Between 1945 and 1973, about 350,000 unmarried Canadian mothers were persuaded, coerced or forced into giving their babies up for adoption. Many babies, like Nadean, were illegally given away. This journey chronicles Nadean’s remarkable search for her birth parents. A portion of the proceeds from the book will be donated to St. Jude Children’s Hospital, the Salvation Army and a scholarship established in memory of her son, Andrew.
We sat down with Nadean to discuss the book.
LM: What inspired you to write this book and share your personal story?
Nadean: In the early morning of August 4, 2017, my husband, Bill’s, and my 28th wedding anniversary, I was at a particularly low point. We had just returned to our rental cottage in Vermont. The previous six days had consisted of extensive travel during which we buried my beloved Aunt Roberta, one of my many mothers, in Sault Ste. Marie, Canada, and then traveled to another small town in Canada in search of clues to my birth father’s history. He died in 2000. We hoped our research would establish that he had lived in the town and confirmation of this might lead to clues on the identity of my birth mother. The entire trip was an unending roller coaster of raised hopes and subsequent disappointments. I was physically and emotionally exhausted.
My life, up to this time, was replete with so many unbelievably daunting personal challenges, that on the rare occasion when I shared my story, the listener would stare at me in disbelief and usually reply, “That could not possibly have happened! How could one person survive all of that and come through it with any level of sanity?”
On that morning, I was feeling very much alone. I shared with Bill that if our search ended at that time, I would be OK as long as he loved me. However, some good had to come out of all these struggles. I made a commitment that morning to start my memoir in the hope that the reader would find faith, hope and the courage to persevere against all odds.
LM: You went through so many formidable personal trials — a difficult childhood, a battle with cancer, an abusive marriage, and many more unbelievably profound hardships. Where has your strength come from?
Nadean: I was raised Catholic so have always had a firm belief in God. On the many occasions that I felt alone, broken and unloved, I looked to God for courage. I knew that I was never truly alone, that God always walked beside me holding my hand.
LM: DNA kits turned out to be crucial to you finding your birth family. Do you think you’d have been able to find them without that information?
Nadean: One needs to look at the history of my birth to understand how crucial DNA was to finding my birth family. On Christmas Eve 1952, my unwed birth mother left me at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Blind River, Ontario, Canada, and boarded an afternoon train to return to her small town. She had signed documents relinquishing all rights to me and instructing Mother Superior to find adoptive parents for me. I was six days old. Mother Superior neglected to register my birth at the town hall, which was required by law. Nor did she call in the Children’s Aid Society to process a formal adoption. We shall never know why. A beautiful successful young couple, Sid and Rita Russell, were desperate for a child and took me from the hospital on January 11, 1953.
In 2008, the law in Ontario changed, permitting legally adopted persons access to their birth records. It was not until 2013 that we discovered I had never been legally adopted. I had simply been given away by Mother Superior to a young, accomplished couple.
Without DNA, I would not have found my birth family in a timely fashion and perhaps never.
LM: Where does your case stand now within the Canadian legal system? Do you expect anyone will be held accountable?
Nadean: In 2013, I hired a Canadian attorney to petition the Province of Ontario’s Privacy Commission to allow me access to my birth records. My contention was that as a citizen of Canada I should be accorded the same rights as legally adopted persons. The law in its current state, discriminates against nonadopted persons. I also petitioned the hospital where I was born to provide the name of my birth mother and to share my hospital records. I had resided in the hospital on my own from December 24, 1952, through January 11, 1953, so I should have had a separate medical record from that of my birth mother.
The Privacy Commission in Ontario denied my petition indicating that I had no rights to the birth records as I was not legally adopted.
The hospital refused to share information on my residency indicating that they could not establish that the woman who gave birth to a female child on December 18, 1952, was in fact my birth mother. In addition, as the law only permitted legally adopted persons access to their birth records, once again, I was denied the information I requested.
During my investigations, I spoke to an official at the Privacy Commission who shared that nothing had been done correctly or legally after my birth. She indicated that I had an actionable case against the hospital. The hospital has changed ownership many times, so if I did file a suit, I would be filing against the Catholic Church as St. Joseph’s Hospital was run by the Church in 1952.
My goal in writing my memoir is to hire an attorney to file a petition to amend the current law, thereby permitting non-adoptees equal access to our birth records. A leading Toronto attorney with whom I have consulted has indicated that the case will be huge and complex.
LM: What would you like readers to take away from your book?
Nadean: Upon reaching the end of the book, I would like the reader to look at the face of that brave young child on the book’s cover, conclude that their glass is filled to the brim, that all is possible. Nothing can hold them back — to always remember to dream and to continue to reach within themselves to find the faith, hope and courage to persevere against all odds!
ALA member Nadean Stone, CLM, MBA, describes what it’s like to publish her first book, titled No Stone Unturned: A Remarkable Journey to Identity. She talks about translating painful experiences into a memoir and how her professional background and network of legal management professionals inspire her to keep fighting for justice. Listen through your podcast app or at alanet.org/podcasts.