ishtar-front-cover‘Whatever Happened to Ishtar?’ by Anne Frandi-Coory  is a necessary read for any mother in order to help make an adjustment to your mindset in this information age filled with books on how to parent better.

Anne tells, in an honest and direct way, the reality of her childhood where her mother was largely absent; suffering neglect and abuse in the hands of the Catholic Church and her extended [Lebanese] family.  Despite this absence by her [Italian] mother, the rare moments Anne shared with her still gave her something enormous.

It is a balanced account such as she does acknowledge the education the Catholic Church introduced her to.

Why Anne’s story is one of redemption and healing is that, despite what she reveals of her childhood and subsequent adult quest to reach a place of understanding, Anne has in her, a life blood and intelligence that is vibrant and strong.  Anne knows how to live in the moment and embrace love and laughter to its full.

Anne is giving back to her children the opposite of what she was given which is a massive testament to her strength and sheer force of character.  So if you ever feel you are not giving enough to your child take a read of what Anne didn’t get from her biological parents.  Be encouraged by Anne’s story that even the most meagre rations her parents were able to give did make a difference to her.  How much more so, an available parent with intent to actively love her children, despite the inevitable mistakes you make along the way?  Such a mother  Anne has turned out to be, despite all odds.


roseann cameron

Roseann Cameron, Christchurch New Zealand 25 November 2013


Read here more about Anne Frandi-Coory’s mother:


by Frederick J George (or James F Churchman)


Who is this man?


As a book lover I have been given many wonderful books, including biographies. One biography in particular stands out for its poignancy, Switched At Birth by Frederick J George in 2007.

Frederick George and James Churchman were switched at birth; we will never know the full story behind the switch. However, what we do know is that the respective mothers of Frederick and James loved their sons as they would their own flesh and blood.

It has meant much to Frederick that his biological mother, Helen Churchman was still alive when he discovered the truth of his birth. One of the things she was able to tell him was that although she never consciously doubted that James was her own son, she remembers remarking to the nurse a few days after the boys were born, ‘I think I may have Mrs George’s baby’ and that both women laughed.  Mrs Churchman’s ‘son’ James had a thatch of black hair, while Mrs George’s ‘son’ Frederick was blonde like Mrs Churchman and the rest of  her family.

In 2010 I had my own book published “Whatever Happened To Ishtar?” which like ‘Switched At Birth’ is about life in an immigrant Roman Catholic Lebanese family in Dunedin, New Zealand, during the mid to late 20th Century. At the time I wrote my book  I knew nothing of Frederick’s story, although I knew of the large extended George family, and often saw family members around the streets of Dunedin. For various reasons, I didn’t know any of them well enough to engage in conversation.  I had no knowledge of the Churchman family, even though James’ and Frederick’s families lived in close proximity to one another.  This, as it turns out, is one of the most poignant aspects of the whole saga, but also one of its saving graces: at least the boys grew up together and knew their biological parents, albeit superficially.

In the book, Frederick recalls in detail his life growing up with the George family. His has mixed feelings about his ‘father’ John George and his volatile temper, (Not I might venture to say, unusual in Lebanese men). He further writes that the subject of his ‘suspicious’ parentage only ever came up within his immediate family when his father was angry about something Frederick had done that had displeased him.  Then he would accuse his wife, Ngaire, of sleeping with another man when she conceived Frederick because he ‘sure doesn’t look Lebanese!’  Ngaire George, who was not Lebanese, would respond good naturedly and tell her husband not to be so ridiculous.

As fate would have it the George boys and the Churchman boys were good friends and hung around together playing sport and engaging in other social activities.  The main difference between the Churchman and George families, apart from ethnicity, was religion; Presbyterian and Roman Catholic respectively.

The boys from both families were involved in the hustle and bustle of family life and the issue of the blonde boy in the Lebanese family and the black- haired boy in the Anglo-Saxon family, by and large remained unquestioned, at least publicly. But privately, Frederick  writes: ‘I used to have these peculiar feelings …of being in another world, or in someone else’s identity’. He goes on to say ‘Actually, I was in someone else’s world, and so was Jim Churchman…he was in the world I belonged in and I was in the world he belonged in.’  James told Frederick that he used to have those same feelings.  Ngaire George often said to Frederick, ‘You live in your own world!’ … ‘She was right, I did’.

Both mothers genuinely believed that each of their boys’ odd-one-out complexions were some sort of throwback to their genetic roots.  Frederick writes of the many coincidences and parallel life experiences of members of the two families, and they are compelling, in hindsight and in light of knowledge of the switch.

