Category Archives: Preference for Gestational Mother

Running Away

imgres-1When someone pisses me off, it is my natural inclination to gather as much space between us and to not talk to them until I am not angry anymore.  Being in a relationship of 16+ years, I learned along the way to sometimes make allowances, especially if your partner gets clingy when you are mad at her.  Still, I like to run away and hide.

Since M was born, I have fought against that part of my nature.  I want to be able to show M that you can talk about your feelings and that you don’t have to run away from a confrontation.  Tonight, however, really tested me.  M told me he doesn’t love me. He followed that up with telling me I should go live in another house.  It wasn’t just once, but several times over the period of an hour.  I told him he was hurting my feelings and that it wasn’t nice to say that to me.  He didn’t care.  He decided he loves Ima and not me.

I understand that he is a kid with very little reasoning ability, but the stay-at-home mom part of me was pretty furious about this statement.  If it wasn’t for me, my kid would be naked and so full of carbs (S can make toast and cereal) and his sheets would never be changed.  This is not ragging on S.  She does lots of things to make our family work, but she doesn’t do those things.

I think it is really only when you become a parent that you truly appreciate the people who raised you.  They didn’t always get it right, as we won’t.  We will probably tell our kids they can’t go to a concert or date that guy or ride a bike without a helmet.  There will be days when our kids can’t stand us and we, them.  But when the day comes that they are able to truly appreciate all that we have done for them, that will be a marvelous day.

Until then, I will continue to bathe and feed and clothe my child, regardless of where he tells me I should live.  I will try to not run away and will try to understand his developmental stage.  But when he goes to bed, like tonight, I might take some of the sting of his comments away with a big glass of wine or some chocolate, even if I have to run to the store to get it.

-Betsy

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The Nanny

Sometimes, I feel like the nanny.  After S returned from being out of town for a few days, M can’t get enough of her.  He wants to nurse and snuggle on her to no end.  Right now, he is sick.  He came down with an instant cold after playing in the rain for an hour yesterday.  All he wants is S.  He woke up from his nap every twenty minutes today, sobbing for Ima. He would flail his arms about and squeak out through the ears, “No Mama.  Go away.  Ima!  Ima!”  He knew full well that she was at work.  He just knew he wanted her more than me.

This is the part of being a non-gestational parent that is tough.  He gets something from her that he can never get from me and I can’t help but think that came from being in her womb.  He gets a lot from me.  I know that.  But there are just some intangibles that I can’t replicate.  It is hardest when he is sick or hurts himself and wants her and not me.  In those moments, it doesn’t matter that I am home with him day after day, wiping his butt, making him food, teaching him fun things.  He just wants her.

When I think about the important people in my life, I know that I get things from each of them that the others might not be able to give me.  I love them all just the same.  I am hoping this is what goes on with M.  He loves me deeply, but sometimes he just wants her.  I get it.  And it still hurts.

-Betsy

The Dawning of a New Era (or not at all)

Here is what I have decided: sleep will never come for my brilliant, lovely, creative, beautiful boy.  I know I have talked about this before, but now I really mean it.  We are in his third year of life and the illusive slumber continues.  Last night, for example, he only woke up four times before his bunny clock tells him he can get up at 6:15a.m.  And THAT was a good night, folks.  As his non-nursing mother, it has somehow become my job (and mine alone) to tend to his night time needs.  This is for fear he will melt down when denied access to the golden nectar that flows from his other mother’s breasts.  I am, once again, exhausted.

We have a space heater in his room because it is impossible to control the temperature any other way.  This means that we must remove all obstacles within a three foot radius of the heater.  So, we have taken to folding his rug back over itself to create a void for the heater.  What I discovered this morning is that this doubled over rug with rug pad makes a suitable cot for me.  All curled up on his floor, like our over-sized cat Chicken, I was almost able to drift off to sleep.  Once more I turned over hoping I could be a little more comfortable, only to snap to attention as the sticky pad used to keep the rug in place tore away from my pajamas loud enough to wake the dead.  Shocked was I when my boy remained silent in his crib.  Using his little stuffed chair as a pillow, I got cozy and grateful for this one free-pass.  “Mama.  Pat you.” I hear as I am seconds away from dreamland myself.  (Pardon my language here…)   “MOTHER FUCKER!” I screamed inside my head vowing to get rid of the sticky pad and allow the rug to go lawless and untamed.

So, I did.  Pat you, as he says.  Once I could be assured he was fully asleep again, I went back to our bedroom.  Denying the urge to slam the door and wake up my snoring other half, I eased it shut and slid back into bed.  S turned over, never leaving the rhythmic breathing: in-two-three, out-two-three.

The last few days when my son has gotten up for the day, he will tell his other mother that Mama came in and helped him in the night.  He will say, “Mama be there.  Pat you and M be quiet.”  I kind of love it, being the savior if only for a few minutes.  In the middle of the night, I want to be asleep and nothing more.  But in the daylight, I’ll take being the one he counts on when the sun goes down.

