When I was younger, I didn’t see myself having kids. They were messy and demanding. I didn’t even see myself getting married when I met the ex. I liked picking my date each night and it was like putting on a persona with each of them because I was good at being what I thought they wanted. It was lots of dress up and pretend and nothing was too serious. Okay, so keeping track of who I was dating and what I wore on each date and where we ate or what we did required more work and brain power than it was worth, but I was happy to do it for as long as I did. And once in my lifetime is enough to teach me I prefer dating one person at a time because I’m happiest when I’m obsessing over one person at a time. Even when I got my fertility tattoo, it wasn’t about procreation, but about fertility in thought and creativity.
There was something that felt right about the ex. I didn’t see an endless fantasy of right now and fun, but a lifetime of caring for each other. We spent the 6 months we dated doing a lot of night fishing and making wishes on falling stars. I felt I could live like that for the rest of my life. I saw something special in him that made me feel like it would be good to bring children into the world that would learn to be just like him. The dream in my head didn’t pave the course of our reality. I had no idea that children would change everything, including how much I would want to avoid large bodies of water, or how much their wants would guide my actions.
There was something so amazing about getting called by the doctor’s office the day after a routine physical to tell me I was pregnant. There was excitement and I was inexplicably happy about something I wasn’t sure I wanted just the day before. The ex was right next to me when I got the call and from the bits and pieces he could hear, he understood and the news made him so happy he cried. Every bout of morning sickness was silly and fun. I laughed after I puked because it happened so rarely. He went to most of my prenatal visits for that first pregnancy. We explored every single stretch mark that traced the growth of my belly and the life blooming within me. I developed the pregnancy cradle, where my hand was constantly drawn to my belly, to touch the child that I knew was there because I was told he was. It’s often how I can tell if someone else is pregnant. We want to touch our babies, even when they are only our secret.
Once Kid1 was born, the reality of how unmotherly I was really set in. I had sisters and in laws and my own Mom at the hospital, coaching me to support his head, and burp him gently. My nurses had a firmer hand, and they had their own pitying looks to depart with. I didn’t feel like I might know what I was doing until he was a few weeks old and one of the wise sages telling me what to do couldn’t calm him, but I did. Her inability highlighted the fact that for his whole life, I had been doing what she told me I was doing wrong, and he told me I was doing it right.
After Kid1 and Kid2 were diagnosed with autism, we found out we were having Kid3. At the time, the odds were somewhere around 1 in 150 kids would be diagnosed with autism. Six months ago, Autism Speaks was holding that statistic at 1 in 45 according to the newest government survey. Either way, I was two for two and probably had some insane gambling luck I should have tested out. Our families gave us a hard time about a third child we couldn’t afford. Some time when I was defending our choice to risk a third child with autism and not terminate a surprise pregnancy that I wanted, I realised what a true act of faith having children can be.
Bringing life into a world full of death and pain on the news and world wide is an act of faith. You have to believe that there is enough good in the world to keep your child safe. There is no way to be within arms reach of your children for 18 years, so you have to trust that there will be friends, family, teachers, clergy and strangers that will not harm your child, although they will have opportunities to. You have to believe that in your life, you will be the example of a person that will contribute to society, rather than take advantage of society and the weaker ones that make up our society. You will want to give every benefit of your labor to your children while instilling generosity in their gratitude, and a servant’s heart to give of themselves as well.
In being a surrogate mother after my three children were born, I was acting out faith that each of my three couples will continue finding ways to consistently choose to love each other. In agreeing to carry their children and go through fetal testing, I had to believe that months of shooting hormones into my hips wouldn’t end in a terminated pregnancy and the emotional burden of turning my back on all of my beliefs about abortion. I was believing in my ability to safely bring children into the world and to send them off and potentially never know how they are doing and what kind of people they will become. My faith was based on the love and care they offered me as their surrogate and I have no regrets. I quietly remember each birthday and reminisce through each scrapbook I put together for each pregnancy from time to time. I don’t miss the children, but the feelings of love and hope that met every phone call, meeting and shared appointment. I miss the friendships of parents that would never have met me in a perfect world. It was amazing to have a cheering section and experience all of the joys of pregnancy with none of the worries outside of a happy and healthy child or set of twins.
I believed in the covenantal bond of my marriage being a cradle of nurturing that would see our children into adulthood. There’s been a necessary shift, and now my belief is that as parents, we will do what we can to ensure the emotional wellbeing of our children, even if I can’t see or talk to the ex without having to quiet my rage. I forgive him but it’s a choice and I’m still letting go of my anger because my emotions are not chosen. I have to feel them as they flow through me, and choose to redirect my passionate rage into open hearted joy. I believe that no matter what I face as a single parent, there will always be enough of what we need. For 50% of their lives, I will have to be both parents and that means putting my selfishness and unease aside, even if that means allowing their boundaries in my home. I have to give them space to be and allow the idea that growing up means allowing them to grow away from me, in the way they have since birth. And it means I will have to accept that there will be times when they will need me to coddle and support them because the great big changes in their lives can at times be bigger than they can handle. I have to put my pain aside for their needs, and believe that it is what is best for them, even if for a while, it goes against what my selfishness needs.
As much as I love being pregnant, I’m not sure another child will come from my body. Yes, I’m talking about a seventh pregnancy. Birth control pills did their worst and gave me pulmonary embolisms. It’s a side effect risk and I am quite good at odds, apparently. I will never be able to go on hormonal birth control again. I am fertile and a pregnancy would be high risk. And yet I don’t believe in abortion. That just means one day I will find myself in a complicated conversation and today I don’t have to make any decisions.
What I do believe in is the good in children and I have 6 siblings through adoption. I would adopt. I believe in children, even if I have days where I can’t believe in me. The best part of adoption is teaching a person that they were not a surprise, but a perfectly planned and chosen member of a family that was missing them. Birth parents in this way have honored us in their selfless sacrifice. I love being part of an adoption family.