[This post originally published by Rebecca Hawkes at Love Is Not a Pie on 2/18/13]
I registered my daughter for a new soccer league the other day, one that requires that we show her birth certificate as proof of age.
“Oh, can I see it?” she asked, with excitement in her voice, when she saw me with the copy in my hands.
I hesitated. This was it: the moment when I had to tell my daughter that the primary legal document of her life, the one she will be required to produce for identification purposes countless times throughout her life, is a big fat lie.
Ashley, who joined our family by way of foster care and is now our legally adopted daughter, knows and has regular contact with her biological mother. She has also seen the hospital records of her birth. She has read the minute by minute description of her first moments on the planet. Among other things, the record indicates that she was placed on her mother’s stomach and that “bonding was noted.”
The family later came into crisis and Ashley and her sister ended up in the foster system, but that was years down the road. All indications are that my daughter’s first moments of life were touchingly sweet and all about the bonding of a mother and child. But I only have the hospital records and the stories her original mother has told me to go on. Because, here’s the thing: I wasn’t there. It would be another eight years before I would even meet this amazing child whom I would come to love.
But there I was the other day, standing in front her, holding a document that lists me as her mother and my husband as her father as though we had been her parents all along. History rewritten.
I took a deep breath and explained to her about amended birth certificates. I talked about the current laws and how I disagreed with them. I told her about the adoptee rights movement and the demonstration I was hoping to attend in Atlanta this summer.
“Can I come, too?” she asked.
We continued our conversation as we drove to the soccer registration.
“I’m not too upset about the birth certificate,” she said, “but the thing is, I’m kind of a fan of the truth, and this just isn’t it.”
Well said, my dear!
When I posted on facebook that my daughter and I were both hoping the attend the Atlanta demonstration, one of my adoptee friends noted that very few adoptive parents have shown up regularly to support the cause of adoptee rights.
Really? That’s disappointing news.
I’ll be demonstrating in Atlanta as both an adoptee and an adoptive parent, and I’d love to see more adopted parents get involved in the adoptee rights movement. When we take on the role of adoptive parent, we take on many unique responsibilities in addition to the usual parental jobs. We take on, for example, the job of guiding and supporting the adoptee as they make sense of what it means to be a member of more than one family, of finding and forging personal identity within a complex and atypical family structure. We also take on the job of parenting someone who belongs to a class of people whose rights are legally compromised. In most U.S. states, adoptees do not have the right of access to the same personal legal documents as other citizens. This is discrimination.
I am currently working on the logistics. If I can work it out, both my daughter and I will be in Atlanta on August 12 because we are fans of the truth. I hope to see you there!
About the author:
Rebecca Hawkes is an adult adoptee who was able to obtain a copy of her original birth certificate from her home state of Maine, an open-access state since 2009. Her two daughters also have amended birth certificates (as a result of foster and step-parent adoptions) and were born in a state that does not yet offer unrestricted access to original records. Rebecca writes about adoption at www.rebeccahawkes.com.