It’s time for a short blog break–a pause in the action. My memoir will be published sometime in September–you’ll be the first to know! Thanks, everyone, for reading and keeping up with my adoption search and childhood memories. For me, each week was more fun than the last. I have truly enjoyed sharing my stories with you and always love reading your comments.
Young Love: An Adoptee’s Memoir tells the story of my 35 year search for my original identity. It is in the final stage before publishing and I am very excited. I am forever grateful to you, my readers, and can’t wait to share the book with you.
Adult adoptees in nine states have unrestricted access to their own original birth certificates (OBC). Kansas, for example, has always had unrestricted access–adoptees who want their OBC need only to follow the regular procedures for obtaining a state vital record. In 1995, British Columbia, Canada became the first province to unseal adoption records. Family members can obtain the identifying information of a family member they have lost to adoption; adoptees can obtain a copy of their original birth registration. Today, most states and provinces are updating their laws to allow adult adoptees and natural parents access to birth records.
I live in New York State. Sadly, “New York law denies adult adoptees access to their own original birth certificates, except by court order. Based on how judges have handled adoptee requests to unseal records, New York may be one of the most restrictive states in the U.S. on the issue of access to an original birth certificate.” https://adopteerightslaw.com/new-york-obc
Well, my friends, today may be the day! New York State Assembly Bill A5494 has passed in the State Senate and we await results from the State Assembly. This bill establishes the right of adoptees to receive a certified copy of their birth certificate upon reaching the age of 18.
“The legislation restores important civil rights to adult adoptees such as their right to access information that non-adopted persons have a legal right to obtain.” “Access to your personal information – who you are and where you come from – is a human right,” said Assemblyman Richard N. Gottfried, Assembly Health Committee Chair. “New Yorkers need their own medical histories in order to make better health care choices. And connecting adoptees and birth parents works; in the overwhelming majority of cases, these reunions are cherished by both parties. https://www.qgazette.com/articles/weprin-and-adoptee-advocates-push-for-vote-on-adoptee-rights-bill
Restricted and unrestricted, sealed and unsealed, closed and open! If only it was as easy as an on/off switch for adoptee rights. I was adopted in Quebec, Canada and I live in New York State. For almost 40 years I have repeatedly applied for information, searched with and without the internet, and defended my search to friends. How different my life would have been if I’d been born in British Columbia or Kansas! This is no small deal–it is life-changing. I pray for the New York State Assembly to pass Bill A5494 for New York adoptees today and in the future.
Over the years, I have explained my search for my birthparents using different analogies–I never wanted to cause sadness or pain to anyone. Adoptees are known to worry about hurting others’ feelings or causing family conflict. My favorite reassuring analogy is that of a candelabra. After one candle is used to light another and another, it glows as brightly. When I learned the identity of my birthmother, my love for my mom and dad was as strong as ever. Finding a new love or friend does not diminish our love for the most precious people in our lives.
My newest search angel and my last Batshaw Youth and Family Centre caseworker retired Friday. We both feel grateful for our time together–heartfelt phone conversations and emails that kept our communication open. For me, our friendship is a very pleasant and welcome closure to my 36-year search for my birthparents and original identity. I want to share a few edited highlights from our emails. My search angel is SA and I am BP. Then I will tie things up with a nod to my Canadian childhood.
May 22– BP: Thank you for reading my blog! I really appreciate it. I’m busy reviewing my memoir and editing… There will be a couple more rounds of back and forth before it’s off to the presses. I told the publishing company the other day that I need to include an epilogue. My memoir readers will be interested to know that I heard from Batshaw about previously undisclosed identifying information in my file. It’s really quite a unique and quirky story. To end my search with you has been a joy and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I will be in touch once more I am sure!!
SA: Thanks Bonnie. I look forward to your email.
May 27–At her request, I was pleased to share my blog, particularly the Mother’s Day post: Sunday is Mother’s Day.
