In watching a rerun of an episode of “Grey’s Anatomy” the other day with my daughter, we watched a man suffer the symptoms of a brain tumor called gleoblastoma. Perhaps I misspelled it here. My daughter knew that my adoptive father died of that particular type of brain cancer about four years before she was born. I told her how he died, and that what we saw on the TV show was not exactly how the disease manifested in her grandfather.
My adoptive father came home for Christmas 1981 with his head bandaged from brain surgery. His personality had been compromised and he could not tell us how much pain he was in. He died several months later in 1982.
My natural mother was very pregnant with me at Christmas 1955. She went into the hospital two days after Christmas and never came home again. Neither did I. Mom died several months later in March of 1956.
My adoptive mother was diagnosed with a type of leukemia two weeks before Christmas in 2004. She lived at home until 8 weeks ago when she fell. She is in a nursing home, waiting for me to bring her some items from home.
I read about sad Christmases from my adoption reform friends.
This day a year ago he was rolling in the snow
With a younger brother in his father’s yard
Christmas break, a time for touching home
The heart of all he’s known, leaving was so hard
Now three thousand miles away he’s working Christmas Day
Earning double time for the minding of the store
He always said he’d make it on his own
He’s spending Christmas Eve alone
First Christmas away from home
She’s standing by the railway station, panhandling for change
One more dollar buys a decent room and a meal
Looks like the Sally Ann place after all
The vast and dreaming hall that echoes like a tomb
But it’s warm and clean and free, there are worse places to be
And at least it means no beating from her dad
And if she cries because it’s Christmas Day
She hopes it doesn’t show
First Christmas away from home
In the hall they’ve got the biggest tree but it looks so small and bare
Not like it was meant to be
And the angel on the top it’s not the same old silver star
You once made for your own
First Christmas away from home
In the morning there are prayers, then there’s tea and crafts downstairs
Then another meal up in his little room
Hoping that the boys will think to call
Before the day is done, well it’s best they do it soon
When the old girl passed away he fell apart more every day
Each had always kept the other pretty well
But the boys agreed the nursing home was best
‘Cause he couldn’t live alone
First Christmas away from home
In the common room they’ve got the biggest tree, it’s huge and lifeless
Not like it was meant to be
The Santa Claus on top it’s not the same old silver star
You once made for your own
First Christmas away from home
This post is written by Lori Carangelo founder of Americans For Open Records, and submitted by me, legitimatebastard, via email:
Another thing the general public as well as pro-adoption folks don’t consider is that neither relinquishing Parents nor Adopters have a say wih regard to falsifying and sealing the Adoptee'[s birth recoird — It’s the law, even in stepparent adoptions. And it’s not only the immediate “Triad” of Adoptee-Parent-Adopter who are adversely affected by the Adoptee’s falsified records. It’s also the Triad’s future children and their children who inherit the burden as well.
I found my son two decades ago, after an 18-year search hindered by falsified sealed “adoption-birth” records. Two decades later, now that they are of legal age and can make their own decisions, I found his two daughters, my granddaughters, who were also lost to adoption (stepparent adoptions with falsified, sealed records). One of them who I had helped raise in her first year, could not possibly have remembered me nor know that I loved her. I had no say in her parents’ decisions and only my son’s Adopter was permitted to be part of her life as “her grandmother,” just as only his Adopter was allowed to be his “Mother.” This granddaughter was evidently conditioned from an early age to be angry and distrustful of not only her father (my son) but also his “birth” family, and so she rejected my attenpt to know and befriend her.
My other granddaughter, however, who has the same father (my son), different mother, and who I had never seen, has told me she was searching for her father before I found her and that she is interested to know about the family and “what she missed”…an expression of a natural need to know. Is it that my two granddaughters have different genes and personalities? Or that they have different resiliences to adoption’s lies, half-truths and false assumptions? Or that they were raised in different environments with different histories? I’ve had only a first contact with her at this writing, so cannot yet answer these questions, but anticipate we’ll both have lots of questons…and answers that adoption would otherwise withhold, distort, or fabricate.
Books such as Joan Wheeler’s “Forbidden Family” are written to help break the cycle of adoption’s mistakes not only for themselves but also for future generations.
