Children born through IVF have no souls

An acquaintance reported recently that another guest at a BBQ was loudly critical of people who used IVF services and declared that children born via IVF ‘have no souls’.  As my friend (unknown to the gathering) was mid-cycle with her latest IVF attempt in conceiving a child, thins was highly distressing to her.  As the mother of a child conceived via IVF, the comment was insulting to my son and I was understandably indignant .  You don’t know whether to laugh or cry at dim-witted comments like that.

Young Donald is now 21 so I have had plenty of time to observe the soul-less creature.  He was a fairly conventional kid really.  Baulked at eating vegetables, had too much screen time, thought that I nagged him too much and protested at being made to walk or ride his bike when surely it would be much quicker for me to just drive him.

Admittedly he didn’t have much of a religious upbringing – well none really.  I had to attend a church service in an official capacity when he was about four and took him with me.  We sat up the front with the dignitaries.  During one of the hymns, all in attendance standing of course, I looked up from my hymn book to realise that he was standing on the pew along side of me, conducting the rest of the congregation.  I don’t think that we have attended a religious ceremony since then, except for a recent wedding in Japan in a Buddhist temple. I guess there wasn’t the need for someone without a soul.

When small Young Donald loved cuddle time (and still gives me beaut hugs), is always ready to give his mates a hand, and is very generous – especially for a soul-less person.  He has morphed from at times being a morose and moody juvenile to being a socially adept young man who charms one and all with his conversation.  It gives me a frisson of pleasure when people seek me out to tell me what a personable young man he is and how much they have enjoyed their conversation with him.  What a pity he doesn’t have a soul.

I am reminded of a Valentine’s Day a few years ago, when Daisy was very much a feature in young Donald’s life.  He took her out to dinner, selecting a cuisine the he knew she would enjoy.  When he brought her home, he had set up my massage table in his bedroom and scattered the whole room with red rose petals.  When they arrived home, she was greeted with soft lighting and massage oil.  Whatever else she was greeted with, I as his mother don’t really want to know, but think what he could have done if he actually had a soul.

I started to wonder just what might have been intended with the reference to ‘soul’ and resorted to online sources for interpretation and definition.  There were many, all much of a muchness and Wikipedia captured the essence with this explanation.

    “The soul, in many religious, philosophical and mythological traditions, is the incorporeal and in many conceptions immortal essence of a living thing.”

I’m not going to debate the presence or otherwise of a soul, whether from the religious, philosophical or mythological perspective.  In my son however, I can see and hear the essence of many who have gone before – my parents and probably their parents and it is possible that his essence will be reflected in those who are to come.  I see mannerisms, I hear laughter, I see reasoning, I see a sense of social justice, I see an observant young man – and I see an individual.  This individual has a resonance that impacts not only on myself, but also on his mates and those he holds near and dear.  Does not that impact render one immortal and if so, is that the influence of a soul, that incorporeal essence of being?

Whether or not my son has a soul is irrelevant really.   What that man was insinuating was that my child, and others who were conceived via assisted reproductive services, is somehow deficient and not a complete human being.  It’s that sort of bigotry that has fuelled the justification of those who would impose segregation on others, and worse.  I just hope for his sake that when the time comes that he wants to reproduce, that his swimmers are up to the task. How would he cope with fathering soul-less children of his own?  That would be karma.

The Journey

My son has returned home.  He got a big hug rather than a fatted calf and it was good to have him with me again, however briefly that might be.

When he left aged 18 to seek work and fortune interstate, it was a wrenching moment, but one that I knew he had to make.  Think ‘The Epic of Gilgamesh’, or ‘The Journey’ by John Marsden or all those classic stories relating to The Journey that you may have read.  It is a time when a young person leaves the safety and security of home to seek the learning and experience that life outside of the home has to offer them.  There is the call to adventure, entering the labyrinth, fighting the demons, achieving, reaching an understanding, etc. as described by Joseph Campbell in ‘The Hero’s Journey’.

Journey

Young Donald had reached a crossroads in his life.  He had realised that his relationship with Daisy was destructive and based on the web of lies that she continually spun.  (Donald and Daisy are discussed in earlier posts.)  He was played for the sucker.  He had dropped out of school and had no prospects, beyond the casual pub job that he had.  He was bored at home and I was forever on his back about helping around the house and just doing something.

