The buck stops with me, genetically. Although I have many brothers and sisters, they are all adopted or step-siblings. My closest genetic relatives are: my mother, her half-brother, and my three cousins, who are, yes, technically related to me, but fairly distantly from a genetic standpoint.
I grew up in a family where “blood” was not considered particularly important. My mother’s three brothers (two step, one half) were my uncles. They gave me sweaters for Christmas, taught me to dribble a soccer ball, and took embarrassing pictures of me with ice cream on my face. The brothers and sisters I grew up with were adopted. They snuck into my bedroom at night to ask me questions about soy farming, they distracted the cashier while I stole Mancala pebbles from the dollar store, they made me fried eggs and toast on Saturday mornings. My family, even my nuclear family (what with step-parents, et al), has always comprised mostly people who share no DNA with me.
I’ve always known I wanted children, and as soon as we adopted my first sister, I’ve known I wanted to adopt. If my deep, primal love for my siblings is any indication (and it is), when I adopt my children, I will love them fiercely and we will be as close a family as is possible to find.
But something strange is happening to me as I approach my mid-twenties–I’m starting to think about the fact that I’m making a decision to end a genetic line.
I am capable of getting pregnant*. Capable physically at least. But I’m so incapable emotionally that even acknowledging that I have some of the necessary equipment to carry a fetus makes me literally clamp my legs together and shudder. Being pregnant would violate my identity so deeply and irreparably that even if I was interested in growing a human inside me I wouldn’t be able to do it.
Science may have opened a tiny opportunity for me to have genetically-related children–it is technically possible for me to use one of my eggs and another person’s body to create a child who’s related to me. Unfortunately, this process is prohibitively expensive**, especially if I don’t have a partner willing (not to mention able) to carry the pregnancy. Since I may not ever have $50,000 to throw at just creating a baby, and I don’t want to pick my romantic partners based on their ability to have my children, this child-creation option is not likely to happen.
So, most likely, I’ll have children who are not genetically related to me. This has its advantages–for example, I’ll never have to worry about passing on any of the formidable psychiatric conditions hiding in my family’s genes. With the possibility of having children related to me off the table, I’ll have more room in my family for adopted and foster children–children who need loving homes and who already exist. I’ve been prepared to adopt (and have been browsing “waiting children” photo-listings) since I was eight years old.
I guess you could say my “biological clock” has clicked on, recently. When my wife (who didn’t want children) and I split up, and I was navigating life as a newly single person, I decided that I was going to have children, whether or not I had a partner willing to parent with me when I felt ready. I decided to tell all my future girlfriends when we began dating that I wanted kids. I’d tell them it was cool if they didn’t, because I wasn’t planning to parent any time soon, but that I was sure I would eventually. That was a little over a year ago, and since then my physical desire to have kids has been slowly increasing. It’s hard to describe what I mean when I say this, because it’s not a desire to be pregnant and give birth to children. It’s more like the aching of missing someone. I miss my kids, and I haven’t even met them yet.
This sadness is a formidable feeling. It’s come out of left field for me, and it contradicts the way I’ve felt for years. I feel strange that I suddenly have such an intense desire for biological kids when I’ve been sure I wanted to adopt. I feel strange admitting that now, as I’m approaching an age where I’m starting to think about and save up for kids, I have realized that I somehow assumed I’d have kids with DNA from both me and their other parent! Since I haven’t thought about having kids in anything but the most abstract of terms until extremely recently, I’m experiencing kind of a reality check. Abruptly, I’m having to tell myself “Ok, no, you have to pick from the actual real-life options.” And I’m balking.
This is sad. This is the first time I’ve ever had negative feelings about being gay (that didn’t come from bullshit societal pressure). This is the first time I’ve felt like I was compromising on something.
When I worry too much about my children being related to me, I remind myself that there is no way I’ll be unhappy whatever the family constellation I end up with. Everything in my history tells me I have an immense capacity for love, and it is not dependent on the genetic material of the people I’m loving. I love my siblings more than anything. I get attached to other people’s children. I even get so parental (paternal?) about my houseplants that I feel the urge to rush home from work in the middle of the day to move them out of the punishing rainstorms that sometimes hit without warning, this time of year.
Who am I kidding? If you plop a child in my lap and say “Logan, this human is yours to take care of until they fly the coop,” that child will be immediately, irrevocably mine. Whether they end up being tiny, stubborn, blue-eyed athletes with my lactose-intolerance and my breathy singing voice, or whether they turn out to be tall, skinny, brunette frat boys who listen to death metal and get tattoos of geckos on their faces, they will be the most precious people in the world to me.
*To the best of my knowledge, anyway, but I’ve never tried, so I can’t be sure. However, my reproductive system appears to be in vigorous good health, much to my dismay.