and died.

“She was devastated,” says Claire. “I remember her legs wouldn’t hold her at the funeral, she was absolutely devastated by the news.

‘Now there was no way to get back a little piece of what she had lost when he was first taken. Now he was taken again, but for good.’

Heartbroken but determined to have her bond with her son recognized, Margaret wrote Births, deaths and marriages, requesting that her name be included on his death certificate. Her request was denied because she was ‘giving away’ her son.

“My son was never ‘put up for adoption,’” Margaret wrote back in her heartbreaking response.

“It was taken from me illegally! It was not a crime to be unmarried and pregnant, but the punishment I received was cruel and resulted in ongoing trauma.

“I am not asking that the names of the adopters be removed; I am only asking that my name be included on his death certificate as an annotation on the certificate.”

Margaret has spent years advocating for the rights of victims of forced adoption. Image: supplied.

A mother’s last wish.

“My mother had been trying to change this since 2012 by emailing and meeting with various politicians. Despite networking with high-level pollsters and various government officials, she hasn’t succeeded in ten years,” says Claire.

“And then Mom got cancer and within 15 months she died after a strong and courageous fight for life. I watched her fight to tell the truth. She never fully saw it in her lifetime.”

Now Claire has passed on the baton. Before Margaret passed away, she had one final wish: that Michael be listed as her son on her death certificate, under his birth name Paul.

“She said, ‘My only dying wish is that I want Michael’s name on my death certificate as Paul,’” Claire says. “We said we would do it, without understanding the depth of the request.”

Claire says she’s ultimately working to get a person’s full story included on both their birth and death certificates.

“To include the original birth name, then the change to the adopted name and involve all the people involved. My mother wanted to be ‘restored’ as his mother for at least the twelve days he was ‘hers’.”

But she can’t do it alone.

“To make this possible, a change in the law is needed. I want to inspire other people who find it important to be recognized in this way, and help them achieve the same goal. I want to honor my mother by doing my part to achieve the truth that must be accurately recorded in these documents.

According to Claire, it is a battle that has been waged for decades by my forced adoption networks and groups such as ALAS (Adoption Loss, Adult, Support).

Claire says the impact of forced adoption is both far-reaching and long-lasting.

“When I found out I had a brother, I was excited and couldn’t wait to meet him,” says Claire.

“I didn’t realize that this was the beginning of a relationship full of pain and loss for both my mother and her son.

“I felt a loss myself because he could never love me.

“These forced adoptions were illegal at the time they occurred, but unfortunately socially acceptable because no one cared for or respected these ‘unmarried women’ in society at the time.

“Why can’t we respect what they have lost in the form of accurate and truthful legal documentation, such as a birth certificate and a death certificate to prove that they even had a baby and that they subsequently died – and who their relatives are?” were real.”

Feature image: Delivered.