A few times over the past 10 years, I have met fathers who were raising their children after the death of their wife and the mother of their children. I was the outsider looking in at both of these families. As their stories unfolded, the loss of my mother so soon in my life was a shadow. Because of my adoption, I was not ever allowed to grieve for her loss in any way, so to hear and see these families cope with the death of a mother and spouse was painful for me, yet enlightening.
In both situations, the husband/father was clearly still in grief over the loss of his wife. Evidence of her was everywhere in the home: photographs, home decorations, crafts that she made, clothes still hung, shoes and boots still neatly arranged along with other family members’ footwear. Both of these men had lost their wives between 2 and 10 years in the past. Their grief, and their love for the wife who had died, showed clearly in their conversations, their wistful facial expressions, and their concern for their children who had lost their mother. In the one family, the children were older when their mother died and coped with her death by throwing themselves into schoolwork. They became achievers, goal-oriented, never-wavering in their path to success from high school to college and employment. In the other family, the youngest child never outgrew her mother’s loss, grieving to the point of near-suicide, over and over and over. Her wish to become a child psychologist to help other children cope with the death of a parent may never be realized until she goes through her grief and emerges on the other side, still in grief, but with strength to move forward with better coping skills. Falling back into grief is inevitable. It is how a person handles that grief — and rage — is what is important.
As for the fathers, the father in the first family is alive and well, and employed. The father in the second family is slowly dying from an autoimmune condition. His daughter sees this. She is imploding. As a child of ten, she witnessed her mother die, slowly, and, for the last several years, this now 20 year old has been watching her father slip away. She needs help, fast.
The process of death and dying is not easy. Family members react in different ways. Some block their feelings and funnel the energy into work. Others succumb to the grief and sink into deep, profound sadness, unable to climb back up to find a place for themselves. Others react in anger and rage and misdirect those negative feelings toward others.
Finding a place for oneself after the death of a spouse or parent can be done.
Twenty-five years ago, a father I knew as a friend had two teenagers, a boy and a girl. We were members of a community social dance troupe, studying Native American culture, song and dance. The teens fit right in and the girl and I grew close. We danced in my living room – Native dance beat on cassette tapes from our group’s singer/drummer, or even in rock music. (Led Zeppelin’s D’yer Maker, 1973, Reggae Rock) We held my toddler son, swung him around, as we danced. I was in my late twenties at the time. I did not think of this friendship as the profound friendship that it actually was: this fifteen year old looked up to me as a mother figure. I look back now to realize this, for she had lost her mother when she was two years old. It happened fast. Mother was dead in a flash in a car crash. The father, somehow, kept his children with him. He was a hard worker. And he loved the Native beat, so when he joined the Buffalo Indian Dancers, his teens loved the beat, too. We were whites who joined with Natives in mutual admiration and respect for a rich culture.
But what struck me most of this family was that the very essence of their grief in the death of the husband’s wife and the mother of his children was not stated outright. The story was told matter-of-factly, then, the kids joined the adults in social interaction. Not one person uttered the words “half orphan”.
Not one. Including me.
But then, one horrible night, the father fell asleep holding a lighted cigarette. I awoke that morning listening to the news on the radio. What a way to learn that my friend had died and his body was carried away in the freezing cold of a winter night, on a stretcher, with his teens watching in the street after they escaped that burning Riverside Buffalo apartment. Those kids were now full orphans.
That morning, I raced to the scene, but all was quiet. The fire was out, the apartment was vacant. The kids were taken to the Red Cross. Extended family took them in. The funeral was a shocker. I reached out as best I could to maintain a friendship with those teens, but they left Buffalo soon after high school graduation. Sue and Chris, if you read this, I am looking for you. Sue: you went to school with my younger brother and neither you nor I knew that at the time.
At the time of Sue and Chris’s father’s death in 1985, I had been reunited with my natural family for 11 years. I identified myself as a “found adoptee” or, put in other words, “an adoptee found by my natural family”. That point being emphasized: I did not search for my natural family: they found me. Not that I did not want to know them; I was at that time in 1974, beginning my search when they found me.
