I’ve made some headway into my internal struggle with having had to use a donor, and this poor innocent babe who must deal with me as her mother. Let’s all have a little “Hallelujah” and “Thank the Lord” shout outs, shall we? Because this is a big fat deal.
This is a little bit of a tricky post to write (as was the last), since I know our donor reads this blog and believe me, one of the last things I would ever want is for her to question her decision. So I could edit or gloss over or not mention this part of the journey - but for now, I’m not going to. Because this is where I go to document said Journey, when I’m desperate or brave enough to do so. This is where I’ve been most honest. This is my truth and my experience as best I understand it, and to back down because I’m ashamed or afraid of it - well, that just doesn’t work for me. Not here.
So, true confessions. I’ve had a hard time being okay having a baby not of my genetics. It’s grown as the baby has grown, one of those things you don’t especially anticipate when it’s all conjecture and possibility back in the planning and preparation stages of assisted reproduction. But here we are. Pregnant. With a different kind of miracle baby than Anna was.
In referring to the donor during this pregnancy I’ve used verbage like “the genetic mom” or “the genetic mother”. It took me until month 4 to stop using “biological mother”, as my newest counselor insisted that I am the biological mother since I’m carrying her and it is my flesh and blood that supports and runs through her. Okay, I can go with that. But I’ve been stymied by the cycle described in the last post. How to separate my fear that I won’t truly and fully accept this child because she isn’t of me, from losing the child that was of me.
Both counselors and Brad have said many times along the way, “But you didn’t have any problem accepting Emily - why is this different?” As in, ‘this should be even easier, even better than bonding with a child of adoption. What’s the problem?’ I didn’t know, but it’s different. Not being able to explain why made me feel scared, panicky, confused, guilty, and very f**ed up in the head.
“The genetic mom”. Turns out it all lies there, with the word ‘mom’. Last week at the end of a session with the counselor I’ve seen for two years now, the lynchpin unveiled itself. I’ve been upset that I have to share that term with our donor – in my head, anyway. I’ve been so caught up in knowing how lucky we are that this worked at all, how lucky we are to have a bright, genuine, generous-of-heart, sensible and mature woman who cares about us so much (and who doesn’t look all that different from me, in my opinion) be the genetic material from which half of this baby is made, that I didn’t let myself feel the obvious consequence of our decision. I knew it, but didn’t want to feel it. Mom. All my life I’ve wanted to be a Mom. And now that I might be, to a little voice belonging to a living little body, I don’t want to share it. I’ve been afraid that because of the genetic tie, should this little girl get to know her, she’ll like the donor better. Or more accurately, feel closer to her. That she’ll wish she was born to her family and not ours. That she will think the donor is more fun, that the donor will inherently understand her better than we do and our daughter will pick up on that, bond to her in a way she doesn’t with me. That the sun will not rise and set on me the way it would if I was the biological and environmental and genetic mother.
Now, the donor has never given me reason to think this would be true. She and Brad seem to have a much better handle on this whole situation than I. The egg was a gift, and it ends there. This baby is our daughter, 100%. Should she have questions or need any answers only the donor can give, the donor’s willing to be available for that. But the donor’s approach and boundaries in the situation have consistently been exactly what one would want them to be in such a situation. At least that’s the read I’ve gotten all along. But it’s been awhile since we’ve talked about that, the donor and I. Clarified any thoughts or feelings either of us may be having now that there’s a real live baby growing. So I think I’ve gotten scared. Let our ‘open adoption’ mentality get the better of me. When I said Brad has a better handle on the situation, I mean that he’s clear who the Mom is. Last week he told me it really bothers him that I say ‘mom/mother’ in relation to the donor. He said, “YOU are the Mom. She is the donor. Genetic DONOR.” He’s said it before, but I couldn’t hear him. All I could think was, “Yeah, but we all know she’s the genetic mother, no matter the term you use. In our culture at least, whomever the genes come from gets to be the mother or father too - regardless of who raises the child. Hence the whole birthmother thing with adoption, hence children of anonymous donor sperm going to look for their ‘father’ at 18 years of age. Call it what you will, there’s no getting around that fact she’s partly the mother.”
But it’s verbage. And it’s different than adoption. That’s what I’ve come to this week.
No one else is using the term ‘genetic mother’ but me. If I take ‘mother/mom’ out and consistently replace it with ‘donor’, maybe eventually I’ll find the right niche for the role the donor plays in our child’s life within my own psyche. Which will be important for how our daughter feels about me, about the donor, about her creation, about her place in the world. She’ll take her cues from Brad and I, so I’d better pull it together. (Which has been the whole point of trying to plow through a jillion things through counseling these last months. I KNOW all this stuff is in there and I want to bring as little of it as possible to my little girl. Let momma deal with her crazy on her own!!)
With regards to adoption, the whole set-up is different than a donor egg. For one, adoption is a socially accepted practice in our culture, largely understood by the general public. Donor egg, not so much. New technology, new ways of thinking. In many ways largely untested within the psyche of the general public. Largely untested within me. You get a lot more education as potential parents of an adopted child than you do as parents of a donor egg child, believe you me. Two, in adoption there is an existing baby that for reasons individual and personal to the birthmom/birthparents, is in need of a different home once that child is born. As adoptive parents, it feels like we are doing something that serves everyone’s best interests, given the situation. Brad and I were raised in open adoption mentality, if you will, as we let go of the idea of biological children and forged ahead in our quest for family back in ’07-’09. It was drilled into our brains how important the relationship to the birthfamily was for the overall well-being of the child, and for the healing and well-being of the birthparents, inasmuch as both adult parties agreed on parameters of the relationship. And being the well-intentioned, conscientious, moral, and ethical couple we so strive to be, we were all aboard the ship Open Adoption. Probably to our detriment, in hindsight. So when a different kind of third party entered into the creation of our family, my psychological construct was to use the open adoption blueprint. Cue the blaring siren. That has been my mistake, as the two are in no way alike.
So there you go. I’m the momma, she’s the donor. I’m the mom I’m the mother I’m the Mommy! Now what I have to do is repeat, repeat, repeat, and start spending quiet time getting to know her in ways I haven’t let myself yet - spiritual ways, energetic ways, talking to her ways. Partly because I’m scared to (what if the relationship becomes essentially always spiritual, the way it is with Anna, because we lose her too?), partly because I’ve not been able to claim her. But it’s coming. It’s coming along well.