Yesterday I asked you to imagine what it was like to not have access to your records, including your original birth certificate.
Today, I want to tell you what it has been like trying to obtain mine.
I started in mid-May so I have been trying, with no success, for about 2 ½ months. This is a very short period of time compared to some of my fellow adoptees who have been trying for years to obtain theirs. Some have been flat out denied.
So I started in mid-May with a quick internet search which lead me to my home state’s adoption search page. Here I was met with a lengthy list of requirements. So I spent my afternoon going through the information, try to decipher out each step. After I thought I had a semi-logical grasp of the information, I called the number provided.
A really sweet lady answered and went over the information with me, informing me that I needed to start with my hometown clerk’s office.
Okay, here’s the thing. I don’t know if you are from a small town, but dealing with local gov offices sucks in small towns. Here’s why. Every single time you go to the local government buildings for anything, ANYTHING, everybody knows your business.
Renew your license? Everybody knows.
Paying a speeding ticket? Everybody knows.
Paying taxes? Everybody knows.
I’ve heard plenty of conversations that start with things like, “Oh yeah, I saw Mike yesterday. He was in here paying the taxes on that new boat he got. Do you know how much just the taxes were!!!???”
Let’s just say small towns aren’t exactly known for anonymity.
So I get to call the clerk’s office and hope that I don’t know Patti or Debbie or Sandy or whoever answers the phone to ask all about my personal information.
But what choice do I have. So I do.
The lady answers and I’m so relieved that I don’t recognize the voice on the other end of the line.
This is the second time today that I’ve had to make the “I’m adopted” speech. As I’m doing so, I wished I had spaced out the phone calls over a couple of days because it’s becoming exhausting.
This may just be me, but when I come out with those words “I’m adopted,” I feel judged. There is this silence, or look, or change in the other person where all of their preconceived notions about adoption come right out. I sense it in a heartbeat. Sometimes it’s a blankness because they really don’t know what to say, but more times than not, it’s sympathy.
Occasionally, it’s this other weird reaction. Like I’m a criminal, and I’m here to ‘pull one over’ on them.
I can tell you I’m not. I wish someone were pulling one over on me and I wasn’t really adopted. But I am.
This lady had one of those reactions. Everything that came out of my mouth seemed suspect with her. I ignored it and just kept trying to focus on saying what I needed to.
She listened. Then she tried to talk me out of it. I am not kidding.
She said it would take a long time. She said it would take a lot of money (up to $650). Then she reiterated that it would take a LOT of time. Again.
Once she was convinced I wasn’t easily dissuaded, she told me what I needed to do in the most sterile way. Maybe this is old hat to her. It’s not to me though.
There were forms and because I don’t live there anymore, it meant either taking a trip there or having a copy of my license notarized to send in with the forms.
I can tell you that I have no desire to go to my hometown, so the notarized option was the only one for me.
I figured the easiest notary to find is at my credit union so I went there. I approached the receptionist desk at the ‘services’ section and tell him I need something notarized. “What is it?” Mr. Nosy asks. “Just a form,” I lie.
A few minutes later the notary appears and directs me into his office. I explain that I need to have a copy of driver’s license notarized and he makes a face like this is the first time he’s heard such a request. “What for?” he asks.
Good grief, do I really have to go into this? But I figured, I had already dealt with enough, might as well go through with it rather than start over another day.
So I gave my “I’m adopted” speech again. How many times has it been in the course of a couple days? You would think it gets easier. But it doesn’t. Each time the individual reaction of the other person makes it new and raw again.
I’m honestly humiliated as it seems I have to beg others to help me out on my quest for some damn documents that are mine to begin with.
Now this special notary has absolutely no idea what to even write on this made up document. He is extremely skeptical of what we are doing. I try to make simple suggestions for wording such as “I confirm the person represented in this license is the person who presented it.” No go.
“I attest …” No go.
“I affirm…” No go.
He finally settles on his own wording and the whole time I’m thinking ‘put the notary seal on the paper get me the f*** out of here.’
As soon as he finishes, I say “PERFECT,” snatch the paper and leave as quickly as I can before he changes his mind.
So I get all the paperwork together, send it to my new best friend – the clerk in my hometown gov office and then … nothing. I don’t hear back. I don’t know if it’s received. Nothing. So I call.
Patti or Debbie or whoever is now on vacation. Great.
I call back the next week and she says she never got my info. Are you freaking kidding me?
She calls back a few hours later and said she found it. Sandy or Patti G. or whoever had been getting her mail while she was on vacay had it, but no worries because it’s found.
Yay hometown gov offices. You are soooo reassuring.
So I ask, now what happens?
She tells me they will pull my sealed records and then it goes in front of the judge to be opened and the judge determines to release it. Then it goes to the state capitol to be assigned to an intermediary who will look for my bio mom and see if she is okay with releasing it. (Don’t forget that I was raised in an open adoption) If she is, it’s sent back to my hometown and then sent to me.
Did you get all that?
I took notes.
So then I ask “What if you don’t find any records for me.” Silence from her.
After a few moments, she says quietly, “I have it.”
“I have it here in my hands.”
So she has it. In her hands. And we’re on the phone together. And in a little while she will have my opened “sealed” records in her hands. She will know all my information that I am not allowed to know. And Saturday morning she will be out at the local diner for breakfast with local peeps who ask things like, ‘so what’s been going on this week.’ Wonder where that will lead? I’m sure it won’t lead to gossiping at all. (sarcasm intended)
And more waiting.
I call every week by the way. Cause I’m not curious or anything. Right.
Turns out the judge released it to the state capitol. That was the end of May. Now I’m in a holding pattern. The ladies at the state capitol cannot find it. There have been various emails and phone calls, but these things “take time.”
So this is my story so far. The levels of frustration, humiliation, guessing and hopefulness have their ups and downs.
I have been doing this for 2 ½ months. Others have been trying for years. Some for decades. Some are just denied.
Please join us in Atlanta on August 12, 2013 as we march in a demonstration for Adoptee Rights to their original birth certificate.
If you can’t make it, write (email) your state legislator.
Here is the link to find your legislator on the Adoptee Rights Coalition website.