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.