Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Power Of Genes

I have had a post brewing in my head for weeks if not months on how our genes shape who we are and then today* I read this article about fraternal twin girls separated at birth in China and adopted by separate American families. I recommend reading the article but the summary is that children expressed a desire for a sister as soon as they could talk and connected with each other immediately after meeting for the first time - at age 4.

Is it their shared gestation that makes them long for and bond with each other or is it something rooted in their DNA? Either way, it is interesting for those of us choosing alternate means to parenthood.

The reason I have been thinking about genetics is because of LB's emerging personality. She is a tidy girl. I am her primary care giver and outside of working 20 hours / week and one evening to myself (not regularly, but trying to get there), I am with her. I am not tidy. Brad is and so is her donor. She is so tidy that one of her first words was "back" as in put it where it goes, not necessarily where it was. If she finds a piece of paper on the floor at Costco, she picks it up and says, "Back!" and we throw it away. The cat is on the kitchen counter? "Back!" We get the cat off. I leave a towel on the bed? "Back!" I joke to Brad that she follows me around, picking up after me or at least telling me to pick up after myself.

I believe this is (nearly?) entirely her genetic programming. Certainly she is not modeling her behavior after me. Not a big deal really . . . she could have the exact same tendencies if even if she shared my DNA. But she doesn't and that is the rub.

Perhaps I just will never be one of those people who believes "it just doesn't matter at all!". It matters because my perception is different. When I first saw this emerging, I didn't talk about it. To be honest, I was a bit hurt. While I was enjoying seeing her personality evolve and unfold, I was feeling sorry for myself. Instead of immediately joking sarcastically to Brad, "Oh no! She has your tidiness gene!" it took me several weeks to come to terms with it.

One night I broke down and cried. Not because LB was not like me, which is a thought that sometimes come to mind, but because I was sad when I should be celebrating. It was a turning point on this particular issue and since I have become more relaxed about the whole thing. I joke about it now - sometimes mouthing "O - C - D" to Brad and generally feeling close to how I think I would feel if she had been our mutually genetic child.

I will freely admit that it is a personality flaw that I really wanted my genetic child. I mean really. I continue to feel that loss. Not just the loss for any genetic child (although that too) but that I don't have that connection with LB. It is not something that weighs me down or crosses my mind overly often, but it is there and I am occasionally triggered.

And to offer some balance: I am a mom. I am the mom to the most amazing little girl. I get all the ups and downs of parenting and I am 100% convinced I enjoy it more than many, if not most, parents because of the struggle to get here (I may be biased - I also think LB is the most special kid to be born since the dawn of mankind. Could I be wrong?). Sometimes by the end of the day I am worn out by cuteness. I kid you not. I feel the need to come down emotionally a few notches because I have spent the whole day in a high energy cute-fest: laughs, tickles, new words, hugs, funny sounds, new skills and new adventures.

Which is why I haven't been blogging as often. On top of chasing around a toddler who is tolerant of me cleaning (she helps, of course . . . BACK!) or cooking or other active non-baby centered activities, but not so much when I am at the pc; I struggle with what to write and not to write. The posts that go through my head are usually downers about infertility or oh-my-gosh-guess-what-LB-did-today! gushing posts (which I have pretty much avoided). Neither one seems like a great choice. Nearly everything about infertility is negative and most of my readers know first hand what it is like. Besides Brad, no one cares like I do about the daily life of a particular 17 month old - especially those still ttc #1.

Not a new struggle nor topic for those of us parenting after infertility, but there is my take. I am still planning on keeping this blog and will just see how it goes. Perhaps I should branch out into the rest of my life - like the fact that I read science fiction and would really love to find a new author. If you have a favorite, please share.

*I just realized I started this post 6 days ago so "today" was actually December 4th.


Panamahat said...

Kami, I feel very grateful that you continue to speak frankly about your feelings regarding the (loss of) genetic connection issue. Especially since I am now on the donor egg route myself, it helps me to be aware of potential issues that might come up for me (when I really start delving) and to fell OK about how I feel when I make discoveries I'm not that comfortable with.

So, thanks again!

Sunny said...

I hope you do keep writing, I love your honesty and insightfulness! Personally I would love to hear what you have to say about parenting after infertility, parenting in general (you are kind to consider the feelings of readers who aren't interested in a cute toddler story, but we are all responsible for choosing what we read!), and anything else about life, love, and good books. Don't censor yourself and see what happens!

battynurse said...

