Thursday, December 4, 2008

The one where Alicia goes bananas

I read something that I shouldn’t have. I read the comments section of last Sunday’s New York Times magazine piece. And now I’m pissed.

The article was about a New York socialite, and apparent former plastic surgery addict, and her decision to use a surrogate and what that experience was like. The pictures that accompany the article change the framework of the story and should not have been published. The one that seems to be drawing the most criticism is of the author on her lawn, with her son in her arms and her baby nurse in the background. The house is plantation-looking place in the Hamptons and the baby nurse is African-American. Yeah, someone messed that one up. There’s also a picture of the surrogate mom on the porch of her house, which is a little run down. Bad combo of images. I freely admit that someone looking to get sympathy about her struggle with infertility probably shouldn’t be posing with baby nurse in the background, but I don’t have any problem with her having one. Unfortunately the pictures changed the story from one woman’s struggle over 5 years, 11(!) IVF cycles, and 4 miscarriages, to one about a wealthy woman paying someone she considers poor to have her child. That’s not what the article is about, but that’s what it came across as.

And now to the rage.

I have been dealing with infertility for 2 ½ years and I wouldn’t wish that experience on my worst enemy. It is a heart breaking experience that you live with every single day. It’s not just something that you deal with at holidays, baby showers, and being around other people’s kids. You hear it in the quiet of your house, you see it in the absence of baby pictures on your walls, and you feel it in the aching of your arms to hold your child. You are reminded of it not only when you get your period, but every time you go to the bathroom because you check to see if you’re bleeding. While I hope being infertile will not be the defining characteristic of my life, it is the defining characteristic of my life right now and will be till it comes to whatever resolution there will be. And since I have lived this particular horror, I can say with authority that no one should ever judge how someone else creates their family. You don’t know what steps someone else should take to create their version of happiness. What you would endure, or finance, to create you family is a decision that each person arrives to on their own. You’re lucky enough if your partner agrees with you. Everyone else should keep their damn mouth shut.

Would you be willing to endure weeks of shots and hormonal mood swings? Would you be willing to be poked and prodded in the most intimate areas? Are you willing to give up your sex life? Would you give up your chance at seeing your smile on your baby if it could still have daddy’s eyes? When do you think life begins? What does your God think? How many embryos are you willing to take a risk on? Could your body handle 4 babies at once? Could you live with yourself if you had to selectively abort after everything you’ve gone through to get pregnant? What if there are no reasons why but there’s still no baby? How many miscarriages can you handle? How much grief is too much? Don’t you dare judge someone else and the decisions they make. So far I have taken drugs, had surgery, and lived through the nightmare of miscarriage. I don’t know how much more I’m willing to do, and the ultimate answer might not even be one I get to make. How many years of my life will I devote to this? Is 6 too many? Is 3 too few? There are no right answers here, only making the best of a horrible situation.

The answer isn’t that God thinks I would be a bad mother and that’s why I can’t have kids. If God thought that about me I wouldn’t be the oldest of 7 kids. The answer isn’t that I should just adopt. The choices for adoption are varied, but it’s not an option for everyone. I honestly don’t know if I could adopt, but that doesn’t mean I’m against adoption. I have friends in the midst of adopting and I could not be happier for them. Happiness, like family, is not one size fits all.

What the commenters don’t see is that maybe the constant activity and outings were the only thing she could do to keep her going. When you’re so far into grief , pain, and panic, sometimes you just keep moving because the moment you stop it all becomes too much. Granted, my way of dealing with my miscarriage grief was to make pizza dough three times a week and drink copious amount of wine, but that’s no less valid than her river rafting trip, yoga classes, and bourbon. The idea that because of what she was doing she wasn’t hurting is absurd. Money doesn’t buy happiness, it just gets your nicer shoes and a better brand of scotch.

Beyond the infertility bone headedness, the comments section displayed a massive amount of hatred towards the author because she had a baby nurse. The feeling expressed was how could she go through this entire thing and then hand the baby off to someone else, therefore she clearly doesn’t really want the child. That makes my blood boil. There is more than one way to raise a child and how dare you tell someone that they don’t love theirs because they have help. Doing it on your own or with help is a decision that’s generally dictated by finances, but if a person can afford help they are not a lesser parent for it. Being a full time stay at home parent is not for everyone (Jess and Cat – you’re saints) and children are best served with happy parents however they work out the feeding schedule. In my lifetime I have been cared for by nannies, au pairs, and babysitters and I still know my parents love me. I may think that my father could use a lesson in tact and my mother has brain damage, but I have never doubted that they love me. Ever. Having help allowed my father and step mother to work in jobs they love. By going to work and being a success my step mother taught me that being smart and in charge didn’t mean that you couldn’t also be funny and sexy. Because of his work my father has shown me parts of the world I probably never would have seen on my own. Money doesn’t solve every problem, but it also doesn’t make someone less of a parent.

I will get off my soap box and go back to work now. But I quickly want to say thank you to the friends and family who have helped us get through these past 2 1/2 years. Your support means more than I'll ever be able to tell you.

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