Baby, plan your birth!

A couple of queer expats in Singapore on a quest to make a baby


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Question Box Answers: second parent adoption

Here’s a question I’ve been putting off because we don’t really have a good answer for it:

“How will the legalities be handled with E having the baby and H being E’s spouse? (but not recognized as such everywhere) How does adoption work in such circumstances?”

Let’s start with this map, courtesy of wikipedia:

Screenshot 2014-08-28 01.04.47

 

Just before moving to Singapore, E and I lived in Michigan. We’re registered to vote in Michigan and have drivers licenses for Michigan. (For our non-American readers, Michigan is the one that looks like a mitten or, on this map, the red one in the north.) In theory, we could change our state since we don’t really live there anyway, but that’s complicated and usually involves demonstrating that we’ve set up a residence in our new state. Hard to do when, again, we don’t really live there. Realistically, we’re probably stuck with Michigan as our state until we move back to the US and take up residence elsewhere. (This isn’t strictly relevant to today’s topic, but for future reference, we were legally married in Illinois. Michigan does not recognize our marriage.)

So what does this map mean for us?

Assuming the situation is static (but hoping it’s not – c’mon SCOTUS!), it’s actually not clear what would happen in our situation. Michigan does not permit same-sex couples to adopt a child together, but there is no explicit prohibition on one partner adopting a child born to the other partner. Wikipedia calls this “stepparent adoption,” but it’s more commonly known as “second parent adoption,” even though these are technically different: stepparent adoption is for married couples, while second parent adoption is for a couple that isn’t married. But because some states are a little stingy with the marriage rights, a lot of co-parenting couples aren’t legally married, so second parent adoption is the more general term for everyone in that situation. (“Stepparent” also seems kind of misleading to me. I’m not adopting a child that E had as part of a previous relationship. I’m going to be there right from the start, as much a co-parent as E.)

Anyway, at present, Nessel & Kessel Law (no joke, that’s their name), the same firm that was part of Michigan’s DeBoer v. Snyder case back in March, is looking for same-sex Michigan couples who are legally married somewhere to file petitions for second parent adoptions to get the ball rolling on this issue.

As expats living in Asia, we’re obviously not ideal candidates, so we’re basically just waiting to see what happens, either with a Supreme Court ruling or a Michigan ruling. We’re confident that I’ll eventually be able to adopt our child, but it may be a little while.

In the meantime, we’re going to have some legal documents drawn up including a co-parenting agreement and a custody agreement. That way, everyone’s protected even if something bad happened to E or to our relationship. It’s not very romantic, and it’s definitely less joyful than signing my name to the birth certificate, but for the moment, it’s the closest we can have to an adoption.

I will leave you with the advice E was given last year by her former ob-gyn in Ann Arbor, MI: “Make sure you don’t put your girlfriend’s name on any legal paperwork. That way, if you break up, she won’t have any claim to your child.” Classy.

Send us more questions through our anonymous question box.

-H

 

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Question Box Answers: eggs, brought to you by the letter E

Easy question today from our Anonymous Question Box: “Whose egg gets fertilized?”

Answer: E’s egg.

Why? Because she’s the one carrying the baby.

It is possible to fertilize my egg (either in a lab or inside my person – the latter is generally more successful, and involves me being inseminated and temporarily pregnant) and then move the party to E’s body, IVF-style. Sort of like some kinds of gestational surrogacy.

But that’s expensive and complicated and mainly just unnecessary. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this enough, but I think E is just the bee’s knees. Having a kid with her genes sounds awesome! Sorry, Darwin, but I don’t actually care whether our baby has my genes or not. We make our families, in large part, by who we choose to love.

-H


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Question Box Answers: so many uteri, so little time

Anonymous question box” brings us a question!

“Being in a relationship where multiple individuals are biologically capable (?) of bearing children, how was the subject of who should bear a child decided?”

