A miracle baby. That’s what my parents always said I was. After 12 years of marriage and much agony, I had been conceived. They had never been so happy. I had never doubted that I was wanted. But there it was… right in the baby book my grandmother had put together for me was a photo of me as an embryo in a Petri dish.
Why did the knowledge that I was conceived by IVF after 8 rounds make me feel so much like a lab rat? Why did it tarnish the feeling of being a miracle? For 21 years I had been led to believe that the only thing that changed when I was conceived was prayer and a miracle. My parents had gotten a lot of people to pray, and I was born… And sure, they did. But they also spent an unbelievable sum on IVF… and kept going beyond reason, it seems to me.
And then… I spent my entire life wanting siblings. My Dad always told me I didn’t have siblings because once I was born he was too enthralled with me to think of having more… a comment that made much more sense now. As did my Mom’s occasional comment that they couldn’t afford trying again.
And now I knew I had siblings. A lot of siblings, probably. Two or three embryos per round, 9 rounds total is a lot of babies. Why me? Why had I survived when none of them did? What would my life have been like if even just one or two of them had lived? Were there any more of us in a freezer somewhere?
I never doubted my parents’ love. I often heard the story of my first ultrasound. How they had seen me on the screen and it looked like my toes were sparkling, leading to the lifelong nickname of Twinkletoes. I had seen the pictures of us after my birth, seen the way my Dad looked at me like I was the center of his world.
I knew my parents loved each other… or at least, I knew they did as a small child. Somewhere when I was a teenager, they grew apart. But they only grew apart emotionally. I have never seen a married couple so codependent. They couldn’t do anything apart.
All a child wants to know is that Dad and Mom love each other and that they are loved. At some point, my parents’ marriage turned into something toxic and unhealthy. When I was 16, my life was punctuated by my Dad accusing my Mom of infidelity and who knows what else. She would just sit there and sob. He actively tried to turn me against her, to the point that he had me convinced for a while that the only solution was for he and I to leave her. But he couldn’t bring himself to actually leave.
It was only when I finally left home as an adult and found myself in a healthy situation that I realized that my Dad had something deeply wrong with him. He has not been diagnosed, but the theory of several professionals is that he has Schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type. That basically means that he has both Bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. And then my therapist began to use the word “abuse” and I realized that abuse didn’t just mean physical blows. Abuse was repeatedly reminding me how much they had wanted me in such a way that I felt like I owed it to them to do everything just like Dad wanted it. Abuse was keeping me tightly isolated from everyone around me so that I didn’t realize things could be different. Abuse was my Dad purposefully giving me the impression that I could lose his love if I didn’t agree with him always.
What does this have to do with my conception? I look at it this way. Somehow, somewhere, my parents developed the idea that they deserved to have a baby, and it didn’t matter how much it cost, how many times it took, or how many died in the process. They deserved a child. And with an attitude like that, by the time I was born they thought they deserved to have the perfect child… as Dad defined a perfect child. And since they deserved a child, I was their property to be controlled, not a person or a gift to be treasured. And when I at last became an adult with my own opinions and thoughts, an adult who could stand up for herself, I was simply removed from their lives. I was no longer the perfect child they had wanted, and they had no use for an independent, high-spirited daughter.
I still am not sure what to do with the knowledge of how I was conceived. But I will grab life by the horns, as it were, and live my life boldly, as one who values everyday of this life… a life that is now fully my own, no matter how it came to be.