Over at THE ADOPTED ONES blog, Tao posted three questions that gave me an opening for something I want to put into words.
This is an excerpt of her post:
How did you feel…
I’m trying something new. New is scary for me, but, it’s something I thought of doing for a while on many different topics. I decided to start with adoptee rights which means that there are two different questions for adoptees, and a third question for other voices. Hopefully, hearing feelings of others may convince people to change their mind and support upcoming legislation.
1. When you are denied the right to your factual original birth certificate, how does it make you feel?
2. For those who’ve finally gained the right to the original birth certificate, tell me how it felt when you held your original birth certificate in your hands.
3. Other voices in adoption, how does it makes you feel knowing your child either has the right to their original birth certificate upon request, just like non-adopted do, or doesn’t have the same right.
(If you want to answer on Tao’s post, here is the link)
I will answer number one. I can answer number one.
When I was 22, I called Catholic Charities in Minnesota who said to me, “Sorry we can’t help you. All our adoption records are sealed.” They had my adoption file since 1956 and they had my name. They had me in their system somewhere – this church who had sold me into this adoption, and a life of lies and fake documents. These social workers/nuns/priests had my identity locked up in a drawer somewhere and they weren’t going to tell me anything? Exactly. (I felt very angry and very desperate. What could I do?)
Have you imagined what it would be like to not know your own family? How you might meet someone and wonder “could we be cousins or siblings?” I was 22. I had questions about my health, my medical history, and nothing to write on the doctor’s office forms. Can you imagine this? People who are not adopted, can you?
At age 22, I was hurt. I was. After calling them, I was so hurt. Actually devastated. And to make matters worse, my adoptive parents would never be helpful. (They probably had my adoption file hidden away – they never showed it to me or offered me any help.) At that point I was a college graduate and living on my own. This phone call to Catholic Charities was my decision and I didn’t need anyone’s permission to search for my own adoption records. AND I wasn’t sharing anything important about my search since my adoptive parents had very little contact with me.
WOW – I do recall how I felt anger. How in the world can I live this way? I might be dating my own brother! I might be working with a cousin or my own parent? Fuming hostile anger!
There was nowhere to put this anger. I didn’t have a counselor to guide me. I had no one. (Yet I never felt sorry for myself.)
Then finally I had an idea. Go to the courthouse. I did. The rest is in my memoir (in greater detail.)
I found out my name. I had my mother’s name. I had a physical description of my father and his age.
I was 22 and NAIVE so this adoption file was a thick legal file. I had no idea what I was reading but this court proceeding was about ME. I took notes. I kept two scraps of paper like they were my most important possession. (In 2010 I petitioned the state of Wisconsin where I was adopted and paid for my own adoption file, not the same thick file I read in the courthouse at age 22.)
I wanted and still want my REAL birth certificate. Many times, many letters I mailed to the state of Minnesota. I asked them for a copy of my original birth certificate (OBC). They always refuse. I talk to a judge friend and she made inquiries for me – nothing. I asked again last year and nothing.
A simple piece of paper – a copy of my own birth certificate – is not mine to have? Apparently not in Minnesota. If I lived in Alaska or Maine, I’d have it by now.
How do I feel about this, my fake birth certificate that lists two people as my biological parents when they are not? I am much older now… Now I feel this is an grave injustice, a human rights violation, a travesty. I didn’t agree to these conditions. I didn’t ask to be adopted. I DID find my biological family after I read my adoption file but I still want that simple piece of paper. I deserve it.
Anger is one thing. Feeling outrage is another.
I wrote a letter a few months ago to the ACLU in Minnesota and asked for their help. I wanted their help to sue Catholic Charities for stealing my identity and holding my adoption file and identity hostage. (ACLU turned me down.)
This is war. I am still fighting.
(A few years back, a member of CUB (Concerned United Birthparents) sent me a file. It’s a copy of my original baptismal record from Catholic Charities in Minnesota. On a single piece of paper is my mothers name and my name Laura Jean Thrall crossed out and replaced with new parents and my new name.)
How would you feel?