I’m sure it was a Christmas Eve when I was in middle school. I had just been at a Christmas Eve program at church, and I went over to my youth pastor’s house for some iced tea or hot chocolate. She and I were talking about my future, and I was likely teasing her about being our pregnant substitute. She had had three boys in quick succession, and to a middle school student who was somewhat of a brat, her pregnancies seemed to melt into one long one where she was pregnant for about four years solid. I knew it wasn’t possible to have a pregnancy that long, but her large belly was how we differentiated her from her mother-in-law who was also a teacher in our building. In true middle school fashion, we referred to them as the pregnant Mrs. Wolfgang and the old Mrs. Wolfgang. Creative.
Anyway, it was Christmas Eve, and I was taking up her time, helping her last-minute wrap packages, and eating potato wedges from the VP. Well, she was eating potato wedges. I was eating their big, doughy bread sticks, each one like a half-done loaf of bread dipped in spicy cheese sauce that scalded the roof of my mouth. As we wrapped packages, the topic of my future came up. I was dating this really giant jackass of a boy at the time, but I had some inklings about my sexuality, which didn’t come up until much (as in about five years) later, but I remember the conversation steering toward whether or not I was hoping to have children in the future. This was likely Susan’s way of getting me to talk about why I needed to break up with a guy who would eventually scar me ways I still deal with on occasion. I was adamant that I would not have children. Ever. We joked about it for a bit, making small talk about how much fun I would have wrapping presents for my own children one day. No, in fact, I will not have my own children, I insisted. I was so definitive about this idea that I signed and dated the potato wedge wrapper. “I, Corby Roberson, will never have children.” I suppose it would’ve been dated December 24, 1987 (?). I was that certain. No children. Ever. For me.
Fast forward a bit to a conversation with my two friends, Kelly and Kelley, who insisted that at some point my desire to have children would surface. I was finished with my first master’s degree, and, truth be told, the desire had already surfaced, but I saw no way to make it happen. I was, after all, in a long-term relationship with another woman, too poor to adopt, and too poor to get inseminated. However, I stuck by my previous proclamation that I wanted no children. I still say that sometimes when the pain is more than I can bear.
I’m 39 years old now, and I desperately want a child. Of my own. I don’t talk about it a lot, because I don’t want to sound like I am not grateful for all the blessings I do have in my life. And I also don’t talk about it, because I don’t want to hear the pat answers that people provide for me. Trust me when I tell you that people are just as insensitive to women, like me, who want a child, but can’t have one (for whatever reason) as they are to women who have had miscarriages or who have lost children. Frequently I get told, because I teach, “but look at all the children you do have.” That’s really similar to saying, “Well, God needed another angel right now.” Both are trite, pat answers that do the person to whom you’re speaking no good. My desire to have my own child is not assuaged by your need to point out how I’ve poured my life into other people’s children. I do love teaching and working with students or I wouldn’t do it, but please don’t make that synonymous with my having my own children. I don’t get to read those children to sleep at night, or dig my toes into the mud puddles with them. I don’t get to teach them to play games, or throw a ball. I don’t get to draw and play and act silly and take walks with and feed and clothe and unconditionally love and discipline and do all those things that parents do with those children. I’m not minimizing my relationship with my godchildren or any other child with whom I have a close relationship. But, folks, it isn’t the same.
Fast forward some more to this Christmas Eve and my sonic melt down. It wasn’t pretty. I hid in the bathroom and cried. I didn’t even tell my kindhearted wife. I was sad beyond belief, and I still sort of am. I am teaching full time, because I made the mistake of thinking my insurance would cover artificial insemination, because the insurance I had at Starbucks did. I made the mistake of thinking that teaching full time would somehow enable me to have a child, but mostly what it has done is add a lot of stress to my life and disable my ability to finish my dissertation. Basically, at Christmas Eve I felt a bit like Charlie at the end of the first Willy Wonka movie: “You get nothing. You lose. Good day, sir.” Since the new year has come, and I’ve refocused my goals, the feeling of loss, mourning, sadness, or whatever you want to call it has gone away a bit, so I’m not where I was on Christmas Eve, but I still wish there was a way I could change things.
I don’t even have to have the child myself. I’d happily adopt. Would I prefer to have the child myself? Yes. I’d love to experience pregnancy and all of its ups and downs. I’m so jealous sometimes that I can hardly look at or revel in other women’s joy as they take week by week photographs of their extending, child-laden bellies. They’re beautiful. Their bodies are beautiful. Their faces are joyful. But it makes me sad. So sad most times. Sometimes I can get past the feeling of sadness and be so happy for them. But other times I just have to click past the images on Facebook or in emails.
I guess what it boils down to is the title of this blog: Can I just buy some sperm and make a baby? In Indiana, the answer is no. I can’t even buy sperm from a bank and have it delivered to me, as I could in 27 other states. So, basically, the way to get a baby in Indiana is through foster care, which almost never works without more heartache than anything, or through paying for insemination in a clinic, or the good old fashioned way. No thanks. 😉
Maybe what I am trying to get out with all of this soul purging is three-fold. I want insurance to provide for women who are in my situation, so we can have access to AI. Or I want adoption to be more affordable. And I want for people realize that teaching, pastoring, mentoring students is different from having a child of my own. And, I want to stop pretending that I don’t want children. I do want a child. I want one pretty badly. I’ve got just a couple more years. A woman can dream, right?