Meeting the Birth Parents

An adoptive father's perspective.

Kenna Shumway July 08, 2014
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My wife and I met the birth parents of our son, Harley, the day after Thanksgiving. This wasn’t a tradition meeting as Harley, our son, was 14 months old at the time, so we were meeting all three of them! Talk about pressure. We were meeting them at our agency with our case worker there to guide us. I remember I had to talk my wife down before going in because she was basically hyperventilating, saying, “I can’t do this.” She balked in the parking lot and then again in the hall, so needless to say it took a minute to get her to the room.

I was focused on coaching Kenna to be calm. In the back of my mind, I had the normal thoughts and fears anyone in this situation would have, mainly about myself: if I was good enough for these birth parents to like me and pick me to be the father of their son, or if they would see my flaws and think I was funny-looking. I was afraid that my negative characteristics would stop the adoption from going forward. Unique to our situation, I was fearful of bonding with Harley. Would I like him? Would he like me? Am I going to be able to have a real father/son relationship with this child? So I did what any sane person would do: I prayed and ran full force into it.

When we walked into the room, we saw the birth parents sitting on the couch and Harley sitting on the floor playing. Everything in my mind calmed down. I was still nervous, but I felt more at ease. We sat down and struck up a conversation with the birth parents. I remember Harley couldn’t walk, but he grabbed onto the couch and the table and shimmied his way over to us. Harley would throw some balls and I would throw them back, slowly leaving the conversation with the adults and focused on Harley. The ball throwing led us away from the group, and we were soon on the other side of the room playing. I felt like my connection with Harley was instant. I didn’t want the birth parents to think I was there for a “grab and go,” so I made my way back to the conversation. It felt like a balancing act. Proper attention to the birth parents and to Harley. Probably the biggest memory was the connection and bond Harley and I created so quickly.

Meeting the birth parents

Josh snuggling Harley to sleep for the first time, only two weeks after they met.

Upon leaving the meeting, I felt like I was leaving my child. That yearning for him to be with us right now was so strong. We felt so much love for Harley, and we had only been with him for an hour or so. After we left, our case worker told us the birth father was going to relinquish, and we felt so relieved! I was reassured that I had the qualities to be this child’s father. In their eyes, I was good enough to raise their son as my own. With adoption, you need to be fully invested. High risk leads to high rewards. You have to go all-in. The outcome isn’t known, but you have got to be committed to the cause. Trust in yourself, and even more important, trust in others. So many people come together to decide your fate. In my case, my fate was to become a father.


Meeting the birth parents

Josh snuggling a sleeping Harley, three and a half years later.

Thank you to my wonderful husband, Josh, for sharing this experience!

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Kenna Shumway

Wife. Adoptive mom. Writer. Photographer. Endometriosis survivor, infertility warrior & adoption advocate. Rock star on weekends. Currently calls Ohio home with her pharmacist husband and their ginger son. Read more from her on her blog.

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