This evening we are sharing a post from the perspective of Birth Parents. Birth Mother & Adoptee, Stephanie, interviews her husband, Tim, about placing their son for adoption.
Our journey began when we were in college. We were both 21 years old and not ready to become parents. We navigated adoption counseling for several months, our placement, and the challenging grief over the loss of our son together. It was a difficult journey and one that breaks many couples apart, but by the grace of God we stayed together. We’ve been married for seven years now and are raising two beautiful children together.
Here’s a peek into the mind of my husband, a proud birth father, interviewed by me, a proud birth mother. Our hope is for this discussion to bring awareness to the dedicated men who stay and navigate this hard journey.
What was your first thought when I told you I was pregnant?
What was your second thought?
What are we going to do?
How did you feel when I brought up adoption?
Nervous. I had a lot of questions like, “What will my family think?”
At the time, would you have preferred that I got an abortion?
Maybe. It seems simpler when you’re in that place. It’s more final.
What did you think about adoption before our experience?
I thought it was fine. You were adopted so it was a good thing.
Do you think being a foster kid affected how you thought about adoption?
Probably. I was more familiar with the foster system since I couldn’t be adopted.
Did you think that foster to adopt would be similar to infant adoption?No. I realized it would be different.
What did you think the adoption process was going to be like?
I thought it would be much more straight forward like “Here’s our kid, bye.” I was thinking more of a closed adoption. You put the baby in a basket and never hear from them again.
Was that appealing to you?
In some ways. I wasn’t sure I wanted to be involved. It seemed easier for us to have it open and shut. Less complicated. But probably harder in some ways. Much more difficult emotionally.
At the time did you think that would be easier for our son too?
Why did you stay?
I just think it was the honorable thing to do. I mean, I was 50% responsible so I should take 50% of the responsibility, at least. I can’t just skip out, you know. It’s not right.
For you, was our adoption counseling sufficient? Was there anything they left out?
I think it was fine. I don’t think counseling would have done anything for me. I was just immature overall, and I didn’t handle things correctly. Counseling wasn’t going to change that.
Did you feel supported in counseling?
I think our counselor was very there for you and she didn’t know what to do with me. She said I was the first birth father who had done counseling. It was her job to support you which made a lot of sense. And then I felt like I needed to support you, so I wasn’t really worried about getting support for myself. And I wasn’t sure if my family was going to support me.
Do you feel like your job was to support me and my decision of adoption? Like your voice didn’t matter?
Somewhat. I mean you literally could have don’t it without me so kind of. I do think I was there to support you, but we had a decision together.
Do you feel like it was really your decision, or you just went along with my decision?
I think it was mostly your decision. We talked about everything together though.
Were you really open and honest about what you really wanted?
I think I was honest enough. I think we landed on the right thing in the end.
What could I have done to be of more support for you?
That wasn’t your role. Your role was to carry a baby and worry about that and see if I was going to stay or leave or if your family was going to back you up and all of that. You were worried about other things. I wasn’t expecting support. I still wouldn’t expect that.
But what could I have done?
Maybe just asked more questions and talked about it outside of counseling.
Did you ever want to parent?
Yes. I think when it got more real. Like when there was an actual baby. I think in general for men, or at least me, the baby isn’t a real thing until I can hold it and then it’s very real. So, it’s very sudden. Before it was very abstract. We were talking about this kid, and I didn’t even really like kids, so it was easier to think about it “Sure. Yeah. We’re going to give it to these people.” But when you hold the baby, it’s yours and very different.
Why did you not tell me how you felt?
We had already decided. We had to follow through on our commitment. And all the plans and everything. We had talked about it for months and they had made plans. It’s like ditching your wedding day. People do it but it’s very very bad.
But it could have been good for you?
I don’t think it would have been. We had already decided. It would have been very harmful to bring up and talk about.
Why did you pick the adoptive parents you did?
Oh! That was easy! They were very similar to us. We liked all of their answers to the questionnaire. It seemed like they were going to give him much more than we could. They were older and more established, and I liked their vibe.
Why did you go along with open adoption?
I didn’t even know it was a thing people did until our counselor told us about it because yours was not open. Yours was semi open, but way more closed than open. So, I didn’t really know it existed. After talking, it seemed good even if it was more complicated. It was good for him, and it was potentially good for us. No matter what I think it was going to be better for him so he would know his birth parent and his story and all that.
What were your fears about open adoption?
That the kid would hate us and that we would not interact well with him or his parents.
Why did you choose to not tell your family while I was pregnant?
I don’t know if I would have handled it very well and I wasn’t sure they would support me.
Do you think you would have backed out and wanted to parent?
Do you like open adoption?
Yes. I like that he knows us and who we are, and he can ask questions and know about his story and where he came from.
How was the hospital experience for you?
Terrifying. I didn’t know what to expect. I think in general births in hospitals are traumatizing or at least that one was because we were planning to do one thing and then we did the other. And it was a little scary being in an operating room. I don’t like medical things in general and I didn’t know what was going to happen. It was pretty scary. It wasn’t even happening to me, and it was scary.
What was it like holding our son for the first time?
Oh! It was awesome! I didn’t expect to have a lot of feelings or even feel connected. It turns out my hormones kick in when I held him.
We agreed when the adoptive parents would come to the hospital but when the time came were you actually ready for them to come?
It was all pretty much a blur so I’m not sure I remember all that really. I remember a few moments from the hospital, like holding our son and his birth. I don’t really remember the tail end of it, so I don’t know. I do remember changing a diaper with the adoptive father.
