Here's a quick middle of the day post, loosely related to the conference--in particular, to one comment made at the conference.  Here's what I would have said, had this been a conference all about me:

Stop talking about the biology of parenthood, about the fact that giving birth to a child changes things, changes your perceptions of the world.  

I have a biological connection to my daughter, in the sense that thinking about her while I'm here at the conference sometimes makes me tear up a bit, in the sense that I wake up in the middle of the night if she makes a noise in her crib, in the sense that her giggles physically alter how my body feels.  These biological connections do not come from the fact that she is a person who was cooked up in my body.  They come from the fact that she is my daughter, and that's a status, a position, a location, a lived experience.

Why is this important to me, so important that I started fuming, silently raging this afternoon?  It's important for several reasons:

  • If we ever have a Biffle-Piepmeier #2, that person will be adopted, and s/he will be absolutely as much a loved and valued child in our family as Maybelle is.  That person won't be "the adopted child"--s/he'll be our child.
  • One of the most beloved people in my world--someone, by the way, who I'm not biologically related to--is going to adopt a baby, and I'll bet good money that she's going to be waking in the night, tearing up, getting all gushy over the giggling, etc.  Motherhood is going to feel to her a lot like it feels to me.
  • Some of the most important people in Maybelle's life are people that she's not biologically related to, and if anything were to happen to the people that she is related to, she has other folks who would be a family.  Not a fake family, an actual family.
  • There are people whose biological origin points are so shitty that they get family someplace else. 
Biologically constructing another person doesn't make you an actual family.  Pretending that it does is both harmful to the folks who don't biologically produce kids, and to the families that do a lot of work to be a meaningful family.


Erica said...

YES! I am bookmarking this post to use in my pregnancy and birth class in the Spring semester!

Alison said...

Erica, I'm so intrigued! Who are you? Are you teaching a pregnancy and birth class??

Crittle said...

Perfectly stated. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

These are exactly the kinds of messages I'm seeking out as I transition from carrying our first child (who we lost in the second trimester) to my wife carrying our second child now. Because of things we learned about my body when our daughter died, I probably can't carry again, which means putting down a life-long narrative that said I would grow at least one of my children. Lots of body/gender image stuff tied up in that.

My sense, though, is that there's a wholeness on this other side of this work that will make all of it worth doing. My sense is that the depth with which I will love all of my children - no matter how they come to me - is beyond my wildest imaginings.

Still, it's hard to fight against the non-stop messages (from the media, from some academic sources, from thoughtless people) that I am less of a parent to the baby my wife is carrying now than I was to our daughter, or than Jax is to this child. Thanks for helping to undermine those messages.

krlr said...

here. here.
Thank you. Someone once told me I should be careful in my (eventual) adoption quest because genetics are such a powerful force, you never know what you're going to get. I'm paraphrasing a bit but they went on to suggest whatever genetics/personality/character flaws led mum to give up a child, the child would inherit said flaws. I was dumbfounded. And furious. Eugenics, reborn.

Alison said...

Fuck all those messages that say you're supposed to give birth, or that say that an adopted child is somehow less than. I feel my rage from the conference kicking back into gear.

You know who didn't push a baby out of his vagina? Biffle, for one. And Maybelle is absolutely at the center of his heart in the goofiest and most sentimental and meaningful ways you can imagine. And for what it's worth, you know who was an adopted child? Biffle!

Okay, I may have to blog something.

Erica said...

Exactly, Alison! I was going to say something about fathers too - "they" say that only the mother is attuned to her babies sleeping/waking sounds, but Greg will jump at the first sound of Owen opening his door or Linden crying at night when she is hungry -- that is not to say that he will always be out of bed and down the hall, though. I suppose I can forgive him because the one thing biology does allow is for me, not him, to feed her. :)

raisel said...

What an awesome post. I come from a family of sibs where some are full, some half, some adopted. Someone said to me once: "Oh, so she's your HALF sister." No. She's just my sister.