birth certificate and finalization

May 7, 2013 § 27 Comments

This is something I started writing a few weeks ago.

Well, this is an embarrassing story to tell, but I didn’t know how sealed the original birth certificate was. I should have known that “sealed” means “lost forever.” For some reason, though, I thought there was a chance I could get a copy of it. A few weeks ago, I tried searching around the internet to find out if I could obtain the original one. I couldn’t find a precise law about the way that it worked. I know the original OBC is sealed, but I didn’t know if it was sealed from me. I put in a request anyway and just decided to see. Now, I know people are probably thinking, “jeez Ariel, of course you can’t get the birth certificate” and I knew there was a chance of that. But I also thought there was a chance of getting it. It’s just another depressing trinket for the wooden box in my closet, right? Nothing important.

I was surprised by how much it hurt to not get the birth certificate. It’s one more thing that makes our connection less tangible. The lady from the Office of Vital Records called me a few days after I submitted the request, saying she couldn’t find it. She sounded baffled. I said, “Okay, never mind then” because I knew exactly why she couldn’t find it.

“Well, was he born here or somewhere else?” the lady pressed. I told her he was born here, but he was adopted in [state name] and his parents named him [full name].

“And are you the…birthmom?” “Yes.”

After a moment, she said, “I found that entry. The adoption was finalized on February 12th. You can get the birth certificate up until it finalizes, and then it’s sealed. I’m sorry, they should’ve told you.”

Yes, indeed, “they” should have told me a lot of things. I didn’t ask her to, but she was nice enough to refund my money back on my card. They technically could have kept it because you pay a “search fee” when you request a birth certificate.

Of course, the record existed openly within my reach for 6 months, and it still exists somewhere, in an encrypted, court order protected kind of way. But if the lady working at the Office of Vital Records can’t find it, it’s the exact same thing as if that paper was burned. As if that part of the baby’s life with me and David was erased. I’ve read 1984 several times, and I’m reminded of the rewriting of records, the alteration of deleted people as “unpersons,” and the incineration of original documents. The original birth certificate, in the memory hole. The birth name, unimportant. My name and David’s name were on the lines that specified “mother” and “father,” on a document that existed for 6 months, and I never got to see it.

And the baby has a new name, officially. I named him after David, because I love the name and David’s dad (the birth grandpa) is also a David.  I really shouldn’t have picked a meaningful name. It hurt a lot more when C and L chose a different first name for him. It’s sort of amazing, how stupid I was then. Aside from hating that they changed his name, I hate the name itself. It makes me think of Harvey the giant rabbit. It’s just a stupid name, especially with their last name.

I’m over the birth certificate thing, now. I don’t need it. What’s one more reminder that I have no connection to the baby? We are not together, and that alone is a loud enough reminder. I do feel bad that I could’ve gotten the original birth certificate, if I had thought of it, but it never occurred to me. He probably won’t care about having it in the future, but if he does, I’ll have let him down. In yet another way.

The mentions of adoption finalization made me sad, too. I had to remind myself that it has nothing to do with me, because my parental rights were terminated one day after birth, effective immediately upon signing. Being an unparent was already as final as it gets. It had to do with C and L becoming his legal parents. I wondered how that went. They must’ve been excited. They must’ve dressed up to go to court and celebrated afterwards. I wouldn’t know.

It’s weird to think how, up until that point, the agency was still having regular contact with them and checking in. The agency didn’t contact me after I left the hospital. I wonder what they’d say if C and L asked about me. I have no doubt they would’ve fed them lies about how well I’m doing. I wonder how long it would take them to find out if I died, or if they would assume that I disappeared. I suddenly realized that if something ever happened to one of them, I would certainly find out on my own, but no one would tell me and I would not find out very quickly. It’s better not to wonder about that.


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§ 27 Responses to birth certificate and finalization

  • lovingmotherofmany says:

    I know this pain so well. :( I didn’t think to try to get my 2nd sons birth certificate until after the 3rd was born. That was when I found out it didn’t exist at all. I honestly thought there would be 2. The one with my name and the one after adoption. I was shocked! But believe it or not, they kept his name the same excerpt for the last name. The lady that got the birth certificate was holding it when she asked me ” was his last name F____ when he was born?” I responded that it wasn’t and asked if I tell her my name can she tell me if that is the mother’s name. Instead she told me the mother’s and fathers name. I left without it. But since they had not asked for my ID, I went back 3 weeks later and got his amended birth certificate. Everything was the same excerpt the last name and the address. But that it’s how I found my son. They were listed in the phone book. For years I had no idea where he was.