I was fed up with the piles of dirty dishes around the house and other things just dumped anywhere and had made the decision at work that day that when I got home, we would have a serious talk.  Either he needed to leave home, or he needed to start paying board.  He got in first.  He said that he had been thinking and perhaps he would go to Perth and look for work.  I was both stunned and relieved.

Perth was not such a big deal in that my sister lives in that city and his donor father is also there, although Donald and his father hardly knew each other.  They certainly did not have a father/son relationship.  Still it was far away and it meant that Donald was going to have to find accommodation, a job, and to make a new life for himself.

While away, he did labouring work, did some TAFE study in the mining sector and got a job at the remote Woodie Woodie mine site in the Pilbara region.  He had to work with characters who Donald described as racist, sexist and homophobic.  (I was relieved that he recognised these people for what they were.  It meant that I had done something right.)  He found himself somewhere to live and made new friends.  Those were the social skills.

On the practical side, he learnt self-resilience, how to budget on minimal income, how to shop economically, and how to keep himself healthy with wise food choices.  He can drive a 4-Wheel Drive and change a spark plug.  He has a range of technical skills that surprise me.  He also has a new confidence in himself that I welcome.

OK – there are not total miracles here.  There are still dirty plates hibernating in his room but not as many and he is better at washing up and domestic chores and cooking dinner for us both too.  Importantly, it was a teenager who left and it is a young man who has come back.  It is so good to have him home again.  I didn’t realise how much I had missed that kiss goodnight before he went to bed or he went out with his friends.  It’s great to have someone with whom I can discuss issues and share decisions.  At some stage, Donald will move on and make his own life elsewhere, but for now I like the feeling of company and understanding.

I realised when he left that this was a move that he needed to make but it is only now that I have understood that it was a version of the epic Journey.  Thinking back, it is very similar to a journey of self-discovery that I made decades before, and that was important to my self-learning as well.  It is a pity that all young people are not able to make this trip of discovery though many of them do.

Did you make a journey?  What changes did it make for you?

A Sort of Chrysalis

Times are a-changing.  Young Donald is still lazy and frustrating and irritating and causing me to lose my hair and at time leaving me a quivering blob of despair.  Parenting a teenage boy is never easy and even less so doing it on your own, with limited dialogue or input from another person who cares about your child as much as you do.  I know that technically, at 18 Donald is now an adult but he’s my child and always will be.

I have been concerned about many things relating to Donald.  His non-existent academic achievement, his attitude, his lack of motivation, the negative influence upon him by his girlfriend Daisy (sometimes known as Dippy Daisy).  The last twelve months have been bringing slow and subtle changes, but changes nonetheless. 

I can see that my son is slowly morphing into a more likeable human being.  I even get glimpses of the man he will become.  He is developing a sophisticated sense of humour and has a wicked appreciation of the absurd.  He is still hard work in that it is a major effort to do him to do anything – like get out of bed for instance – but I know that he is capable of doing a lot and probably will do so later.  He is observing some of the truly assinine behaviour of some of his mates and noting that it’s not a good look.  Best of all, he is thinking about things.

I was all set a week ago, spurred on by disappointment and frustration, to tell Donald that I could no longer support him and his bludging lifestyle; that he needed to either start paying Board (which would entail him finding more work than is offered by his casual role) or that he would have to leave home.  He got in first.  When I arrived home that night, Donald told me that he had been thinking and that he might travel to Western Australia to work with his father.

Ours is not a conventional family scenario.  When I decided that I wanted to have a child, even though I was still single, I asked an old friend and lover if he would assist me to do this.  Although living on the other side of the country, he agreed and after flying to see me and discuss it further, left a sperm donation with a fertility clinic, the result of which was ultimately my son.  There were two stipulations that I made: that financial responsibility would be all mine; and that I wanted him to acknowledge any resulting child as his.  It was important to me that a child could know who his or her father was.  There was agreement on both these issues.

Donald has had minimal contact over the years with his father, due the tyranny of distance and more recently, a lack of interest.  I gave him the option of what to call this man, and Donald chose Dad or Father.  Knowing them both, I can see a lot of similarities between them.  I know that they are father and son (always a worry when using donor sperm).  This man (I shall call him Duncan) has maintained a regular interest in his son (and seventh child) though has never actively sought greater involvement.  The offer was always there for Donald to spend school holidays with him but it only happened twice.  Donald wasn’t really interested and I didn’t push it.

