Saturday, March 9, 2013

Tell Me Who My Father Is

Photo by Horia Varlan via Flickr
I’ve recently had conversations with several adoptee friends whose birth mothers refuse to tell them their fathers’ names. I feel angry when I hear stories like this, because I know how it feels to be in their shoes, not knowing half of their own genetic history. For a while, my birth mother would not tell me who my father was. It took a lot of pleading and pressure on my part to finally convince her to give me his name. Once I knew the whole story, I realized her hesitation was due to several factors.
For one thing, she felt he would deny that he was my father, because that’s what he had done when she was pregnant with me. She also still felt ashamed about becoming pregnant at such a young age. The response she got from her family and from the agency that handled her relinquishment added to her sense of shame. At the time she felt alone and abandoned, which is understandable. I think she feared that telling me about my father would reopen those wounds or that she’d have to communicate with him herself, which she didn’t want to do. I think she didn’t want to relive what she’d gone through while carrying me to term and then subsequently relinquishing me. It was likely one of the worst periods of her entire life. Who could blame her for wanting to leave it in the past?
I picked up on another reason she may have had as well. She seemed to blame my father for what she’d gone through, and she seemed to think him unworthy of being invited into my life. In a way, some of what she expressed reminded me of how one divorced parent sometimes voices negativity to her child about the other parent, when it has more to do with the parents’ relationship with each other than with anything that’s happened between the parent and child.
If there are any birth mothers reading this, what I’m going to say next is for you: It is not okay for you to keep the name of your child’s father from your adult child. You do not have to ever speak to the man yourself, you do not need to have a relationship with him, but your child has a right to know him if she wants to. Your child might tell you these reasons why knowing her father is so important to her:
  • My father is my biological parent, just as much as you are.

  • Not knowing my father means not knowing half of my family medical history and half of my ancestry.

  • Not knowing my father means my children will also be missing part of their family medical history and their ancestry.

  • Even if a relationship with my father is not possible, there may be grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles I could know if you tell me who my father is.

  • Even if you do not have a good relationship with my father, I have a right to have a relationship with him if that is what he and I both want.

  • You do not need to be in contact with my father. You only need to tell me who he is, and I will do the rest.

  • You do not need to protect me from anything negative about my father or about the circumstances of my conception. I am no longer a minor child who needs to be protected. I am an adult, and I am entitled to know the truth about how I came to be and about my father. I need you to let me process the facts about my father and my conception in my own way.

In my own case, my birth mother did eventually tell me who my father is, and I have reunited with him. I know the whole story of my conception, and there was misunderstanding on both sides, much of it, in my opinion, due to the fact that my parents were very young when I was conceived. My birth parents have not communicated with each other in any way, nor do they need to. As an adult, I can have a relationship with each of them independent of their relationship with each other. I know important medical information from my father’s side of my family, and my children can now draw their complete family tree. This is as it should be, and I wish for all of my adoptee friends that they, too, will know their complete history very soon.