Typically when people think of the adoption triad, they think of the adoptive parents, adoptee, and birth mother. But for every birth mother, there must also be a birth father. So where is he? It’s not very often than you hear about a birth father’s perspective.
There are several reasons why this is. Most people think that you don’t hear from birth fathers because most of them aren’t around. There is an element of truth to this. Lack of involvement from the biological father plays a part in many women’s decision to place. Since a man does not physically carry the child, he can walk away. A pregnant woman can’t walk away if she wants the child to live.
However, this is absolutely not always the case. There are many birth fathers who do choose to support the birth mother through pregnancy and help make an adoption plan. Birth fathers are often heartbroken that they are unable to give their child the life he or she deserves. The grief of a birth father is real. I’ve seen it myself. True birth fathers are men who step up to the plate and help as much as they can during the pregnancy. Their numbers may be fewer, but they exist and they matter.
Birth fathers tend to grieve more quietly. Part of this is simply that typically a woman is more vocal about her feelings than a man. It’s not very often that a man who has been through something as difficult as placing a child for adoption is very public about their emotions surrounding the event. Every adoption story is bittersweet, and it’s okay to keep that private.
A birth father has a different relationship with his birth child than a birth mother does. He plays an irreplaceable role in the life of that child, and he is very important. But he does not physically carry the child. Women go through the pain of pregnancy and delivery, and their bodies are changed forever after giving birth. This is a constant physical reminder that she carried a baby who is being raised by someone else. A man, even though he is just as important, does not have that constant reminder. This makes it easier for him to live a more normal life both during and after placement. Not being the one to carry the child doesn’t mean that he doesn’t suffer: his grief is real. It’s just different.
The birth fathers I know are very aware that their relationship with their biological child is different than the birth mother’s. Most of the men who are actively involved in open adoptions have some contact with the birth mother. In my experience, these men spend their energy helping her through the difficulties of placement and enjoy the beautiful parts of it with her. The focus is on their shared experience, and he talks about it with her rather than on public platforms.
The most unfortunate reason that we don’t hear much from birth fathers is the element of shame. If a man is very public about being a birth father, you can bet that at least one ignorant person will shame them. Someone uneducated might think that a birth father helps make an adoption plan because he doesn’t want to take responsibility for his child. As untrue as this is, it’s not an uncommon idea. Being shamed makes it even harder to talk about something as close to your heart as adoption.
Birth fathers are just as important as birth mothers. They are brave and strong. The adoption community needs to spend more time talking about birth dads and celebrating the role they play in the life of the adoptee. Maybe then we will start to hear more from the men who made the selfless decision to give their child the best.