We’ve heard that 250,000 viewers have seen the film so far on PBS, everywhere from New York City to Los Angeles. Once in a while, I’ll hear from someone, or see something like this online:
I was home sick last night. As I curled on my couch, flipping through channels, I stopped at my local PBS station because my cable box told me the program was called “Adopted: for the Life of Me”. There was no more program information available, but I stop for anything labeled adoption, even for just a minute.
I was riveted.
This was a documentary about older adult adoptees and their searches for their original identifying information – their birth certificates, birth parents’ names, health information – information that non-adopted folks like myself take completely for granted. The film was heart-wrenching and highlighted the ridiculousness that exists in most states in the USA, the inability for adults to find out their origins.
As an adoptive mom, it was hard for me to watch the scenes where a grown man finally found information about his birth mother, and began to say things like “I’m going to go see where my mom lived”. I ached for that man’s adoptive mom – wasn’t she his mom?! But I realized that yes, she was his mom, but so was this stranger that he’d never met – never have the chance to meet. It made me question how many labels we put on our families: adoptive-this, birth-that, half-the-other-thing. When what we could all use in this world is a bit more family.
The film really brought home to me the injustice of permanently sealed records, and the fact that state by state, that needs to change. Some states are slowly opening records to adult adoptees, but unfortunately, most do not.
When my daughter is ready to search, I know I’ll have some conflicted feelings about it, but it won’t be about me, it will be about her. And even if her records are officially sealed, I have some information in my back pocket that I technically shouldn’t have that might help us search. I need to make it clear that I would *never* violate her birthmom’s privacy or search for her without my daughter’s consent and participation. But I can make it a little easier for her if I need to.
And after watching that documentary last night, I know just how important that sense of finding out “who I really am” and “where I really come from” can be. A sense I’ve taken for granted all my life.
Wow. Annette Baran once told me that our work was all about education – that people needed help to understand the situation before they could comprehend the need for change. I don’t think I ever understood the power of her charge until now…