Virtual Book Tour – The Kid by Dan Savage

The latest leg of the Barren Bitches Book Tour has been  The Kid by Dan Savage. It is a true account of two gay men in the US who adopt their son via open adoption.

First, let me say I loved this book. I found it funny  with a lot of insight.  What was especially refreshing was a real empathy with others, especially Melissa and the birth family, and a real feeling of wanting to do what was best for their son with an appreciation of what Melissa went through when she gave him to them. This was a sharp contrast to another book I read not long ago on a fertility subject which astounded me with its self-centredness (if that’s a word!)

Dan and Terry face opposition as a gay couple trying to adopt and are able to overcome that stigma with the help of an open-minded birthmother. In some international adoptions, their chances of adopting would have been slim to none due to their sexual orientation. How do you feel about the “rules” some countries have for parents looking to adopt from their country (Examples: sexual orientation, weight, age, mental health, marital status, or income)?  

I very much took the point that a restriction on gay adoptions would delegitimise existing gay families. I must say I find it hard to answer this question because the adoption experience here in the Uk is so very different to that in the US. On the one hand there are very few babies adopted domestically, and on the other hand, international adoption is much rarer than it seems to be in the US.  However, as far as adoption law goes in the UK, it’s actually prohibited to discriminate against prospective parents on the grounds of sexual orientation.  Even church based agencies are being obliged to comply.

I did some googling about international adoption and same sex couples and found this very interesting article.

With regard to the other possible “rules” I can easily discount marital status and income as possible factors. I can see no way they would impact on the future of an adopted child. I would be a little more cautious with regard to age and health … but that is because of my own experience with a mother who was ill through a lot of of my teenage years and then died just after my 22nd birthday. Of course, she WASN’T old when I was born, and was only 43 when she died. And here I am at 42, trying for my second child. A parent of any age can die and have to leave their child behind.

Dan makes a point that straight infertile couples have something in common with a same sex couple who are, by definition, “functionally infertile” and draws an analogy between coming out as gay/lesbian and “coming out” as infertile. This got me thinking about the issues of donated gametes, and how this approach to building a family has long been accepted by lesbians, of course, while the huge growth in egg donation has now begun to make donated gametes quite mainstream. But while a lesbian or gay couple have no choice but to be open about the making of their family (as Dan points out, the child will eventually realise he wasn’t born of two dads) it seems common for straight couples using donated eggs or sperm to keep it a secret. What’s your take on all this? If you have used donated gametes, do you see your family as non-conventional? Do you have an ongoing relationship with the donor? Do you plan to be open about the donation?

I’m a bit naughty answering this as the question wasn’t allocated to my group, (in fact it was my own question!) But one thing I really liked about Dan’s book, was the way he drew common themes from his specific experience and this was one of them. A same sex family has no choice but to be out with the child about its origins. The donor, surrogate or birth  mother may or may not be known to the child, but the child will need to know that they exist. And some less conventional family set ups have lessons to teach us about how children can thrive outside of the traditional mum, dad and 2.4 children.

Because I’m already older, and can’t guarantee I’ll always be around, and because I feel so intensely the gap left my by own mother when she died, I very much want my children to have others they can rely on. It worries me that little DG is currently an only child and that both my siblings and Mr DG’s siblings are rather light on the children/cousins for DG. That’s modern families in the UK. Older parents, and many only children. When I was a child, I had many cousins in my generation as it was expected that you got married and had kids in your twenties. Furthermore, my mum had close friends who were surrogate aunties and their children were extra cousins to me.

Little DG has a very close relationship to Mr DG’s ex-girlfriend who acts as (non-religious) godmother and sees him weekly. Some people find it odd, but she is very much part of our family and is always with us at family events. She had always spent Christmas with Mr DG’s family, and when they split and we later got together, that didn’t change. I hoped she’d turn out to be exactly the sort of godmother she has.   And as a childless woman in her late forties who probably would have liked to have children with Mr DG, it has worked out very well.

So I’m really hoping our FET will work and we’ll have our miracle baby and Hobbesy and her family will be part of its life. Little DG is happy to see the little Hobbesy’s as his cousins and to run riot with their cousins and if that’s good enough for him, it will certainly be good enough for any new baby who actually has a genetic link there.

I’m sure it is a bit unorthodox and will raise its own issues at times, but the one thing I know for certain, is that your mother is the one who mothers you. It can be the one who gestates you, it can be the one who fosters or adopts you. It’s not the one who provides the dna, but you have a right to know that person. At the very least to know that they exist. I find it hard to imagine building a life based on concealing something so vital, especially in families where others know that a child has been adopted or produced via donated eggs or sperm. What a betrayal when (and it is when, not if) they discover the fact.

For a work of non-fiction, the theme of signs and coincidences plays such a large role in The Kid. On page 152, Dan writes about three twists of fate that bring Terry and he and Melissa together: “…the Seattle conception, the likelihood that Melissa spare changed us on Broadway, and the fact that the kid would be born at OHSU.” Many other signs present themselves through the book such as the incident with Judy’s fortune cookies, and my favorite, the fact that Dan and Terry had their first encounter in a bathroom and that they found themselves in a bathroom together at the moment their son was being born. What role do signs and coincidences play in your life in relation to your infertility and treatment? Do you find that you actively look for signs (good or bad), and how much do you take them to heart?

