' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: 'X' instead of a name on a birth certificate is just plain wrong

Thursday, September 29, 2016

'X' instead of a name on a birth certificate is just plain wrong

Lorraine and Jane at Rockefeller Center, 1982
A few days ago I read a story about Missouri adoptees born before 1941 being able to actually get their birth certificates, and dammit by the time I got to the end I was just furious that states are so slow to realize what sealed records have done to people!  Yes, they go about their lives and grow up, go the school, have jobs, get married, have children and all the rest, but in most states they still are unable to have that piece of paper that might unlock--most likely would unlock--the key to their identities: original birth certificates with the names of the parents.

And folks who run the ACLU don't see anything wrong with this because they noses up so far up in the air they insist on protecting the mother's identity. And legislators all over the country still have their heads in the same fog. New York is one of those states, but I digress. 

While I was still getting over my emotional outrage over adoptees having to be over 70 to get their unamended and actual birth records--eight showed up on the day when this was possible, Monday, August 29--a friend in Michigan messaged me that the Republican controlled legislature there is considering a bill that would make it possible for mothers to have their names replaced with "unknown" on the birth certificate, and that baby listed as "Baby Doe." And recently I was flipping through a book I'll be reviewing eventually, Giving Up Baby: Safe Haven Laws, Motherhood, and Reproductive Justice, and learned that in France mothers are allowed to give birth in hospitals and yet have an X on the birth certificate of their child in place of the mother's name. Regular readers know that not long ago I dealt with the death of a French-American friend who I believe did just that, and kept her secret from her family, and me, until shortly before her death.

While the tilt of history is moving to letting all adopted people know their true identities, we still have the mindset of people willing to allow anonymous births. What all safe haven laws do by their very nature is increase the number of babies who can be adopted with an ancestral blank slate--no nagging birth mothers or families hanging around to claim that individual, ever. How handy. How convenient for the parents who would prefer to adopt a child this way. No need to go overseas! for a baby without a birth mother who might pop up, now you can get a home grown one!

Grand Rapids, Michigan is the home base of Bethany Christian Services, one of the largest adoption agencies based in the United States, with locations on several continents. According to an informed source, Bethany generously supports some Michigan legislators, and as long as the legislature is in the hands of the Republican party, nothing is likely to change there.

These safe-haven laws, and the blank birth certificates they encourage, are seen by the anti-abortion crowd as a way to encourage women to give up their babies. Do it this way, and you can be free and clear, no one will know. Instead of abortion, adoption! as if they were two nearly equal life choices for the mother when nothing could be further from the truth.

Laws that continue to allow babies to be born and recorded this way--removing the link to their true families and heritage--are a throwback to some kind of Dark Ages of the soul. They deny the worth of the individual so stigmatized without an identity, an identity that can not be added on by the simple fact of adoption because while adoption does many things, it does not provide a blood connection or answers the immortal questions of identity. Yet instinctively I know that these babies--health being in good order--are not hard to have adopted. They are clean, so to speak, of the trappings that come with a child with known parents. Yet we as a society allow this to happen. It does not speak well of us. DNA testing will help some of these individuals find their way to their families one day, but only some. --lorraine

The Missouri law mentioned above is one of steps. Individuals 18 and over born after 1941 will be able to request their original birth certificates after January 1, 2018. However, birth parents may request that their names (but names alone, not place and date) be redacted. If both birth parents file the same document, the original birth certificate will remain sealed. State Rep. Don Phillips, an adoptee who has reunited with his birth parents, sponsored the bill. He notes the legislation passed only after the birth parent veto was included, and we hope that eventually this ban will be lifted in every state. Oddly enough, Missouri is right next to Kansas, which has never sealed its records.

From past experience, we know that the number of people who ask that their names be redacted will be small, but we will continue to speak up against such measures as they are inherently unfair to the adoptee, and give all the power of ancestry to the natural parent, who is likely to know her or his ancestry. No one should be denied their ancestry because it might embarrass someone.  
(Michigan bill)

From FMF

A rationale for adoptee access to original birth certificates

News Flash: Knowing Your Medical History Can Save Your Life--

Hole In My Heart: memoir and report from the fault lines of adoption
"..reveals--tellingly--how the original rending never truly heals and the quilting together never hides the seams that attempt to bind those new family members to each other."--Author Kate Vale at Goodreads. 



  1. It occurs to me that if, as the opponents of opening records claim, the purpose of sealed records is to protect birth mothers from their shame, it follows that birth mothers should be able to access records. By doing so, they waive their assumed right to privacy. Of course states, other than Oregon and Hawaii, don't allow natural mothers to access records.

