Thursday, April 10, 2008

Exploring the Option

I know I haven't posted much's been a very, very busy time for me, professionally and personally. Lotsa stuff going on, not to mention the fast approach of Pesach next week. After much deliberation, I'm going to my family for the first days of Pesach and then I plan on being home for the rest of the holiday. My goal this year, is to try to get through Pesach without crying. Without crying more than once. Or twice.

My Rav called me last week about some community-related issue, and we had the chance to revive a conversation we had a few months ago. In January, I got up the nerve to ask him whether or not it was halachically okay to have a baby, alone, via artificial insemination. Yikes. I was a little shocked at myself for having actually vocalized the question, and I had no idea what to expect as an answer.

A few pertinent things about my Rav: he is an out-of-town guy, meaning that he's not a New Yorker. Hamayveen yaveen. He's a YU musmach, and he's an absolute lion about halacha. He is frum as all hell, and he's neither a chumra-seeker nor a kula machine. He is an arbitrator of da'as Torah, but also knows that a) being a Rabbi doesn't mean you are the boss of Judaism and b) Rabbis are human beings and they are flawed and c) he will not allow you to hide behind halacha. What do I mean by the last part? Well, for example, I have friends who ask their Rav about every little misdeed they want to perform, i.e. can I lie about my age for shidduchim? If I had asked my Rav that "shayla," he would have refused to paskin and also given me a "get real" look. Mind you, I have, until recently, lied about my age on Frumster. (Now I just don't care.) I didn't ask a shayla about it, because I knew it was wrong and I wanted to do it anyway.

My Rav is a rarity in the world of Rabbanus in that he is not the slightest bit interested in self-promotion (I don't think he has any ego whatsoever, actually) and he is not interested in money, at least not for himself (as an example, he performed my get for free, something virtually unheard of in NY). He is a gem. I respect him absolutely. I do not worship him. I have often disagreed with him. He has, at times told me stuff I didn't want to hear. But I am blown away by his integrity, his honesty, his egoless nature, his love of Torah, his soldierlike defense of halacha and Orthodox Judaism, his incredible ahavas Yisroel, and his telling it like it is. He's a bit stoic. The one time I heard him break down was on Tisha B'Av, the year that the three Israeli soldiers were kidnapped. He pointed out to us the kind of Tisha B'Av that the soldiers, if they were still alive, were having. His voice cracked when he spoke about them. Otherwise, he hasn't really shown too much emotion. He is an interesting person.

So I asked my Rav about having a baby out of wedlock, via artificial insemination. He asked me for some time to think about it, and then called me back. He told me that there were two components to his answer, the halachic one, the hashkafic one, and then a third component which was not part of his answer, but something we should talk about. He is a very organized thinker, and when he speaks, I can almost see the bullet points.

The halachic part of his answer is that it is do-able. The sperm would have to come from a non-Jewish donor, but the baby would be Jewish and would not be a mamzer (not be illegitimate). I would have to have the insemination done under the guidance of a posek that he would recommend, someone who had halachic expertise in fertility-related matters, but otherwise, there were no halachic problems.

Then came the hashkafic part of the answer. Rabbi X said to me "if you would have asked me this five years, ago, my answer would have been no. But I know you well enough to understand that you would go above and beyond to give this baby a rich Jewish, God-centered, halachic life. I know that this is not what you want and that you stayed in your marriage because you wanted so desperately to have a child, and that you are trying very hard to remarry while you are still young enough to have a family. I know that this is a really difficult decision for you, and that you are doing it because you think it's your last chance to have a baby, and not from any man-hating or feminist or selfish perspective."

"I have to tell you, WebGirl," he continued, "that I don't think it's your last chance. I think you should give yourself a little more time because I know that this is not your dream. Your dream was to have a family, including a marriage. But I know that having a husband is not 'time-bound' and a that having a child is. So I'm going to say that, given your intentions and life situation, I think it would be okay to have a child this way."

"But that brings us to the social realities of this decision, and they are harsh. The reality is that by deciding to conceive a child this way, you are already making some decisions for the child. You will be raising a fatherless child. Your child will almost certainly never be able to marry into the Yeshivish world, which isn't the worst thing, but you need to be aware of it. There are some people who will stigmatize you and your child, because your child's conception will be out of the ordinary. It is probably in your best interest not to live in an East Coast community. I would recommend that you leave Metro NY, at the very least. Find an out-of-town, heterogeneous frum community, where things like this are unimportant, and you and your child will be able to lead a happy, meaningful life. "

"The other difficult social reality is that by choosing to conceive a child this way now, you are almost certainly choosing not to get married, at least not now. There are very few frum guys, at least the type that you are looking for, that would want to get involved in a situation like this. Once the baby is born, things will be different, and then it's just a matter of how you present it, and how open-minded the guys you date are. But understand that you are effectively choosing a child over a husband, at least for now. That might be the right choice; I don't know. It's your decision. But at the very least, if you are going to commit to this, you must be very cognizant of the social consequences that come along with your decision."

"Also understand that your family might be very upset with your decision. Some of your siblings might be afraid of how this will affect their own children's shidduchim. Whether or not that's selfish is besides the point. What's important is that you realize that you are not making this decision in a vacuum. The rest is up to you."

He's right, of course, about everything. Right now, I have decided to hold off on doing this. I'm just not sure I'm ready to go through with this or that I have the capacity to deal with the social fallout. But the thought of never having a child is also weighing very heavily on my mind. I just don't know. I don't know at all.

I guess I'm just exploring the option.


Lubab No More said...

Absolutely fascinating.

BTW, I agree with your Rabbi that if at some point you do decide to have a baby on your own you will have to move away from NY.

Your Rabbi sounds like a very honest, thorough, and thoughtful person.

SuperRaizy said...

This really is a very difficult decision. I know a woman who chose to go ahead and have a baby through artificial insemination using anonymous donor sperm. She is so happy that she did; she loves her son so much and he brings her such happiness. However, while she is somewhat observant, she doesn't belong to the "frum community" per se, and so doesn't have to worry about all the social consequences that your Rabbi mentioned. I wish you much luck making your decision!
(*whispers*- but if I were you, I'd go for it. You will never regret having a child, but you will regret not having one.)

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you are considering this. It would be a way of controlling your own destiny.

Perhaps it might be helpful to talk to other frum single women who have gone down this road.

Anonymous said...

Wow! How inspiring, thanks for baring your soul.

Anonymous said...

have you considered adoption? if you wait until further down the road when it may be too late for you to carry a biological child...

WebGirl said...

Adoption? That is sort of missing the point, right? The point is that I want to have a biological child, otherwise why would I even consider this? No, I have zero interest in adoption.

Right, I understand that it might be too late if I wait. Again, that is sort of the point of the entire post.

come running said...

I also know someone like the woman raizy mentioned. She did it and is so happy too!

Good luck with your decision whatever it is.

btw-I'm available to babysit if you ever need a break.

me said...

Thank you for this post. You are so lucky to have a Rav like this. He would be my dream Rav. I wish you so much luck and happiness. To make it more complicated, I would seriously consider it if I were you, but adoption would be higher on my list because I now know how much of what I have with my kids is what I have done for them. I know you know that on some level and I know that it's probably repugnant to hear that from someone who has biological children. It's just that I wonder lately why so many Orthodox couples with fertility problems do not adopt. Again, I wish you the best.