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Reunion in an Open Adoption, Part 2: Telling Tessa

Recap of Part 1: After a long email courtship, Roger and I met Tessa’s birth father for the first time and decided to take the next step. Tessa would also meet him — in a few months after some planned events had passed. As we parted at the agency, Joe handed me some photos of him, his baby daughter, and his mom.


One afternoon in late spring, Tessa had a root canal, as part of the ongoing saga of a this mishap (we Libertarians are doomed in so many ways, I tell you). To help take her mind off the fact that she couldn’t eat all morning until after the 1 pm surgery, I had the bright idea to have pedicures together.

She handled the hunger and the tension fairly well. After all, who could be cranky when having one’s calves massaged and when sporting hot pink toenails?

As we talked and waited for our toes to dry, Tessa noticed on the floor my flopped open purse. With the pictures in it. Of Joe.

Deep breath. I braced myself for what was coming and how I would handle it. We’ve always though that straight-on is the way to handle things with the kids. I was aiming for the Goldilocks approach: not too much, not too little.

“Mommy, can I see those pictures?” I hand them over.

“Who is he? And is this cute little baby me?”

“No, Sweetheart. This man is Joe.” I wait for the name to connect to the concept in her mind.


“Joe, your birthfather.”

birth fathers on father's day

Now, it’s one thing to explain a birthmother to a child. It’s concrete — the child sees a pregnant woman, you explain that there’s a baby in there, and that soon the baby will be born (get as descriptive as you’d like). You explain that every baby grows in a mother’s body. It also helps when she knows who this woman is and spends time with her.

I don’t know what Tessa is thinking, but I suspect that the concept of a birthfather is much harder to grasp. He didn’t get a big belly. He didn’t carry me around. He didn’t call mom when I was about to be born. So just what is this guy’s connection to me?

Yes, we’d had The Talk. That’s a whole ‘nother blog post. Suffice it to say that Tessa knows that a baby is created when the sperm of the man meets the egg of a woman. The baby grows in the woman’s body until it’s ready to be born. The baby will share some traits of both the man and the woman.

We kept it simple. We followed the KISS* principle.

Tessa continued. “Oh. Where did these pictures come from?”

“Daddy and I met Joe yesterday. We wanted to make sure that it was safe to have him in our lives. He told us about his daughter. She’s almost 1, and this is a picture of her.”

“She’s so cute! She is my birthsister! So…what did you talk about?”

“He was very curious about you. He has always loved you and wondered about you. We told him about your dramatic talents, about your tooth, how good you are at the monkey bars, how you help cook dinner, the way you love to clean and vacuum (but not pick up), how much you like kitties and babies…”

“I want to meet him, too, Mom.”

“That’s great, because he also wants to meet you. But with all our trips coming up, and Joe’s schedule, we’re going to have to wait until later in the summer.”

Turns out I handled the conversation well, but not the situation. This was a very hard thing for Tessa to sit with all summer, as you’ll see in the next episode: The Horrible Wait.

* Keep it simple, stupid.

Lori Holden, mom of a young adult daughter and a young adult son, writes from Denver. She was honored as an Angel in Adoption® by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute.

Find Lori’s books on her Amazon Author page, and catch episodes of Adoption: The Long View wherever you get your podcasts.

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20 Responses

  1. Straight forward and simple. I hope I am able to be like that when the donor egg conversation comes up.

  2. Somehow I missed installment #1; just read it to get up to speed.Now you’ve got me eating out of the palm of your hand.I can’t help but wonder how the context of this summer and early fall may color this story.

  3. I love watching the story unfold!(And, we use “Keep It Simple, Sweetie” around these parts…) 😉

  4. You’re my hero, Lori, for being able to be so truthful and honest with your girl. Your story gives me so much hope for my own future conversations!

  5. Girl, you handle yourself so well! Again, you are my hero.Can’t wait for the next installment!!!

  6. Good on you Lori. You do a great job. I’m sure this conversation will continue to come up – I hope so anyway.

  7. It is amazing how sometimes something so simple (or something that comes off as appearing so simple) takes so much organization, planning and fore thought. Way to go, momma. Missy has a 9-month old friend from library who is the happy result of an open adoption. Your stories have enlightened me so much.

  8. This just blew my mind–I had never really thought about how difficult it would be to explain a birthfather and how it would necessitate the other…cough…conversation.

  9. wow – the many layers of mothering that you are dealing with is just astounding. Thanks for sharing the journey. I have to say, I am learning so much from you.

  10. I agree with Luna — oh how I love Drama2bmama!!! I really have learned so much from your sharing your family’s story — and I can’t wait to hear the next part and your observations surrounding it.XOPam

  11. Wow. It’s like, a soap opera … a totally, top-notch, really really well-written and interesting soap opera.Except it’s not, because it’s your LIFE.My goodness. I’m not surprised at all, by your truth and honesty in your parenting. I love your parenting.Curious … did that whole conversation take place as you were both still getting your pedicures? XOXOXOX

  12. Wow… I never thought about the birthfather thing not being self-evident to a child. I’ll have to ask my hubby if it took him a while to even imagine a birthfather.

  13. When I started reading I wondered if asking about a birthfather would bring up you-know-what. Good thing you already had the talk…

  14. I felt uncomfortable just reading this. I can’t imagine how you felt! When Tessa grows up, I’m sure she will appreciate how truthful you are with her. I’ve met too many adults who didn’t appreciate when their parents didn’t give them the straight truth.

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