Years later, the suspicion of a switch at birth became an urgent issue for ‘James Churchman’ (the real George boy) when he became seriously ill. In his fifties, he had a severe heart attack. This was particularly significant, because there was no history of heart attacks in the Churchman extended family, but there was in the George extended family.  While James was recovering in hospital, he asked his best friend, Frederick’s Lebanese brother, to contact Frederick who was then living in the US and ask him to organise a DNA test for himself, while he James would do the same. The tests proved beyond any doubt that Frederick and James had been switched at birth.

As you can imagine, the news was life-changing for both families, but particularly for the men themselves.  The saddest thing for James was that he never knew his biological parents intimately and never would. Out of both sets of parents, only Helen Churchman was still alive when the test results were revealed, and she was then in her eighties.  James often spoke to Ngaire George when he called on her sons, not knowing who she was in reality.

Frederick says at the end of the book that he is left wondering what life would have been like with his biological family.  What had he missed out on, if anything?  How different would his life have been? Questions that will remain unanswered.

-Anne Frandi-Coory  24 February 2012

Renoir: ‘On The Terrace’ 1879. In Memory of Missing Mothers


One of the saddest things for me that has come out of research for my book  Whatever Happened To Ishtar?  is the fact that some historical birth and marriage certificates only record the names of fathers and paternal grandparents.  It was indicative of an era when only males were considered important in the scheme of life.  Although I have built up an extensive family tree of both my Lebanese and Italian ancestors, there are many gaps where a mother’s name should be. And each gap represents not just a missing name but links to whole lineages.  As  examples: when, after many years of searching,  I located an ancient document of my maternal great grandmother’s birth,  her mother’s name was omitted;  a marriage certificate where both the mother of the bridegroom and of the bride were omitted.  In some other cases I was able to find the information in a baptism confirmation certificate or in immigration archives, but my family trees have several names missing.  My hope is that descendants of those families I have written about, will  read my book and help fill in some of the missing gaps for our descendants.

***This page is copyright to author Anne Frandi-Coory. No text or photograph can be copied or downloaded from this page without the written permission of Anne Frandi-Coory.***

I understand what has been written about separation anxiety;  the separation of mother and infant for long periods.

During those  not-so-informed days of the 1970’s,  I was in a maternity hospital in NZ  awaiting the drawn-out birth of my daughter.  I had to leave my 18 month old son with his paternal grandparents who were undemonstrative and didn’t believe in cuddling children for fear of passing on germs.  My husband of course, was built in the same mould although not as quite as bad as his mother. He wasn’t a hands-on dad, even refusing to change nappies or push a pram.  I can still see my father-in-law holding my small son, as I looked longingly out of the hospital window, yearning to run out and hold that little boy close to me.  That troubled face, so bewildered, so anxious, still haunts me.

Photo copyright to Anne Frandi-Coory

In those days children were not allowed in to maternity wards to visit  their mothers, (who knows why?) and two weeks is an eternity for a toddler, especially one as close to me as my son was. When I returned home with my baby daughter, my son would not let me out of his sight, following me from room to room.  At night he suffered terrible nightmares for a few months, waking up screaming and clutching me.  Things improved but my son did not like to be separated from me, and if he was for any reason,  became distraught.  I took him to a child psychologist when he was five, because he was still clinging to me.  The psychologist took him into another room and spent some time alone with my son. Afterwards, he told me that my son was an intelligent and well adjusted little boy, but that his father needed to spend quality time with him.  Looking back, I can see that my husband should have been at that meeting with me, but he wasn’t interested in attending.  And after the consultation, when he did decide to spend some time with our son, I found out  later, that my husband  constantly berated him.   True to his nature, our son never complained at the time.

My son’s birth was extremely difficult for the both of us, so much so, that after a quick cuddle he was wrapped up and taken away for 24 hours to rest.  He wasn’t even washed first, so tired was he.  Still, when they brought him to me the next day, I bonded with him immediately, and I perceived a little grin on his beautiful little face as I purred over him.  My son and I have remained very close right through his childhood, teenage years, up until his marriage in his early thirties.  Now that he is married with a beautiful wife and two gorgeous little boys, we still have a close bond which never interferes with his own little family.  Our experience has made him a devoted husband and father, and he still hates being away from home.   I think that he scores highly on the emotional intelligence scale, and perhaps this has predisposed him to being an extremely sensitive person to others’ emotional needs.   It hasn’t been an easy ride for him though, because anxiety and insecurity often surface.  However, I am proud of him because he has learned to deal with it without resorting to the intervention of medication.

More…  Separation; The Open Wound That Never Heals

Familial Bonds. From Cultural Anthropology by Roger M. Keesing.

