Mother Business

October 20, 2009

Yesterday, I met a new client. He has a genetic disorder and a difficult social history, which has led to a number of  medical, behavioral, learning, social, occupational and speech problems. If I were to really do justice to the breadth and depth of his flaws, if I were to describe his physical appearance or things that have happened to him, I would come closer to his identity than I am comfortable with, so unique and fantastic is his constellation of differences. But, within five minutes of meeting him and his guardian, they were mine. Their problems were mine and their possibilities. And everything good or great about their habits or personalities was something special just for me. I have a thing for underdogs and outsiders. I attach quickly.

Tonight, I was listening to two foster parents describe their challenges with one of their foster kids. When he got to their house a few years ago, he deficated and urinated daily, sometimes at school, sometimes at home, sometimes during the day and sometimes at night. But now, he only wets the bed nightly. I found myself thinking, I want that kid. And I pictured me and the Wifebian banding together against such a disgusting, scary problem and how much fun it would be to research and make little charts and think about the problem and cheer one another on. (Notice my daydream did not include doing the laundry).

Then, I think about having kids and ask myself, “What if?” What if a fetus I carried was diagnosed with some physical or genetic defect? My first instinct is to say that I would abort the fetus. But, then, I reflect on the amazing capabilities I demonstrate in my professional life and think, “Of course I could do it.” The other what if goes a little something like, “What if my teenagers steps beyond moody and into suspensions, arrests, drugs, rages?” I think, oh that wouldnt happen to me, but genetics are not on my side when it comes to raising a biological adolescent. I’ve noticed the contradiction though, in the sense that I look forward to the challenge of parenting very difficult foster kids, but that I would really, really like to bear a biological child as beautiful, smart and promising as I fancy myself to be.

Sometimes, I try to imagine what I would do if I was an unpoliticized heterosexual woman being told that my “baby” was “deformed”. Would I “refuse to kill my unborn child”? Would I cling to some concept of “destiny”, some understanding of my egg and my husband’s sperm uniting to create a “soul” and “keep the baby”? Would I wither or recoil faced with the idea of bearing “an ugly, slobbering, dumb kid”?

As it is, I am a queer, politicized social worker to special needs children. I understand every moment of this conception, pregnancy and birth to be weighted with a million choices that Wifebian and I get to make. I believe in disability rights and honestly see the common practice of aborting fetuses with physical and genetic abnormalities as a kind of genocide. I also believe entirely in a woman’s right to an abortion on demand. But, finally, I know that I could not only handle parenting a kid with that kind of diagnosis, but thrive from the challenge of it.

Writing all of this out really brings to mind the moms keeping two blogs in particular and I’d be remiss if I didn’t take a minute to do justice to them and acknowledge that they are living the lives I am currently just imagining.

I don’t have any conclusions about what I would or wouldnt do, what we are and arent capable of, just a little more clarity on the position I’m putting myself in with all this mother business. This weekend, Wifebian signed us up to attend an orientation to foster care at the local DSS. We will be leaving three days after the orientation for sunny San Francisco, where we will be inseminating for the first time.

November’s gonna be deep.

4 Responses to “Mother Business”

  1. A. said

    Oh honey. I think about this stuff obsessively all the time. And as someone who worked with special needs kids/adults for a while (although not as a career), I feel similar conflicts between my pro-choiceness and my revulsion at the idea of aborting a fetus due to a potential disability. I am always afraid to talk about this, so thank you for doing so.

    I can’t tell you how much I love reading your thoughts about your impending motherhood. Considerably more…considered than what you usually see out there and I appreciate your politics.

  2. Meg said

    Hum. I’m not sure that sexual orientation/ politicization matter in this situation, unless you have a political opinion that abortion is wrong, period. But lets take that out of the equation for now. I just don’t know if that is going to be what matters. I *suspect* this is a choice that you can’t make until you are up against it, and that you have a high chance of surprising yourself one way or the other when you do.

    My mom always had a strong opinion on this when I was growing up, that I didn’t understand then, and am still not sure I have the capacity to understand yet. She felt that was that if it was not her first child, and the child would require enormous amounts of care, she would not choose to have it. Not because of her, but because of how it would affect the quality of life of those kids that were already born. I’m not sure I really wrapped my head around that at all until I watched the recent Oprah (god, I’m mentioning Oprah) about a seven year old schizophrenic child. My heart ached for her, with her violent and painful hallucinations 95% of her waking life, but it also ached for her brother, less for his her violence towards him, but for the ways that he would never have his parents full attention.

    So. Yes. I have no idea what I would do. But. You’re wise to ponder it, I think.

  3. mrsbasement said

    wow. I hadnt even taken birth order into account. the most thought we put into that came from Wifebian who is pretty sure that she doesnt want to invite kids needing therapeutic foster care into the house until our own (and first) kid can walk and talk. And that is for the purpose of protecting that child from physical, verbal and sexual abuse that the foster kid might be acting out. i think we garnered that pearl of wisdom from a new, older lesbian friend who has a lot of years of experience working with DSS.

  4. MamaDeux said

    I think about this stuff a lot, too. I was raised by a fervent pro-lifer who always said: “whatever God gives me, I can bear.” I remember clearly that she refused an amnio when she was pregnant with my youngest brother (she was 39) and had to really fight the drs on it. She’s tough and principled but I also think a little crazy on this front. We’ve never agreed on it and stopped talking for months when I took an internship with NARAL back in college (she showed me a picture of a preemie in an incubator that summer and shouted: ‘you want to murder this baby!’ OMG). But now that my lady and I trying so hard to get pregnant, I can’t imagine having to make a decision about termination. Ugh, I just don’t know. That said, I worry far more about the whole what-if-my-teenager-self-destructs thing. So much addiction in my family and hometown that set in during adolescence. What if my own kid succumbs? All I can hope is that educated parents and a strong community will offset the risk…

    Anyway, good luck with the process of starting the fostering and TTC process at once! As Uno is a social worker too, we talk a lot about fostering – so many needy kids. It’s probably in the cards for the future.

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