Thursday, January 17, 2008

Big questions

I've been thinking a lot about love recently. The for-real, for-serious kind where you agree to get married and spend the rest of your life with a person. It's something I've been thinking about recently, as an engaged person. You take that vow, until death do us part--so the logical question is, when will that happen? How long is the rest of my life?

Statistically, I'm likely to outlive Torsten--I'm younger and female, two points in my favour. But just trying to imagine what my life would be like if he died makes me shrivel up on the inside. Whether it's an early and unexpected death or a peaceful passing due to old age, the thought of living without him is inexpressibly heinous. It is one of the only thoughts that truly hurts me, just to think.

But this is another thing, and one that I wonder sometimes if I am alone in. When I think about the prospect of Torsten dying young, I am overcome with the urge to have his children. Even though I am not interested in being a single mother, the contemplation of life without him makes me crave having his children on some deep, primal level that is out of my control.

I discussed this with my sister, who rightly pointed out that it might not be the best way to move on with my life, to start raising his children without him. But the idea of not just living without him, but actually moving on from our time together... it's just inconceivable. I can't wrap my head around it the same way I can't wrap my head around the size of the universe. It's there as some vague, abstract concept that I blithely assume I will never really have to face up to.

But eventually, unless we somehow manage to die together, one of us will have to face up to the prospect of a life without the other. And that's a horrible, hurtful thought. But it doesn't make me unhappy, because on the other side of that atrocious coin is the beauty of our relationship, our bond, the love that we have for one another. The beauty of love is that it's such a strong emotion; such a deep, whirling high can only feel so deliriously perfect because it stands out sharply against the contrast of a horrible, sinking low.

So that's what happens when you promise to share two lives until one of them ends. You accept the prospect of that low; you know that one day it will arrive and all you can hope is that the day of its arrival is still very far away. But even if it's soon, it's worth it, because I would not and could not give up this high. Loving Torsten for as long as I can, and sharing our lives for as long as we live, is the most beautiful, perfect thing I can imagine. And it's worth any low that we will one day have to face.

One thing, though, that scares me a little bit, is the need I feel to have Torsten's child. As I've mentioned before, we are thinking that we'd like to conceive one child ourselves and then adopt a second one. In theory, we both agree with this , though we haven't thought through all of its practical applications yet, nor do we feel a need to at this point. We don't want to plan our lives to that degree. But it's an idea that we both like.

However, this compulsion to have Torsten's child makes me doubt the adoption thing a little bit, especially given that we would like to have one child biologically as well. I know that I'm capable of loving a child tremendously whether or not it is biologically mine, and Torsten is the same way. But this need to have Torsten's child--well, that's about him, not the kid, per se, but at the same time--if Torsten died and we had only an adopted child? It wouldn't fulfill that need in the same way.

Which makes me wonder. If you have a child who is biologically yours and a child who is adopted, what do you do if your feelings for the two of them differ? And will the feelings differ? Will there always be that vague distinction in our heads between the two kids? And won't the adopted child feel isolated in a family of people who look alike, share medical histories, etc.? I know that as a parent, you aren't expected to love your children exactly the same--differently, immeasurably, but equally is what I often hear. But will that equality truly exist? When I relate the creation of a child back to my love for Torsten, I have to wonder.

What do you think? Am I the only one who feels this all-consuming need to have their significant other's child? And would that need interfere with my ability to love each child for who they are and not what they signify? Do adoptive parents compare their adopted children back to their biological children? Or will parental love for children, whether biological or adopted, really trump all?


  1. well i don't think you're alone in wanting to have your significant other's children after they pass because think about all the sperm frozen for this exact reason. but your sister is right i think it would be harder to move on with your life, but then again having a piece of him always around might be a nice thing. i don't know. this is a tough one jess!

  2. I'm the exact same way. It's so morbid to think that way but I think it's better to start preparing ourselves mentally. And I don't know what I'd do if my husband died and I didn't have a little one who has his eyes.

  3. I am TOTALLY UNQUALIFIED to answer these questions, but I will say that I think they are all common. It's kind of like how people worry that they won't love a second child like a first--but they always do.

