Discussions about the viability of my few remaining eggs inevitably led to using an egg donor. In truth, this felt slightly criminal, slithering around Web sites with secret passwords of agencies that, for fees starting at $10,000, offered young ladies who were "donating" their genetic material as openly as espadrilles. It’s not an easy thing, choosing the mother of your child. Finally, we found her: a 25-year-old putting herself through law school, a girl so healthy, lovely, intelligent, and funny that our doctor said she could be my daughter. She wanted to meet us, but, by our choice, we spoke anonymously on the phone. A good thing. By the end of the conversation, we were ready to adopt her.
My stalwart girlfriends, those I’d met and maintained since my now 30-year-old son was in kindergarten, gave me a baby shower. They chugged cocktails and talked about their hunky oil-painting teacher. I sipped green tea and opened gaily wrapped packages of T-shirts for newborns, a box of Huggies, and a box of Depends. My best friend, Chris, rolled in a stroller that cost more than my first VW. Seated inside, in a bonnet, was a defibrillator they’d rented from a hospital supply store.
Most of these women — who are educated, working, and ecstatic to have finally traded in their toddlers’ daycare costs for college tuition fees — considered the shower a thinly veiled bon voyage party, only I was going to jail. Chris, however, never wavered in her support. We had met when our daughters were 5. A career in nursing had taught Chris that healthy babies, old friends, and the terminally ill thrive on humor and irony. "Apparently, 14-karat-gold-plated harmony ball teething rings and baby blogs are absolute necessities to successful parenting these days," she said, dumping the latest craze in mommy-lit books onto my fat lap.
Carrying this child actually proved easier than my last, 15 years before, mostly because I avoided Nutter Butters and gained only half the weight. That now-six-foot-tall son refuses to walk the baby with me because people automatically assume it’s his, and that I must be the proud granny. My daughter, a college senior majoring in neuroscience, called the baby her pass to brain surgery. "You’re having your own grandchildren, so I’m going to medical school," she announced. My firstborn, who survived cloth diapers with open pins and homemade, obsessively strained applesauce, dates an endless supply of beautiful 20-year-olds. He doesn’t say so, but, like my daughter, probably considers the baby his savior from the silent parental pressure to settle down and reproduce.
Another Baby Down the Road?
The delivery was noneventful: no heroics, plenty of drugs. My brilliant young obstetrician worried too much, but I assured him I’d done this before, probably before he was born. Fred and I cried the moment the baby was handed to us. Today, when the baby said "Daddeee" and pointed at his father’s nose, my husband cried again.
Babyness is at once the same and improved. We have recently entered the great Cheerios phase: Every step we take crunches, and little O’s are floating in the toilet. Baby accoutrements have gone high-tech. Manipulating a car seat is more complicated than driving the car itself; organic baby food comes in a jar and costs as much as an entire Happy Meal. Nuzzling the baby’s neck, I too feel like crying. His skin is a velvety promise of joy and woe. After a bath, he smells as I imagine clouds in heaven might, full of vanilla and wonder. He smiles constantly, at everyone, reminding me of the Dalai Lama, except when he bashes his head on a sharp corner.
A baby is a reminder as strong as headlines from Baghdad or New Orleans that the world is an eternity of sharp edges. To love a child or anything this much is both courageous and ridiculous. Dread steals your breath away, then hope swells you drunk with gratitude. Every day is a bungee jump. The intensity either kills you or saves your life on a daily basis. But on we go, having and loving our kids like there is no nuclear tomorrow. And what choice do we have?