Photo by Tess Nebula
Last week, we detailed Alexis Garrett Stodghill's journey to freeze her eggs and conceive a child in more technical, scientific terms. This week, she's speaking about the spiritual aspect of raising a child.
One of the donors who I picked I believe it was half Greek and half Mexican. He sounded so cheerful, so upbeat about life. One of the questions they asked is like, 'Tell us about your best friend' and 'Tell us about your parents' and all of his answers were so positive. I know this is a sperm donation and this person's not raising my child but I kind of feel like something of the spiritual aspect of the father will be the personality that could be transferred to my child. And I'd like to give them that kind of outgoing nature. So even though his baby pictures weren't that cute, I think he was pursuing a master's degree in architecture. He also seemed very well balanced so he was pursuing a master's degree in architecture, which is a very practical, but also seemed artistic and interested in politics.
There was one person under Manhattan Cryobank who was so funny. On paper he sounded good. And then when you listened to his audio recording, one of the questions was 'If you could have a magical power, what would it be?’ Everyone else who answered that question just had a fun loving answer. Like it's just a fun thing, right? This guy was like, 'What is this Harry Potter?! I'm not answering that question.’ So snarky! I was like, 'Eh, not that guy!' Not only was it entertaining to listen to these things, but it really gave me a sense of what the father's personality was like, which made me feel more comfortable, when I originally wasn’t into sperm donation.
At first, I really didn't want to do it. But when I was at the first clinic, one of the things they require is that you meet with a psychologist and the psychologist really convinced me to not try to find what they call a known donor. She explained to me that that could open up just so many child custody battles you could end up having to pay child support to someone you don't even know that it's too risky for you if you have the means to take care of a child alone.
So yeah, she convinced me to do the sperm donation. And listening to the voices of the men and seeing how they answer these questions really...I don't know.... I felt like I was making the kind of assessment you would make about someone that you might have a child with even though I don't know the men very well just from a 20 minute conversation. One guy looked good on paper, but one of the questions that they asked was 'If you could be doing anything right now, what would it be?' And his answer... Even though he was a lawyer, his answer was so incredibly lazy sounding. I was just like, oh no, no, no, no. Not him. Not him.
NSNC: So, in a perfect world, everything works out, you're able to conceive and have the baby. Do you feel like it's important for your child to have a male role model in their life? Who would you get to help you with that, with the parenting responsibilities?
I do think having a male figure is important. In my imagination, I feel like my mother’s husband would be this influence. They're both retired and I think they'll both be quite important to me in terms of helping me raise a child. I think I'll spend time with a lot of friends. There's also a great organization that was recommended to me by the psychologist at the first clinic, called Single Moms by Choice.
People talk about Black women not being able to find partners but women of all races who are highly educated and living in urban centers are not necessarily finding their life mates. And you know, if you want to have children, the prevalent idea about single motherhood is that it’s a detriment to your child. But there are studies that show, it's not about single motherhood, it's about the economics. So if you can afford it or you have a support system in place so you're not struggling financially or with childcare...It's not as though, you're going to have a bad outcome for your child just because you're a single mother.
NSNC: How do you envision raising your child? So you say you want your mom and her husband involved. Do you envision taking your child with you to do your everyday activities? How else do you see parenthood?
You know what's so funny, I feel like it really depends on what the child is like. I mean, when I was a child I really liked reading. I really liked talking to people and I really liked physical activity. It's like my mother--I don't know what gave her this idea but she put me in an ice skating class and when we moved to Washington DC she put me in a gymnastics class. And it's funny because now I think of myself as someone who's very athletic and coordinated. I didn't really pursue it heavily after I left high school, until I was in my mid to late twenties. She was really good about that. She was very good about trying different activities for me. And that's kind of what I see myself doing, seeing what my child likes... I'm actually good with that with people in general, noticing what they're good at and saying, 'Oh, you should try this. You should try that.' It could be putting my child in the class or giving them the instruments or the tools to explore things like that and kind of letting them just do it.
What I feel like I see a lot of is parents taking their kids places and then sitting there while their child does something. I feel like I would --not necessarily leave my child; but at a certain age...Like when I went to the ice skating lessons, my mother would take me but then she didn't sit there and like watch me do the lesson and it never really bothered me. But it's like nowadays you're supposed to actually go there and sit there and watch your child do something, which could encourage a sense of not having their own mental independence, or thinking that your parents had to be there watching you, holding your hand to make you feel empowered to take risks.
