Missing Pieces

I have an original birth certificate and a fabricated (aka “amended”) birth certificate. This happens a lot with adopted people. You might think it’s kinda cool and noteworthy to have two birth documents but it’s actually complicated. After 57 years, I’ve learned to deal with it, but It’s taken some soul-searching.

When I was very small and my (adoptive) parents explained that I was adopted they showed me my birth certificate. The only one they had was the changed one, but it was theirs, and it was mine. It bonded us as a family. It was the piece of identity on paper that I used for obtaining a social security number, a driver’s license, a passport, and a job. That paper was me. Only it wasn’t all me. It was legal, and it was real, but it also made part of me unreal.

My amended birth document contains my adoptive parents’ names as if they’d been the ones who conceived and birthed me. It lists my hospital of birth and my birth date. However, it does not list my time of birth nor my birth length/weight. Everyone I know has these tidbits of information. I often felt disturbed that my paperwork was lacking, (especially when people would talk about how big someone’s baby was and at what time they entered this world). You wouldn’t think those little-bitty details would matter that much, but they did to me. Honestly, until my mid-20s I hated, (yes literally), hated my birth certificate because it wasn’t real enough and it was not inclusive. Instead, I had a societally expected text to follow, and it was bullcrap because I did not have what other “normal” (in my young mind) people had.

My so-called script was to acknowledge that I was an adopted “child” and I was “chosen” by my adoptive parents, so that made me “ special” and “grateful”. (To be fair here, I must note that my culture in a general sense, gave me this expectation. My adoptive parents did not, except maybe for the word “special”, but they felt a lot of people and things were special.)

News flash: “Normal” people don’t use scripts; not for their birth story.

It took years for me to find the words to explain why this parlance was no good. For one thing, a child grows up. I’m not a child now, nor do I want to be. Adopted people do not want to be regarded as a perpetual child, but in many states, this is how adoption law works. We can smoke, drink, buy lottery tickets and serve in the military, but many of us cannot access our first birth certificate that has detailed information about our true start in life.

I’ve always associated the word, “chosen” with picking out a puppy from a litter or the old TV commercial slogan, “Choosy mothers choose Jif.” Being chosen implies that the adoptee has had no control. This verbiage potentially sets someone up to be hesitant and less inclined to seek leadership. Being chosen also implies hoping that other people out there deem you worthy enough to be selected. I refuse to believe that a child or baby in an orphanage who happened to never be adopted is in any way less worthy.

“Grateful”. Again this is a highly charged word. I’m grateful for a lot of things, but should I be more grateful than anyone else? How do you measure gratefulness anyway?

I found out from watching a TV talk show that adopted people in Ohio could actually acquire their original birth certificate, (referred to as an OBC in Adoption-land), so I sent Vital Statistics a twenty dollar check, and six weeks later the paper-pushers in Columbus sent me a big, fat envelope with copies of my real identity. My OBC even had listed the first, middle and last names of my birth parents, my pre-adoption name and a notation showing that I was not a first birth for my biological mother. I had a sibling out there!

The day I sat at my kitchen table and finally absorbed the realities reflected on these papers I changed from a functional but incomplete person to someone who felt whole and authentic. I no longer had to rely on a fabricated narrative about when, where and how I was born. My shame for not being grateful enough lifted from my soul, replaced by empowerment.

As I researched and uncovered more truths about my birth family for the rest of that year, I learned all I needed to know. I had to accept that due to my birth mother’s early-in-life death, I would never know all tidbits, but I had more than ever before. I had enough. I became the real me.

These days I happily share my birth story and I no longer hate it or find my natal facts lacking except in one way.
After all that time wishing and searching, my birth time and size were still omitted. Some things will always remain a mystery…

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  • Lynne Miller  On November 11, 2018 at 5:13 pm

    Hi Paige. I can relate. In a different world, we would have our birth certificates with all the facts about bio parents, birth time, weight, etc. and an adoption certificate with the details about the parents who adopted us. I would like more info about my birth, whether my bio mom spent any time with me, if she and my adoptive parents met, etc. Still lots of missing pieces. In addition to your OBC, were you able to get any more info about your adoption from the state of Ohio?

  • Paige Adams Strickland  On November 11, 2018 at 11:16 pm

    They sent me a name change doc which my A-parents signed to have my original birth name (Julie) changed to ‘Paige’ plus there was my decree of adoption. Felt weird seeing my A parents’ signatures on those papers. My birth mother’s signature was only on the OBC.

  • Robyn Sheffield  On November 13, 2018 at 12:57 pm

    I could have written this, except the part about actually receiving my obc. I was born and adopted in two different closed states, so I am unable to obtain any of my records or obc. This needs to change. All adoptees have the absolute right to their identity. The real one.

  • Becky  On November 13, 2018 at 1:15 pm

    This is so spot on – the stories are so important. And it’s a joyous day when we no longer need to fabricate them. And yet, those bits we still don’t know are there. In my case, it’s the facts around my baptism. In my fabricated story, my mother made sure I was baptized. The reality is that I was baptized by the director of the Lutheran adoption agency that facilitated my adoption. But that’s all I know.

  • Sallie JAMESON  On December 10, 2018 at 10:35 pm

    This is so true it is astonishing!!! I was from Illinois and got my OBC by just writing to the hospital where I was born and asking for a copy using my birth name from my adoption papers. I didn’t see them until I was 37 even though my aparents had them the whole time.
    Over time I also learned my amom lied about the hospital I was born in AND my nationality, which, as an adoptee, is extremely important. Because of all the sealed stuff she never thought I would learn the truth.
    So, for the first 35+ years of my life I thought my adoption was fine. These past 44 years I have gotten angrier and angrier at both of them. But, they died so I can’t ask them WHY they did this!!!

  • Mel Gambutti  On January 16, 2019 at 8:57 pm

    Loved reading yours and others’ adoption stories, Paige. They make me feel whole, and happy there are many who relate to my own experience. At the same time, it makes me sad that so many girls and boys, now adult, are still kept from knowledge of their true identities; their genes, their nationalities, their siblings, their parentage. With persistence as strong as survival instinct, we adoptees struggle to find our “selves,” what is our native right. Records of each of our full identities must be restored to us on demand. In my birth and adoption State, SC, records are sealed. What I learned, was through breach of records, and my own dogged search. I’m thankful I persisted. Thanks for your stories, Paige, and others here.

  • Paige Adams Strickland  On January 16, 2019 at 9:05 pm

    I agree. It’s just so wrong. I also wonder with the gov’t shut down in so many places, even those who can access will be having delays. #stupidwalls

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