Even Here, He Is Barely Visible

I think that I should say a word about Mr. Book. He is, in almost every way, better than I am—better looking, cleverer, gentler, and more thoughtful. I don’t tend to emphasize this in my day-to-day posting, but he really is my better half. Because adoption was really my decision and I do almost all of the adoption relationship maintenance, he tends to show up here only as my audience or foil. Adoption was his last choice; he wanted us to have an abortion, and when it became clear that that wasn’t on the table, he wanted to parent. I didn’t really get that, in part because I was pretty self-absorbed during that time and in part because I wanted to parent, so I assumed that he was just telling me what I wanted to hear. He didn’t push it because he thought that the decision about how to conclude the pregnancy had to be mine, and so it wasn’t until after the adoption was finalized (six months and change after TPR) that I got that—he wanted to parent. Oops.

He was only partly visible during the process as well; the agency wanted me to leave him off the birth certificate, and was pretty miffed that I insisted that he must be on the certificate and in the open adoption agreement. Ruth and Nora were willing to talk to him, but he mostly kept his head down and lived several states away from me when they visited. I think there’s a general assumption in the adoption community (not universal, but common) that if the birthfather was worthwhile, there wouldn’t be an adoption plan. In my case, if I had listened better and he had communicated more forcefully there would not have been an adoption plan. As it is, he’s always willing to go on a visit, he cares for Ruth and Nora, and he’s affectionate with (and fascinating to) Cricket. More than that, he grieved the adoption deeply—he didn’t talk about it, not seeing the point, but he felt the loss of his son—and still does. He also essentially lost half of his family as a consequence of the adoption; his mother and all her relatives think he must be some kind of monster to have gone through with it. His mother even tried to find a way to legally stop the adoption. He’s never blamed me for any of it, although I think he’d have every excuse.

Mr. Book agrees that open adoption is (potentially) best for adoptees, but left to his own devices, I think that he would de facto close the adoption—just never initiate contact and wait for the relationship to die. He thinks that Ruth and Nora are great people, but every time he sees Cricket, he feels the loss unbearably. I’m hoping that this will get better as we work on grieving together. He’s pretty unlikely to seek counseling, at least until we have more money (or insurance) and until I’ve worked on him awhile longer. Unfortunately, he thinks that since his issues appear less serious than mine, that means that he doesn’t need therapy. What I’ve done so far is to take what I learn in therapy, talk to him about it, and then ask him what he thinks—sometimes there are useful secondhand effects for him.

His father was a pretty bad father, and his family thinks that Mr. Book is the worst kind of father for placing his son. He is terrified of letting Cricket and futurekid down the way his own dad let him down. I tell him that that very fear suggests that he won’t make the same mistakes (he’ll make all new ones!), but that isn’t sufficiently comforting to him. I think that he’ll be a great father. I wish everyone in his life could have seen him on that one night that we parented, cuddling Cricket and talking to him about music while I napped on the hotel bed. He had never held a baby until I handed him our son, but he was so easy with him that I didn’t realize that until he told me later. He also thinks that he’s a bad husband, when nothing could be further from the truth—he doesn’t have a lot of faith in himself. Hopefully we can build it up together.

So if I occasionally whine about (e.g.) his inability to appreciate peanut butter cookies or seem to be painting him in a bad light, it’s in part because the fact of his awesomeness is as much a part of my world as gravity: the sun comes up every morning; 2+2=4; Mr. Book is rock solid.

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3 thoughts on “Even Here, He Is Barely Visible

  1. Last year we went through reunion with my daughter’s first father (she was then 7). We visit on occasion, and each time I see how hard this is for him.

    This is a very thought-provoking post — thank you.

    • I haven’t seen any good models for birthfathers, unless you count “invisible”; I’ve had some vague ideas of what a birthmother ought to be like, shaped by the agency and the blogosphere and a book that I hated, but there’s nothing for him. I wonder whether that makes it even harder for them.

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