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Silencing a
beating heart

Silencing a
beating heart


In this installment of Maggie Quale's series on gay parenting, the writer explores the guilt that LGBT people sometimes face when deciding to bring a new life into the world rather than adopt.

Remember the story "The Tell-Tale Heart?" It's an Edgar Allen Poe tale about a guy who murders an old man and buries him beneath his floorboards. Afterwards he imagines he hears the heartbeat growing louder and louder until he eventually goes insane. I can relate. Last month Kim posed a question that I have been agonizing over ever since. She asked, "Is it selfish to bring more children into this world?"

I approached Kim's question as I do all big questions: I obsessed about it. I probed every unfortunate person I knew, researched, wrote, and prayed until my soul ached. After all, we're not talking about buying a plasma TV or taking a Maui vacation. We're talking about potentially creating a new life. Suddenly I found myself revisiting the age-old adoption versus pregnancy debate ad nauseam. When so many children need loving, safe homes, is it selfish to intentionally bring another life into this world?

Here's what the beating heart sounds like in my tortured head: Hundreds of thousands of children need families. Thump. Our planet is overcrowded and every new person strains our already strained resources. Thump. The world is violent, unstable, and so on. Thump. Conversely, someone needs to produce those kids who are destined to become productive global citizens. Someone needs to be the voice of tolerance and love and inspire positive change. Thump thump. The arguments are compelling and timeless--and they're driving me mad.

As usual, I appreciate all of these arguments at once. We're not solving a math equation where one argument cancels out the other. Sometimes we are contradictions. I get that. I get there will never be a perfect solution in real life. Thump thump thump. So why does that darn heartbeat keep pounding louder and louder?

And suddenly the biggest contradiction of all hits me. What if it's not about whether we should adopt or get pregnant? What if I actually feel selfish out of some lingering internalized homophobia? Like, the reason it's so difficult to have a baby is because I'm not supposed to, that it's wrong. Perhaps it's really the resonance of my mother's Catholic background haunting me and reminding me that infertility is a dictum from God. Perhaps my desire to adopt is not about my own desire, but rather me trying to prove that I'm a good person to the straight world. Silence.

Here's what I know: First off, there's no corpse buried under my carpet. I just want to be a good mom and create a loving home for my family. I believe parenting is a passion, and you can't teach someone to be passionate. Being queer or unpartnered or infertile shouldn't exclude me from the miracle of pregnancy if that's what I choose. Finally, wishing I were someone else won't change who I am or make me happier. That's coming-out lesson number 1.

So you know what my answer is? Yes, it is selfish. Whether I like it or not, there are always conceivably more helpful and loving choices I could make. But that doesn't mean it's wrong. The bottom line is that I love being a mother. I thrive on every single exhausting, endless moment and I'm ready for a gazillion more. But maybe I've got to admit that not all of my impulses are perfectly selfless--and that is OK. Maybe just being me is OK. Maybe now the thumping will stop and Kim and I will get some sleep.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

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Maggie Quale