Friday, 11 July 2014

Tearing Up

I still haven't buried the top of the wedding cake. We were going to do it after our fifth anniversary, but we haven't yet. It's still here.

Nature is not on our side, it would seem. But Christians love stories of miraculous births, especially to couples who have basically given up hope because of their age. And Christians tell other Christian couples not to give up hope, maybe because even though it would be easier not to hope, but just to get on with life, there is something good about hope. It's a theological virtue, after all.

I am always amazed when women my age or older conceive a baby, and I am often tempted to assume the worst, i.e. IVF. After all, I once met an intelligent, devoutly Catholic woman who froze some embryos before giving birth to two and puzzling over what to do with the rest. The doctors had called and asked if she would donate them to science. I am not making this up. I wish I were. However, I was reminded today that a British Prime Minister's wife (and celebrated lawyer in her own right, etc.) conceived a baby "by accident" at the age of 45.

It's not something I think about all the time, which would certainly be unhealthy, and we always thought it was a long shot, as fertility takes a dive after thirty-five, and I married three years after that. But then I see news like this (not safe for little brothers) when I am checking for email, and I think of little else.

The baby boy is cute, and the men are happy and shirtless, and some anonymous woman is merely the provider of necessary genetic material, and the woman outside the photograph has reduced herself to a paid baby machine. I don't imagine there will be any photos of the baby unconsciously and naturally nuzzling for breast milk and crying in unconscious fear and disappointment, do you?

But the line that bothered me most in this article was this one, maybe because it hammered home the playacting and the strangeness of the whole affair more than anything else:

“Every pain that she had, they were crying along with her,” Foster said. “When she’d scream, they’d scream. I wanted to take a picture and hug them at the same time.”

Never in my life have I heard or been asked to imagine a man screaming along with his wife as she gave birth to their child. Nor have I heard of a farmer and vet mooing away as a cow calfed. What on earth was going through that woman's mind as she went through all that, two men screaming away by her bedside?


Julia said...

Oh man.

"I once met an intelligent, devoutly Catholic woman who froze some embryos before giving birth to two and puzzling over what to do with the rest."

In what sense was she devout?

Lina said...

That photo has been bouncing around Facebook, and every time I see it I get so angry! It's not even that the new "parents" are a gay couple, though that is problematic too - it's that people are posting this image as if we should all be tearing up with joy on their behalf, as they are, but NOBODY seems to be considering that poor baby, who has just been ordered and bought and paid for like a new car. Nobody cares that he is now being ripped away from the only person he knows, that he is being handed over to people who "want" a baby but apparently couldn't be bothered to adopt a baby in actual, already-existing need of a home, that he will never have or know his mother, will never get to breastfeed, etc. Having just become a mother this year, it hits home much harder now. I hold my little baby boy and nurse him and feel like weeping for that poor baby in the photo. Surrogacy is pure selfishness and evil.
Adoption is an entirely different matter; in that case, he baby has generally a) escaped abortion, and b) been given up out of love and consideration by a mother who believes and hopes someone else will give her child a better life than she is able. It's still sad that the baby and mother are separated, but it's making the best of a difficult situation. Surrogacy is human trafficking disguised as love. It makes me sick.

Lina said...

(Continuing rant)
This sentence: "I don't imagine there will be any photos of the baby unconsciously and naturally nuzzling for breast milk and crying in unconscious fear and disappointment, do you?" makes my stomach churn. Ugh. My baby LOVES nursing; it's not just about the food, it's comfort and love and he goes hysterical if he's taken away when he wants to be at the breast. On the one hand, I think that if people had any idea how much babies need and want their mothers (mine wouldn't even sleep anywhere but on my chest for the first several weeks), they couldn't support surrogacy; yet I know mothers and Catholics and even midwives who think that very photo is adorable. It makes me want to scream. And the gay couple adopting - they've had a baby created with the plan being all along to deprive it of its mother. Does nobody see how wrong that is? Sometimes children lose their mothers, and that is a tragedy; but to produce one with the intention of depriving it of a mother is sickeningly evil.
On a less ragey note, I do think of you often, Seraphic, and pray that you will be blessed with a child somehow. I hope you don't mind my saying that here.

Domestic Diva said...

Seraphic, hold on to your hope even as you remain rooted in reality. There's no telling what God has in store for you and B.A.

Regarding the story: I do believe the suffering of the childless reminds the world that children are a gift from the Lord, regardless of what science can do apart from Him. And even though people may look askance at us, wondering why we don't take advantage of scientific "advances," God sees and makes our suffering fruitful, in some mysterious way.

Lina said...

Oh, and one last thing: if my husband had screamed along with me in labour, I think I would have kicked him out of the room. Luckily, being a man, he just held my hand and encouraged me instead. One person borderline losing it is enough, thanks.

Lynn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lynn said...

Julia, any number of devout, well-educated Catholics simply have no idea that IVF is a problem. I was very surprised to learn that one of my friends conceived that way. She didn't know enough of the details of the procedure to connect it to what she knew of Catholic moral theology.

Sheila said...

