August 5, 2013

What's Up With Adoptees and Birthdays?
I Asked Them!!! (Part One)

Why are birthdays such a triggering event for a many adoptees? There are a plethora of reasons. To share just a few that come to my mind that some non-adoptees may be unaware of…

A lot of mystery surrounds many adoptees' birthdays. Most adoptees do not currently have access to their original birth certificate (OBC) and have  what is known as an amended birth certificate (ABC).  

Much of what is on an ABC are lies. Some ABC’s even state the wrong date as the day the adoptee was born. When the adoption is finalized, some states give the option of changing the birth date and the place of birth!

Obviously, this falsifying of the OBC covers up the adoptee’s true origin.  Of course, the names of the parents on an amended birth certificate are also falsified. Keep in mind, it is a birth certificate, not an adoption certificate. Should the details of BIRTH not be accurate on a BIRTH certificate? Can you imagine not knowing if your birthday is your actual birthday? Or not knowing where you were really born? Or who actually birthed you?

For many adoptees, birthdays only remind them of all they still don’t know about themselves. It can serve as a painful reminder of losing your first family, experiencing what is known as "secondary rejection," or a host of other issues. 

Almost without exception the adoptees I talk to share with me that on their birthday they think a lot of their first mother and wonder if she’s thinking about them too. 
What I’ve just shared is not the entire reason adoptee birthdays are sometimes challenging – it’s just a small part of it. 

When it comes to discovering truth about adoption, I’m a huge fan of asking adoptees questions. So I did! The only way you can truly understand adoption is to ask the people who are the ones who are actually adopted.   Many responded in public on the Adoptee Restoration Facebook page as well as in private. Due to the response I am going to break them into two posts. (If adoptees responded privately and requested to reply anonymously, their name was changed.)

 Ashley M

“I turned 45 yesterday…we think.. Aging really doesn't bother me -- but there are things associated with the date they picked out for me that do bother me. You might think that by 45 I would have a good grip on this, but I don't. I think because there are parts of it that are still new to me. I was in denial about how it was impacting me for about 33 years of my life, and then it took a few more years past that before I started really being honest with myself about what was going on. 

There has been a lot of processing and a lot of healing, but I'm still not in great shape when it rolls around. The week before is an interesting mix of emotions that I am struggling to figure out what to do with. I don't blame those around me --it has nothing to do with them, but the feelings are still there despite what I try to do to manage it. Distracting myself doesn't help a whole lot either. I know there will be a lot of tears, for one reason or another. 

I try to journal everything out and I read out of a book that I've been reading for about the past six years (I'm only about 2/3 of the way through.) The book contains letters from Korean birthmothers to the children they gave up for adoption. I'm hoping to gain insight into what Korean birthmothers think about, so that so that maybe I might have an idea of what went through her head with me. 

Either way, both the journaling and the book have been really helpful in helping me grieve over what I have lost, which is necessary for me to do. The day after my birthday, I feel bruised all over. I now have a better idea as to why I am a wreck at this time of the year.

I am looking for her and it is doubtful I will ever know her, despite recent changes in Korean policy. 

Trying to make it something different, or trying to skip it altogether has failed miserably. Honestly, I am at a loss as to what more I can possibly do with this time.

Renee Lynne

My adopters could never seem to remember my birthday. I always had to remind my adoptive mother, even when I was a child.

Although (or maybe because?) there was never really any fuss made, I always secretly liked my birthday. It was the only connection I had to my mother.

When I began searching in earnest and realized the info on my birth certificate had been changed, I was so shocked and frightened to think that my birthday might be off. It would have been a pretty profound injustice for me; taking away the one thing I had left after losing it all.

The birthday card my aunt (mom’s sister) sent me on my birthday (age 51) after we finally met read, "Happy 1st Birthday!!"

Sigh. If only.

Rob D. McClintock

I never really had a problem about my birthday. My adoptive family has always celebrated my birthday with decent fanfare. However, last year months after my birthday, I was given some paperwork and it listed a date of 08/08 instead of 08/16 as my birthday. This was paperwork when I had a minor medical procedure done at four months old and my identifying info had that date. 

As these dates approach I am now confused and wonder what else about my life may be false. I am still processing coming out of the fog and still not sure what to do next. Fear of the unknown is strong and that other me -- the pre-adoption me -- still wants to stay hidden and safe. Whose birthday have I really been celebrating all these years? Some will say it’s just a date but adoptees know it is much more than that. Thank you Deanna, for allowing us to share.

Karen Brown Belanger 

It’s only something adoptees can get, really. And it's such a different day for so many of us. Another reason to ponder your belly button.

Rebecca Hawkes

It may be a symptom of lingering fog, but I didn't strongly associate my birthday with my b-fam until recently. This coming birthday, however, I will be spending the day at a blues festival with my b-dad, b-mom, b-brother, and some other folks I love. And that feels RIGHT. :)

Yvonne Bernath

Birthday = pain, abandonment, resentment, brokenness, sadness, an unfilled longing. I still struggle with my birthday and would gladly erase it from the calendar. Years ago I referred to it as 'Abandonment Day' which made people so uncomfortable with no response.

Lorene Wages Fairchild 

When I became a teenager I dreaded my birthdays. I usually had to put on a big smile and pretend everything was wonderful so as not to disappoint the people around me. I was secretly wondering if my real parents were thinking about me on that day and that hurt so much. The truth is I felt so rejected by them and birthdays just magnified those feelings.

Carolyn Sandifer Espina 

Consciously, I never thought my adoption affected my feelings regarding my birthday. However, I wound up getting married on my birthday. I realize now that I chose to do that subconsciously to 'cover up' my birthday and turn it into another celebration. On that day every year I make it all about my relationship with my husband - and not at all about myself or my birthday. I even feel 'bad' when people offer birthday wishes - I usually 'correct' them and say "it's also my wedding anniversary" instead of just accepting their well wishes.

Karen Brown Belanger 

This is the poem I wrote about my feelings as an adoptee on my birthday.

Unhappy Birthday
    There were no birth announcements.
    No cigars were handed out.
    No newborn baby pictures.
    No parent's joyous shouts.
    No counting toes and fingers.
    No comparing eyes and chins.
    No nursery decorated.
    No proud grandparent grins.
    Instead the day that I was born,
    a mother silently wept.
    While in a room close to her,
    her newborn daughter slept.
    So close we were together.
    So far we're now apart.
    Two lives were separated.
    A love doomed from the start.
    And so each year since I was born,
    this day has been the same.
    No one can know the sadness.
    No one can know the pain.
    No candles ever bright enough
    to light my darkened soul.
    No happy birthday party.
    No heart that can be whole.