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Thoughts on pregnancy, shards and Yom Kippur

September 18, 2010

For Jews, today is the most solemn, reflective day of the year: Yom Kippur. Last night, during the Kol Nidre service — the opening ceremonies, as it were — I noticed how many of the prayers treat our bodies as the possessions of God. (Atheists and agnostics — I count myself among the latter — hang with me for a moment.)

Consider the prayer Ki Hinei Kachomer, which compares humans to clay in the hands of the potter, stones in the hands of the mason. We may think about ourselves as raw materials — the clay, the stone, the glass — in the hands of God, to be crafted as he so chooses.

So what do we do when God didn’t craft us the way we would like?

My partner wasn’t crafted the way he would like. He found out two years ago that he suffered from multiple sclerosis and not only did his future change, but so did the dream of our family. Adoption, something I had planned on since I was 20, was out the window. We were told repeatedly — by doctors, by adoption experts — that it would be almost impossible for us to adopt as a couple. Our only option was for My Young Man to move out of my home and pretend we were not in a relationship for the two years minimum until adoption was finalized. We seriously considered doing it, until the pain on his face and in his voice revealed the folly of this idea.

It has been hard to let go of my dream of adoption. I loved the idea of taking care of a life that had already arrived in this world, but in this country, you are better off as a single woman adopting than as a single woman and a man with a disability.

Too bad we found all this out when I hit 42, and my own odds for procreation had dwindled down to somewhere between a Powerball ticket and a prayer. So My Young Man and I ended up somewhere I thought I would absolutely never be — in the office of a fertility clinic, discussing the very invasive, very expensive and very strange process of using an egg donor.

I’ll admit it now, as the book of this past year is closing: My name is Liesel, and I am a judgmental person. I judged the idea of reproductive assistance to be incredibly indulgent. Why would someone spend so much money just to procreate when there were so many children waiting to be adopted? What kind of person thinks that his genes have to be continued, that her body has to produce the baby?

I learned two important lessons, one new and one familiar: The first: I am a judgmental person. The second: When we make plans (or pronouncements), God (or the universe, or the adoption agency) laughs. And now, here I am, sticking a needle into my belly fat every night, grateful for the excess that cushions the blow. Taking birth control pills as a way of getting pregnant. Mixing the genes of people I may never meet.

But how will God feel about this vessel going beyond his plans? Can the vessel shape itself? If God gave us the incredible capacity of our brains and our scientific abilities, will God approve of our uses of them?

I’d like to think God will. My God is not a micromanager. Surely if these wheels are in motion, God is the one who allowed it, and surely a decision made so much from the desire to give love to a child cannot, in the end, be a sin.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Mac permalink
    September 19, 2010 8:22 am

    Liesel, God will, if for no other reason than S/he has bestowed upon us the gift of brains, technology, and the ability to make both our bodies and our world a better place. You are engaging in a gift from God, not thwarting a divine plan. Hang in there!

    • September 19, 2010 9:37 am

      Thanks! I just think it’s an intriguing question to ponder … particularly on an evening when the prayer book told us that one of the punishments for sin was “childlessness.” And … that brings us back to the omnipresent reminder that these books were written by men. Because there was no punishment of “impotence,” or of “penis falling off in a tragic vending machine accident.”

  2. neutron permalink
    September 20, 2010 8:26 pm

    “surely a decision made so much from the desire to give love to a child cannot, in the end, be a sin.”

    Beautifully said, sister… and that’s coming from someone who doesn’t even care enough to call herself an atheist. Any deity I’d potentially be down with would see your sincerity and depth of character and give you a pass on any demerits for sin along the way.

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