Monday, February 26, 2007


Jane, my wife's birthmother, made a difficult and selfless choice to give birth to Sonia and allow Ellen and Don to adopt her. Her gift blessed several families. It allowed Ellen and Don to start a family. Later, the fact that Sonia is adopted gives our own children, conceived with donor sperm, a parent whose story they can relate to as they deal with a question mark -- their anonymous donor -- in the picture of their origins. Sonia's experiences being adopted made her more willing to do an open egg donation for friends of ours who experienced secondary infertility. Most recently, knowing how positive children can feel if adoption or gamete donation is handled with pride and openness informed our decision to give our spare embryos to two great women who want to become moms.

We are lucky that Sonia was adopted and so are a lot of other people. I can objectively say that Sonia is the most magnificent woman ever to grace planet Earth. We have Jane to thank for the many lives Sonia has touched. But there were consequences to this act for Jane.

Part of the problem is that the fling which resulted in Sonia's conception was out of character for Jane. She is an evangelical Christian, and she raised her own children to adopt the same religious fervor. Today, one of them is a missionary, helping no-doubt grateful people in Northern Europe to accept the right approach to religion.

Jane's church teaches that sexual relations outside of marriage are simply wrong. Religious leaders refused to honor the fact that Jane took the brunt of responsibility. The burden was on her for an act from which the boy involved walked away without any repercussions.

At the hospital, Jane's mother held Sonia before giving her to her new parents, but Jane did not. To protect herself, Jane kept Sonia as an abstraction, a child she was bearing for someone else.

After Sonia went home with her parents, Jane thought of her despite herself. On Sonia's birthday, when Jane became pregnant with her own daughter, and many other times over the years.

A younger daughter joined their family and still Jane never spoke of Sonia to her children. First they were too young to understand. Later, Jane was worried about the contradiction between her church's stance that abortion is wrong and the same religion's insistance that girls who get pregnant before marriage are evil sluts.

Really, there was no reason to be honest with her daughters. Sonia was gone and Jane did not know where she was. Sonia knew Jane's full name but a name that common, especially in the days before the internet, allowed Jane to melt away into anonymity.

Then Sonia turned eighteen and everything changed.