Becoming legitimate

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When, in 1992, I decided to search for my son, I found that because my name was not on the original birth certificate, only his mother could make enquiries about him. Kay did so and received non-identifying information about Mark, which she passed on to me.

Subsequently, I decided to add my name retrospectively to our son’s original birth certificate. I thought that this action could benefit both Kay and Mark. I hoped that Kay might appreciate my acknowledgement of paternity - belatedly better than never? I did not want Mark to find a nil entry under ‘Father’ or worse still, “not known.” Also, at a personal level, twenty-six years of denial had proven to be debilitating.

I required Kay’s signature as her endorsement of this rectification of the record. I wrote to her, asking that she complete a Declaration by Mother, acknowledging that I was the father of the son she had given birth to. Her reaction was that this was a significant undertaking on my part, adding, ‘We are in this together, now.’ Having included my name, legally I was now in a position to contact Mark directly.

Later I sought documented proof of my paternity and I applied to the New Zealand Registrar-General for a copy of my son’s original birth registration.

My reaction to receiving the original birth certificate in 2001? Euphoria! I held it aloft, a record of my son’s actual birth and I knew that it was ours, the proof of a family separated by adoption. Earlier I had requested and received his adoptive birth certificate, which perpetuated the myth that he was born to his adoptive parents (when and where Kay gave birth to him!).

When I met my son in 2009, I discovered he did not know of his original birth certificate.

PS: Recommendation 14 in the Senate Community Affairs References Committee Former forced adoption policies and practices report asks that all Australian jurisdictions allow the father’s name to be added to the original birth certificates, where absent in the first instance.

 

Whilst a public apology is important in that it validates individual experiences collectively, an individual, through taking action, can promote his or her recovery from the wounds of adoption separation.