What  Adoption Dismisses: Biological Connections

Being related to someone, having that biological connection to a mother who has given birth to you, is what is called the primary bond.  This event of creation  is our connection to the human race through thousands of years of evolution.  It is the  innate and emotional blood-bond and instinctive mother-child relationship. The biological/genetic connection to a family, to a mother and a father,  is highly important in any society.   The basis of any successful society is the family unit; it is on this basic foundation that a society establishes itself, and has done so since human society began.   Aborigines and Moari have always known this.

Sometimes we just need to get back to the basics!   Perhaps Western society just got too complicated.


See post Adoption & SeparationThe Wound That Never Heals

Motherhood - The Ideal. Massimo Stanzione, Naples 1640s

Hello Elizabeth,

I do empathise with you although I wasn’t adopted myself, but two of my half siblings were. I wrote about them in my book Whatever Happened To Ishtar?. See more on my blog about the negatives of mother/child separation, adoption under category Adoption & Separation. I was abandoned by my mother and placed in an orphanage, but I at least knew who my biological parents were. In all the years I have met and spoken with adoptees, I only ever met one man who did not wish to trace his biological parents. What came of my talking to adoptees was that it didn’t matter how good or bad their parents were; what mattered to them was knowing who and what their bio parents were, and why they were given up for adoption. It seems to me that adoption itself isn’t always bad, it is how it is carried out.

In the past, women like my mother, were forced by Catholic nuns to give up their new born babies, and most of these mothers never recovered from their loss. See Philomena’s and Sheldon Lea’s stories on my blog. The nuns never allowed these mothers to contact their lost children; refused to pass on information about the adoptions or the mothers’ names. The suffering in these cases, for mothers, and children,  was  life-destroying.

I understand what you are saying when you talk about your dad’s spirit being with you. The father you didn’t get to meet. I feel the same about my mother. The emotional pain she transmitted to me, persisted until I finished writing the book and she finally was at peace. Take care. Anne.

Visit Adoption Critic for ‘Dear Incubator‘ letter and comments…….

Separation at Birth; The Primal Wound. Photo: afcoory

***This page is copyright to author Anne Frandi-Coory. No text or photograph can be downloaded or copied with the written permission of the author.***

Separation of mother and infant is cruel.  There is no other word for it.  It matters not whether the separation is brought about by adoption, maternal abandonment, or death or illness of the mother,  the trauma is the same (see post August 13). The following articles explain it well.

“It can no longer be assumed that one can replace the biological mother with another “primary caregiver” without the child’s being both aware of the substitution and traumatized by it. The mother/infant bond takes many forms and the communication between them is unconscious, instinctual, and intuitive.”

Nancy Newton Verrier, Ph.D., “The Primal Wound”

What Is The Primal Wound?

Understanding The Trauma of Infant-Maternal Separation

by Marcy Axness

Throughout the generations of routine obstetrical, hospital, and adoption practice in this country, the assumption has always been, “Why would the separation from its mother affect a newborn baby?” But with the advent in the last twenty years of pre- and perinatal research, we now have astounding findings about what a fetus experiences in the womb, what a strong connection it has with the mother long before birth, and how intelligent, aware and remembering a newborn is.

“Many doctors and psychologists now understand that bonding doesn’t begin at birth, but is a continuum of physiological, psychological, and spiritual events which begin in utero and continue throughout the postnatal bonding period. When this natural evolution is interrupted by a postnatal separation from the biological mother, the resultant experience of abandonment and loss is indelibly imprinted upon the unconscious minds of these children, causing that which I call the primal wound’.” So writes Nancy Verrier in her book, The Primal Wound: Understanding the Adopted Child (1993).

Rather than deeply question whether the experience of adoption is traumatic, we as a society tend to believe that enough love and care can make everything right. But psychologists from Freud on down have taught us that the first stage of psychological growth includes the development of trust, as a foundation for secure relationships with others [My Emphasis] Babies who are separated from the only connection they’ve ever known–their matrix–have had their nascent sense of trust deeply violated.  (See   ‘Whatever Happened To Ishtar?’for more about the emotional scars caused by infant abandonment).

And so all that love and care we give to the adoptee often has a hard time “getting in”. [But if no love is given, then the trauma is much more acute] as Verrier says of her own relationship to her adopted daughter, “I discovered that it was easier for us to give her love than it was for her to accept it.” On very deep levels, adoptees often feel it too dangerous to love and be loved, authentically and deeply; they can’t trust that they won’t be hurt or abandoned again.

Children often split themselves off from the injured parts of their psyches, and develop functional, acceptable, “false selves”. This concept of the false self is often the explanation behind what seems like “wonderful adjustment” on the part of an adoptee (or any traumatized child) who has responded to the deep fear of further abandonment or trauma by becoming compliant and adaptive to the needs and expectations of the parents or caregivers. However, their grief and anger is simply buried, even out of their own consciousness, where it can remain throughout the years, curdling their emotional lives.

See  Michael’s Sister Sent back

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