20 December, 2005

You Can Always Buy A Baby

I've been caught up in my own reality for more than a week, so the case of Emma Alvey, the recently deceased baby in Spring Hill, flew under my radar. After Brittney mentioned it again this morning I read myself up on the issue. There is not a single person in that scenario for whom I don't feel extreme amounts of pity. A couple wanted a baby and went through the long process of adopting a daughter from China. Eight months later, that little girl is dead from a cranial bleed. Early news reports imply the mother's culpability in the situation. Friends have come forward in the media to proclaim the innocence of the very nice lady and to offer exonerating hypotheses. All the friends seem universally agreed that people who wanted a baby as badly as Jennifer and Phillip Alvey would do no harm to the child.

I don't know the Alveys. I can't make any claims to presume their actions or motivations. I do know my fair gaggle of infertile couples, though, and feel that it is safe to say that yes, many times people who want a baby will harm it. There are many kinds of infertile people, just as there are many kinds of happily reproductive families. There is, however, a special breed of Childless--The Professional Martyr. I try to only write about my circumstances when they inform the subject at hand. I realize that I talk about it more than most, but try to do so only when and if it is pertinent to the conversation. My lack of children is as much a part of me as children are to parents, and a dating life is to a single person. So I talk about it when it comes up in conversation. This conversation is about those folks who become their infertility, who allow themselves to be consumed by their desire for a baby and allow a baby to become some sort of trophy for a game well-played.

I've led Bible studies for infertile women, met them in UseNet groups, seen them in chat rooms. The older you get without a baby, the larger your circle of infertile friends, as you all flock together by default. Everyone else gets knocked up and moves on to play groups, PTAs and college savings accounts. You can spend your evenings as you choose. If you're lucky you only feel the stabs at Christmas, Halloween and the occasional baby shower. It's sort of like a cruise ship, where you focus on all the good stuff and try to ignore that you are adrift. There is a small subset, though, that can't find contentment and doesn't necessarily want to. These are the people who spend three or four years buying pregnancy tests in bulk and wailing at every negative pee. They'll nail down everyone in their life with very public grief, holding funerals for failed attempts at In Vitro fertilization and naming every pregnancy that fails. [If you think I'm kidding, peruse alt.infertility for five minutes.] When these folks make the decision to adopt, they make a very public drama out of every step of red tape. Having a support group through a very stressful time--buying a house, adopting a baby, changing a job--is necessary. Telling your waiter at Casa Fiesta that you're stressed because you're adopting a baby from Guatemala is histrionic. Somewhere along the line the experience becomes less about a call to parenthood and very much more about being the fragile one in the spotlight. The one who can manipulate every social situation and exert a passive-aggressive control. When you spend a decade as everyone's top prayer request, as the woman treated with kid(less) gloves, you can get used to it. You can like it. What happens when Baby shows up? Congratulations, you've got what you wanted. Your prayers are answered. Now we're all paying attention to Susie, whose been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Oh, and all your infertile friends on the S.S. EPTNEG don't want to hear it. They won't even read your posts when you put "BM" in the title--it's worse that poop, it's "baby mentioned." So the drama is over, you're not the prom queen and you've got this stinking, wailing oh-so-human-of-beings totally dependant on YOU. Oh, did I mention that Babies always always always get the spotlight? So, yeah. Crossing the finish line holds a distinct lack of charm for some who found the race so enchanting. Would they hurt a child? In a heartbeat. That child who represents the end of their drama. When you wake up and realize that Baby means Person and people are complicated, the dream dies and an anger from the deepest part of your brain rises up. It happens all the time.

We were once told by a friend that we "could always buy a baby". When I stop wanting to be a parent, and start thinking of a child as a purchase, I know that I've lost that part of me that deserves to be a mother.


At 11:12 AM, December 20, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

great post ... a lot of thoughts that many aren't brave enough to voice out loud.

~ Lacy

At 12:25 PM, December 20, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Countless people spend years fixating on planning a wedding and turning it into a fairytale event, only to become disillusioned and divorced a few years later when the realities of having a marriage prove unexpectedly stressful and enduring. Why is it such a stretch to think that people who go through all manner of contortions to have a baby might also become so overwhelmed by the stresses of being a parent that they become abusive or worse?

Some people are shortsighted. Some people are immature. Some people are spoiled. The fact that they have the means to fulfil their every desire doesn't automatically mean that they're equipped to handle the situations that they get themselves into. Is that such an unrealistic assumption?

At 1:36 PM, December 20, 2005, Blogger Ivy, the Great and Powerful said...