I too hope you keep writing.
I have to admit that in the past I have been of the opinion that a child being genetically mine didn't matter nearly as much as just having a child. There have been a few things lately that have sort of forced me to look at it again and while I am still considering/planning on donor embryos I can see a bit more of the side of the loss of that. I may not be saying that right but I can understand why things can come along and blind side you when you thought you had mostly dealt with it.

Sara said...

Hi Kami,

It's nice to see you blogging, regardless of the topic. I totally understand why you aren't blogging the negative stuff or the cute stuff (that's basically why I haven't posted on my own blog in 6 months--everything that I think about when I sit down to write is either WAY too negative and bitter to be allowed to see the light of day, or too full of sunshine and rainbows to comfortably fit onto what is technically still an infertility blog--it's a conundrum).

The science geek in me forces me to point out, over the desperate pleas of my social graces who are screaming "shut up!", that fraternal twins are no more connected by their shared genetics than any other siblings. If there IS a biological reason that twins separated at birth would miss each other, it must be their shared gestation. In fact, even identical twins don't have any genetic reason for "knowing" that they are a twin. They have the same genes, but they split in the very earliest days of development, months before they could possibly have been conscious.

Anyhoo, I think that it's really amazing that you're taking your feelings out, looking at them, and letting the clear light of day reduce them to just what they are and no more. It would be so easy for any of us to say that genes don't matter, and that you shouldn't feel the way that you do, but anyone who would say that is missing the point. Genes DO matter to you. Period. They may or may not matter to LB one day, and if they do, you are going to be very well-prepared to help her work through them.

It is interesting to read this, given that I am in the alternative universe that you are trying to imagine. I have a genetic daughter who looks and acts NOTHING like me. People regularly ask where I adopted her from (she is biracial, I am not, apparently people are incapable of doing the calculation 1+1 = 2). At 5'7", I am the shortest person in my (quite tall) family, and have been this height since 6th grade. Eggbert has been hovering around the 5th percentile for height and weight since birth, and her doctor says she'll be lucky to reach 5'2". She is graceful, athletic, very interested in art, and does not seem to be particularly quantitative. I am a science nerd, and a total klutz. In fact, the only thing that we DO have in common is that we hate to put things away. It doesn't bother me at all, but I realize that if the genetic link were missing (I'm pretty sure that they didn't actually switch the embryos, since she's pretty clearly NOT half Korean), I might see these things in a very different light.

Leah and Maya said...

of course as everyone pointed out genetic or non genetic your child may be or may not be anything like you. My half indian cousin has a 2 fair blond hair blue eyed girls, and then one boy that looks a bit more like her. To be honest I dont' think LB is tidy I think she's smart like most kids and found out she can make you do things, thats all kids ever want to do is somehow control us is their own sometimes cute ways. Want to post but know a mentla post would come out, I might just have to post some pictures, damn pre aunt flow hormones.

MrsSpock said...

I am glad to know that I am not the only one who thinks their child is the most special child in the world. I often fear that if we have another child, they will always feel J is the golden child and resent me for it.

My favorite sci-fi author du jour is Kim Harrison. Lots of action and funny too.

And I would always welcome your thoughts on my own sci-fi novel!

Geohde said...

The genetic connection is a real loss, and it's natural that it will always rub.

ALso, everybody who reads can understand that when you have finally got the much longed after child, that this does not mean eveything has to be sunshine and rainbows.



sarah said...

Don't go!
It makes a lot of sense to me that you would mourn the emergence of a trait that isn't like you--and of course it would feel different if you were the genetic mother, but it would still rankle. I wish you would write more about the good parts of parenting LB. For me, and maybe only for me, it gives me so much hope to know that even after al lthe loss and heartbreak that infertlie women can be as impacted by their children as those who had it easier. But I get it, you are sensitive to those sitll in the trenches, but it's ok to let us see what its like on the otherside.

Summer said...

Try not to be so hard on yourself for your feelings on not having a genetic connection with LB. You still have struggles with it and that's ok. It doesn't diminish your love for LB or LBII.

Post as often as you need to. I for one will always be checking for what you write!

maxandzuzu said...

I really enjoy reading your blog. It was the first one that I've located that tells it like it is. I myself am on the fence about using DE's. You've really got me thinking when I thought that my mind was made up. It's not a good or bad thing, it just is what it is. I remember reading a comment that you'd made regarding some blogs written by DE children (I think). If you know the names of any, please share. Positive or negative I believe it might help me.
It's funny that Sara mentioned the twins sharing gestation. That is exactly what I was thinking when I was reading it. They're growing and developing "with constant company". And then it's gone, it makes sense.
Thank you for being so candid.