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i still don’t have a birth certificate for my son. which means: no passport, no insurance, no kindergeld or elterngeld and no trip to london for the olympics (which is probably a blessing in disguise).

why? well. i’m still not entirely sure if i understand. mostly because our lovely german friend eva, who is six months pregnant, took james to the standesamt  (registry office) to help him register the birth of our little boy. like the little perfectionist that i am, i had researched exactly what we needed and had our birth certificates (james’s and mine), our passports (ditto), my visa, our marriage license and our tax id numbers already gathered in a folder on the sideboard in the front hall. once he was registered, i knew we’d receive both his german birth certificate as well as his international birth certificate and then i was ready with applications for his american and british passports, etc, etc. it was going to be a lot of paperwork, but relatively easy.

cue german bureaucracy. what you need to know before i continue is that my middle name, lakshmi, was given to me when i was about two years old by swami satchidananda (google him, i dare you. he’s kind of a big deal.). now, am i just name-dropping? no. though in certain circles he is quite famous, the point is that my middle name was given to me when i was two. as in, it does not appear on my birth certificate.

in the us, that isn’t really an issue. when my mother finally got around to getting me a social security card (i was five and she got mine and my brother’s at the same time, which is funny because we’re five years apart, but our social security cards are almost consecutive), she just wrote in my middle name. ever since, it’s been on everything: my drivers license, my credit cards and my passport.

common sense dictates that the “laura tenenberg” of my birth certificate is the same person as “laura lakshmi cope-morgan née tenenberg” of my passport, visa and marriage certificate, but though the woman working in the standesamt says that she does in fact believe that i am that person, her job is to make sure that the paperwork is filled in correctly and therefore, she can’t give us a birth certificate for our son until i turn in a change of name form proving that at some point between birth and now, i legally changed my name from “laura tenenberg” to “laura lakshmi tenenberg”, which unfortunately is impossible, since i never changed my name. i just added in the lakshmi and no one ever questioned it.

my husband, more cautious and less naturally arrogant about these things than i (he’s not american after all), was worried. i, however, thought that they can’t possibly not give us a birth certificate. i mean, he was born here, he requires a birth certificate and he certainly can’t get one from any other country. so… they had to, right? especially about such a silly thing…

however, our friend called again and was told that they were in face being very understanding because there were other things wrong with our request that they were graciously overlooking. for one thing, the “cope-morgan” was not hyphenated on our marriage certificate; it was just listed as “cope morgan” (the reason being that for whatever reason, california government cannot use any hyphens or punctuation of any kind in their system) and for another, our marriage license was in english (which they eventually made us translate into german anyway) and beyond that, they weren’t entirely sure what a “middle name” was anyway.


finally, i contacted the american embassy here and asked if they could write a letter saying that i indeed am me and that “me” is the same, whether it’s “laura tenenberg”, “laura lakshmi tenenberg”, “laura cope-morgan” or “laura lakshmi cope-morgan”.

they did but they spelled my name wrong. and i still don’t have his birth certificate.

saga to be continued.