Open Adoption Roundtable #2: Fathers

This post was originally published on on June 23, 2009. Republished here with permission.

Conference tableThe Open Adoption Roundtable is a series of occasional writing prompts about open adoption. It’s designed to showcase of the diversity of thought and experience in the open adoption community.

Heather at Production, Not Reproduction, posted the topic for the second Open Adoption Blog Roundtable:

Write about the father(s) in your family’s open adoption(s).

Max was never sure about the kid thing. I really think that, at first, he only wanted kids – or one kid – to carry on his family’s name. Max is an only child. He wanted a boy to carry on his name. He denies ever saying this. Because it was said before I started taking heavy meds, I do remember it.

So, really, Max was scared – no, probably terrified – at the thought of being a father. I remember having a conversation with my not-yet-mother-in-law, several years before we were married. She mentioned that Max’s father never changed a diaper or fed him, etc. I said that Max would certainly do those things. She asked, “What if he doesn’t want to?” I responded, incredulously, that he didn’t have a choice. I don’t think this endeared me to her.

The night that Jack was born was beyond stressful. Max wasn’t even the first person I told that Jack had been born. Frightened, I called my friend Annemarie, a doula, to ask about what little information I did have. I’m not sure he’s forgiven me for that yet. Max didn’t get to hold Jack until approximately 10:37 am on Thursday, when Jack was almost 2 days old. But from the moment he did, the terrified man became a father.

Thanks to the flexibility of his (then) job, Max worked at home. Thus, he was far more able to take part in parenting. He did the middle of the night shift, because I take medications that knock me out to manage a medical condition. He changed diapers just as often as I did. Though I was default caretaker of Jack, my husband was definitely more involved than a lot of fathers I’ve met.

Recently, the dynamic has changed. Max lost his job in March, and I’m working full time. Now, he’s default caretaker of Jack. This stress, coupled with the feelings of guilt for losing his job and not being able to find a new one, has Depresses him. I think Jack picks up on this a bit, because, although he totally beats his Dad up, he also hugs him and says “I love you” to the man more than he does to me.

It’s sad to me how little fathers are expected to do, yet they receive a fanfare for doing it. If a father takes a child to a doctor’s appointment, does the grocery shopping, awakes with the child, or attends to the child in the middle of the night, then he’s somehow amazing. I know this because I was in a MOMS Club. Many of the other moms marveled that my husband was so involved. They later banned fathers from events entirely, because, and I quote “Men are more likely to be molesters”.

So this is what society thinks of fathers? That the slightest inclination of affection and responsibility for a child’s emotional well-being is amazing? That involved fathers must somehow be warped? I can’t blame my husband for being depressed.

I can tell you that Max is a great father. Sure, he’s impatient and far from perfect. But he’s always trying to be a better dad. I think that counts for a lot.

I feel that I should mention Jack’s biological father, although he is in no way part of our open adoption. That was his choice. We know very little of substance about him, though we do have his name, last known address, and Social Security Number. He has a paragraph in Jack’s baby book. We don’t discuss him with Jack, because there’s nothing to tell him. When he asks, of course we’ll tell him what we know, but K might as well be the Man in the Moon, because without a picture, Jack will have no clue what it means that K is his “birth father”. We also don’t share what we do know with others, because it’s quite private, and Jack should know first. About all we do say is that he didn’t want any part of the adoption, other than to sign away his rights.

I hope you all had a lovely Father’s Day!

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