Ever since *A* and I started the adoption process well over a year ago, I have felt inundated by personal stories, quotes, cautionary tales, and advice from and about women involved in some aspect of adoption. Adoption books and blogs, parenting books, websites, personal blogs – you name it – they are primarily written by women (and seemingly) for women. Adoptive, pre-adoptive, and birth mothers. Moms.
Don’t get me wrong – I certainly appreciate the community I have found among the talented women writers and friends who have been gracious and willing to share their stories. I’ve learned a lot from in the past year from the women I’ve “met” online and become acquainted with in person. I’m grateful for those experiences.
But where are the guys? The dads? The adoptive and pre-adoptive dads? Their stories are so few and far between. And perhaps most silent (silenced?) of all – where are the birth fathers?
I’ve read and heard a few stories about birth fathers, hardly any of them written with any positivity. I’m a smart guy who has been type-cast more than my fair share in life, so I’ve learned to overlook the negative stories, the stereotyping, where the “disappearing” birth father seems to be the norm. I am convinced that there are more experiences that just those, but the trouble is that there just isn’t a lot out there. Why such silence from the guys involved in some aspect of adoption, when everyone else is writing? Surely they have something to say, because as a hopeful adoptive dad, I know I sure do.
I found a few guys who have adopted or who are hoping to adopt and their voices have lent some insight on the adoptive and pre-adoptive side of fatherhood, but I still wasn’t finding anything written by or for birth fathers. I thought maybe I was just not looking in the right places. Maybe. I finally found, via Open Adoption Bloggers, the story of one birth father, Brandon, who writes about his child’s adoption. The experiences and thoughts he related on his blog provoked a lot of thought in me about birth fathers’ experiences – in a general way, at first, but then very specifically. I began to wonder about our someday child’s birth father.
Brandon started blogging “in response to the dearth of information about and for birth fathers.” He wrote, “When my partner and I began seriously considering adoption I started looking for resources. I wanted to know what other men had been through, what I could expect, and how to get through it. I found out very few people were willing to talk about birth fathers at all…I started writing about my experience hoping that I might give the perspective and support to another man I wish had been there for me.”
Something about that last sentence really got me because it’s one of the reasons I started our adoption blog – I felt isolated and was searching for community. These days, no one involved in adoption should have to feel so isolated. But what would what would community / support look like to a birth father? To me, as a supporter?
For my part, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I have a lot to say, specifically, to the birth father of our child. Right now, while no child has been born, and no adoption has taken place, he’s an expectant father. He’s a much-hoped-for, but still only figurative person to us. But one day, we’ll meet the expectant father who will become our child’s birth father, maybe while he is still considering what an open adoption would look like and mean for him. When that day comes, I’d like him to know a few things that I might be better able to articulate through writing (as I’m pretty sure I’ll be a nervous mess capable of saying brilliant things like, “I’ve got to go change my, uh… feet” when I meet him in person the first time.) So, while I’ve got it together (more or less):
My Open Letter To An Expectant Father
What you’re going through right now – I’ve never been there. I don’t have any idea of what your life has been like up to now, how you came to be who you are, or anything about your dreams for your future. I don’t know how you feel about the fact that you and your partner are expecting a baby. I don’t know how involved you’ve wanted to be or have been able to be in the decision-making process throughout your partner’s pregnancy. I don’t know if you want or feel able to know the child that will share your DNA. I don’t know if you even want to know me.
I’ve thought about you so often since my wife and I made the decision that we wouldn’t let our struggles with infertility slam the door on our dream of sharing our lives with a child. Just as I wondered how parenthood will change our lives, I wonder the news of your partner’s pregnancy has created change in your life. Do you have a support system right now? Who is listening to you, giving you advice and comfort?
As I wonder how you’re coping with what might be the biggest decision of your life, a constant thought is what it will be like to share fatherhood with you. You, this person I don’t know, but to whom I already feel connected, somehow. You, this person who will always be present in my – our – someday son or daughter, in a smile, an expression, a talent. You, this person who will be a child’s birth father, giving someone else the opportunity to be a dad.
I wonder how strong the tie between us – the link of fatherhood – will be. You will always be our child’s birth father, and I will always be our child’s dad. He or she will know that from an early age. What will that mean to that child? To me? To you?
As a person who hopes to become a dad through adoption, I always knew that another father would be part of the story of our family. Right now, even before we have the tie of a child binding us together, I want you to know that I have a lot of hopes for you. I hope you can find community among adoptive and hopeful adoptive dads, and other birth fathers. I hope that you have the opportunity to be a part of making the decisions that will change your life – and your child’s – forever. I hope that you feel able to – and want – to know this child, who has started his or her life being so much a part of you. I hope you can realize your dreams for your future and can live a life without regret. I hope that we can know each other and can watch this little life grow in front of us.
You’ve probably noticed that this letter to you mentions the word “hope” pretty frequently. Hope has been a big part of our dream of parenthood. So far, adoption has been a journey of hope more than anything else. We hope that we can be parents, and that we’ve made the right decisions to get there. And we know that for our hopes to be realized, someone else – you – must face a decision that you probably hoped you would never have to make, as you worry about making the right choices for yourself and your future. I respect the gravity of that decision and what it means for both our lives, yours and mine, for the lives of our family members, and for the child at the center of the decision.
I don’t know if anyone can make what you’re going through any easier. I hope you find comfort in knowing who we are and that we wish the best for you. I hope it’s clear that we already care about you, sight unseen, and we want you to be a part of this child’s life and our family.
I also hope that one day you will add your voice to the adoptive, pre-adoptive, and birth fathers talking about our stories. Just as you need us, we need you. It’s tough out there. While we can certainly value the input of the women around us, it’s good and right and appropriate for guys who are personally connected to adoption in some way to have a chance to speak, too. Maybe one of my greatest hopes for the two of us – you and I – is that one day we will be able to share our mutual story, as adoptive father and birth father to a child that is a part of both our lives and even in some small way help some other guy who is struggling with the idea of open adoption, fearing it might never work.
In the meantime, I hope the best for you. And, of course, I hope to meet you soon.