Finally Sending Off For My Original Birth Certificate After 47 Years!

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’s torture.

It’s inhumane.

It isn’t kind.

It’s vile.

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.

From the #simplepieceofpaper initiative in 2012

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.

*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

Dead Man Walking

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I began searching for my birth family as soon as I found out I was adopted around 5 years old. Everywhere I went, I was searching for HER, my birth mother. As I reached my early 20’s I had already found my birth mother.  

But what about HIM? 

Where was my birth father…

When I asked my birth mother who my birth father was she said, “He didn’t know anything about you, and he wouldn’t want to!” She refused to give me any information, and that was that. I learned quickly if I wanted her in my life, I better never ask about him again. 

Soon after our very first meeting, she shut me out and I never heard from her again. I was heartbroken. I didn’t give up and I still very much wanted to learn who my birth father was. Occasionally I would call her home, to see if she would answer but she never did. Her husband answered on one occasion and we had a brief conversation. What did I have to lose?

I was never giving up in finding my truth. 

He expressed knowing who my birth father was, but that he was sorry to tell me he had passed away, and he heard that he had been shot many years ago. I asked him his name, but he said he couldn’t remember. He said there was no reason I needed it because he didn’t exist in this world, he was gone, forever. 

This was in 1996 when we didn’t have the internet, social media or DNA testing. Believing my birth father was dead never set well with my spirit. Deep down in my heart, I said to myself, “If he’s dead I still want to know his name, and I still want to see his grave.” I was never giving up on finding him, until I found my truth. 

No one would help me.

No one supported me. 

 I was up against the world and the legal closed adoption system. Born in the state of Iowa, these laws have been sealed since July 4, 1941. That was 79 years ago. This is 79 years of adult adoptees fighting against the grain for their truth.  It’s 79 years of living lies. It’s 79 years of secrecy and shame with adoptees plagued by the stigma attached to unplanned pregnancies, paying the price of this life sentence and even when we find our truth, the magnitude of the loss impacts every area’s of our lives. 

And we’ll find our truth If we’re lucky that is. 

Over 20 years had passed of no contact and I received a Facebook message my birth mother had passed away. I made the choice to go to her funeral, after I was invited by my birth sister. In 2011 I buried the woman I met once, who I dreamed of knowing my entire life. This was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I was introduced as “The daughter she gave up for adoption” and invisible from her obituary as if I didn’t even exist. It was beyond hard. 

Being surrounded by her friends & family, I started asking questions. I was able to get confirmation of who my birth father was, who his family was and how he was tied in to my birth mother. I was told he was a friend of the family, and he was about 10 years older than my birth mother. He lived off the land, with his brothers and parents all living in Leon, Iowa close to the Missouri border. I was told he was married at the time of my conception, and he knew nothing about my existence. But the real question was, IS HE STILL ALIVE?

“Yes, yes he’s very much still alive.” said a friend of my birth mother. 

So you mean to tell me I was told he had passed away, but that was a lie? That’s very much the way the story goes in my journey. It happens to adoptees all the time! The same trip to Iowa for my birth mother’s funeral was the same trip I drove to Leon, Iowa and showed up at my birth father’s doorstep.  

I will never forget November 11, 2011 arriving at his door and seeing his face for the first time in my life. It was a surreal experience. The man I had been told was dead, was very much alive, walking and talking. The internal nagging and turmoil of the unknown had come to an end, and I was looking at his face. Our visit lasted about an hour. He expressed he knew nothing about me, but if he knew about me he would have kept me. He wasn’t accepting of me, and over the last 9+ years I’ve given up hope on us having a relationship. 

I now have my truth. 

I know my truth. 

I have seen my truth for MYSELF.

I had to fight like hell to get it.

I would like to encourage my fellow adoptees to keep searching even when you’ve been told they have passed away.  Don’t give up! I encourage you to get DNA testing to make sure the person you’ve been told is your biological family FIRST. And if you’ve been told they have passed, I wouldn’t believe it until you know by DNA that’s your people, and then you are standing over their grave. 

I’ve seen countless adoptees be given falsified information by the adoption agencies, time and time again. I’ve seen outlandish stories written in identifying and non-identifying information that’s turned out to be completely false in attempts to throw the adoptee off from finding their people. I’ve seen this same paperwork say the biological father has died in a tragic accident yet they are found very much alive. 

I’ve seen it all.

Many adoptions are rooted and grounded in secrecy and lies. 

