I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about my father.
He died when I was little because he was sad and chose to numb the pain with drugs. Before that he was largely absentee, so his death didn’t change much in the day-to-day life of my nine-year-old self. Besides, my mother’s drug abuse, alcoholism, and physical abuse in combination with abject poverty was enough to keep me occupied such that I’m not sure I ever really had the luxury of worrying about whether or not I had a dad to offer the kind of love and support dads offer until I became an adult, at which point it was old news.
But the start of the cycle and the approaching reckoning has reawakened the bogeyman, and I found myself roiling around in a that weepy, pensive space inhabited by donor-egg fears for most of the weekend; it was nice–that brief time I was able to swat this stuff away and indulge in the charms of summer because nothing was happening yet. Suddenly the idea of daddies floats to the surface in a way that’s strangely interconnected with the launch of this final OE cycle, having finally gotten my surge on Saturday and thus a real calendar and “D-day” (which is how I think of the day-5 update on the embryology report).
Allow me to explain.
B and I spent Sunday at the beach with friends of ours and their two daughters, who are five and three. These friends have the following parenting dynamic: my girlfriend (let’s call her Alyssa) is the caretaker who handles all the serious business of scheduling nannies and activities and play dates; she manages dinner, housework, bedtime, stories, school, and all the other practical needs; she does much of this on her own because her husband (we’ll call him Nick) works evenings. Nick is fun-daddy. He is a loving and involved father, and it was nice for Alyssa to be able to have adult conversation with me and B at the beach because Nick kept the girls fully entertained with sandcastle-making, shell-collecting, etc. There were thousands of baby clams washing up on the shore, which would then burrow into the sand underneath our feet as we stood in the waves. Nick took the kids to collect sand and clams and sea water to bring back to the blanket so they could scatter them into their bright yellow beach pails and watch them burrow over and over. The girls were rapt, and the scene of three of them under the shade of the umbrella–their mutual bliss and adoration, daddy and his little girls–clocked me over the head with a complicated set of feelings that I didn’t expect.
(1) This is what was taken from me.
Wow, where did that come from? Well, okay, this subject is feeling raw and fresh because of my session with Vince the day before, the day of the surge, the day he kicked the hornets’ nest and then went on vacation for the rest of the summer. Who’s Vince? Vince is a euphemism for my extraordinarily warm and terrifyingly incisive therapist. With his collared shirts and mustache and nice-guy persona, B and I can’t help but think of this scene from Jack the Bear:
Okay, Dr. Vince is not a cheeseball like fictional movie-Vince, but this is the visual I conjure of him circa 1979 when I was first coming into the world on a little island in the Caribbean into the care of a pair of damaged, stunted, overgrown teenagers and he was breaking out into his early career with a freshly pressed PhD. He is probably around the same age my father would be if he were still here, and I imagine his kids are similar in age to me and my brother, maybe a smidge younger. In our last couple of sessions, with the approaching summer vacation, he has been talking about going cross-country to bring his daughter home from the West Coast, where she has lived until now, I gather, because she is homesick. Gosh, this is such a foreign, sitcom-y scenario. She has a family normal enough to miss, so Daddy’s coming out to rescue her, help her move, and then they shall drive together–just the two of them–for a week or two while bonding over good music and natural wonders: an actual warm and yummy father-daughter relationship that endures and strengthens through the phases of diapers to playgrounds to boyfriends to graduation ceremonies and beyond until you’re two adults in a car, laughing and blasting the stereo, happy…lucky enough to be Vince’s little girl. That scene on the beach, this scene in the car: this is the first thing that was taken from me. I’m not sure I ever longed for it like this until now. Cue sharp inhale: that stings.
(2) This is what “D-day” threatens to take from me.
My husband is a gentle soul and a natural-born “daddy.” When I met him, that carnal attraction stemmed from watching his kindness toward the waitress, his tenderness toward his mother and his kitten, his patience and humor with his developmentally disabled clients, an ease and magnetism with children. He has replaced much of what was taken by the trauma of my childhood–healed my wounds with his love; he is my protector, my nurturer; he finds happiness in doting on me and makes me laugh every single day. It is magical, and I feel so lucky not only to have this man as my husband but to have had the wherewithal to have chosen him as the father for my children. When I see my husband with other people’s children–on the floor, big smile, right in the middle of their games like one of the kids–it deepens my love for him so much it hurts a little, the kind of love that makes you want to cry, makes it hard to breathe. And I think, when Vince’s wife kissed him goodbye at the airport, I’m sure she didn’t feel threatened or left out because her husband’s relationship with her daughter probably has much the same effect; when Nick was playing with the girls on the beach, Alyssa’s response might have vacillated somewhere in the range of joy, gratitude, love, or (probably, chiefly, if we’re being honest) relief to catch a break, but certainly not jealousy.
Will I get that kind of simplicity? It seems unlikely after so many failed cycles that my eggs will turn out to be viable. To what extent would donor eggs make me feel like an outsider in my own family? This is my deepest and most paralyzing fear–all of them on one genetic team, and me, a separate fragment not bound by blood. I want to look at my husband with my children and feel that uncomplicated love, unpolluted by insecurities and competition. My first family was so fractured and diseased that I desperately need my new family to be…normal, to create what was denied. But here, again, something feels like it is being taken, and it’s almost too much to bear. And I should feel hope right now, gratitude that I have the resources and freedom to cycle at CCRM, to have another chance at this. But I feel like I’m walking the plank, and I can’t seem to find my way out of this funk.