Duncan works in the building trade, and has always said that he will find work for Donald if that is what he wants.  Work, being a four-letter word, was not terribly appealing to Donald and he always dismissed the suggestion with a degree of horror.  How could I even think such a thing.  Hard, physical grunt work with long hours.  Shudder.

Now suddenly, this is an option to Donald.  It caught my breath a bit as it would mean that he really was leaving home, even though possibly for a short time.  It would mean though taking responsibility for himself and having to honour commitments to the work environment; having to contribute and organise himself and to earn a living.  It will be an opportunity for him to test himself and to learn what he is capable of.  He might even develop a relationship with his father.  I doubt that it will ever be a traditional father-son relationship but at least they will get to know each other better.  I am pleased about this because there has been minimal male influence in my son’s life.

The other issue that I am relieved about is that Donald has finally recognised that his relationship with Daisy did not have many benefits and has ended it.  He has tried to do this a few times already but never made a clean break and things got messy and then sort of resumed.  He has learnt a lot during this relationship, and I think will be a little more discerning when entering into the next.  I know that Daisy will be devastated, as I think that Donald is a dependable influence in her life and she has come to rely on that.   I fully understand though why Donald feels that it is a relationship that has run its course.

*****

Donald had his wisdom teeth extracted today also.  I was also concerned about this as he is seriously needle phobic.  The procedure was done in the chair, but with IV sedation prior to have the local anaesthetics applied to  all four extraction sites.  The surgeon and the anaesthetist were professional and caring in their treatment of Donald (I remained for the sedation) but I was impressed with his determination to cope with the first needle that he has submitted to in many years.

Uneasy Transitions

Transitions are never easy. There have been many changes in my son’s life over the last twelve months. Donald is 18 and so has acquired adult status, in years anyway. He now sports a cool stubble and his bedside drawer reveals a box of condoms. He has a girlfriend (Daisy) and other female friends, at least one of whom would like to be a little more than that. At least I can see that she would like this, but it doesn’t quite seem to have registered on his horizon.

Daisy has turned his life upside-down over this year. She is very needy and also very manipulative. She is used to clicking her fingers and for Donald and whoever else she requires, to come running. She frequently has emotional episodes which require hand holding, brow wiping and attendance, regardless of the time of day or night. Given the huge quantities of caffeinated drinks that she consumes, these episodes usually occur at night, meaning that Donald is frequently summonsed in the wee hours, with his absence discovered the following morning.

With so much nocturnal activity, Donald’s school work bit the dust last year and he only passed one subject of his final year of high school. Daisy dropped out just before the exams so she did not fare any better. They both have casual jobs and are supposedly studying again but I will be very surprised if they complete the academic year in their enrolments. Their entire focus is on partying.

Remember how when your children are toddlers, they love to help you around the house? Whatever you are doing, they want to do to. Sweeping, washing up, working in the garden and especially cooking. Helping mum is wonderful. Sigh. It doesn’t last. For a start, Donald sleeps for a greater part of the day because he is up all night. When I race out the door for work in the morning, I might leave a note asking him to hang out the washing or some such chore. I then need to ring him later in the day and tell him to read the note as I cannot assume that this will happen without prompting. When I get home, there will be damp clothing on the line, indicating that it has only just been hung up. Assuming that it has. Some days, it is still in the basket and I hear ‘Oops – I forgot!’

Doing something of his own volition just does not happen, although on odd occasions, (very odd) I will come home to find that a meal has been cooked. More likely though I will get a text message through the day asking me to pick up more milk or whatever on my way home because there is none left. (Yes, he has drunk it all.) He feels that he is being responsible in advising me that we are out of this item. The idea of actually stirring himself to go shopping would not occur to him. This sort of organisation does not rate as highly as continuing with the computer games that he plays most days, when he is not watching the latest series that he has downloaded from the internet.