Please don’t believe what you are told. Verify with DNA your father is who they say he is. If you’ve been told he’s passed away, never give up until you are standing over his grave, but ONLY if this is the person who your DNA says your father is. This goes the same for biological mothers but it seems with many of them relinquishing without our fathers consent, it’s usually our fathers we’re told are dead, vs. our mothers. 

 We know DNA is changing the game for adoptees. If you are still searching, I truly hope you find the answers you are looking for. Everyone on earth deserves to know where they come from. Don’t give up! 

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Mirror, Mirror – Mi Amor

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Something about a MIRROR has always been extraordinarily symbolic to me. From the beginning of my life, the mirror brought me great sadness and pain, as I looked at myself I had no idea who or what was looking back at me. I would look at my face, and watch tears drop to the bathroom countertops, wondering if anyone on this entire planet cared about the pain I was carrying not knowing who I was or where I came from? 

The little girl, robbed of her ancestry and culture, I grew up clueless of who I was and where I came from, the basic human right most people take for granted. I remember seeing myself, feeling hollow inside. Not knowing my truth kept me in bondage, dying inside. 

As I grew up, looking in the mirror grew exceptionally painful and in my early teenage years I started to develop a deep rooted hate for the girl that was looking back at me. She was ugly, unwanted, abandoned and rejected by the two people that should love her the most, her biological parents. This self hate manifested in many ways, and self love was non-existent. 

I couldn’t love myself and hate myself at the same time. Self hate, lead to harmful and reckless choices, and my life is filled with them. I don’t believe in “No regrets, just lessons learned.” That’s what the world wants me to believe, but I don’t feel that way at all. I have so many regrets, and yes, many lessons learned. 

As I grew into a young woman and had kids of my own, I was able to step outside of the way I feel about myself, and love my children to the best of my ability but self love has still been nonexistent for most of my life. 

When did things change for me? 

When I found my truth. 

The hard core raw, heartbreaking truth is what allowed me to begin the process of looking in the mirror from a different lense. In order for my spirit to be at peace, I needed to see the faces of both of my birth parents, so I can see the reflection of myself I had never seen in my entire life. In this process, I learned about them. I heard stories, I learned similarities we shared, and things we didn’t share. I learned that in many ways, I was so much like them, but other ways I was nothing like them. 

This process allowed me to see things FOR MYSELF, instead of adoption trying to PROTECT ME FROM MYSELF. This was life or death for me, and it’s life or death for most adoptees. It’s a NATURAL desire to want to see who we look like, so we can get a better understanding of who’s looking at us when we see the hollow person looking in the mirror. 

The mirror has brought me great pain most of my life, but because I’ve fought like hell to get my truth, I can now look in the mirror and I know who I am. Slowly, over the last 15 years or so, the sadness I once felt has turned into sorrow, and then grief, loss and processing. The self hate, from the unknown has slowly turned into self love. It didn’t happen overnight. It’s taken years of recovery, therapy, self reflecting, self work, self help, and lots of tears, grief, loss, anger, rage, and WORK! 

I truly know that the KEY for me, and been the TRUTH. While so many others are celebrating valentine’s day, I’m celebrating the fact that I no longer hate what I see when I look in the mirror. I’m celebrating the fact that now that I can see myself as a reflection of my biological parents, I no longer feel the hate for myself that I always did. I’m celebrating that now that I can see myself, in the MIRROR and love what I see, that allows me to be able to love others the way they need to be loved. I’m celebrating the fact that when I look in the mirror today, I see a strong, independent woman who’s gone through a lot in life, who fought every step of the way. I see a woman who is alive, even when adoption tried to kill me with secrecy and lies. 

Mirror, Mirror – Mi Amor. 

Today I look in the mirror and I see MY LOVE looking back at me. The one who’s always been there, the one who I should have been searching for all along, MYSELF. I see the one who’s never left me, the one who’s been 110% dependable, the one who keeps me company in the dark moments. I see the one who I love to be alone with, and the one who’s pretty. I see a woman who’s a mom, who loves her kids. I see a woman who wants to be happy and healthy so her kids and future grand-kids will never experience what she did in the mom area. I see imperfections, maybe even a dirty mirror and messy hair? But most importantly I see the imperfect truth.  I’m no longer looking in the mirror at secrecy and lies, looking at an adoptee internally dying. 

Mirror, Mirror – Mi Amor come and see. 

The truth is what I needed to see I’m not like any of them & I learned to love me. 

Happy Valentines Day to YOU and to ME!

EVERY ADOPTEE DESERVES TO KNOW THEIR TRUTH, EVERYONE DESERVES TO KNOW WHERE THEY COME FROM! 

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