In honor of November being National Adoption Awareness Month, Portrait of an Adoption is hosting the fourth annual acclaimed series, 30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days. Designed to give a voice to the many different perspectives of adoption, this series will feature guest posts by people with widely varying experiences.
I did not give up a child for adoption, nor have I ever adopted. I am married to a man who was bullied into the decision to give his first child up for adoption, a perspective that happens all too often and is not shared often enough, that of birth father rights. Although I never had any legal claim to baby A through biology or as an adoptive parent, my heart hurts just the same. My husband’s loss affects us all, every day of our lives.
My husband Jake found out that he could possibly be the father of E’s baby when he was sixteen and she was fifteen. He and his father were in the process of moving several hundred miles away when the news of the pregnancy came. Fearing she needed parental permission to have an abortion, E kept the baby. Her pregnancy then became a secret she kept from her parents. Jake felt that secrets would do more harm than good, but couldn’t change her mind. Before he moved, he left her his contact information and told her not to speak to him until she was ready to handle the situation responsibly. Nearly two years would pass before he heard from her again.
At eighteen, Jake came back to his hometown for a visit. E caught wind of it and traveled from her town to his and drove up and down the main street until she found him and followed him to a stranger’s home. After he entered, she barged through the front door without even knocking, walked straight up to him, pushed a baby in his arms and said, “Jake, meet your son, A.”
Jake still loved her and thought that moving back would allow them to be a happy family. He soon discovered that his dream was just that. E was a partier when they met and becoming a mother had done nothing to change that. If she didn’t have a sitter, she brought A to parties with her. Her boyfriends tended to be on the wrong side of the law and she didn’t seem to have any problems with that. When one of them stabbed an innocent man for witnessing a drug deal, E hid him from police. Her lifestyle was a constant source of tension, but it didn’t stop Jake from loving her.
Although tension existed between them, E allowed Jake to see A at her parent’s home. During one of these visits, she informed Jake that she had received a letter asking if she knew who the father of her son was. Neither knew the answer to this question so they agreed to a paternity test. When they arrived at the facility for their appointment, they were informed that the test could not be done without her parents consenting to her giving her blood since she was under eighteen.
E had told her parents definitively that Jake had been the father and did not want to reveal her untruth. Instead, she convinced Jake that she was almost certain he was the father and that he and A looked alike. They walked away with a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity. Comparing the features of Jake, A, and my son, there is not a doubt in anyone’s mind about the familial relation.
Once she turned eighteen, E left town quite frequently to visit the nearest major city and she used the child support she was receiving from Jake to fund these trips. This continued until Jake was informed by her father that she had never paid a dime to raise A. When the checks stopped coming, so did Jake’s visitations.
She soon figured out that having Jake around was beneficial to her, in that when she wanted to leave for a few days, she didn’t have to explain to her parents why she was leaving her son behind. As she passed through town, she would simply drop A off to Jake without any prior notice without any regard for the fact that he had to go to work. After several occurrences, when Jake had to cancel work to watch A, he was about to be fired from his job, so he quit instead.
From these trips, E met her current husband, Louis. Not wanting to endanger her budding romance by having her child around, she moved into a shed in his parent’s backyard and left A with her parents for six months without calling to check on him or bothering to see him. She also had her father refuse Jake’s visits. Her father didn’t agree, but felt he should uphold her wishes.
She returned in time for A’s second birthday, which she allowed him to spend with her father while she was out of town. Two weeks later, she was supposed to drop by our place with A so we could have him for Christmas before she took him to celebrate with Louis’ family. She never came, claiming she had forgotten. I had watched her behavior since Jake had moved back and knew she was just being cruel.
E and Louis moved into their own home, and she brought A to live with them. Seeing how well Louis grafted to being a father figure, E decided there was no longer any room for Jake. She refused to tell him her new address and did her best to stop him from contacting her. Her father ended up giving Jake the address, much to her dismay.
If she offered visitation, it was on the condition that Jake could not leave her home with A, so that she and Louis could supervise him. She also informed Jake that should he take her up on her offer for visitation, he had lost his privileges to be known as A’s father and had to make sure that his son addressed him as “Uncle Jake” because Louis was his father now.
Jake refused her demeaning offer, and when he felt the heat had died down, he started calling again, hoping she would change her mind about letting him see A. So E stopped answering the phone. I began intervening by calling her from numbers she didn’t recognize. She would answer each time, but then she would hang up when I asked if A could spend time with Jake and me.
When A’s third birthday rolled around, Jake went to E’s house with presents for him, only to discover that his birthday party was taking place. When she answered the door, she took the presents from him and refused him admittance. Needless to say, Jake didn’t get to see A for Christmas either.
As December became February, Jake finally found the courage to call E again. Not only did she answer, she agreed to let him see A! When the day arrived for them to meet at the park, however, she came alone. She accepted our presents for A from all the people who loved him very much. Then she proceeded to tell Jake that she did not want to see or hear from him again. A had a new father, and there was no room for Jake in his life.
Feeling as though there was nothing left he could do, Jake walked away. He would never hold or speak to A again.
