A Birthfather Asks: What Does It Mean To Be A Father?

This guest post is by “I Am,” a birthfather. 

I was full of confusion and angst. I didn’t know how to feel about the approach of Fathers’ Day. No one could tell me how to feel, or how to get through it.

I couldn’t find anyone who knew what it was like. There was no advice, little support, and few acknowledgments that the day should be marked at all.

In the preceding year everything in my life had been deconstructed, turned over, changed, and re-evaluated. Ten months had passed since my son was placed with his family.

My role in his life, both in my understanding and in practical terms, had been evolving month by month during our visits. I was slowly coming to terms with the differences between the man I had been and the father I found myself to be.

Was loving my son enough?

Fathers’ Day came with mixed emotions. There was much joy and pride, but it was muddled with longing, shame, and sorrow. I didn’t know if I deserved to celebrate Fathers’ Day at all. Was I really a father anymore? Even if I was, did I deserve anything better than sadness and punishment?

In order to understand myself as a father, I had to encounter a lot of ideas I had never considered before. “Can a man be a father after he’s sacrificed his role as a parent? Is my son still my son if he calls another man ‘dad’? Is there anything worth celebrating in a man that gives up his son?

These questions plagued me. I knew I loved my son, but I didn’t know if loving him was enough. The question I needed to ask was “enough for whom or what”? Was loving my son enough for society at large?

It may have been, but I didn’t need to care about that either way. Was loving my son enough for his parents? It certainly seemed to be. The real question, the one I couldn’t yet ask myself, was whether or not my love was good enough to be accepted. I was in an existential crisis over my worthiness to have a relationship with my own son.

My first Fathers’ Day caught me by surprise. I didn’t know what it meant to be a father. I didn’t know if I was one or not. I didn’t know how to feel about myself, so naturally those around me felt the same. Most people didn’t even know how to refer to me after he was adopted. I didn’t know at the time, but I do now.

First Fathers Deserve To Be Celebrated

I am a father. I am proud of my son, and each Fathers’ Day gives me a chance to celebrate our connection. It also gives me a day to celebrate my son’s connection with his father, as I do with my father.

It is a chance for me to celebrate the love and pride I have in my family. My family’s story happens to include adoption. But our story isn’t about adoption. It’s about the connections we share, and the love and respect we have for each other.

On Fathers’ Day I celebrate myself. I am a first father who is lucky enough to have a strong relationship with his son. More than that I am a man who did the right thing for himself and his family.

I am proud of the choices my partner and I made, and even more so of the way we made those choices. I’m just glad to have family that can recognize that and celebrate with us. Most birthfathers aren’t so lucky.

Fathers’ Day approaches and again I have mixed feelings. I am happy for myself, yet galled for all the fathers not given a place within their own families. We don’t stop being fathers when we place our children with their adoptive families.

I was reminded of this by a young man who is also a first father. We deserve the opportunity to share our love with our sons, to celebrate and be celebrated.

“I Am” is a birthfather in an open adoption who lives in Michigan. You can find out more about him at his blog, Statistically Impossible.
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