I know this seems like an obvious question. For most families, it’s a simple matter of mommy, daddy, and some birds and bees. But for an increasing number of families, making a baby is less about romance and more about schedules, office visits, and maybe even some frequent-flier miles.
My husband and I wanted to make a video called How We Made Our Baby with Barry White music playing as scenes flashed by: my husband sheepishly handing a cup to a nurse, and hours later, me peeking uncomfortably out from under a sheet. Then, the movie Baby Mama totally stole our idea! And did a great job, so yay.
But we’re not the only ones who had a doctor in the room when our baby was conceived. For many families, making a baby is a group effort, and in the end, I feel like that’s a good thing – because if you’re willing to go to that much effort (and you’re not stone cold nuts), chances are you’re in it for the long haul.
Take my college friend Alex, for instance. She wrote an amazing article for the New York Times about hiring a surrogate to carry her own child after years of heartbreaking failed IVFs (11 of them!) and miscarriages (too many!). She was present at her son’s birth – the product of her egg and her husband’s sperm – as the amazing woman who carried it pushed him out.
“When the baby crowned and the top of his skull appeared, my brain did back-flips,” Alex wrote. “There is our baby — coming out of her body.” A meanie priest said to her, at one point, that “the church frowns on science babies,” but when she spoke the parish life director of her own church, she pointed out that “without technology and turkey basters, half the children poking through the snow for pastel-colored eggs probably wouldn’t exist.” Bottom line, Alex is one of the most joyful mothers I know, and whatever path she took to motherhood was the right one.
Another family has an even more complicated story: A single mother by choice was inseminated by a friend, but as life got more complicated, the roles in the family changed – the sperm donor got more involved than he had intended, single motherhood turned out to be more complicated than the mom had realized, and they have constructed an alternative family that works for them. Now, the child treats the sperm donor and his partner as uncles.
A lesbian couple I know asked a male friend to be their sperm donor, and for several months there was one uncomfortable weekend when they would come over for a barbecue, the guy would disappear for a few minutes and come back with a little jar, one of the women would then lie down with a turkey baster and stay horizontal for the rest of the afternoon, and voila -- a gorgeous baby boy with two mommies and two loving godfathers.
Just last weekend, I was at a birthday party and an adorable girl began playing with my daughter Penelope. She was tall and olive-skinned, and her father was quite short and pinky-pale. I wondered if she was adopted when he volunteered the information that she had been born by surrogate, with an egg donor, both in different states. “For her birth, we had to fly to St Louis, Missouri,” he said. “And I mean, we were just so picky – between meeting egg donors and surrogates, I think we earned enough frequent flier miles to buy our own plane.”
I made a joke about how my lesbian friends have fewer kids because they can’t do what I did – get pregnant by accident after having a hard time with the first one. “It’s true,” he said, laughing. “Not many people wake up after sharing a six-pack, hold their heads, and say ‘I’m so hung over – oh crap, I think I arranged a surrogacy last night!”
Do you know babies whose conceptions were a little more crowded than most?
Image via Nina Matthews Photography/Flickr