Thursday, November 20, 2008

How come it works on Oprah?

Once in a while, people who know I’ve been searching for my birth family for 18 years will remark that they just can’t believe I haven’t had any luck. After all, people on talk shows are constantly reuniting with long lost birth mothers or children. Sometimes I think the underlying comment is something like, “you must not be trying that hard.” I have to admit, watching those shows makes it look pretty easy.

But, it’s not. I’ve done everything I can think of to do, and everything that’s been suggested to me. I could say that talk shows have nearly unlimited funds and resources to do searches or hire private investigators, and, while that is true, it’s not why they have luck finding people and I don’t.

It’s because they have something else that I don’t have: information. They have something: a birth name, a social security number, the name of a relative. They know that the birth father was in the Army, or the birth mother worked at the library in the next town. The adoption was arranged through the church, and everybody knew who the pregnant teenager was. Or, they were lucky enough to be adopted in a state that didn’t seal the darn records up like the national mint. They had something.

I, on the other hand, have nothing at all. My adoption was arranged through a Catholic agency, St. Andre’s Home for Unwed Mothers. This place still exists, although in an unexpected attempt at political correctness, it is now called just St. Andre’s Home. Back in 1960, pregnant women (or girls) went to live at St. Andre’s during their pregnancy, and surrendered them, usually at birth or shortly thereafter. At that point, the child went home with the adoptive parents, and a few months later, the adoption was made final in a judge’s office at the parent’s closest courthouse. The only other person to attend the adoption hearing was usually a nun, the one who had worked with the adoptive parents.

The records from the adoption were then sealed up in the Court of Probate, never to see the light of day again. The Probate Court, and the Adoption Agency both guard this information as if it’s the secret nuclear launch codes. Now, there are several probate courts around the state, and it is legal for a probate judge to open the records. Some of the judges have opened quite a few of the files, usually for what they consider good reason, for example, if an adopted child needed a bone marrow transplant or something like that. SOME of the judges will open the records just because you ask, but not MY probate judge. My judge believes that there is NEVER a good reason to open up adoption records, and has NEVER done so in the 20 years or more he has presided over probate in the county I was adopted into. Sigh.

I’ll tell you about the experience I had when I tried to get information from the adoption agency tomorrow, but for now, you can assume that they were less than helpful. So where does that leave me, with my desperate desire to find out my medical history, my birth family, my origins? It leaves me with the internet. I have signed up for every registry online that I could find. There are quite a number of reunion registry sites, where you can list your birth date and place and say you are searching for birth relatives. Then, if they sign up too, your birth mother or other family can be matched with you. I’ve never had even one hit.

So I wait. I wait for that magical moment on January 2, 2009 when I can at last hold my birth certificate – my REAL birth certificate – in my hands and see my birth mother’s name (and maybe the father’s name). Then I will have the thing that Oprah’s guests have (no, not all the cool gifts!). More valuable to me than gold: Information.


Wonderful World of Weiners said...

Maybe Oprah IS your mother!! :)

Just thougth you needed a chuckle.

Talk to you later!

Hallie :)

Laura ~Peach~ said...

you hit the nail on the head... they have 1) MONEY 2) resources 3) Information

I had information that the childrens home unwittingly gave to my parents and my father shared that information with me when I was 11 and begging to know. BUT... I could not do a darn thing with that information until I was over 21... I tried to... My step mother tried to and of course all the while even with that information we were not positive just how correct it was... TURNS out it was 99.9 % correct.
I had the NAME i was give by my birth mother... the correct name... I had a lot of general history about my mother a little medical history but not much and of course as persons age more medically releveant stuff comes to light... and I still hit some of the same road blocks you are hitting. BUT... the good news is... the day came that all that information and a pretty big chunk of change opened those doors and the judged signed the papers to open my sealed files. I was lucky to have a person who worked at the childrens home I came from to be the go between as in my state I had to have MY adoptive parents permission signed sealed and delivered and my BIOLOGICAL parents permission signed sealed and delivered to be given the information that identified them.
OHHHH i so really need to be writting all this mess down.... and adding to my story.... maybe some of it will help someone else like you who is still searching.

if you find my motivation will you please send it home?

Grins and HUGS and Once you have the names... It will be relatively easy. I will help you.

Andrew Scott Turner said...

St. Andre's Home for Unwed Mothers?!?!? What was their marketing campaign? An image of God pointing out at you from a poster with the words "God Wants YOUR Child, Sinner!" under him?


Sounds like something from a John Irving novel

Becca said...

wow what a struggle. I can imagine that if your birth mother was an unwed catholic girl it was a heartache for to give you up but the thing to do at the time. I hope she's out there still and you can find her.

Odette said...

I laughed so hard when I read Andrew's comment.

I can't imagine what this anticipation must be like. It is so touching to hear about your family and how you were brought up knowing that you were adopted. I had a friend in elementary school who came back to class after lunch at home in shock after coming across some papers that said she was adopted, we were probably 11 and she was devestated. I can understand why her Dad hid it from her (he adoptive mother had died of cancer five years earlier) but I think that the way your parents didn't make a big deal about it was better.

Arg I wish that I could help you, but I just have nothing to give here, except my ear (or I guess in this case my eyes!) and an open heart!

Reddirt Woman said...

My twin nieces that my brother and sister-in-law adopted about 40 years ago tracked down their birth mother 10-15 years ago and have maintained a relationship with her ever since. On the other hand, their brother who is a year and couple of months older and also adopted by my bro and s.i.l., has never shown any interest in finding his birth parents. None of them have had any particular health problems that would have spurred a search. The girls wanted to know and their brother didn't seem to have any interest.

Good luck...


katy said...

I don't think people understand that those big "reunions" on tv are such a tiny percentage of adoptions. They can take the easy ones and make it look good but there are hundreds, more like thousands more that are not so easy. Good luck on your search and I will be here....rooting you on.
Yep, I passed on the metamucil.

justlori2day said...

And to think that in the progressive times we live in, there would't still be the old school "must keep it secretive" kind of justice. I dont get it.

I pray that January 2nd you will be able to get payback for the angst you have been put through.

Vegas Princess said...

Everything looks easier on TV. They have unlimited resources and funds at their disposal to make miracles happen. Us normal folk don't have the same advantage. You are doing everything right and at the beginning of the year you will have more information at your disposal.

Shellie said...

TV is fantasyland. I can't believe how ignorant that judge is. January can't come soon enough!