But He’s Not Your Father!

But he’s not your father, he’s just someone who shares your genes

This is a statement that came from my therapist when I shared my grievances about my biological dad, who I recently connected with for the first time in my life.

The backstory is this:
In 1977, when I was born my mother felt she couldn’t take care of me thus gave me to my dad to be raised. This happened minutes after my birth. My dad lived at the time with his parents and they didn’t want to take care of me either. So my grandma decided to anonymously leave me in a Muslim holy place. This happened the same day as I was born.

The next day I was found by a kindly man who worked at the holy place as a janitor. Thankfully I was alive because it was mid-winter.

A couple of years after this tragedy, my dad married his first wife – it was a traditional wedding where one doesn’t get to know each other first. This woman, who turned out to be severely mentally ill, now controls my dad and four younger half-brothers.

So, here’s another backstory:
About 35 years ago, his wife learned about my father’s illegitimate relations with my mom and has since been obsessed with him possibly cheating on her. So, when I recently arrived on the scene, it was bound to cause even more problems for their family, spilling over to me and the relationship with my biological father. In essence we have to keep our relationship the same way as a mistress does to a married man, i.e., like a dirty secret! But I am not up for that challenge. It’s too much for me to expect to be shown any compassion, especially in the light of the passiveness he showed on the day of my birth.

“You live in a patriarchal society, you are a man, you don’t have to adjust to her!”, I’ve said. But my dad doesn’t want to cause problems in his family.

“I am your family. I am your only daughter. I am your first born”, I reply. My dad says he doesn’t want to abandon his other children the way he abandoned me.

“But they are grown men. They are not children. I was an infant”, I cry. My dad says there is nothing he can do and there was nothing he could have done different on the day of my birth. The amount of anger this creates in me is deafening. I start hearing a strange noise and losing my vision just thinking about it.

At the same time, my biological dad wants to do whatever he feels he can for me. In this case, it means calling every single day to hear my voice and to say he loves and misses me. That’s about all I can understand in my native language Farsi. When we sometimes talk with translators, he tells me more elaborate things, like how I’m the love of his life, the most beautiful girl in the world, how he never knew how much he could love his daughter, how I’m the only happiness in his life, etc..

At first, I played nice but after a while, these words and the phone calls started to ring very hollow. Being treated like the mistress of my dad, I can never visit his house, I can’t call him – he can only call me. Still he gives me all these declarations of love. It’s cowardly.

One of my brothers, deeply affected by the family dysfunction tries to blame this on culture and says, “In Sweden, perhaps family isn’t as important?” I reply, “In Sweden we don’t give away babies”.

At times I’ve felt it’s impossible to go on with this relationship. Maybe I just need to be grateful that I got to meet my dad and learn my story. It’s something I never expected to happen.

I shared these concerns with my therapist and she said that I don’t owe him anything, that I can dismiss him the way you dismiss a bad boyfriend.

“But he’s my dad! We will have this bond forever now”, I replied. And that’s when she said, “He’s not your dad”.

Not even professionals can be expected to understand the bonds of both biology and history. I hear my voice in his voice. When I touch his arms I feel my skin, we are both intelligent, we can both sing. I even got personality traits from him – like the fact that I can’t lie and that I’m a survivor. This man is the origin of my life. In a place far away, in a time that seems like hundreds of years ago, I was conceived. My mother gave birth to me, she says I was the biggest of all seven that she has pushed out. I’ve been back to those places – to the house where this labour took place, to the Muslim holy shrine where I was left. That was me. This is my story. These were my people. And after having reconnected with them at age 42, there is no question that they are my people of origin. Even my laughter is identical to some of theirs.

I shared the thoughts about possibly cutting my dad out of my life in an adoptee group. Some were supportive but others (especially men) completely in the dark. Their biggest issue with me was the point of view that my biological parents are to blame for what happened to me.

Apparently, there’s an ongoing perception among some adoptees that we should be grateful that we found our biological families, not blame them, and look at the situation from their point of view. This is laughable because it’s the same narrative that we are tethered with when it comes to our adoptive parents.

The fact that I have issues with my biological father has shown me some of the flagrant misconceptions about adoption and in this case, from the people you would least expect it.

My whole adult life my bio dad has been watching poor women in the streets, women with lots of babies and married to horrible drug addicted men. He looked for familiar traits in their faces, worrying that I would be one of them.

My biological father is very grateful to my adoptive parents. He thinks I should be, too. He says the more I love them the more I love him.

