Now I know Why I am in Greece – SEEDS.
“I have to do this,” I repeat to myself as I merge into a stream of commuters scrambling down steep steps. “I have to do this,” pierces again as I reach for the hanging strap on this metal-clanging train, speeding. I stare into the clamor of this commute feeling I am in a pixilated dream, blurred. The picture is saturated with speechless foreign-to-me folks and a language on the loudspeaker I can not at all understand.
“I have to do this”, holds my focus and dons me a mythical hoping-to-be-hero cape, which provides some slim sense of embrace in my vast vulnerability. Like the 4-years prior, the mission today stomps onward: anything for my baby.
At 40 I had vowed to do anything for my child, this soul that still drums on my bones daily.
Swaying in unison with strangers on the train, jetlagged and parched, I am just aching; This is where a terribly twisted 4-year path has dropped me. Alone, in a foreign city. This known-donor (friend) who invited me here, had just within hours provoked me to absolutely ditch him. This time I acted differently with the subsequent cascade of despair. I stuffed it into my bag with my sunhat and snack this first morning in Athens, so it would not drum me down. If needed, I’d agreed with myself to take it on again when this day ends, in this rented bed. Then, I could sob. But, right now, I am walking onward.
She greets me at the door wearing the classic white lab coat, and engages its pockets occasionally in the ways professionals do. Her calm face counters my nervous vibe. Her kindness shines. She guides me into her office and sits on the other side of the large wood desk. Step by step she explains the legalities and logistics of sperm donation here in Athens.
Doing everything to conceive as the single woman I happened to be at 40, I was not able to stomach even a momentary thought of anonymous sperm. Here, I am sitting wringing my backpack straps, my breathing slight.
Over those years, each time I took myself by the hand to preview the internet menus of sperm donors, I felt seasick, held my breath, and quickly X-d that tab. I just could not make my baby that way. All I could see was men who feel lean on funds, maybe even on love, jerking off to girlie mags and sending out seeds for cash. That’s not a fair judgment of course; it was just me – all me. Yet, I had to listen to my body. This injunction was all about my body. Body, in unison with, soul.
All my life I believed in love; I had savored it as delicious and worked for it as it needed. I knew love to be the essential stuff that makes babies and family. So, sobbing after each phone call to another old buddy, asking – “Can you spot me some seeds, please?” – was as far as I could go from what I had always believed.
Those calls hurt like a stab. I felt defeated and sad each time. And each time, I smothered those feelings over, like butter, in meager swipes of hope – to carry on.
When girlfriends pressed, “Just go to a sperm bank!” I’d get fired-up and rattle-off, “Firstly you would not believe – that’s a minimum of $1000 per month and with even the best stats only 20-30% chance of success each month! And secondly, they test these men’s genes, intelligence, medical history and psychology – but I want to know: how did he speak to his mother that very morning? What are his ruminations just before going to sleep at night? I have never chosen any kind of relation by shape, color or ethnicity. How could I do that now – for my baby? ”
After years making awkward arrangements with a small series of men friends that I could sincerely ask for this peculiar favor, I indeed had successful conceptions that wrenched me when they ended, friendships that ended when the arrangement made too many waves, and a couple “good enough” studs who agreed to arrangements, but pulled out last minute.
After chapters full of dramas and character drop-outs, I was now at an advanced maternal age that strained my mind daily. I had wanted to do it my way. Now I resigned to the only option left.
I was walking myself, still map-less, in this city much like a mom taking a child by the hand for the start of a hard day. I arrived at the clinic shaky, but hand in hand with myself.
The more Dr. Lina and I speak, the more with ease I breathe. Bits of strung apart stories of all I have done so far spew from me in globs, centered with an emphasis on my long held resistance to exactly this that I am about to do.
She cares to hear, showing compassion for the delays, the disappointments and rejections. At the right moment, Dr. Lina speaks. “Keren, you should know, the donors are not paid for their donation.”
Like Leggos restacking themselves in a flash, the entire architecture of my self shifted. I felt wholly recalibrated.
The sky opens. My spine towers. I am breathing as an expanding sea. My chest swelling from its core, I ask a bit perplexed, “Then why would they do this?”
Tapping her fingers against each other at the edge of her side of the desk, she looks at me with brown doe eyes as her words counter mine in their smooth clarity. “Well, these are men who are aware of social issues…they care about the environment, they donate blood regularly…and you see, the infertility rate in Greece is actually very high. Nearly everyone knows a close friend or family member struggling with these types of things, so men who are aware, they want to contribute.”
Slim tears swipe along my face in a sudden release. I felt loved.
This is a different kind of, but very big, love.
It is nothing like a romance. It is so incredibly real.
“Then I can do this.” I whisper, without taking my eyes from the gaze with hers.
I turn and look out the 5th story window to a patch of sky. It looks very blue. I feel a mystical expansion, like I sail into it, the blue. In this myth, constructs of my self simply evaporate into atmosphere; poof to prior beliefs, wounds, struggles. My eye rises above this grand city. It lights up in a white wash, resounds in a harp-like song around me. Though I am a stranger, right now I feel like I completely fit.
“Then, yes, I can do this…It is love…” I pause to gather words for what I am only coming to understand. “Not a personal love, but a…a… humanitarian love. ”
“OK”, a sigh swims out and I smile toward Lina, “I can do this.”
Soon the appropriate papers are before me: things to sign, to read over, to understand…and of course, the “menu”. I am to choose various features and characteristics I’d like of an anonymous donor.
I put my open hand flat on that paper. I push it back toward her. “If this is going to be anonymous then I want it to be fully that.”
I pause, hoping she is with me. “You have met all these men right?”
“Yes, I chose them each myself.”
“Then please, you choose. You’ve met me now, and you’ve met all of them. Please, you choose.” I say hopefully…
“Yes, OK.” she smiles with an ease that impresses.
Inside my myth, I see Lina joining a circle of women, many whom I recognize, some more anonymous, standing around me in a warm, quiet witness, all for bringing my baby.
I reach across the desk and touch my hand to hers, just for a moment. “Thank you,” I said, and soon left.
* * *
I watch the Athens sky colors change from my apartment’s balcony at sunset. Day one is done. Utter exhaustion has near emptied my mind. The seemingly unending city I am looking into now, minimizes me. That feels right, being small. I know no one who dwells in one of these houses or works in one of those shops. I am solo, unto myself, maybe even lost, yet maybe on the final track…? My mind is a mash of slices of various wonderings, at the end of this day.
“I can do this” is still repeating in me, though a dim flicker at this hour.
I suppose I came to Athens for this. I’ll go in, wash up, unpack that sadness I had stuffed, visit with it just enough, and sleep. God be with me, please.