A few months ago I noticed that my “other” mailbox on Facebook had some emails in it. These are typically spam so I don’t usually check this mailbox. This time there were four spam messages and one other. The one other had been there for three months.
I have written a number of times on this blog about being a birth father and did a documentary on CBC radio about my experience with an unplanned pregnancy as a teen. The short version is that my girlfriend at the time and I chose to place twins for adoption. It was a closed adoption although their parents agreed to send us letters and photos for the first two years. After that contact would be cut off.
The Ontario government opened the adoption records five years ago. This means that birth parents and adoptees can request identifying information about the other party. I submitted a request for the twins’ amended birth certificates showing their adopted names. As a result of the information on those certificates and Mr. Google I was was able to find the twins and their family in 15 minutes.
It was shocking to me that I was able to find them so fast. I had always hoped to find the twins and I had expected that I would be searching for years. I always imagined myself pouring through microfiche copies of old newspapers looking for birth announcements or hiring a private investigator or something like that. These expectations come from my pre-internet teen-aged self. I never expected that the records would be opened or that I would be able to find them so fast.
I waited until just before their twentieth birthday and wrote a letter to their parents. I knew that they were in university and since I had no idea if they knew that they were adopted I decided to send the letter to their parents. I figured they would know best when T & L were ready for my letter. I didn’t want to be responsible for dropping a bomb into their school year if they didn’t know they were adopted or weren’t ready for contact.
For three years I had no idea whether that letter had been received. I waited for a response and tried very hard to live up to the commitment I made in the letter to leave any future contact in their hands. Even if they never received the letter I knew I would be easy to find when they were ready. I had submitted my current contact preferences to the Ontario Registrar General and signed up for the Ontario Adoption Disclosure Registry. This meant that when they were ready to look, if they requested their original birth certificates they would receive my contact information as well. Plus I had been featured in a nationally-aired documentary that included enough details for them or their family to recognize themselves.
Then in June I discovered this email from the now 23 year old woman who I last saw when she was nine days old.
Since then we have been emailing back and forth getting to know a little more about one another. Her brother isn’t ready for contact and of course that is his right. It is however odd to me to only be in contact with one of them. I always imagined they would be in contact with them at the same time.
Now we have set a date to meet for the first time.
I have no idea how I will feel when I see her. For so long this piece of my life and the emotions associated with it have been walled off. It has become a story that I tell people, but that doesn’t have strong emotions tied to it. For more than two decades I have been protecting myself from the fact that I had kids out there who I had fathered, but was not raising.
I struggle with how to refer to her. I am not her dad. There is a category for people like me though. I am a birth-parent, a birth-father. Nobody wold refer to her as a birth-daughter. I suppose all kids are birth-kids. Genetically she is my daughter and he is my son. It feels weird to refer to them as my daughter and son because they aren’t really. I have no claim on these people. They are more or less strangers to me and at the same time, genetically, they are also my children. I fathered them and I have thought and wondered about them for more than half my life. I care how they are doing and I have always hoped and wished that they were doing well. I don’t know them and yet I do love them.
I visited them every day in the hospital for the first nine days of their life until we signed the adoption papers waiving our rights to them and placing them for adoption. I watched them in their incubators with IV lines into their scalps for the first many days – perhaps a week. I held them and I wished I could introduce them to the world as my kids. I have carried those nine days with me ever since.
They are no longer babies. They are grown adults. They have been raised by the parents we chose for them. As far as I can tell, they seem to have had a good life so far. I am reassured that we seem to have chosen well for them. I am impressed by what I have learned about my “daughter” so far. She has had a life that we would never have been able to provide.
Now we embark on a journey into the future. I have no idea what will happen when we meet or what will happen next. I don’t know if this will be the only time we ever meet or if it is the start of an ongoing relationship. In any case I will not be writing about what happens next. Relationship building is complicated and challenging especially with a stranger that I have carried in my heart for most of my life.
Thanks to everyone who has read and listened to my story about my experiences with teen pregnancy, adoption and being a birth father. I have received so much support over the years and it has been so helpful. I have written and spoken about my story in part because it has served as therapy for me. I also think it is important to tell the birth-father side of the story because most adoption stories are about mothers and adoptees.
So now I venture into the future.
If you want to share your story with me confidentially, please feel free to note in your comment that you don’t want it shared.