Jake was used to the games E played. He was absolutely crushed, but he carried on with his life anyway. That same year, he asked me to marry him. I said yes, but couldn’t in good conscience let him put me before his son. In order for us to be officially married, he needed to settle the situation with A, and I told him I would help him every step of the way.
At first, Jake called on his own a couple times a week, but each time that she didn’t answer, he lost a little more determination. I sat with Jake every day and watched him send a text message asking for her to return his calls. He called twice a day and left a voice message each time. When Jake finally threatened to show up at her house, E called back. E stated that she had been meaning to call him, because she was getting married, and she wanted Louis to adopt A in a step-father adoption.
Several phone calls were exchanged between E and Jake for the next two weeks, and participated in all of them. She knew she could easily push Jake into anything she wanted, and I wasn’t going to allow it to happen anymore. All of her reasons for wanting A to be adopted by Louis were purely selfish. Not being able to resolve anything over the phone, she agreed for us all to meet in person to try to find a solution.
Meeting in person did not make any difference. She accused Jake of willingly choosing to be out of A’s life, or of trying to come back into it only when he found it convenient to be a father. She said that she had made a good life for herself and allowing Jake into it would upset what she built.
Anytime Jake tried to explain his side to her, she would interrupt and become aggressive. She pulled her own hair and scratched her face, and at one point, she nearly attacked me when we tried to leave. When we actually did leave, she had Louis pursue us for twenty miles, so that just the men could talk. During that talk, Louis promised to take care of A as if he were his own child, to keep us updated on address changes and phone numbers, and to inform us if anything serious happened to him. Jake’s answer was still no.
E had child support papers served to Jake a couple weeks later. In them, she asked that Jake be allowed to see A two times a week for an hour each visit at a supervised parenting facility. Her lawyer contacted us saying that adoption was her desired route, and that if we agreed, he would be our lawyer, too. By taking the matter to court before we did, E further intimidated Jake.
Feeling hopeless, Jake decided to give up his parental rights to A and allowed Louis to adopt him. To this day, he cannot give a reason as to why he gave A up for adoption. I honestly believe that he doesn’t know why he chose to do what he did.
What I do know is that I will never forget the inconsolably crying and broken down man that was my husband after he signed those papers. I feel we both made a mistake that day: Jake for signing A over to Louis without ever having given himself a fair chance at fatherhood, and me for letting him.
To keep the best tabs I could on A, I made a point to make friends in the same social circles as E. Social media has also been the biggest blessing through which we have so many pictures we would never have had otherwise. Even though they live an hour away from us, we still run in to each other at restaurants, grocery stores, shopping malls, and fairs.
A is being raised to believe Louis was his biological father, so it wrenches our hearts that he’s been an arm’s length away, and we can’t reach out to kiss and hug him the way we used to. I’ve heard that E and Louis are finally telling him this year about the adoption. He’s going to be ten and more than capable of grasping the concept, so I hope it’s true.
My son is old enough to understand that he has a brother, and he’s completely fascinated by it. He knows what A looks like and can pick him out in a crowd. He so badly wants to meet his older brother that I’ve contemplated letting him run to him the way he wants to and break the ice for everyone’s sake.
I always felt it would be best if A was raised to know that he was adopted instead of keeping it from him until he was eighteen, like E originally planned. A also has another brother that was born to his mother and Louis.
There had only been a couple times that we’ve had a conversation with E since the adoption. Before the adoption, we had discussed that we would like A to know his future siblings in our family in one way or another. We didn’t care if it was as friends or cousins, and Jake didn’t have to have anything to do with it. E was not on board with the idea.
Since three years had passed, we hoped that her stance had changed so we left an invitation on her door to our son’s second birthday, and we followed up on it through email. When E responded, all she said was that she was upset that we had found her address after she had moved. She clearly hadn’t changed her mind and it upset Jake that she had deliberately gone back on their pre-adoption agreement.
Looking back on everything, I have two demons fighting inside me. One says that everyone involved is at more peace this way for the time being. E’s attitude and actions pre-and-post-adoption scream that she would have made things completely miserable for everyone. She wouldn’t even allow Jake to send her gifts in a box for A. The other demon says that the animosity would have only been temporary and A could have had two moms and two dads and two sets of siblings who all love him very much. Part of me is vengeful and part of me wants nothing but peace and happiness between all involved.
The scariest part about the whole situation is not knowing how A will react. There are so many different ways an adoptee can feel about his adoption. Some people never feel the need to know their biological families. Others feel broken without them.
I don’t want A to feel broken. I want him to feel as we were the piece of him he never knew he was missing. I want the sensation of finally being complete, the chance to hold him to us forever, because we aren’t complete without him. Jake always wanted him. We always wanted him.
Linda and Jake have been married for nearly seven years and they have one son together. They are a busy family from northern California
This year’s Adoption Portraits series is filled. You may send a submission for next year’s series to Carrie Goldman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Portrait of an Adoption on Twitter and Facebook.
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Check out Carrie Goldman’s award-winning book Bullied: What Every Parent, Teacher, and Kid Needs to Know About Ending the Cycle of Fear.