Thwarted Father

I had never heard this legal term – Thwarted Father. However, there has been the occurrence of one in my own family. I thought I was “close” to my youngest sister when she became pregnant out of wedlock. It was always her intention to give her baby up for adoption and she sent me packages from prospective adoptive parents for my opinion about each. She also lied to me about who the father was. She lied about who the father was on her baby’s birth certificate.

Fast forward many years. Just before our dad died, my nephew’s adoptive mother contacted me. I had to share with her that my nephew’s mother actually is severely mentally ill (most likely paranoid schizophrenia but medical privacy laws have prevented our family from actually knowing her diagnosis – so this is experientially on my part but it is clear her mind operates in an entirely different way – which surprisingly I sort of understand as a kind of limbo – in this world we collectively share in common but not in exactly the same world that most people agree is a reality, using that last term rather loosely).

The DNA was just not adding up. I will always feel deeply grateful to my nephew’s adoptive mother for her willingness to go the extra mile for him to have accurate identity information. She hired a private investigator and eventually the DNA was narrowed down to two men who were brothers and who as it turns out my sister had had sexual relations with. Paternity tests of an advanced nature then determined which man was the father. Interestingly, he had only been with my sister sexually once. And she seduced him – according to the story – when she opened the door to him (he was there to drop papers off for our dad who was his friend), she dropped the towel covering her naked body. From a cousin there is an indication that my sister was sexually assaulted by her riding coach when she was only middle school age. While their interactions may have been consensual, at that age, I would not term it informed consent.

My nephew was a mature young adult by then. Certainly, it was awkward for my sister because she was very close with our dad. However, there is a dark side to this story. She knew. About 6 months after her baby was born and already adopted, she sent a newborn photo of her son to the father and told him. He threatened to sue for custody. On Father’s Day, she called his house very early in the morning to inform him the adoptive parents and the baby had been killed in a car accident. Imagine his surprise and his anger at having been thwarted from having a relationship with his son. They do try to build a relationship now. It is always hard to make up for all that was lost – in fact – it is never possible.

What exactly do ‘thwarted fathers’ get? Nada. Zip. Zero. Zilch.  Well unless you consider the scripted ridicule.  And then they get ‘deadbeat’, ‘loser’, ‘serial impregnator’, ‘sperm donor’, etc…

According to the Meriam Webster dictionary, to thwart is to:

  1.  run counter to so as to effectively oppose or baffle : contravene
  2.  oppose successfully :  defeat the hopes or aspirations of
  3.  pass through or across

In the case of adopted individuals – a “Thwarted Father” means he was effectively opposed, that the adoptive couple effectively violated his rights, even if unknowingly.  It means his hopes and aspirations of being a father were defeated. He was passed. His child stolen from him with a trickery of the law. And I would add, a deliberate falsehood.

At this time, my nephew and myself as well (and his natural, biological/genetic father) all keep ourselves out of the awareness of my sister. It pains my own heart that it must be so but she refuses to accept treatment, as is her right. However, it is upsetting to be in direct contact with her. So we each, for our own well-being, chose not to have contact with her.

Welcome to June when we turn some of our attention to fathers. They deserve a bit, don’t you think ? With my two sons, I would be totally lost in trying to raise them without their dad in their lives. I know single moms who do a good job of it and maybe I would too – if I had to. Let’s just say, I’m grateful that I do not have to test that possibility in reality.

Who’s Right Is It ?

It is a sad truth that adoptees are often treated as second class citizens and denied their basic human right to know the details of their identity.

Today, I read about an adoptee struggling with her original mother’s insistence on keeping the original father’s identity a secret from her.  In the course of having DNA testing, she located some cousins and has now identified her father.  Stalking him online, she has relieved herself of a serious concern.  As an adoptee, the extreme secrecy made her worry that there was something wrong with her DNA. She wondered if her conception might be related to incest and this concern caused her to worry about having children.

The original mother seems to be a difficult relationship.  For one thing, she thinks this daughter should thank her for giving birth to her. The nun who facilitated the adoption, has commented to this woman that her mother’s life would have been easier if she’d chosen abortion. The time frame was after Roe v Wade.  I remember hearing from my nephew’s adoptive mother that my youngest sister who gave him up for adoption once wrote them when the boy was in his teens, she expressed being hurt that they did not thank her for what she had done for them.  They were quite mystified by this.

Yet, this woman knows that according to her original mother, that the mother has been tormented by what she did in surrendering this child to adoption for 22 years.  This is really not surprising.  When it comes to our children, surrender or abortion, can cause lifelong regrets for one reason or another.  It is always fraught.

Where it has gotten weird and where the relationship between mother and daughter has broken down is the mother’s refusal to reveal the father (she said it was a one night stand and because my nephew’s conception was a similar event, I know these things do happen).  Even when offered extreme “protections” such as being asked if this mother would put the name of the woman’s original father in a safe deposit box, give the key to an attorney and sign a contract with her that she could only access it in the case that she was incapacitated and the woman needed this information for a life and death medical reason for herself or her family – the original mother simply said, “No”.

