Today is January 1, 2022. I never thought the day would get here where I could finally say that I could apply to receive my original birth certificate from the Iowa Department of Public Health. But unfortunately, most non-adopted people don’t know that most adopted individuals from the USA (and other countries) don’t have their Original Birth Certificates, so I am here to explain things a bit.
While I am eternally grateful for the opportunity and all the hard work in getting this law changed, for some reason, I thought I would be able to do this online, so when I went online to do it this morning, I was a bit disappointed that I had to download forms, fill them out, get them notarized by a notary and mail them off with a $15.00 money order. Uggh. I hate to complain, but after waiting 47 years, I hoped it would be an online and much quicker process but it is the way it is and I can’t change it. The documents need notarized so I get it.
Nonetheless, I am still satisfied that I will have this completed by Monday, 1/3/22, and my request will be in a sealed envelope on its way to IDPH!
Some people who aren’t adopted might not understand what something like this means for an adoptee like myself. Of course, I can’t speak for everyone, but this is one of the most important events of my life. I know most of my fellow adoptees get it, but for others, I figured I might share a little about why this is such a milestone event and what it means to me to get my original birth certificate. I’ve been fighting the good fight for 47 years!
Back to 5 years old, I have been dreaming about the woman who gave me life. Who was she, what did she look like, did I know her, where could I find her? Was she looking for me? Questions plagued my mind every day of my life. So I started searching for her everywhere I went, all the way back to the beginning of knowing she existed.
When someone is adopted, their original birth certificate is sealed away by the state, and a new “Certificate of Live Birth” is issued to the adoptive parents with the biological parent’s information redacted. Then, it’s replaced with the adoptive parent’s information. This is to protect the identity of the birth parents and to eliminate the adoptee from ever finding out who they are. Unfortunately, this is one of the areas where the deception in adoption begins, and it only gets deeper and deeper as the years pass. This is one of the many reasons I can’t support the adoption industry. I can’t support secrecy, lies, and half-truths.
Can you imagine not knowing who your mother and father are?
I know you can’t because it’s unimaginable.
It isn’t kind.
It’s awful and cruel.
I was a persistent adoptee. I didn’t care who I hurt trying to find my truth because none of them cared how much relinquishment trauma, adoption trauma and secrets hurt me. I tell people on a scale of 1 to 10, and 1 being an adoptee with minor issues and 10 being an adoptee with many problems, I was at about 10,000 and off the charts with my adoptee issues. There has never been anything positive about adoption in my world. I can’t even think of ANYTHING positive that came out of it for me. Nothing. I have tried to think of things, but it has always bothered me to my core.
I didn’t bond with my adoptive mom, and being forced to bond with her was a traumatic experience for me. I was unfortunately stuck with her for legal reasons. So, as a result, I acted out in many ways, and I hated my life, I hated the world, and I have wanted to die more than I have wanted to stay alive. Why? Because the pain from my story has been so great that it almost killed me many times over.
The simple piece of paper has held the keys to my healing, and because I haven’t had it for 47 years, my healing has stalled because of it. I am one of the fortunate adoptees who pushed and pushed my way around because I was not taking “NO” for an answer when it came to finding my biological family. They told me no, I pushed harder. I was stalled, lied to, gaslit, and experienced so much emotional abuse because I wanted to know who my fucking parents were. It was and is abusive, and so many adoptees experience this abuse just because we want our information and sometimes we experience just because we are alive!
I finally found both my biological parents, only to be rejected by both of them ten years apart. This broke my heart, and I was once convinced that was what would kill me. I was going to die of a broken heart.
The birth certificate for me is a seal of the deal. It’s the last missing puzzle piece to my story, and although I was one of the fortunate ones to find my biological people, I still want the first piece that I will ever have to my story. I don’t have a birth story. I don’t have happy memories or things from the first days of my life. But I have my original birth certificate. It’s a piece of me, and it’s a part of my story. The government has said I can’t have it for 47 years.
