Monthly Archives: October 2012

Donor Stalking

We just moved to a smaller place. In an effort to downsize, we spent hours (if not days) combing through the huge stacks of papers that has followed each of us since graduate school. Drudged through that box of random crap that never got unpacked from the last time we moved. Through this process, S and I uncovered love letters from early in our courtship. We found copies of our marriage certificate that had been hiding for at least a few months. We found dog toys, baby toys, fancy paper clips, extra batteries and those special rocks I had picked up somewhere sometime ago that I just couldn’t part with. And then, S found the green folder. You see, the green folder is where we stored all of the information when we were donor shopping. Contained within the tattered covers is all that we know about M’s donor.

Obviously (if you have been reading this blog), I have thought a lot about his donor. Wondering if his donor is the cause of his blond curls or blue-gray eyes. Wondering if M will be musical, like his donor. But somehow, these thoughts always make his donor seem more like an enigma. Opening that folder, I remembered that he is a real person. Some faceless person in the crowd: maybe the guy who ordered his coffee right before you did yesterday morning. Maybe we will never know what he looks like. Maybe he will break his family’s heart and be killed in a car accident like another donor we know of, closing the door for my son to ever know him. Opening that folder, I remembered that M’s donor seems funny (on paper, that is) and young. So young. Too young to have made the decision he did.

And then, it happened. Unexpectedly and without premeditation, I took the information we have and…I…I…Googled him. I did! It was like I couldn’t stop myself! On track and determined to see his face with hopes he looks nothing like my son, I spent more than an hour entering different combinations of the information, with and without his birth month and year (1987, for those of you who care. 1987! That makes him now 25 years old.) Thinking some aspect of what he told the sperm bank would be unique parts of his personality that would make him stand out amongst the billions of people in the world. I got nothing. Not a thing. No pictures. No Facebook page. No magazine articles about how he is out trying to save the world. Nothing. And…I was relieved. I can continue to assume that M got his blond hair from my side of the family and this his blue-gray eyes come from S’s middle eastern heritage. All I had to do was close that green folder and he went back to being a faceless person in the crowd.

Of course, we want M to be able to connect with his donor when he is older and, of course, that will open a while new can of worms. But for now, S and I are the ones who made him, blond curls and blue-gray eyes and sly smile and cautious approach to most things. We did that.

-Betsy

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Parent Win

When we first launched the blog in mid-July I wrote my initial post about my experience of being rejected repeatedly by our two-year-old daughter who strongly preferred her other mother, my dear spouse who carried and birthed her.  I had moments of feeling like I could ride through that experience with humor and grace, but more often I felt like a child myself- sullen and frustrated by these relentless acts of rejection from a toddler who I wanted to be close to, especially as a full-time working mom.  I had been dealing with that unpleasant situation since the prior September and I was emotionally exhausted from it.

I run a peer-led support and discussion group for queer, non-gestational parents and it was around this time in July that I went to one of those groups and shared how I was at my wits end with this situation… how long would I have endure this?  Of course no one could say for sure, but some amongst the group had even older children and they were still dealing with this issue, while others assured me that it would pass… it was just a phase.  Somehow both ends of the spectrum were both validating and slightly maddening (1: ok, I’m not alone… oh crap! you mean this could go on for another year or more?!  2: whew! a phase, be patient… you don’t get it! it doesn’t feel like a phase… it’s been nearly a year! A YEAR!).  But regardless of the well-intentioned, kind thoughts that people offered, no one could actually change this situation for me.  It felt like one of many experiences as a parent where something involving your child is in many ways out of your control… or was it?  What did I know, I was a rookie at this parenthood thing.

Two seasoned moms of multiple children, several of which are elementary school aged, and another mom who has fostered a long list of children over the years listened and asked if I wanted some suggestions.  Why the heck not? I was up for trying anything at that point.  One of the sage mamas insisted, “you have got to be diligent about rotating who does bedtime with your daughter or just you should do until it gets better.”  The other seasoned mom nodded in agreement.  Absolutely.  The mom who had fostered children in the past agreed: yes, you need to make intentional acts of bonding literally a “to do” over the next few months.  Make it a priority.  None of them were saying this would necessarily erase all traces of this rejection business, or even would shift the dial at all, but it was worth a try.  They stressed how important bedtime rituals were- that it was a time when children are both looking for nurturing and when trust is built.  I hadn’t been wholly absent with the bedtime routine, but we also hadn’t been intentional about splitting it or having me do more.  Probably, if I really thought about it, more of the time I was the one to clean up the dishes, sitting with my daughter and spouse for a book or two, before my spouse continued the routine and I got back to the sink.  I was purely thinking about being efficient with our time and energy since we were so overwhelmed with both working and parenting and trying to have a speck of existence beyond that.  Add to that that my spouse nursed our daughter to sleep for the first 13 months of her life, which I think is great, but it was a chance for the two of them to have a very regular bonding ritual, while I didn’t have anything like that.

