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I have his eyes: An adoptee reunites with her birth father

by Melinda K., Adoptee

I have his eyes: An adoptee reunites with her birth father Banner Image

In 2013, I contacted Bethany to initiate a search for my birth parents. I knew as I got older I might lose the opportunity to meet them, and I didn’t want to wait too long.

I completed paperwork and received a background summary of my adoption record right away, but there was almost no information about my birth father. Any mentions of him were secondhand, using the phrase “described as.”

Bethany was able to locate both of my birth parents. I first reached out to my birth mother, but she didn’t respond. So I thought I’d try to connect with my birth father. I sat down to write him a letter, telling him a little about me. Where do I begin? I wrote that I went to college. I have two children. I live in San Diego. And I told him I wasn’t looking for anything from him. I had no agenda, just curiosity.

Bethany sent him the letter, and he called back the next day and said yes, he wanted to meet.

All of a sudden, it felt real: I had a birth father named Dale, and I was going to meet him. My curiosity took over. What would he be like?

Retelling the past

Dale lived in Michigan. I had already planned a trip to Michigan, so we arranged to meet for coffee while I was there. He had described his car, so I knew he was there when I pulled into the parking lot. I approached him at the table, said a quick hello, and went to the counter to place my order and take a few breaths before sitting down with him face to face. There were some awkward silences at the beginning, but we started the conversation by asking questions. He said, “You look just like your mother,” but I could see that I have his eyes and his nose. His partner, Sharon, came with him. She was so friendly and talkative, and that helped to draw him out and keep the conversation going.

Dale and Sharon had been high school sweethearts, and they had reunited after his wife died. She brought photos of my father, photos of him with his mother, and photos of him with his children. She had his senior picture from high school, and it was fun to see what he looked like closer to the time I was born.

I learned about siblings I didn’t know I had. He has four biological children (five, including me), and he adopted his wife’s two children. Having photos with us helped to keep track of all the names of new siblings and relatives.

Rewriting the future

Later that day, I took Dale to meet my children and my parents, and he put me in touch with his oldest daughter. She and I have connected on Facebook, and we talk on the phone every once in a while. I send Dale photos of my kids, we text occasionally, and I visit him and his daughter whenever I’m in Michigan. Each time we meet, whether for lunch, coffee, or dessert, it takes a few beats to remember how to do this.

Meeting Dale helped me understand where some of my traits come from. We are both independent and like to think things through. He wants to know and learn things, and I’m the same way. My sense of curiosity likely came from him. But sharing traits doesn’t mean we are alike in every way. For example, he’s very conservative, and I’m very liberal. He loves to hunt and work with guns, and I don’t have any experience with that.

I didn’t go into our first meeting with preconceived notions, and as I wrote to him initially, I just hoped we could meet and connect. It was such a treat to spend time with him, and it has been a positive experience to continue getting to know him and his children.

Many adoptees are naturally curious about their birth parents. It’s part of knowing where they came from.

Most adoptees initiate a search to find their birth mother, leaving birth father searches in second. Perhaps this is due to a perception that birth mothers have a greater “investment” in a reunion since they carried their child, gave birth, and ultimately decided to place their child for adoption. However, there are strong reasons to want to identify your birth father, as well.

But it’s important to be in an emotionally secure place before beginning this search. While a birth parent may be able to answer some of your key questions, they cannot “fill a hole” in your heart. Sadly, there’s no guarantee that this person will even welcome your contact.

The following pieces of advice may be helpful for you if you’re beginning to search for your birth father.

  • Adoption records sometimes contain very little information about birth fathers. Most information is given from the birth mother’s point of view. She may have had a reason at the time for sharing incomplete information.
  • Not all birth fathers are allowed input into the adoption plan. While it’s easy to assume that it was his choice to stay out of your adoption plan, be cautious. Many birth fathers feel they had no say or support in making the adoption plan.
  • While he may not have wanted a part in making your adoption plan at the time, he may feel differently at another stage in his life. For example, a birth father who goes on to parent children may change his mind and welcome your contact.
  • Like a reunion with a birth mother, reuniting with your birth father can provide its own window into your sense of identity, possibly providing feelings of closure.

Bethany’s Post-Adoption Contact Center can help you begin your birth father search. Call us at 1-800-Bethany. Please be aware that individual state or country law determines who may request information and at what age.

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