    Let me add that legislators who think that through legislative action, they can wipe out adoptees' natural desire to know their origins and mothers' natural instinct to know what happened to their children are suffering from a God complex or are woefully ignorant of mammalian biology.

    1. Jane you're right, mothers should be able to access records. The "we're protecting (birth) mothers privacy" doesn't pass the smell test. In many states we are not permitted to have any non-identifying information or even the papers we signed, while the adoptee and adoptive parents are allowed non-id info. The ap's might even have our names, if they requested the original birth certificate prior to finalization or have the info on the court documents. My dad's adoption decree lists both my real grandparents names, no privacy there.

      Adoptees and adoptive parents can have our age, height, weight, eye color, hobbies, school completed, and possibly our full names and records are closed to "protect our privacy"?

      If this myth was the truth, they would do things entirely opposite. They would give us all the documentation/information possible so that we could take steps to protect ourselves. So we could take measures to reduce any risk of contact from the adoptive parents or adoptee. Like not living in the same area, avoiding or blocking people with that name/names. They would not be giving -any- information about us to the adoptee or the adoptive parents, ever. It takes effort but you can follow a trail with non-id info.

  2. To a degree there is a similarity to the problems encountered by the offspring of anonymous gamete donors. Especially with semen donors the chances that such a forced ignorance of one's kin might lead to close inbreeding, which, if incidental, does not have to lead to any detrimental effects, but still very well could do so, seem to suggest that population health concerns could be seen as outweighing concerns about the privacy of donors (including mothers of adopted people).

    1. Because I was an eleven year old mother, every effort was made to exile me from my child's life and years later, while I remained exiled, the next generation of my family had to be let in on some of the truth because second cousins were now classmates.

  3. The "shame and guilt" complex have been used for far too long as an excuse to keep identifying information on the entire triad hidden from each other. Mothers who wanted to keep their children, even 50 or more years ago, knew plenty of other pregnant "girls" ( at least I did), and many more as time went on.
    It was the trend of the future, and could be plainly seen. I recall begging my father to help me raise my son and telling him that times had changed and people were keeping babies. I tried to convince my father not to feel shame.

    He was the one who felt shame.

    It was 1968. He became angry, refused to help me. But, 20 years later, he told me I was correct about the fact that we could have kept my child without "standing out in the neighborhood"...there were so many others being born and kept in the following months/years.

    So, what is all the secrecy/special privacy all about? Except for cases of real threat/crime/...why do some people feel they need special protection.

    I am not buying it. There should not be any special privacy "rights" in adoption. Hiding a person or persons through adoption/adoption records reads like an artifact from some ancient era...perhaps that is what it is.

    1. kitta--

      That's the first time I've heard of a parent admitting they were wrong when a daughter wanted to keep her child. How did you feel about him after that? Where was your mother on this issue? Sometimes when one parent has really strong feelings it is impossible to override the other. What has your relationship with your parents been like since you gave up your child, their grandchild?

    2. My parents were incredibly sorry they did not help me keep Michael. At the time I was suffering from post-partum depression they feared was a permanent disability, they were both working and taking care of my senile grandmother and my brother was in college. The agency never included them in any counseling or conservation, it was all geared towards me alone raising a child, probably in poverty. The only time I saw my stoical Dad cry was when he took me to sign the surrender. He said nothing, but kept everything including the surrender paper and always listed Michael among family birthdays.

      My parents never got to meet Mike but at least they saw pictures and knew he was alive and communicated with me a little bit. I had lost touch with Mike when my dad was dying at the age of 92. One of the last things i asked him was should i look for Michael again, and he said yes. If there is a heaven my parents are looking over all their grandchildren and now great-grandchildren, including their first whose loss they regretted perhaps as much as I did. Not all grandparents stayed hard-core to the end. My parents thought they were doing the right thing at the time for me and my child, but realized too late they were wrong.

      My parents 100% supported my work in adoption reform and my efforts to find my child. They were proud of me, and would be so proud of the man Mike turned out to be, loving and fighting to preserve the land like generations in our family.

    3. @Lo,
      my father didn't exactly "admit" to being wrong about my son's relinquishment/adoption. He wasn't in the habit of admitting to being wrong, anyway... And he was being very specific.

      He admitted that we/I could have raised my child without "losing the family business" which was a law firm. My family would not have been the only family with the "situation" because there were , suddenly, lots of single parents and kids all over, including in our extended family.

