The Missing Player

Blog Nosh Magazine Pregnancy Birth Adoption

{Originally Published on Production, Not Reproduction}

I haven’t said anything about my daughter’s first (birth) dad in awhile. Truthfully, I’ve not known how to comfortably approach it here. I am sorting through conflicting thoughts and feelings about him. It is hard to know what is appropriate to share.

After a chance meeting at a pizza place with an adoption agency social worker, he did go into the office to meet with her before Firefly was born. It was…less than positive. He had already made clear that he felt no obligation toward Beth (our daughter’s first mom), and as of now he apparently feels no obligation toward his daughter either. Nobody has heard from him since.

My husband and I have never spoken with him. We’ve never even seen a picture of him. We know his name and his age and some sketchy medical history. My amateur sleuthing hasn’t turned up any online presence for him, so I can’t peek at his life through Myspace or Facebook. He is a complete mystery to me. Yet he is one-half of my daughter’s genetic heritage.

This is uncharted territory for our family. Our son’s first dad, Ray, has been around from the beginning. It’s easy to include him in what we say to Puppy: “Kelly and Ray made you, they took care of you, they decided we would be parents to you. You have his smile, his hair, his eyes.” Ray underscores it all through his continued presence in Puppy’s life. I feel like Firefly’s story thus far has a glaringly missing player. What do I say about a man who chooses to ignore her? What do I say about a man about whom I know next to nothing?

One day before Firefly’s birth I sat down with Beth and laid how we had approached our relationship with Puppy’s first parents. Our priority has always been maintaining healthy relationships for Puppy. So our separate relationships with Kelly and Ray are our business and their relationship with each other is their business–we don’t take sides when there is friction between them and Puppy doesn’t get put in the middle of anything. I told Beth that we knew Firefly’s dad hadn’t done right by her. That we didn’t want her to think that us wanting a relationship with him meant we condoned that or didn’t care about it. Yet none of that changed the fact that Firefly still deserved to know him. The only thing we would expect from her would be to not to stand in the way if he ever started up a relationship with us.

It’s not that cut and dried, of course. It’s not like we can truly separate everyone into their own corners of our life. Beth is the one who is becoming our friend, who vulnerably opened up her life to us–and who received us likewise. She’s shown her commitment to this budding open adoption in myriad ways. Her opinions matter to us, including her opinions on Firefly’s dad. Thinking about the way he treated her makes me angry. I think about what a slap in the face it could feel like to Beth were we to welcome him when he has taken the opposite course as her in virtually every way.

Despite all that, my driving desire is to know him. I want to see his face and know what of my daughter’s is there. I want to hear his voice, know his personality, learn his stories. I want her to grow up knowing the entirety of who she comes from, not just one-half. I hope she can know that even if he wasn’t closely involved in her adoption that he acknowledges it–and acknowledges her.

I’ve seen a change in Beth even in just the few weeks Firefly has been here. In the beginning she was almost determined to not see any of Firefly’s first dad in her appearance and was skeptical about what value he could add to her life. But the last time we were visiting with her she pointed out several of his features in an appreciative way. And she made some comments about hoping that he reaches out and contacts us. I don’t think it is because all is forgiven. Perhaps she’s taking to heart the fact that Firefly needs to know we respect all of her biological roots, not just the half that comes from her first mom.

We know he has received some basic information about openness and has been told that his daughter’s adoptive parents want an open adoption with him. Whether he heard that, or what it meant to him, I don’t know. We know he’s expressed anger over everything. I imagine that there might also be sadness, frustration, shame or fear. Part of me understands that and just wants the chance to introduce him to his incredible daughter. To tell him that in our minds he is family, because Firefly is our family and he is her family. Part of me want to stamp my foot and ask him how he could be so self-centered and immature.

I find this not-knowing unsettling. My personality type likes clarity and finishing points. I’m not good at not knowing where things stand. I’m searching for ways to live comfortably with the ambiguity, to not fix him into a stereotype in my mind. We’ve only just started this story, there is still much left to come. I’m definitely not ready to write him off yet.

This is a moment when advice is welcome.

Editor’s Pick by Deb at Missives From Suburbia. Heather has been blogging about the addition of her son and daughter to her family since her son’s birth and adoption in 2005.  What struck me about this post and the rest of her blog is that her intention to create open adoptions and to make families of the people connected to her children is resolute, despite the hurdles and challenges that creates.  In her poignant posts, she has given me pause to consider how I treat my own extended family and what it means to be the mother and the center of delicate familial ties.  Please visit Heather at Production, Not Reproduction, and subscribe to her feed for more delicious writing.

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