  4. I find the topic of adoption fascinating for a lot of the reasons that (i think) underly what you're talking about here. I have a number of friends who are adopted and are loved beyond belief. but what i think is very interesting is that people when considering it are concered mainly of how biological differences will separate the child, rather than recalling how much of personality (obviously it is both) is nurture - mannerisms, etc carry over in ways that are surprising and delightul.

    as my therapist might say, this post is an example of good problems to have

  5. I feel the exact same way. When I can't sleep at night consumed with horrific, morbid thoughts...I always come to the same conclusion...please let me pregnant or have our kid first. I just want to help carry his love forward and a child is the ultimate way to combine our love. We are planning to try next year, so knowing that we are now ready to start a family only makes those fantasies worse!

  6. I don't have an adopted child, but I do have a child whose father I no longer like, even a little bit. My love for her is no less than my love for my other kids. The important thing here, I think, is that a child KNOW, without a doubt, that you love him/her. Whether or not the child looks like you or any siblings is superficial, and will ultimately be unimportant.

    Warning, though - there will ABSOLUTELY be tests of that love, because children need and want to know that they are just as valued as the others in the family, ESPECIALLY if they are different for one reason or another. So you'll need to watch out for those tests; some of them are pretty subtle.

  7. On this subject of spouses dying and whatnot, I completely hear you. Before JG and I got engaged, he had a strange lymph issue that may have been cancer, and I was all ready to just hurry up and get married if it ended up being cancer. Does it make sense? Not completely, but I would have wanted to have as much time with him as his wife as possible. I think it's analogous to your desire to have Torsten's kids.

    Also, I think you would like Two-Part Invention, by Madeleine L'Engle. It's a memoir about her marriage and her husband's struggle with cancer, which I know sounds totally depressing, but it is just a wonderful book. I recommend it as much as I can, but it's especially relevant to this topic.

  8. This is something my husband and I have had to discuss, because he is a policeman and there is a chance (a slim one, but still) that he could be killed on the job.
    He told me that this was actually one of the reasons why he decided to propose. Because then I would be insured, I'd get his lifeinsurance and pension. He wanted to be sure if anything happened that we'd be okey financially.

    But as to kids, I had girlfriends that just wanted kids- didn't really care with whom. But I only wanted kids with my hubby, a child born in love. So I totally get that. But maybe you should try to separate the idea of children from the idea of Torstens possible death. Most likely the two of you will be able to enjoy your grandchildren and even great grandchildren before either of you passes away.

    Very deep post this, you sure know how to ask the difficult questions. I'm staying away from the adoption part because I don't know anything about it.

  9. I don't think an adopted child is considered any differently than a biological one. We have friends who have one biological child and one adopted child. Those children are treated alike and loved alike.

    I think before adopting you would accept the fact that the adopted child WOULD indeed be Torsten's child. That's what adoptive parents are saying when they adopt - This is my child.

  10. I can't really speak to the whole children thing- I would say, I think that an adopted child still speaks to the bond that you had. It may not be biologically yours, but when you parent a child, regardless of that child's biological origins, that child's life is to some degree an expression of your love as a couple. It's something you wanted together, at least for a time, did do together.

    As for the beginning of this post- just lovely. Last night my husband said something to the effect of "promise me you won't die." It's sweet, but so painful because it reminds me that one of us will die first. And I can't bear to think about it.

  11. I think it is natural to want to have your significant other's child. What you love about them, you want to see part of that in your children. A part of the person you love that will, hopefully, live on.

    I am not sure about the adoption thing. My dad is adopted but so is his brother so his parents weren't in that situation. I think, for me, it would be hard.

  12. Believe it or not, I've never had the urge to have someone's child. In fact, I've never had the urge to have kids. I know that sounds horrible. But I love my kids and I would die for them. So I don't think I can be any help. And as for adoption, gosh, I also don't know. I think that adopted children might feel a tad left out, but if the parent loves both the adopted and biological child with equal love (although differently) I think, in the end, that the child will only feel the love.

    Man, that was a hard one. Ack!

  13. I dated someone who was adopted when he was a baby - I think the age matters to a certain degree. He didn't feel any of the issues or difficulties that children who are adopted later in life face, but he was still regarded as "different," not by his parents but by the community. His parents also had a younger biological son. Do you think the order matters? Whether you adopt first and then have a child second?

  14. Like Tessie, completely unqualified but I think its completely normal to want to have your SOs children and think about the what ifs like if he were to die early. I don't think you should have children for that reason though, although i can see why someone would want to have their kids already should their husband die young.