Some of the things that I am asking myself about my OBC are, I wonder if my birth mother named me? I wonder if it will have my birth father’s name on it? I wonder if it will have my time of birth and confirm my birth date? I wonder if I will get any other information, like health history or additional value notes? I wonder if I will even get it? What if I’m the exception and they don’t have it or can’t find it? What if they send it to me and it’s blank?
These are my obsessive thoughts, which I suspect many adoptees think about relating to the unknown. When someone doesn’t have the truth, we’re left to wonder, dream, fantasize, and even obsess about thoughts of who our biological family is and where they are. As if that isn’t punishment enough, many of us suffer from wondering if we are dating one of our very own siblings or cousins!
Adoption is INHUMANE.
I have had three significant milestones in my life, and that’s the birth of the three amazing humans I brought into the world. The next is the ability to gain access to my original birth certificate! The idea that the government can keep this from me, and it’s something that belongs to me, is revolting.
It’s damaging, and it hurts.
I had the honor of being invited to Des Moines, Iowa, in May 2021 to be present for Governor Kim Reynold’s bill signing that enacts a law for many adult adoptees to gain access to their original birth certificates. I was over the moon and so thrilled that I could attend. Here’s an article I wrote about it. My Sentiments on Iowa Bill HF855. When I showed up in Iowa, I decided to wear yellow as a sign of remembrance for all the adoptees who passed away before ever receiving their truth.
From the bottom of my heart, I can honestly say that gaining access to my original birth certificate is something I would never be alive to see. I have fantasized about this my entire life. I can’t help but ponder all the people who passed away before receiving their original birth certificates. I also think of all the people who will just be finding their biological family but find out their biological parents have passed away. The reality is, no adopted person should be withheld from knowing who their biological parent is, ever. And to be completely frank, no one adopted or not should have to live without knowing who their biological parent/s are. It really can and does do an unmeasurable amount of damage, and it can and does last a lifetime. It also reverberates through future generations.
While I’m learning after I mail this request off, I will then have to wait 6-8 weeks before I receive my OBC in the mail. Let me share something with you about the mail. When I found my birth mother in 1995, she promised to write me and send me pictures. I was so excited to see what she looked like and her handwriting. I was dying to know her thoughts or if she had any sentiments to share. You know, something sweet for the daughter she gave away 21 years earlier. I checked the mail every day; I met the mailman at the box most days because I watched for him. Days passed, followed by weeks and months. She lied; she didn’t keep the agreement. I was crushed, and still to this day, every day I walk to the mailbox, I think of her, and all those days I waited, and I never got anything.
I think waiting on my OBC might be triggering because of this, and because as an adopted person, I have spent my whole life WAITING on her to come back or to change her mind about me. So I am not sure how I will handle the next 6-8 weeks, but I will do it the only way I know-how. Relish in plenty of self-care, and stay busy. Idol time isn’t my friend.
I’ve decided I will likely get together with my kids, and they can be with me as I open it. I might invite two close friends. I am sure I will be an emotional basket case, but I am ready to get this chapter behind me. No matter what I get back in the mail or how this turns out, this will likely be the last chapter of my search, the final clue I collect, and the last piece to my puzzle. Of course, I can never say never, but these are my thoughts now.
Interestingly, my OBC is something I’m gaining access to at 47 years old, and it’s a significant tangible piece to my truth and the beginning of my life. However, if I’m lucky, my life is likely half over, and I’m just now getting this simple piece of paper. Just wow.
I hope in 2022, more people who aren’t adopted get on board for advocating for equal access for every single adult adopted person to be able to gain access to what’s rightfully theirs, and that’s their original birth certificate. Every state needs to change these laws, and every adopted person deserves to know who they are and where they came from.
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*The views and opinions expressed in this article are that of the author, Pamela A. Karanova. Reproduction of the material contained in this publication may be made only with the written permission of Pamela A. Karanova