Popular Mechanics lists the 25 things men need to know and of course fatherhood isn't even on the list. I guess they do that by instinct?
The agony of the broken connection of birth mothers and children
would be different than sperm dads who purposly set out to be fathers
without connections. Or is it? Technology is making things more
complicated in other ways. Stories of parents learning on the
playground that their children are related - they share the same sperm
donor and tales of grown children trying to track down sperm fathers to figure out their personal identity puzzle. An article defining sperm fathers asks,"For at least a decade, there has been growing national concern about
the trend of "father absence." Men who abandon their biological
children are now subject to DNA testing, child support orders, even
jail time. They are stigmatized as "dead-beat dads." How then can we
explain the glorification of the "donor dad"--the most absent of all
I think we all need to know what makes us....us.
Two summers ago a scandal was rocking our high school
alumni. Someone had hacked into the site and was calling people in
order to try to find the birth mother for her nephew. I'll call her
Mrs. T. She reached me by email and said my name had been given to her
as someone who kept up with a lot of people and might be able to help
her. Many people were aghast and worried that a scandal might hurt a
mother who had tried to keep this buried in her past. Apparently she
had contacted many others before she reached out to me. Pregnancy
(then) was something that was hidden, absolutely, or newly eviscerated
with legal abortions. Lots of things in 1972 were secret with a capital S, or just NOT TALKED about. Mrs. T. stirred up the rumor mills.
I encouraged Mrs. T. to use other methods to find out these long-hidden secrets. I had helped my adopted aunt unseal her birth records in the mid 1990s so I passed on the name of the attorney we had used. I sent Mrs. T. the name of the woman who's business it is to connect birth parents and children. My sister-in-law tracked down her birth mother with the aid of that professional assistant. Mrs. T. was concerned especially about any medical history knowledge that would help her nephew who was facing health issues.
The agony of unknown identity and the agony of birth mothers has been something the internet has helped. These experiences are so personal that the telling of them online, especially in communities that link others can be healing. What pain is there with these issues of connections that aren't? Stories are being told and culturally we are informing ourselves in the process. One story of a birth mother wrenched my heart recently... she wrote on her blog called Writing My Wrongs, "Losing my daughter required me to lose not only her but the person I was then and the person I was intended to be. I lost my family, was estranged from them for years, I lost the love of my life, I lost my home. I had no where to live. Losing her was not the end of any so called journey. It was just the beginning. It was a road to hell."
Over a year later Mrs. T. called me back to tell me they had discovered the birth parents, finally. The birth father had died and his parents had no living descendants. They were elated to establish a relationship. Her nephew's puzzle of the self was falling into place, new piece by new piece. A NYTimes article on adoption notes a 20-year study that found "birth mothers in open adoptions experienced less adoption-related grief than those in closed adoptions. And all of the adopted teenagers in the study who had continuing, in-person contact with their birth families wanted those relationships to continue."
One adoptee who blogs a lot about adoption from her viewpoint has put together this video as part of a contest relating to adoption:
Thanks to Jill for the list of the things men need to know. Connections are the fabric of life. Do the tears and frays and holes bother you as they do me? Families and blood connections aren't always the best relationships to hold onto and other relationships can be more significant life-blood but knowing.... just knowing those biological connections makes life ____________?