When my now-4-year-old son, Matthew, who was conceived through in vitro fertilization, runs into the kitchen one of these days and asks me where babies come from, what will I say? Even though I write about women's health for a living and understood what was happening during the in vitro process, a part of me yearned to create a baby the way my parents, grandparents, and every other generation in my family had always made babies--the old-fashioned way. But my memories don't add up to the traditional story.
I remember that when I saw on a cardboard strip a little blue dot indicating I was ovulating, I danced around the bathroom, surrounded by little cups of my urine and bottles of activator, thanking God and celebrating that first tiny step toward motherhood.
My pharmacist was of great assistance in our months-long science project, ordering ovulation predictor kits, ovulation suppression drugs to regulate my cycle, ovulation stimulation drugs, and more syringes than I care to remember. So when I went into the drugstore one day and told him, "I'm pregnant. Thanks for your help!" the other customers in the store snickered just a bit.
I remember that Randy, Matthew's daddy, practiced sticking needles into an orange--said to resemble the flesh on my backside, thank you very much--to learn how to give me hormone injections that would stimulate egg production.
And Randy mapped out, ahead of time, our entire route home from the medical center after the embryo transfer, noting every bump and pothole. He filled our car's passenger seat with pillows so that we could make our way home without disturbing what we hoped was a miracle happening inside of me.
Through the whole process of making a baby with the help of strangers, Randy and I developed a sense of humor that got us through such experiences as his trip to the "donation room" and my hour spent on the "tilt table," my feet higher than my head, after the fertilized eggs were placed in my uterus.
On second thought, maybe some of these details can wait until Matthew's a little bit older.
What I most want Matthew to know is that he was wanted as much as any child has ever been wanted. That while his conception was far from a private act, it was filled with great reverence and love.
I want to tell him that lying in bed at home, holding hands with his daddy the night after my eggs were retrieved--asking God to be with our little family and praying that a strong, healthy embryo was forming eight miles away in that petri dish--was one of the most moving experiences of my life.
I want my little boy to know that while his cells were forming in that sterile plastic dish, my 7-year-old nephew, his cousin, was drawing a picture of us, showing us holding a baby in our arms, to help us believe that we would really have a child of our own one day.
I want Matthew to be able to picture his daddy experiencing something that most fathers will never get to: Randy standing in a quiet, darkened room, looking through a microscope and seeing the six plump cells that would become his son, just before the doctor placed those cells inside me.
And I want my son to know that last year at our church's family Christmas concert, my heart filled with love and my eyes with tears as I watched him, wearing his little red Cherub Choir robe, singing "One Small Child, One Tiny Child." Because I couldn't help but remember that bringing our own small child home from the hospital, on Christmas Day four years earlier, was the most incredible present his daddy and I will ever receive.
When Matthew comes running into the house someday to ask me where babies come from, I'll tell him the traditional story of how these things usually happen. Then, with my arms around him, I'll tell him his own special story. Because I want my son to know that, while he came to us with some help from medical science, he is, most of all, a miracle from God.