    The whole adoption thing though, i think that you will be surprised how much a part of you and your husband they become, they can take on similar mannerisms and personality traits.

  15. This is tough. I think a lot of these feelings come up because your about to make an amazing commitment and life change, in being his wife forever. The weight of that causes hundreds of “what if’s”. At least it did for me.

    I think it’s about wanting a piece of him, no matter what happened. It’s hard to say if you would feel differently about the biological child if he were gone because it was “officially” part his. You may end up feeling the same about an adopted child though. Regardless of biology, he or she would still have Torsten’s (and your) personality traits, mannerisms, beliefs and values because of what the two of you would instill in the child. Hub had an adopted cousin who was so much like his father that if it weren’t for differences in appearance, you’d have never known.

  16. yikes, you totally had me with this one. i cannot think of ever losing D, but i dont know if i've ever thought of it in the way you are presenting now. scary! and i think as a mother you love your kids (biological or adopted) exactly the same, but i've yet to find out for sure.

  17. And what Tessie said too.

    With CA, we were both like "how are we going to love her??" And oh my God, I could not imagine our lives without her.

  18. I'm sure you have a love for each of your children that is as unique as your love for your husband, and mother, and grandmother. I'm not sure true love has a limit.

    Also, I can definitely identfy with the desire to have your significant other's child. To share a peice of them that remains forever.

  19. I've never really felt that primal desire for a child. However, when I met A., I knew beyond a doubt that if this life were to bring me children, I want them with this man and this man only.

    So, I think it is normal to really, really want the children of the love of your life.

    But, I don't doubt that any children you adopt do become the children you have with Torsten, you know?

  20. "Shrivel up inside" is the perfect way to describe how I feel when I think of living without M in any capacity.

    I think it is TOTALLY understandable to want to have his child. I think about that too - that if I have to live without him, I'd rather us at least have a child so that I could still have a "piece of him" in my life.

    My friend is the adopted child of a family that had a biological child before her. And I can truly say that from what I have experienced, her parents have come to love her and her sister equally. Parental love tends to trump all, I think, in any situation.

  21. I think that you can love a biological chhild and an adopted child equally, albeit differently, or in different ways, if that makes sense. Also, I feel the same way as you about living without Fiji, for whatever reasons. I would prefer to be together, wherever that may be.

    Also, of COURSE I remember about our twin anniversaries! YAY!

  22. Ummm,

    *flushes birth control, runs home, gets knocked up*

    yeah, i feel the EXACT same way. can't imagine what it would be like, don't want to. I think morbid bits like this a bunch and the 12 year difference doesn't help!

  23. *grumbles* My comments never go through. I like what A Margarita said. If I were to have kids, I'd want to adopt first, then carry. Mostly because this way, the adopted child knows I made the active choice to make him/her a part of my family, and first. But that depends on where my life ends up.

  24. I often think about adopting children, because D and my current career paths would make it really difficult to give a child the attention that I think a child deserves (I came from a family where my mom was stay-at-home mom until I was a few years into school). However once D and I have established careers that may give us a little more leeway with time, I worry that I might be too old to conceive or be old enough that the risk of birth defects is very high. Consequently, I don't consider adoption out of our future.
    In response to your question, it's my personal opinion that how you view an adopted child verse a biological child will depend on how you approach the situation. I see it as kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy: if you think you'll compare the two you will, if you think you'll have a different connection to a biological child, you very well may. Does that mean that I think someone would love their adopted child any less? No, but I don't think that will guarantee that comparisons won't happen. But I suppose you could ask the similar questions about the two biological children, like if one was really smart and well behaved and the other just not nearly as much. I believe it's possible to compare those two situations just as much.

  25. While I wouldn't call it all-consuming, I do identify strongly with wanting to have my husband's children; and in fact when I read that some people freeze sperm against the possibility of death, it strongly appealed.

    But as someone who has FIVE biological children, I can say this for sure: I don't "see my husband" in them much. It's not like I can gaze into his eyes via them or anything, nor do I see them as some sort of physical incarnation of our love, any more than I see myself as the physical incarnation of my parents' love.

    I think that the romantic feelings of wanting a child with a particular person are entirely separate from the parental feelings you feel once the child--its own person--arrives. Paul and I don't sit around gazing into each other's eyes and saying, "Imagine! A piece of you, everlastingly entwined with a piece of me!" We're just, you know, bringing up our beloved children.