Oh, I wish. When you’re a recurrent miscarrier every month brings some sort of omen or coincidence of dates. I’ve had babies due on dates I’d previously miscarried. Babies conceived on dates I’ve had d&cs. Scans on my mothers birthday. A baby conceived on our anniversary, one conceived on Christmas day. If our fresh DE cycle had worked, the baby would have been due on little DG’s birthday.

I think if you have enough sadness and badness in your life, then omens are everywhere but they don’t, in the end, bring you what you are wishing for. I think the only power you have in this life, in the end, is to accept and love what you have.

Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery. All you have is today …. that’s why it’s called the present.

Hop along to another stop on this blog tour by visiting the main list at http://stirrup-queens.blogspot.com/.  You can also sign up for the next book on this online book club: Love, and Other Impossible Pursuits by Ayelet Waldman (with author participation!).

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~ by drownedgirl on July 18, 2007.

13 Responses to “Virtual Book Tour – The Kid by Dan Savage”

  1. Ohhhh, you’re first question was the one I wrote! Great answers.

  2. Great points! It was interesting reading your answer to your own question (very sneaky) about donor gametes. And this has me thinking about differences between the US and UK in adoption & donor laws. Lots of stuff to think about here.

  3. Ellen, there’s no anonymity here in the UK for egg or sperm donation, the child can get the information when they’re 18 same as with adoption. Problem is, that plus the very low expenses payable has contributed to a real decline in donors and an exodus abroad. Most egg donors are actually egg sharers obtaining low cost treatment – and I hate to think how they feel if they’re not successful but the recipient is. There are so many issues raised.

  4. Coincidentally, last night I was looking at my bookshelf, trying to decide what to read next and I thought I would read The Kid next. A friend gave it to my husband, and he really enjoyed it. I will let you know what I think once I’m finished…

    I just wanted to say as well how much I enjoy reading your blog. Your entries are always thoughtful, and I really like the fact that you generate discussion about the issues that those of us who are reading your blog are facing. I also want to say how much I admire your grace and strength. You have had to face such enormous obstacles, but you maintain an outlook on life that I find very inspiring. I am just about to begin my first egg donor cycle this Friday…finally after 2 months of delay while our donor (who is anonymous) recovered from an ovarian cyst. My husband and I are very excited to finally be getting started. I have found a lot of comfort reading about other women’s experiences, such as yourself.

  5. Aww Sarah, thanks! You’ll not be far behind us and our FET.

    Thanks for the nice remarks. I got a lovely end of year note from my boss yesterday, actually, thanking me for my hard work over the last year and praising me for staying cheerful in the face of terrible personal sadness.

    I do feel that I’ve gradually been letting go somehow, of the things I was clinging to on that carousel of continually getting pregnant naturally but miscarrying.

    There’s a strange kind of peace in seeing the pathway narrow and ceasing to struggle against it.

  6. I very much enjoyed your answers. I found particularly interesting that your husband’s ex is your child’s godmother; that seems to me to illustrate so well that we find our families in the least expected places which, somehow, ties into the idea of donor gametes.

    I hope this FET works for you.

  7. Stacie, my ex is also my son’s godfather,(!) but he’s not so close to my son as his godmother is, and he’s not part of the extended family as godmother is.

  8. “It’s not the one who provides the dna, but you have a right to know that person. At the very least to know that they exist.”

    It’s interesting–I have very different reactions to known donors (who the child knows as well) vs. open adoption. And when you think about it, there are many similarities as you’ve addressed here starting with the idea of disclosure.

  9. I like what you said about the omens and coincidences. At work the other day I got an email from a security consultant with lists of dates that might have significance for a terrorist attack. I’m still not sure what I was supposed to do with that information other than curl up in the fetal position under my desk. But the point is, there was something for practically every day in July and August — it seems over the past 3000 years there’s been enough conflict to fill the calendar. Same goes for certain personal coincidences — but hey, if it makes you feel more in control of your chaotic universe, I guess it can’t hurt.

  10. “I find it hard to imagine…concealing something so vital, especially in families where others know that a child has been adopted or produced via donated eggs or sperm. What a betrayal when (and it is when, not if) they discover the fact.”

    I’ve learned exactly this from hanging out on adoption boards and listening to adoptees. Just as a fish doesn’t contemplate “water,” people who know their genetic roots do not contemplate their DNA. But take that fish out of water and that’s all it can think about. I find that genetic origins is incredibly important to some adoptees.

    I liked your question. Being willing to “come out” for the sake of the child is important, I think. It keeps the child’s right to truth ahead of the parents desire to hide IF.

  11. My father was adopted. So I have thet sense of not knowing about the DNA. When I get asked “Did any of your grandparents die from heart disease” for eg. No, not my known grandparents…

    I have no way of kowing my original granparents. But I always knew that they existed. I also know that the mother, at least, was Irish and so my dad was still Irish like his adoptive parents. It would be weird if he wasn’t even that.

  12. I really like your last answer. Thanks for sharing your extended family info with us… it really proves that family doesn’t have a real defination. May your next cycle be a good one.

  13. Thenks for sharing your thoughts. You are so insightful. I have not read the book but will put it on my list.
    Daisy

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