One morning, I woke up to the sounds of kitchen cabinets slamming. When my mom wasn’t happy, she made sure everyone knew it. I decided to go in to see what the cause of the commotion was. I hoped it had nothing to do with me.
But it did.
I sat down at the counter waiting to hear what my mom had to say. It was always better to wait to be addressed than to call attention to myself. After putting away (throwing) the dishes, she finally turned to me.
“Your mom refuses to sign the papers for you to get adopted.” She said it like it was my fault somehow.
“I thought I was already adopted.” As if reminding her might calm her down.
“Yes, we already adopted you but there’s paperwork that needs to be done for your birth certificate. We need her to sign the papers, but she says she’s not signing. Now, it’s going to cost us twelve hundred dollars to go around her.”
I wished my ‘real’ mom would have signed the papers so I wouldn’t be getting in trouble for it.
My mom continued, “Since your dad is retiring, he will get more benefits if we make this official. We need to get this paperwork done. It means more money every month.”
She said it like I needed to try to keep up. Believe me, I was trying.
But a couple of words she mentioned had caught my attention. Birth certificate. I had heard about it before. I knew I already had one because my mom changed the year on it for me to start school a year earlier than I was supposed to. She had said I was smart enough to go to school early. Maybe she had forgotten, so I decided to bring it up.
“I already have a birth certificate.” I tried to say it as nicely as I could. But then I had a question. “What’s on the birth certificate?”
“It tells who your mother and father are and where you were born.” She stated, but then seemed to drift off in thought.
I had a moment of clarity. “That will say who my ‘real’ father is!”
My mom looked back at me, took a deep breath and stated, “No, Meredith. It doesn’t.”
“You just said…” I tried to reason with her.
My mom interrupted me, “It has my name and your dad’s name on it. It doesn’t have your ‘real’ father’s name. It doesn’t even have your ‘real’ mom’s name.”
“Can I see it?” I didn’t believe what she was saying.
My mom disappeared into her bedroom for a moment and came back with the record. She handed it to me and I read:
“Certificate of Birth, hospital, my full name,
Born to: Mrs. Sadie Casterson, time and date, (year had been smudged and retyped),
On the back: Father’s name: Albert Casterson, birthplace was blank, his birthday,
Mother’s maiden name: Adoptive mom’s married name, birthplace: New Mexico,
My weight; height.
She was right. It said I had been born to her and my dad, my adoptive parents. There were lies all over this record.
“Why doesn’t this have my ‘real’ mom’s name, Gabriella, on it?” I asked.
“She checked into the hospital under my name.” She answered.
“Why?” I was confused.
“I don’t know.” She then changed the subject, “I’m going to put this away so it doesn’t get anything on it.” She took the “birth certificate” back and disappeared with it back to her room.
Almost everything on the paper was wrong. I didn’t understand how this had happened.
When my mom came back in the room, I asked, “If you have that birth certificate, why do you need another one?”
“Because that one isn’t official.” Again, she sounded annoyed with me.
I felt further away from any answers than ever before. It seemed the more I found out, the more confusing things became.
I was sitting in an office beside my dad. My mom was sitting on the other side of him. We waited for a while, and finally a door to another office opened. A lady came out and spoke to my parents for a few minutes, but then informed them that she needed to speak to me alone. My parents seemed surprised to hear that, but instructed me to go with her.
I followed her into her office, and she shut the door. As we sat down, the lady smiled and said, “This will only take a moment. Since this is about you, I just need to ask you a question.”
Before I was even fully in my seat, she asked, “All I need to know is, are you happy living with Sadie and Albert?”
My thoughts flashed in my mind quickly and I had a sudden revelation. ‘This is my chance!!! This is my chance to escape and go be with my sisters.’ I smiled slightly as I thought about us all playing together every single day, never having to stand there at my front door waving goodbye as they left together with our mom. ‘We can be together every day playing, eating dinner together, going to school together, celebrating birthdays … we will never be separated again!’
I felt elated at the thought of our future together.
Just as I started to tell the lady I wanted to go be with my sisters, I had another thought.
‘But my dad is standing outside that door. When the lady tells him what I want, he will be so sad. He will be hurt by me wanting to leave him. I don’t want to hurt my dad at all. I would never do that. I love him so much, but there’s no way to avoid that door opening and him finding out that I want to leave so I can be with my sisters.’
My smile slowly left.
“I’m happy there.” I replied.
The lady seemed relieved to hear my answer, and I’m sure, glad her afternoon would go smoothly. “Great then, we can proceed.”
The entire time I was in her office was probably less than 1 ½ minutes.
I feel like that is the amount of time it took me to grow up and become an adult. I learned so much about life in that short time period. I learned how a person’s life could be based around lies. I learned that there were decisions in life that had consequences and no easy answers. I learned that there were choices in life that affected those around us and that to put others first, meant putting ourselves last. I also learned personal responsibility to not hurt those I loved.
Normally, I could see how these might be considered important life lessons that everyone needs to learn. However, in the context of this situation, I don’t think 8 year olds should self teach these principles in the manner I had to.
I was 8 years old and I already felt tired in life.
The lady opened the door and my dad was standing there. I was relieved I hadn’t hurt him but walked out of that office feeling heavy hearted.
Social Security Card
A few weeks later my dad took me to another office. He said we were getting my social security card and this was very important. He told me to take care of this card and memorize the number. The guy at the office told me that I had to sign the card. My dad couldn’t sign it for me.
As I signed, I realized, I had made this decision. I sealed my own fate that afternoon in that lady’s office, answering her one question to me and now it was official.
Still here. Still tired. Still trying to get answers.
I have the amended birth certificate. It was issued the year this adoption was done, when I was 8 years old. I have the ‘certificate of birth’ which is the hospital record. The notation on it is that it is my “family’s heirloom record of the facts pertaining” to my birth. We all know that is not what it is. It is a lie.
My mom was right about that certificate of birth not being official. On the back of it, it states that fact. It reads that the official copy must be filed with the office of vital statistics, so that certificate issued from the hospital is worthless.
Open adoption does not equal open records. My records were sealed when my adoption was completed just like any other adoption. I cannot get a passport with my amended birth certificate. That hospital certificate is a joke.
I have filed for my original birth certificate. The state uses an intermediary to contact my biological mom to determine if she will sign for it to be released to me. I have no idea which one of my mother’s names will be listed for ‘biological mother.’ I have contacted my true biological mom to let her know the state may contact her to sign, but she has said she doesn’t see why she would need to sign when she never gave me up for adoption. In her mind, she let someone have “temporary custody” of me. I do not have the assurance that she will sign to release my records to me.
I do have an answer as to why my biological mom checked into the hospital under my adoptive mom’s name. She did it because my adoptive mom told her to. My adoptive mom orchestrated the entire plan and made sure it was executed according to her wishes. My biological mom was naïve enough to go along with it.