In the summer of 1999, my friend M called me. She and her husband were taking a group of parishioners from my spouse's church on a tour of Mexico City. Even though M knew that at that time, I traveled there regularly on business, she wanted to know if she could bring me anything from Mexico. The words flew out of my mouth before I could stop them: "Ay M, bring me a little girl."
Where did that come from? We had made some decisions and others had been made for Spouseman and me many years earlier when it came to children: he had a son and a daughter from his first marriage and had had a vasectomy. He did not want any more children. I did not know myself well enough to tell whether or not I wanted children and had felt so comfortable agreeing that we would not raise a child together. We were so safely ensconced in our dual income, no kid lifestyle in South Florida. I surprised myself most of all with those words late one July afternoon.
You know how this story went. Turns out there was a little girl, abandoned in a hospice for HIV/AIDS children in Mexico, a little beam of light who was flourishing, as much as you can, in the midst of great poverty and deprivation. She'd landed at this hospice after testing positive--false positive, as it turns out--for this hideous disease. And she needed a mom and dad to call her own. It took us 2 years but finally, finally we got to bring her home. I watched her a while ago, working intently to punch holes in a bunch of coloring book pages she'd torn out, and then putting them in a binder she's so proud of. I do not think I am capable of loving anybody or anything more fiercely, more passionately, more tenderly, more completely than I love this girl child of mine.
So when I picked up the New York Times magazine this morning and read an article about the quandaries and struggles of people who use donor eggs for in vitro fertilization, once again, I was washed over with sorrow and anger. I do understand the loss of not bearing a child "of my own"--I had to work through that for my own self. I also realize that for many, adoption is a terrifying prospect; so many unknowns, so emotionally fraught. I suspect that folks who've watched Spouseman, Light of My Life and me find our way through tough times would use us as an example for why adoption is so hard and risky. But bar nothing, getting to be M's mom is the absolutely, completely, totally most bestest, wonderful thing I have ever or will ever accomplish with my life. Which is why I have such a hard time with some of the hand wringing that accompanies our quest for fertility against all odds. "Will I love this child if I only carry it to birth, rather than provide it with my own DNA?" This is a question that only extraordinary privilege would dare ask.
I know I sound judgmental. Again, I don't want to minimize the pain of infertility. Perhaps it is important to be responsible and make sound decisions with 35,000-65,000 dollars of disposable income. But here's the deal for me. The day Spouseman and I got custody of Light of My Life and started to walk out of one of the grimmest institutional settings you could ever imagine with her, we were trailed by some 15 or 20 little children, all of them as beautiful as the child in my husband's arms, all of them gifts from God to the world, all of them begging to get to go, and some of them weeping as they begged, to go home with us. I have never forgotten the ones we left behind. They, and many more, are still there.