Thursday, August 24, 2006

Too Many Choices

I have always known I would be a mom. Even as it started to dawn on me in early adolescence that I was a lesbian, I knew I would be a mother someday. It has taken longer than I expected (if I recall, my first child was supposed to arrive right around when I was 26), it certainly is something I've planned and thought a great deal about, and yet with the reality of it bearing down on me, I feel completely unprepared, and a little surprised that it seems like it's happened so suddenly. That's hardly the case at all.

Being a lesbian in a relationship and deciding you want to have a child is reminiscent of all the other areas in our lives where we have too damn many choices. On the Internet. With our finances. Selecting a career. With all our consumer choices (I couldn't even decide which article about too many consumer choices to pick - there are 3 links in that sentence). And goodness knows, plenty has been written about all the difficult choices that come after you have a baby (work or stay at home; breast or bottle; be their friend or be their parent, etc. etc. etc). I like to joke that whatever else we had working against us, we had a surplus of uteruses (uteri?) in our household, so offspring should be a cinch. I didn't think about what it means to be faced with so much choice.

Our options went something like this (I've created a handy flowchart for your reference - but the options were so plentiful, you'll have to click on the image to see it in a legible size):

A---- and I are pretty indecisive people as a general rule. But we've figured out (sort of) that when the right choice comes along, we know. We dithered around looking at bed frames for several years, for instance. And then one day wandered randomly into a store after eating brunch with friends around the corner. We walked into the store with the intention of wasting a few minutes browsing. We walked out of the store having put down a 50% deposit on a bed frame that is, still, the most expensive piece of furniture we own. We saw it, we both loved it, and we knew.

Our baby decision didn't quite go like that.

Presented with too many options, we went with the path of least resistance - let's try everything and see what happens. But then we realized that even making a non-decision resulted in our needing to make endless other decisions (see flowchart). So we went back to the drawing board and used something like a process of elimination.

Here's what we knew:

1. We were both potentially interested in carrying a baby.
2. We definitely wanted to adopt at least one of our children from the foster care system (woohoo! two choices eliminated in one fell swoop - no international or private adoptions for us).
3. We wanted our child to be African-American, or mixed race (A---- is black, I'm a Russian Jew).
4. We didn't want to share responsibility for parenting with anyone else (between the two of us, we have enough opinions about parenting to get us through).

There were other factors to consider, too. A---- is an artist, and welds metal sculpture and furniture in her downtime (whatever floats your boat, I say), which means she's exposed to a lot of toxic chemicals. If she were to carry a baby, she would have to give that up for awhile, not an appealing thought for her. On the other hand, since her only sibling - her brother - died three years ago, she is the last in line to carry on her family name, something that is very important to her father. I am one of four children, my brother already has two kids, and I don't have a strong attachment to my family name for some reason.

At some point in this process, my biological clock kicked in with shocking force. Suddenly, I felt compelled to get pregnant, and NOW. A---- was still reluctant to give up the welding, and so we decided I would carry our first baby, with the adoption option, or A----'s womb as likely candidates for the second child. However, unable to completely close off all other options, even as we perused sperm bank catalogues online (yes, you can shop for sperm online, and whether you're in the market or not, it's worth checking out all the factors to be considered when selecting the ideal genetic complement to your own dna) we contacted a fost/adoption agency we thought we might be interested in working with one day.

I devoured books on how to chart my cycle, discovered Target has the best prices on ovulation predictor kits, and found myself strangely in touch with parts of my body I'd never thought about before, much less seen. We found a donor at a local sperm bank that was like our bedframe - we knew instantly when we read our profile that he was the one.

And then, one cold winter evening, we inseminated. It was anything but romantic. Clinical, a bit of a comedy of errors, stressful, for sure. And totally bizarre. After years of imagining being pregnant with no chance that I was, suddenly there was a chance. And there were remnants of a complete stranger inside of me. Sperm. Inside me. Perhaps not unusual for the average woman, but for me, it was truly out of the ordinary.

I got duly nauseated, and convinced that my tummy was growing, and exhausted. And I took about 25 pregnancy tests, all of which were negative. And then two weeks after we inseminated, I got my period and lost the hearing in my right ear on the same day.

Suddenly our plan felt very much taken out of our hands. Probably an auto-immune disease, said the doctors. Take steroids, don't get pregnant for now. The hearing came back, then went away again. It did this several times. I handed over so much of my blood to the lab that they could probably start a blood bank in my name. They ruled out all the "major" potential causes (brain tumor, for instance) and then started testing for lesser known diseases.

While all this was happening, A---- and I stepped back, looked at the flowchart, and considered our choices. Because something strange had happened during the brief moment in our lives when we'd thought that perhaps I could be pregnant. We both had felt uneasy. As if we were playing at something that wasn't real - simulating a family headed up by a heterosexual couple. Pretending that we were creating a baby that was a combination of the two of us, pretending we were "normal."

I'm not saying there's anything wrong with us, or with lesbian couples who do decide to inseminate. I'm not even saying we won't do it ourselves one day - indeed, I was shocked at how difficult it was to let go of the idea of being pregnant once I'd done so much to get ready for it. But every time A---- or I hear or see or read a story about children in the foster care system, something clicks with us. With so much love to give, and no way to create a child that's a mix of her DNA and mine, why wouldn't we adopt a child that might not otherwise have a permanent home?

Tentatively, we moved forward with the adoption agency and started letting go of the babymaking project. I gave away my fertility books and stopped asking the doctors when I could start trying to get pregnant again. I started taking my allergy meds after six months of watery eyes and a stuffy nose and slowly stopped being jealous of my friends (of whom there were very suddenly many) who were pregnant. Eventually my sadness at not getting pregnant disipated, and my excitement about adopting a child grew.

Writing about the whole process reminds me how un-sudden this has been. But I'm still sitting here a little bit shocked that so soon so much will change. Only seven years late, and over a year of active planning later, it appears we will be moms in only a matter of months.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

What happened to Were they acquired by fertility4life?

9:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Be careful with the paperwork:

10:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tagging is more popular than I realized. You'll want to check this out for the baby.,1895,2008340,00.asp?kc=EWENTEMNL082506EOAD

11:40 AM  
Blogger Joshio said...

When I read that tagging was popular, I imagined the new baby getting a can of spray paint as a first birthday present. But now that I see it is the same concept as the chip I (or rather my wofe) put in our dog, I am comforted.

2:31 PM  
Blogger Joshio said...

Oh, and I love the flowchart. The surest sign we have become too much a corporate drone is flowcharting the babymaking process. Classic!

2:40 PM  
Blogger Rebecca said...

It's the first time I've ever seen a need to create a flowchart - I finally understand why they exist!

3:04 PM  
Blogger twostepsforward said...

Hey there - I'm a single, Jewish, queer woman in Alameda County who's part-way through the process of becoming a foster parent... Glad to find your blog!

4:36 PM  

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