Do I have to answer that? Jeez. Well. I just do.
That was my first answer, when I began to ponder this question. And that may be answer enough for a lot of women who decide it's time to have a child, and who do so with little difficulty.
But I think infertile women owe it to themselves to dig a little deeper. Back when donor egg was something I could only think about sideways, for about five seconds, the answers to this deceptively simple question could have helped me decide: How far should I go in trying for a baby with my own eggs? What would life be like if I -- go on, say it -- considered other options?
I first thought and wrote about this question months ago, in response to another woman's post on a support board I frequent. You can read that post and the rest of that excellent discussion if you like, though I've made free with updates here. With nothing else to do but sweat under the influence of Lupron, I thought it might be useful to revisit my list of reasons.
We get so caught up in the process of infertility treatment that we rarely stop to consider why we're doing it. Why are we fighting so hard to become mothers? What need speaks so loud inside us that we can't accept this limitation of our bodies without a fight? We must ask ourselves, as Dr. Phil would put it, "What's the payoff?"
And there is a payoff. Some kind of emotional cash we put in our pockets when we finally achieve our baby dream. We don't like to admit this. We are Americans and we belong to the Cult of Mom. Whether we worship or revile the flesh-and-blood woman who is our mother, we share a common idea about what makes a Good Mother: She puts the kids first. It's all about them.
And when we become mothers, we tell ourselves, we will be Good Mothers. No question. We infertiles, in our deadlocked bargaining sessions with God, think things like this: "If you will only give me a baby, God, I will be the best mother ever. I will give up my daily mocha latte or my smokes or whatever my jones is, and with that money I will buy Hooked on Phonics and Baby Mozart. I swear."
So it goes. Our ideals of motherhood mean we have a hard time admitting that mothers get something out of the deal. But c'mon. If we truly got bupkiss in return for being parents, we wouldn't do it. They'd have to pass laws to make us do it. To quote Carol Burnett: "Giving birth is like taking your lower lip and forcing it over your head." And, kids are hard work. They're expensive, even if you're fertile. They can drive you absolutely crazy, and they're a lifetime hitch. No parole, no retirement, no time off for good behavior.
Now, do I think parents get more than they give? No. Not by a long shot. But for me, when I first allowed myself to think, "Maybe I could do donor egg...." it was really important to define why I wanted a baby in the first place. Knowing that, I could figure out whether being a donor egg mother would meet my needs. Yes, I write that proudly: My needs. I've got 'em, and you do too.
It was hard to tease honest answers out of my brain. I found to my faint embarrassment that quite a few of my motivations are less than noble. But here is . . . cue the music . . .
Why I Want to Have a Baby
1. I just want one. Trying to not want a baby would be like trying to be left-handed. You're supposed to have a baby. It's instinctive. An animal thing.
This one might have a grain of truth buried in its neurosis. But I also know, way down deep, that there's no use fighting it. There aren't enough therapists in the world to make me budge on this issue.
2. I want to give and receive love in the special way that is unique to mother and child.
Whew. The Good Mother speaks. Hope she's around when I give birth.
3. I want to enrich our family with the presence of a child, and with all the experiences that come with raising a child. I feel this need every time I look into the small, smiling face of one of my nephews or my niece.
Go, Good Mother! You rock.
4. I want to have a baby so that I will feel I made a difference in this world after I'm gone.
This, despite the fact that after I'm gone -- as in, dead -- I'm unlikely to care one way or the other. But these reasons don't have to make sense.
5. I want to have a baby because I know that if I don't, I will always feel regret and sorrow, as if I missed out on something essential.
I am very good at kicking myself. So, best to go ahead and have a baby, if I want to avoid a black-and-blue ass for the rest of my life.
6. I want to give my husband a baby so I won't be "less of a wife" than his ex, with whom he has a son.
Sick little issue. But hey, it's honest.
7. I want to have a baby so I won't be "lacking" in comparison to most of my friends and my brothers.
Did I mention sick little issues?
8. I want to have a baby so I can create the family I never had when I was little (I come from a family of divorce).
Now, I know from being a stepmom that when I'm running late, and the kid's poking along not brushing his teeth in the morning, I open my mouth and start channeling my mother. So wherever you go, there you are. Even if one of my genetic babies had lived, I doubt I could have created the nauseating TV sitcom family of my dreams. And that's probably for the best.
9. I want to have a baby so I can stop feeling like a "failure" as a woman, in the biological sense.
See, and we all thought it was breast size that determine's a woman's entire self-worth. Turns out it's the condition of her ovaries and uterus. Go figure.
10. I want a genetic child so that my children won't experience "issues" when they're older about their origins. So that they'll "truly belong" to my family.
Ouch. That last one hurts. It is the only need -- besides the ones that are petty and must be dealt with in counseling lest I become the dreaded Bad Mother -- that cannot be met by becoming a donor egg mother.
It will be my task to ensure that my children know they are loved beyond all reason. That they belong in our family because we want them here. That I loved them enough, even before they were born, to admit that my eggs were doing harm to my babies, and to ask for help from another woman to be a mother.
So that's my list. I think, measuring my choice to be a donor egg mother against my reasons for wanting a child, that I've made the right decision. For me, that is.
If anyone's out there reading this: What would your list look like?