Monday, September 29, 2014

The Legal Fiction of Adoption

My adopted daughter's new birth certificate came in the mail today. We had to wait three months after her adoption day to make the request. It wasn't until I was well into this foster/adoptive process that I learned that her new birth certificate would say that I gave birth to her. I read a book in which an adoptive mother was lamenting that the staff where her son was a student treated her poorly. She couldn't understand why until she realized that he suffered from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and, not knowing he was adopted, they all felt that she was responsible. It was then that I learned that adoption is sometimes referred to as "legal fiction." Somehow, I had always thought that the birth certificate would indicate we were adoptive parents.

My daughter is mine in every way that matters. I love her with the same love that I have for my sons. I would die for that little girl. There are days I almost forget that I didn't give birth to her, but that almost is always there. Like most foster adoptions, we have an open adoption. According to the adoption agreement, she gets to see her birth mother at least twice a year. Her birth mother and I have a cordial, if complicated, relationship. She gave my daughter life under very difficult circumstances and and loves and misses her every day. As a biological mother, I can't even imagine that pain. I pray for her every day. Now, legally, she has been erased from my daughter's history.

I knew what to expect in that birth certificate and yet there is still something surreal in seeing it in print - that the state of Massachusetts certifies that I gave birth on a day that I can't even remember what I was doing on (I did do two blog posts that day). Not only that, the certificate is dated a few days after my daughter's birth. There is something both beautiful and troubling in this retroactive legal fiction.  

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