I had a falling out today.
I went for lunch with an older male friend. He has two grown children – a boy and a girl whom he loves tremendously and for whom he would do anything. At some point in the past I have told him of my desire to have children and that I am considering IVF. He told me he would like more. I wasn’t sure if it was a subtle offer. I shut it down just in case by giving him my reasons for choosing an anonymous donor from a sperm bank. They are quite simple and to my mind entirely reasonable:
I do not want my child to grow up the product of an emotional tug-of-war.
I do not want my child to have abandonment issues surrounding her father’s lack of involvement in her life; why he lives with/loves his other children more; why he didn’t love her enough to stay….
The father of my child is a wonderful man. He is an intelligent, tall, blue-eyed academic who enjoys water sports, languages and travel. He has a heart large enough to fill an unknown woman’s emptiness and give an unborn child the gift of life.
Over lunch, my friend asked me if I had given you any more thought. I told him about the extraction. He asked several detailed questions and I explained the process. Then he asked permission to ask a question…
Nobody asks permission to ask a question unless the question is likely to intrude or offend. However, as I am pretty broad shouldered and generally open I always say yes.
“Are you doing it this way for you or your child?” he asked, as if doing it THIS WAY was my first choice.
I was floored. The questions was so loaded I didn’t know where to begin.
There is only one honest answer anyone can give when asked why they are (willingly) having a child – they are doing it for themselves. Procreation is inherently selfish. How can it possibly be for a being that does not yet exist? Everything we do from the moment of conception may be to benefit that child, but the decision itself is about fulfilling our own need/desire/biological calling.
I felt annoyed that he had broken down a natural, instinctual yearning for motherhood into a selfish action. With this in mind I asked why does anyone have children? I tried to reframe the question, to say that it wasn’t black and white. He shut me down over and over insisting I answer the question as it stood. I refused.
Because it is not black and white. Any healthy relationship is one of two halves, of give and take, of compromise; and it cannot be broken down the middle like a Kit Kat. It is not about you, or about me, it is about us.
You are already part of me. The seeds of your potential have existed inside of me all my life. My heart longs after an unfulfilled love that waits and waits and waits. I will not demean all the heartache and disappointment I have endured to bring me to this decision to answer such a facile question.
Not being allowed to answer, I shut down. I do this. If you won’t allow me to express myself I probably won’t talk at all. We paid the bill and left in silence.
My ‘friend’ messaged me later to throw some personal insults about, tell me to get over myself and that I should admit I was wrong. Somehow he managed to turn his impertinence and my reaction to it into being about him and ended our friendship. Seemed a trifle extreme to me.
But his question gave me pause for thought. He is not the first person to suggest that having a child without a father is selfish. I doubt he’ll be the last.
And maybe it is…
But as I look around our broken world and its broken families I see very few ideal situations and no guarantees. Wealth doesn’t equal happiness. Picket fences disguise abuse, affairs, misery. As a child who grew up without my biological mother and a father who was little more than a frightening figurehead I know that the only thing my child really needs for a happy, fulfilling life is my unfailing love and devotion.