“I mean, I’d carry a baby for you if you donated sperm for me.” The conversation leading to this admission changed my life.
We laughed in the stuffy PR office, a nice break chatting with one of my best friends after another day of endless pressure and emails. Morgan and I had only met a few months prior, but call it queer magnetism, we felt that instant click. After work, instead of rushing home, we’d find a “quiet” spot in Tribeca for a quick jam session. We’d chat about our families in California, who we were dating, and what we hoped for our futures.
But tonight, up late in the office, we talked about helping each other have children. We laughed, because neither of us were ready yet, but both of us were 100% serious, not realizing the other was too. The year was 2014, and Morgan recently started dating her now wife, Julie. Funny looking back now at these conversations and first meetings, not realizing how life-changing they would all become.
I’ve wanted kids for as long as I can remember. As a five year old I told anyone who would listen that my plan was to have seven wives and eleven children. My innocent brain figured that way each wife and I could have one child together, plus an allowance if anyone wanted more. But as a bisexual adult, I am in a very happy homosexual relationship with a guy. And he is completely opposed to having kids.
At some point, I mourned biology, the fact that my long term partner and I couldn’t create life on our own. But beyond that I also had to reckon with the “dealbreaker” that my partner didn’t want to raise children, biological or not.
Morgan and Julie eventually moved to California, but after years of periodic check-ins and jokes, the official call finally came. “Julie and I are talking about having kids this year, are you still comfortable donating sperm for us?” And with no hesitation I said, of course. To me it was the perfect solution to appease my instinctual desire to have kids, and a small effort to help two people I love start a family.
In November 2020, I found myself in a Cryobank for the first time. I followed my instructions of abstaining from ejaculation for at least two days, and did some blood work and testing to make sure we didn’t have any dangerous conflicts between our family histories.
After making a few “deposits” over the next month or so, we also took care of legal paperwork. I, Kisos, understand that I am not going to be the father or seen as a parent of any future children, nor do I have any financial responsibility to them. We put in writing our expectations and boundaries, and Morgan checked in often to make sure my own family and I were still feeling alright with everything. My parents understood this may be the closest they get to grandchildren, so were grateful for any contact with the baby, regardless of stipulations.
In 2022, eight years after Morgan and my fateful first conversation, Jamie was born into the world. As life (and hopeful scheduling) would have it, I happened to be visiting California that same weekend, so my divorced parents, sister and I all drove 40 minutes from our hometown to visit Morgan, Julie, and newborn Jamie.
On the car ride over I reminded everyone that this is not their grandchild or niece, nor my daughter, we are simply honorary uncles and aunts. And most importantly, we promise not to discuss my involvement in Jamie’s birth until her mothers do on their own time. After I’m satisfied by my family’s responses, we grab tacos for everyone, and walk up the hill to their Bay Area home.
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I’ve always been terrified of holding babies, such a sacred fragility placed in my clunky arms. But holding Jamie and looking at her face was the beginning of a change in me. It’s so cliche, but something about seeing my ancestors reflected back from this innocent face hit me. Babies are a primal version of success, of survival, of persevering and finding a way to create new life. Every struggle my family ever overcame, escaping Armenian genocide or surviving colonialism, miraculously imprinted in this baby.
Leading up to this meeting and for a year after, I was swallowed by a dark depression. I lost so many friends and family, was so affected by the world’s violence and brutality, and found myself longing for all the love I felt I’d never get back, time with people who were gone forever. My mind mulled this infinite blackness and therapy’s job at the time was helping me not get worse, because getting better was too far out of the question.
When Jamie turned one, that was my full turning point. I remember going to her birthday party, my head clouded by paranoia and depression. I secretly convinced myself that nobody wanted me there and that it was a pity invite, which wasn’t at all true. I was ashamed and outcast myself, and the person who broke me out was little Jamie.
I held back tears singing “Happy Birthday” and soaked in this momentous occasion. As we all ate our cupcakes together, unconcerned by people taking her picture, Jamie’s gaze rested on me. With cake crumbs smeared across her face, her innocence grabbed me.
I felt our pasts and futures intertwine. I saw a whimsical young Kisos, dancing around full of laughter, and surrounded by loved ones. Jamie’s future flashed through my mind simultaneously, her first day of kindergarten, moving out for college. I wondered how her life will turn out and what advice I’ll give her as a young adult.
Snapping back to earth and realizing I now have my own cupcake crumbs strewn about me, I cleaned up and pondered the true weight of “parenthood” and life. It started to sink in that I wish all of these beautiful things for Jamie, for her mothers, for my family and friends, and even for strangers. But somehow I rarely cultivated that for myself.
A pit grew in my stomach. If this is how I feel, how can I be a role model for Jamie? How can I ensure that she keeps this childhood joy and doesn’t fall into depression like me? And from a higher level, how can I continue to be a healer in my own way for the world? My partner and I said our goodbyes and sprinted to catch the hourly train home. As the wind blasted our faces, I felt an intense motivation to change my life. I’m going to nourish real, stable happiness for my inner child, my adult self, and everyone else, no matter how tough.
For most of my career I made sad music exclusively. I don’t judge it – this was just where I found myself. But shortly after Jamie’s birthday, I finished my first happy song, ironically titled “Six Feet Under” The verses and chorus exclaimed my new will to survive, clawing from depression and self-sabotage to a tenuous, yet triumphant blossom of self-love.
“Thought I was losing everything, refusing who I am, confusing where I’ve been with everywhere I’ll ever be. Kinetic energy, flowing inside of me, I’m fighting for my peace. Won’t let you bury me alive.”
I struggled on the bridge for months, but with new inspiration from Jamie, it fell right into place. Instead of focusing on all the love lost, people I’d never see again and things I’d never experience, my mind finally considered a new thought. What if we re-centered ourselves in all our happy memories, reabsorbed that love for ourselves, and paid it forward to everyone around us? Protecting our next kin from generational pain, and imbuing them with compassion, confidence, and resilience instead? Something about all these cliches we’re desensitized to throughout the years, really started to click.
And not only that, but I started to overcome my fear of the world. We see so much brutality and terror, and clearly there will always be so much to fight for, but with Jamie, I see renewed hope. I see the communes of love we can foster in our own corners of the world. I see how many lives I can affect with my art and words. I see the ripples of excitement this one baby’s birth has brought to the world. I see the butterfly effect that unconditional love for yourself and others brings. But most of all, I see abundant, warm, indescribable joy again.