To be a mother or not 

Baby Talk

I come from a family that loves babies. My mom can scoop up even the shyest baby and have them cooing and laughing in moments. And according to family lore, my dad doted on us as babies, happily changing diapers or giving us bottles.

I, too, am enamored with babies, especially the plump ones. What can I say? Chubby cheeks, ham-hock thighs, and elbow dimples make me happy. It's safe to say that if you sit me in a chair and give me a fat baby to hold, I will stay put, giving wet kisses to its cheeks and smelling its warm, sweet head.

Like most people I know, I spent years of my life keeping babies at bay, trying desperately not to get pregnant. Before I came out in my 20s, I had been on birth control for years.

As a gay woman, I obviously don't need birth control. In fact, I can have sex all day long and not worry about pregnancy. (Sorry, I have so few things to tease you with.) The flip side is that I can't get pregnant. That is, not without professional medical and legal help and, usually, quite a bit of money. Fertility clinics are popular (and pricey), and if you're so inclined, you can choose your sire.

Then there's adoption. Currently, three states — Florida, Mississippi, and Utah — prohibit gay couples from adopting, and a similar law is being challenged in Arkansas. On the other hand, 29 states, plus the District of Columbia, allow gay adoptions, and the rest have vague language in their adoption statutes. In most states, only one LGBT parent can adopt a child, leaving the other parent to petition for second-parent adoption.

In better news, a recently released article titled "Parenting and Child Development in Adoptive Families: Does Parental Sexual Orientation Matter?" states that researchers have concluded that same-sex couples can raise well-adjusted children. In fact, the new data could lead to the end of existing bans on adoption by same-sex couples in the U.S.

George Washington University's Stephen L. Forssell and the University of Virginia's Rachel H. Farr and Charlotte J. Patterson write, "From a policy perspective, our results provide no justification for denying lesbian and gay adults from adopting children."

Why, thank you!

Like every woman in our culture, I've been barraged by messages to be independent, successful, and happy. However, the "way" to achieve this supreme happiness varies wildly depending on who you're talking to or reading.

The truth is, I just don't buy that to be complete as a woman means you must be a mother. In the same breath, I can tell you that sometimes I want a baby badly.

I have watched friends, both gay and straight, struggle to get pregnant. At its most stressful, the act of getting pregnant takes on a life of its own, and the reason for wanting a child seems to almost get lost entirely. But then life changes, and someone passes you a fat baby to hold, and as you look at that face, you're aware that something primal in you is being fed. And though you may not have a child of your own, you realize being part of the village that helps build good people is a privilege of its own.

It's funny. A dear friend recently brought up an old wives' tale. She said if you count the number of lines on the side of your hand from where your pinky ends to the middle of your palm, that's the number of children you'll have. She looked at mine and said, "There's sort of one, but it's faint."

Go ahead. Look at yours.


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