As always, if you'd like to use this space to tell stories/secrets/confessions of your dangerous maternal (or paternal!) mind, send me an e-mail and you too can enjoy the refuge of the Basement...
My son is sterile. He was born with a rare condition that means he will need to be on hormone (testosterone) therapy from the time he hits puberty until he dies. He will never produce sperm.
Otherwise, he is a perfectly healthy kid. He doesn’t know, yet, that his health is different from anyone else’s. We’ve had a few surgeries, and will require a few more, but they are not difficult surgeries, from the surgeon’s perspective: outpatient, taking only a few hours, with a fairly easy recovery. According to the doctors, his prognosis is excellent. He will be able to experience sex like anyone else, there is no gender confusion, the hormones will ensure that his body changes in puberty just like everyone else, he will not be in any pain, and no one ever need know about his condition unless he decides to tell them. The only part of the equation that has no solution is the fertility.
I shouldn’t complain.
I mean, think of the illnesses he could have. He could be dying. He could need a transplant of some kind. His surgeries could be much more complicated and difficult to recover from. He could be visibly deformed in some way or he could have a brain malfunction. God knows he could be in some kind of accident tomorrow and lose the use of his legs, or worse.
He just has this. This seemingly small, almost fixable problem.
Right now, my son is too young to understand any of it. He’s just a happy-go-lucky 3-year-old whose biggest problem is how to avoid his nap every day. I, on the other hand, am stuck in a kind of limbo: should I be grateful that his condition is not more life- threatening? Or angry that he has any condition at all? Is it worth getting upset over now, when we really won’t have to deal with any of it for at least 5 more years?
Still, sometimes I do get upset about it, because what happens when he is an adolescent? When boys start measuring their penises and talking about balls and sex and all of it? What happens then? Shit, being a teenager is tough enough without there being something actually different about your genitals. (Not that it will be visible. I mean, his penis is small, but not unnaturally small. In any event, he will know, in his head, that he is different, and surely that could cause some insecurity. And if somehow the wrong person finds out that he has no testosterone, that could be devastating. Imagine the jokes.)
I get upset about it when I think about his future, too. Will he be able to find someone to love him, despite his inability to father biological children with them? Of course the rational side of my brain says yes, and I do believe this. You don’t need to tell a person on the first date that you can’t have kids. Once you get to talking about kids, you’ve probably already fallen in love, right? You’re close, at least, and I know that the kind of woman I want for Adam will love him anyway, and be willing to do whatever it takes. But what a burden to add to the equation! Not to mention, how will Adam feel about the fact that he will never see his own eyes reflected in his children? Will he be crushed? I personally feel sure that the love you feel for your child does not change whether that child is sprung from your seed or not—but it’s easy for me to say that, having two children that share my DNA.
When Adam is old enough to understand all this, will he blame me? Will he shut me out, claiming that I “don’t understand”? Can I actually understand, given that I have not faced anything similar in my own life? Will he hate me?
Once, a few months back, I was in a restaurant bar with my husband. We were drunk. Somehow I got onto the subject of adoption (which I’ve always been interested in) and said, “I’d really like to adopt. Not just for us, but for Adam, too. To show him that adoption is just as wonderful as having biological kids.”
And he said? “If we’re going to have another I’d rather have our own. I’d like to have a son that can have his own kids.”
I’m not sure I can forgive him for that statement, although he has apologized, and insists he was drunk and just not articulating very well. But maybe I shouldn’t have to forgive him. Maybe he was just being honest, and maybe that is the way Adam will feel, too—only Adam will be physically incapable of creating a son of his own.
You can see the problem. His own father sees him as damaged goods, even if I don’t. It won’t take much for Adam to see himself the same way, especially since the world—if the world knew—would think the same thing. After all, if you said to a friend: “that guy has fake balls”, wouldn’t that be a criticism? Wouldn’t you be feeling sorry for the guy, even as you were making fun of him? I don’t want my son to be in a position to earn your heckles or your pity-- and yet here he is, via a sub-par roll of the pregnancy dice, and there’s nothing I can do about it. We already rolled. Now we have to make do with the results.
My mother says I keep things too bottled up, and that I should allow myself to cry about this. I suppose she is right, but it’s so difficult for me to cry about it, when all I see everyday is this wonderful, perfect kid. He doesn’t exactly inspire sympathy, running around laughing and playing like every other toddler on the block. Also, I don’t know what the future will bring. I hate to be all doom and gloom when maybe things will be just fine. It’s not as if his life is in danger, after all. Maybe some miracle will happen, maybe the adolescent therapist we hire will be able to give Adam the tools he needs to navigate those years without trauma. Maybe I will figure out what to say and how to say it. Maybe my daughter will be Adam’s best friend, confidant, and protector, and maybe that’s all he will need. Maybe my husband will step up and understand that both adoption and sperm donation are viable and beautiful options.
But maybe it will all go to shit, too.
I find myself jealous of other little boys. Little boys with normal balls. Of course it’s unfair that Adam has this kind of medical problem. Would it be fair for some other little boy to have it instead? No. Still, I’m envious, and sometimes a little pissed off.
I’d love to talk about this on my own blog, but the personal nature of the problem prohibits me from doing that, especially as I don’t use a pseudonym. Actually, the personal nature of the problem prohibits me from talking about it with just about everyone. You can’t just walk around discussing prosthetic testicles.
So I ignore it. I deny it. I write letters to Adam and then rip them up, because they never convey what I imagine I need to convey. I call my husband names. And no matter what I do, it’s still sitting there, like this giant boulder in the road: puberty, without working testicles. Then, after that: no biological kids.
(I watch him while he sleeps, completely unaware of what awaits him in a few short years, and I want to scream at the injustice. He is so completely perfect (if you could see him!), why does this have to happen?
Tears well up in my eyes, but I push them away. I will not cry over him. He is fine. He will be fine. He is perfect, dammit. He does not need my tears.)