Birth Father

“Birth Father,” Ensign, Feb. 2009, 39–40

Birth Father

Nobody ever expects to be in the midst of an unplanned, out-of-wedlock pregnancy, but that’s exactly where Andrea (names have been changed) and I found ourselves. I was in my last year of my undergraduate studies, and she was in her first. We had dated for only a short time but had allowed our physical relationship to go too far.

We began counseling with our bishop in seeking repentance and in the process decided it was best that we not see each other anymore, so we broke up. Several weeks later, Andrea came to my home and told me that she was pregnant.

Coupled with fear were feelings of denial, disbelief, confusion, and loneliness. I can’t imagine what she must have felt. Andrea had a difficult burden to bear, physically and emotionally, and I felt a sense of responsibility and loyalty to her. I also felt that responsibility—perhaps even more so—to the baby. I wanted to make sure that everything turned out all right for his or her future.

Neither of us knew where to start, so we decided to go back to our bishop. He recommended that we make an appointment at LDS Family Services, which, he explained, was a lot more than an adoption agency. He told us that we would be able to get counseling and to explore all of our options as parents. That turned out to be the best advice he could have given us.

Andrea and I were nervous that first visit, but our caseworker put us at ease immediately. Over the next several weeks, she was helpful and supportive as we looked into several options. Andrea and I considered marriage and keeping our baby. We considered not getting married and sharing custody of the baby. And we considered adoption, although it certainly wasn’t our first choice.

In addition to meeting with our caseworker, we also met in group sessions, where we could talk with other people in our situation. Our families were supportive too. Andrea and I counseled with both sets of parents, and they offered suggestions about what we ought to do. In the end, though, Andrea and I felt that this was a decision we needed to make ourselves. We were grateful that our families respected that and weren’t overly pushy.

We prayed about the decision over the course of several weeks. For me as the father, and perhaps even a little bit for Andrea as the mother, the pregnancy was still somewhat abstract. We knew that there was life growing inside her, but somehow, it didn’t quite seem real. That changed when we went for the first ultrasound. As we saw the baby (and later learned that the baby was a girl) this child’s life became more of an actuality for us. We started talking about names. And we realized we loved this baby very, very much.

The more real to us the baby became, the less our decision was about us and the more it was about our daughter. Andrea and I both acknowledged that many adoptive parents could provide our daughter with things that we couldn’t: a stable marriage, a permanent home, and a temple sealing. We wanted these things for our child, and before long, through LDS Family Services, we found a family we thought might be a good fit.

We felt strongly that our child was to go to these parents, a decision we felt confirmed in prayer and again later when Andrea and I met the family.

The day Jenna was born was more incredible and miraculous than we could ever have imagined. We kept her with us the first few days, and when the day came to take Jenna to her new family, we felt we couldn’t do it. Three hours after we were supposed to have been at the LDS Family Services office, we still hadn’t left my parents’ house. I asked my father to give each of us a priesthood blessing. Among the things he blessed us with was the ability to do the right thing.

We finally left for LDS Family Services. Again, we felt a strong Spirit confirming that this was the right thing, yet when Andrea and I stepped out of the office to return home, I felt the saddest I have ever felt. Neither of us said a word as we drove away. We just cried. That was the most difficult day of my life.

The next week—and the next month—were also hard. But Andrea and I kept moving forward as much as we could. Attending group sessions was helpful because parents who had been through what we were going through were there to talk about their experience, to encourage us, and to remind us not to give up hope in the future—for Jenna or for ourselves.

One of the other great blessings for us during this time was the adoptive family. They maintained close contact with us in the first weeks after the placement, allowing us to see Jenna often and sending letters and pictures. It was therapeutic for Andrea and me to see how well they took care of Jenna, how happy she was, and what a great life she had. As time went by, our hard days became less frequent.

Andrea soon transferred to a university across the country. I stayed and finished my last year of school. We kept in touch. Eventually Andrea married, and it relieved me to see that she was going to be OK. It was at that point that I finally felt that things were resolved and that I was now capable of moving forward in my own life. That realization—and the passage of time—were both tremendously healing.

I later met Julie, the woman who would become my wife. When I saw long-term potential with our relationship, I told her about Andrea and Jenna. She has been very supportive and has even met Jenna and her family a couple of times. Her understanding has been a tremendous blessing to me.

Julie and I later married, and today we have a one-year-old daughter. Despite the busyness of our lives, we decided early on to make family a priority. We are blessed to be able to spend time with our daughter and with each other. It is exciting to watch our child grow and develop and change. I am grateful and glad to be her father.

I am also grateful for the hope that the gospel provided throughout my experience. My testimony of a loving Heavenly Father increased. It is miraculous to me that He could take a mistake that Andrea and I had made and turn it into something positive for another family. It is equally miraculous to have been given a new start.