Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Gratitude

Until a few days ago, I wasn't feeling very Christmassy. I was preoccupied with practical details like checking all the presents were bought, arrangements for lunch and making sure our removalists etc were ready for our move to the new house.

But I did gradually get into it. FTN's Christmas post touched my heart a little bit, with its image of the Christ child being born into the shit of this world.

The sermon and the singing at the church I went to was also surprisingly moving. This was probably helped by the fact that the sermon was given by a frank-talking woman about my age who felt free to give the patriarchy a serve from the pulpit (not her main message, but still, she had guts, I thought). I was impressed that the church seemed very focused on doing practical good in the local community - helping people to rebuild a house burnt down by fire, buying presents for young teenagers whose parents couldn't afford them, running playgroups, including playgroups for single dads. I was also quite impressed that they ran a "blue Christmas" service for people who had experienced loss or sadness during the year and were not feeling very joyful. That shows quite a lot of sensitivity to how difficult Christmas can be for some people.

As you know, I have kind of a bleak view of churches, but possibly, just possibly, I might go again to this one. After all, if I am not willing to go to a church like this, then I will have to acknowledge that I am not even willing to give them a chance.

I thought a lot about the friends I visited and our children and my friend's pregnancy. I dwelt more and more of the image of the Christ child.

I started to feel... grateful. Grateful for blessings received.

But you know who I am really, truly, bottom-line grateful to?

Our sperm donor.

I thought about him quite a lot this Christmas. There are small mysteries about our Little Dude. While he looks very much like me, there is that X factor that is from someone else - he has that particular coppery highlight to his hair, those long, long eyelashes. Things that don't come from my family. These things remind me that he has a donor.

When I was younger, I would probably have thought that sperm donors were your careless young medical students, probably rampaging around drunkenly after a night on the town and making an impulsive decision to add to their beer money through a quick one off the wrist. Money for jam, right?

In fact, in Australia, the process of donating is quite gruelling and donors are not paid. They receive a small amount for expenses but, given the inconvenience of the process, including time spent being tested, attending the compulsory counselling session, filling out a comprehensive medical history and attempting to masturbate successfully into a little cup in an uncomfortably clinical room (not as easy as we might think), there is no way that they are fully reimbursed.

And then, there is the psychological issue of being a donor - knowing that, somewhere, you have children that you may never see, wondering if they might contact you one day, thinking about what kind of relationship (if any) you may be willing to have with them, dealing with any impact of the decision to donate on your own family life in the future, dealing with the risk that ever-improving genetic screening techology and frequently-changing laws on donor anonymity will make your "anonymous" donation no longer anonymous. All of these issues are creating a great shortage of donor sperm in Australia.

I would never dispute that sperm donors have a mix of personal reasons for donating. But, whatever our donor's reasons were, the process itself and the lack of serious financial reward suggest that at least one of those reasons had to be just plain generosity and altruism.

And by doing all of that, our donor made it possible for me to have the gift of my Little Dude. He basically gave me the gift of a child, which is the most precious gift that anyone could ever have given me. The one thing I truly wanted for my own life and an answer to the terrible fear that I would not be able to.

There is something so moving about the idea that a stranger, someone who never even met me, would be willing to do that for me.

I am truly grateful to that man. I will always think of him with gratitude for the gift of my Beautiful Boy. Wherever he goes, whatever he does with the rest of his life, nothing will undo the good that he has done in our lives. There will always be one family here on this planet, wishing him well and regarding him as our good angel.

76 Comments:

Blogger kissmekate said...

What a beautiful post Emily! aving a child is such a precious thing and there is nothing that compares to it.

I cannot begin to think of the emotional rollercoaster infertility creates. I am one of the blessed women that thinks about falling pregnant and conceives!

But I am so glad that there are people that are so willing to give couples the precious gift of a child through a donation of sperm and eggs.

If only there were many more unselfish people in the world.....who knows what sort of place we would be living in.

4:23 PM  
Blogger Desmond Jones said...

Thanks for this post, Em. I am reminded of something that Peter Kreeft said once - that the Incarnation means that God Himself stepped into our shit. And the implications of that for human life and dignity are enormous. . .

Molly had a very poignant conversation with my sister-in-law over Christmas. She and my brother have a daughter who was conceived by IVF (tho with my brother's sperm, not a donor). Since the 'procedure', they have maintained four frozen embryos against the possibility that they would someday want another child. They had a second daughter conceived 'normally', and have decided that 'two is enough', and they face the question of what to do with the frozen embryos, especially since the cost of keeping them frozen is rising significantly.

They have decided to donate the embryos to another infertile couple, which, I think, is very noble, given the range of options they are presented with. For my sister-in-law, it winds up feeling remarkably similar to what our daughter went thru giving her daughter up for adoption - this is her own flesh-and-blood, going away to be raised by someone else. As I said, very poignant.

And I understand the poignancy of your situation, and the connection of you and your family, in the person of the Little Dude, to an unknown person 'out there somewhere'. And, I also understand that gratitude is a very appropriate response to the gifts we are given. . .

Blessings to you and your family. . .

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