How To Make A Baby

How To Make A Baby November 6, 2014

Let me share with you two articles that I never would have put together except for the very, very different ways in which they approach human procreation.

The New York Times had one of those #FirstWorld, first person narratives by the spouse of a lesbian couple desperate to get pregnant. As it turns out, a friend and her husband decide that they will donate his sperm to this woman and her spouse. The author flies out to collect the sperm and inseminate herself. Here’s how she describes the process of making a baby:

I had packed some corn-griddle cakes with black beans for Wilson [her sperm donor], thinking it could be funny but also seem like a sweet barter exchange. My friend kept the car purring at the curb as I paced outside Wilson’s stoop until he emerged, handed over the jar with its precious contents and gave me a quick hug. Then off we went, my friend peeling out as I pushed the jar under my shirt for warmth.

Back at her place, with my hips hoisted on pillows, I used an oral syringe to inseminate myself. Devoid of any sexual act, I felt like an amoeba trying to reproduce itself, or a teenager experimenting with a bizarre science project. I didn’t feel like an adult or mother. I certainly didn’t feel like this could ever result in a gorgeous, sweet baby. [Emphasis mine.]

Anyone who’s even the least familiar with my thoughts and views knows that I’m not a fan of assisted reproductive technologies (ART) and that I thoroughly agree with the teachings of the Catholic Church.

But this description was not written by me. It’s written by someone on board with the idea of separating procreation from sex.

The second article was in the National Catholic Reporter, written by Melinda Henneberger. The article investigates allegations that throughout the 1970s and into the 1990s children in Chile were stolen from the poor to be given to the rich, often with the help of Catholic institutions.

Can I believe it? Yep. The Catholic Church does not always execute her plans perfectly. She’s made up of fallible human beings who are also influenced by the surrounding culture. History is replete with examples of institutions, religious and governmental, deciding that they know better than the individuals in question.

Is it true? Possibly. We’ll see what comes out as the investigation proceeds.

But here’s what struck me about the article: the articulation of how new life is brought into the world.

One of the couples interviewed are Hernán and Rosa, a farm hand and a seasonal worker respectively, whose healthy twins supposedly died soon after birth. However, they were given no documentation and never saw the infants’ bodies, etc. They still hope that their sons are alive and that they might meet them despite potentially significant disparities in their socioeconomic status. Here’s the beautiful part, when their father describes how they came to be:

“They were created by love,” Hernán added softly.

I’m not saying that the lesbian couple does not experience love or that they do not love their son. However, the stories of how each family came to “make” their children is vastly different when you listen to their own words. These are their stories told in their own words, not mine.

I searched for the word “love” in the NYT story. Couldn’t find it. If you find that I’ve missed it let me know.

While hopefully motivated by love, I can’t get over the sort of mechanistic approach that the first couple engages in. In fact, the other spouse is not even present for the do-it-yourself insemination and a little of the tension that she might be feeling as the non-biological parent of her son comes out in the article.

Now, to be fair, there are plenty of heterosexual couples who go about making a baby in the same way. Those who struggle with infertility might seem pretty mechanical about the whole process of love making/sex even if they aren’t using ART. There are also those who create babies without even thinking about it or without being intentional in their expression of love for each other or for the children they might create.

But I remain struck by the articulation of the couple in Chile, the husband’s words, “They were created by love.” It’s pure St. John Paul II. He said that children deserved to be created as a result of love. [If you know the exact reference for this, do let me know!]

And, again, to be fair, the first couple would probably make a very compelling argument that their child was created by love, including the generosity of the donor couple. However, the author never uses the word “love” herself.

Two narratives about making a baby, set apart by decades, culture, socioeconomic status, and many other differences. But one rings truer to me because the creation of those children was a direct consequence of the marital expression of love between a husband and wife.

“They were created by love.”


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