Monday, December 17, 2012

The Erasure of Mother & Seven Years of Life

My birth mother was bi polar. She had times where she couldn't get out of bed, and times where paranoia took over and she ran from county to county, town to town, in Northern California trying to escape with her child. Keeping us safe. Finally when I was seven, her struggle to raise me was ended by the local authorities, and I was placed in the custody of her best friends. The adoption was finalized seven years later when I was fourteen. I was given my birth certificate when I was eighteen. The original document. Showing the mother who bore me and birthed me on a gurney, in a hospital in San Francisco. I lost it. Honestly, I don’t even know when, and never really thought about it.

One day, I moved to Minnesota and needed to get a Minnesota drivers license. They wanted my birth certificate. Here is where things get fun.

I was born in San Francisco, and adopted north of there, in Sonoma County. The city of San Francisco no longer had my birth certificate, of course, it is sealed. Sonoma County also did not have it. So I had to petition the state of California for my birth certificate. It took weeks, and I was deeply annoyed. An inconvenience of mass proportions.

Then I got the birth certificate. When I opened the envelope and read it, the breath was pulled out of me. I had to sit down and read it again, because it was wrong. There, in the place where my mother’s name should have been, was my adopted mother, and in the spot that should have read “unknown” was my adopted father. It was wrong.

Bureaucracy had erased my Mother. They had erased my first seven years of life and replaced them with new names and my imagination. I can now pretend that I had a whole different first seven years, because that would be better, right? But even beyond the loss of my mother on paper, I felt a loss of myself as well. If my flesh and blood mother had been erased from a document proving my birth, where does that leave my existence? I felt my heart break, and part of it just fell away. I grieved for us both, torn apart in almost every way.

Now eight years after receiving my birth certificate, it sits in the file with the birth certificates of my husband and children. I flip through the documents on the way to social security cards every tax season, but I have never looked at it since. My birth mother died in 2005, which makes everything so much more final, and unreachable. I feel orphaned. I have no record that I ever belonged to her, not even her words to vouch for it.

Guest author, Aza Donelly, is 42, married and has 3 children. She grew up in California and moved to Minnesota nine years ago.  At the age of seven she was placed in foster care with her mother’s best friends who officially adopted her at the age of 14.  She resumed contact with her birth mother and met her biological sisters when she was 19. Aza loves homeschooling her kids, writing, singing, and exploring the world with her family.