    My GUESS (and I KNOW NOTHING about adopted children, NOTHING) is that those parenting feelings are the same, and that the romantic feelings come up mostly pre-children and in times of intense emotion (such as the death of a spouse, or imagining the death of a spouse).

  26. I think it's acceptable, because you're about to take such a big step to join your lives completely. And I think that whenever you have a child, whether biological or adopted, the love that will appear will knock your socks off. I just know it!

  27. Thats a tough question, and onviously one that i can't really answer because I dont have a significant other or a child.

    I think that when you adopt a child you can love them as your own, just as you love your significant other as your own....he's not blood but you love him unconditionally.

    It's a tough question

  28. Interesting. I always thought I was the only one who felt that way. I always imagined that if my Husband was in an accident or something, the first thing I'd want is for somebody to freeze some sperm! Hah! Now that I've HAD his child (who, it turns out, looks pretty much entirely like me), I don't feel quite so strongly....I think I've realized (and I hope this doesn't sound too callous) that even having his child could never be adequate 'compensation.'

  29. I have that feeling too. It's so weird--I never understood those women who would get pregnant with their husband's frozen sperm if he died in a war, etc...

    But, that's clearly a powerful (and totally natural) part of the bond between a man and a woman. After all, on some level, we fall in love so we'll reproduce the species!

  30. Oops! I meant to write "It's so weird--I never understood those women who would get pregnant with their husband's frozen sperm if he died in a war, etc... UNTIL I MET AS!"

  31. 1. I don't ever think about the death in "till death do us part." And even if I were to think about, what if CJ died before me, it doesn't make me want a biological child from him. You can clone the person and it will still not be "him," nor will it fill the void.
    2.I'm strongly pro adoption. But yeah I have battled the question of should I have a child of my own and adopt the other one... my closest friend was adopted, and you really can't point out that fact unless you are told about it. And even then you are most likely gonna be in disbelief. Genetics of course play a role, but so does nurturing and upbringing.
    3. Whether you can love both the kids equally or not is something you need to assess for yourself. You also need to consider beyond you. I decided against having a child of my own because even though I know I'd not be biased in my love towards them, my family probably would be. And grand parents play a key role....
    4. Genetic coding is not like a xerox machine - scientifically yes, but in practice no. There's no guarantee that he child you do have will be like him, in certain aspects maybe, but then again maybe not. I really think children are completely moldable. It is how you shape them.

  32. I think it must be natural to feel that way. Now that we have the kids, I really just try not to think about one of us dying. It's too upsetting.

  33. a lot of the issues you address seem similar to why people want children in the first place - not just to have a "mini memory capsule" of their spouse but to have an extention of themselves. i think it's natural to want to have children and produce life with someone you love.

    re: adoption. if you're an aware and caring person, it's natural to have the fears you express - that you may feel differently in comparison to the "birth" children and that you may love them differently/not the same, etc. but (not to go all angelina jolie on yall) i have read that it's common for many parents who adopt children to develop an even deeper and empathetic love for their adopted children. it's like you said in your post - different types of love but equal for all your children.

  34. Will and I aren't engaged, but I identify with the sudden, out of nowhere, voracious need to procreate and have his child. I'm not sure what it is, but it is strong and it is not going away... but that just might be the ol' biological clock talking.

  35. I know what you mean. When I was with my ex I wanted to have kids with him SO much. I'm not even sure why, because I'm not even that into having kids in the future. But I get what your saying... I think it's totally normal.

  36. Those are some very serious, very thought provoking completely unanswerable questions.

    If something was to happen to either of us I think having children together would give us reason to go on and a living piece of each other. I always feel kind of sad when I hear someone died young and left no children. It's like they just stop.

    As for the adoption question: There's no way to know how it would go. You can't even guarantee you'll relate perfectly to children that are biologically yours. I have 4 and they're all very different. Some are easier to parent than others and I'm sure when they are adults some will feel more/less loved than others. that's just how it goes.

    We would like to and plan to adopt one day as well. My dad was adopted as was his brother and it was never an issue for him. He always felt loved and cherished.

    Sorry for the long comment. I love reading your blog!

  37. Wow, you talk about two things that I really find circulating in my mind too. I'm always scared something will happen to my husband, and I think it comes from a tragedy that happened in my family when I was young, but you have to learn to enjoy every minute (easier said than done). We've talked about adoption before and I'm so unsure about how I could handle raising a child that didn't come from the two of us, but that's a whole new can of worms.