But I had no time in eleven years of reunion to focus on the loss of my mother to an early death. I did not identify myself as a “half orphan” until years later. The impact of those words did not have clear meaning for me. I would hear my adoptive mother talk about her life in the orphanage, or when we’d visit with her aging friends who were orphaned as children, I would listen to their stories, but did not understand how orphanhood affected me.
I had claimed the words “half orphan” to describe myself only within the last two years.
When you open your eyes and ears to really see and hear other people’s stories, the grief of losing a spouse to an early death, the grief of losing a mother or a father to an early death, is there. All one has to do is look and listen.
Compound that loss with adoption loss, and that spells traumatic psychological and emotional injury to the self. Trauma therapy helps; grounding, meditation, activities, schoolwork, working hard, playing hard, focusing on life goals, helps. The grief does not leave, but the person left behind after the death of a spouse or a parent must find a way to go through the pain.
It amazes me that people really do not understand this issue. Adoptees do not falsify their own documents. Adoptive parents do no falsify the documents. Natural parents do not falsify documents.
When a baby or a child is relinquished to adoption, that infant or older child maintains her/his birth certificate (and religious baptismal certificate) from birth. That is the child’s legal identity. That birth certificate names the parents who are responsible for creating that infant whose birth is recorded on the birth certificate: “Certificate of Live Birth”.
Only when an infant or older child has undergone the legal process of adoption, a six month or longer process, at the moment the Judge and the adopting parents sign the Final Order of Adoption, only then is the legal process set in motion to change the legal identity of that infant. This legal process takes from about 1 month to 3 months for the Judge’s Order to arrive in the hands of the Registrar of Vital Statistics. Then, the Registrar takes the information that the Judge sends over, and puts the new name of the child and the names of the adopting parents and the birth information onto a form that closely resembles the actual birth certificate. But this “new” birth certificate is not the exact same form. It is, however, a legal form. It is a legalized method of lying. It is a legal “Certificate of Live Birth”.
All adoptees have a legally falsified “Certificate of Live Birth” that states they were born to parents who did not create them biologically. The mother named on this “Certificate of Live Birth” did not give birth to that named child!
This is fraud perpetrated b y the government.
Fraud perpetrated by any Church (does not have to be Catholic, but in my case, is) to issue a certified religious document stating that an adopted child was baptised in the adoptive name is jiust that: fraud. If, on the other hand, a child is baptised AFTER an adoption, then that baptism is correctly done and correctly documented.
In my case, the Catholic Church falsifed my baptismal certificate to indicate that I was baptised in my adoptive name, which I was not. You will have to buy my book to see all of these documents clearly printed in black and white.
Adoptees are not guilty of fraud. The State and Federal Governments are guilty of fraud. It is time to put an end to adoption fraud.
Lori A at her blog, DNA Diaries, has an excellent post about how slowly she realized the issues surrounding adoptees’ fight to obtain a certified copy of their own true birth certificates.
In her post, Slowly Coming Around to a New Way of Thinking (Dec 16, 2009), Lori states “U.S. courts have ruled that there are no such things as ‘adoptee rights’. No rights exist in law or can be upheld in court. Let that soak in for a minute. No matter how old you get as an adoptee, there are still certain rights that do not and will not pertain to you, because of a decision that was made for you. You are disallowed certain rights that pertain to the non adopted, but there are no other rights that pertain to you under the law.”
And then, Lori states, “Then it slowly, over days, begins to sink in. When adoption started it was to hide the sins of an unwed mother and the embarrassment of infertile couples. As time goes on, it becomes more about privacy for the parents raising the adopted child. Now, it’s about my right to privacy as a damaged first parent. … Now I get it. They are using ME, my status to promote ‘their’ agenda.”
Yes, that’s right. Lori. They, The NCFA, and the ACLU, and the Catholic agenda, are all working against us to protect the rights of the unwed mother to remain in hiding. That not only is an inaccurate assessment of single mothers who lost their newborns to adoption, but it is a gross injustice to all adoptees. For we are punished for the “sins” of our parents, yet, many of us were born to married parents! I was. And then my mother died, making me a half orphan. A half orphan has rights. But then I was adopted and adoption overrode my first birth rights.
