By Yamuna Kona
Yamuna Kona and her husband decided to have a baby via surrogacy in India. You can read a bit about their initial adventure at India Currents. During the process, however, the couple decided to separate and Yamuna had to decide whether she had the inner strength to continue and take on the challenges of being a single mom.
Around the globe, as everyone welcomes 2013, I’m sure musings of the year you left behind are still sitting heavily in your thoughts.
Are you one of the lucky few to be thankful for a blessed 2012 year? Or do you wish your time could’ve been spent differently? Maybe you close your eyes, and click your heels and wish for a complete do-over. Maybe the moments were so exquisite you hoped the year had never ended.
I think I’m all of the above. 2012 particularly had been like the climax of a stagnant novel. I planned to ski in one direction, expecting to stumble over a few bunny slopes along the way. And I wasn’t naïve, by any means. My only fault; I was hopeful. I guess I wasn’t aware of Einstein’s quote, “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” I wish I had come across this quote before I made my plans, or redirected all my hopes into one basket. Guess I didn’t remember that quote either.
Let’s see. If I had to summarize last year, I would start by saying that I love my daughter, more than I ever thought possible, but I wasn’t always confident that I could love her, care for her, or if I even wanted to. And I know that seems shocking for other mothers to read, single or not. But, I’m all about honesty, and I’ve had to face some truths I had locked away in an emotional vault.
I ultimately went through a series of emotional explosions that elucidated my absurd thought process, though my behavior seemed totally rational to me at the time. I suppose it was a method to deal with my confusion that even dear friends, and most definitely my husband, couldn’t understand. They all lashed out at me ruthlessly, though the quiet criticisms were the ones that stung the most and stay branded in the heart. I was pinned as having “lost it.”
I worried that I would end up damaging my daughter in some way, because of what I’d endured as a child. I was utterly convinced that I might unfairly and senselessly discipline her as my father used to discipline me. Let me be clear, because I have spent the better part of my life hiding behind vagueness. I was raised in a verbally and physically abusive household, courtesy of my father. This may have been the core fear that spawned the numerous other fears that consumed me, and perhaps created a wall between me and my daughter, even before she was born.
Halfway through the pregnancy I was scared beyond belief and almost backed out of the surrogacy. I know—how could I, right? Believe me, the guilt of having hesitated to honor a commitment of this magnitude I consciously made to an innocent, precious miracle, nearly devoured me whole, and still haunts me as I write this.
I also had many waking nightmares of unintentionally forcing my child to constantly take sides during fighting matches with my husband. As a daughter I had to do just that, and I always suffered, even if my parents resolved their issues later. The guilt of choosing one parent or the other still sits at the bottom of my stomach like acid. And I was forced to recognize that that my marriage wasn’t solid as I so desperately wanted to believe. We’d been an unaffectionate, distant, uncommunicative non-couple for the last 12 years, and I truly believed that planning for this child to be born via a surrogate would instantly bond us with an unfathomable closeness, perhaps even create a desire to be intimate. I went into this wholly believing we’d have our “happily ever after.” But what should have occurred to me, what should have it hit me like a slug in the face, was that if two people couldn’t be happy without a child, a child could certainly never be a remedy to failing relationship.
In the midst of coming to terms with my marriage and not having confidence that I could be a decent mother, I also carried the weight of my daughter not being biologically mine. Yes, she is biologically my husband’s and an anonymous donor’s. (I had known since my teenage years that I could never conceive my own child). This pain had always been like a cancer, eating away at my soul. And I’d go through phases, where I’d think positive, focus on something else, and sweep it away under the carpet until an incident triggered my sadness again. And the cycle always resumed; someone would have a baby, or I’d have to attend a baby shower, or see a newborn, and I would become depressed. And I wasn’t always vocal about it; often I‘d isolate myself from the world.
