Sunday, September 16, 2007


Genes matter.

They do. Why else would we be spending money we don't have trying to ensure that at least a little bit of us (partner and me) is recreated? Why else would we spend hours upon hours with strangers' genetic components spread out in front of us (blue eyes, brown eyes, dark hair, red hair, fair complexion, freckles, 5 foot xx inches, maternal grandmother had diabetes, and on and on and on......) searching for the ones that could best replicate mine?

Genes matter. Because every time I talk to/look at/interact with my adoptive parents, I think (sometimes out loud) thank god I am adopted. I was left on the doorstop. Found in the reeds. No connection whatsoever to the people that never cease to frustrate and puzzle me with their (lack of) reason.

I have based my sanity and my identity on the concept that there are things inside of me that no matter how badly my adopted parents screwed up (in my mind), those traits would still be intact. I know for a fact that if my adoptive parents were my birth parents, hubby would have thought twice about a lifelong union with me.

Part of that is a crutch. Most of us dread turning into our mothers and this is how I convince myself that it will not, cannot happen to me. Because we are simply not the same. We don't look the same. We don't value the same things. And there is nothing innate that will morph me into my mother over time. It's just not there. Those pieces are missing.


Please tell me I am right.

As we sat in front of the donor profiles again the other week, hubby and I were both struggling trying to find answers to questions we didn't know how to ask - at least not without sounding like assholes. If people were computers, what components would be hardwired and which would be malleable? What's the software? What can be upgraded? To put it nicely: what pieces can be Nurtured and which are just straight up, ain't no getting around it, it is what it is Nature?

As a teenager and young adult, when friends would prod me about trying to find my birth mother, I would resolutely say, don't worry about it. In my mind, she is a princess. The most beautiful woman on the face of the earth. And that is all that matters. Who could I find that would live up to the glorious pedestal she stands on now? And that was enough for me. For at least 30 years.

But I am/we are so perplexed about the nurture vs. nature debate that I am seriously considering looking for her. Am I a carbon copy of her? Does she laugh like I laugh? Do I have her eyes? Does she like the same things I do? Or would we be complete strangers? Could it be these things I have credited to her really are the result of my parents' parenting? I need to know.

All of these questions are coming to bear because dammit we just cannot decide on a new donor.

Should we focus on physical characteristics? Test scores? Athletic ability? Just because we like how someone answered the questionnaire, does that, in the end, matter? Will that personality or intellect transfer down into those pretty little embryos I hope to carry? Will choosing a 5' 2" donor guarantee a maybe baby will never be a basketball star? If we settle for a 5' 10' beauty who had a C average through high school, will we blame her every time a maybe baby struggles with his/her homework? Are we being fair by setting aside all the donors with certain professions in their families because those are not ones we would want to have? It was so easy to think I wasn't biased until these choices were laid out in front of me in a binder.

So, which one will it be?

You can't tell me genes don't matter. But I would appreciate someone telling me which particular genes matter more.


Kami said...

Genes do matter. I think they matter a great deal. I think that they matter much more than nurture in terms of a persons behaviors and interests. The problem is, figuring out which is which.

I don't know and I suspect no one knows. Here are some things I came across while trying to answer the same questions:

1) There are many, many books on the subject and none seem to agree. (These books are still sitting in my Amazon shopping cart so I can't tell you more about them.)
2) A recent study found that nail biting is hereditary - or at least the tendency. They found a gene for it.
3) The womb environment does matter. In the somewhat new study of epigenetics (the idea that your blue print involves which genes are turned on vs turned off) they found that identical mice can be made to grow large and brown or small and tan based on what the mother ate when the babies were in utero.
4) One of the findings from that famous "identical twins separated at birth study" found that spiritualism seems to be inherited, but the choice of religion was environment. To me that means things like "a desire to understand things" may be genetic but whether that means the person likes to take apart clocks or study theoretical physics could be environment.
5) I have talked to several parents about their genetic children who turned out nothing like they expected them to. "She is not like either me or my husband" one person said.
6) I am nothing like my mother, my father or any of my siblings - all related by genetics. My husband keeps telling me I am "the pick of the litter" and would never had been interested in any of my sisters in terms of a romantic relationship.