You start to get the picture here that his life is all about rights and not at all about responsibilities. Daisy is even more strongly an adherent to this philosophy, and to a general extent, so are all of Donald’s mates. The mates are generally reasonable kids – just totally wrapped up in themselves and the lives that they want to live. I frequently wake up and find that one or more of them has stayed the night, with all concerned assuming that this is OK. In general, yes it is but it doesn’t hurt to ask. Usually though they have arrived in the early hours of the morning whilst I am fast asleep. If they happen to see me as they slip out the back door in the morning (the easiest route to and from Donald’s room) they chirp ‘thank you for having me!’ before dragging their dishevelled and red-eyed selves off home. I can’t complain about the amount of water that they use, as they rarely shower.

Donald and Daisy’s relationship has been turbulent, as he has gradually come to realise that she is not always honest, not always faithful, and uses people shamelessly. He has gradually met a number of her discarded friends who have been used and abused along the way and now choose not to get too close. She cannot manage money and so frequently spends his as well. Progressively Donald has become aware of her shortcomings and has experienced much in her company that has distressed and dismayed him. Consequently, he has broken up with her – several times.

Last Thursday evening was the last of those occasions and it was with an indication of relief that he told me that he was meeting her later that evening to tell her that it was over and to give her back her possessions that she had left at our house. The next morning he confirmed that there had been tears because she loves him, but she had accepted his decision and that they would stay just friends. Ha! I popped home at lunch time and found them both fast asleep in his bed and I believe that this is where they were for most of the day. Not sure how she talked him around again, but the pair of very sexy red and black knickers that I found on his bedroom floor probably had something to do with it. I still wonder what she wore home that day! Donald went off to work that evening (three days ago) and he hasn’t been home since. He is presumably staying with Daisy, but has not seen fit to let me know that, nor to answer my texts asking that he check in with me on a daily basis, as he is supposed to do.

For some time, I have been contemplating telling Donald that it is time he moved out of our house. The reasons will not be new to him – I am sick of being taken for granted, and also don’t like losing control of the house. It is time that he learnt to take responsibility for himself and to pay his way in life. I am not being treated with respect and I do not deserve that. The concerns that I have of course are those that would occur to any mother. He barely earns enough to support himself – how would he manage and would I be putting him in moral jeopardy? Would he keep up his current course of study or would this be the final straw that encouraged him to drop out? Would it be the start of a downward spiral into a boozy and perhaps drug-related lifestyle, which would be more restricted if he continued to live with me? He would have to rent a room somewhere and could not afford anything too comfortable. Should I give him a small allowance to ensure that he has enough on which to sustain himself when combined with his wage?

The alternative is to ask him to start and pay board, equivalent to 25% of his earnings or thereabouts. This would also help to reinforce the understanding that there is no such thing as a free lunch, although I know that in order to get this money I would have to set up a direct debit arrangement. The down side though is that he would probably feel that this payment absolved him of any further domestic responsibility, and still would not abide by domestic rules that have been put in place but are difficult to enforce without his cooperation.

Donald is still a nice kid, and others are always telling me that he is so pleasant, helpful (to them), sociable, etc. He is not a lost cause and in future years he will probably become a reasonable human being. Right now though he is selfish, lazy, feckless, self-centred and unreliable.

This transition in in Donald’s growing up is difficult. No doubt there are issues for him, insecurities, unknowns, etc. but it is also immensely difficult for me as his parent. It is especially hard given that I work 40+ hours on week days and so am not around through the day to monitor what is happening at home. When he is awake, I am asleep and vice versa. If we are both awake and at home, there are often other people around, making personal communication difficult. There are days when I so wish that I had a partner with whom to address these issues and who could talk about man stuff, and respect, and the meaning of life and all that. A decent role model would be brilliant, but we have never had one of those in our lives. I am just hoping that he is home when I get home from work tonight, or at least has the decency to contact me.

Making a Stand

I have had brief words with young Donald today, but I know that we will need to sit down together and review the conversation in a couple of days.  I told him about receiving the letter from school, and how disappointed I was to learn of his less-than-satisfactory attendance record.

I explained that school attendance was a privilege, and that the deal in our house was that he either engaged in study full time or got a full time job.  I had agreed to him dropping a couple of Year 12 subjects because I knew that they were not really the best choice for him in the first place and that there was little point in continuing with them.  I was assuming that he was going to put full effort into his remaining subjects however.

