Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A bit of background

Infertility and surrogacy are part of the plots of several important stories in Judiasm. On Rosh Hashona every year, we hear the haftorah portion about a woman named Hannah, an infertile woman whose husband loves her more than his other wife, who has given him many children. He says to her, why do you weep? Am I not more precious to you than 10 sons? (Hah, I say, get rid of the other wife.) So she goes to the temple to pray for a son, and she's praying so hard that the priest thinks she's drunk. When she finally tells him why she's so bereft, he tells her that God has heard her request, and she conceives a son and dedicates his service to God.

And then there is the story of our matriarchs, Rachel and Leah. Rachel can't conceive at first, and gives Jacob a servant to bear a child on her behalf -- the first recorded surrogacy. Leah does the same, so that Jacob eventually ends up with many children from his two wives and two surrogates. In Anita Diamont's beautiful telling of this story, The Red Tent, she pictures the surrogate actually being held in the arms of the intended mother during labor.

Both of these stories have been in my mind and my imagination for a long time as I thougth about having a family. And having a family -- a Jewish family -- has been something I prayed for over many years. "The Whole Package" as I said to Adam each time he tried to convince me to picture a more "out of the box" life, like buying a bed and breakfast in Costa Rica. Why then, when we are here in India to embark on this journey, do I suddenly feel so worried about actually fulfilling my dream? Maybe I've been an outsider from this continuous chain of human experience for so long that it is hard to come back in. Or maybe Adam's fear of the noise and chaos of an infant have me scared, too. Or maybe I just don't want to come back to Mumbai in a year!

For right now, we are on a plane to Goa, about an hour's flight from Mumbai, for a few days at a yoga center. Adam's sperm has been collected, we have a contract with our surrogate, but the eggs have not been harvested and we have a few days to think before they are implanted. Perhaps, away from the chaos of this city, we'll have time to come to a decision we can both live with.

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