Tag Archives: donor sperm

Two Mamas

images-4Yesterday at the playground I could tell M was working something out.  He would look at the family next to us, three kids and their dad, then smile a little.  I didn’t think much of it.  He was more than content on the tire swing, so we just kept swinging.  After a few minutes went by, he looked at me, smiled and said, “Their daddy is pushing them.  That’s funny.”
“Why is that funny?”
“Just funny.  M doesn’t have a daddy.  M has two mamas.  A Mama and an Ima,” as he threw back his head and laughed a big open mouth laugh as he continued to spin around while he flew back and forth.

The other day, my mom told me that a friend of hers asked what we are going to tell M about not having a father.  She apparently said it like “that poor thing”.  We have always been honest with M about having two moms and not having a dad.  Of course we will explain what a donor is one day, but M is being raised to know that there are all kinds of families.  His Ima has one dad and no mom.  I have a mom and a dad.  He has friends with one mom, a mom and a dad, two moms, two dads.  We surround ourselves with loving people from a variety of contexts.  So, to my mother’s friend, we tell him he has two moms who love him more than anything.  Seems to me, he’s gotten the message.

-Betsy

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Intrusion

“No, you can’t ask me how ‘we’ (meaning lesbians) get pregnant,” is what I should have said.  I am so tired of people asking me that questions.  As if the intimate details of my child’s conception is public domain.  Have I EVER asked a straight woman how she got pregnant?

“Were you trying or not trying?”
“Did you use a condom? Did the condom break?”
“Where were you when you got pregnant? On the floor? In the bed?”
“Missionary position or were you on your knees?”
“Did it hurt or did you like it?”

Instead, I said, “No, I don’t mind if you ask.”  But I do.  I really, really do mind if you ask.  I don’t mind if you are queer and are doing research for your own process, but if you are straight and especially if you don’t know me very well, IT IS NONE OF YOUR FUCKING BUSINESS how my son was conceived.  If you are so fucking curious about how two women could possibly get pregnant, Google it.

-Betsy
(Sorry I said fuck so much.  It is a great word that feels appropriate tonight.)

Papa

My son called his friend’s father ‘Papa’ and I freaked out.  You see, my boy loves other boys and men and is obsessed with facial hair and ‘boy parts’.  I don’t have facial hair or boy parts.  My boy called a man ‘Papa’ and I was suddenly picturing being rejected by my son in 11 years, when he is 13 and wanting to do boy things with other males.  Will he still love me, the mother who did not give birth to him but who is also not a boy?

When M was first starting to explore the world around him, he took a shine to remote controls.  We used to joke that he was a stereotypical male: remote controls, facial hair and breast milk were his favorites.  But now, that isn’t so funny because sometimes I worry that my femaleness will not be enough for him.   I am an athlete and hope that will give me some credit, but I have never mastered peeing standing up (plus his friends will tease him mercilessly if he has two mothers, one of whom pees standing up) and I don’t even own a T.V.  Yes, I know I am being overly dramatic and stereotyping, but these are the things I worry about.

When M called his friend’s dad ‘Papa’, I corrected him, “You call him Will.”*  Internally, I was screaming, “ YOU DON’T HAVE A DAD!” and “I AM SORRY I CAN’T BE THAT FOR YOU!” when all M was doing was repeating what his friend had said.  The reality of life is we can never be all things to all people.  That would be exhausting.  As a parent, I need to remember that, even if I had a penis, I couldn’t be everything to my son.  He will need other people to fill special places in his heart and in his life.  He will sometimes need other people more than he needs us, but he will always need us.  We are each other’s home.  I will try to keep remembering that when he is four and makes a fort for boys only or when he wants to go camping with his friends and their dads.  Home, female parts and all.

-Betsy

*Names have been to changed to protect the innocent.

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

Lost and Found

If everything had worked out the first time, S and I would be the parents of a 3½ year old, but we wouldn’t have M. When S was pregnant the first time, I shouted from the rooftops to anyone who would listen that we were having a baby. A BABY! I bought little shoes and sweet smelling creams and, when the “danger zone” had passed, posted on Facebook. The day we went in to hear the heartbeat for the first time, I felt like I had taken caffeine pills. As that excitement coursed through my veins, I watched the color drain from S’s face. She already knew the baby was never going to be. I held her hand and tried to get her to look in my eyes, but she just kept looking past me, searching for something beyond either of us. I can remember calling my best friend from the parking lot of the midwives’ office bawling as S continued to live in her body with the remaining “product of conception”. It took about a month for whatever was in her womb to leave. S could hardly move some days and there was nothing I could do to make it better. Yes, I too was deeply grieving the loss of this much planned and already adored baby, but I could get away from it all. I wasn’t living with the betrayal of my own womb or the physical pains that served as a constant reminder. I, the great protector, wanted to engulf S in me and make the pain duller so that at least she could breathe. But I couldn’t do any of that, so I bought chocolate cake. HUGE, thick, gooey slices of 1000+ calorie chocolate cake. Two forks, chocolate cake and silence. And that was all I could do. I kept telling myself that it would all make sense one day. That wasn’t the right body for our baby’s soul. It wasn’t the right time. Now was the time for chocolate cake.