  • {{{Ariel}}},

    “What’s one more reminder that I have no connection to the baby?” What?! Oh, please don’t tell yourself that. The first connection he ever had was, and always will be, with you. No one and nothing can make that not so. You gave him life, and you were his life before that. He will make many connections throughout his life, but none will render yours obsolete or insignificant or irrelevant. His life, and yours, are changed, but the connection IS, and can’t be undone.

    “He probably won’t care about having it in the future, but if he does, I’ll have let him down. In yet another way.” Maybe you need to heap more on yourself… part of healing? But I hope you know deep down that you haven’t let him down. Ariel, you did what you truly thought was the best for him. I get it that your thinking may have changed, but that doesn’t diminish your love for him or your wanting to do the “right” thing as you believed it to be at the time.

    I’m sorry you’re hurting. I’m glad you’re here.

    • oh, well i know we have that connection, but that physical reminder is gone now, you know? i’m ok with not having the birth certificate, but it mattered more than i thought it would. i should have explained myself this way: i know i have a biological connection to him, but what’s one more reminder i’m not his mother? i’m not, and i get that.

      i do heap a lot of blame on myself. it will ultimately be up to him if he feels i let him down or not, so i know i shouldn’t. i do feel bad for not obtaining and safeguarding that part of his history, especially if that turns out to be something he’d like to have for himself.

  • Rain says:

    I’m sending you big internet (((HUGS))). You will always have a connection to your son! You gave him life!! You gave birth to him and you loved him before anyone else did. No amount of paperwork or distance can dissolve your connection!

    I am so sorry that you have this pain. My thoughts are with you!

  • I’m sorry there isn’t this document. A tangible reminder that he was yours. I hope you can think of the less tangible, but equally meaningful things. The curve of your belly, his scent, your memories. Those seem more meaningful than any government paper, to me anyways, but I’m sorry it’s not there for you. It’s cruel.
    I’m sorry, I had to LOL- I thought “Harvey” was a pseudonym you gave him for your blog. I had no idea they actually named him that! I think of that rabbit. I think it’s a bizarre name choice…I believe that people are often treated in the way their names sound. I’m a teacher, and when I get a girl named “Princess,” I can’t help but think, “Will her name ever be on a nameplate with CEO after it?” Or a boy named “Rolex,” will he be respected professionally, either? I suppose “Harvey” isn’t quite that bad, but it conjures up something “old man” in my mind.

    • isn’t it awful! it does sound like an old man. david said everyone’s going to think he’s a dork and a square and tease him when he’s little. then again, as another friend of mine has said, handsome and charming boys can have silly names! and he will definitely be both of those things.

      mmm, i really wish i could smell his newborn baby scent again. i only barely remember it.

  • monk-monk says:

    oh man, that sucks so bad. I’ve been trying to get a copy of my OBC, but here in WA we have to have our parent’s permission, and THEY have to do it. I’ve asked my dad, but he always ends up busy, and my mom is a messed up alcoholic. Sigh. I’m sorry you’re hurting. I’m sorry that adoption is such a hurtful thing, and it feels worse that they are joyful on the other end of it, you know?

    • ugh, it’s never good when you have to rely on flaky people to accomplish a task for you. hopefully you can get your OBC at some point. i know i would totally want mine.

      maybe someday the fight for unsealing OBCs will win, and i won’t have to worry about that in the future! it’s nice to have a dream, lol.

      • monk-monk says:

        Yeah, and I feel this weird need to “play it cool,” to not show them HOW MUCH I FREAKING WANT to see if they really named me on my birth certificate and see their names listed.

        Sigh. I hope the laws change soon, we’ve been trying!

  • freebairn says:

    I didn’t find out until my son was 15 that they seal the original birth certificate, and it’s the same here in Arkansas. Up until 6 months, I couldn’t have gotten it. But now it could only become unsealed by court order, and word has it that is not easily gotten.

