My son recently turned one, and we have the pleasure of having a relationship not only with his birth mother, but his birth father as well. I’ve written quite a bit about my son’s birth mother—she’s an amazing young woman whom I admire greatly. (Here’s a link to a previous article I interviewed her for: How Infertility Increased my Empathy for my Son’s Birth Mom.) I find I haven’t written much specifically about his birth father. It’s unintentional, of course, but as a woman, I can relate to Katy’s experiences and emotions better than Lenny’s.
The say men don’t become a “father” until the baby is born, and in Lenny’s case I feel like this was true. In all of our conversations prior to Vincent being born, Lenny would talk about adoption quite casually, as if it were a simple decision. He wasn’t carrying the baby; therefore, it was still an abstract concept for him. But birth fathers still have importance. When the time came for surrender/placement, I feel that Lenny had a harder time than Katy did in choosing to sign the papers. Since they are not married, Lenny signed first because his signature was not necessary for the adoption to go through. If the birth father is involved, the lawyer and social worker will have him sign first so he can’t come back after the birth mother signs and fight for parental rights to the child. While Katy had nine months to go through the grieving process (or at least begin the process), Lenny only had a few days. And, once again, making a plan for a real, tangible baby is much harder than making plans for a baby you haven’t yet met.
He says, “For me, before Vinny was born it was easy to think of adoption. I wouldn’t say I didn’t love him, but he was just some unimaginable living being inside my girlfriend’s belly while she was pregnant. I had very little emotional attachment to him; therefore it was much easier to not have any guilt or hard feeling when thinking of adoption. When Vinny was born, everything changed. I felt this overwhelming love for him, and I couldn’t just help but smile and be in awe of him. Once he was born, thinking about adoption became a real decision and not just a ‘that’s what we’re going to do’ mentality.”
As an additional layer, my son’s birth father was also adopted (internationally from Russia) when he was a child. I asked him if that had any bearing on his decision to place his child for adoption. He replied, “I think my adoption more influenced the kind of adoption I wanted. Katy and I both knew we weren’t ready to raise a child. I wanted an open adoption because, unlike me, I wanted Vincent to know that his birth parents love him and for him to know how hard the choice was that we had to make. While my own parents didn’t tell me how to feel, what they said didn’t make my birth parents look good. They made it seem that they didn’t want me, and that’s why they placed me for adoption. I’d like to think it was more of a struggle, though, like mine was.”
After they signed the surrender papers, my husband and I saw both Katy and Lenny. They wanted to see us to say goodbye in the hospital. It was very emotional for everyone involved. Even though we knew this wasn’t truly “good bye,” because we had each other’s phone numbers and had plans for an open adoption, it was still so difficult to know the happiest day of my life was the saddest day of theirs. Katy and Lenny told us they’d like some time and they would contact us when they were ready for pictures/updates/visits/etc. We completely respected their wishes. Lenny was quick to text—I think wanting confirmation that he made the right decision and that Vincent was being taken care of—so we texted a few times within the first few days of placement and eventually made plans to get together two weeks from then.
Katy did not come to the first visit; she wasn’t feeling well and she’d also expressed that she might need more time before coming around to visits. So Lenny, my stepson, husband, Vincent, and myself all met for brunch.
Since that brunch, our relationship has grown tremendously, and my husband and I truly consider Katy and Lenny friends. I’m grateful that my son will grow up knowing he was loved by both his birth mother and birth father. I feel like this is important, especially for a boy. Boys need positive male role models in their lives. They need to know it’s okay to be sensitive and show their feelings. They need to know they can be masculine while still showing respect for women and the world around them. They need men to look up to who are good fathers, husbands, and humans.
I’m thankful my son has many of these men in his life, including his father and birth father. I know I’m one of the lucky ones when I get to speak so highly of both of my son’s birth parents. These relationships will only help to make him the best person he can be growing up.