I always knew I was adopted. Therefore, I always knew I had no medical history. I’d go to the doctor and tell them “I’m adopted”, end of story, no potential life-saving medical history for me. No chance to get those early screenings to learn if I might be a carrier of a deadly genetic defect like the one Angela Jolie got which led to her undergoing a preventative mastectomy, thus ensuring she will not die from breast cancer. No, not for adoptees like me with no medical history.
So when adoptees started fighting for the state to unseal original birth certificates touting their rights to their medical history, I was onboard. I was leading the pack tweeting and Facebooking my heart out to get the law in New Jersey changed so I could finally see my birth certificate. That miracle document that would tell me everything I always wanted to know. Even though I had done over twenty years of research and learned who my birth parents were, (detailed in my book Call Me Ella), I still wanted confirmation, in writing. I wanted to see if my birth mother had named me. I wanted to know where I was born. What time of day. I wanted to see my birth father’s name in writing. I wanted to know education, age, siblings. All those good things that people who were not adopted take for granted. I wanted written documentation of my start. Proof of my existence on day one, not a whole year after as noted on my amended adoptee birth certificate. For some reason I believed this knowledge would make me whole.
I was wrong.
I was one of the first to submit my application to the New Jersey Department of Health after waiting two and a half years after Gov. Christie signed it into law. The wait, he said, was to give birth parents the right, opportunity, to opt out, to have their names redacted from the document. This was a waste of time for me. I’d done my research. I knew all parties to my blessed event were dead. But I waited. And waited. Finally the day came when I could apply. I did.
Then I waited. And waited. Finally, in January, I was one of the very first to receive my birth certificate. I held the envelop in my shaking hand while remembering all the lies my mom had told me about my birth mother. Mom swore she had died in childbirth. She hadn’t. She swore she knew nothing of my birth father, or my medical history. Lies, lies. Now was the time I’d find out everything. Or so I thought.
I was wrong again. I knew something was terribly wrong when I bent the corner of the document and I recognized my mom’s handwriting. There was no denying that my adoptive mom filled out my birth certificate. She was in the hospital. On the day I was born. And she filled out the most important document in my life. Not only did I recognize that handwriting. She even signed the document with her real name and checked off the box, md, next to it. She lied on my OBC and said she was the doctor. Then she made up a fictitious birthmother name, (I know because it differs from that on my adoption papers) and put a big X over the entire section for father. I guess she got the last laugh.
But I don’t think she was laughing. From what I learned during my birth mother search, my birth was very painful to mom. She raised a child she had never planned to have. Not all adoptions are fairytale situations. Some adoptees are more like Cinderella. The unwanted step-child. I’d like to think most adoptions are beautiful. That a child grows up with loving parents who prayed for a beautiful, healthy child to come into their lives.
But remember. In every adoption there is loss. No matter how happy the adoption, the child in question always lost their original family. Their mother. Their father. Their siblings and extended family. Don’t tell an adoptee they are lucky without recognizing their loss.
I guess this puts an end to my search. No more hoping to find answers to my questions. I must settle to be satisfied that at least I now know what time of day I was born and at which hospital. I’m lucky I had found my adoption papers a long time ago or I’d be more devastated than I am now. Such an incredible letdown.
I hope other adoptees have better luck than I did. At least I can let go now.
One more thing – insurance companies should be forced to pay for all preventive genetic tests for adoptees. That could save many lives.