So we followed these wise mamas’ advice and started rotating which of us led bedtime. Neither my spouse nor I felt comfortable with me purely doing this ritual, because as two working parents we both already have so much less time than we want with our daughter during the work week.  I started saying no to evening invitations to hang out with friends to make sure I was available for this time with my daughter.  The first month or so had it’s ups and downs and we eventually followed another piece of advice that ended up being critical: my spouse had to leave when I was doing bedtime.  My daughter would get too distraught and would sob and insist on my spouse doing it and it wasn’t working for any of us.  But if my spouse wasn’t around… if she literally wasn’t an option for bedtime, my daughter usually was ok with me taking the lead.  As time went on my daughter got the jist of this new plan.  She now asks, “is it Mama’s night to put me to bed? Is tomorrow Mummy’s night to put me to bed?”  I truly believe that she’s not asking this because she has a preference, she just likes to know what’s happening.  Three months later, I can report that we’re in a much better place with my daughter fairly equally preferring each of us.  She protests here and there, but most of the time, she’s fine with either one of us doing the daily things that just months ago she would have insisted on her Mama (my spouse) doing.  And in some small way, that feels like a parent win.  I’ll take it.*

– Charlotte

* Let me say that I also totally acknowledge that this could change again… if there’s anything I’ve learned in the past 2.5 years of parenthood, it’s that you can’t get attached to anything staying consistent (for better or for worse).  Also, I think it’s super important to acknowledge (while I’m doing my acknowledgments here) that many non-gestational parents try every trick in the book- including doing bedtime regularly with their child- and they still have this painful issue to deal with… it’s not foolproof and I can bet those are awesome parents.  Just saying.

After A Long Day

Let me preface this entry with a little self-disclosure: I am an emotional being. Ok, maybe not just emotional, but emotional. I cry at Hallmark commercials, sometimes inadvertently sobbing with perhaps a snort or two.

I am not going to lie, this aspect of my personality is a little irritating. While my partner finds it endearing, I find it annoying. In the heat of an argument where I am feeling particularly angry (not necessarily with my partner), I am prone to tears and loss of words. After the other person has hung up the phone or left my line of sight, I know exactly what I want to say and end up reciting the perfect zinger over and over again until I am sure they have psychically connected to my thoughts and felt the full impact of what I could have said…5 minutes ago.

Ok, ok. Enough about me, let’s talk about me. So, the other night, S (my partner) and I were watching mindless television in an attempt to decompress from the long toddler-day that we had just survived. A commercial comes on before one of us has a chance to hit mute. It is a preview for a comedienne who panders to mothers. She starts in, “Welcome mothers! And other people who pee a little when they sneeze!” S laughed like she was part of the club and I could feel the steam rising inside me.  This overt reference to mothers being people who pushed their children out of their vaginas was so exclusive that when S laughed, I felt stabbed. This could have partly been because we had just had a day with our boy. Full of negotiations, the word ‘no’ and perhaps a few mini-tantrums. I, the primary negotiator, was exhausted from the full-on parenting that only occurs on days like that.

Because that comedienne wasn’t talking to me, I am not a mother? Logically, I know that she is just speaking to a specific audience and I think I would have brushed it off had S not laughed. My initial response to this laughing was to ask S if she had any idea how it might feel for me that she laughed. Instead of seeing it as this small moment, I felt so angry. When I say S laughed, she didn’t even really laugh. She just kind of went “hmm” with a little up-tick on the end. A snicker? A stunted chortle? But for some reason, in that moment, that small sound hit me.

I think I probably pouted the rest of the night, which is not something I say lightly since I have hated that descriptor since I was a child. But I did. I pouted. I haven’t been able to unpack what my reaction was about. It feels so caught up with the events of that day and the mood I was in. In other words, looking back, it feels so illogical and overblown. But life is like that sometimes, particularly when it comes to parenting and partnering. Sometimes we don’t react the way we would like to in the moment. Sometimes our own insecurities rear their ugly little heads in ways we don’t expect.

So, I guess this entry is about revealing a fault of mine. Now you have it. And for the record, no children have come out of my vagina and sometimes, when I sneeze, I pee a little.

-Betsy