The infertility hospital that we’d been working with was against the idea of me becoming as heavily involved as I thought I’d be in the process. I mean, I/we had left our life in the USA and temporarily relocated to India for this purpose, with the assumption, based on their word, that we could be involved as much as possible. But whatever was agreed in our emails surely wasn’t carried out, and my husband (in my opinion) wasn’t vocal enough about communicating our disappointment. Since I wasn’t able to maintain the closeness I wanted with the surrogate, and wasn’t allowed to be present for the doctor exams, the whole process started having a negative effect on me. I wanted to feel the baby kick and move around, see the progression baby belly on a daily, bi-weekly or weekly basis, but I was only allowed to record a few 2-minute videos of the first trimester’s scan. And sometimes, I wasn’t even notified that a scan was taking place or if it was, it was always too late to even try to make it there in time. I found that the culture in India is not a compassionate one. It’s quite different from the way medical professionals deal with patients in the USA, where they treat prospective parents with kid gloves.
I also expected my husband to understand that I was gradually feeling like an outsider. I did voice that to him, but he may have been mentally unprepared to deal with my emotions, and I was frequently left to console myself, or lean on friends for support. Maybe it was unintentional, but my husband’s lack of compassion induced scenes of a future that seemed bleak. I panicked, convinced myself that there was no way I could be a mother to someone else’s child, especially if I didn’t feel included before she was born, or validated by the one person I hoped would calm my fears. I had pictured my husband in anger, saying, “Don’t yell at ‘my’ child,” or the child (after finding out that I wasn’t her real mother), lashing out at me, not respecting me, and telling me I couldn’t tell her what to do because I wasn’t her “real mother.”
Everyone thought I was crazy. No one tried to reason with me, or even suggested therapy. They mostly judged. In retrospect, I wish my husband’s anger about my fear of caring for a child that wasn’t biologically mine hadn’t clouded his judgment. I wish he had fought to get me help, or taken the time to soothe my fears. I bet if he had, we’d still be together today. The intention for me to totally back out of the commitment was never set in stone; I was simply terrified, and what was vital was assurance I’d be a great mother, and we’d be a united front in raising our child together, and I’d never feel like an outsider. But he was probably angrier that I and had doubts of my staying in the marriage with him too.
His reaction to my emotional behavior was to become detached and, to me, it was crystal clear proof he’d never be supportive in my time of need. Before the baby’s birth he took off for the US, and left me in India to resolve my emotional issues, without a thought as to how the baby would be cared for, and who would care for her, and if I decided to go ahead with the adoption, what quality of care I could give her in my emotionally fragile state of mind. I mean, I had no one here to even show me how to care for a child, no parents, no family this side of India. What was he thinking?
Many people are still stunned that a father who invested his own seed, money and effort into making this decision happen would react in this manner. His defense—one of them anyway— was he hoped he could force a bond with me and the baby, and that may have been well intended, but definitely wasn’t thought through. Because in the state of mind I was in, I could barely care for myself.
I wanted to see the baby after she was born, but I cried every time I thought of her, or saw her picture. I wanted so badly for her to be MINE. And I couldn’t change that fact. I wanted her, but I was scared to bring her home and care for her in my mental state of mind, and on my own. And I wanted her to be cared for by two loving parents, not just one.
Luckily, there was one good friend that never gave up on me. He was gentle, gradually sneaking in conversations about bringing the baby home, and after a month of assuring me that I’d be a great mother I brought her home. He put my fears to rest and, yes, it’s true—I love Ariyana as if I had given birth to her myself. And the all years that I spent wasting my energy and feeling sad that I couldn’t have my own child disappeared once I held her in my arms. She is mine in every way.
2012 was THE year I could identify the insanities circling relationships, friendships, loyalty, love, myself—recognizing personal misconceptions definitely played leading roles in my fears—and discovered how miracles transform life forever. I learned the mysteries of why certain bonds are born, become, fizzle or strengthen. Having probably wept a river, it was the most emotional year thus far, inclusive with painful and amazing experiences. I became a mother, with or without an active, father figure in the picture. I finally became a mother. I never expected to smile, enjoy and be stunned by her developments by myself, yet the miracle of her life, and how her presence has soaked my soul with positivity and hope, by far surpasses any and all negativity, and self-pity.
Yamuna decided to bring up her daughter as a single mom, and has started a blog where you can follow her journey. Check out http://singlemommadramaclub.blogspot.in/