This is so important to beat-down the opposition, considering adoptive parents who are not in the know fall back on the rape-issue as an important tool/weapon/excuse/reason to keep their adoptees (and the rest of us adoptees who are not products of rape) from accessing their/our true birth certificates.
HalfOprhan56 – December 16, 2009
…. …. ….
My Response to the NCFA’s recent publication:
Balancing the Birthparent’s Right to Privacy
with the Adopted Persons’ Desire to Know”
by Marc Zappala
National Council For Adoption
Dear NCFA: One Size Does Not Fit All
Your organization does not speak for me, an adoptee reunited for 35 years. Nor do you speak for my adoptive parents, and you certainly do not speak for my natural parents. Your basic premise of protecting “the birthmother in hiding” has absolutely no applicable usefulness to my adoption whatsoever.
In your recent publication named above, you have not included the full spectrum of adoptees’ and natural parents’ experiences. Instead, you choose to focus on one small group of distraught birthmothers whom you claim need protection from being identified. Natural parents and adoptees come from many different family circumstances, so it is unwise to base all of your conclusions on just one aspect of adoption. By focusing on fear and intimidation, you are perpetuating the shame and guilt of pregnancy without marriage resulting in an illegitimately born infant. Flaunting terrified mothers-in-hiding whose infants were conceived of rape or incest shows your lack of concern for these mothers.
I find it interesting that you use a vulnerable group of childless mothers to achieve your goals. These women were so traumatized that they can’t face the horror of what was done to them, and what they had to sacrifice. Instead of seeking appropriate psychotherapy for coping with rape, incest, and unimaginable grief, their understandable rage is misdirected. They are under your direction. This small segment of birthmothers is held in high esteem by the NCFA (and religious Christian fanatics who claim to have superior morality). You use them as weapons against their own offspring! Worse yet, you use them as the galvanizing force to prevent all 6 or 7 million adoptees from achieving access to our true birth certificates. This is a grave injustice.
By being receptive to learning about the true-life situations of millions of adoptees and their natural families, your organization can foster healing and understanding. Not all adoptees are products of rape, incest, or not-married teenage mothers. Every adoptee has a natural father, too, but you don’t talk about fatherhood. Are you purposefully hiding the identities of fathers who impregnated unmarried mothers and ran away? You don’t take into account children who are adopted by stepparents, nor do you address the issues of older children adopted out of foster care. You certainly haven’t given any consideration to half or full orphans. Nor do you address relative adoption, in which, for example, grandparents adopt their daughter’s or son’s child. Each one of these situations has a variety of social openness.
No matter how open an adoption is, the adoptee’s birth certificate is always sealed and a falsified birth certificate is issued in its place. There is not one sentence or even one phrase in your recent publication that addresses the ethical, moral and legal complications of lying, committing fraud, and willfully withholding information to that adoptee who supposedly is loved by the adoptive parents. The only aspect of adoption you seem to caress with any passion is the perceived moral indignation of an exposed mother in hiding!
I’m just one adoptee, but you can learn a great deal from me, and others, if you open your minds and hearts. I’m a half-orphan, not an illegitimate. My mother died, so there is no fearful birthmother to “protect”. There are no secrets and there is no shame in my conception and birth. I’ve pointed this fact out in at least two private letters to the NCFA. You have chosen to ignore them with no response.
If you, the NCFA, can wave huge red flags with the token few birthmothers who refuse to get the proper counseling to cope with their specific needs, and then claim that they will dominate and take control over all adoptees’ civil and ethical rights, then I am going to raise holly hell about being a half-orphan! Orphans are a minority group within the larger adoptee population. No hiding birthmother for me! My natural mother is dead so she does not need your protection!
My natural father does not need you protection, either. He was never verbally promised confidentiality or privacy, nor was a written contract of such presented to him to sign. Instead, my 31-year-old father was verbally told to stay away from my adoptive parents. (My adopting parents, however, were not told to stay away from him! They needed protection from the possibility that he would interfere into their lives, yet, my natural father he did not get the assurance that they would not interfere in his life. They did, but for that story you will have to wait for the publication of my memoir.) The verbal promise my father made to the court to stay away from my adoptive parents and from me, was backed up by written court papers, signed by my natural father and my adopting parents. The Court Judge told my natural father that he could seek me out again, and establish a relationship with me, after my 18th birthday.
