Admittedly, we spend more time thinking about and speaking about our children’s birth mom than their birth father. It’s not that my husband and I don’t care, didn’t ask questions, or aren’t curious, but in the present day scheme of things, the birth family figure our girls tend to bring up or ask about is their birth mother.
Since they were very small, I’ve made a point to take a million pictures, save drawings and artwork, and have even tucked away some of their oh-so-dazzling schoolwork in case they someday decide to seek out their birth family and wish to share with them special moments from their childhood. The person who comes to mind as I carefully place these pieces away is their birth mom. And days like Mother’s Day serve as a reminder to me that there is another special woman with whom they share an unbreakable bond. I feel this obligation to honor her, even if from behind the scenes and an ocean away.
A couple of years ago, a friend sent me a Facebook link to a Birth Mother’s Day meme decorated with a flickering candle and a poem. I’d never heard of it before, but since 1990, National Birth Mother’s Day has been recognized on the Saturday before Mother’s Day. As I understand it, the day was created by a group of birth mothers who sought to educate the public about the sacrifices of birth mothers, but also to provide a day on which birth moms could remember and support one another in their feelings of loss, sacrifice, and hope.
Over the years, this day seems to have evolved to the point where adoptive families and the general public also now acknowledge and honor these women more openly. There is some controversy as to whether or not all birth mothers wish to be reminded of a day in their lives that was most likely filled with more sadness than joy. There is also some confusion and anxiety on the part of some adopted children who either don’t have a relationship with—or don’t wish to acknowledge—their birth families, for whatever reason. Like any complex situation, it is ultimately up to families and individuals to figure out to appropriately respect those involved in the adoption triad.
What then for birth fathers? Should we make more of an effort to better remember the men who have sacrificed, signed paperwork, and subsequently spend years quietly wondering about a child they may never know? Should we deem the day before Father’s Day as a time to recognize the men who have played an important role in an adopted child’s life? You can read several blogs concerning birth fathers, including how birth fathers cope with the loss of a birth child.
For some reason, birth fathers are often looked at with suspicion and contempt. In recent years, however, the media has reported on several high-profile cases where birth fathers have stepped up and fought to retain or regain custody of children who have been placed for adoption without their consent, breaking down beliefs that all birth fathers are more of a secondary figure or in many cases uninvolved, uncaring, and sometimes victimizers. Some believe this is an unfair stereotype to the men who may have had little choice in the matter and/or made the hard choice in order to put their child first. For insight into how birth fathers view their adoption experiences, check out the Adoption.com birth father support thread.
Today, the world acknowledges the importance of being more open with adoption language, adoption plans, and the adoption triad as a whole. Respecting the birth family means honoring the birth father as well as the birth mother.
Come Father’s Day, whether you choose to reach out to your child’s birth father, “Like” a Father’s Day meme created to remember birth fathers, say a prayer, or initiate a conversation with your child is a personal matter based on your child’s adoption story, personality, and preferences. If nothing else, it presents an opportunity to discuss in a healthy way feelings your child may be experiencing but unable to put into words. Like anything else, the desire to recognize an adopted child’s father should be based on the comfort level of the adoptee.
And perhaps, like National Birth Mother’s Day, the push for a space and a place for birth fathers to share their stories should come from birth fathers themselves who wish to educate the public on their unique perspectives concerning adoption, creating an opportunity for adoptive families who may be uncertain as to how to approach the subject.