Category Archives: Child’s Appearance

Hair

P1060096People say to my son often, “What a cute little girl!”  When I tell them he is a boy, the response has more than once been, “Oh.  It’s a shame to waste that beautiful, curly hair on a boy.”  Really?  I was walking near where I live the other day and a woman in her seventies said that in front of him, like he doesn’t have ears.

It is a curious thing, raising a child.  People are so ingrained in their ideas of who a child should be.  Boy is ____. Girl is ______.  My son’s hair is down to his shoulders if not a little longer.  The deal I have with him is that he has to keep his hair out of his eyes.  Baseball hat. Hairclip. Headband.  The choice is his, but he has to choose one.  I know that when I put a clip in my son’s hair that this invites confusion.  I really don’t care.  I have told M that we can cut his hair when he is ready.  He is quite attached, so we have decided to give him that choice.

I am curious to see how M is effected by other people’s comments as he gets older.  I wonder if there will be a time when he decides to cut his hair to look like the other boys or if he will be like a twelve-year old boy we know who wears his hair in two braids that hang down to his waist.  Will he be offended to be called a girl?  Will we be able to convince him that being called a girl isn’t a bad thing?

-Betsy

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His Face

M is starting to look like S.  His face is lengthening and his smile is more reminiscent of her than me now.  There has been great comfort in the fact that people often think I gave birth to him, that his blond hair came from my mother’s side.  I am a little conflicted about him starting to look like her.  When we are together, are people going to see a perfect marriage of our genetics or are they just going to notice how his eyes don’t look like mine at all?  Maybe both?

I am assuming the questions from strangers will ensue, “Does he look like his dad?”  Which leads to me answering and cringing a little while I wait for their response.   But really, who knows?  Maybe he will go through this short phase of looking like her and then start looking like me again.

When I told S that he is starting to look like her, her face lit up.  I think there is a part of her that thinks she earned it by gestating him and pushing him out of her vagina.  I would have to agree on those points.  Part of me is excited for her because I know how important it was to her to have a biological child.  The similarities in appearance are just a tangible example of genetics.  The other part of me is jealous.  Yep.  I said it.  A little jealous.  Not that I would ever want to be pregnant or give birth, but it would be nice to keep up the rouse that I did for just a little longer.

-Betsy

People Say the Most Stupidest Things (Seriously, Y’all*)

I think this may have to be a new weekly post on the blog.  Since it keeps happening, I am assuming the pattern will continue.

While at a local restaurant (yes, I am now realizing how many sentences I have started this way), we were chatting it up with one of the owners with whom we have been friendly for over a year.  We aren’t best friends forever, but she is kind of loud and sometimes funny and I like that in a person.  Back to family brunch- There we are, enjoying our grits and fruit and eggs and said owner comes and sits down.  After a few minutes of catching up about her children’s lives, the restaurant and about us, we started talking about M and his luscious surfer curls.

Owner lady looks at S and, trying to determine the origin of such enviable locks, says, “Well, he’s half yours, isn’t he?”

The other “half” she was referring to was not me.

S looked at her kind of stunned for what felt like 2 minutes, but was really about 4 seconds, “Uh…I gave birth to him, if that is what you mean.  He’s half Betsy’s, too.”

“Yeah.  I thought so,” she replies without blinking.

The shit that comes out of people’s mouths is astonishing sometimes, like their question is so important it doesn’t matter who may or may not be offended in the asking.  To be honest, I wasn’t totally offended.  Because this woman is brash, it came as no surprise that she said what she said.  If we were closer friends, I would have said something to her and I am sure her response would have been (after a playful punch to the arm), “Oh you know what I mean, loser!”  Yes, loser.  I know what you mean.

-Betsy

*For those of you not from the U.S., y’all is a very southern term referring to ‘you all’.  We like to speak with as few letters as possible down here.

Awkward

Remember how the other day I said that no one has ever asked me about physical attributes of M’s “dad”?  Two days ago some one did.

M and I went on a tour of a pre-school (YIKES!). The room was tiny, like a walk-in freezer with windows and small people milling about and toys all over the floor.  After about fifteen minutes of awkward play, M was ready to go.  On the way out the door, one of the teachers asked how old he is.

“He turned two in December,” I told her.

“He’s really tall.  Is his dad tall?”

“He doesn’t have a dad,” I replied.

Before I could explain,

“Oh. How tall are you?”  She didn’t stop to breathe.

“I didn’t give birth to him.  His other mother gave birth to him and she is also 5’6.”

“Oh.  He’s tall,” she said like a closing paragraph summing up the thesis.

The topic of conversation did not feel awkward, but this woman sure was!  I think she must be used to talking to adults in really short spurts throughout the day, never being able to have an entire conversation at one time.  Her speech was rushed, quick like a bunny.  Before I could even formulate a thought in response, she was wiping a nose with one hand and holding a book she was reading aloud in the other while I was breathing deep for her.

