My parents raised me in an extreme Christian group that many considered to be a cult. It had loads of rules and expectations, and if you didn’t adhere to them, at best you should feel guilty and at worst you might be ex-communicated. Suffice it to say my parents liberally manipulated me at home with judgement, guilt and passive-aggressiveness. Most notably, my father still uses “God-speak,” which is my own term for when he says “it’s not MY opinion, it’s GOD’s,” when it is, in fact, my father’s opinion.
In many ways, I don’t blame my father for using God-speak. It’s really tough to separate your own beliefs from the beliefs of your religion, especially when the beliefs are emotional. Plus, playing the God card pretty much guarantees victory in any argument. If you’re not ready to whip out the Bible and turn right to the scripture you’re using as a counter-argument, you might as well just shut up. Which is what I do.
So when Kyle and I decided that IVF with PGD made the most sense to us, we knew we probably wouldn’t be winning my parents over. We hoped that when they were bouncing their grandbaby on their knees, they’d forget about the “unnatural” way he or she was conceived.
And then the PGD lab called. Unlike regular PGD, testing for Fragile X required more DNA than just mine and Kyle’s. They also needed DNA from an affected member of the Carrier’s family. I’m an only child and my grandparents are gone, so my parents would have to agree to give a blood sample and a cheek swab.
S***, s***, s***. Of all the f***ing injustices. Our reproductive future was in the hands of people who thought God was frowning upon us. I felt so badly for Kyle; his dream was to have a family, and he married the one woman whose parents wouldn’t let him. Don’t get me started on the guilt I feel about being a Fragile X Carrier.
That summer I brainstormed so many different ways of getting their cooperation. I tried leveraging the HIPAA privacy laws so my parents wouldn’t know exactly what their DNA was being used for, but the genetic counselor felt uncomfortable with that and my parents are too perceptive anyway. Kyle wanted to steal hair from their hairbrushes (that was before we knew we also needed a blood sample). (He joked about drugging my parents, too. If we could’ve gotten away with it, I would’ve done it!) The genetic counselor offered to meet with my parents herself, but I knew she wouldn’t try to hide what’s done with the unused embryos, etc.
I finally accepted that we’d just have to come clean and beg them.
Then it was all about how to approach them. I wrote out pages of potential speeches. Kyle offered to do the talking, but he didn’t know the hot-button words to avoid, so I forbade him.
The anxiety was paralyzing. I finally went to my primary care doctor, who diagnosed Social Phobia/Social Anxiety Disorder. At the time, the description of SAD felt right, and now it’s almost uncanny. The Doc started me on Wellbutrin every day (which would help for both my anxiety and my depression) and Ativan as needed. She told me to take an Ativan right before I talked to my parents.
The route I eventually took was suggested by my therapist. She suggested that I turn my parents’ passive-aggression back on them. In everyday life, I was actively trying to eradicate my passive aggressive behavior, but she said that in this situation, it was necessary to speak their own language. I would effectively be manipulating them the same way they manipulate me.
So I took my Ativan and called them. I explained that they really should know which one of them was the carrier because of certain health concerns for them. I stressed their responsibility to get tested so we could inform other family members who might also be affected. I said this was the only way that Kyle and I could ever have biological children. Waah, waah, it’s up to you, and we’ll just be over here in the corner, alone, in the dark…
After I made my pitch, my parents’s stunned (and stunning) reply was, “OK.” And thus began the next chapter in our fertility journey.
P.S. I can’t tell you how nervous it makes me to have new blog followers who proclaim their Christianity or right-to-life beliefs. I’m trying not to censor myself, but it’s hard. I fear retribution. Everyone, please read my words with kindness.