Another grandmother has birthed her own grandchild, this time in Maine. It’s happened plenty of times before (and before and before) and the science isn’t that new (or at least shiny) anymore. Still, it’s a topic we need to discuss just because of the inevitable reaction to the concept of this kind of conception. Science has tangled up the generations in these cases, which is fascinating, a wonder, and also (let’s be honest), kind of strange.
Most of us who are parents or want to be will never have to consider asking our mothers to carry our embryos for us. And while some sources report that 50,000 children are born a year in this country via IVF (mostly in Washington, D.C., interestingly, and almost never in Wyoming and Montana), there are many more babies made without the boost of drugs or laboratories.
I don’t judge this. In fact, I celebrate it. Some of the women I hold up highest as mothers and some of the kids I adore most were conceived with assistance. It doesn’t seem to be an easy process for those women or couples, but it truly is an incredible time to be alive if you want options in becoming a parent.
But let’s get back to the point that most kids are made in a bed with sheets that probably should have been washed last week and with a bang-y headboard that irritates the hell out of the downstairs neighbors, two minutes before brunch with the mother-in-law or before Sesame Street is over in the next room or in the final countdown of ovulation or after sixteen light beers (or was that just among the women in my playgroup?). It’s not right or better or whatever, it just seems to be the conception story I’ve heard plenty of times when my lady-friends are getting really honest about how their pregnancy began.
For those of us for whom this procreation-sex scene is familiar, it might take a big leap of faith and imagination to even consider what it would be like to bring another person into the mix. For those of us who went through medical hell or a few rounds of procedures or many complications or adoption, who have become accustomed to doctors and nurses and anesthesiologists and social workers and birth parents being in the room, it might not be such a stretch to consider one more player in the parenting game.
But maybe I am wrong. Maybe our reactions to stories about grandmothers offering up their wombs in what seems like the greatest gift of parenting of all time are just as personal as the stories of our families came to be (the whole dirty-sheet commonality aside). One way or another, we each have to have a visceral response to reading that someone’s mother has carried her daughter’s embryo, thereby making her a baby.
Good? Bad? Gasp? Glee? Inspiration to have THAT TALK with your own mom? Whatever your response, I imagine you have a response.
Although I am compelled to read each of these intergenerational gestational stories as they come out and the relative regularity of these stories has softened my own reaction, I will honestly tell you that I shiver a little at first site of the headline.
Maybe it is because 17 years ago, my own mother offered to carry my future-fetus should I ever need it. I was 23 and fresh out of a “yep, it’s endometriosis!” gynecologist appointment, dating a childish stoner I knew was a terrible match for me, working as a receptionist and thinking about going to grad school, where I would live on ramen noodles, cheap microbrews and a $600-stipend a month. So when I explained the hitch in my gynecological giddyup to my mother, all she heard was “blah-blah-blah-no grandchildren” or similar.
She blurted out that I should go ahead and try for a baby immediately! Or that she could be my surrogate!
I am pretty sure my brain just shut down for a second at the horror of it all, or even just the horror of the thought of it all. My mother was already ANCIENT (48) and plus … too close for comfort. I was still in the process of individuating, making really rebellious moves like pursuing graduate degrees that would never pay off in income and trying not to talk to her on the phone more than three times a day. Having a baby with the deadbeat boyfriend AND MY MOTHER put me into overload. I stuttered, I stammered, I may have feigned a call on the other line.
Eventually, my brain rebooted. My responses when my mother brought it up again (and again and again) over the years got better. Well, they got to “nod and smile” rather than full malfunction. I got the kindness of her offer, the good intention of her uteroffering, I loved her for being who she is and wanting me to be a mother as much as she wanted to be. But it is not ever something I could ever consider.
Some of that remains today when I see the grandmother smiling down at her daughter and grandchild, all of them swaddled in hospital wear, all of them fresh from the pain and bliss of birth. “ACK!,” I think, “How the hell do they work that out?”
This most recent grandma-carrier in Maine seems pretty centered about it all, telling a local paper, “It was all pretty simple as far as I was concerned,” about the news that her daughter’s heart condition would keep her from being pregnant herself.
“I just saw it as I was babysitting for a few months,” said Linda Sirois, the 49-year old grandma of helping bring weeks-old Madden into the world for 25-year old daughter Angel and her husband. “It was their child all along. It was just a room for rent.”
I love that she’s so straightforward and calm and beaming at the newborn boy in their lives. I love that they have that kind of relationship, formed this new-world kind of bond. It’s great for them.
FOR THEM. And still, for me, ACK! How the hell do they work that out?
How do you handle reading these headlines? Would you ever ask your mother to be your surrogate?
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