It’s always funny when you hear people trying to quantify motherhood. Everyone always knows who would make the best kind of parent, and who definitely should not procreate. Most people agreed that abusive, negligent people shouldn’t be parents, but a lot of people also felt that some women just weren’t maternal enough.
Despite all the progression that has been made by feminists, there still exists a certain mould that would-be Mums need to fit into.
For instance, if you’re career-driven and well-travelled with a lot of care for your financial status, then you’re considered to be far less maternal than the barefoot-and-pregnant girls who grew up playing house with Barbie dolls – the type of women who married their high-school sweethearts and spent all of their child’s formative years at home, making perfect crafts and perfect home recycling systems for their Instagram feeds. Such people also often seemed to be born with the perfect body for childbearing, bringing their infants into the world effortlessly in expensive private hospitals without a ton of interventions.
If you’re a gay parent, you are definitely seen to be further outside of the Mummy-mould because you have to create a family in a way that some would consider to be scientific and clinical, rather than as an act of physical love, which has been built up as the high-watermark of “normal” motherhood. It’s all about love, after all.
I was definitely never the Barbie-child, and I put off having children in my early 20s because I chased career goals and stability. As an intellectual who didn’t much like hugs, I often feared that people would see me as some kind of rigid, refrigerator parent who couldn’t put my textbooks down long enough to attend to my child.
With all that being said, my son, Soren Harry Forrester Miles, is my entire world. I know that everyone thinks their progeny is the most beautiful thing to ever grace the Earth, but I honestly believe it’s true. He is perfect. Although he is an IVF baby, I didn’t spend years trying or squander tens of thousands to get him. He was a first-time fluke.
“This first cycle is purely diagnostic,” the nurse had explained.
“It’ll give us a better picture of your hormones so we can get closer to success. After all, the embryo grade is BC – it didn’t divide quickly, so it’s unlikely to implant. This is all par for the course.”
I remember asking if that meant it was a poor-quality baby. I meant a baby born with sickness or challenges, but it came out in poor taste.
“Oh, no!” She laughed.
“It just means you won’t get pregnant first go. Your baby will be as bright as any other.”
Like any parent, I wanted my child to have the best chance of a full life. Because I was a worrier by nature, I ruminated about all the things that could go wrong. Even though my child didn’t exist then, I still wanted them to have the best start I could give.
With our low chances in mind, we planned a wedding, I wrote a children’s book, and we both signed up for masters degrees. The night of the embryo transfer, I released my book and sat up all night with pizza and my laptop, filling over a hundred book orders when I was really supposed to be feet up with Valium and a nice, cold glass of water.
The next day, we took a flight to Cairns for a much-needed holiday and to keep our mind off the two week wait. We stayed in a cheap Air BnB and I lay in the backseat of one of my best friend’s 4X4s, inserting vaginal pessaries and taking in the rainforest surroundings.
Ah, the serenity.
Just a few years prior, we had started the whole IVF process. Despite watching other co-workers falling pregnant to IVF around me, I was denied access to my sick leave because it was considered elective, given my relationship status.
In the end, I took a fake (cough cough) sickie and, full of artificial hormones, laid back and had my eggs extracted. Six, in total.
Making an IVF baby was hardly an experience in love.
In the week following this process, my six eggs sat in dishes with donor sperm. I had to call the clinic every day to ask how many embryos were still dividing.
Six…. Then five… then four…. Then three… then two.
Three thousand nine hundred dollars and we got two embryos, one of which barely made it to freeze. I couldn’t believe it. I was despondent.
Nonetheless, my two ice-ice babies went into the freezer for later, until such a time when I wasn’t sneaking around behind my employer’s back to get stabbed with needles and hormones. My wife, Natalie, would not permit me to go ahead until I was happier at work.
While I waited and looked for other jobs, the baby’s nursery was set up in our home, taunting me through the closed door. We moved to a neat new apartment and set it up again in our humble abode, and it became a bleak and constant reminder of our social infertility – the fact that we were being forced to put family life on hold because of our circumstances.
When the day of transfer finally came, I was so ready to be a Mum. The compounded misery of what was realistically only a few short years was finally going to extinguish.
I couldn’t wait.
As I leaned back, floating high on Valium and with my feet in stirrups, I was still somewhat hopeful that it could just work the first time. After all, we had employed the help of a fertility gun who had been in the game since the first IVF babies were being born in Brisbane, in a time when doctors still smoked around tables while they discussed baby-making.
In the days before the transfer, I had been indulging in weekly massages and nightly meditations in the bath. Our chances may have been low, but before the two-week wait was up, I had peed on more than fourteen sticks. The lines got darker with every passing day. They’d told us at the clinic to never pee on a stick because the injectable hormones could give a false positive, but we were clinging to any positives we could.
We’d given it our best shot, and it had worked.