Her mother’s repeated statements that she loves her ring hollow, even insulting, when this mother appears to be willing to literally let her daughter die before divulging the name of her original father. Oh, the harm secrets do.  It seems the woman came from a wealthy family who never was told about the birth of this daughter.

The original mother became a bit unglued – she accused her daughter of trying to get her family’s money (she claims that she doesn’t need or want it), of trying to get her thrown in jail for perjuring herself regarding knowing who the original father is, which would rob her of raising her sons (the woman notes – we’re well beyond the statute of limitations, and of course I’m not trying to get her thrown in jail), and has told the nun who facilitated the adoption (and who seems to be mediating the complications even now), that this woman withheld her personal medical history from her mother so she can’t give it to her sons (yet, the woman did give her mother a detailed medical history), among other things.

Admittedly, it’s been a tough road for her after a happy childhood with adoptive parents that never lied to her and gave her love and a family life.  She has been able to discover that her original father is a normal, healthy person with a normal-looking healthy family (including half brothers related to her).  She feels like a huge weight of uncertainty has now been lifted from her shoulders. Even so, she is extremely hesitant to contact him.

And she is sickened by being someone’s dirty secret. She feels she would be complicit in the lie if she allows who her father is to remain a secret. Yes, being an adoptee is painful, traumatic and never easy.  Just in case you thought walking away from an unwanted pregnancy would free you. It never does.

Lying About The Family Relationship

It is hard to believe but it happens.  Siblings will be raised in proximity to one another without knowing they are siblings.

In one such story, an adoptive parent had her child spending time with that child’s biological siblings who had been adopted by another family member but these children are not informed that they are siblings.

In another story, though not related to an adoption – a woman grew up playing with her sister as a child but not knowing that she was related to her.  That reality was kept from her.

She goes on to share – “the anger and resentment I have toward my dad and her mom for trying to keep us apart for literally no reason than their own selfishness. I had to sneak and lie and use the pay phone at school to call her and pretend to be a friend of a friend to be able to talk to her to start building our relationship. I was 14 and she was 11. We are each other’s only sisters.”

These LIES bring anger and trauma when the truth finally comes out and in these modern times, it is easier than ever for that eventuality to occur.  It really is hard imagine what these children will feel one day, knowing their parents had them play together as cousins, when they were really siblings.

Some adoptive parents take the perspective that they are the legitimate parent now, and the other kinship parents involved are the other kids parents now.  They will each parent them the way they want. My parents were both adopted and I know that my dad’s way of coping with all of his unknowns was to sever any attachment to the original parents.  As far as he was concerned, once adopted, you no longer belong to the original family.  I have never agreed with his opinion about that but maybe it simply made things easier for him as two of his grandchildren (one with each of my two sisters) were surrendered to adoption.  Hard to believe but true.

Those of us who understand with better clarity must keep planting seeds of awareness …. and keep trying …. and continue educating.

Why Anonymous Isn’t Anymore

There’s been a bit of controversy recently about assisted reproduction and the use of anonymous donors and previously created embryos.  I’m quite familiar with the issues as it became a part of my own life.

I know of others who have gone down this path who I believe made foolish choices not to be truthful about what they did.  There is a difference between not sharing private details publicly and not telling one’s own family members an important truth.

I have also been blessed by inexpensive DNA testing and the matching sites – Ancestry and 23 and Me – for revealing the truth that my parents were prevented from knowing due to closed adoptions and sealed records.  It is hard to imagine being forced to live a false identity so that strangers can claim you as their own (changing birth names and certificates to fit a manufactured reality).

I am grateful we followed a path of our own making and have been honest about the details with our sons.  We’ve not lied to them – ever.  We’ve also not made a big deal about how their conception was different than the more common method.  We are pioneers in a brave new world.

What’s It Like Living A False Identity

As I began to learn about my own parent’s identities (they were both adopted and died knowing next to nothing about that), it very quickly dawned on me how awful it must be, to be forced to live a false identity.  Most people never even consider that.

This is the statute for only one state but most states are the same regarding adoption laws.

Why is it so difficult to just love a child in a parental way without the ownership of that child? Adoption legally strips away a child’s heritage and attempts to force another one on them. Is it any wonder that adoptees struggle with identity?

When my cousin from my dad’s original mother and I discovered each other, I said I had his adoption certificate.  She immediately noticed something I didn’t, his mother’s name wasn’t on the paper.  Instead the Salvation Army had taken “ownership” of him.

One doesn’t own a child like they own a pet or car or house.  A child is also a human being.  Take away their name and the name of their original parents, what’s left?

Something that is no longer wholly real.  Sadly.