  38. oh wow! what a deep kind of post! I can't even imagine living without my significant other (whenever he decides to enter my life that is! lol).

    but about adoption- idk. I think you'd really come to love the child as your own and not see a difference after awhile. some friends of my family adpoted 2 children and they are completely theirs through and through. I dont think they even blink an eye at the fact their children are adopted. and these are people who tried and tried and tried to have kids of their own.

  39. There is something weirdly primal about wanting to be pregnant, I find. I don't know why I should look forward to it-- by all accounts, it isn't exactly the most pleasant thing ever, and I'm not ready at this point in my life-- but I still kind of do!

  40. I love this quote by Melissa Faye Green:

    You will, in adopting this boy or girl, make the child your own. Your own life will swerve to meet the child’s; the two of you will begin to develop in tandem, becoming different people than you would have been without each other.

    Like many adoptive parents, I chafe at the term “biological” to designate only my birth children. First because all children, of course, are the products of biology. Second because aren’t my children by adoption also mine biologically? We breathe each other’s air, prepare and share each other’s food, borrow each other’s combs and socks and pencils; Helen sometimes falls asleep on my bed twirling her fingers through my hair. Aren’t these somehow biological processes? Aren’t our cells intermixing? Haven’t the years of Berenstain Bears books I’ve inflicted on these children been immortalized as brain cells?

    In parenting your new child, you will make the child the right child for you. Even if the relationship doesn't feel perfect or magical or pre-destined for the first few weeks (or months), just pretend that all is unfolding according to plan, according to a higher intelligence than your own.

    The child will simultaneously create in you the right mother or the right father, the one who knows where to tickle, what to cook, which bedtime story to read, and which flavor ice cream flavor is the best, the ice cream flavor ordained by heaven to be the one you both happen to love.

    I thought you'd enjoy it too. Jamie

  41. i think that adopted or biological, the mother child bond comes from growing together. teaching them life lessons. and that will always make them equally yours.

    and the paragraph on dying together pulled me heartstrings. and made me think of the notebook. gets me everytime.

  42. I have had small twinges of wanting to have a particular partner's child. Perhaps it's age that now I wouldn't care who the father was I just want my own child. TO pass on a bit of me.

  43. So, I'm late to this party here, but what an intensely emotional topic you bring up. I'm 8 years younger than Z, and I think about what this logistically means for our lifespans together. It terrifies me.

    On the adopted topic, let me tell you a story. My uncle and aunt have two biological daughters, and then they went to India and adopted a son from an orphanage there. He is loved just as much as their daughters, and he never went through a rebellious phase, or threw any fits about being adopted. And the funny thing is, we continually forget that he was adopted. Although he is Indian and my family is white, we still forget! One time, my aunt did something ridiculous (ran into the chair, shut her thumb in a door, something like that) and minutes later, my cousin did the same exact thing. My aunt quipped, "must be genetic!" My cousin looked at her, kind of blink blinked, and then said, "Yeah right, mom, that MUST be it." It was hilarious!

    Just trying to point out that there doesn't always have to be a big rift in the family because of biological/adoption status. I hope these issues get sorted out smoothly for you

  44. I'm adopted with an older brother who is my mom's biological son. I sometimes think of those questions myself, if Mom loves my brother more than my sister and I (same mom, different father, adopted into the same family), and I've always felt out of place due to how my physical appearance is so different than the rest of them. However, my mom has assured me she sees (and feels) no difference between her adoptive and biological children, and for the most part I accept this as being the truth. I pretty much have to or be filled with self-doubt every time I interact with my mom, and thats not a very healthy way to have a relationship. Besides, she is my mother and I love her fiercely.
    She is the one who raised me from birth, who got up for 2am feedings and 4:30 diaper changes. She is the one who held the puke bucket while I was sick and woke me up every morning to the sound of her voice. She's the one who drove me everywhere, spent countless hours with me, helped me with my homework, all that stuff.
    Not that I don't acknowledge the enormous sacrifice my birth-mother made when she made the decision to carry the pregnancy to full term instead of aborting when she realized she couldn't provide the life for me that she wanted for her children. But I've always felt as if this was supposed to be my family - the mode of getting to it wasn't - and still isn't - important.
    Man, I ramble at 5:30 in the morning. Sorry!