by Pip Murdoch
Relative strangers is a book written from the heart by a young woman in the sixties who found herself in the sad situation of being pregnant when society was very judgmental, and being pregnant and unmarried was a stigma. One that affected many before that time and up to more recently.
The author is brutally honest as she describes being a teenager and a student nurse, away from the confines of her family in a time when the sexual revolution was beginning to be felt in New Zealand.
It shows her honesty and bravery when she realizes marriage was not the answer and taking a flight to Australia for an abortion was also out of the question. The adoption process, the only way open to her at the time was explained. For her, it was the answer and it is along this path that the author documents her journey.
She tells how she left her employment and her home to live in semi exile until her child was born. She describes her confinement and the difficulty in parting with her son, knowing that, despite what her heart said, her head said different and that is the path she needed to take.
My heart ached for her. I was also a student nurse in the sixties and had friends who were faced with this dilemma. I recall horror stories that were circulating at the time of the different decisions that were being made.
I thank the GP who, getting a group of us students together said very sternly, “if you have a friend who is pregnant insist they have medical care.” This was after a very harrowing few days as he fought for the life of a teenager who approached full term with no medical care and whose life, consequently, was in real grave risk from very severe eclampsia. There was no doubt where his compassion was and a wedding ring did not come into it.
Pip Murdoch has written beautifully of finding her child as an adult and how she approached the reunion with trepidation. She tells honestly of the mistakes she made along the path, which makes the story so compelling to read. She ends with the hope that people will have a better understanding of why babies were given out for adoption at that time. It is what society demanded then and it took a strong person to stand up against the moral critics of the time.
All I can say is thank goodness society has changed and there are no longer any children in New Zealand who bear the stigma of illegitimacy due to the term being outlawed since.
This is a book with a strong story to tell, and it documents the thoughts of the sixties.
I thank the author for it.
Author: Pip Murdoch
Publisher: Fern Publishing