    But it’s MY information! It’s Luke’s! I bled! I was filleted wide open. I labored for that information, and it’s mine, not the state’s to seal!!

    Who knows. By the time David/Harvey is an adult, the adoptee rights movement will have made some headway and you and your son will have free access to what is rightfully yours.

    And, yes…there is a lot of things about adoption that THIS birth mother was not told either. And I still don’t know how I could’ve found out. We didn’t have Google in 1992. I wouldn’t have even known where to start. I was avoiding adoption agencies because I didn’t want them to get their clutches on me. I had, instead, a mediator who “counseled” me and ma have known quite a lot that she, for whatever reason, didn’t bother to relay any of it.

    There is so much propaganda creating this fictional world that is so wonderful, but, the reality is: Adoption sucks!!

    • freebairn says:

      P.S., I like the new password protection…if I weren’t so committed to getting a message out there I’d do the same. Thank you for making a place where I don’t have to run my words through any kind of filter.

      • i want to be (mostly) public, too and most of my posts will not be password protected. i only password protected the post where i reveal my last name / social media, and a couple of posts with baby pictures and the 6 month update i received from them.

      • i can’t imagine not having google and everything right there. i’m so thankful for the internet and the knowledge and connections it has afforded us all! sadly, i did run across some birth mother blogs while i was pregnant and they were the positive sort, so i thought “of course i can do this!” that’s why i actually make an effort to sound as pissed off and negative as possible. i NEVER want someone to read this and think, “well, it doesn’t sound so bad!” because it is.

      • freebairn says:

        Yep. Right on!

  • teradanielle says:

    I’m having a little giggle at your last comment Ariel, I consciously think I do the same thing for the same reasons..

    With the OBC, I was the same, I had no idea that every trace of me would cease to exist connecting me to my daughter, at least on paper. and when I found out I was pretty pissed too, but I didn’t apply until she was almost two! That’s how clueless I was.

    I find it interesting that you should mention 1984, because I have always felt that that book makes so many references that make me think about adoption..I gave it to my daughter to read and I wonder if she is making any of those connections herself..

    I am sorry they changed your son’s name. I think you will be glad you choose a name for him first. I have always regretted that I let them choose her name–the only reason I did was because I didn’t think I could bare being hurt by a name change. I wanted to name her Emma after my Grandma, and I have always regretted that I didn’t. Also, I think that is something that interests them, because my daughter has asked me if I named her and what I would have named is something special you gave him, because you were his mother first. I think APs change the names as a way of claiming them for themselves and I really don’t think it’s right. David is a beautiful name.

  • Robyn C says:

    Ariel, I’m going to be practical first. Hopefully, your child’s a-parents are among those who know how important it is to get an adopted child’s OBC. I have the OBCs for both of my children. (DD’s is actually incorrect anyway, but at least she’ll have the original if she needs it to get a passport.) I know many adoptive parents who have gotten their children’s OBCs.

    We changed Cassie’s first name, but her original name was more along the lines of what complicatedwaltz mentioned. Adoptive parents change names for all sorts of reasons. I always thought Harvey was a pseudonym too – how could anyone name their kid Harvey? You get props for knowing it’s a giant invisible rabbit. :) Anyway, hopefully he’ll have a nickname. My nephew’s name is Cyrus. Of course, his nickname is Bubba, so I’m not sure which is worse.

    All of that said, I wish I could talk to C and L and tell them what a lovely person you are, and how important you are, and will be, to your son (your being all 3 of you). Please never think that you don’t matter to him, because you do, you will.

    • that’s a good point, actually! C and L travel often, and it’s possible they obtained his OBC so he can get his passport.

      so if they have his OBC, they know my full name. wow, that really bothers me. i wouldn’t mind them knowing, except as it is, i’m not supposed to know their last name, or even their home state. (the dear birthmother letters were all like that–PAPs describing their homes as “suburban midwest” or “urban east coast” or whatever.) i also wonder what medical records of mine they’ve seen.