There were many days after the miscarriage that no one asked how I was doing. I put on a brave face and talked about S and her struggles. Most of the time, people just thought about her and her empty uterus. I think that is what I did, too. I got so caught up with taking care of S and pretending to move forward that I didn’t stop to think about how I really was doing. The truth was, I didn’t know how I was. I didn’t know how I felt. I didn’t know how to move through the world as the non-gestational parent in this situation. There were no resources for me. No support groups where we lived. So, I kept pretending I was fine like I thought I was supposed to be, keeping in mind my mantra of, “This will all make sense one day.”

When we started getting ready to try again, it all felt different. It was as if had a keener sense of what was at stake. It was hope for the future and brighter days. It was beyond just our family, but became about the love we were ready to share with the world in the form of our child. Our child. I still lived with a ball in my gut where I stored my grief, but I had become so good at hiding it that I sometimes even forgot it was there.

M was conceived on the first anniversary of the due date for the pregnancy we lost. Some days, I like to think that he was waiting for us all along: that he had been in that previous body and it just didn’t feel right. Sometimes, thinking like that makes me feel better. To be honest, I don’t think about the miscarriage much anymore. If I really went there, I think I could let go of some of that ball of grief in my belly. Now that M is here, that ball serves as a daily reminder to what we have and what it took to get here. M is a beautiful boy. He is funny and spunky and so intrigued by everything in this world. He brings light into every day, even when he is cranky. I can look into his wide blue eyes and honestly say it all makes sense.

-Betsy

PS. When I shared this with S before I posted, I mentioned that I thought it was weird that I wrote this today, Sept. 5th, as I haven’t thought about any of this in a long time. Then she reminded me that today is the anniversary of not hearing the heartbeat. I must have remembered on a cellular level.

Excuse Me While I (rant for just a quick second)…

Earlier this week, I scanned my Facebook news feed to see an NBC news story that the FDA was slated to ban gay men from donating sperm to sperm banks.* Like many people I “shared” the story on my FB page outraged by the ignorance and bigotry in this imposed regulation. The reasoning behind it, as one spokesperson from the American Society for Reproductive Medicine was cited as saying in the article: “you can’t be too careful [in taking measures to reduce the spread of HIV].” As a former sex educator for a large reproductive and sexual health organization, I know full well that one’s sexual orientation is not the issue, but that certain sexual behaviors- unprotected anal sex in particular- are higher risk for spreading HIV and other STIs. Plenty of heterosexual couples engage in anal sex, but are straight men being cut off from entering cryogenics clinics (a related irk: the story referred to “homosexual sex”- there is no such thing people; there are different sexual acts that people of all sexual orientations engage in)?  Shouldn’t they just ask would-be donors about recent sexual practices if they’re concerned about higher risk behaviors and then screen the semen for infections (really the only way to know for sure)?

There was also another part of me- for admittedly selfish reasons- that found myself having a moment of panic: our donor is a gay man. We have been hoping to use the same donor a few years from now so that I could try to get pregnant.  Although we inseminated at home, I suddenly found myself scanning my brain, wanting reassurance that there wasn’t going to be a roadblock to this plan. What if we need to call upon the medical establishment for a little help when that time comes… will we reach an impasse?  Some sperm banks, such as Rainbow Flag Health Services, actively recruit gay and bisexual donors.  Although Rainbow Flag’s plan is to continue doing so for the time being since the ban is not currently being seen as a law, but rather a strong recommendation (if I’m following this correctly), will  this affect their organization and scare some clients from using their services?  I know for us, and many other friends we know, we were particularly drawn to our donor because he is a gay man.  He seemed to understand and have increased sensitivity around the needs of our queer family-to-be.  I would be incredibly disappointed if we weren’t able to work with him again as a donor. Also, I have been overjoyed at the thought of being able to conceive with the same donor who my partner was able to create our daughter with. I know this is edging into controversial territory, but I love the thought of my daughter being biologically connected to her sibling.  I say that not because I think biology is the seminal part of what connects people together, but because my spouse and I are not able to create a baby together and I love the notion of my gestational child having some of the features of their big sister and her of them.  In my mind, it’s as close as my spouse and I can get to being able to actually create a baby together (although I feel like I was a part of my non-gestational daughter’s conception process and pregnancy for sure).

I guess for the time being we’ll just have to keep fighting the good fight and hope that the FDA will see the scientific error of their ways and remove this discriminatory regulation that doesn’t breed safety, but rather ignorance and bigotry.

– Charlotte

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