Adoptees share one thing in common: questions. Questions about our roots, our adoption, and the complexity of our story. Some may be answered and some may not, but there is one question every adopted child has asked: who are my biological parents?
Unlike some, my adoptive parents were open and willing to discuss the questions I had regarding my story, one of these being my birth certificate. I wanted to see it, hoping the piece of paper would somehow seal a bit of my identity I had always been looking for. Opening the filing cabinet, my mom shuffled through the drawer of important documents and handed me the cream colored piece of paper. I grabbed it, glancing down at it with an overwhelming excitement that only adoptees can understand. But, under mother and father, there were different names filling in the spaces.
My adopted parents.
I stared at it longer. How could this be? They didn’t give birth to me. They adopted me four years after I was born, they didn’t even know I existed until I was three. My heart dropped to my stomach.
“It’s a lie,” I thought, “I am a lie.”
My mom, clearly picking up on my confusion, calmly explained that an adoptee’s original birth certificate is amended; the names of the biological parents replaced with the adopted ones, since they, according to the law, were your legal parents. It made enough sense in my 10 year old mind, and I didn’t give it too much thought thereafter.
Fast forward a few years.
I was a young 20 something and needed my birth certificate to travel abroad, so I visited the local county office to retrieve the paper. Approaching the desk, the clerk placed the sealed envelope on the counter. “It will be $26 dollars please.” As I fished for my wallet, it came back to me: that paper was a lie. The familiar feeling of disappointment sank in, and as I exchanged the envelope for the wad of cash, I was determined to find out why, why so many of us were attached to a birth certificate that held little truth.
The changing of birth certificates started in the early 1900’s, a practice intended to protect the adoptee from knowing they were adopted, that being an ”illegitimate” child guaranteed shame and criticism within that cultural view. The thought of that mentality still ringing true today feels rather absurd, but somehow, the practice remains in place.
There are so many adoptees who don’t know their birth parents’ names, and they lack the access to do so. The process of finding their original birth certificate, often presents itself to be one of closed doors, frustration and difficulty.
There needs to be a change.
A change that doesn’t hold onto the lie that adoption is shameful. A change that embraces diversity and uniqueness instead of hiding it. A change that encompasses the culture of today.
I don’t have an answer or solution, but I know I’m not the only one in this. There are many who have searched for this missing puzzle piece and struggle to find it. We need to talk about it: share your story, your questions, and your thoughts. Raise awareness. Spread knowledge. And maybe, just maybe, one day we can see a change.