There are still times I look at Maya and realize, with shock, that she is my daughter. I have a daughter. These moments don’t happen as often as when she was first born, but it hits me every now and then. This is real. And I couldn’t be more pleased.
I didn’t think about having children until I was in my mid 30’s. I was in grad school and out of the blue, some chemical reaction took hold in my brain and all of a sudden I felt an excruciating desire to procreate. I became a crazy person, literally. As I was single at the time, this left me with few options. The only viable option I could conceive of, which I thought was brilliant, was to enter into a co-parenting partnership with a gay friend. If my male gay friends wanted a child, they needed a woman’s assistance. I needed a man’s semen. It was a match made in heaven!
As I looked around me, so many parents who created a family the normal way, meeting, falling in love, getting married and then having children, ended up divorced. I figured if you rid the family of the falling in love/sex part, which seemed to be the catalyst for divorce when either of these faltered, and instead created a partnership based on shared values, whose sole purpose was to have and raise children, what could be more perfect than that? Since you didn’t fall in love to begin with, you couldn’t fall out of love. Infidelity would not exist, for fidelity wouldn’t be part of the deal in the first place. It would be a partnership based on mutual respect, and a shared vision. My utopian family was equally as valid as any other family, I thought, therefore I was surprised at how many people (including gay people) poo pooed my idea. It couldn’t possibly work, they said. It was doomed for failure. Really? The divorce rate is almost 50% but the traditional family was not similarly doomed for failure? Oh well. It’s not the first time my ideas have been dismissed. I still think it’s a fabulous idea.
Just about that time I met the man of my dreams. He was older and had a teenage daughter of his own, but he could see having another family with me. I swooned. We fell in love almost immediately and it was a whirlwind, intoxicating romance. He was a professor. He spoke three languages and travelled extensively. I did my thesis in Paris, where he was a guest lecturer for a month. On the flight from Romania to Paris he proposed. We had been together for 6 months. I was in heaven. I really should have known that this was all a mirage, because things like that just don’t happen to me. My life is not a fairy tale. And this was a fairy tale.
Prior to us marrying, he became obsessed with this idea that as soon as we married I would change into this horrible bitch of a woman. I assured him that who I was would likely not change. Looking back, I should have known this was projecting. For he was the one who changed into a person I didn’t recognize. A person filled with hate and bitterness and self pity. He drowned it with alcohol, which made the hatefulness worse. I was dumbfounded. How did I get myself into this? By this time I was in my late 30’s. I held on to the hope that his lunacy was work and stress related. I wanted a child. It wasn’t happening. I went to the doctor and we did the tests. His semen was tested and I went under the knife so that we could see whose fault our infertility was. Turned out it was mine. The specialist, after taking a good look at my insides, determined that my fallopian tubes were twisted and contorted and the fimbriae, which should be as graceful as sea anemones, were like the gnarled roots of trees. His semen, on the other hand, was of superb quality. The young resident blushed when she told him the good news. He was brimming with pride.
The specialist told us that our options were few. Spend tens of thousands of dollars for in vitro fertilization treatments, or remain childless. He, intoxicated by the news of his super human sperm, decided that if we could not have children naturally, we would simply not have children at all. I was stunned. I discovered later that it was at this point that the flirtation he had been having developed into a full blown affair.
I, meanwhile, was devastated. I couldn’t believe that this was true. The last remaining years of hope for a child were slipping away from me and I had no options. I had not realized just how much I wanted a child until I was told I could not have one. It was the most isolating grief I have known. A pain the depth of which I shared with no one. And suddenly it seemed like everyone around me was pregnant. I couldn’t bear to be around them. I was the only one not fighting to hold the baby when they came to work to show them off.
But there was a part of me, that entire time, which persisted in disbelief. This cannot be. I had trusted in the knowledge that I would one day have a child. I had known this from the bottom of my being. Just one child. This cannot be. This cannot be.
Eventually, my sorrow turned to acceptance. I accepted that there were several other ways to have children in my life. I realized that they didn’t have to be my own. I worked with troubled young people at that time. It was very intense work. Many, many of them needed a mother. Their need was palpable and legitimate. I knew I couldn’t be their mother. But I could love them, have dreams for them until they were brave enough to have dreams for their own lives, believe in them, encourage them and help to heal their wounded spirits.
My husband, for his part, encouraged me to go back to school. I chose a challenging, professional program, which terrified me. He was very supportive and told me that school would take my mind off of having children. In the first two weeks of this petrifying path that I had embarked on, a journey that would ultimately change my life, I found solid evidence of what I had suspected for months. I confronted my husband about the affair. When he finally admitted it, there was a large part of me that felt relief. The other part wanted to throw up. I moved out a month later.
Even though this should have been devastating, it wasn’t. I had already spent the entire previous year grieving the loss of the wonderful man I thought I had married. He had turned into a narcissistic, clichéd disappointment. I knew, without any hesitation, that I would be fine. But what I could not understand is how any of this made sense. When I met him, I was certain that there was a purpose in us being together. I had never felt this more strongly in my life. What was the point of us being together if it ended like this? It made no sense. I was childless and the man of my dreams was an illusion. What was the point? It was chaos. I didn’t understand it. But somehow in this chaos, was order. I had to trust that what I was experiencing was that exact process; creating order out of chaos. I would never, in a million years, have been able to guess what the next few months of my life would bring.
Tune in next week for Part II!