Although perhaps not exactly as in the Bible, today I’m feeling a little like The Virgin Mary: Today my own Angel Gabriel will be a UCSF physician. As of about 3pm this afternoon, J. and I will leave the clinic, immaculate, and I will or will not be pregnant.
It’s the scariest, most life-altering thing to ever hope for, I think. To know that you are intentionally, and by appointment, asking to change your life and identity in an irrevocable way. And while, of course, it’s something you (I) say you want… I truly believe that you have no idea what you’re in for when you set these dominoes in motion. I don’t have any clue how I will change as I molecularly evolve from a woman to a parent. I don’t have any clue how I will approach the mess or the cries or the eye rolls or the unbounded love, despite the number of books I read to guide me.
I doubt there are many experiences like this seismic shift, though I recently equated it to an actor desiring to be famous and then having to deal with that fame when it comes! I guess I feel that parenthood is a “Be careful what you wish for” endeavor, but one that you… want(?) to not know how it’ll go! Talk about looking into the Abyss!
Another aspect that has been rolling around in my thoughts is the question of what, or when, is life? As an avowed Right to Choose-r, I have long thought, donated, and voted to support the right of women to make choices that support their needs. I have seen billboards with tiny babies and block letters claiming that a heartbeat starts 9 days from conception and bristled at their rigid, often erroneous, Right to Life dogma.
So it has been a jarring, unmooring experience to be regularly and consistently monitoring the health of my now-frozen fertilized eggs as though they are alive, as though they are beings. To receive a sheet that states how many eggs were retrieved, how many were inseminated, how many survived a few days’ gestation, and how many were reported to be genetically normal so they will be considered for implantation… well, you can see how my consideration of the health and development of these dozen-celled pods might call my long-held understanding of human life into question.
And that, I here report, is dysregulating. While I continue to hold mightily to my stance on a woman’s right to choose, I have to acknowledge that my conception (forgive the term) of What Is Life/A Life has become much more grey and nuanced these last few months. And, for that, I must here admit that I am also grateful. I do think that wherever I may have my own dogmatic clinging, any experience that can help me to open my mind to alternative viewpoints, even if I ultimately disagree with them, is a positive and widening human experience.
But… it’s “weird,” you guys! To know that I’ve thought and crossed fingers over eggs that have become embryos that have become tested frozen embryos … that now have become gendered? Yeah, I know the gender (or sex, rather) of our embryos. I know what they would and could and might and might never become. And that’s startling. It’s startling to celebrate the potential arrival of something that, under “natural” circumstances, I wouldn’t know for at least 5 months. And this specified knowledge begins to create a reality of a human, a picture of a human.
(For anyone curious about statistics, using genetically tested embryos, accounting for my age/health/etc., there is nearly a 2/3 chance that there will be a baby at the end of this. Which, conversely, means that there is a 1/3 chance that there will not be a baby, a possibility for which, while I am not precisely prepared, I am at least aware and not new to.)
And so, here we are, about to be maybe pregnant and maybe not.
To the ever surprising, edifying, and evolving nature of existence — and, for what it’s worth, considering it’s frankly a damn miracle that any of us were even born at all, maybe today do something cool, just because you’re alive to do it.