Yes, you read that right! Relinquishing mothers have been told that they will NEVER see their adopted-out children again!
Since my mother cannot speak for herself, I’ll speak for her. How does my mother feel looking through the Spirit World at her now adult children, knowing that her youngest was legally cast out of the family? How does she feel that no one, not even the Catholic Church, helped her husband keep the family together after her death? How does she, MY MOTHER, feel that HER RIGHT to be named as the mother of birth was taken from her? How does she feel about some other woman named on a record of false birth as the woman who gave birth to her child? I would guess that my mother is very sad, hurt, and confused. Common sense tells us that a person can be physically born only once, and yet, some other woman is now named on my only legal birth certificate as my mother by birth! That is a disgrace and a dishonor to the mother who actually carried me intimately inside her and then gave birth to me!
NCFA, you don’t seem to be concerned about the natural mothers (and fathers) who lose their rights to be named on a certified birth certificate for the child they gave birth to. Snarky people quip, “She gave up her parental rights!” No, my mother did not give up her rights at all. She died…of cancer… when I was three months old. My birth certificate was registered in the local Vital Statistics Office within five days after my birth. Yet, that certificate was stolen from me, and from my deceased mother, and from my distraught father, when New York State sealed my true birth certificate and issued a fake one!
My four full-blood siblings, who are also half-orphans, can get their birth certificates — but I cannot get mine. (No – this is not an invitation for them to jump on the bandwagon. I do not want them in my life. As has been previously stated, they are presently an unwelcome interference in my life and are certainly not wanted within the adoption reform community. Read my book to find out why.) The only difference between us is that I lost my legal right to be a part of that family. I lost the right to my birth certificate because adoption legally wiped out my identity and family.
Luckily for me, my natural father had my birth certificate, my baptismal certificate, and my hospital birth certificate. He gave these papers to my adoptive parents, who gave these papers to me after my siblings found me and exposed the secret my adoptive parents never wanted me to know. So I know what is behind the seal in the Vital Statistics Office in Buffalo City Hall, but I am still legally banned from ever asking for it and receiving it at the window.
For me, access to my birth certificate, and reunion with my natural family, is much more than finding the names of the people who created me. To see documented proof that I was born grounds me and connects me to the family I lost. And yes, identity formation of an adoptee certainly does include knowledge of the natural family from which the adoptee originated. To be denied this may seem trivial to some people, but when you don’t have the right to your birthrights, when you don’t have the needed validation of your physical self, there is a deep, psychic aching, a longing for connection.
Anything that criticizes your sanctimonious view of adoption should automatically be discredited by your organization and the pack of hateful natural mothers you carry with you. However, the short list of valuable authors listed above (there are many more)ought to be read by all people who are separated by, and connected by, adoption. The NCFA’s lack of knowledge in the life-cycle of adoptees, natural parents and adoptive parents and extended family on both sides, is frightening.
Adoptees have the psychological task of integrating their two identities. They have to come to terms with whatever transpired that was severe enough that they lost their first family. All adoptees have two sets of real parents, whether or not you want to admit that fact, it is fact! When you pit natural parents against their adopted-out daughters and sons, or arm adoptive parents with scare tactics, or treat adoptees as perpetual children, you are creating hostility between people who are intimately joined together by the adoptee in the middle! The emotional burden of sorting out the whys, the hows, the what ifs, the physical differences and awkwardness of being raised by a family that does not resemble the adoptee, grief and mourning the lost family, and so much more, all falls on the shoulders of the adoptee. Natural mothers suffer in ways most people can’t imagine, and yet, your organization promotes hate, fear, disgust.
Here’s a little background about me. I’m an adoptee from New York State who was found in 1974 by siblings I never knew. You, NCFA, can interpret that as a violation of my right to privacy, or, you can see that my four full-blood siblings wanted their baby sister so they found me. Yes, of course there are privacy issues of my adoptive parents who were never consulted. Also, my siblings did not consult with our father before they contacted me. Remember, this was 1974. No one really knew how to proceed.
I joined the Adoption Reform Movement within that first year of reunion.