This comes up quite a bit, and it’s exciting to live in a time when we have SO MANY child-bearing options. One of us could carry, both of us could carry, neither of us could carry.  We could use our genetics or someone else’s genetics.  One person directed us to latest developments using three people’s genetic material to create one human.  The science is almost there but the legality/practicality side of things is yet to be sorted, and we don’t want to bank on our fertility at age 80, once it’s marketable.  Besides, our lives are interesting enough without being part of a science-fiction movie.   As it is, did you know that if one parent carries the other could still breastfeed? Our bodies are awesome.

The answer we came to, collaboratively, is me.

Short answer:  Way back in the day, when deciding whether we had a shot as a couple, we had very-important discussions about whether we wanted to have children (as you do). H said yes; I said yes.  H said there was no way a human would be coming out of her person, but that she’d leave it to me to decide between adoption or getting pregnant.  Fair enough.  I also liked the idea of adopting, but I have long thought that making a tiny human would be an interesting experiment I’d like to try at least once. I am biologically equipped to generate ears! That’s crazy. Let’s do it. End of discussion. Oddly, it’s one of the easier decisions we made – picking out an apartment involved more deliberation.

[I leave it to H to describe why she has zero desire to make a tiny human inside her – in short, feeling quite genderqueer makes the idea of being pregnant rather unappealing. Also she’s very protective of her bits. Am I allowed to say that?]

We’ve been surprised that a lot of folks had thought it would go the other way – H would carry and I would marvel and buy milkshakes.  As far as we know, either uterus would suffice, and I have a job that provides us with lots of dollars, while H has a job that provides us with few dollars.  Most cost-benefit analyses would suggest that it’s more efficient, more fair, more reasonable for H to carry.

I’m not entirely sure about that argument – having children at all isn’t particularly efficient.  Besides, H has signed up to do more than her fair share of childcare – including staying home with the wee one for at least its first year of life. The bottom line is that when you’re dealing with something you could describe as “creating the miracle of life” or, alternatively, “harboring a giant parasite in your womb,” personal preference matters A LOT.

So we got lucky, it was easy to pick.  I raised my hand!

-E


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Question Box Answers: race and choosing a sperm donor

Welcome to Question Box Answers, in which we will answer questions submitted through our anonymous question box!

Today, I’ll answer two related questions:

1) What are your criteria for the sperm donor?

2) What race is your sperm donor? How did you decide?

We covered this a little bit in a previous post, “Spermfinder! or Choosing a Pet Sperm,” but I’m happy to go into more detail here.

Because the sperm bank already employs an insane level of donor screening, we knew we were choosing from the cream of the crop. (I’m not even going to apologize for that pun. It was unavoidable.) With ~500 donors to choose from, we started by selecting only “open” donors (who are willing to be contacted one time once the child has turned 18, in contrast to “anonymous” donors who cannot be contacted ever), which left us with about 150 possible donors.

I’m going to pause there to talk about race and ethnic background, which is a topic we’d discussed at length before we started.

E and I are both white. We look white, and all of our relatives look white. If we could combine our genes, our baby would be white. For a lot of couples considering sperm donors or adoption, a baby who “matches” is the obvious choice.

For us, this was not obvious. It’s not like we like white people better and want to make more of them or need to see our skin tone reflected in our baby’s skin tone. Speaking honestly, we’re surrounded by beautiful people of many different races and ethnicities here in Singapore, and there have definitely been moments when we’ve seen the cutest Asian babies and thought, I want a baby who looks like that! So initially, we decided we were open to sperm donors of any race, and we probably patted ourselves on the back mentally for being Good White People who don’t just prefer white people.

But then we thought about it and talked about it some more. We talked about how, usually, a mixed-race child has family members who are also of those races. He has people who understand and can introduce him to the cultures that go along with his racial or ethnic genetics. He sees himself reflected in those people and he can talk to them about what it means to be xyz-race and get support from them when he faces racial prejudice.