SA: I want to thank you for sharing your blog. Part of you stays with us now at Batshaw as your Mother’s Day post will be used for sensitization training for future adoptive parents.
I sent my search angel the epilogue to my memoir in which I acknowledge her thoughtfulness and support at the end of my long search.
SA: Thank you Bonnie! I am very touched. I have printed it and will keep it as an inspiration of perseverance… Very kind of you to share this.
May 30–SA: Connections are important, as are planned goodbyes, and this I believe is even more true for adoptees whose lives revolve around their involuntary disconnections and putting the pieces together again. This afternoon, I invited my team to have cake I made last night as a way to put closure to my time with them, to thank each and every one of them and to hang on to that connection a little bit more before my last official day. I’m saving a piece for you…you have been a very nice part of my last moments at Batshaw and your epilogue was an unexpected and heartwarming gift!
BP: I accept your invitation (wink emoji)! You will be in my thoughts this afternoon. I’m sure the cake is yummy and will be appreciated, along with your kind words, by your colleagues. Surely you know that normally, they provide a cake and speeches for you!! As always, your thoughtfulness is front and center.
May 31—My search angel’s last official day before her retirement.
SA: I will be staying at my country house which has no TV, no internet, just woods, fields and rivers…but I will connect one day and will seek out your blog. In the interim, my colleague would like to continue reading your blog threads. She enjoyed the Mother’s Day one and kept it for the future sensitization groups. Farewell and I hope to reconnect with you in the future. Thank you for your kind words in your epilogue. Take good care of yourself!
A different kind of memorable encounter: Queen Elizabeth II is in the news a lot this week. I won’t be shy, I love the Queen. In October 1957, she visited Canada for the Opening of Parliament in Ottawa, the capital city of Canada. She also visited Montreal! I was in Brownies at the time, around 8 years old, as in my class photo below. It was our duty to show our respect for the Queen and welcome her to Canada. My Brownie troop arrived at the parade route in Montreal and got settled in our spot to greet the Queen. I was very excited! I had often imagined a trip to the Queen’s palace in London. Princess Anne was about my age and we could be friends.
Anyway, on this fall day, I clearly remember that the wait for the royal motorcade was painfully long. Finally, cheers rang out, “Here she comes!” She was on my side in the convertible, smiling and waving. I couldn’t believe it. I know our eyes met! But then she was gone, so quickly, gone. “Wait, come back,” I cried to myself. “I want to meet you! What about my playdate with Princess Anne?”
I soon recovered, and I have a wonderful memory of that moment when Queen Elizabeth smiled my way.
My closed adoption welcomed an elephant into the room! When an adoption is closed, the identities of the mother and baby are sealed away from each other and from the parents who adopt the baby. My mom and dad knew nothing about my mother nor the circumstances of my birth. They knew nothing about my father. I was told that my mother and father were not married and therefore they could not keep me.
Cue the elephant! (I truly love elephants—I am only using this metaphor because it helps to explain the consequences of a closed adoption.) In my closed adoption, the elephant in the room was the secrecy of all identities. No one in the adoption triangle, not the infant, birthparents, nor adoptive parents had the right to each others’ identifying information.
As an adult, I was told by the adoption agency that my records were sealed, I had a new life, and I should accept the fact that the files would never be opened. In fact, it was against the law for the agency to give me identifying information from my file. I was an adult adoptee, no longer a relinquished infant, and I was asking for my original identity. This was against the law!
The elephant in the room caused great anguish. In addition to my original identity, my parents and I never talked about genetic traits. We pretended that my adoption did not exist. If the adoption had been open, who knows? I might have known my birthparents before I reached adulthood. Imagine, I might not have had to search at all!
In my early 30s, I decided it was time—time to confront the forces of the closed adoption laws and learn about my birthparents and my heritage. I discovered my fierce determination and curiosity to find answers. My search was off and on over the years, but I never gave up!