Birthing pains

After trying every way possible to get pregnant, we finally have the baby we wanted. So why do I feel guilty for not adopting or remaining childless?

Published October 16, 2003 7:02PM (EDT)

Dear Cary,

I feel like I have harmed my soul and don't know how to heal it. My husband and I went to great lengths to have a baby. When I say great lengths, I mean several years, lots of money, IVF, donor eggs. I had the desire and the money to pursue the baby I could not live without, and my husband (of 10 years) only acquiesced to make me happy (after much persuading, coaxing and crying on my part). We now have an absolutely beautiful son whom we both adore. Now that he is 1, we are coming up for air and trying to get our lives back in order. I have a great job and make good money; my husband started his career late, but has just started a new job and things are going well.

The problem lies with me. I feel guilty for pursuing a child through selfish means instead of adopting or living without a child and putting my energy into other productive endeavors. I was in such a panic that I don't feel like I thought everything through like a wise woman. I love the kid more than I even imagined, but I have always been a nontraditional, free-spirit type and now that I have the child of my dreams, I feel guilty, like I traded in my soul (because of the means by which I got the child).

My husband is a beautiful and honest man and tells me that I still need to resolve my issues over infertility. He tells me that if I feel guilty for not adopting, I can blame it on him because he was not open to the idea. I am not secretive about how my son came to be, but I don't tell everyone I meet right away. I feel so conservative and am used to being the wild one. I feel vulnerable and I used to be so cocksure. Is this just a selfish self-image problem? I feel like I need to resolve these feelings before my son gets much older. I am a great mother now and want to continue to be and want to look my son in the face and be proud to tell him who I am (and who he is), but right now, I am a little embarrassed -- for trying to control nature, for panicking, for being spoiled and even considering this a problem.

Happy but Guilty

Dear Happy but Guilty,

You know, right now I'm listening to Chet Baker and Gerry Mulligan playing a tune called "Line for Lyons," and there is a gentleness and light in their playing, a kind of redemptive joy that is so soft, cool and sweet that I temporarily forgot that I am trying to untangle a fierce knot having to do with something I don't understand and cannot really even see.

Just from the feel of it, I sense that the knot is made of inexplicit beliefs.

So let's say you do have a soul. Let's say you have harmed your soul and don't know how to heal it. In order to heal it, you will have to know what kind of soul you have. Is it a Christian soul? A Jewish soul? A Buddhist soul? Each soul has a different manual. For the Christian soul, for instance, you just have to show proof of ownership, ask for forgiveness and you're out of there. For a Jewish soul, I don't think you get off that easily. You have to continue living in the world with the rest of us, and it matters how you conduct yourself. You have duties. So you have to fix what you have done wrong. At least that's my rough impression. And if you are a Buddhist, your soul is enshrouded in suffering because of your ego attachment, and that ego attachment is why you had to have the child in the first place, and now you have seen that having the child did not ease your worldly suffering, natch, because your worldly suffering is because of ego blindness, i.e., you think the world actually exists, and so you suffer no matter what you do.

So you have to find out what kind of soul you have in order to repair it. You also have to find out whose laws you are operating under so you can decide your innocence or guilt.

So, you not only have to climb under your soul to get the serial number and find out what kind of soul it is, and then get the proper manual, you also have to climb the library ladder high up to that shelf where your laws are kept and get down a book and read in it. What does it say? Does it say that because you are a daughter of privilege that you may not have a child except through intercourse with your husband? Does it say that if there is anything you want strongly enough to fight for it that upon getting it you must suffer? Is there a law that says no matter what you do you will never be good enough?

Is there a law that says you can't go to a doctor with your complaints and take his advice? Is there a law that says you must adopt a child instead of having one of your own? Is there a law that says you do not have the right to choose what you do with your own body?

Perhaps there are such laws. If there are such laws on the books, and you have violated one of them, then you must be punished.

Have the trial. Get a verdict. If you are found innocent, walk out of the courtroom with your head held high and give no interviews. If you are found guilty, do your time. While doing your time, don't talk to anyone. Don't take threats. Don't give in to temptation. Just do your time. When you've done your time, walk out into the sunshine and look for the rusty Impala parked by the fence. We'll be waiting in the car for you with a lollipop and a change of clothes.

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