Tuesday, October 12, 2010

What's in a name.

We got J's amended birth certificate in the mail today. I have mixed feelings about amended birth certificates in general and about ours in particular. I feel like they represent something that is deeply flawed about the way adoption works in our country. I knew that after we went to court and finalized that our lawyer would file paperwork with the appropriate people in Georgia and they would both seal J's original birth certificate and issue her a new one. Now no one, not even J when she grows up, will be able to see her original certificate. And the one that is public record simply lists Andrew and myself as her parents, as if I were the one who gave birth to her in the hospital which is also listed. I don't like it because it isn't true. Z, J's first mother, shouldn't be erased and her name sealed away as if it something shameful.

But I digress. This post is about names.

I was prepared to see my name in the space listed "mother" on J's new certificate. Except, my name wasn't. Instead I saw my first and middle names, and Andrew's last name. My last name was listed, but under "maiden name." It felt strange, to say the least. I am used to people, grandmothers mostly, addressing cards and letters to "Mrs. Andrew _____." But as much as I love him my last name has never been negotiable. It's mine, it's the name of the woman he fell in love with. Neither of us ever questioned my decision to keep it. So I had this sort of odd internal reaction to seeing his last name assigned to me on that certificate. It was like someone else had been legally made J's mother.

Of course I think about this in terms of my daughter, the other person who has now received Andrew's last name. She had other names when she was born too. Originally we planned to only keep the middle name that Z gave her, and that we would give her the first name we had chosen, and Andrew's last name. But over the course of the past eleven months that choice hasn't set well with me. We have never met Z, so I don't know what her preferences would be. But it didn't feel right to take 2/3 of her names away and leave them shut up in wherever it is original birth certificates get sealed. So at the last minute, moments before our lawyer headed into court, Andrew and I discussed it and changed our minds. J is still our J. And she still has Andrew's last name. But at the core, the middle, of her name are the first and middle names given to her by Z.

Now we just have to get my name fixed on the darn thing.


  1. Gosh - that's a bit of an assumption about your last name! We are the same, I use my name, he uses his name, a child will probably have both. Glad you chose to keep both of Z's names for J, I am assuming you do actually know her original last name? Do you have a copy of her original birth certificate (I'm very curious about this)

    And best of luck changing your name!

  2. freaking georgia!

    we kept an original of our baby J's birth certificate for her. though in cal. she'd have access at 18. it's insane how other states seal forever.

    I love the way you honored Z with J's name. I think it's so important to maintain some connection. our daughter has two middle names -- one we chose from our family and one we chose to honor her first mom, with her approval. we also discussed everything with her beforehand, and no one else.

  3. I totally agree on the birth certificate - I wish there was some other way to show that we were the legal parents without trying to erase the past and lie about our having given birth. Maybe the adoption community should start asking for an "amended" birth certificate that shows that the baby was born on x date to birthparents (who may or may not be named), but adopted on x date to these parents.

  4. When we received Aliya's new birth certificate it was bitter sweet. I cried and cried. I never imagined that my name would appear on a child's birth certificate, but it did feel wrong. It felt fake. It felt all sorts of thing. And in my joy I felt pain. Pain for Aliya's birthmom, pain for Aliya. Her adoption is not a secret, it is celebrated and I'm glad for our openness so Aliya never doubts who her first mom is, even if my name appears on her birth certificate!

  5. About names...and how our faith intervened. Ok, are you ready for the goose bumps... When we adopted our daughter (her birthmom chose us but never wanted to meet us), we were told our baby "I"'s birthmom's first name but never her middle or last. Our baby had not been born at a hospital and had been given a name verbally by her birthmom. We went on to choose a name we had always liked "I" for her first name. We decided to use my middle name "A" that was many generations long and a family name. The last day in our daughter's birth state we met one last time with the adoption agency and they asked us what we decided on for her middle name... when we told them "A" several ladies began to tear up and the others all got goose bumps... turns out we gave our little babygirl the same name as her birthmom not knowing that was her middle name also. A full circle moment, or what we like to refer to as a "God thing" :) Out of all the thousands of names possible we unknowingly named her the same middle name as her birthmom (and coincidentally mine too). Now, as for our birth certificate fiasco- we waited patiently for over 3 months after finalization for her amended birth certificate, but instead the agency accidentally mailed the original to us, that had our baby's original names, birthmom's full name and her address.... when we contacted the agency to let them know they said we should "discard or shred it".... needless to say we will not do this, we will save it in a safe place for when our daughter wants it~ another "God thing" to us. This is her history and her right, we will honor this by keeping it and giving it to her when she wants it.

  6. I totally agree about birth certificates! I really think its time to change the forms. Its just a form - and it means so much to have space for all the mothers to be represented. I felt the same way when my daughter's birth certificate came...like a phony - the doctor was listed as if I had had a relationship with her! It was just too weird. The strange thing about birth certificates is that they mean so much (especially to us moms through adoption) but throughout our lives, how often do you actually look at yours? What does it mean to you?