But when two white people make a mixed-race baby, all of that is missing. We’d be ill-equipped to acquaint our child with Asian culture or Black culture, and any efforts we made to do so (because you know we’d try!) would likely be awkward and inappropriate even though we’d mean well. We’d risk isolating a child who is, let’s face it, already going to face challenges as the kid with two gay moms.

And for what? So that we can have a cute mixed-race baby or demonstrate how open-minded we are? No, that’s like the worst sort of souvenir shopping (“We lived in Asia for three years, so we made you half-Asian!”) or cultural appropriation (“We love brown babies and want to be part of a post-racial society, so we used Black sperm even though we’re not Black and have experienced none of the prejudice that Black people face. We’ll feel connected through you!”). Ultimately, we decided that choosing a non-white donor to make a mixed-race baby would be an instance of white people (us) using non-white bodies (sort of, you get what we’re saying) to fulfill our own wants. Not cool.

So on the California Cryobank website, we clicked the “Caucasian” box (which still felt icky, even though we’d decided it was the right way to go). And after all of that, it turned out that eliminating eight other racial and ethnic groups only removed 15 of the 150 open donors at this particular cryobank. From there, we played around with various combinations, favoring men who were a “yes” for most of the following criteria: curly hair (we both have curly hair), negative blood type (E is negative, and while Rh incompatibility isn’t a big deal these days, it’s one less thing to worry about), reasonable level of athletic and creative ability/interests, and completed college degree.

When we had a more manageable list of around 20 possible donors, we upgraded our subscription so we could get more information, including baby pictures and family medical histories. We combed through the histories, eliminating donors whose family members had a lot of inheritable medical issues, especially those that overlapped with conditions in E’s family. And we looked for childhood pictures that loosely resembled me, since I’m the non-biological parent.

Finally, we picked three finalists and upgraded again for voice samples, which turned out to be recorded conversations between the donor and a cryobank employee. These helped us determine that one of the three was a quite clearly an asshole, a trait that is (likely) non-genetic but would affect the interaction our kid might have with him in 20 years, an interaction that our kid might attach a lot of significance to. And besides, why go with a jerk when we had two really sweet guys to choose from? So we chose one of the nice guys. They don’t always finish last 🙂

That’s all for today. Send us more questions and we’ll do our best to answer!

-H


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Anonymous Question Box!

Remember the anonymous question box from sex ed class? You and your friends giggled and wrote all your embarrassing and/or inappropriate questions on slips of paper, disguising your handwriting so that the beleaguered teacher who pulled out “Does anal sex hurt?” or “Your face looks like a vas deferens!” wouldn’t know it was you who was making her sigh, cringe, and wonder whether it was too late to go back to school and become a welder or a travel agent.

Sometimes, being gay in public is like being that teacher. Putting aside the name-calling on the street, I can’t count the number of times I’ve been asked by complete strangers to explain how two women have sex (awesomely!), what it’s like to be attracted to women (much like it is for you, random stranger guy who’s asking), whether I was born this way (I can’t remember – do you remember your birth?), or whether maybe I just haven’t found the right guy (maybe not – my wife really discourages me from looking).

Add being genderqueer to the mix, and ohholytrexofkobol! do I get a lot of weird and personal questions.

Well, from what the other queer parents have told us, it’s all about to get a whole lot weirder and more personal. Because we’re entering the overlap of the Venn diagram of two groups that receive a lot of unsolicited advice and questions: the parents (or expectant parents) and the gays.

Venn Diagram

Unsolicited advice: try using coasters.

To prepare ourselves for all the questions we’re already starting to get as we try to get pregnant, we’ve made our own anonymous question box right here, and we’ll answer your questions in future posts.

So go ahead. Ask away. We promise to give sincere answers to your sincere questions, even those that we might normally tell a stranger are none of his/her business.

Just don’t tell me my face looks like a vas deferens because that’s a kind of tube-thingy, and I’ll know you weren’t paying attention in sex ed class. And seriously, who doesn’t pay attention in sex ed class of all classes?! That’s just asking to be naturally selected out of the gene pool.

-H