  • terri says:

    Names & Birth Certificates
    I am an adoptive mom, reading this post brings back memories of me and my husband choosing the name of our son. We gave him the names of his (adoptive) dad and grandfathers. This was an important decision for us, this name that identified him with our families. I wanted to give this baby a strong sense of family. We did not know if the baby was a boy or a girl and his birth mom was the first to say his first name after he was born. But on his original birth certificate he is named “baby” with his birth mom’s last name. This has always bothered me…not his original last name which is a truth, but the fact that he did not have a first name, even though his birth mother had stated his first name after birth. Names are important…did my son’s birth mom have another name chosen for a girl or a boy? I don’t know.
    Best wishes and continue to own your own truth.

  • karmavore says:

    Sorry I need to read back in your blog on this one. I know that as my son’s adoptive parents, we have his original birth certificate. I’m holding on to it so he can have it later on. It has his original names and his birthparents names. We did change his name but kept his orginal name as his middle name. Naming is super heavy. I’ve never really resolved my own feelings around it. On the one hand, he was given a name already, on the other, he was placed in our family to love and care for so I thought a new name (not even related to us really) was the best thing to do.

  • damagedbytheageof3 says:

    Hi Ariel, I’m reading your blogs as an adoptee over here in England. Your words that I have read in this past hour have opened my eyes massively as to what birth mothers go through. That’s not to mean that I’ve never understood it was a monumentally difficult decision to make – of course I’ve always known that, but your raw, painful words have really really touched me as to the on-going effects that a birth mother experiences. I don’t think I can say anything to ease your pain, but please let me say that I’ve already found you to be a beautiful person and I am sending you nothing but the warmest sincere hugs and best wishes X x

  • michellefeit says:

    Ariel, your blog makes me sad and I have shed many tears tonight reading your posts. I am an adoptive mom who doesn’t have either OBC and thought I couldn’t have them for confidential reasons. I would love to know more about my son’s birth parents-much more than their first names. For me, it feels so weird to have my name on their birth certificates. I wasn’t even there when my children were born! How can my name be on the birth certificate?

    I feel sad because I wish you didn’t have to bear this burden and I pray that “my” birth moms don’t feel the same. All the best to you.

    • i am really sorry that i made you cry. i also wish i knew my son’s parents better and that they wanted to know me. if it makes you feel any better, i cry when i read adoptee blogs, which are often (understandably) filled with rage at birth parents.

  • jeannette4175 says:

    Don’t feel bad for not knowing the laws. They were purposely kept from you by your agency. I had my daughter in 1992 and did not know that I could not get her OBC(after all it has my name on it) until she was in her late teens. When My daughter was 19 I asked the agency for help with my state in getting a copy of my child’s OBC. Come to find out that the agency had a copy in their files of her OBC. They emailed it to me as a PDF in 2011. Interesting enough I never received a copy of my TPR that I signed. I asked for it around January of this year but still nothing. I received a call back asking why I wanted it but I have not received a copy as of today. Agencies are in it for the money, They want the deal done ASAP without mothers changing their mind. If they told us all the facts their would be a lot less mothers placing their children for adoption.

    • the agency i went through told me the OBC would be sealed. i just thought it wouldn’t be sealed from me.

      they did give me a copy of the TPR, which i wish i didn’t have. i wouldn’t be too eager to bug the agency for it, if i was you. the loathsome, cruel document that destroyed my life is currently burning a hole in one of my desk drawers. i want to rip it up and throw it away, but just seeing those signatures would give me a caustic stomachache.

      you’re right, though. agencies tend to bulldoze through the proceedings without giving you much information. they don’t care about what may be best for women who are expecting, and once you’ve signed your child over, they don’t ever speak to you again.

  • 7rin says:

    The most important thing “they” should’ve told you was not to abandon your kid.

    Sorry if you think that’s harsh, but it’s true. NO-ONE should be allowed to legally abandon their own kid – it’s sick, vile, and fucked up that it’s allowed. After all, how on earth are we gonna teach deadbeat dads and moocher moms to buck up and look after their kids if they can just go ‘n’ abandon ’em instead?

    The world makes me sick as it is, and people being allowed to abandon their own kids just makes it sicker.

    Nice to meet you btw. You’ll probably grow to hate me, but sayin’ hi and thanks for the comment on my blog before we get to that stage. :}

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