Monthly Archives: August 2012

And so it goes…

Sometimes, I find it exciting that I share no biology with my son.  This is mostly true when he picks up poop off the floor or slaps himself in the face for no reason and then laughs.  At those moments, I am deeply appreciative of the fact that my genes did not cause his zany behavior.  When he is particularly loving or funny, I know he got that from me.  Osmosis.  Nose picking? Genes.  Screaming fits? Genes. Kindness towards animals and random kisses?  Osmosis.  I feel the same way about our dog.  When he growls or won’t pee, he belongs to my partner. When he is playful and freshly bathed, he is mine.

The difference is that my boy is mine all the time.  I am his primary parent Monday-Friday.  His other mother (S) started back to work full time at the beginning of July.  Since then, M and I have been figuring it all out together.  We were a threesome for the last year. S and I took the year off of work-life to hang out with M.  We moved in with my parents (yes…we did) and spent much of our time taking walks in the woods, making animals sounds and getting to know each other more and more each day.  In all that privilege, we kind of forgot that it would ever be different.  That was, until our bank account started to run dry and one of us had to get a job.  Since I am not super career motivated, S searched in earnest until she found something she would love.  The threesome morphed into a twosome.  When S did return to full time work, there were some serious challenges for M and for me.  Sometimes, at naptime, he would arch his back away from me and cry for S.  There were a couple days where I, after an hour of trying to get him to sleep, would sit on the floor in a heap crying at my lack of ability to soothe him.  Despite all my best efforts, sometimes she is what he wants.  What I have come to understand is that it is ok if he sometimes wants only her.  There are times when he wants only me.  And that is also ok.  This parenting thing is an evolution, isn’t it?  Day to day and minute by minute, discovering who this little person is and how to respond to what he needs.

(This might seem like a leap, but hang in there.) Deciding to keep this blog was a bit like deciding to stand naked in front of town hall.  It feels good, but you never know how passersby might react.  It has been interesting to hear from different readers.  Often, people want to fix it or make it better by telling Charlotte and myself that we are good parents and our children need us just as much as their gestational mothers.  We didn’t necessarily anticipate this type of response.  Both Charlotte and I are very secure in our roles with our children, so it didn’t even cross our minds that other people might think that we are hurt or damaged and need to be taken care of.  Don’t get me wrong, the outpouring of care is heartwarming (plus, it lets us know people are actually reading our blog!)  It is just different from what we expected.  But I think that is how parenting is too: Constantly changing and different than you expect.  A few months ago, while sitting back and observing my boy, who is very much his own person, I let go of all of my expectations of what this journey will look like.  I let go of expectations and breathed in not knowing.  So much of the day-to-day depends on whom your child turns out to be each and every day and each and every minute.  Some days M loves sweet potatoes, but tonight, he wouldn’t touch them.  And so it goes.  The ebb and flow of this thing called life.

-Betsy

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Mr. Mom

It’s Saturday morning and I am trying to let my spouse sleep in for once.  She has been a perennial poor sleeper since our daughter entered our lives- waking to any small noise and having somewhat fitful rest even with our daughter mostly sleeping through the night.  I jump up before my spouse can rouse from her now deep, early morning sleep and skitter to my daughter’s room when she calls out for us on the monitor.  “Mummy’s here honey.”  Of course she asks- or more demands- for Mama, as she nearly always does, but I lure her into my arms with promises of making pancakes.  This gets her attention- PANCAKES? – hell yeah Mummy!  We are a house of stereotypical, natural foodie parents and sweets are not something we indulge her in that often, especially not for the introductory meal of the day.  Who cares if it comes from a tree? Maple syrup tastes GOOD (have you looked at the grams of sugar? think more than Coca-Cola).

We lumber into our small, galley kitchen and grab some metal, mixing bowls from the cabinets along with the pouch of pancake mix.  I set the bowl on a long, wooden bench we have in our kitchen so that it’s at my daughter’s height and she can help with the dumping of ingredients and stirring.  She’s giddy with excitement at our forthcoming meal- both because of the actual food it will produce and because she gets to help make it.  She’s practicing perfecting her jump to show her enthusiasm and is ridiculously adorable with her long, straight bed head hair falling in her face as she hollers, “JUMP!” and springs up and down in front of the mixing bowl and bench, her toddler body and chunky feet landing with a heavy thud.  I go and shut the door to our bedroom; better not wake the Mama.