That's a very powerful post there, Katherine. Well said.

I used to post on this month board where people all had babies the same month as I had Nate. One of the reasons I left that board was because it had turned into the "Angel's secondary infertility" board. This one woman talked All. The. Freaking. Time. about it. She obsessed over every single detail, it was seriously disturbing to know *this* much about this woman's sex life.

While I felt bad for her, wanting something so badly and not being able to get it, I just couldn't get *too* into it. Finally one day someone suggested she go to a board for secondary infertility and it turned into World War 3. And at the time, our babies were only a year and a half old, it was kinda ridiculous, when I know people that have tried for many years.

At 8:47 AM, December 21, 2005, Blogger Michael said...

Wow...great post.

I'm not stunned that there is a good post here..just that it's like a touchdown and the two point conversion good....

Anyway, I find it interesting how many times people think it's all about them, them, them. I know a woman at church who wanted a child for ever and bitched about how she and her hubby couldn't concieve. Well, now she is pregnant and you'd think...well, hopefully she'll be happy. Nope...pregnancy is a horrible thing and oh it's the worst and yada, yada, yada. To which I, in my Christian compassion want to say--shut up already. Get over yourself and move on.

I understand that wanting a child and not being able to have one is a tragedy. But it's how you deal with it...do you let it define you? Or do you figure out how to deal with the hand life has given you and work through it? My sister and her hubby wnated kids..they were expecting but lost the baby. And yes they got down and grieved and were heart broken..but they didn't let it define them. They looked into what they could do and now they have two kids who are adopted.

I know there are times when my sister feels pangs about it...

But you know, they didn't stay in that moment nad let it define them....

At 10:00 PM, February 10, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi - I realize this is an incredibly delayed comment (I came across the entry while looking for info about the Emma Alvey case, as we're looking into adopting from China and were wondering how this had fallen out) but I hope you don't mind it anyway.

I think you're being slightly unfair by implying that people with fertility problems have only two options; turn into drama whores forever or suck it up and sail on. I completely agree that being infertile should not become your entire life's identity, but it's a very unpleasant experience to go through (alas, the pangs are felt not just at holidays, but whenever you see someone else with their kids or hear a family member's announcement of a pregnancy, or get teased about "I'll bet you're going to be next!"). It's very, very difficult to just shrug it off, and if you were able to do that, I salute you, because you are one tough cookie. I wasn't able to do that - I spent about eighteen months (while we were in treatment) being miserable, partly from the medications and partly because I'm fairly young and knew *nobody* among our friends who had this problem. I felt, frankly, like a broken freak, not like The Special One. I didn't *want* attention, but I did want to vent, so I came to the internet where I wouldn't be torturing my family by constant complaints but still be able to let it out somewhere. I think in chatrooms you're probably seeing people's worst side - certainly I said a lot of stuff on my journal that didn't necessarily enter into my real life. I wasn't going around glowering at the Starbucks barista or breaking down and telling a grocery store clerk about my latest miscarriage.

It's a grieving period, basically. The people griping on alt.infertility aren't necessarily going to be feeling the same a year from now - if nothing else, they'll probably be too exhausted! So while a lot of us do get really unhappy and nasty for a while, I think it's a stretch to say that ultimately it becomes what defines most infertile people. If you check back in ten years and they're still going on about it, yes, but I think a lot of people are happy not to be stressing anymore, once their children arrive.

For me? I had my son last year. I am more than happy to show him off and send people photos of him and not have to give a damn about what my cycle looks like and just be an ordinary mother. We're looking into adoption for our next child for various reasons, among them the fact that I'd rather not have the mental meltdown which the fertility meds prompted last time. I'd like to be pregnant again but don't particularly care if it doesn't happy - even if it did, we'd still like to adopt. It just feels like the right thing to do at this point.

Sorry to blather on so long - what I'm basically trying to say is that a lot of the people you commend for getting on with their lives probably had their period of drama while they were in the worst of it, so please don't think too badly of the ones who are doing it right now.

- Sonetka


At 3:02 AM, December 05, 2008, Blogger emsky said...

hi im emsky from england, ive got two babies i love and adore im single and im pregnant again and want to be a surragate for a couple who really needs a child. or if any one knows of any one that wants to contact me please do

At 3:03 AM, December 05, 2008, Blogger emsky said...

hi im emsky from england, ive got two babies i love and adore im single and im pregnant again and want to be a surragate for a couple who really needs a child. or if any one knows of any one that wants to contact me please do


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