      My uncle, my father's brother, also a lawyer, became a grandfather to 3 out-of-wedlock grandkids within several years of my son's birth. But, my uncle had a very different attitude from my parents. He and my aunt embraced them all without the slightest shame or secrecy.

      My mother never admitted to being wrong. She continued to say that I should "be grateful that she didn't throw me out into the street when I was pregnant."

      She was still saying that to me right up until she died. She was expecting my son to be grateful for being adopted.

      My son was not grateful. He was aware that my parents could have helped me and refused. My son also told me that he did
      not like being adopted. I told her he would not be grateful, and she got mad at me.

      Her attitude was even worse than my father's.
      My parents remained staunch supporters of adoption, for the most part My father did help me with legal advice on numerous legislative bills,helping single mothers (!), and in support of opening adoption records. My father did not believe in sealed records for any side in adoption. He was able to "separate" his feelings from his legal knowledge.
      But, he remained an adoption believer...as did my mother. It seemed to be, as I thought before, some kind of artifact from the past.

    4. @Lo and Maryanne,
      as I grew older and became more involved in the reunion movement, I met many adoptees and reunited families. I also met many extended families who had changed their views around "unwed/single pregnancy."
      In my own extended family we now have quite a few single moms, unmarried parents raising kids, and a number of reunions. The grandparents have been mostly involved and supportive.

      Some of these grandparents are of my own parents' generation, but they think differently from my parents.

      My parents always were a bit extreme in their thinking, compared with my friends' parents and even with my relatives. As my family aged, my parents really stood out as an "anachronism" in their thinking..which seemed to belong to another time.

    5. I met a grandmother who was searching for her lost grandchild at a support group in Portland, Oregon. She deeply regretted not helping her daughter keep her baby. She and her husband did not know the daughter was pregnant until she went into labor. After the baby was born, they asked their minister what to do and he told arranged an adoption. The grandmother told us she had no idea there was any other way.

      The daughter died at a young age and that prompted the grandmother to begin searching.

  4. "Do it this way, and you can be free and clear, no one will know." The systems that consider pregnancy to be punishment for sex always target the mother. The systems heap the threat and scorn on and then offer a way out in the same way organized crime racketeers extract payment from small business owners for "protection." Giving away one's own born child is seen as a happy and loving choice for a woman when of course nothing is further from the truth. I know I need not explain the differences here but I always feel like I want to tell my story which is one of sexual predation, violence I believe was aimed at terminating my pregnancy because of age differences between myself and the father, and then hostage taking and falsified birth certificates none of which protected me. AND, even as a child, I was pressed into silence for the supposed good of MY child who would only know one family and that family would not include me. We mothers are treated as sacrificial lambs and made to look like narcissists if we tried to be the "good girls" everyone wanted us to look like. Loss of one's child is the wound that keeps on wounding.

  5. Legally sanctioned anonymous abandonment is just plain wrong.

    Ron Morgan wrote on Poundpup about the French "Accouchement sous X" law:
    Born Under the X: French Law Guarantees Anonymous Childbirth:
    Marley Greiner and Mirah Riben have also reported on this.

    Here is another shocker:
    September 21, 2016 3:22 PM By Tony Romeo
    HARRISBURG, Pa. (CBS) — Three more bills from a package of legislation to streamline and speed up adoption procedures in Pennsylvania were approved by a state House committee on Wednesday.
    Greg Grassa is Executive Director of the House Children and Youth Committee, which advanced three bills that are part of an eight bill package to tighten up adoption procedures. Grassa says one of the most important bills in the package has already passed the House and awaits action in the Senate. That measure would reduce the period of time a birth mother can revoke her consent from 30 days to 14 days.

    1. Lisa, do you know if CUB knows about these bills?

  6. For sure, it appears the legislatures are again moving in the wrong direction!! It is more transparency we need, not less! I see that DNA testing is going to become even more significant time passes.

    You know, there are... .last I heard of it, something like over 3,000 genetic related diseases out there. I'm going to discuss just one serious aspect of what is going on (to be conservative)...Very often, people reproduce whether a teenage pregnancy, or a semen or egg donation to an otherwise infertile couple at very young ages - long before an inherited disease makes itself known.

    How much medical history would a 15 year old girl have? Not much! In my own family mental illness happens frequently! We have cancer (yes, it is a genetic disease!), and bi-polar disorder, paranoid schizophrenia which all have genetic components, but often don't make show up until later in life in young adults or later! My adoptee daughter has no way of knowing this! Caseworkers lie, and are often incompetent and corrupt - even if they knew this, they wouldn't tell the adopters likely as not! Adoption is supposed to be the magic cure all as we're told frequently in the media. We know different!