In the very early 1980s, when the New York State Adoption Registry was just a bill, our local adoptees’ support group began a letter campaign against it. By 1983, I became the leader of the local support group. Many members wanted more emotional support, while others wanted to continue to fight against the Mutual Consent Registry. I wrote to then-Senator Anthony Masiello frequently, and he wrote back. Through this personal approach, I was able to get one man to understand deeper issues of adoption. Then I got married, had children, so my activism tapered off. When the Registry Bill became law, I wrote to the Editor of our local newspaper voicing my objections. A scanned copy of that published editorial is printed above.
In addition to what’s stated in that editorial, in my letters to Senator Masiello, I wrote that the Registry would not be of any use to me. My mother was deceased and could not give her consent to the release of any information, non-identifying or identifying. Even though I had had a reunion and knew all there was to know for 9 years before the bill became law, I did have an 11 year old half brother who lived with my natural father and his mother, my step mother. Because of this, I would have to wait until he reached age 21 before I could apply to the Registry. But I knew my blood-kin. There was nothing to hide! The Mutual Consent Registry simply was not at all helpful to me in any way.
I also pointed out to Senator Masiello that the required written parental permission would have to be obtained from both of my adoptive parents, and my natural father, and all three would have to pay their fees and file to the Registry. I was outraged that, at age 28, I had to ask my parents’ permission to gain information on myself, and my adoption, from the New York State Reunion Registry. Even if I had obtained written parental permission from three parents, the fact that my natural mother was dead and could not provide her written consent, her death would prevent me from being granted any information, even after paying the adoptees’ higher fees than the parents’ fees.
When I had my second child, I could not keep up the fight against this ridiculous law. A few years went by. I learned that a political action group in another city was successful in taking parental permission out of the Registry law. Finally! Validation that in every aspect of life, when a person reaches the age of majority, that person is free from parental control and does not need written parental permission to do anything!
I never filed with the New York State Reunion Registry. Instead, I petitioned Surrogate’s Court to unseal my adoption records. It was a long, drawn out procedure, but successful. The Judge gave me photocopies of most of my sealed adoption papers because I had proven that I had known my natural father and my siblings for over twelve years. But I still did not gain access to my sealed birth certificate.
The Surrogate Court Judge who presided over my adoption in 1957 knew that my mother died and that her death notice was public record, yet he proceeded with my adoption as if it were completely closed. On the day of finalization, the judge ordered my birth certificate in the Vital Statistics Office in Buffalo City Hall to be sealed from me and anyone else. He then ordered a new birth certificate to be made in my adoptive name with my adoptive parents named as parents by birth. Then, he sealed my adoption papers in Erie County Hall in downtown Buffalo, New York.
My four older siblings can get certified copies of their birth certificates; I cannot get mine. The only difference is that I am adopted and they are not. This is pure discrimination — not based upon circumstances of an illegitimate birth, not based upon implied “privacy and confidentiality protection” for my deceased natural mother to keep me from learning her identity, not based upon implied “privacy and confidentiality protection” for my natural father to keep me from learning his identity — but based solely upon my status as an adoptee.
I do not have the same equal rights to a certified copy of my true birth certificate issued within five days after my birth as my siblings do to theirs, or as anyone else has to their birth certificate. Instead, I have a New York State certified copy of a record of false birth. This record of false birth (officially titled Certificate of Birth, and Certificate of Live Birth) fraudulently states that I was born to parents who actually adopted me.
To correct this legalized fraud, I demand immediate access to, and a certified copy of, my true Certificate of Birth (both the short form and the long form), and the immediate revocation of my phony birth certificate. In its place, I demand a truthful adoption certificate, with complete facts of adoption, including the naming of my parents by adoption, certified as true by New York State.
For all the conspiracy theorists who warn that giving adoptees a certified copy of their true birth certificate would give adoptees freedom to commit fraud because they then would have two forms of ID in two different names, I need to remind you that I had been given my original birth certificate by my adoptive mother just a few days after being newly reunited with my siblings. I was 18 years old at the time. I am 53 years old now. I have never presented my certified original birth certificate to do anything illegal. I know my name was changed legally, and I know right from wrong.
