Language of adoption

Original Birth Certificates

I feel a sense of power as I sit in my office with an adopted child's original birth certificate on my desk. The certified birth certificate will go into the child's file, and locked away in a vault never to be seen again as mandated by Washington State law. The birth certificates list the full names of the child's birth parents as well as the name that the birth parent chose for them. The adoptive  family does not know the birth parents last names. Nor do they know the name the birth parent originally chose for the child. As I look at the vital document, I feel that I'm committing an infraction of sorts, in knowing that the child to whom this information belongs will never be allowed to view it.  The irony and weight of the moment is not lost, as I am keenly aware of the hours of time, money and longing that I've personally spent wishing for my own original birth certificate.  It's eerie to think that a social worker in the State of Tennessee, someone not too unlike myself, filed my birth certificate away, and locked it up and sealed it  for my eyes never to see.

Why is it that I, an arbitrary social worker, gets to hold, handle, file and seal a document away? A document to those whom are not adopted, consider a vital document- one to be stored next to their marriage license and social security cards in a locked, fireproof box.  But, for the adoptee they lost that right to have access to this document, simply for being born?

I know this debate is hot and raging in many states, but I can't help but feel a sense of debasement as I do to this child what I fought so hard for and wished wasn't done to me.  If all individuals should have the right to know basic information about themselves, what gives a state the right to act sovereign  and supreme over an adopted child?


Life and Death

In my line of work, I often get asked "What is so wrong with closed adoptions?" Well, the answer is, for some birth parents it's a lot like experiencing a tragic death, similar to a stillborn child.

I strive to educate people about the fact that whenever there is an omission of the facts, or we simply do not know the truth (about birthparent's reasoning for choosing adoption, or why a baby died minutes before delivering etc.), we tend to make things up to fill the huge void where there are so many unanswered questions (oftentimes, things like; I'm unworthy, the baby was unwanted or defective, or I'm a throwaway etc.).

Sometimes adoptive families feel as though life would be easier if they didn't know their biological parents, and that knowing an birth parent may aid in confusion in knowing who the "real" parent is. The truth is, the "real" parent is the one who actively parents, the person who takes care of the child, financially, physically, emotionally etc., however the birth parent is a huge piece of the child's identity and the child's life. There is simply never an advantage to maintaining secrecy for the adoptive parents' own satisfaction and ease or for any other reason.

Truth and openness always wins out. I have yet to hear of a scenario where knowing the truth was a hindrance or a misfortune.

I have known families to go through the awful pain and heartache of miscarriages, but never have I seen so closely the pain and anguish of having a stillborn child. This weekend I attended a funeral that devasted my heart, and completely restructured my thinking about life. The  funeral was for a stillborn baby, and not only the death of the baby, but the loss that the parents are experiencing.  The death of a baby is a profound loss. Attachment to a baby begins before conception, some parents read to their child, sing to their child, feel the child and fantasize about life with this child.  Not only have they lost a baby, but they've also lost the chance to see this child grow to become a living part of their family.

I can't help but let my mind wander towards adoption, and I have drawn comparisons between a stillbirth, and a closed adoption. In both scenarios birth parents go through excruciating pain in childbirth, and then are literally  never able to see the fruit of their labor. It's a tragic loss that deserves explanation, but in the case of a stillbirth sometimes there is never an explanation. People may never know why a death happened. In the days of old, when closed adoptions were the norm, this was a tragic loss of ever getting to know the life that you created and birthed.

To all, who hope to adopt someday please know that nothing the birth mother did or didn't do while pregnant with your child is directly related to their unique qualities, whether that's in the form of a disability or a superb ability. Whether it's Cerebral Palsy or super star athlete. We don't get to choose. And some people don't get to choose why they bear a child dead on arrival, or why merciless adoption caseworkers demanded secrecy surrounding the child that you birthed.

And, to all of those who hope to bear children biologically, we must know that nothing is ever a given. Every life (both in utero and out) is precious, and a miracle.