If you just had to do a double-take on that headline, you’re in good company: When I first read the news about how two gay dads from South Africa just became the first same-sex couple in history to both father their triplets, I admit, I was a bit confused.
But then I read on.
First of all, let’s get the science straight (no pun intended). According to the New York Daily News, it went a little something like this: Sperm from each of the dads was used to fertilize two eggs from the same woman. Then one of the eggs split. So now the men and their surrogate have three babies — one who shares DNA with Dad #1 and the surrogate, and identical twins who share DNA with Dad #2 and the surrogate. It’s not that the dads have three children, each of whom share both of their DNA at once. But all three kids did grow alongside each other in the same womb for nine months straight, which, given the circumstances, is pretty amazing when you think about it.
I know there are some out there who may balk at that kind of science; but I’m okay with it. After all, gay people aren’t the only ones spending lots of money and time making babies. Hundreds of thousands of men and women — gay and straight — access fertility clinics, sperm banks, egg donors, surrogate moms all with the sole purpose of creating biological children. Biology is a heavy calling. In the coldest of terms, we’re animals intent upon getting our genes into the next generation. On a warmer note, we’re romantics who want to blend our bodies as well as our lives with those we love. We want to look into our children’s faces and find our lover’s cheeks aside our noses, our eyes framed gently by our spouse’s brow.
My best guess, as a gay parent myself, is that this urge can be more intense among gay people in particular. And especially among those who have been rejected by their own biological families and seek that connection; one the straight world hoards and holds so much of. Through that lens, maybe it’s easier then to see that claiming the most basic of rights — the right to bear children — is powerful and empowering, no matter the means used.
Over a decade ago I chose to merge my egg with the purchased sperm of a stranger. Though my mother worried endlessly about a child being raised by two women, reproductive science didn’t. In some ways, science has become a nonjudgmental advocate for gay parenting, interested in taking on the challenges of reproduction as much as we are.
I’ll be honest, when I first read this story, something about it irked me. But I guess my issue with the story was really with how it’s being told.
At the end of the day, I can tell you this: In all its glory, science is not parenting. It enables some to parent who would not have been able to and others to find their lovers entwined with themselves in their biological children. But in the end, it’s not what counts. Our dads in South Africa have only just begun their parenting journey. In the early morning hours, when the sun rises and a child is finally is asleep in their arms after a night of throwing up or bad dreams and they stroke her back or kiss his head, will it really matter whose sperm or whose egg was involved or whether or not he or she was crammed into the same uterus with their sib?
Maybe, in the end, lauding the science on a story like this one misses the point of how extraordinary all parenting is — gay and straight. After all, science can only make babies. It takes babies, regardless of how they get here, to make parents.