There are many different paths to parenthood, and in an exquisite piece for the New Yorker, Akhil Sharma writes of his own. Sharma, an author and professor at Duke, grew up with a severely brain-damaged brother who was unable to talk or walk, a mother who made him feel worthless, and a pessimistic father. His wife, Christine, grew up in poverty in public housing in Dublin, “where children were regularly attacked by a local pit bull and people would come running with flaming torches, because fire was one of the few things that would make the dog unclench its jaws.” The two married later in life, and while 50-year-old Christine had abandoned hopes of having a child in her 30s, Sharma writes that he had never desired a child, something he attributes in part to guilt over having been born the healthy son.
And yet, with Sharma also approaching 50, the couple began talking about IVF after one of his colleagues told him about a friend who gave birth in her 60s. “Our minds snagged on this anecdote,” and they went down the path of investigating their options, exploring donor eggs, and choosing a fertility clinic. In the intensely personal piece, he discusses his dreams of death, the oddity of finding some of the egg donors attractive, his interactions with his parents about their plans, and the process itself: injections, 17 harvested donor eggs, four embryos, two viable ones, and how they selected one. He recounts a middle-of-the night scare, in which Christine woke up bleeding, and his dreams for his daughter—they called her Ziggy during the pregnancy—including an anecdote involving the Federal Reserve. And then she arrived. “Her mouth was twisted, and she appeared so unhappy that she already seemed a full person, with all her own wants and preferences. I leaned down to look at her. When I bent, my soul fell out.” (Read the beautiful full piece.)