When the going gets tough, this girl goes for Joni Mitchell.
Over the last week I've been thinking a lot about illusions. How important they are to us, our fantasies, our illusions about what is, what can be, what we contain within ourselves, what it means to retire an illusion, how vital we feel when our illusions are met with reality, and how crushing it feels to have an illusion disintegrate right before your eyes.
We've really been struggling with pulling the trigger on the donor. Hmm, I almost changed that, but really, it has felt like 'pulling the trigger' on ourselves. We have both been wrestling the end of illusion that there is genetic child in our future, and it's a tough one for each of us to let loose of. I wonder how different this process would be if were only incorporating one donor. I know that before we knew about the translocation, in my wrestling with the move to donor eggs, I felt both jealous of, and comforted by, the illusion that my relationship to our child would be strengthened by his or her genetic tie to my husband. And when we thought that donor sperm might be our path, there was the illusion that because we would both have my genetic tie, and our tie to each other to cushion the rough spots.
There have been moments when I feel the desire to keen at the loss of my own fertility. I am reminded of how women describe the moment when they realize they are in menopause, and it is the end of the illusion of childbearing, and how for so many the sadness catches them by surprise. I feel that now. At my saline sono, I was so bitter when the NP said "here is your follicle for this month." Instead of letting it pass I said "fat lot of good that will do me." Ugly bitter moment.
I know everyone thinks their situation is different, but indulge me for a moment. Ours is different. We are a heterosexual couple, choosing to make our family through donor gametes. We could adopt, we have chosen not to. Probably because of another illusion: if we choose the donors, we will have some sense of who the child might be. Of course, that is the biggest illusion of all. Even if we were to make love today and I got pregnant with our mutually genetic child, we could assign characteristics to that child based on our wish to see the links between us and them, but those are fantasies and illusions as well. We are all both the sum of our genetic makeup, and totally unique.
It feels as if we are struggling with post modern realities in our very bodies. And no matter what my mind can do with ideas, my body is less than modern, it is prehistoric (Husband may not see things this way, so I'm not speaking for him in this case.). There are moments when I cannot imagine how I can take this alien into my body. This little creature made from the genetic material of two strangers, who I/we have chosen because of our fantasy that they are enough like us to allow us enough of an illusion of sameness to facilitate the connection. And then, I hold my friends babies, and kiss their sweet little heads, and field their sticky fingers on my face and neck, and I say "Yes, yes, I can do this. I can love any baby. I can love. Period."
I am scared. I am scared of being pregnant. I am scared to being a mother. I am scared of so much. I am scared of getting my hopes up again. I'm scared that each little disconnection between me and our child will fuel my illusion that I wouldn't feel this way if this was our (even partially) genetic child.
I think this fear haunts me because I felt so different from my mother, and so insecure in our connection to each other. Even though we are good friends at this point, I still rarely allow myself to 'want my mother'. Clearly, the illusion that a genetic child guarantees a connection is bull. It is opening myself, to a genetic child or not, that creates that (healthy) illusion of connection between mother and child.
Many of my friends who are mothers by more conventional means tell me that my fears of not being able to connect to my baby are not unusual. Indulge me in a bit of philosophizing here:
One of DW Winnicott's most important ideas is of the transitional object. It is a concrete placeholder for the developmental transition between the "me" and "not me" that allows an illusion of connection to the mother when she is gone (the blanket, the binky, the stuffed animal etc). I wonder if, for all mothers and fathers, the genetic connection (mostly unconscious for the vast majority of those who conceive) serves as this transitional object to smooth the transition between being a non parent to being a parent; between the "me" and the "not me" of this totally separate human being. For example, my fears of being a mother and parent, and the way it will transform and disrupt my life, are normal. If we were to conceive a mutually genetic child, my illusion of sameness, or my fantasy that I will recognize myself or my husband in the child (the 'me' in Winnicott's theory), would serve as a transitional experience/object to soothe me as I make this developmental shift. In my case, the fact that it is a much more conscious illusion leaves me scrabbling and scratching to hold onto some illusion of sameness with the donor, be it in appearance, or outlook, and it is difficult to sustain. This is all to say that perhaps my fears are less about the real baby, and more about myself and my fear that if I don't have the transitional mental space of an illusion of sameness, that I will fail to connect to the child.
So how do I create enough of a transitional object to transport me from this place to that one? Well, nothing like good old awareness, eh?
What I want is to get to that place of being able to feel and hold 'both sides'. The side where I have my real losses, and grief and trauma, and the other side where I accept that my losses, grief and trauma are part of my package, and I don't fear that it will affect my mothering, and my greatest wish of all to be a mother who fiercely loves her children, and whose children feel deeply loved.
On Friday I was remembering a girl I knew in high school who loved the story of her adoption: her parents and brothers went to the home for unwed mothers, and of all the babies there, they picked her. She exuded a sense of being loved and wanted and special--sort of like what it is like to find the love of your life. It seems impossible to be in a relationship with anyone else. I know that there are more factors that went into her experience than just her family's attitude, but at the same time, that story always spoke so strongly to me of the power of being wanted and cherished. That was something sorely lacking from my own entrance into my family. I understand why (brother died, marriage already in disarray, mother depressed etc), but it has been my mission in life to welcome my child(ren) into the world wholeheartedly, even if only to assuage my own wounds.
So here we are, with our illusions in disrepair, our dreams a bit unscripted, and our hearts mired in confusion, searching for a guarantee of connection in the smallest of elements.
And yet, just in writing this, I feel clearer. Clearer about why I am struggling so hard to stay in my fantasies that don't serve my reality, and reality feeling a little less daunting