Friday, October 5, 2012

Hard as Hell: The New Normal

I've been tight lipped about a lot of changes that have been going on in my life of late. One reason is that I needed the chance to tell all the people in my life about what is going on in person. It's rather rude for family members to learn about momentous changes in one's life through a blog entry. The second reason is that it is more comfortable to talk about abstract concepts than the difficult, sometimes brutal, circumstances faced in daily life. Finally, I really hate complaining about my life. I feel it makes me sound whiny and potentially self centered. After all, how bad do I really have it? I have food to eat. That counts as victory.

The truth of the matter is my life has been quite stressful lately and there's a reason I don't like talking about it here. I've fallen prey to self censorship. I don't want to talk about my life stress. It is uncomfortable to face and to admit to others. The real bear of it is the sense I must represent all birthfathers. I must be successful to prove that birthfathers can be successful. I should be emotionally/relationally well balanced to show that birthfathers can be so.

Related to those misplaced feelings of responsibility is my embarrassment. You see, Prof Plum and Ms Scarlet poke through the blog from time to time. I've been doing my best to put on the brave face around them. I really don't want them to think I'm some sort of unstable screw up. Their opinions matter to me, and our relationship is important to me. I have been keeping things under wraps with the classic "things are a little tough but we're okay" explanations. We will be okay, but that isn't why I'm brushing aside others' concern for Athena and me. I don't want to need others' support, and I particularly don't want to lean on Ms Scarlet and Prof Plum for support. I wish I could tell you why. I honestly don't know. Though I do have a couple theories.

I've encountered people who have felt the birth family of their child took advantage of the open adoption relationship. In a very concrete and obvious manner most adoptive families have more resources available than first families do. That holds true in our situation as well. I don't want there to be any question in anyone's mind about our relationship being built on respect. I loath the idea of that respect being tarnished by a one sided need for support. Said out loud this idea sounds a little ridiculous. After all a relationship based on respect doesn't require that everyone be an island with no needs nor expectations. But that doesn't change the traction this idea has in my head.

There's a lot of pressure as an involved birth parent to live a spotless life after the placement of your child. A desire to prove worthy of a relationship with your kid takes hold and is very difficult to shake. It's as though I must prove that I would be a fit parent to my son and be able to provide the stable and respectable life that would make an adoption entirely unnecessary. This pressure is mostly self imposed, but there are some practical realities that reinforce the message.

Since open adoption agreements aren't legally enforceable (anywhere, to the best of my knowledge) the first family has to be sound enough to ensure further contact with the adoptive family. In short, if I'm too needy, my life too unstable, or my presence vicariously too stressful, the relationship can end with no notice. If the difficulties of my daily life are too unpleasant to think about, I may never see my son again. Again this sounds ridiculous when said aloud, especially in the context of my relationship with Festus' parents. But I can't shake the idea, in part because I know it has happened. I've had contact with several first parents who have been denied relationships with their children. The apparent cause was the convenience of the adoptive family. I wasn't there personally. I don't know the totality of those experience and relationships. But in the murky world of private adoption I would be surprised if birth parents weren't pushed aside because their lives made the adoptive family uncomfortable.

It is with all this weighing on my mind that I tell people "I'll be okay". But I am not okay right now. I quit my job at the university because I could no longer keep up physically, and I was tired of my boss throwing me under the bus every chance he got. Bald faced lies at my last performance review were the writing on the wall for me. I don't like day dreaming about meeting people in parking lots with framing hammers, and that's exactly what that job did to me. My "rocky-but-sustainable" transition from that job to freelance work and diversified income has been a rude awakening. With a gross income for the month of September of $0, I must also leave my apartment. Athena and I will not be able to live together for a while. I feel as though I've been free falling for a few months. Watching my savings disappear, closing bank accounts, I've tried selling some possessions to buy groceries. I'll be moving into my parent's home, but I don't know if I can afford the rent they will charge me either. Any rent is steep without a job. But I keep telling people I'll be okay. If I say it enough maybe I will be. It's more a prayer than something I believe.

So there you have it. Prof Plum, Ms Scarlet, I'm sorry I haven't been more honest with you. It's just been a tough couple of months.


  1. I hope things soon begin to look up for you. Don't beat yourself up too much ~ there are many who are suffering as you are these days. Things will change for the better ~ stay strong!

    I get what you say about the self censorship. My (raised) daughter found my blog, I now am having a hard time writing again as I know she's probably going to read it. I also now worry that my son (who I didn't raise) or his adoptive family will also find it.

    When we write of our losses due to adoption, when we write of the effects of that loss, it's hard not to worry about how others in our lives will take it. Since our blogs are about that loss, that's what we write about there. Since that's all we write about, many people assume that the only thing in our lives is that loss. Reality is far from that though. I hope that Prof Plum & Ms Scarlet understand that and have some compassion towards what you are going through.

    One last thought... You wrote "I should be emotionally/relationally well balanced to show that birthfathers can be so." Being well balanced is telling about both sides ~ the good and the bad. It's not fair to only speak of things that are going well, of things that are easy. For the truth is that adoption loss is hard and ugly sometimes. You wouldn't be human if you didn't feel the loss. All we can hope for is that balance your wrote of. For the good to balance the bad.

    Sending you lots of positive thoughts,

  2. Susie - thank you for your eloquent, compassionate, and supportive reply. Put briefly, it's exactly what I needed to feel comfortable being human, rather than an unrealistic paramour. Thanks again for the response and the time you took to write it.

  3. Hey man,

    As a fellow birth father I just wanna tell you to keep your head up. My first born son was placed in an open adoption about 3.5 years ago, and at the time I was 18/19 years old and the magnitude of what was happening didn't really get through to me. Know that I am 23 years old and seeing that fatherhood is really not that far away, I must admit that the grief I had been holding in has come back and in many ways is dominating my life.

    I wish you the best of luck w/ your financial situation my friend.. It is not often that I run across another birth father who is involved with the girl, the child, and the parents. Kudos to you. It makes things difficult at times but I think that it is what is best for the child.

  4. Anonymous - thanks for the well wishes. Life's been tough lately, but I think the dust is finally starting to settle. I think in a lot of ways, knowing that I didn't want to parent made the adoption process easier for me in the long run. It means I won't encounter the difficulty you're hitting now - raising children after an adoption. But kudos to you for sticking around, doing the hard work, and being honest about it. I still suspect there are more guys like us than anyone would suspect, but we tend to keep our heads down and do the work in front of us. That doesn't leave much time for organizing a march or establishing a holiday to celebrate our achievements.

    If you find yourself wanting to talk with another guy who gets it, please drop me a line. I've been working for a while to connect with other birth fathers as well as some industry big wigs. There are a lot of stories that deserve to be told. My e-mail is in my blogger profile. In the meantime, take it easy and be gentle with yourself. Going through an adoption wakes some pretty big dragons, and slaying them isn't easy.

  5. As I read this post, I found myself really wanting to know what was new with your situation since the post. I hope that in the week since you wrote your last comment, the dust has settled even further. Praying that a good job with honest, livable co-workers shows up soon.

    You also have an engaging writing voice, and it conveys a gentle personality. I wish you all the best.


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