If you were to look at me, you would see an ordinary 60 something year old, suburban wife, mother and grandmother. I have a secret only a couple of people know. A secret I share with my husband that we rarely speak about. My secret is that at 17 years old I met "the one and only," and at 18 I found myself pregnant.
It was the end of the hippie generation, though I was raised with 1950's morals: free love pulling on one end, and wait until you are married pulling on the other. We were young, dumb and in love. Girls were no longer being sent away. Unwed mothers were just beginning to be out in the open, but teen pregnancy was still frowned on.
All I can say is that I lived in denial. I told the boyfriend, but no one else. It couldn't be happening! We were careful! I was the "smart one." The one who skipped a grade. The one who was so well behaved.
I didn’t show much. Of course, it helped that tent dresses and peasant shirts were the style. I dragged the boyfriend into my denial, not wanting to talk about it. Abortion was just becoming legal in some states; not mine. Though because of my state of denial, it would not have mattered even if abortion was available. Having several adopted family members, I thought adoption was the answer. I spent most of those 9 months in my own kind of "hiding" only able to come out of denial when it was necessary, and then right back into “hiding” with my fears and worries. I now understand I was traumatized.
Finally it would be over! I remember I was being wheeled into the delivery room when a nurse started to scold me. The tears started to flow. Fortunately, a kind nurse took my hand and said, "A family is going to get a wonderful child they have been waiting a long time for." So grateful was I for her kind words, it still brings me to tears. The only kind words I heard.
About six years ago just by chance when reading an article online, I saw a small headline: “Birth Certificates May Be Opened to Adoptees.” What happened to the law where birth certificates would remain permanently sealed?
The stress of seeing that article brought me right back to the most traumatic time in my life. I became obsessed with reading whatever I could on the subject. I was so angry with the way people were treating those of us who oppose the unsealing of confidential adoption records. Furious at the mob mentality, how they gang up on women with hate speech insisting that rape victims should be over the rape; calling rape victims liars; bullying and condemning women because of the adoption; denying that women were ever promised privacy; denying that I, that women who want privacy, even exist. I exist. We exist.
Now I respond to that hate talk, even though my blood pressure goes up, my stress level rises, and my head hurts. People need to know the other side of the story. I exist. We exist.
Eventually after finishing college, I married that boyfriend. We are just retiring, a time when you think you can finally relax. We worked hard, took care of our children and now have grandchildren (oh, how wonderful!). We just want to enjoy what we have worked for and the years we have left to us. Only here we are in our sixties, forced to cope with an issue that happened when we were teens. The blood pressure is up; stress is up.
I want the legislature and others know that we believed you. We believed that confidential adoption records would be kept sealed. Your option of opting out of the disclosure does not help me. It brings me back to a traumatic time. You will force me to have the opt out notarized, now getting another person involved. And you will force me to provide medical information to keep the privacy you promised me in the first place. No law requires me to give out my medical information, even to my own children. But I will be required to submit this information to a stranger every 5 years until I die. Really? By the time I’m 80 you can’t figure out that I have decent genes?
When I'm in a nursing home and can no longer fill out the medical information, you will open the confidential records. After years of working to keep my privacy, I will be left obsessing over if I am going to get an unwanted contact or if my family will be contacted. Then when I die, you will unseal the confidential adoption record forcing the whole ordeal onto my children and family to cope with, because my family cannot opt out. And it is not only the adoptee that will gain access to my personal information, but members of the adoptee’s family also.
You are terrorizing me, but you refuse to see that. You are terrorizing other women too, but you refuse to see that also. Your refusal to see the truth may make you feel better, but it makes things much worse for many, many families.
I exist. We exist.