Birth Fathers in Adoption
Should we do more to bring birth fathers out of the shadows?

A couple of weeks ago I blogged the results of our survey on what adopted kids and adults call their birth mothers. The actual question we asked was “What does your child or you call their birth mom and dad”, but the vast majority of responses from adopted parents and adult adoptees only included names for the birth mother. We received so few responses on names for birth fathers that we just reported on the results for birthmothers, but it got me to thinking about why we think and talk so little about birth dads.

It is possible that many people responded with birth mother names and assumed we would extrapolate their response to birth fathers. For example, they said “birthmother” and assumed we would know that they also meant “birthfather”. But I think it is deeper than just simply saving a few keystrokes.

In my experience adoptive families talk more about birth mothers than birth fathers, and adopted kids seem to be more curious about birth mothers than birth fathers. This is clearly true for younger children, but even in the interviews I’m doing with adult adoptees for a very long term book project, almost every one who has searched searched for their birth mothers first, then, often after a few years if at all, they sought out their birth fathers.

Why the Emphasis on Birth Moms?

I suppose our societal fixation on the mother/child relationship and the physical aspect of pregnancy and birth are the logical cause we think more about birth mothers than birth fathers. Children see pregnant women and learn that babies grow inside mommies.  As they grow they learn that they grew inside of a different woman – a different mom. A dad’s role is less visible and any discussion gets dangerously close to talking about – horrors upon horrors – sex. Also, in some cases birth fathers are not identified or known.

I also think we don’t expect as much from the father/child relationship; thus, we don’t often think of the sacrifice and grief the fathers might experience when a child is placed for adoption. They and their pain remain in the shadows.

Should We Talk More about Birth Fathers?

Should we as adoptive parents stress birth fathers more? I think the answer is yes. Adopted kids need to know that they came into existence the same way as every other human being, and this way involves a mom and a dad. In the era of closed adoptions, many adopted kids thought they somehow dropped out of the sky or were found by their adoptive parents under the proverbial cabbage leaf. This happens less now that the birthmother has a name and is often known, but we need to bring the birth fathers into the equation as well.

Is your child more curious about their birth mother than their birth father? If you are adopted, did this change as you age? Is it awkward for you to talk about your child`s birth father?

P.S. Creating a Family has a ridiculously detailed list of adoption blogs broken out by type of adoption, country, adult adoptee, adult adoptee who are now adoptive parents, birth mother, birth family, and…wait for it… birth fathers. What better place to start understanding birth dads, than to read their own words.


Image credit: absolut xman