To the larger issue, I say: change the law. Make it mandatory on a Federal level that adoptees need both the true Certificate of Birth and the Certificate of Adoption to prove identity and citizenship. This is how it is done in more progressive countries, such as The Netherlands. Dutch adoptive parents fully accept the truth. Dutch adoptees have full knowledge of their birth and adoption, and they have both: their certificate of birth and their certificate of adoption. That is an equitable, honest, and moral method of recording adoptees’ births and adoptions. Change the law and social attitudes will change.
Women were jailed and beaten to gain the right to vote in 1920. Blacks rioted in the 1950s and 1960s to gain civil rights equality with Whites. The Adoption Reform began in 1953, but we have yet to see full equality for American adoptees to gain back their civil rights to their own birth certificates and an accurate adoption certificate.
In the past 35 years of being in reunion and having my true birth certificate and true baptismal certificate, along with my legal birth certificate that states that I was born to a woman who did not give birth to me, and a baptismal certificate in my adoptive name that states that the person named was baptized three years before that person legally existed, I find it amazing that many other people are confused by my identities.
I, however, am not confused. It is troubling to view my true and falsified documents, but I know who I am, and I know my legal name prior to adoption. I know my religious name prior to adoption. Actually,my religious name will always be Doris Michol Sippel because, according to the Catholic Church, once baptized, a person is always that name in the eyes of God.
Because I have these documents, people assume all kinds of nasty things about me. They assume that I falsified my own documents. Some people have accused me of fraud. Some people are so confused themselves about who I am that they argued with me because they could not warp their brain around my life’s complexities.
It is not the fault of reunion, nor is it that my adoptive mother threw my sealed birth records and adoption decree at me three days into my telephone reunion in 1974, that caused this “identity” problem for me. Opening up adoptees’ sealed records will not cause otherwise intelligent adoptees to go into a tale-spin. The identity confusion for the adoptee comes in when the adoptee realizes that the government is at fault. Changing an adoptee’s birth certificate is inherent within the process of legally adopting an adoptee. It is part of the legal documentation of the exchange of that baby or older child from one set of parents to the other set of parents. The parents do not change the infant’s name: they do not cause the legal incongruities — the court and Registrar of Vital Statistics do that.
However, adoptive parents come to accept, expect, and eagerly await their new adoptee into their lives and with the receipt of that baby, they (the adopting parents) wait for the “new” amended birth certificate to arrive in the mail. This “new” birth certificate “proves” that they are the child’s new parents! The “old” parents now no longer exist, so adoptive parents develop an attitude of Entitlement over their adoptee.
But they forget: they would not be ADOPTIVE parents if it were not for the conception and birth of that infant to another set of parents.
When we get to the point of telling the truth in both adoptive-parent-to-adoptee relationships and on the documents that record adoptions (a falsified birth certificate should actually be a Certificate of Adoption), then this adoptee who sometimes feels like an impostor in her own life, will be happy.
Truth in adoption and reproductive technologies needs to happen.
In the lifespan of an adoptee, it is necessary to look at the whole picture. The adoptee grows up within an adoptive family. That includes the adoptive parents’ sisters and brothers who are the adoptee’s aunts and uncles. There are cousins who are older and cousins who are younger. There are children of the older cousins, who are second cousins to the adoptee. These children grow up together and form emotional attachments. Such is family life. (See the book: Adoption and the Family System, 1992, by Miriam Reitz and Kenneth W. Watson.)
Those attachments are not broken when an adoptee is reunited with their biological kin. If there is genuine caring and understanding, those adoptive kinship feelings do not change. The adoptee does not swap feelings for the adoptive over to the reunited family of birth. Rather, the adoptee somehow integrates the “new” people into her life. And integrates the new “self”, which is also her biological self and family of origin. There are more relatives to reunite with than the parents of birth and siblings. Aunts, uncles, cousins — the usual extended family.
When one looks at the lifespan of an adoptee, it is necessary to look at the family developments and development of self though the life span. Young adulthood, marriage, children, aging and dying parents, middle age complications of divorce, changing or ending jobs, and aging of oneself. There is also the ebb and flow of relationships. Reunion does not happen with one event. It is a process that continues throughout the adoptee’s life. Relationships may end with some relatives, but there are continuing relationships, and surprising new ones as well.
