Friday, February 25, 2005

Why do I want a baby, anyway?

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?


Anonymous said...

Hi Bee,

Your list is very similar to mine, mine would read like this;

1) I just do.
2) My dh would be an awesome father. He deserves to be one and a child would be very lucky to have him as a dad.
3)To give and receive unconditional love.
4) To feel fulfilled.
5) Bc I want to prove that I can be a better mother than my own (a petty reason I realize)
6)To not miss something essential
7)To complete my life, set new goals, explore new horizons, share knowledge, see the world afresh thru new eyes.
8) To spend Christmas w children
9)To grow as a person
10)To have people who care about me at the end of my life and I can leave this world feeling like I have achieved something.
11) Society is geared towards family - I always feel that I am from the outside looking in.


Beth Gray said...

Kat, I like your list! You thought of some things I didn't, that are also true for me. Especially the outside-looking-in one. I simply cannot wait to stop feeling like the orange in the apple barrel. And to have things to talk about at parties when people start going on about play dates and waiting lists for preschool and stuff. Thanks for posting.

Wessel -- post your list no matter how negative. We need to acknowledge that this isn't a 100% positive experience. This is NOT our first choice for how to have a child. I'd love to read your list.

Anonymous said...

hi, I want a baby too. I am 36 and planning for the first one. Stay positive. You can still have one at 40

Beth Gray said...

Thanks, Mrs. Mogul! I know I'll be a mother somehow or will too!

Anonymous said...

Hi All. Loved the list. Such an honest one and not quite so different from mine.
My thing is... I have just been thru a donor egg cycle and tested positive yesterday :-)I am so happy and so scared of the hapiness, I hope everything goes right.
The one niggling thot, actually big time niggling thot is about not being able to pass on my genes to my offspring. Not seeing a combination of me and my much better half. But at least its going to be my flesh and blood and my hubby will take care of the genes :-)
I am looking forward to the challenge of nature Vs. nurture,
and hoping to impress my child enough in these nine months so it defies nature and takes a part of me.
And gals, all apprehensions dissolve when u get the 'positive' news. So all those holding back... just go for it!

lis said...

thank you for your lists. You have inspired me to write my own. Very much something i need to do right now. Am trying to process exactly how i feel about the whole donor egg situation (only option for us). Last minute fears have crept in about all the variables that this road of motherhood brings with it. The main question haunting me is will i look at our child and always feel it is more my DH than mine? Will i resent him for it? This scares me. Can anyone relate?

Beth Gray said...

Hi Lis. You wrote, "will i look at our child and always feel it is more my DH than mine? Will i resent him for it?"

For what it is worth, now that I am a mother to my two daughters from donor egg...I do not think you will have those kind of feelings. There is a bond that happens between mom and baby -- I think it is because you spend so much time where you are 100% focused on this little one and you are meeting ALL their needs -- and you end up feeling like that baby is 100% yours and is the child you were meant to have. The only fear/issue that I still have about donor egg is how the girls are going to feel about it, and about me, when they are older (since we plan to "tell"). But my own feelings about my girls -- well, they are everything to me and I don't resent my husband because he contributed genes and I didn't. I'm grateful in fact, that in case genetic connections are important to them, they have him and each other and their half brother. So that's my two cents!

lis said...

Thanks so much for your comment. I really needed to hear that. I also have the fear about how the child would feel, would they have they ever burning desire to know and meet their biological mother? Another question that burns inside me therefore is..what is the best option? Known or anonymous donor? I've always felt anonymous would be best to avoid somebody already in my life feeling differently once their egg became a baby, would they be ok with the dilemma etc. But then i think it si best for the child's sake to use a known donor because then they know exactly where their genes come from. It could possibly take away that curiousity etc as they got older. So many things to consider and make sure that i make the right decision for all of us.

Beth Gray said...

Hi Lis. Your questions are the ones that we all wrestle with and they are tough ones. For parents who plan to tell their donor-conceived children about their method of conception, I think one thing that is very likely to happen is the child having curiosity or even a need to "know" the genetic parent who is not present in their lives. I have a friend who is adopted who has a wonderful loving relationship with her parents but still has thought sometime about finding her biological parents. So I decided to do what I could to make sure my girls could find their egg donor if they want to know her. I did not choose "known donor" even though a couple of friends offered to help me, because I was worried about the relationships that would happen afterward -- what if they didn't agree with my style of parenting? What if our baby looked so much like my friend that it created issues where they felt like she was "their" baby? I have since wondered if that was a mistake, since it would then have been easy to put the girls in touch with their donor if they have that need. But in the end, I just asked to be matched with a donor who would be willing to be contacted when my oldest is 18 years old, and I have written a letter to the donor coordinator at the clinic asking her to please keep up-to-date contact information for our donor. It's dicey -- there's no requirement that she keep our clinic informed of her whereabouts for the next 16 years! -- but it was the best I could do at the time. Good luck with your choice. I applaud you for thinking of all the angles ahead of time.

Anonymous said...

I just came across this blog and this post. Thanks for the great list. Mine is similar, but mine specifically is:

1. I want to have the lively spirit of a child in my household (even though my dog will probably go hide under the bed).

2. I want to stop feeling like an outsider among my peers ("peers" being +/- 10 years of my current age.)

3. I want to feel like a legitimate woman.

4. I want to see (and feel) "the bump."

5. My hubby would go either way, but I think he would secretly get a lot of joy out of being a dad (and a good one at that).

6. I want to see what all the fuss is about.

7. I want to stop feeling regret that I never had them when I was "the right age."

8. I want to continue personal development by bringing up a baby from conception to birth and beyond.

9. I want to stop centering my life around me me me all the time and focus on someone else.

10. I want my parents to see me have their grandchild before they pass away.