I remember you teaching him how to change our son’s diaper.
Yes! I remember that. It was like a whole thing. It was his first diaper, so I was showing him the ropes. And I remember giving our son a bath and him screaming. The nurse told me to, and it was terrible. He didn’t like it.
Do you remember leaving the hospital?
Roughly. I remember we gave him to our counselor, and I had to drive you to the adoption agency since you just had surgery.
What was it like signing away your parental rights?
Rough. It was kind of a blur. But we had already committed to doing that, so we did it. It was hard and sad.
What do you remember about the entrustment ceremony?
We said some stuff like vows. Then we handed him off and then they said some vows. It was sad.
What was it like having his name changed?
It was a shock at first. We expected it. But it was still kind of the first sign that he was like a whole new kid. He’s not our kid anymore.
Did it help you separate your grief of losing a baby to him being a kid?
Maybe a little bit. I remember at first, like the first year or so, I would call him by our chosen name, but I haven’t really gone back to that. I got used to it after the first year or so.
How do you feel about the adoptive parents now?
They’re great! They’re great parents. They’re easy to be around when we see them. They really held up their side of the deal so it’s good.
How do you feel about our birth son?
He’s great! He’s grown into a young man and he’s really smart. I can’t describe my feelings. He’s a great kid. I love him. I’m excited when I get to see him. It’s always nice to see him.
Did you feel supported post placement? Like with your grief?
Probably not. There’s not a lot of support in general so no.
What support do you wish you had?
I wasn’t looking for support. I was trying to support you. I didn’t get support from our adoption agency financially because the medical bills weren’t mine, and I could go back to work.
Would you ever attend a birth fathers support group?
Not at this stage but probably during the pregnancy and post placement. It would be nice to be with other people even if it was birth parents and not birth father specific.
Why did you wait so long to tell your family post placement?
I was nervous and scared, and not sure how they would react. It was easier to put it off and avoid conflict.
How fun was it having him be the ring bearer at our wedding?
It was great! I think that was one of the first times my family met him so that was interesting. I’m glad he was involved, and we have the pictures and all that. He will know that we wanted him to be a part of it.
How is being a birth father similar to being a father?
I think you have a vested interest in your children and your birth child. You’re equally invested in their outcome and trying to make it as good as possible.
What was it like introducing our daughter to our birth son?
It wasn’t that big of a deal because he was pretty young. He was only 4. And then we kept seeing him, so he grew up with it. It’s not weird or shocking. He did say “Can someone get it off of me?” That was funny.
Do you ever wonder if we made the right decision?
I did a lot early on, but not anymore. It stopped when he was around 1 or 2.
Do you ever wonder what if we chose to parent?
I did when he was born and when he was older. Oh! And when I told my family. I think it would have turned out a lot differently and I don’t think we would still be together, so I think we made the right choice.
Do you think you would have still graduated college?
Probably not. I would have had to get a job to support you since you would have had to take care of him. Things would be very different.
How do you think our decision will affect the kids we are parenting?
Well, they will have another sibling that doesn’t live with us. That will be different. They will probably have questions just like he will, and we will have to explain as best we can.
Do you think it will be positive or negative?
Hopefully positive at the end of the day. They can have a relationship with him too since its open adoption which will be beneficial to their lives. They will have a good relationship. That’s what I hope.
How has your idea of adoption changed post placement?
I think before placement I had this idea of adoption as a mother putting her baby in a basket outside of a fire station. Now I have a much better view of people who choose to place and people who choose to adopt. I also now understand the idea of open adoption and that it can actually work for everyone involved and be positive and good.
What are some birth father stigmas that need to be broken?
That we’re all absent. Everyone was shocked that I was involved.
As a birth mom how can I help break that stigma?
That’s not your job. That’s birth father’s job. We need to show up and say that’s my kid too. I guess sharing my story might also help.
What advice do you have for men considering placing their child for adoption?
Just to try to be logical and think through all your option because you won’t get a chance to later. Be there even if it’s hard. Go through the process with the birth mother.
What advice do you have for prospective adoptive parents?
Be very honest about the type of relationship you’re looking for. Don’t just say what you think they want to hear. Be sensitive to their situation. It isn’t a happy one. Be respectful of the fact that it’s their child and their choice. Follow through on your adoption agreement even if it’s not legally binding. They will be there for the rest of your life.
What was grief like for you post placement?
Right after placement I mostly distracted myself. I was in college and had a lot of work to do. And I was working so I had plenty to keep my mind busy. I guess I buried it. When I told my family 2 years later, I doubted my choice because they were upset so I again thought about what it would have looked like to parent him. But I accepted our decision and was ok and happy and confident we did the right thing. I probably delayed my grief until I told my family. That made it more real.
Did you experience any grief when we had our daughter?
A little bit. We are in an odd situation. When we had our son, we didn’t know we would end up getting married and having our own kid. It is a little weird being in the situation where they are full biological siblings. It’s definitely more complicated. But I don’t regret it and I think it will be positive for them.
Why do people care more about birth mothers than birth fathers?
They are just seen to have lost more, I guess. I think there are very few areas of life where people really care about men. People want to care for the birth mothers. It’s just a natural thing. It’s the birth mother who carried the child and that is a big burden. It’s understandable that people care about the birth mom first. I mean I did the same thing. It helped me to focus on you. But I was also grieving the loss of a child and it felt more sudden to me since it wasn’t real until I had him in my arms.