This post first appeared on The Butterfly Mother as part of her guest blogging series on parenting challenges.
The biggest parenting challenge that I faced was my very first one.
Let’s take it right back to the beginning here. Let’s take it right back to….
I know, TOTES INAPPROPES, right?
Well no, actually. See my child was an immaculate conception. No wonder his initials are JC. He wasn’t born in a stable, nor was he visited by wise men bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh (THANK GOD. Who wants myrrh?) but as for his biological father….well, he may as well be the Holy Spirit, for I have never met him.
My son is donor conceived.
For me, the biggest challenge was simply getting the chance to have a child at all.
Many of us face challenges in the course of our parenting journeys (I’m sorry, I just had to use the J word. I know it’s cheesy. I know I sound like a contestant on a reality show auditioning their dog for a part in a musical version of The Wizard of Oz, where they get to play the starring role of Dorothy’s dog. This was a real thing, people. An actual thing).
Anyway, back to the Journey.
Some people find the love of their life, only to find that they cannot conceive; others conceive but cannot carry to term; others face a myriad of challenges once their children are here. I have come to realise that no one has the Happy Ever After so beloved of the classic Disney fairytale.
For me, the challenge was that I never found that great love, the one I wanted to settle down with, to be the father of my hypothetical children. Or maybe he never found me. Maybe we found each other, but we passed like ships in the night. Who knows? I was sick of wondering whether he was out there at all. If I wanted a job, I applied for one, if I wanted to go somewhere, I went. Why did having a baby have to be different? Why did it seem to hang so tenuously on the random hand of fate?
So I made a decision, a decision to cut out the middleman-or rather, to add in quite a few in the form of doctors, nurses and embryologists-and have a baby with donor sperm.
It turns out that choosing a donor is a bit like choosing a Tinder date, but without the sleazy conversation. Swipe right, and you’ll find The One.
Sometimes I look at my son and I wonder about his genetic heritage. Did he get his tendency to throw his toys out of the pram-quite literally-from the donor? Is this a sign of some sort of familial tendency to violence about which I should be alarmed, or is it just a natural part of being a toddler? What about his current obsession with football, and JCBs? Is the donor a mechanical digger-driving footballer, or is this, again, just a typical trait of the average eighteen month old? Why are his eyes such a beautiful shade of hazel-blue, when I barely knew such a colour existed, in my almost exclusively brown-eyed family? And what about his many international siblings-some known, and some unknown. Will they all meet up one day and have some great family reunion on the Equator, or similar neutral location, or will my son shun his genetics and his unusually extended donor family, and see the whole thing as some sort of embarrassment, that’s best left unsaid?
I know that all these challenges are still to come, and I look forward to them with equal amounts of anticipation and anxiety. I can only hope that my son knows how much he was wanted, and how much he is loved.
I also know that I was lucky. I know others who have had long, tortuous journeys to parenthood via this route, encompassing failed IVFs, and plenty of heartache. My Journey was relatively short. It was, however, by a long, long way, the best journey I have ever taken.
A challenge that was definitely worth it.