When I was a 17 year old high school student, my former girlfriend, who was in college at the time, shared that she was pregnant and that I was the father. She shared this with me two days before she went into labor and gave birth to a baby girl. My world shifted drastically from a kid playing high school sports to a father-to-be and then to a father within the span of 72 hours.
She shared with me that she did not want me involved and that she had found adoptive parents for the child. I had set up with the adoptive parents’ attorney to meet this baby girl in the hospital the day after she was born. An hour before that meeting was to take place, I received a phone call letting me know that the baby had some health concerns and had to be transported to another hospital. The meeting was cancelled and it was never rescheduled.
There was part of me in that moment that tried to cope by taking an “out of sight, out of mind” approach to everything that had happened in those few short days. I somewhat convinced myself that I would be better off moving on from all that had just rocked my world. If I didn’t know her, if I didn’t persist with the baby’s birth mother to get information, if I didn’t seek to maintain contact with the attorney, then my life could get back to ‘normal’ and I could continue my life with little change.
It turns out ignorance isn’t always bliss.
For over 20 years now I have sat in the space of unknowing. I don’t know if my daughter is okay. I don’t know what her name is, who her adoptive parents are. I don’t know if she has the information and ability to look me up and reach out to me if she so chooses. I don’t know if I will ever meet her. I had no idea how much shame and disappointment would accompany those initial decisions to avoid pursuing contact and information with all parties involved. I did not know how much loss and grief would be felt through a daughter I never knew.
And while there are many places of unknowing in my story, there are a few things I know too.
I know that even though I had superficial motivations of why I was content to not be an active part of my daughter’s adoption story in those short hours that I was aware of it, my primary motivation was love. It was a wise and loving thing to place this little girl with a family who was ready and capable to have her in their home.
I know that the systems that are in place do not always have advocacy in mind for birthparents, particularly birth fathers. This is one of my favorite aspects of Caring For Kids, Inc. They offer unrivaled attention, care and support for birthparents so that these courageous and loving parents can find their way through some of the more challenging decisions of their lives and not feel isolated and alone, as I did.
I also know that there are gaps in my daughter’s story that I may have answers to and likewise there are gaps in my own story that she holds the answers to. My hope remains that our stories may intersect at some point.
And lastly, I know that mistakes and regrets I have about my story are a paragraph or maybe a chapter. They needn’t be the whole story. I now have a family of my own with three children including one son my wife and I fostered and adopted through Caring For Kids and I have spent a considerable amount of my life telling my story and advocating for people to take the courageous step of fostering and adopting so that more and more children are able to find a forever home. It has been an important part of my story to embrace both the unknowing and the knowing. My hope is others can embrace both parts of their story too.