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Published June 30, 2012, 11:30 PM

‘My birth daddy’: Biological father remains part of Moorhead child’s life

MOORHEAD - Brent Mestery calls his 6-year-old son, Peyton, over to the couch where he’s sitting and asks, “Who’s this?” Peyton looks up at 25-year-old Kyloe Flesner of Mounds View, Minn., and answers shyly, “My birth daddy.”

By: Meredith Holt, INFORUM

MOORHEAD - Brent Mestery calls his 6-year-old son, Peyton, over to the couch where he’s sitting and asks, “Who’s this?”

Peyton looks up at 25-year-old Kyloe Flesner of Mounds View, Minn., and answers shyly, “My birth daddy.”

Most birth fathers don’t maintain a relationship with their child after adoption. Kyloe’s an exception.

Brent and his wife, Stephanie, welcomed baby Peyton into their home through an open adoption in 2006.

The Moorhead couple, both 34, took the adoption route after Stephanie suffered dangerous medical complications during pregnancy.

“We weren’t about to play Russian roulette with trying to conceive again, especially when there are other options,” Brent says.

Meanwhile, Kyloe and his girlfriend at the time had previously discussed their options if she were to get pregnant. They agreed on adoption.

“When we got pregnant, we had another talk, but since we’d already discussed it prior, we decided to go along with the original plan,” he says.

They knew they weren’t ready to raise a child and couldn’t provide for him, but they wanted to make sure he was placed in a loving home.

“It’s something that should be considered in situations where people don’t feel that they have the right means,” Kyloe says.

He says he wanted an open adoption so he could see how Peyton was growing up.

Though each case is different, an open adoption allows birth parents and adoptive parents to speak prior to and sometimes after the child is born.

“I like being able to see that he’s being cared for,” Kyloe says. “I couldn’t imagine a closed adoption now.”

Adoption road

Kyloe and Peyton’s birth mother, both 19 at the time, began the process of selecting adoptive parents soon after finding out she was pregnant.

“We looked through massive books filled with people,” Kyloe says.

They met with two couples at Moorhead’s Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota before choosing Brent and Stephanie.

Peyton’s biological father and adoptive father say their first meeting took place in a tiny office that felt like an interrogation room.

Everyone was nervous, but Kyloe says with a laugh, “I don’t think we were quite as nervous as they were.”

Two days after they met, the Mesterys received the news that they were selected to be Peyton’s parents. They were shocked and excited.

“It was what we wanted. We wanted a family, and adoption was the road that we were taken down,” Brent says.

Extended family

The Mesterys attended doctor’s appointments during the pregnancy and were at the ultrasound to determine the baby’s gender.

“There was a lot of that getting-to-know-each-other time before Peyton was born,” Brent says, adding they became more comfortable with each other with each visit.

“It was like getting to know new friends,” Kyloe says. “The more you hang out with them, the more you get to know them. It becomes more natural.”

He and his girlfriend had a couple days after their son’s birth to decide whether they wanted to go through with the adoption.

“We stuck it out and we managed, but it was hard,” Kyloe says, tearing up. “It’s tough just thinking about it.”

After they left the hospital, Kyloe pulled up beside Brent and Stephanie at a stoplight and they looked at each other and waved.

“All of a sudden, everybody lost it,” Brent says. “It was one of the most touching, emotional things that we’d ever experienced.”

The first six months to a year after Peyton was born, they talked once a week to once every other week and visited about four times a year.

“We did slow it down a bit, but we still keep in contact,” says Kyloe, who attended Peyton’s baptism and recently watched him play soccer.

Peyton identifies Kyloe as his “birth father” or his “birth daddy,” and Brent says he knows he “didn’t grow in Stephanie’s tummy.”

Brent says Kyloe feels like part of their extended family.

“He’s made it evident that it’s important to be a part of Peyton’s life, and obviously, with part of that is Steph and I,” he says.

Often overlooked

LSS social worker Vicki Haugen has spoken with many birth fathers, some who aren’t involved in the process and some who are involved every step of the way.

“Sometimes they feel like it’s really not their decision to make,” she says. “We see the other extreme, too, where he’ll tell the mom what to do.”

Haugen says birth fathers are often overlooked but experience loss during an adoption, too.

“People think more about the impact on women who are pregnant and go through labor and delivery,” Haugen says.

She says agencies such as LSS are making more of an effort to involve birth fathers in education and conversation.

“I think for everybody, information is power and helps strip away some of the fear,” Haugen says.

There’s little literature available written about birth fathers and targeted toward birth fathers.

“You never hear that side of the story,” Brent says. “More often than not, the birth father’s gone. In our situation, Kyloe’s a part of our lives.”