But with one story making the news right now, I’m going with the Zen of Mick Jagger.
That’s because it’s all there in Jagger’s 1969 song, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”
Co-written with Keith Richards and featured on the album Let It Bleed, this eminently singable tune has also been rated the 100th greatest song of all time by Rolling Stone magazine. Told in first person, the lyrics are about a party, but are also said to address three big topics of the 1960s: love, politics and drugs. The chorus is pragmatic and steady, and at the same time, uplifting.
For a lot of us, it’s also the essence of the song.
“You can’t always get what you want,” wails Jagger. “But if you try sometimes you just might find, you just might find, you get what you need.”
In the case of Jennifer Cramblett, a 38-year-old woman who lives in tiny Uniontown, Ohio, population 2,802, she wanted a baby, and she wanted one badly.
I’ve been there.
After nearly two decades focusing on a writing career, I suddenly had an urge—more accurately, an intense, this-isn’t-going-away desire—to have a child. So extreme was my baby fever that I couldn’t attend friends’ showers, and if I saw someone pushing a stroller, I’d need to cross the street. In fact, sometimes my hands would start shaking, literally, at the sight of an infant.
I never give up unless I’m absolutely forced to, so I willingly went through six years of invasive, painful and costly infertility treatments. That meant well over 50 artificial inseminations; three IVFs, and a famous clinic whose clients included Brooke Shields, Roseanne and Jane Seymour.
Toward the end of this journey, I was gently told that it might be time to look at other options. My choice was adoption, and nine months later (an interesting coincidence), I brought my daughter Katie home from China.
Clearly, adoption wasn’t my first choice.
But becoming a mother this way ended up being the right decision. I didn’t get what I thought I wanted, but I absolutely got what I needed—a smart, spirited and beautiful child who has completed me in a myriad of ways.
Jennifer Cramblett went down a different road.
After purchasing donor sperm from Illinois-based Midwest Sperm Bank, she soon found herself pregnant by donor number 380, a Caucasian man with blonde hair and blue eyes, just like her partner, Amanda Zinkon. All was going well until five months into Cramblett’s pregnancy: it was then that Midwest informed Cramblett that it had mistakenly shipped her the sperm of donor number 330 instead.
This donor was African American.
On October 21, 2012, Cramblett gave birth to a healthy but noticeably biracial baby she named Payton.
Obviously, this child was not what Cramblett had wanted, and the new mother was not pleased. The sperm bank apologized profusely and gave her a partial refund. According to official documents, the slip-up was the result of a clerical error.
That should have been the end of the story, but Cramblett wasn’t satisfied.
About two years after Payton was born, Cramblett filed a lawsuit alleging wrongful birth and breach of warranty.
It wasn’t that she didn’t love her daughter, she said. She did, and in fact, went on to say that she couldn’t imagine life without her. She also said that her case has nothing to do with race.
But Cramblett has also stated that she had been “raised around stereotypical attitudes about people of color,” and because of this, “has limited cultural competency” around African Americans. Subsequently, the wrong insemination led to “an unplanned transracial parent-child relationship for which she was not, and is not, prepared.”
Moreover, Cramblett says that both a sociologist and social worker have told her that both she and Payton will
eventually require long-term individual and family counseling, as well as relocating to a town that is “more racially and
The case was thrown out of court, but mostly for technical reasons.
Perhaps that’s why the judge strongly encouraged Cramblett to pursue a second lawsuit, advising her that she might win if she charged Midwest with negligence instead.
That’s exactly what Cramblett did this past April, although a ruling has yet to be announced.
But Cramblett’s story has made me think, long and hard, about the difference between getting what we want, and getting what we need, especially when it comes to our children.
What about the parents of the 6,000 Down Syndrome kids born each year in the United States? What about the more than 400,000 children enrolled in special education programs in our country because of autism? Or, how about the moms and dads of the 8,000 babies annually diagnosed with cerebral palsy?
Then again, consider those kiddos—whose stories we’ve all heard and may even have a personal connection to—who are born healthy, but end up severely compromised, cognitively and physically, because of a horrible accident or disease?
Who should the parents of these children sue? And if they could sue, would they?
It’s clear to me that Jennifer Cramblett is on a slippery slope.
I’m not denying that her road isn’t a challenging one.
She probably will leave the 98 percent white community she lives in, which she now says she wants to do anyway to make a better life for Payton. She probably will end up cutting off all ties between some family members and long-time friends who can’t get past their racial intolerance. And mark my words: in a decade or so, Payton and Cramblett are likely to have epic fights, especially once her kid finds out about the lawsuits. (For the record, Cramblett believes this scenario is unlikely.)
Yet the bottom line is this: Cramblett is now the mother of a sweet little girl. For whatever reason, she didn’t get the child she wanted.
But like Mick Jagger says, she should perhaps try to find that Payton may be what she has needed all along.
What have you really wanted and didn’t get, but later realized that you still got what you needed? If you have any thoughts about Jennifer Cramblett, I’d like to read those, too! I look forward to each and every comment!
p.s. Families of children with special needs may already be familiar with the 1987 poem "Welcome to Holland."
For those who don’t know about it, here’s a beautiful video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r15PuYoID94