- Posted March 5, 2013 by
New York, New York
This iReport is part of an assignment:
The written word: Your personal essays
In Search of Emma
To have a child I lost five.
From the first day I decided to become a father, with the help of a gestational mother and an egg donor, I had to battle against disappointments, overcome losses, and I began keeping a journal. I don’t have faith in memory.
Since I usually forget misfortunes - and in this ordeal one lives in a state of shock - the key was to record my adventure in black and white.
Why this obsession with having a child? In all honesty, I don’t have an answer.
I always knew I would be a father, even since childhood.
I got married upon turning twenty - she was eighteen - and for two years we avoided pregnancy at all costs. We were very young and we were both studying. But when I graduated and college life came to an end, we decided to get a divorce.
By losing the opportunity to become a father in the way society expects it, the possibilities of having a child were reduced. Or widened, as some prefer to see it.
I remember that in the late nineties, in a pathetic corporate exercise, it occurred to the editor of the magazine where I worked – and still work – to gather the entire team around an oval table in a dark conference room.
The idea was that each one of us had to reveal something personal, something of which the others would never expect. The goal? To become closer.
Some displayed their souls for interior design, others their altruistic essence, some their athletic sides, others the real estate agent they had inside.
My turn came near the end of that eternal round and I blurted out the first thing that came to mind. "I’m in the process of adopting a child." I said it like that, as someone might say: "Today, I’m in the mood for steak and fries". What had been a secret - I hadn’t told any one in my family yet – I decided to share with my colleagues.
Everyone was stunned. No one expected it.
I hadn’t anticipated the news’ immediate impact, but since then, my fatherhood plans have always been an open book for those around me.
The Ukraine was first on my list. I still receive emails from their adoption groups. It was one of the few countries that had laws that were somewhat lenient allowing a man my age, a U.S. citizen, to adopt. Most of the countries that offered the possibility of adoption restricted it to married couples and several had age limits. And the whole process could take approximately three to five years.
I went to orphanages in Romania, the Ukraine and Russia, where I was invaded by the faces of children that were piled up in dirty and worn-down cradles. I exchanged letters with parents frustrated by the process and with some who had overcome the obstacles and now had a baby under their roof.
The deeper I went into the world of adoption the more I was convinced that it wasn’t the method for me.
I was not prepared for the entire screening process before and after having a baby, or the constant visits to your home to assess your work as a father, and the terrible and eternal possibility that because of an unexpected and merciless bureaucratic decision, that child, who needs you almost to breathe and that has become your daughter or son, can be taken away from you in the blink of an eye.
Today those times seem to me very far away and, when I go back, what scares me the most is that I can now tell in a paragraph what took years of my life.
One day when I arrived to my office I discovered the editorial proofs for the first edition of People Weekly magazine, a privilege we have for working for the same publishing group. In that issue, which was a few days away from hitting the stands, I first read a brief article that, if someone had told it to me before, I would have thought it science fiction.
A thrity-nine-year-old man from Phoenix, Arizona had become a father through a gestational mother. The child, a beautiful girl who weighed over eight pounds, was his baby, biologically and legally. The embryo the gestational mother carried in her womb had been conceived with the prospective father’s sperm and the egg of a donor.
The man, who had been married for a short period of time and had struggled for many years to accept his homosexuality, was determined to have a child. How? An ad from the agency, Surrogate Mothers, Inc., which offered its services for egg donation and gestational mothers, became the solution. The problem was that, being a single man, many of the candidates refused to work with him. There were even two doctors who refused to do the in vitro fertilization because he had no partner. The ordeal was finding an egg donor and a gestational mother who would do it, until his guardian angel turned up: a woman in her thirties, who had her own children and who accepted working with him. How much was the process? More than $ 40,000, legal and medical expenses not included.
I would have to overcome many obstacles, but I didn’t care. It would be a wearing down process, so what? It would cost a fortune – for which I didn’t have - but I’d find a solution.
Ultimately, more than surprised and full of hope, I called the agency in charge of that genetic juggling and thus began this incredible journey in search of Emma. In the end, I didn’t have my daughter with that agency; it took another four years after reading the article and Emma’s birth for there to be accidents, disappointments and failures. But at that moment I felt confident that becoming a father could be something more than a utopia.
While writing these lines, and as I tend to forget bad times, I’m in the process of trying to have another child again. I have returned to contracts, statutory consultations, the search for the same egg donor, reaching a monetary agreement, creating the embryos, and trying to get the same gestational mother to take my baby in her womb. Emma deserves a brother or sister. When I finished writing the last page, I received the news that Mary, the gestational mother, was pregnant with twins: one female and one male.
These pages are an attempt to trap the memories. They’re written for Emma with the idea of helping her understand how she came into the world. It’s a conversation that started November 14 at 4:27 pm in San Diego, California, when I heard her cry for the first time.
May they serve, in turn, to all those who want to fulfill the dream of having a child, either through in vitro, artificial insemination, with the help of an egg donor or a surrogate mother. They were years of searching, full of mishaps, accidents and frustrations, but that’s part of the past now.
Today, when bedtime rolls around and I go with my daughter to her room to browse the legends of enchanted princesses and animals, she asks me to read, In Search of Emma, to her as well.
It is not this book, of course, but a smaller version that I made with pictures from the day we conceived her until she was born.
At three years old, Emma already knows about the embryo that grew slowly in Mary’s womb; of the small cell that Karen, the egg donor, provided; about the day that I cut the umbilical cord; about how I cried with happiness as I saw her arrive to this world. And when I finish reading the last page, Emma hugs me and whispers to me in a hushed voice, as if she were trusting me with a great secret, "Dad, this is my favorite book."