-Betsy

2.75 Going on 13

Welcome to my life.  Here’s how it goes lately: my daughter, who is two years and nine months old is suddenly acting like a thirteen year old.  HUH?  Dude, do I really have to deal with this already?  I love her to pieces, don’t get me wrong, but this is getting old quick (except when it’s sort of funny and I have to twist my face into a grimace to mask my smile so as to not egg her on).

Our old daycare provider and friends with slightly older kids warned me about this: the “terrible twos”?  Naw. Try three. Now three is challenging.  Luckily, evolution has helped parents by simultaneously making kids scrumptiously adorable at this age so as to not have parents do what rats sometimes do to their kin (it ain’t pretty).

Here’s what it looked like in our house this weekend: sweet evening with my daughter filled with story reading and laughter.  I put her in her crib, she looks up at me and randomly says, “Sometimes I like Mama, but I don’t love you.”  DAMN.  Ouch.  ZING!  Lest I forget my parenting mantra let me repeat it out loud to myself (and anyone else who is listening): this too shall pass… this too shall pass.  Luckily, I have made a little progress in my own development as a parent.  I look down at her- GULP- “well, I still love you.”  Rolling diaper sound as she writhes in the bed… “Wellllll, I don’t love you!”  BLAMO!  Me: “Ok, you’re hurting Mummy’s feelings a little bit and I know you don’t mean that.”  Her:“I DO!”  Blink back tears- offer self empathy- remind self that she’s nearly 3 (right.)… “Ok, whatever, I still love you.”  Welcome to my plight as a non-gestational parent; if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know this is nothing new.  Now she just has fighting words with her bigger vocabulary.  Big mouth strikes again.

Or take tonight: as I have mentioned in the past, it’s deeply important to me to raise our daughter to not be ashamed of her body and to feel comfortable asking any questions about it.  I have tried to carry out this mission by being upfront; answering her questions with honest, straight-forward responses; and being casual and transparent about all things bodily so as to cultivate a sense of normalcy and strike down any flicker of shame.  Fast forward to the present… my daughter has been curious and asked both my spouse and I about our periods.  Tonight, my daughter got it into her head that she wanted a “pantiliner” (for the record, I *hate* that word… for someone who tries to be sex positive, I find that word elicits an internal “ew” for me).  I personally can’t understand the draw, but I guess I can imagine that to a two year old they seem pretty cool.  They’re like a cotton sticker with wings.  So at 7:30 pm, my tired and cranky daughter threw a full-on tantrum on the floor with her pants pulled down screaming with tears running down her face, “I WANT A LITTLE PAD!!!!  I DO WANT ONE!!!!!!”  I tried not to laugh, but gosh darn it, it was hard.

And me, I just want a steady dose of humor to get me through the next year and three months.  “I want a little patience!  I DO!”

– Charlotte

“Mama. Talk NO more.”

My son and I are great friends. We spend most of our time together and have very few problems, save a missed nap here and there that leads to cranky-pants. My son and I are great friends, except when his other mother is around too much. That sounds terrible. I know. To explain, S had five days off for Thanksgiving. We traveled to Atlanta to see her family. From the minute M knew she was home “all day” (as he likes to say), he was mean to me. He told me to go away. He didn’t want me to play with him. He didn’t want me, his primary caregiver, to help him use the potty or eat or go to sleep. He flat-out rejected me and I spent 5 days feeling crushed and heartbroken. He was on S’s boobs much of the time, nursing more than any 2 year old really needs to while somehow managing to keep me far away. I rationalized his behavior, telling myself that he misses S and gets to see me all the time. While I can understand where he is coming from, I still felt unloved. I am used to this type of behavior in the middle of the night. When he is half asleep, he only wants her. He will cry and cry for her, ignoring my soothing and asking me to leave the room. But this is not normal for the daylight hours. Not even on the weekends when S is home all day.

We returned home Saturday evening and I was excited to get things back to normal beginning with Sunday. Normally, M and I wake early and make pancakes together while S sleeps in. I love the early morning time with him, his cheeks still rosy from the night’s dreaming. This past Sunday, however, he wanted nothing to with me and I was done. I couldn’t take it anymore. As I dressed to go for a run, I was sobbing. Both S and I had been telling him that he needs to be nice to me and that the way he was talking to me hurts my feelings. But he is two and is not rational. So, I sat on the bed half-dressed and cried. After much coaxing, he came and sat with me. No hugs or kisses, but his eyes filled with tears as I told him that I was feeling sad. Nothing. He went to S and nuzzled into her neck, refusing physical contact with me.

When I talked to my dad about how hard my weekend away had been, he asked if we had considered weaning M totally. People keep saying that weaning him will be the great equalizer. Then everyone will have “no nanas”, as he calls my empty breasts. But, I am just not convinced that is the answer. What I am learning is that sometimes, we just need different things from different people. I know this to be true in my own life, so I just need to sit back and listen to my boy, who misses his Ima, tell me he needs her for a few days.

Everything got back to normal today. S went back to work. M and I took great adventures and had a blast. I got lots of kisses and hugs and those sweet giggles that make my heart melt. And when S came home from work, I still got attention from him. We did somersaults on the couch and played in the tub. I got to put him down for sleep tonight. We read books and sang songs and he didn’t ask for his other mother one time. Seems he loves me afterall.

-Betsy

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.

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