That’s the title of a new documentary short about adult adoptees access to their original birth certificate.  denied. Most adoptees in this country are denied access to their certificate of live birth; instead we get an amended one passed on to us from our adoptive parents.  It really should be theirs to keep forever, as it really is more about them than the person born.  The adopted person should be given their “factual” birth certificate upon becoming an adult.  That’s fair, right?  I mean anyone reading this who’s not adopted has theirs, and they know what hospital they were born in, what their mother named them, what time they were born, and their size (weight/length.)  I would like to have my info and my birth certificate.  denied.

I write “denied.” in this manner because that is the title of the film, “denied.”  Just FYI, for those wondering if I’ve lost my mind – or think possibly this is the “real” me writing and the rest has been a ghost writer.  ((LOL))  That was a hefty laugh out loud!

On this fragrant warm spring day, I was filmed reenacting the events of a hot fall afternoon from 2008.  It was a visit to the Vital Statistics office in Phoenix, Arizona.  Today, I had it together.  I knew where to go, what do, and it was simple recalling my then shaky request, “I just found out I was adopted and I would like a copy of my original birth certificate.”  This time there was a camera filming each step, every movement, my request, and the clerk’s response.   I had it all rehearsed in my head and there would be no surprises, this time.

It has been 2 1/2 years since visiting 1818 W. Adams St., and I’m a different person now.  If anyone had witnessed both visits to the office, they would tell of great physical differences.  Wrecked on the inside = wrecked on the out; from posture to clothes to meek anticipation.  I had felt there was a purpose for it all, hoped for the best, but feared a great deal, and then hoped again.

Driving on the 202, and then on I10 and into the dimly lit tunnel, I explained for the camera how I felt and my anticipation while we exited at 7 th Ave.  “It’s for this film, and it’s about a time – but it’s all in the past,” I whispered to my self reassuringly as we pulled into the back of the Vital Statistics office.

It was explained to me that this footage is important and sets the ground work for wanting an OBC access bill.  It also teaches Joe-not-adopted that adoptees have an amended birth certificate with little and false information.  We are to use this “less-than” document, raised seal and all, as proof of our existence.  Glenys Westby did not give birth to Susan, and Susan was the second name given to this person of record.  Who did give birth?  What did the mother name the baby? How much did the baby weigh, and how long was she?  Who knows?  But, I’ll tell you who knows:  The staff in the hospital, my birth mother, the foster home, the adoption agency,  and all the clerical staff who handled my file from the hospital to the clerk who reissued the falsified record of live birth.  They all know, all these strangers had full access to this private transaction and the details of my birth, my beginning.  So secret and sealed away from me, but okay for all these other people to see.  I hope I get to hear from some Joe-nots, and see if they can even believe it?

Obviously, 1818 W. Adams St. is difficult for me, but I know my lines, and am fully aware of what the response will be to my rehearsed question.  Whether or not they will like the tall guy behind me with the big camera is something else.

The room is pretty full – it’s lunch time, and we enter and find the least populated row to make our way to the back, towards the line.  A woman with her two sons enter just after us, but they race up the next row over and get to the end of the line first.  The two teens are intrigued by the camera, glancing back on occasion. They poke and pull at one another, and then check the focus of the lens.

One kid punches the other and bumps their mother.  She reacts and says a few words to the boys, and then very casually turns and asks, “So what are you filming for?”

I share with great enthusiasm and an overly wide smile, “Its a documentary, and it’s an exciting day… I just found out I’m adopted and I’m getting my original birth certificate so I can know who my birth parents were, what hospital I was born in, and my weight/length.”  It’s like practicing for a play, yet the words are not playful to me.

Yes, this is it, exactly how I felt 2 1/2 years ago.

She looks a bit confused, but mirrors my joy, “Oh wow, how cool.  Uhh… I guess it’s our turn.”  The three move up to the window and like all the others before her, she provides proof of identity and gets a ticket so she can sit and wait to be called up to receive her certified copy of her birth certificate.

I stand on a black rubber mat with foot prints.  You are suppose to stand there to wait, and not any closer, as the big red letters tell you to – S T O P !

