In the past year I have attended fertility lunch and learns , GLBT parenting panels, read about diaperless babies and watched documentaries about birth. I’ve researched vegan pregnancies and found lesbian-run sperm banks. I’ve sat at my desk and contemplated how I prefer fresh spinach over frozen so why would I want frozen sperm. I tried not to be ‘that’ lesbian while I contemplated where to get fresh organic healthy sperm locally. I’ve struggled through break ups and fought prickles of envy of my pregnant friends.
I decided to have a baby alone. A summer baby. I wanted to start trying in September either this year or next. On shopping trips I scouted for prenatal vitamins and heard from friends where to buy them cheaper. I started to teach yoga partly to prepare myself physically and emotionally to be a mum. I thought my biggest problem would be getting used to a having spawned a child with an American accent. Would it really feel like mine?
Money, sperm and accents all seemed like big problems I had to figure out quickly, within the next year. I had no idea how small those problems were and how long a year actually is.
Now I have to make a much bigger decision in about a week.
Chemo can ruin my eggs and bring on early onset menopause. After my treatment I have very little chance of naturally becoming pregnant.
Option 1- Harvest
The procedure: They inject me with hormones and shots to induce my body into producing mature eggs. They then give me more drugs to try to block the effects of the hormones. I have about one month before starting cancer treatment. I have one shot to produce viable eggs. Embryos are more likely to withstand being frozen so it would be wise for me to get a donor and create those now. The embryos would be frozen and years from now I could have them placed in me and have a child.
Pros- I could have a baby. My egg would always be younger than me!
Cons- My cancer is a hormone cancer. This means all the hormones from the harvesting procedure could potentially make the cancer grow which is pretty terrifying. There isn’t enough data to show whether or not a future pregnancy could also increase the risk of it coming back, or if motherhood actually boosts immunity. Thirdly I could go through the whole procedure and may still not have produced any viable embryos. I don’t have time for round 2 and 3.
Option 2 – Buy or Barter
Procedure: I don’t harvest. Instead I do nothing until I am given the all clear in about 5 years. When I am ready to have a child I can then either buy from a stranger or politely ask a potential partner for their egg. (Thats is a receipe for no-pressure dating).
Pros: I won’t have to take a bunch of hormones and drugs that might increase the cancer.
Cons: I would need to have a tens of thousands of dollars laying around to buy eggs. If I go the potential partner route they would need to be younger, healthy and happy to give up their eggs. It’s an awful lot resting on another person.
Option 3 -Adoption
The procedure: I wait until I get an all clear and then research who will let me adopt. It can be difficult for cancer survivors to adopt. There are some countries that do allow it but many that won’t.
Pros: If I am allowed to adopt I may be able to give a child an awesome start in life that they may not otherwise have had.
Cons: Adoption can be arduous and expensive. It is also not guaranteed due to being a BC survivor. If it is true that having a baby might also provide some level of longevity, as preliminary research shows, I would be taking away that opportunity.
In my 20s I hated Shelby from Steel Magnolia’s with a particularly biting venom. Whenever anyone brought up the play or film I spewed about Shelby’s selfishness. I was incensed that as the audience, we were encouraged to empathise with this stupid cow who couldn’t see beyond the end of her nose. Who couldn’t see that it wasn’t about having a baby but about being a parent for your child, being there as they grow up. I tried to cover up my seething when I spoke because it always took me by surprise when someone would argue her case saying that she really really wanted a baby. As if ‘wanting’ a child was reason enough to have one. The quote “I would rather have thirty minutes of wonderful than a lifetime of nothing special” grated on me because that child had plenty more 30 minutes without their mum.
How would my 25 year old self react if they thought I was turning into Shelby? If like her, I might not be able to adopt. If like her, my life has no guarantees and if like her I start to argue that there is never any guarantees with anyone having a baby. Would my 25 year old self understand or would she be adament as to the wrongness of what I am considering? Does it matter what she would think? My 15 year old self would have just euuu’ed the notion of babies altogether. Is my 36 year old, present self the only one I need to deal with or will my 41 year old self never forgive me for making the wrong decision. Will I become bitter in my unwanted barreness?
Getting Complicated – BRCA
The four letter word in my life is BRCA. It is a test that shows whether or not you have the cancer gene. They want me to take it. I don’t want to.
The BRCA gene basically gives you really shitty odds, saying that you have a high chance of breast and ovarian cancer. This is the news that makes people get double masectomies and hysterectomies. They want me to take it because I am under 40 and it gives an explanation as to why I got breast cancer so early.
If positive, the test says that even if I fight this cancer it can come back. I would prefer not to live like that. I don’t want a double masectomy based on ‘odds’ of what may or may not happen in the future. Percentages mean absolutely nothing unless its you. Percentage wise I shouldn’t have cancer now so why couldn’t the odds work the other way, in my favour. Why couldn’t I be the person with BRCA who only has one outbreak of cancer and then it never happens again. I think I should treat whatever I have right now and not do a premptive major surgery based on some gene prediction test. This test hasn’t been around for a 100 years. It’s not like they have had decades to actually test large samples of people over a long life span. It has to be partially scientific guess work.
The absence of knowing is a good thing for me. I get to be positive about recovery and living a long healthy life. I will always be on alert so I will always be regularly screened. Even if something does come back 10 years from now maybe there will be new advances in treatments and maybe even cures. For me this feels like the best course of action, but what if there was a potential child in the mix?
If I decide to be a mother and I test positive, do I do what Christina Appelgate did and have the double masectomy and then have children. I’d lose my ability to breast feed and there are still no guarantees that cancer wouldn’t come back. Is choosing not to know an irresponsible thing? Or is not knowing and expecting to be healthy more responsible because there are still odds that I might be fine. Maybe believing that it has nothing to do with genes might push me to live healthier. Can optimism make you live longer?
While writing this I have just licked icing off 3 small cupcakes. Thats a sign I won’t make any decisions tonight.