I went through a similar process as you are going through. The thing that really helped me is to realize I am NOT going to get the mini-me I expected. I am not going to have a little girl or boy who is great at problem solving, will excel in school, be out going and love to dance. The thing is most people don't what they expect either. We just have to face it sooner - and that may be to the benefit of all involved.

Good luck to you on this journey.

Happy said...

NPR did a story the other week about adoption and nature vs. nurture. One of the adoptive mothers they interviewed was caucasion and the child was african american. The child met his birth mother and the adoptive mother was amazed when she saw the two of them side by side. She said they had the same mannerisms and walked the same way (and I believe at the same time her child had some of hers also). It was a really interesting story.

When we chose our sperm donor we asked a number of same questions and read the profiles again and again. We finally decided intelligence and medical history were the most important to us. And I was very surprised that my husband didn't have a strong opionion about having a little Sweetness (my name for him).

Good luck w/your journey.

stacyb said...

This is an interesting question…

I too am adopted. My father adopted me. He has also raised me since I have a memory of these things. I feel every inch his daughter. Not because we look anything like. Not one iota…and I’m good at sports but isn’t, he is forgetful and hates lists I never forget and love them. But when I smile it’s his 100% and my sense of humor comes partly from him, as do my morals, values, ideals and generally how I conduct myself in this world. The way I view work and friends also comes partly from his example. My talents do not come from him but that’s ok. He isn’t interested in a carbon copy of himself and I don’t want be a copy. In a way not have the same genetic capeabilities frees me to be who I am. Of course there is a genetic connection with my mother – and yet many of my talents are not ones she possesses either. They are my genetic father’s inheriteince. But again, my values and moral very much come from how she brought me up.

I guess this is the long winded way of saying: genes matter in that they determine what you look like and where your talents lay, but I don’t know that they determine how you conduct yourself in your life. To me that’s in how you are brought up and who your parents were friends with and how they participate in the world.

For us we picked a donor based on similar body type and general features (same type of hair, skin color) and then we looked at what interested the donor had (and while her professional interest would never be mine, some of her high school interests were) and w we thought it was important to know what her siblings and parents do. In the end, we only looked at one donor. A nurse we’d been working with for 20 mnths while we were going through all our IVF/PGD attempts called one day and said “I’ve got the perfect donor for you.” And we decided to trust her.

Finally we believe that the right soul will come to us regardless of whether it’s from a donor egg, an adoption, or any other way.

Whatever you and your husband decided will be right for you.

wifethereof said...

OMG! That is so much what I feel! The problem with being adopted (as I see it) is that you don't really know how much is nature and how much is nurture. I also wonder how much I've picked up from my parents and how much are in my genes.
Like Kami said, I've accepted never having a mini me, which I don't think I would of had even with my own eggs. I guess I just have trust chance and luck.
I use to fantasize about my birth mother too until she refused contact when I had my file opened. So there is so much info. I will never know.

Blythe Adams said...

Wow - I hear you. Another DE blogger here. I just completed my donor profile and it was so terribly hard.

Best of lucj to you! I've linked to you from my blog - thanks for sharing your story.


SarahSews said...

I just found you from Mel's weekly round-up and can't help but chime in. I'm not adopted nor chosing a donor right now, but have thought long and hard about what our genetic connections mean. My mother and I could not be more different. I know she is my biological mother, but man, you'd almost never guess it by looking. I'm a good 4 inches taller than her. Our coloring is strikingly different. Our personalities and ways of being in the world are in such conflict that it makes for a good amount of tension. When she had a daughter she certainly didn't get a mini me -- she got me instead. And she loves me anyway. And thinking about it helped me when thinking about what we would do if my eggs just wouldn't work. It would be okay. I would bond and love and be in awe of the munchkins anyway.

In terms of what I think I would look for, I think I would go for a big heart -- someone generous (duh -- she's giving me her eggs!) and with genetic issues that mirror my own. I'd want someone with good teeth though -- mine suck! And I'd love a donor with dimples (mine are my most striking feature).

Hope the search becomes easier.

m said...

Dear Mel, thank you for finding me because now I have found you!

I am terribly sorry for your recent loss, but happy to hear of your open conversation with your brother and that it has brought you closer together. My brother and I had a similar convo earlier this year - I wish it would have happened 20 years sooner.

Welcome, and thank you so much for your comments. Enjoy Paris!