Thicker Than Water

Thicker Than Water

By Maggie Gallagher - September 22, 2010

The story I'm about to tell you is about a man, two women and a baby.

You might call this story "Why Having a Baby With a Dude You Met on Craigslist Is a Bad Idea." These folks could be heterosexuals, but as it happens all the adults involved are gay.

According to ABC News, "Karen," a 40-year-old Los Angeles writer, decided to have a baby (she later found a lesbian partner, but that's another story).

She did what any right-thinking American with a profound desire for a baby would do: First she asked all her guy friends if they would father her child. When that failed, she turned to Craigslist.

The personal agreement she and "Daniel" signed was designed to let the baby know his dad but give Karen total control. The dad could visit a few times a month.

Then the baby came. Karen got a love interest. And Dad (a gay man) stopped behaving like a sperm donor and started acting as if, well, he was the dad. By Karen's account, he apparently went a little wacko and started acting as if he were the husband too. Then he wanted to take the baby down to meet his family in Brazil, which scared Karen (naturally).

The Craigslist family ended up in court.

A lower court gave Karen primary custody and Daniel visitation rights. But according to ABC News, a stunning new court decision ruled that Daniel has no rights to this child or vice versa. In spite of being the child's biological father, and having his name on the birth certificate, and a written agreement indicating both parties understood he was to be part of the baby's life, Daniel is not a dad; he's just a bit of DNA. His baby's mom now calls him a "stalker."

Well, what a mess. It's not hard to sympathize with Karen -- I mean, it's kind of easy to believe the dude you met on Craigslist could turn out to be something of a problem in practical family life, right? Even many formerly married couples have problems handling the challenges of the fractured family.

Karen fell between two stools. She chose a "known donor" for her child because of a girlfriend she has who was created by anonymous sperm donation. "Every single day of her life, she was bothered by the identity of her father," said Karen. But now Karen's coming forward to warn other women that the dude from Craigslist may be a bad plan, too.

I don't know exactly what she proposes as the solution, but perhaps it lies in re-examining what we are doing when we sever sex, love and procreation into consumer bits.

We don't know how to explain to ourselves why biology still matters to us in strange and weird new ways. Listen to the moving comments of a lesbian mother who recently learned her baby's sperm donor (aka "natural father") was killed in a car crash:

"The feeling of loss I have experienced in the days since has been unsettling to me, her biological mother. How can you mourn someone you've never even met? ... Since opening the letter I have been surprised to find that I am reacting as though someone in my immediate family died.

"My sweet baby daughter will never get the chance to know him," she wrote. "I grieve for her ... I can't help but wonder while I look at her what parts of her are his? Are those his ears? Are those his toes? I'm sure she'll have the same questions as she gets older."

How to make sense of the atavistic, regressive, stubborn truth that children are made with our bodies, that our kinship ties are ties not only of love, but of something else, some mysterious metaphor we call "blood"?

Copyright 2010, Maggie Gallagher

Maggie Gallagher

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