Don’t know nothin’ ’bout biology

Okay so the fifties doo-wop tune actually said “geography,” rather than “biology.” But it gets us started. Today I wanted to draw your attention to a great, pithy post by Trista, one of the contributors to this forum. Her piece, Advice to Bio Moms, is a great catalyst for thought about how we, inside our families, can work to counter subtly corrosive tics that our unique family structures are subject to.

The one she addresses is a big one: if one partner is biologically connected to the child, and the other isn’t, and more, if that connection is evident physically, then this physical link will be the subject of comment, to one degree or another. It will be unavoidable that someone, others, maybe, or even folks inside the family, will remark that the kid’s this that or the other thing (eyes, ears, nose, throat) “looks just like” the bio-mom’s, or even deeper, a member of the bio-mom’s family, way back.

Given that the normative family unit stems biologically from the two parents at the head of it (and do note: “normative,” not “normal”), the ritual of looking for and finding bodily traces of both parents is an ancient part of baby-bonding. It’s a way, even, to draw the baby into the family community. But for families like ours, these are moments that cut in two ways at the same time. Bonding for the bio-mom, potentially isolating for the NON bio-mom.

You bio-mom sisters out there: when such moments arise, I hope Trista’s advice rushes into your head. I am grateful to the heavens and earth that my partner is cut off the same bolt, in this regard. That is, she and Trista are reading off the same page of the bio-mom hymnal. It helps, perhaps, that my partner has an adopted sister? Of a different race than her? Interestingly, throughout their youth everyone thought they were blood sisters, anyway. The shared energy, the mannerisms, all ran so deep. They have spent their lifetimes forging family love across that blood divide, noticing and brushing off the deeply ingrained impulse in folks to understand family on those terms first and most authentically. Funny, my first sweetie and I were also often taken for sisters. I’m white, she’s Chicana. We’re separated in height by a good ten inches. But still, the love bond had to be explained by folks, in a time when Lesbian Love was far less visible than it is today.

How do you all negotiate this stuff in your families? Go read Trista’s piece and then chat it up there, or here. It strikes at a tender core, and reminds us how we can make our families loving and strong, amidst the external forces that might (innocuously, perhaps) trickle some discord and weakness into them. When both parents aren’t bio, the drama surely plays differently. Is it harder? Easier? Trickier? You tell us!

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  1. wow, I’m speechless here. Thanks! And I, too, am so very grateful that Kristin is cut from the came cloth that your partner is. I can only hope that if I ever get pregnant myself I can manage to take my own advice (and follow her example).

  2. Well, Malka is adopted. she is black. I am white. my partner is black.

    VERY often we get: “Wow, she looks JUST like you.” to my partner. It’s infuriating, because, in a way, it’s almost racist in tone, because, they’re simply commenting on skin color, not look at all. When we point out that she’s adopted, they ALWAYS backpedal.

    But the weird thing? Malka TOTALLY, 100% looks like her namesake, my partner’s mom at times. We call it: “Getting her Velma on.”

    Maybe it’s easier, because Malka came from a ‘3rd uterus,” her “tummy mommy,” we are her “heart mommies.” But we don’t have any internal jealousies in our family dynamic – and I’m wondering of we may have, had Malka come from my partner’s uterus instead. Knowing myself, i would have been envious.

    So our frustrations come with the general public, not within our own family unit. THAT, at the very least, is solid.

  3. You know, Hannah is SOOOOO like Beth that it’s not hard to do. She is the spitting image of me when I was her age (I swear I didn’t clone her) but she has mannerisms and little things she does that are 100% Beth. It bothers me more than Beth when people go on and on about how she looks like me – they can’t see past it and have no idea where the other half of the genes came from.

    Good stuff… and such a reminder about how even parenting is socially constructed. People assume a biological connection as important and so “notice” it even when not there.

  4. Trista’s post was great. Thanks for pointing to it.

    Humans love to find connections. It’s something I love about people…we can find patterns and links anywhere, even if we do over-attribute them to biology.

    We purposely chose a “generic” donor, i.e. one that did not have either of our features, because we intend to try to use the same donor for two kids (one out of each uterus, hopefully). My wife bore our daughter, now 10 months, and she, as expected, looks absolutely nothing like me. This doesn’t stop people from finding the connections between us, which doesn’t bother me one bit. A couple months ago in a private meeting with our rabbi she referred to our daughter being my bio-kid. When I corrected her, she stopped for a second and seemed confused, and then insisted that she must have gotten confused because of our daughter’s red hair…but her hair is very very brown. I insisted that she doesn’t have red hair but the rabbi was having none of it. She really wouldn’t believe me. I totally ate it up.

    During the pregnancy, I braced myself for the litany of “she looks so much like…” It came as a happy surprise that occassionally such sentences are about me.

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  6. Yeah, I have gotten that, too — the friendly, good-natured, “But she does have your nose” or some such. Interestingly there’s very little about my partner that’s evident in our daughter right now; just a bit more in our son. With exceptions for hair and eye color, she’s a carbon copy of our donor chum, her Special Uncle. But the older kids get, the deeper the influence of nurture on them (as v. nature). That’s where we all shine, whether the kids issued from us or not.

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