    To seal or keep things secret - (Yes, I know I'm largely preaching to the choir here. lol.), largely endangers the the people that adoption advocates claim to be most concerned about - the child, who will hopefully grow to adulthood. If that child inherits a propensity to develop cancer, or a mental illness, how does not knowing about it serve their best interests?

    It's so stupid the way adoption has been designed - no doubt to soothe the insecurities if adopters demanding exclusive property rights to the child in exchange for their ....cough, cough... LOVE.

    But as, we know adoption largely is meant to serve the real needs of the adopters- their wants and needs are what's paramount!

    Meanwhile, the children or their young parents real needs are left ignored and discounted! It's always about serving the adopters. Another subject, another time, but still valid!

    Keep on, keeping on Lorraine. The truth needs desperately to be told, and retold as often as it takes! I am a natural mother of an adoptee I was forced to surrender at her birth. I need no one to speak for me! The truth needs to be told! You are doing what's right Lorraine. I support you 100%

    Love and best wishes!

    1. Thanks, Frances. Sometimes a woman does get weary so it is always nice to know that your words and work are appreciated.

  7. @Frances Shipley I applaud your courage in talking about some of the illnesses like mental illness and cancer which can have genetic components From what I've read there are so many different genes involved in these 2 illnesses that even if the geneticists and eugenics people out there thought they could eliminate them by aborting babies of mothers who are so labelled(often by 28 year old hospital residents who are not always correct) they wouldn't succeed because many of the genetic changes are epigenetic and there is a lot of cross-talk between signal transduction pathways. Also, they are finding out that some of the genes involved in mental illness are protective against cancer. How many people with serious mental illness do you know who have cancer? Not many, I'll bet It's complicated Evolution is a mystery I have these illnesses in my family too but ,believe me, it is not all doom and gloom

  8. I need to ask a quick question of anyone who can answer it. There is a first mother that sometimes posts here whose child was adopted by its bio-father's mother and stepfather. She used to be here fairly often and she had a blog of her own.

    The reason I ask is because I recently heard about a story very similar to hers that happened many years ago, at the beginning of the Baby Scoop Era. Does anyone know who I am talking about and where I can find her blog? Thanks.

  9. I am currently 7 months pregnant with my beautiful daughter. Several months ago, my daughter's father (who had previously been "so excited" about our baby girl) abandoned us and is now begging me to place her for adoption.

    I know in my heart that it is wrong for me and for my baby girl, but went to talk to a local (non-religious) adoption agency anyways.

    You should see the propaganda they spew - open adoptions! Everyone is happy! Everything is shiny and wonderful!

    But I felt so, so uncomfortable talking to them.

    My ex is in constant contact with them, trying to get them to convince me to "do the right thing." They are asking me to try to compromise and see HIS feelings on it. To compromise with the man who abandoned his baby girl!

    The whole thing gives me a very cold, very uneasy feeling.

    I am so grateful to have found this website and blog.

    1. Hang in there, Beth! You are doing the right thing, right now! On behalf of your infant daughter now and forever - thank you, mommy xo

    2. Beth--I hope you find the support and help you need. The father wants to resolve any responsibility for the child. Open adoptions are often a big fat joke, and you will have little to no power at all to keep yours open if the adoptive parents choose to disappear, close it down, make it difficult. Stay strong. It will get easier.

    3. Beth if you keep your child she will never know that you thought of relinquishing her for adoption, and will feel a certain, continuous, strength in belonging and identity from the beginning. There are so many pluses for the child if you keep her, that cannot be replaced by another family, no matter how much money they have, no matter how high their IQ's are, no matter what special talents they have, no matter how healthy they are. I don't know what agencies are telling you but don't let them question your worthiness to parent your own child by illustrating how worthy others may be to be parents, too. Keep her, you are her mother. Best wishes to you. -- an adoptee

  10. Another adopted child takes her life. Heart breaking.


  11. Speaking as someone adopted as an infant in a closed adoption, my impression is that knowing what we know today about identity formation and self esteem, to now relinquish a child under terms whereby a mother's identity is withheld constitutes nothing short of emotional/psychological abuse towards the child. To the extent that every time that child wonders who gave birth to him or her and they experience a sense of unreality and disconnectedness, the wounding would be repetitive. It's beyond the pale that legislators throughout this country are still drafting legislation with the intent to deprive children of such a basic human right.



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