I think travel will be important. I have a very philosophical worldview, so I think I would try to explain how I see things to my child as much as I can. But I honestly feel like I could have the kind of child who, you know, I'm very mystical and kind of artsy and I have this, you know, spiritual way of looking at a lot of things, but I feel like I could have a child that's very mercenary. Nothing would surprise me. if I had a child that was like, 'Mom, I want to go into the army, please stop talking to me about world peace and unity because I really don't care.' That can totally happen. That's what I see when I'm looking at families. I see, you know, parents have certain attitude and then they'll have five different kids. All the different attitudes and it confuses the parents completely. They don't understand who these people are, why they are acting like this. I know for myself, I was never really a big discipline problem. But what if I did have a child that was manipulative, was strong willed--Not that I think that's bad-- you know, was struggling to the point of being self destructive? I think about this. How would I enforce discipline?
Will I be physically strong enough to do this, will I be emotionally strong enough to do this? Because it was just never a problem I had. I never really did anything that required spankings or timeout.
So think about things like that, about discipline. I think because I'm such a chaotic, eater. I can eat on the go all the time. The idea of planning breakfast, lunch and dinner every day for someone and bathing them actually totally upsets me. But it's something that I have to do. I think I would adapt. I think it could even help me to have a more structured existence.
As much as I would I would want to expose my child to things. I think it would be good for me to get in touch with those kind of childlike energies, exploring things and seeing the world new and just enjoying playing , you know? I feel like I don't do that enough as an adult. There are all these play spaces in New York. They just sound like fun, but I wouldn't even think of that as like, ‘Oh, I'm taking my child on a play date.’ It would be me going to do something with my child that I also want to do.
NSNC: When you see yourself with the child, do you imagine a boy or girl or do you genuinely have no preference?
Honestly, I have no preference. For some reason to think that the universe is going to send me a boy just because I think he will be difficult for me to cope with. I feel like if I have a girl, it would be obviously something I know and it will be easier. Who knows? There are so many new gender identities now, that I could have all kinds of options. And plus, everyone you meet is so unique. Before you meet somebody who has that personality and that appearance and that way of dressing, it's hard to imagine that they exist until you meet them. I feel like trying to predict who my child will be is a useless endeavor, except that it would be hilarious if the universe sent me like a military inspired young man because it's so different from me. But that's what I think could happen to me, a Black Republican that's what I think could happen to me!
NSNC: You were speaking like a philosophical or spiritual perspective, what do you feel like motherhood would help you accomplish? Or why do you feel like motherhood is something you need to experience in your life?
I do think, much like other things in life, you want to them because they seem so critical to existence. This experience of being a parent and seeing someone go from helpless to being whatever they're meant to be and being a part of that process, it's kind of like…I don't know how to put it… I think that getting to know someone from birth, being a part of their lives, I imagine, it's just a very profound relationship to have. There's no other relationship like it.
I also started to feel like this idea--this is where my new age-y self will come through- that there is already a child or two that is kind of looking at my life or looking at my situation and thinking, 'Oh, I want to come into the world through this person, you know, something about this person's spiritual signature and lifestyle and circumstances and tastes and things, you know, this is like an experience I want to have.’
I think ultimately this idea that like I'm creating a home for a spiritual being that wants to be in that home and come through me is part of how I think about it.
And who knows, I mean, again, I'm so like realistic about it. Unlike a lot of people who are like, 'Oh, I want to have children. They're so beautiful, motherhood's such a beautiful experience, all this. I honestly don't feel that way. I feel like it's very hard, you know, tons of self-sacrifice, extremely expensive. The world is a crazy place. It's a frightening thing to bring life into it. I have very few romantic ideals or ideas about being a parent. So I don't think I'm going to experience any kind of disillusionment.
I feel like anything could happen. Like, you know, your child could be insane. The temperamental possibilities are just so endless. So I'm not banking on any specific kind of child coming to provide me with any specific kind of experience. More just like wanting to have that. It's like wanting to fall in love or ever have sex or experience a creative triumph, these are the things that make life worth living if you're lucky to have those things. Not everyone has this milestone, so I'm almost not too attached. Of course I want it to go well, I'd love to have a beautiful, brilliant child, who I get along with, who does well in school and knows what they want to do with their lives and pursues it easily. I would love all of that to be the case.
But I'm open to whatever happens. It's just the experience I would just feel blessed to have.