Tuesday, August 13, 2013

My Birth Certificates

I love and admire my adoptive mother. She is a smart, honest, and energetic woman who is a role model for me in many ways. She has nurtured and guided me throughout my life. She is accomplished in many other ways as well. But the one thing she did not do was give birth to me.

So why does the primary legal document of my life say that she did?

In the summer of 1966, my adoptive mother was still unable to conceive a child, though she later had an operation that made it possible for her to do so, resulting in the birth of my brother. On the day of my birth, according to a hand-written note now in my possession, my adoptive parents were visiting my adoptive grandparents, unaware that they were soon to become parents.

And yet there are their names on my official birth certificate.

I remember being confused when I learned about this as a child. My mother's explanation was that this was simply "the way things were" in adoption. For a long time I accepted that explanation and the situation. I accepted it until relatively recently, in fact.

But I don't accept it any more.

A birth certificate should be just that: a document that accurately records the circumstances of a person's birth.

I have four parents. They are all "real." I will never say that one set of parents is more real than the other. But I do consider one of my two birth certificates to be "real," and it's the one that was sealed when my adoption became finalized approximately a year after my birth. I was never supposed to lay eyes on it, but because I was fortunate enough to have been born in the state of Maine I have been able to obtain a copy of it. I didn't need access to my original birth certificate for reunion purposes, but I sent for the copy anyway. Why? Because it is my birth certificate. Because it is the one that isn't a lie.

I support open records for all adoptees. No exceptions. Adoptees are the only U.S. citizens who are denied (in most states) access to their own birth records. When one class of people is denied something that is a basic right for others, that's discrimination.

It really is as simple as that.