Last month, Jenna Wolfe, correspondent for The Today Show, revealed that she is pregnant with a baby girl due in August. She gushed and glowed as any expectant mother is wont to do as she delivered her good news on the cream-colored couch to Savannah and Matt during a morning segment. Her aim was to get word out just in front of a People magazine article, which was to follow less than a week later.
Sure, a pregnancy by someone who wants a baby is good news. But what made this announcement news news?
The part that made her tidings remarkable -- but not really -- was the additional revelation that the baby's other parent is Jenna's girlfriend, NBC's foreign correspondent Stephanie Gosk.
The mothers-to-be must have been gratified by how well the news was received by their friends and colleagues.
We have come a long way in how we think about love and relationships, haven't we?
But we still have a ways to go
I barely glanced up at the TV screen the day of Jenna's big reveal. People who have suffered infertility tend to tune out pregnancy announcements when possible. I'm happy for her, for Jenna. I just don't have it in me to look at her fecund belly if I don't have to.
So that was that, I thought. I didn't expect for People magazine to find me. But it did one day at the gym when I decided to get on the elliptical and had forgotten my Kindle.
I admit it. I was curious how Jenna and Stephanie had manifested their pregnancy, though I had a pretty good idea. My curiosity, as a mom who does not share DNA with the children she parents, was less about the details and more about how the women were emotionally approaching their choice to use a sperm donor.
Jenna tells People they chose an anonymous donor because, "We want the child to be raised with two parents and never the question of 'Is there a third?' "
I wasn't surprised by their desire to not want to deal with the fact that a third person exists who is connected to their daughter. New acquaintances of mine are often mystified that my husband and I sought to have a relationship with our two children's birth parents. We are in contact with all four of them in varying degrees based on distance, logistics and their desires. I knew the moment I became a mom that denying the people who created my daughter would not negate their existence, would not automatically and thoroughly edit them out of my children's life histories. Tessa's birth dad is right there in the steel of her will, her birth mom in her innate fashion sense. Reed's birth mom is evident in the shape of his eyes, his birth dad in his curiosity about how things are built.
In the moments of their adoption -- like the moment of Jenna's baby's conception -- a split was created in our children between their biology and their biography. Being open about our children's origins is an effective way to heal this split and help them integrate their identities. Instead of hoping our children would never question their heritage, we assumed they would so we drew a wider circle for our family, bringing close more people to claim our children and more people for our children to claim -- birth parents, birth siblings, birth grandparents and other family members. You might say our family is hyper-extended.
I suggest that Jenna and Stephanie, in an early act of enlightened parenting, switch from the old either/or paradigm -- either you are the parents OR another person has a claim -- to the more inclusive both/and mindset: Your daughter gets half her biology from a man whose sperm you chose AND she gets her biography from her two moms. In doing so, you as parents are not subtracted from; your daughter is added to. To deny the existence of a man who is crucial to your daughter's existence is akin to denying your daughter part of herself.
While we evolve in the ways we think about love, relationships and the right to love the person you want to, let's also be mindful to evolve when it comes to love, relationships and the right of a person to know and integrate her identity.