It seems like people aren’t used to hearing from men like me. I’m not exactly sure why that it is. Maybe it’s because many birth fathers are afraid to try to stay in the lives of their children placed up for adoption, convinced by society that the “best” thing for them to do is forget about that child. Some of them might find the effort required to stay a part of their children’s lives is too hard. Others may feel the stigma of being written off as nothing more than a sperm donor. I am here to be the one who encourages other men to persevere in maintaining relationships with their children placed up for adoption. I want to emerge as the voice that speaks out for this unheard from, and often disrespected, population: the involved, dedicated birth father.
My life changed at the young age of 18 years, and I had just entered college as a freshman when my girlfriend informed me that she was pregnant with my baby. It was not a planned pregnancy, but something in me did not want to give my child up. And more than being shocked, I found myself deeply involved and wanted to bring my child into this world. For the first 5 months, we kept the pregnancy a secret from our family and friends, as we did not want anyone to tell us that we were not ready to have this baby. Nor did we speak about adoption during those 5 months. But something as big as pregnancy can never be hidden for too long. Eventually her family found out and thereafter persuaded us to place our baby for adoption. I was strictly against it. The very thought of losing my child to another and to never see my baby ever again was just unacceptable. For me, a child should be raised by his birth parents. I was yet to inform my parents of my girlfriend’s pregnancy, let alone tell them about the adoption, as I knew that my mother would have forbidden the adoption and would have wanted to help us raise our child.
After immense persuasion from my girlfriend, I reluctantly found myself browsing for information about open adoption. The more I read about it, I found myself questioning myself and trying to figure out fatherhood through open adoption. When I realized that open adoption allowed me to be a part of my baby’s life from the very beginning, I felt that open adoption may be the right way to go for my child and also myself as a father. So I gave in and agreed to the concept of open adoption. Through this experience I found myself wholly involved in each and every step of the adoption process.
At first, I was quite apprehensive of the couples that were interested. I had no clue of how I would be able to know that they would care for my child like their own. And unlike other adoption processes, I was without any counselor where they guide you through the entire adoption procedure. I actually got to sit with 5 potential adoptive parents and interview them, and then decide who would be perfect for our child.
But the process did not just include interviews; I learned that there were 2 different kinds of open adoptions. One was totally open while the other was semi-open, where letters and pictures would be facilitated between the birth parents, adoption agency and the adoptive parents.
This entire process was happening while I was in school. I could hardly concentrate, as this was more than just books and making it big in life. This was my child we were talking about. I wasn’t like most birth fathers who were more than willing to give up their kid. I felt responsible for my child’s well being.
Thank God for open adoption. I knew that through this, my child would know his birth father from the start, and I did not have to miss out on the important days of my child’s life. Out of the 5 couples, we found the perfect parents, as they were quite similar to my girlfriend and me. My girlfriend is white and I am African-American…and so were the adoptive parents. My girlfriend gave birth to our son on the 18th of June, 1996. I had only 3 days before I could say goodbye.
The only bad news is that 13 years later after getting letters every other month, I learned that my baby boy never knew he was adopted. The adopted mother lied to me the whole time. My heart was broken. How could this happen?
My 17-year journey with open adoption hasn’t always been easy. My strong faith in God and my unwavering commitment to be a part of my son’s life helped me through the dramatic ups and downs of this journey. I have never regretted my choice to stay dedicated to being a part of my son’s life. Just because I made the decision to let another family raise him doesn’t mean I ever wanted lose him completely.
I’ve noticed that the public seems to love a good adoption story, whether it’s a story of a couple traveling to another country to meet their child or of an adult adoptee reconnecting with his/her birth family. They read with bated breath the stories told by birth mothers, crying along to stories of heart-wrenching goodbyes or inspiring reunions.
But the birth fathers remain unheard from—until now. My book, The Open Adoption: A Birth Father’s Journey (to be published this year), will tell my story in its entirety, and even include a foreword written by Michael Oher, the subject of the inspiring movie “The Blind Side.”
(check out this teaser – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yZLcZ5oAEnU)
I’m Darrick Rizzo and I am a birth father who is going to be heard.
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