Op-Ed: To Baby Or Not To Baby - Lesbians Birthing, Adopting and Being Child-Free
At last count, my wife and I know 13 lesbian couples in the Bay Area that have recently had a baby, are currently pregnant, or are in the process of trying to conceive. Each one of these couples experienced, or are hoping to experience, a biological birth.
These days, the topic at dinner parties has turned from the latest dance club to the latest in fertility treatments, and a good number of my Facebook friends’ profile photos have turned into fetuses, infants and toddlers.
“Are you going to have a baby?” we are often asked. My wife is 36 and I am 43. We have no plans to have a baby, and when we say no (usually quickly and with a bit of conviction), we are often met with surprise. “Really? Are you sure?”
“Yes, we are sure. We may adopt a child someday, or foster a child,” we say. And someday, we may.
My wife and I are, by no means, anti-baby. In fact, we are honorary aunties to a beautiful one-year-old, the child of good friends who have been together for 18 years (having met when they were 17 and 19). We went on a fantastic trip to Hawaii with these friends when they were 6 1/2 months pregnant, and we were first in line to hold the baby when she was born. She’s a great baby - adorable, funny, and smart. But, we know that having a baby is not for us. Neither one of us has ever felt the need, or desire, to birth a child and we both have reasons for why this decision is right for us. We know that there are many children in this world that need parents/families, and we wouldn’t feel right about bringing another child into this world. That is our personal opinion and choice.
I do think that forming and building a family is a beautiful thing, and I understand the magnitude and power of two people choosing to bear/raise children together. However, and here is where I risk offending some of my friends, I must admit that I am disappointed and a little confused about the fact that so many couples are choosing to have biological children and aren’t considering adoption as a way to build a family.
I should probably share some personal information at this point: both my wife and I were adopted as infants. We were adopted by loving families, and we both were always aware we were adopted. Being adopted is part of who we are - it is ingrained in us like our eye color and sexuality. And, as we like to say, we also have a family comprised of “adopteds” - two dogs from rescue groups and a shelter cat. We are adamant about rescuing animals; we would never buy a dog from a breeder of any kind. And though I am not comparing people having biological children to buying a dog from a breeder (I truly am not), I just have to point out the fact that I personally believe in rescuing/adoption, whether it be a human or an animal.
Having children/building a family is a deeply personal journey. Talking to friends about adoption vs. biological birth isn’t really an option unless they initiate the conversation. How couples choose to form their families is not anyone else’s business. So, I keep my questions to myself, and though I will never ask, I wish I could. Did you consider adopting a child? If not, why not?
Adopted people grow up with the knowledge that we are not “blood related” to our family. And, as queer/gay people, don’t we form our own families the same way by choice? Biological families may not accept their LGBT children/relatives, and therefore we often create our own families. So, if the reason for birthing a baby is that you want a blood tie to your child, I just ask that you consider the following questions: Do you think you would feel differently about an adopted child than a biological child? Do you think you could love a child you did not birth as much as one you did? Do you equate biological blood ties to a greater, deeper love? I know these are provocative and tough questions, but as an adopted person who is not seeing a lot of people adopting children, I think about this a lot.
Perhaps some of these couples considered adoption and found it to be too expensive or the process too daunting. The average cost of a newborn adoption is $20,000-$40,000. Maybe adoption laws that involve LGBT parents are too confusing and murky - every state has their own adoption laws, and some do not allow for second parent adoption. I really do understand that these issues could discourage LGBT people who would like to consider adoption as their first choice. And, of course, there is the fact that it is getting easier, and more acceptable, for lesbian couples to have biological children by using sperm donation.
Having a baby as a gay parent is a challenge. I am not trying to discount this in any way, but I really am trying to understand how parents-to-be choose the method in which to create a family. The questions I am asking are honest questions that I ask with pure intentions, with curiosity and an open mind. As an adopted person, adoption is always in the forefront of my mind. I only know one couple that has adopted a child in the last year to the 13 who are choosing biological methods. I just wonder why, that's all.
And, to all of my friends having and planning families: I really am happy for you, whether you choose to birth or adopt (or rescue a furry kid from a shelter). Your babies are lucky from the get-go, with passionate parents who meticulously planned their arrival. I do ask though, that sometimes, just sometimes, you put your own photo up on Facebook so I can see your smiling face, no matter how tired it is. I miss you.
Judi Baker is a Communications Manager at Out & Equal Workplace Advocates in San Francisco. She lives in Oakland with her wife Sarah Joe, dogs Puddin and Smokey, and cat Russell. Visit her photo blog here.