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WORKING TOGETHER TO UNLOCK THE SECRETS OF ADOPTION

High school sweethearts, very much in love. We all know how strong those emotions are when you are 16 or 17 years old.  Nothing and nobody can keep them apart. Now add pregnancy to the equation and see how fast the once approving parental figures turn on the young couple. 

 A high school Senior on the football team and an outgoing, artistic Junior find themselves in “trouble.”  Both are willing to face this challenge head on.  Both want to get married, after all, they love each other and, though it all is coming about sooner than anticipated, they want this child. 

But, their plans are not fully accepted by the girl’s parents.  In a clever move they convince the father-to-be that he must join the military as an acceptable way to win their approval for the marriage and guarantee he will be able to provide for their daughter and the baby. Both the maternal and paternal families are military, so this option was not thought to be out of line.  So, the father-to-be joins the Air Force after graduating from high school. 

While the birth father was away at boot camp the girl’s parents began their psychological warfare. The birth mother, who all her childhood tried desperately to win her father’s approval submitted to the constant pressure to give up her child to adoption.  The birth father’s attempts to obtain leave from his duties in order to get married only led him to be shipped off from one training camp to the next; this is believed to have been arranged by the girl’s father.

The birth father wrote letters and called as often as possible, until one day he could no longer reach the girl. she was gone, but to where?  Attempts by the birth father to contact his bride-to-be was thwarted by the girl’s parents. It was not until Christmas day 1966 that he learned of his son’s birth and spoke with the mother.  She told him the baby had big feet, just like his daddy.  Then the shock came..the baby was being placed for adoption!  The words stung worse than anything ever felt before.  This cannot happen, but what can an 18 year old do about it? 

The birth father was never notified of the intent to adopt. He was not even named on the birth certificate.  This is how things were done in Louisiana when a child is born illegitimately. With no legal representation or the ability to afford an attorney, a birth father is not told that he has the right to register as a putative father and contest an adoption.  All hope is lost and a deep wound is cut in the heart of the birth father, only to remain forever open, always questioning how this could have happened? Where is his son? Did he have a good life? Was he placed in a good home? How can he, the father, be found if his son is looking for him when he wasn’t allowed to be named on the birth certificate?  A lifetime of hurt, anger and pain in losing his child continues today. 

Recently the birth father found and made contact with the birth mother. This has been healing in a way, because so many unanswered questions have been resolved. Plus, the anger is subsiding now that her story is known.  The birth mother has been through Hell and back, dealing with her own sense of guilt and emotional trauma over the ordeal. She left home and had no contact with her family for nearly 20 years; the emotional scars are still there.  Then the past rears it’s head and threatens the stability she felt she finally accomplished when the birth father attempts to make contact.  At first she wanted him to be told she was dead. But, fortunately the friend who help initiate the contact refused to do that.  Slowly, the two reconnected and began the painful process of grieving together; something neither had the opportunity to do and has been much needed in order to let the wounds heal. 

But both are still burdened by the pain of their loss and want very much to be reassured that their son had the happy life he deserved.  Both would welcome him in their lives, at whatever extent he would be willing to put forth.  There are two half-siblings on the paternal side who have always known about him; the birth mother never had any other children. She said she could not emotionally go through another pregnancy.  What a tragic loss, all due to the trauma of a forced adoption. 

Should birth parents be allowed information on their adopted child? Perhaps not. But, should an adopted person be allowed to know who his or her biological parents are? Most definitely YES!  Adult adoptees should be afforded the same right to lineage as non-adopted adults, if they choose to know.  Some adopted persons have no desire to extend their family, or obtain information about their parentage, but for those who do want to know they should be allowed this information once there is not further need to “protect” them.  There is no further need for the state’s protection once a person is a competent adult.

I am the wife of the birth father.  I have witnessed his pain, watched the tears stream down his face over the loss of his son.  He is a wonderful man, and very devoted father. Since making contact with the birth mother she and I have become close friends.  If adoptees were allowed their original birth certificates, their son would have his birth mother’s name and have a chance of locating her if he wanted.  Isn’t it time to allow adults to make their own choices??

Submitted for publication by Michelle Gross