I have found biological kin that I have had long-time relationships with that no one else knows about within other reunited relationships. I have social circles that are separate from my natural father, my adoptive mother, my step siblings, my three sisters whom I do not want involved in my life. I enjoy close emotional ties to blood kin distant cousins for over 20 years.
In my extended adoptive family, there are relatives who have not been aware of the drama that has been going on. These relatives have not caused pain and have not been involved in spreading rumors.
From my childhood cousinship relationships, I have learned:
Step families can and do flourish with love and open communication and laughter.
New Step families bring in new children to play with. There was no distinction. We added the new cousins right in with the old ones. Because we were kids.
Families who broke off and went their own directions for decades and who have touched base again, are renewing childhood emotional bonds. Some of us have not seen each other since childhood and are brought together in middle age due to parents dying. We are re-discovering what we meant to each other as children. We are forming continued relationships as middle aged adults.
So, adoption kinship does not end when there is a reunion between an adoptee and her natural family. I have said this since 1974 when I was 18 years and newly reunited, and I continue to say it: every adoptee has two sets of real parents. Deal with it. Adoptees must deal with it or live in denial. How other relatives deal with it is their own choice. An adoptee who searches for natural parents must conduct a search with responsibility and caring. Biological kin who search for and find an adoptee must do the same.
I was found by siblings I knew nothing about. Adding my reunited biological kin back into my life, and adding new biological kin in the decades that followed the initial stages of reunion, in no way destroys adoptive family kinship. The adoptee is in the middle and struggles with dual identity. It is a life process.
I do wish people would understand this about my adoption: it is not my reunion that “went bad” because there is much more to reunion than just a few relationships. My sisters are unto themselves, yet I had a reunion with multple people and still do. Reunion and adoption is about telling the truth to the adoptee. For the complete story, as it unfolded, read my book!
The real issue in my adoption is this: my natural father relinquished me under duress. He did not know he gave me to an adoptive family that made up their own rules about contact, what would be allowed to the older generations and other certain select relatives, and not to the father who relinquished his daughter to them, nor to his daughter, the adoptee, herself. My father’s rights were violated by adoptive relatives who deemed themselves to have control over my adoption and my life.
Meanwhile, my father was not aware that meddling relatives from his deceased wife’s family would spread filty lies about him killing his wife and that he “could not stand the sight of me” that’s why he “got rid of me”. THAT was the content of hate mail sent to me for decades from anonymous letters whom I suspect are members of my extended adoptive family who listened to these lies and beleived them.
My natural father was told by the court to stay away from me during the 18 years of my childhood. He did. He did not want me to be confused. But the inference of meddling extended family cause plenty of rumors and hate. I was hunted down like an animal (by adopted realtives) because I dared to accept my father back into my life in 1974. And I dared to write articles in the paper defending adoptees’ right to know the truth. Hunted down, tracked down, by adoptive relatives who did not like the fact that I was in reunion with a father that they hated, but I was not ever supposed to know him or like him or love him. Nor was I supposed to know any of my blood relatives, but certain members of my adoptive family deemed themselves worthy of socializing with my blood kin, while keeping me away from my own blood kin.
Why? Because the myth of adoption says that the adoptee must never be told the truth, or must never know the parents who gave them life.
That is what happened in my life: My adoptive relatives broke the adoption contract signed between my natural father and my adoptive parents. My father relinquished me to their care, firmly believing that I would be protected from a confusing life. It is not his fault that other relatives prevented him form knowing what was really going on for 18 years to his daughter that they were keeping a close eye on. Keep the father away from his daughter. Keep the adoptee away from her father and her siblings, but we will watch the adoptee and take notes on her as she grows into an adult.
Family secrets. Violation of a confidential and private adoption court proceeding between two sets of parents over the relinquishment and adoption of an unsuspecting adoptee.
Reunion gone bad? Adoption not right from the start. Whose privacy violated? Mime. And my father’s privacy.
My reunion is still going on folks…I still have relationships with other relatives. The adoptee is in the middle and suffers because of the prejudice against adoptees in the larger society.