My doctor is pregnant. She’s a thin, elegant dermatologist who went through a bitter divorce and custody battle that lasted long after her separation from her husband. She had seemed strung out over the whole thing, and I was surprised to find her pregnant again.
It turns out that she is the third of my acquaintances who has not met Mr. Right and so is having a baby on her own.
The first was an attorney I worked for from 1986-90. Everyone knew she was a lesbian. So when she called me into her office to tell me she was pregnant, I was confused, and blurted out, “Who is the father?” She handled my question calmly, “Oh, the father is not going to figure in this.”
I could see a brew of toxic problems arising. What if the donor (we all thought we knew who he was) wanted to take part in the child’s life? What if she and her partner separated, as they did about a year later? I foresaw a new kind of custody battle. They worked it out between themselves and the partner has parental rights over the child though her DNA is not carried on in her. Mostly, I wondered how a mother raises a child telling her she just doesn’t have a father. The last time I saw my old boss, she said she wanted to get married – to a man. “I’m tired of being different,” she said.
The second is a divorced friend who at 42 decided to have a baby on her own. The doctors recommended borrowing ovum and sperm, which she did. It turned out to be twins, and all three of them nearly died around the time of childbirth, but all three are now thriving. She has a nanny for the kids and help around the house, and continues thrilled to have her kids. I know how miserable she was she thought she would never have kids. Once someone said, “Oh, she looks just like you!” about the girl twin. I winked at my friend. She and her son and her daughter are not even related. It reminds me of the line from the film “Fanny.” A young French girl gets pregnant by a sailor who abandons her. Cesar, an older man, marries Fanny and raises the child as his own. When the sailor comes back and wants to reclaim the child, a wise neighbor says, “How many pounds do you think that boy weighs now?” “About 60,” says the sailor/father. “Well, eight of those are yours, and every one of those other pounds belongs to Cesar.” Beginning at just a few ounces at most, every bit of those twins belongs to my friend. She went through hell to have them.
And today, there was my doctor. In vitro childbirth is now hohum, but questions still remain. She had frozen her ova so could use her own. I asked how she had decided on the father, and she laughed and said it was like match.com. After vetting the health status of the donor, she chose a man who had dark hair and eyes as she does. She saw a picture of the man when he was 7 years old and said he was cute. When I asked about the “Who is my father?” question she gave an interesting answer. For starters, the father of the boy she already has is no gift. She noted that children born to two-parent families often do not do well. She then said that she would explain to her older boy that she wanted another child, and is in a position to have one (nanny, her mother lives in the same building), and she wanted him to have a sibling. (It’s a girl, by the way.) She gave her guidelines, “Everything I tell him, and her, later on, will be positive. I won’t be defensive if I can help it.”
And then there is the fact that I personally know three women who took matters into their own hands. One could assume that there are thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of women in the same position all over the country, so this will not be so strange by the time this baby grows up.
I understand her choice, and might have made the same gamble myself. My doctor also distrusts marriage, and went through a horrible custody battle, and now the custody will always and indisputably be hers, though I can think of some situations where a long-time companion might claim some rights there.
I also note that all three of these women were wealthy; a lawyer, a high-powered saleswoman, and a dermatologist. A poor or middle class woman could not afford such babies.
These are situations which have never before existed in the history of mankind, and we’ll have to learn how to deal with them.