I agree with you for the most part, but I kind of cringe at your words on breastfeeding. Plenty of loved, adored, well-mothered babies don't get breastmilk, because their loving mothers don't make any. Breastfeeding was important to me, so I was terrified I would be one of the unlucky ones. Thankfully not! But I know women who have struggled and struggled to breastfeed, and it's agonizing to both mother and baby. And the way you put it here ..... it makes it sound like any baby who doesn't get breastmilk is the victim of a terrible injustice, which of course doesn't make those mothers feel less like failures than they already did.

I know you didn't mean it that way, but .... it did make me cringe a bit.

MaryJane said...

Someone has written a commentary on this, noting what many have said here.

Lina said...

Sheila, not sure if you're addressing me or Seraphic, but sorry if I came across that way at least. I too have a close friend who tried everything to breastfeed but simply wasn't able. Her son is a very healthy, happy and beautiful toddler today. I do believe bfing is the best way to feed a baby; I love the bonding that goes along with it, and I feel sad for those who aren't able and hope that I will be able for any future children (as with fertility, I try not to take it for granted); but I'm also extremely thankful for good formula for those mothers who aren't able, or for babies who can't nurse (some preemies, adopted children, etc.)
I've also heard that the UK definition of breastfeeding differs from the American one in that the UK term includes cuddling, interacting, and basically loving on the child - so even a bottle feeding mother can still "nurse" her baby.
What I object to is the complete lack of consideration for the baby's wants, needs and natural reflexes that goes along with surrogacy, all so that the "parents" can get exactly what they want. Adoption generally comes from a place of love; surrogacy not so much.

Julia said...

"Surrogacy is human trafficking disguised as love."

Lina, you nailed it.

Lynn, I'm not sure I would call a Catholic who's had IVF either well-educated or devout considering that the Catholic Church's opposition to artificial reproductive technologies is widely known and publicly decried. There are no doubt Catholics who know the teachings and reject them, but to me it beggars belief that a Catholic adult who can read newspapers would be unaware that the Catholic Church opposes IVF. I'm not saying that your friend was lying when she said she didn't know, but it surprises me greatly. I mean, if the "Well, I'm a Catholic and I disagree with the Church blah blah blah" types know that the Church opposes IVF, surely someone who goes to Mass would have a vague clue.

However, I do have a similar episode to recount. I was dumbfounded when a close friend of mine, apropos of nothing, said that if I wanted children and for whatever reason didn't have any, she'd be fine with her boyfriend donating sperm to me. She is Mass-going cradle Catholic, but she openly rejects Church teaching in matters of sexuality.

I don't know how much thought she'd put into this offer that I assume her boyfriend had no idea about (and who knows if he'd ever consent to it anyway), but I'm hoping that if she reflected further on it, she'd realise what a ghastly idea it is. I mean, I'd be bearing her husband/boyfriend's baby, the half-sibling of her potential future children. Quite aside from the immorality of the arrangement, it's just BIZARRE. Chances are that the kid would look like him, and look like her kids. Wouldn't that freak her out?

I said I wouldn't ever do it, but I didn't come down too hard on her. After all, these days most people see making such an offer as very generous, and I believe she was trying to be generous.

Lynn said...

Julia, she was graduate educated and absolutely devout, but somehow had fallen through a catechetical crack. She was very sad when she realized what she had done, but of course relieved that her son was biologically both hers and her husband's, and no other babies were destroyed in the process, by God's mercy. I learned from her never to assume anything! In my experience, Catholics who prefer to defy certain teachings tend to be very open about it.

Sheila said...

I meant that one line in Seraphic's post about the baby rooting to nurse and not being able. Of course lots of babies do that and turn out okay in the end ... though of course it would make me very sad if mine had to.

Surrogacy, IVF, etc. are some of those "Catholic teachings" that I don't need the Church to warn me away from. They are just too objectifying to the human person. A childless (male, married) friend of mine told me that if he weren't Catholic, he would have asked me to be a surrogate for him and his wife. I was rather shocked and didn't know what to say. Even hypothetically, isn't it obvious that this would be using my body for his own ends? I could, morally, give him one of my own babies to adopt ..... but again, that's one of those things that it seems clear isn't right. The mother-child bond is just too strong, even just from birth, and I would grieve for that my whole life.

Yes, it's a terrible shame that some of us have more kids than we wanted and some don't have the kids we did want. But in a way it's a witness to our respect for God's mastery over new life -- HE decides, we accept. Even when His decisions seem unfair, our choice to accept the children God gives us is a witness to the whole world that babies can't be owned, only loved.

Lindsay said...

Why would you bury the top of your wedding cake? I though the custom (at least in the U.S.) was to *eat* the cake on your first anniversary, and even that is a departure from the previous custom of using it as a baptism cake since the first baby would be born within the first year of marriage. Or is that second thing what you were getting at?

Seraphic said...

We aren't Americans. The tradition is to eat the top cake at the baby's baptism. It doesn't matter if the baby isn't born in the first year, either, since fruitcake, properly kept, keeps for years and years.

Lindsay said...

Well, I know you're not Americans. I just didn't realize the custom was so different elsewhere. I thought the "wedding cake for baptism" concept was a "wink wink, nudge nudge" joke about how soon after the wedding the first baby would be born, and that the "wedding cake for first anniversary" custom was a "marriage is not necessarily about children" present-day interpretation.

In the U.S., fruitcake is a running gag, definitely not a wedding dessert. Both customs make a lot more sense if your wedding cake is a fruitcake and fruitcake keeps for years, though. Thanks for the clarification!