But my favorite part of the evening had to be the birthfathers. I persuaded my partner (birthfather of our nearly 1-year old daughter) to come with me, and two other birthparent couples joined us as well. Although we all came from different backgrounds and ages - some of us are married with other kids, some still single - and have different reasons for making an adoption plan, we were able to bond over shared experiences and appreciate a feeling of being supported by a community.
I still couldn’t help feeling sad about how unusual it was to see birthfathers at an adoption-related event. If three birthfathers count as a crowd, are we missing something?
So I decided to investigate.
I learned quickly that it’s hard to find good information on birthfathers in adoption. The little I did find referred only to closed adoptions, or was outdated. Finally, another birthmom led me to the The Donaldson Adoption Institute.
According to “Fathers in Adoption: Are They Forgotten”, by Social Work Today, “A negative stereotype persists that birth fathers are troublesome, uncaring, obstructionist, irresponsible, or worse.” Thinking back to the birthmother retreats and events I’ve been to, I remember lots of stories about bad relationships and absentee boyfriends.
Clearly, birthfathers don’t have a good rep.
The article goes on to admit that “...very few birth fathers are involved in the process of infant adoption” and that it’s “up to each individual state to decide how to protect birth fathers’ rights.” In Illinois, for example, a birthmother has the right to refuse to name the birthfather on the birth certificate, to protect herself and her child.
Not to knock laws that were put in place for good reason, but it seemed to be that these men were expected to fail from day one! They can’t all be like that, can they?
I remembered the holiday party again and the birthfathers I’d met. They had been through a lot, and still came out to support their partners after a heart-wrenching decision. So I decided to dig deeper and see how many other birthfathers had made their stories and commitment public.
In October 2010, Benjamin Forbes’ girlfriend told him he was going to be a father. He was nervous, but at 24 felt excited and ready to start a family. Five weeks later, his girlfriend called to tell him she had decided to place the baby for adoption.
After a long fight, he accepted her decision and signed the adoption papers when his daughter was born in July, 2011. His blog, Baby Darling, which he began writing in early 2011, takes him through the cycle of grief and acceptance, and became his outlet during the placement.
“Mostly,” Forbes stated in an interview with The Guardian, “I wanted it to be a record for my Baby Darling, as I call my child, so that when she grows up it is all there in writing – how much I wanted her, and how much I fought to keep her myself, but also the reasons why – eventually – I too gave her up.”
Birth father Darrick Rizzo, 38, also left a legacy for his birth son, Ethyan as a successful entrepreneur, advocate and author of “The Open Adoption: A Birth Father’s Journey”, which is based on his experiences.
I won’t lie, researching this topic was a painful process. Being a very “new” birthmom in a relationship with the birthfather of her child is hard even in the day-to-day, but I couldn’t help but be grateful for the amazing support I have in my partner.
Some birthfathers may not be good role models for their biological children. But many, like Benjamin, Darrick and all our active birthfathers at On Your Feet are proving without a doubt that they want to be involved...and that they are here to stay.
Are you a birthfather who wants to share his story? Let us know in the comments. Also, did you know, On Your Feet Foundation has recently launched a support page for birthfathers. If you would like to join, send an email to info(at)onyourfeetmidwest.org.
- Database of adoption related blogs from all perspectives - https://creatingafamily.org/adoption-category/birth-fathers/
- Article - Birth dads still fighting for role in adoption Chicago Tribune - https://www.google.com/amp/www.chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/sc-birth-fathers-family-0105-20151207-story,amp.html
- Birth father rights in adoption (Adoption Network)
- Article - Birth Fathers: The Forgotten Half of the Story (Adoptive Families)