-Betsy

Twins

twins-Schwarzenegger-DeVito

My son and I are twins who were separated at birth.  Well, maybe not.  But we do tend to dress alike more than once a week.  This might have to do with the fact that I dress us both: blue and white stripes, jeans with brown boots, gray hoodies.  Whatever.  While this used to be just by accident, now I think my subconscious makes me do it.  It tricks strangers into seeing the similarities in our facial features, “He definitely has your eyes.”  I have heard that more than once.  Each time, I smile and say thank you, feeling victorious inside.  I know it was the matching pea coats and Raybans that fooled them.  If we are able to have other children, it is quite possible they will inherit S’s olive skin and black hair.  Will people think I am the nanny?  Or just watching my kid and his friend?  I must start scheming now on new ways to trick people into seeing our sameness.  Just in case.
-Betsy
(P.S. That’s me on the right.)

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

Car Musings

When my son was born, the midwives remarked in awe how much he looks like me.  Same hair and skin color.  Same cheeks.  Same nose.  It was a bit of a shock as my partner, who is Middle Eastern (olive skinned, black hair), gave birth to him.  We share no biology, yet he truly favors me.  He has started to tan, which is not like me at all, and I fear he will stop looking like me as he grows.  There is comfort in our similarities.  It is not like I look for my father’s eyes in my son’s face, but other people do.  I am not closeted.  I openly talk about my life with most people (unless I feel unsafe).  So, when someone says that my son looks just like me, my most common response is, “Isn’t it funny?  I didn’t give birth to him.” But I did.  He was not born of my body but was born of my soul, that which is uniquely me.  As I write this, we are driving home from a beach vacation and he is asleep next to me with his tiny hand on my forearm like it belongs there, because it does.  I realized that while I do not hide who I am, there are certain situations where I don’t trust other people not to say hurtful things, so I might play along with their assumptions of my son’s heredity to avoid having to explain.  The fact that he looks like me makes this possible.  If he looked like his other mother, his eyes would be dark like the night, his hair the color of crows and his fair skin, brown.  Then, I would have to answer, “Does he look like his dad?”  “Where did he get those eyes?”  I don’t mind answering and, in fact, think that I have to for my son, to show him that there is nothing to hide about how he came to us.  But sometimes, I don’t want to answer.  I want the store clerk to assume he came from my body.  I want the waitress to ask only me if my boy wants water.  Somehow, the assumptions of strangers make me a visible parent.  I remember the first pediatrician appointment when my son was two weeks old.  The doctor hardly looked me in the face. She addressed all questions about how well he was nursing or how long has it been since he pooped to his other mother.  She asked her about his sleep patterns and whether or not we were ready to vaccinate.  As I sat there in that stark room, a heat began to fill me up, from my toes to my belly where my son did not grow, all the way to the top of my head.  Inside, I was screaming, “WE MADE HIM TOGETHER!  I AM HIS MOTHER, TOO!” and maybe not so loudly, “See me.”  I was worried about whether or not I would bond with my son the same way his other mother would.  I worried that he would come out and only want her.  I planned about how I would react to this situation if it happened.  I talked to fathers and other non-gestational mothers about their experiences.  I journaled to my son for months before he was born about what I want for our relationship and what I want for him.  All that planning, and then he was born.  A gentle spirit who loves me as deeply as I love him.  In the first spring of his life, we spent many hours bound in a Moby wrap, wandering the streets of our town.  I would kiss his head as we avoided the as-yet-melted mounds of snow piled on the sidewalks.  We explored the dormant gardens and watched as the geese returned to the pond.  He grew and smiled for the first time and we kept walking.  His other mother went back to work and my son and I kept walking.  Then he got hurt for the first time.  He fell and bumped his face and the tiny tooth on the bottom cut his gums and there was blood.  I scooped him up and held him tight as he worked through the newness of pain. After a couple of minutes, he stopped crying and just immersed himself in my gaze.  In that moment, I really knew he was mine.  When my son was six months old, we moved from Massachusetts to North Carolina.  Like I prepared for my son’s birth, I prepared for this move, working through the various scenarios as our departure drew near: “Two mothers? That is an abomination!” “You are going to hell!” “That poor boy.  What is going to do without a father?”  But none of that has happened.  Sure, there are people who believe those things, but we have been met only with kindness since we arrived.  When a woman at the farmer’s market asked, “Who’s baby is that?” when my son was on my back and his other mother at my side, I (without a moment’s thought) replied, “Both of ours.”  As I braced my self for her response, she launched into a diatribe about the lesbians who used to live next door (“Do you know them?” she asked.) who “got their son from some California stuff” and weren’t they just the best parents you have ever seen.  While the my-best-friend-is-gay routine gets old, I appreciated her ability to surprise me with her type of kindness.  I don’t know what is said behind closed doors.  I only know that since we have moved back to the South, people have been nothing but warm and welcoming of our family.  In Massachusetts, it was expected that we, as a family, would be visible.  But here, I have been constantly surprised by how many people actually see us, the unit.  I like to be surprised by people in this way.  I expect that my son won’t always favor me and that people won’t always be nice to our family.  I am trying to plan for the day when someone, in front of my boy, says something mean or ignorant.  But these days, I am not spending too much time on that pursuit.  Instead, I play ‘boo’ with my boy and have whole family dance parties daily.  If my son gets a dark tan, we will still be a unit.  He will still be my boy if he looks nothing like me and people ask if he has his father’s eyes.  My son, who has no father, has two mothers who love him more than chocolate, which is saying something coming from me.

-Betsy