We’re having a gay ‘ole time and it’s not even 8 am.  I’ve just brought out the measuring cups and I let my daughter dip them into the pancake mix bag and pull them out, overflowing with powder.  She dumps it into the bowl, somewhere in the vicinity of the right amount we need to make our cakes.  She goes for a second dip and I say, “oh what the hell” to myself about doubling the recipe, because it’s making her so happy just to be able to help with the cooking process.  As she’s bringing out the measuring cup, she gets a mischievous look on her face and in that instance I panic and know what she’s about to do before I can stop her. DUMP.  The powder is all over the floor, on my feet, on her feet, and making fluffy lines of white in the cracks in the hardwood floor.  She laughs and then does another impulsive move and scoops her chubby hands into the hill of powder on the floor and is now dancing in the stuff.  Suddenly, it feels like one cup has quadrupled into four somehow and the small area is covered.  Then my spouse walks in.

Welcome to my life as a parent. I have often wondered if Het Dads feel this way- not the supreme nurturer in their child’s life, but the entertainer.  The Court Jester if you will.  Mr. Mom, or in my case, Mrs. Dad as it were. My spouse looks at me with tired annoyance.  No babies lost, right?  We were having fun.  Oh, right, but that’s what we do, we have fun.

My spouse doesn’t end up getting upset; she rolls with it, maybe because she’s too tired to deal with my shenanigans or maybe because she also sees that it’s no biggie.   But it leaves me feeling like a bit of a mess of a parent (more figuratively than literally).  But then maybe parenting is messy for every parent, regardless of your position or relation to your child, and I’m just more upfront and self-deprecating than some.  I wear it on my sleeve, whereas others act as if they have it all under control (haha).  Yep, I’m the funny guy in the house.  And my kid likes it about me.  Hell, it could be worse.

We sweep up the pancake mix with my daughter’s miniature broom and dust pan- ok, I’m lying a bit- she holds it for a moment, whacks some powder up into the air, spreading it even further, and then I sweep up the mess with the big broom.  Le sigh.*  But we have a tasty, if not snobbishly healthy, meal to start another random weekend in the blips of our life as a family.  My daughter is laughing and saying, “MMMMMMMMMM!!!!” as she saturates her square of carbs in the syrup until it’s the color of molasses and my spouse can’t help but crack a grin with her raw enthusiasm for life.

– Charlotte

* I cannot take credit for this brilliant phrase that sums up so many situations in my life as a parent- my friend Sarah Reid is the word-smithing genius behind it!

Sperm in Common

My son (M.) is the product of a more than 15-year courtship, a lot of love, determination and…an anonymous sperm donor.  We did not come t­o that decision easily.  In the end, it was what brought us our boy so I can’t question the decision.  When we were choosing a donor, it was important to us that M. might have the opportunity to meet him one day and that we might have the opportunity to at least know any other children born from the same donor.  After M. was born, we contacted the sperm bank to let them know and to ask them to pass along our information to any other families who used #4004 who were interested in hearing from us.  I was so excited to call the bank and let them know about our bundle.  I was also really excited about the possibility of meeting the other families…until that possibility became a reality.  Then I was terrified.  I never felt like my position as my child’s mother was in jeopardy, but the thought of a random stranger having biological ties to my baby FREAKED ME OUT.  It still does.  On the one hand, I really want M. to know this other child, if for nothing more than they will know they are related and shouldn’t procreate.  On the other hand, I want to run and hide in the woods with my boy and make believe he was born of my literal blood, too.

I am writing about this now because the time that M. will meet this other child is upon us.  We were supposed to meet up last summer, but due to a serious case of cold feet and other mitigating circumstances, we backed out at the last minute.  WHEW!  Dodged a bullet that I kind of wanted to take, which is odd to say.  In less than a month, we are supposed to meet up halfway between us and I am simultaneously excited and nauseated.  What if they look like each other?  What does that mean for me who shares no DNA with my boy?  What if their shared biology serves to instantly bond them?  What if we don’t like the other family?  What if they don’t like us?  What if we all love each other?

Sometimes, it is all too much for me to think about. If I ruminate too long on the subject, a dark hole grows and pulls in my gut and I feel like I can’t breathe.  I don’t think M.’s other mother really gets it.  She is supportive and says she understands how I could feel that way, but she doesn’t have a void inside her waiting to swallow her up.

I was talking to a good friend this week about how I feel like, due to a combination of sleep deprivation and stress, I have forgotten how to breathe to the bottom of my lungs.  I mean one of those down to the toes kind of breaths that fill one with renewal and possibility. I am going to focus on that for the next few weeks: Filling my lungs, legs, feet with possibility and breathing so deeply I just might float away.

-Betsy