Originally published April 6, 2012, on The Next Family.
One question that has come up, and that I thought would be fun to address around Easter, is egg donation. I have been an egg donor, a gestational surrogate, and a traditional surrogate, in addition to having my own child. I don’t have a unique view on any of these topics, but I do have both an opinion and experience with all of these topics. There are thousands of women just like parts of me in the US alone. I enjoy having had all of those opportunities, and consider all of them to be tools in shaping the person writing all this down.
Some people but a lot of stock in the genetics of their child, but that’s just not me. I don’t feel connected by that sequence of Cytosine-Guanine-Adenine-Thymine, because frankly, seven billion humans have a similar amount of genetic variation as a single social group of gorillas. Genetics are important for health histories, but genetics don’t make a family. Humans- we’re an inbred lot compared to other organisms. I’m also not a big fan of children, in case you haven’t guessed. Right now you’re probably wondering why on Earth I would help other people have kids, right? And I’m sure that a lot of fun tabloids and talk shows would say that it’s because of money.
I’m here to tell you that it’s because I think people have the right to do what fits best for them, that everyone deserves the right to have the experience of parenting, and that families come in all makes, models, and sizes, and we don’t have the right to say one type of family is any better or worse than another. Crazy, I know. The thing is, when that little orangutan of mine came into my life, it did change things. It wasn’t instantaneous, and it wasn’t perfect. It took me a while to realize it, but they say it’s the slow gradual lifestyle changes that stick. But even with 170+ pages of my dissertation waiting to be edited and defended, having that little orangutan was the best thing I’ve ever done, although it’s a tight race between him and my dissertation some days.
I understand that other people love children and feel called to be parents, and I respect that. In theory, children are pretty freaking cool- someone to teach and mold, and carry on your memory and legacy. In reality, I find them too messy to justify more than one for myself and Dwight. Similarly, I understand that other people want and value a genetic connection to their child, and that’s their feeling. From an evolutionary perspective, it makes great sense, wanting to have your own children. I never claimed to make the best choices. I guess I’m more of a catbird than others are. I’ll leave my eggs in other nests, and let those parents enjoy the offspring. The major difference being that catbird offspring will typically dump any other eggs out of the nest; to my knowledge, none of my egg donation babies have committed fratricide.
So is this all completely altruistic? Of course not. I get the thrill of helping somebody else have kids; I get to feel appreciated and special; I get to meet new people and see new places and have an amazing experience. I’ve been fortunate to have some amazing stories and experiences in my life, and be a part of something special that others only dream of. I’ve also been fortunate enough to have found a partner who is just as passionate about freedom and bodily autonomy as I am. He trusts me to do what is right for me and doesn’t stop me from doing what thrills my heart. We’re both completely honest with each other, and with our son, and we trust that that is how most of the world is, too. Kenny knows more about reproduction and alternative ways of creating a family than many college students. We all know that there are people genetically related to me and to Ken out there; it’s something to be cognizant of, but not to dwell upon, because it doesn’t affect our day to day life (although it has lead to some interesting discussions with strangers).
I guess if you take nothing else from this piece, remember that life is a continuum, not a one dimensional stereotype. As many different types of families as there are, they all exist because of the same reason: love. As many surrogates, gamete donors, and birth parents as there are, there are as many reasons to travel the route they have chosen. It’s the variety that makes life interesting; this is the flavor I lend the world stew, and it’s only with the interaction of all the other parts that I taste the way I do- my particular mix of sweet, salty, bitter, sour, and rich. And I wouldn’t have it any other way