The reality is that he has been coasting, downloading and watching movies and TV series during the day, hanging out with Daisy, and driving around a lot in my car.  Any assignments have been submitted late and only with a lot of nagging and pushing on my part and he bitterly resents this ‘interference’.  My costs have increased (fuel costs more than doubled), I am no longer eligible for parenting tax benefits (as he is not studying full time) and when I get home, there is no washing up done, no tea prepared, no nothing.

I told Donald that my initial reaction on getting the letter from the school was for us both to make an appointment with relevant teachers and to see what we could do to get him reinstated.  I realised though that in reality, he was unlikely to change his ways or make enough of an effort.  Why should I put myself out for him yet again?

I explained that he has been free-loading and has now lost the right to attend school.  I highlighted a couple of jobs in the paper and suggested that there was one as a kitchen hand in the City Remand Centre that he could apply for.  On Tuesday, he must go and register at Centrelink and commence serious job hunting.  His current part time job is just Friday and Saturday nights and does not pay enough to sustain him at the moment.

By this stage, he was looking stunned and aghast.  I explained that there were some options.  He could look for other study options and gain skills that would assist him in the search for work.  I would accept that.  He could also go and work for his donor father as a labourer.  This would be very hard work, 7 days per week and would mean moving interstate.  I would give him until the end of October to have something in place – job or study or combination thereof.  Otherwise, it would be time that he moved out and made his own arrangements but that I was not prepared to let things continue as they had to date.

Unfortunately, the phone rang (land line) in the middle of this conversation at a crucial point, which was a bit of an unfortunate interruption, but I cut the caller off and picked up the thread as best I could.  Donald retreated to his room and I tried to get on with a handyman job in my laundry, installing brackets and shelving.  I couldn’t really focus however as I was so churned up over having to say what I did.  I didn’t get half as much done as I should have and will have to finish it tomorrow.

Perhaps some time in the garden will blow the cobwebs away.  I know however that I will have to repeat this conversation because unless I keep pushing, none of the required action will happen.  Donald’s strategy will be that I will be too busy to enforce my stand and if he keeps really quiet, I will just forget or whatever.  The battle, for that is what it feels like to me, is not over yet.

Dashed Again

I got up early this morning so that I could get some quick supermarket shopping done before work.  That was when I discovered that young Donald was not in his bed and my car was not in the driveway.  There were no guesses really as to where he was – with girlfriend Daisy Duck.  Donald and Daisy are joined at the hip and together are failing their Year 12 in spectacular fashion.  Neither has any practical ambition, not one that actually entails focus and work anyway and all they want to do is spend every waking and every sleeping moment together.  Daisy often is sad or ‘depressed’ or is having fights with her mother and at these times, Donald goes running.  I assume that this is also what happened last night.  In my car.

He had left his computer running so I took the opportunity to check out his Face Book page to see what he has been up to lately that perhaps I ought to know about.  Yes, I admit it.  I was snooping.  Donald is 17 and although he feels that he is akin to an adult and wants associated freedoms etc it is a case of all rights and no responsibilities.  There is a fair amount of self-obsessed immaturity.  At this stage of his development and while I am fully responsible for him, I do feel it appropriate to have some idea of what he is up to and with whom.

I was interested, no make that disappointed to read that a couple of weeks ago when there was a major incident and he left home for 10 days that he was engaged in a discussion with friends on what had happened.  It was a very general discussion but the gist of it was that you focus on what you want, regardless of parent attitude.  You then keep pushing and pushing and no matter what the parental response you keep pushing back until eventually you will get your own way.

I wish that he was so focussed about other aspects of his life.  It has clarified for me the his strategy that I basically understood, but having it spelt out like that is still a bit in-your-face.  To add to my displeasure of course is the fact that he took the car without permission, and this morning I had to use the motor scooter instead of the car on my shopping trip.

I have also just had an email from one of his teachers indicating that he is not putting the effort in and much of what he has told me about his requirements in this subject are not accurate.  Misinformation though to be fair, he often gets confused about requirements and does not clarify when he is confused. So not happy.

I realise that I have to just let go of this child and let him crash and burn all by himself and wear the consequences but it is so hard to see your child slide into the mire of their own stupidity.  Interested in how others have reacted in similar circumstances.