That’s a great way to get a kid if you’re married, to someone of the opposite sex, you both want kids and you don’t have fertility problems stopping you from getting them.
In other words, the old-fashioned approach leaves a lot of people out of the parenting party. Modern technology has done an end-run around the limits of the birds and the bees. Fertility treatments give us the possibility of making babies with a little help from a variety of donors: donors of sperm, of eggs, of wombs.
This leads to some pretty strange arrangements. In Modern Love this week, writer Jerry Mahoney writes about his decision to create a family with his boyfriend, Drew. Their search for the perfect egg donor led them to Drew’s sister. The twins born of that arrangement are now ten months old. They look a bit like both their dad’s, and a bit like their aunt. They have the beginnings of a secret language, and a very happy raising them.
Amidst the powerful love story of a sister willing to give anything to her much-adored brother, Mahoney asks questions no one knows the answer to yet: what will it be like for her to always be the kids’ aunt, and never their mom? What will it be like for the kids?
Probably just fine.
Whenever I hear about a very unconventional family arrangement, there’s always a fair amount of hand-wringing that goes with it. What about the children? Won’t that be weird for them?
Sure. Being a kid is weird. Being human is weird. None of us escapes childhood entirely unscathed. We all come at adulthood with unanswered questions, unmet longings, inner wounds.
Lots of kids conceived in the typical fashion, brought into ostensibly happy homes with a mom and a dad, suffer terribly. They’re abused, they’re neglected, they’re mistreated. They lose a parent to death or divorce.
The blessing of an unconventional family, one created through adoption or fertility assistance, is that the kids are wanted kids. There are no accidental parents in these families.
That’s no guarantee of a happy home or a good childhood. You can want a baby very much and still turn out to be a lousy parent. But you can bet they’ve asked all the obvious questions: questions about using your sister’s eggs to make your baby, or about whether or not the child of a gay couple will miss having a mom.
The things that stand out as odd about these families, they’re going into with eyes open. That clear intention has to count for something on the road ahead, as they learn how to handle the challenges of everyday family life: how to keep your child’s trust while still getting her to do her chores, for example.
Photo: Ben Klocek