About Sarah Mårtensson

6 Replies to “But He’s Not Your Father!”

  1. I reunite families for free and your analogy of being the ‘other woman’ in this situation is spot on! You are not alone in this type of situation where a parent is willing to keep contact with their child in reunion but refuses to tell their other children and their spouse that they exist. This is the cruelest cruel because the separated son or daughter in reunion is loyal like no other they hold out hope that if they do as they are told they will some day be rewarded for their loyalty and be welcomed into their parent’s home and introduced to their siblings. And they wait patiently, painfully for when ‘things settle down’, ‘when the time is right’. There is often some family problem they are told of where its ‘just not the right time’ to spring the news on the family. The wife’s mother just died, someone just lost a job, they just finished moving, one of the siblings is not yet graduated from high school and the list it goes on. This happens often with the reunions I have done with donor offspring and mothers as well. When I am to reunite someone these days with a parent who is presently married I approach the siblings first or aunts, uncles grandparents first leave them messages and don’t wait for their replies to possibly tell me not to contact the parent. Then I contact the parent so that the whole thing is out in the open, the secret is out. Some criticize me for this approach but it has worked because it prevents the parent from keeping it a secret and if the parent turns out to be a jerk, their siblings have not felt the same way and they’ve gone on to have good relationships with the rest of the family if not the parent. Recently my one friend was going through what you are going through as the ‘other woman’ he did finally divorce his wife but this is unlikely in your situation. I have no advice but want to validate your frustrations and want to offer you friends in similar situations to talk to just for support who would never tell you that your father is not your father. How dare your therapist say such a thing when it is a technical and medical untruth! The very definition of the word father in every language on earth is one who has offspring! Your therapist does not just get to make up her own definitions to words, expecting you to operate in some alternate fictional reality to make your emotional pain go away. Every person born is entitled to their own parents care, concern, support it is the law and considered a crime if they do not attend to the needs of their offspring. Every person born has a right to expect their parents to care for them and all around every person are examples of parents putting their personal needs second to the needs and emotional wellbeing of their children. It is only logical that it would be upsetting to you to be placed in such a situation! There is never a bad time to tell the family the good news of your child’s arrival. You are the winning lottery ticket you are the brass ring. What he should have done, what you deserved was for him to burst into the room crying and tell your family that God had shown him grace and forgiveness for the errors of his youth and brought his first born home where she belongs! He should have brought you into the house and introduced you as your brother’s sister and they should have hugged you cried and shown you photos of your brothers growing up. A decent wife an understanding wife would have cooked a huge feast in your honor and made you up a bed for the night – or for eternity a place you could stay as long as you want. A smart man would know that his eldest daughter would long outlive his wife and would be there to attend to him in his old age in ways that his sons would never be able to. I am so sorry that you have not YET had the opportunity to experience the joy of your family encircling you and introducing you proudly to the world as Daughter, Sister, Stepdaughter, Grandchild, Neice, Cousin. You need to read him that. God blesses a man with a large family and shows him patients and forgiveness for having abandoned his first born and this is how he repays him? With sheepishness? It is never too late for a parent to do the right thing. It is his job to make sure his family is intact and functional before he dies to ensure the generations to come all count him as forefather – that is his job. If it never gets any better you will have to come to terms with this terrible loss based on the truth of what you were gyped out of, your Father, not based on some Halmark card fairy tale that making children does not make a man a father. Your therapist needs a reality check and should not be dismissive of what your actually being put through with the conflicting messages of love and rejection from your Father. Every religion in the world uses Father as a metaphore for God because he is the creator of his children. In fact the only God any of us can be sure of is our own Father and Mother and to be accepted by our parents is to feel the love of God and to be rejected by them is to be totally forsaken by God your therapist is a nimrod – dump her/him and empower yourself. My heart goes out to you and you can message me if you wish to speak to other women in reunion with fathers who similarly did this to their kids or if you wish to speak to a mother who is doing the same thing to her son. Talking to you might well snap that mom out of her fear. Much love and peace to you in this time of personal struggle. Marilynn.

  2. What is your real name? I shared your bio in the adoption group in facebook my friend Barbara Kluijtmans shared your story on the Anti page. Don’t be afraid of the “anti” terminology it is the laws that unjustly steal your real identity that are the problem. It’s lovely for people to take in and raise children who need care its the violation of their true identitities and rights as kin within their own families that is the basis of being against ‘adoption’, not against care or kindness shown to childrenn who need food, shelter, raising.

  3. Dear Marylinn,
    thank you so much for your insightful, empathetic and kind words. I would love to connect with someone in my situation. How can we do that?
    Love, Sarah

    1. you can email me or friend me on fb https://www.facebook.com/marilynn.no and I have just the girl for you to talk to oh boy did she go through the ‘other woman’ expeience to the point where it was almost creepy. Luckily she’s on the other side now and has met her siblings etc. but it was a long road and she might well have abandoned efforts at some point had he not straightend his act out – however the pain she would have felt would have been real, visceral and all consuming not irrellevant and something to be cavalier about – ‘oh he’s not your father he never filled the role of father so you can’t miss what you never had’ fk that. Spoken like a person who had their father in their life good bad or indifferent. Sheesh!

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