Sunday, March 13, 2011

What's in a name?

I watched a video today that was posted on Facebook. It was about adoptees getting their OBC's and seeing their original names for the very first time. As an adoptee-lite I had a similar experience very recently when I was given my adoption papers and saw my original last name on an official document for the first time. It was very strange and healing in a way. For people who haven't been through this particular experience, it's hard to understand the actual physical reaction a person can have when faced with an identity that's part of you but so unfamiliar. For me, it was another piece of the puzzle put back in place. It took away another bit of the confusion I felt for so long about who I was and who my father was.

Thinking about all that made me think about a conversation I had with my daughter. As I've written before, my daughter and I have been reunited for years. When I requested and received the paperwork from Catholic Social Services regarding her adoption I asked her if she'd like a copy. She said yes so I made copies and sent them off. Seeing those papers was very difficult for me - I think any natural mother who has been through this stuff knows what I'm talking about. The memories come crushing back and emotions flood. And, what I experienced with seeing my adoption papers probably doesn't compare to what my daughter felt when she saw hers.

It took a while for me to get the courage to open the envelope but when I finally did and read them, three major things jumped out at me:

1. CSS had me sign a form giving them control when I was only 6 months pregnant. It was an adoption release form which was the "consent to the release of custody and control of the child". This was startling to me since I had and still have zero memory of signing it. There was my name. It is my signature but I have no memory of it.

2. On all the worksheets that I filled out, the social worker's notes etc. there was the name of my daughter's father. I told them his name, gave a physical description of him and the state he was in. When they asked for information about him I told them everything I knew. But, on the final adoption papers it says Father: unknown. Now did they do that so they wouldn't have to search for him and get his consent for the adoption? What would have happened if they searched for him? Would everything have turned out differently? Unknown father? A big fat lie. They had his name.

3. My daughter's first name on the papers was Baby Girl. I didn't give her a name officially. I was told that it wasn't necessary since the adopting couple had a name picked out and she would be named right away. I had a name for her in my heart but I never gave it to the agency. I was also told that she would go from the hospital straight to the adoptive couple's home. These were nothing but lies. She went from the hospital to a foster home for 7 weeks before going to her parents home. When my daughter saw the adoption papers she said the thing that really upset her was finding out that she was a nameless, parentless baby for the first 7 weeks of her life. It breaks my heart every time I think about it.

When my daughter was 5 days old I was back in my childhood bedroom, in my parents house, on the bed, on my knees with my arms wrapped around my belly, rocking and crying uncontrollably - I want my baby, I want my baby, I want my baby - over and over and over again. I remember it like it was yesterday. I don't know how long I was in that position crying those words but it seemed like forever. At the very same time I was in that agony my baby girl was lying in a crib 2 hours away from me in a foster home probably crying for me. No one, mother or child should ever have to go through that. No one. Ever.


  1. Because of the pain it causes me to read this, I can only imagine the pain that you an Liz experienced. You are so one....ever.

  2. Thank you Sunday. I hesitate when I write posts like this because I don't want to cause anyone pain (Kelli). I also wonder if it's a good idea to put this out there and feel the pain again that it brings up for me when I write it. Why am I doing this to myself? I don't do it because I want people to feel sorry for me. I want people to understand the real pain behind society's version of the happy adoption.

  3. You don't ever have to worry about my pain, it's nothing compared to you and Liz and all the other first mothers and adoptees. However, as you know there are times it concerns me that you do it to yourself, but I know that you are working for change and you are saving others from the same pain.

    As a non-traditional adoptive parent, I am appalled at what individuals and society as a whole have done to babies and mothers and most reprehensible, STILL DO. Change is so needed to stop this and you and your colleagues are the ones who can do it. I applaud your efforts and the pain you are willing to feel.

  4. Carlynne, I guess that if it takes a thousand posts like this, to reach the right person in time to prevent the ripping apart of another family, it has been worth it, even if you never know...
    You're a heroine for writing this!

  5. I am so sorry, and sadly completely understand. I agree with everything Theodore says above...

  6. Theodore and Susie, thank you for those words. I, along with many others, just want it to stop.

  7. So sorry, I feel for you. You are an inspiration. Thanks for writing this.
    San Diego Mobile Notary

  8. ((hugs))

    Thank you for sharing this.

  9. Thank you so much for writing this and sharing it. I can't tell you how sorry I am. The image of you grieving on your bed and your daughter alone, away... it makes me physically ill. And people need to hear it, again and again, until "informed consent" really is both informed and consent. Bless you.