I don’t think I remember a more terrifying conversation than the one I had with my son’s birth father when I told him that I believed adoption would be the best option. Since we were unmarried and, truth be told, unlikely to keep dating, I knew that it was ultimately my decision. I wanted to have him on board, though, in the chance that I would receive some sort of emotional support throughout the pregnancy.
To be honest, I don’t remember what his first reaction was. I only remember that after I laid out all of the information to him, I told him that I would make the final decision with or without him. Within a week he was supportive… but that was early on in my pregnancy.
Unfortunately, two things began to happen during my pregnancy which made it difficult to stay on the same page. First, whenever we would fight about something, he would make me feel guilty about not knowing for sure if I would place or parent. Second, whenever he would get upset about my indecision, I would begin pleading with him to stay with me, and then I promised I would choose adoption. I was so desperate for someone to save me, that I used my choice as leverage. This was definitely NOT the best idea.
If your unborn child’s biological father is involved in the picture, even if unmarried, then he MUST know that you are placing for adoption. There are too many instances of birth fathers disrupting an adoption, and it ends up being a disastrous story for all involved. As long as the father is informed, and he does not file for paternity within a certain time frame (in most states), then the adoption can USUALLY continue without disruption. It is always best if he is willing to also sign relinquishment, though. If you are married, whether to the father of your unborn child or to another, then your spouse must sign relinquishments.
Below is a good outline to follow if you are unsure about how to approach the father about placing for adoption. Have what you would like to say written down: main points, answers to questions he may ask, and your reasons for believing it may be an option.
1. If your relationship is amicable (or even if it isn’t), remember to take a position of empathetic authority (you are in charge and will make the decision, but show your concern for his feelings and thoughts). This is a huge decision; it is important that you stand your ground while being understanding.
2. Find out the process and laws for claiming paternity in your state of placement. This can be done by a quick call to an agency or, if that is unhelpful, a Google search. There are also online support groups that can lead you to the right resources. Have this information ready if you believe he will be against placement so that both of your rights are protected.
3. If at all possible, have your conversation recorded or have a follow-up discussion via text and/or email to prove that you did indeed discuss adoption an that he knew of your intent to place, so there will be no question that he knew.
4. Offer to let him be part of the process–choosing a family, building a relationship, and still having a place in the child’s life. Many men truly are good and just don’t want to lose control of a difficult situation. As stated before, if the biological father signs relinquishment papers as well, the adoption will be much smoother.
5. Encourage him to attend counseling or support groups with you. These are just as good for expectant fathers as they are for expectant mothers.
6. Be willing to make a parenting plan with him. Discuss things like finances, your relationship, visitation, and support (emotional and financial) during the pregnancy. Sometimes a look at reality (18 years to life, man) is enough to help him understand why adoption can also be a responsible choice.
I fully understand that some situations won’t put you in a place to discuss these things in person or in a calm, comfortable manner. My number one piece of advice is to have proof that adoption was discussed, and do not be vague about it. If you intend to place and are unmarried, then you need to be very clear that it is your intention. We live in a world of quick communication, and it is very easy to have a conversation via text or email informing of your intent to place with his written response–good or bad. As stated earlier, if he is unsupportive but refuses to take the proper (and relatively simple) steps to claim paternity, then you can still proceed with placement. The law allows for a biological father to claim paternity before birth and for a period after the child is born.
Knowledge is power. Do not be sneaky, do not be vague. Do not be tricky. Even if on bad terms, let him know (again, with proof) that your child was born. Your child is not a pawn or bargaining chip. If you truly believe you are doing what is best for your child, then you must make sure that that decision is protected.
As always, you are stronger and braver than you think. Weigh all of your decisions. You’ve got this, Momma.