A Photo Essay by Jennie P., Adoptive Mom, and Brandon S., Birth father
When Tate was born in 2006, Brandon knew he wanted to be part of his son’s life. When Jennie and Sean met Brandon, they didn’t know he would become such an important part of their lives.
Jennie: Shortly after Tate was born, we got a call from the Bethany office saying, “His birthfather wants to meet you. Can you be in Cedar Rapids tonight?” We packed a bag just in case, and we were out the door.
Brandon: When I first met Sean and Jennie, I remember that we talked for a long time. They said they had planned to come to Iowa City anyway that weekend because they had tickets to the Iowa football game the next day; but they made it clear that the adoption was more important. I left the room with some questions for the adoption specialist. There was a lot I needed to consider as I made this decision about who would parent my child. When I came back in, I had a sad look on my face and said, “I’m sorry, you’re going to miss the game.” Jennie’s face lit up, and she started crying.
Jennie: The adoption forms we filled out asked about openness. At that time, we said we were OK to send photos and letters. We had no idea then how we’d feel. We were just so thankful, and we knew there was nothing we could ever do to express our thanks. Every week or two, I’d send an envelope through Bethany with a letter and photos, and Brandon would write back. After a little while, we decided to exchange phone numbers and contact each other directly. All of us knew this was going to continue.
Brandon: We celebrated Christmas together that first year, and they asked me when my birthday was. We couldn’t believe the coincidence that Sean and I have the same birthday. That should make it easy for Tate to remember.
Jennie: Their bond is clear. They love each other. Tate’s always been apprehensive around new people, but with Brandon, he’s totally himself.
Brandon: I’m a big kid at heart, and Tate is a playful kid. When we get together, sometimes he’s shy and sometimes he’s outgoing. We talk, and I ask how he’s doing. We mostly hang out. I always tell him I love him when I see him. It’s always hard to say goodbye.
Jennie: We don’t know what we’d do without Brandon in our lives. Open adoption has meant having a new family member to make memories with and to love.
Brandon: Sean and Jennie are great people, loving and caring. They are honest with me and even asked me, when they were thinking about adopting more kids, “Would you be OK with that?” Tate has a great family around him. I think the experience of having siblings will make him a more understanding person.
Jennie: People ask us really silly questions. “Does Tate know he’s adopted?” “Does he call Brandon ‘Dad’?” As Tate has gotten older, he’s understood more. He says things like, “It helps that I know Brandon; I know he loves me. Maybe if I didn’t know him, I would think my birthparents didn’t want me, but they chose adoption because they loved me.”
Brandon: It means the world to me to have Tate in my life. I brag about him all the time, and I have pictures up everywhere. I jump at any opportunity to see him. Sean and Jennie treat me like family and have kept me part of Tate’s life. I’ve heard of open adoptions where the adoptive family agrees to it, and then once paperwork clears, they vanish. I’m not his dad, but I know he looks up to me, and that gives me a greater purpose. I feel blessed.
Jennie: When Tate was born, the quarterback for the Iowa Hawkeyes was Drew Tate. We made a time capsule for him to open when he turns 18, and there’s an adult-sized Drew Tate jersey inside.
Brandon: I always want to be part of Tate’s life. I was there, anticipating him, for nine months. I’m connected to him as much as anything else in this world.