Birth Father in Reunion: Mike Milton & His Sweet Baby James

I’m so grateful to the adoptees who participated in Adoptee Month in November. Canadian Mike Milton, a longtime commenter and friend here, read the entries and offered his own essay as a birth father (Mike is also a late discovery adoptee, but that’s a story for another day.)

This month I’m pleased to share with you Mike’s experience of becoming a birth father, The Plan he and his son’s mom devised, what it all cost him, and what came back around.

~~~~~

Cut from the Same Cloth

I am a birth father. It was 1971, and we had named our son James. I remember him as sweet baby James after the James Taylor song from that same fall. We had a photo taken with him at a foster home the last time we saw him, with the only toy he had while still James.

His mother made most of her own clothes, had made her maternity clothes, and had repurposed the fabric to make the elephant doll for James. It was in the back of her mind that she might identify it later, if she should ever see it again. That was certainly my thought, as well.

Children’s Aid had insisted that we make a plan for going forward. Of course, this was only after it was made clear that we were incapable, unworthy, and that the only loving thing to do was to secure his future elsewhere. The two of us wanted a plan would center on ensuring that nobody could ever take a child from us again and that the two of us would be able to build a life together.

The Plan

We would each, in turn, go to university. Then we would find our careers, get married, and have a family. Because I had graduated high school that year, I went first while she completed her last year. Then it would be her turn. The Plan would both carry me forward and entrap me. Perhaps she felt the same.

I went to university out of town and kept to myself to avoid the social turmoil of being a frosh, thrust together with thousands of others looking for new relationships. I tried to focus on my studies. She and I would visit on weekends and live together during break terms. She got a job and eventually worked in early childhood education as an assistant in daycare. Amazingly, not long after she left that job, our son went to that same daycare. It would be nearly 30 years before I learned that.

I didn’t finish my undergraduate degree. By the middle of 3rd year, I was too depressed and isolated to do anything. I did get a job that summer and stayed at it for a long and successful career. Getting a job was the goal of The Plan.

Next it was her time to go to university, also out of town. Things got worse for both of us, but we were locked into The Plan, which included our relationship. It would take another three years before I could finally say to her: You don’t have to do this if you don’t want to.

She was gone that day.

Elephant Memories

It was another 20 years before I signed up at the reunion registry. This was partly because I had been convinced that reunion would be something I was too unworthy to hope for, certainly not until he was fully adult and I could do no harm. Another part of the delay was fear and the desire not to bring this trauma into my present life. Abandoning myself to the reunion process was quite terrifying and uncontrollable. There are many stories from that adventure, as well.

Not long after our initial reunion, I found myself at his family’s island in Georgian Bay for a weekend. Towards the end of the day, he sauntered into the room and said that he had just got a bunch of old stuff given to him and that I might want to see some of it.

With that, he dropped the elephant in my lap. Seeing it again, feeling its texture, and even the smell of it was utterly overwhelming. He agreed that I could have a little time with it; the shot above is one result from that time.

Another James Taylor song echoed in my mind, but I never really believed it would be possible:

I’ve seen fire, and I’ve seen rain.
I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end.
I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend.
But I always thought that I’d see you again.

About Mike Milton

mike milton, birth father in reunion

Essentially a late discovery adoptee, Mike Milton was raised in a household that was safe and provided the necessities, but one in which the adults were cold and troubled with each other.

Mike’s first experience of close and emotional human interaction was through acting and theatre.

In his late teens, he had a son who was adopted.  This changed the direction of Mike’s life. He went to university and spent the middle part of his life in a long and successful career. Towards the end of his career, Mike and his son had their reunion.

The end of that career felt less like a retirement and more like a liberation. Mike returned to his early interests of creative pursuits like music, filmmaking, and acting.

Having left behind his genuine interests for university and then left university for a career, ‘retirement’ provided the opportunity to start over. Mike has since earned a master’s degree in film and works on projects of all sizes that seem interesting to him.

More Mike Milton

guide to living in open adoption

Lori Holden, mom of a teen son and a young adult daughter, writes from Denver. Her book, The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption: Helping Your Child Grow Up Whole, is available through your favorite online bookseller and makes a thoughtful anytime gift for the adoptive families in your life. Catch episodes of Adoption: The Long View wherever you get your podcasts.

Lori was honored as an Angel in Adoption® in 2018 by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute.

3 thoughts on “Birth Father in Reunion: Mike Milton & His Sweet Baby James”

  1. That sounds like a very emotional experience. It must have been so hard to be pulled in many different directions, while everyone around expected you to also form your future. But overall, it sounds like you have had a good life, Mike. I’m glad you got your reunion.

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