Thirteen years ago, when I found out I was pregnant with my first child, my thoughts hopscotched from thankfulness to relief to my friends’ less-than-comforting episiotomy tales — finally resting, one night at 2 a.m., on the prospect of a little boy coming home from school with a superhero lunch box and a question: “Where do babies come from?”
Today that little boy, Matthew, who was conceived through in vitro fertilization, is a seventh grader and taller than me. He knows where babies come from. He even knows the basics of IVF and acknowledges the fact that his very existence is a miracle of modern medicine with the same less-than-gee-whiz attitude he has about the fact that he can search Google to access the world. To a 12-year-old living in 2008, all this amazing (to his parents, anyway) technology isn’t that, well, amazing.
So it might be time to share more than just “the facts” of my son’s conception with him. Because even though thousands of IVF babies are now born in the U.S. every year, for each family, it’s a different story, each one filled with hope, fear, faith and even (believe me, it’s necessary!) a sense of the ridiculous.
I could describe to Matthew how, upon seeing the blue dot on the cardboard ovulation-prediction card, I danced around the bathroom, surrounded by little cups of urine and bottles of “activator,” celebrating that first tiny step toward motherhood.
How, when I told my pharmacist (who had assisted us in our “science project,” ordering ovulation-predictor kits, ovulation-suppression drugs to control my cycle, ovulation-stimulation drugs and more syringes that I care to remember), “I’m pregnant. Thanks for your help!” the other customers in the store snickered just a bit.
I could tell him how, even though I appreciated having the option of IVF, a part of me yearned to create a baby the way my parents, grandparents and every other generation in my family had always made babies: the old-fashioned way.
How his daddy practiced sticking needles into an orange — said to resemble the flesh on my backside, thank you very much — to learn how to give me hormone injections that would stimulate egg production.
I could describe how his father mapped out, ahead of time, our entire route home from the medical center, noting every bump and pot hole. And how Randy filled our car’s passenger seat with pillows so that we could gingerly make our way home after the embryo transfer without disturbing what we hoped was a miracle happening inside of me.
And I could explain how, through the process of making a baby with the help of strangers, his daddy and I developed a sense of humor that got us through experiences such as Randy’s trip to the “donation room” and my hour spent on the “tilt table,” my feet higher than my head, after the fertilized eggs were placed in my uterus.
What I most want Matthew to know is that he was wanted as much as any child has ever been wanted. That while his conception was far from a private act, it was filled with great reverence and love. I want to tell him that lying in bed at home and holding hands with his daddy the night after my eggs were retrieved — while praying that a strong, healthy embryo was forming eight miles away in that petri dish — was one of the most moving experiences of my life.
I want him to be able to picture his father experiencing something that most dads will never get to do: Standing in a quiet, darkened room while looking through a microscope and seeing the six fat cells that would become his son, just before the doctor placed those cells inside me.
And I want him to know that my heart nearly burst as I watched him sing “One Small Child, One Tiny Child” with the children’s choir at Christmas when he was only five years old. Because I couldn’t help but remember that bringing our own small child home from the hospital, on Christmas Day 1995, was the most incredible gift his daddy and I will ever receive.
Yes, Matthew has outgrown superhero lunch boxes. And he’s got even the high-tech birds-and-bees stuff figured out. But his dad and I want him to know more than just “the facts.” We want him to understand his family’s own special story of how he came into our lives — everything from his mom doin’ the happy dance in the bathroom to his dad lovingly placing all those pillows just so. Most of all, we want Matthew to know that while he came to us with more than a little help from modern medicine — he also came straight from our hearts. And that’s something he just won’t find on Google.