Whose egg is it anyway? What not to ask a queer parent.

The girl is holding a snapshot of an ultrasound in the fourth week of pregnancy. First trimester. Confirmation of pregnancy
Photo: Shutterstock

The question hits like a gut punch. 

My wife and I are at a dinner party, and of course, we are bragging about our son. It’s one of the first times we’ve been out since he was born, and now that his grandma has let us know he’s asleep, I’m finally relaxing into the evening. I chat and sip my beer, telling stories about our perfect boy and enjoying the crisp summer night. But as the sun begins to set over the outdoor patio, one of the guests decides it’s time for me to panic.

“Whose egg did you use?” she asks, and suddenly, the whole world stops. 

It’s the first time this has happened, and I’m not sure what to do. 

In the half a second I have to respond, I try to sort through my racing thoughts. Is it too standoffish to say that’s private? Will it make it too big a deal? Will sharing this information change anything? We never meant for it to be a secret, right? But why does she need to know? Will it affect how she sees our son? Will she think it makes one of us more his mom than the other? What do I say what do I say what do I say? 

In the end, I just answer, and I spend the rest of the night feeling like I have given away something I shouldn’t have. 

This situation doesn’t happen often – at least not yet. There have only been a few instances I can recall where someone outright asked me whose egg my wife and I used to conceive our one-year-old son. Though as he increasingly ventures out into the world for school and sports and playdates, I imagine the question may become more frequent.

It’s a question I still don’t know how to handle, despite having anticipated it since our son was merely a wish. It’s nobody’s business, of course, and pro tip: It’s a question no one should ask. But in polite society, it’s hard to navigate whether it’s worth telling someone to mind their own beeswax or if it’s easier to just answer.

To me, the ultimate issue is whether answering or refusing to answer makes it all a bigger deal.

Because it isn’t one.

Our son is so deeply both of ours that we tend to struggle to remember a third party played any role whatsoever in his creation. At his pediatrician appointments, we often find ourselves sharing both of our family histories before realizing only one of them is relevant.

My son exists because my wife and I made him together – maybe not the way most people make a baby, but through shots and surgeries and hand holding and emergency room visits and hours-long battles on the phone with our insurance company, we are both the reason he exists. He truly could not be here if not for the role each of us played.

I am so proud of the way we have created our family, and when all is said and done, I don’t wish my son could be genetically both of ours. Because if he was, he wouldn’t be him.  

But when someone asks whose egg we used, it feels like they are communicating that they can’t contextualize my child without this crucial piece of information, like they’re wondering who he belongs to more. It others us, and worse, it others our son. Beyond that, it’s invasive and just kind of rude.

But refusing to answer, making it a capital-S Secret, doesn’t that make it worse? Doesn’t that make it this lifelong guessing game and build it into this omnipresent question? Maybe if we just answered, people would move on and not think much about it.

Then again, maybe the question isn’t how to answer but rather how to get people to stop asking.

According to a 2022 article in the New Yorker, genealogical research is the second most popular hobby in the country and the second most searched category online. And since 2012, twenty-six million people in the country have taken ancestry tests.

In short, Americans are obsessed with genetics.

So it makes sense that it’s challenging for some to contextualize a family when genetics have not played a leading role in its formation. But in the end, there are some things people may simply have to wonder about without ever getting the answer. 

Gay dad and author Andrew Solomon once wrote of his kids, “I am frequently asked, ‘Where did you get them?’ — a question I would be cautious of asking a stranger about his socks.”

I hope to someday have a better handle on how to react to these moments, at least by the time my son is old enough to need guidance from me when he is directly asked an inappropriate question. Because of course he will be.  

But for now, all I know for sure is that we will be telling my son absolutely everything about his own history.

My wife and I are confident that within our own family, keeping things secret just makes them loom larger than life. Not telling him would put that egg on a pedestal and imply there was some sort of weighty significance to it, like if he found out whose egg he came from it would irreparably alter the dynamics of our family.

If we are open about it from the start, then it’s clear there is no reason for it to affect our dynamics at all. It also communicates that the process we used to bring him into this world was beautiful and perfect and exactly what was supposed to happen, rather than some shameful thing to sweep under the rug.

Beyond that, my son deserves to know exactly where he comes from. It’s why I saved every scrap of information the sperm bank provided about our donor. When he begins asking questions, I want to have the answers. And I suppose it will ultimately be up to him what he wants to share with others.

So no, his genetics are not a secret – and when you look into his eyes and see the spitting image of one of his uncles, it’d be pretty hard to keep them one anyway. But at the same time, it should be up to our family what we’d like to share, and we shouldn’t have to be prepared at any moment to be put on the spot to discuss our private matters.

And when my son – and any of our future children – inevitably submits a cheek swab to 23andMe and discovers a slew of biological half-siblings from our same sperm donor, we will have to figure out to what extent those people can and should mean anything to us. 

Human curiosity is real, and we all have it. My son will no doubt feel a pull to meet people who share his blood. Who wouldn’t? It certainly means something. There’s no getting around that (nor is there reason to try). But it is so far from everything.

As the New Yorker explains, genetic testing “reduces people to percentages” and historically it has been used as “an instrument of power.”

People believe there is power in whose DNA my son shares, but the real power lies in the joy on his face when either my wife or I walk into a room.

It lies in the way we both have come to know the meaning of his different cries and hand gestures.

It lies in the hours my wife spent rocking him to sleep when he refused to nap anywhere but her chest. It lies in his hysterical laughter when I repeatedly blow his mind with peek-a-boo.

It lies in the way he reaches his arms toward his grandparents, whom he loves not because of any shared or unshared DNA but because they cannot help but visit him every single week.

“Our laws, institutions, and imaginations are poorly prepared to deal with the contradictions that arise when one kind of evidence, like a DNA test, contradicts another, like a family story,” the New Yorker states.

When people wonder who my son is “related” to, it contradicts our story, the one where he is so deeply related to us both.

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