The word makes me feel 2 1/2 years younger, my head lowers and I can only look down.  I feel odd, confused, and like I want to stop.

“Next in line, next…” My eyes raise, and I’m up.  I hear her through a small hole with slats, the woman behind the glass is talking to me.

Deep breath.  I can do this.  Smile, and just say the lines.

“Hi, I just found out I was adopted and I would like to get my original birth certificate,” I say loud and proud.

“Oh, uhmm well, when you’re adopted your birth certificate is sealed from you and you have to get a judge to issue a court order to allow us to give it to you, ” she explains as if telling me about a fine for an overdue library book, while her piercing in her tongue flicks and flaps hitting her teeth on occasion.

I ask, “Is there a form or something I have to fill out for the judge?

She shifts in her chair and leans up and goes through a stack of forms in a bin.  Pulling out a pamphlet, and sliding it under the window she informs me, “You can also use the confidential intermediary program.”

“So, how do I get to this judge that will grant me MY birth certificate?”

“You have to explain to him why you want it, and then he makes a decision if you can have it,” she clicks and informs with a blank stare. “But the intermediary program will also get you what you want, so look at that information I gave you…”

And then I don’t really remember much.  I asked a few more questions, I think, and she became blurry.  I think I said, “Okay.” And then turned and walked away.  My eyelids tried to hold in the growing pain.  I was instantly back in 2008, and even though I know the law, and I know it’s not the pierced-tongue clerk’s fault, it hurt.  Deeply.  Again.

I dried my face and walked towards the door glancing to my right, to the crowd waiting for their certificates.  All eyes were on me, the men and woman who easily heard my request.  The speedy line-cutter mother had her hand over her mouth in disbelief.  They were shocked, and confused about what had just happened.  Honestly, so was I, but not for the same reason.

I stood at the door, waiting for a lady with a giant stroller to navigate the entrance, and I tried to convince the tears they were unwarranted.  My stomach felt as if I swallowed a shot-put, I grimaced and my feelings were obvious.  I shuffled outside, 2 1/2 years younger and smaller clutching the same confidential intermediary pamphlet, the panacea for all the adoptees in Arizona.  Here’s what she gave me.

WT...? Adoption Party and Records Search Program, Party, really?

They are PROUD of their program.

Apparently, there’s no form or information given regarding the special, “OBC granting Judge.”

Exhale… it’s over, I’m out of that building, keep moving…

I felt the breeze, and smelled citrus blossoms, and I began to crawl out from the place inside where the sun is only a memory.  I had more “lines” and had to step away from the feelings in order to share the pamphlet, as planned.  Even though so much of what I was feeling was unplanned.  This damn grief and reminder of loss, and lies – all too familiar.  It was easy to recall the anger I felt years ago towards my mother for not telling me I was adopted.  Cars drove past as I leaned against a half wall surrounding 1818 W.  Adams St.  A little sparrow flew over head, landing in a nearby bright green tree with its glossy new leaves.  The sweet perfumed-air rushed the hair from my face and neck.

I closed my eyes.  I’m here now, there is a purpose for all of this, and I am okay. I have Hayden with me, and I hope one day we can make a difference and change the laws in Arizona so no adoptee is denied the record of their live birth.

May “denied.” serve to educate communities across this country so they pass legislation allowing adult adopted persons their birth certificate.  And, I hope that my part of the documentary provides awareness so that years from now the term “late discovery adoptee” is only part of history, like an eight track player, an AMC Hornet Hatchback (my first car), or a rotary phone with a party line.

The best enlightened comments of the day came on the way home:

Hayden shared, “I was cataloging the film footage a while ago, and I had to take a break.  It was just too much adoption, and pain.  I couldn’t stand it.  I cannot even imagine being adopted, I’m so sorry Mom.”

That reminded me of my choice to live the kind of life I want, and enjoy all that life offers today, in the moment.  This happened to me, but it’s not who I am.  I choose to enjoy my blessed rosy-colored life, oh and one more very important thing –  do less reenacting.