There was never a time when Emma Mildon didn’t know she was adopted. For as long as she can remember, her favourite childhood book was Why Was I Adopted? “Every night as a toddler my mum would put me to bed and it must have broken her heart because I always wanted to hear her read that book.
“It starts with, ‘You were adopted not because your parents didn’t want you or love you very much, it’s because they wanted the best for you.’ “The whole story was
designed to teach you that you were special and the family ou are in chose you. It was an inspiring way to learn about where I had come from.”
Emma remembers being proud of her past and bragging to fellow pupils at kindergarten about being adopted. Her adoptive parents already had a five-year-old girl when they welcomed Emma into the family. “My adoptive mother, Margaret, was amazing,” says Emma. “She had a completely open relationship with my birth mother.
They were penpals and would write to each other. I was really lucky to know my roots and where I came from.” Margaret died of cancer when Emma was 16, which served as a catalyst for her to become closer to her biological mother. “It opened the door for her, so she didn’t feel like she was stepping on anyone’s toes. “It was also a good time for me because I had lost the lady who raised me. We are still in touch today. I was lucky to have two mothers. I hit the jackpot.”
However, the 27-year-old believes she had abandonment issues in her relationships as a result of being adopted. “ I would terminate people before they had a chance to do it to me. And it’s been hard letting people in enough to have a loving relationship.”
But Emma has now formed a healthy partnership and is engaged to be married. After her own open adoption, Emma believes a law should be passed that allows adoptees to find out who their birth parents are. It’s a hot topic at the moment, Julia Gillard’s recent apology to 150,000 mothers who gave birth out of wedlock and were forced to give up their children for adoption between the 1950s and 1970s.
Many well-known Kiwi and international figures have overcome the hardship of their upbringing. Emma is using them as an example of what you can achieve, despite growing up in a family that breaks the mould. She believes adoption can lead to an individual being more driven to succeed and has pointed to several examples, including Chiefs player Liam Messam, Nelson Mandela and Jamie Foxx. Marilyn Monroe grew up in foster care.
In New Zealand, a number of single women felt forced to give up their babies in the days before the DPB and many of them will never know what happened to their children. “This is huge news in the industry,” Emma explains. “Everyone has a right to know where they come from. New Zealand still hasn’t passed any open adoption laws.”
Despite her emotional setbacks, Emma refuses to see her upbringing as a negative and prefers to view it as a force behind her drive. She’s now using her birth story as the vehicle behind her latest project – to win a competition with Hay House, the biggest publisher of self-help books in the US.
Emma, who works as a public relations executive, is one of 10 finalists, after she attended a workshop in New York. She hopes the book will provide inspiration for others, with stories of influential figures, as well as her own. “Being adopted, fostered, a child of divorce or losing a parent at a young age means you are given a chance to really evaluate where you are, who you are and what you want to be. You can feel sorry for yourself or you can dream big.”
She would never rule out giving a child up for adoption herself, depending on the circumstances, and would also consider adopting a child.“I want an open-door policy. Anyone who needs a home should be welcome. We’ll also look into fostering.”