Tag Archives: donor

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

Weekend Visitors

This weekend our donor’s parents are coming over to meet our daughter for the first time.  I have no idea how it will go.  I trust our donor 150%, otherwise I would not be up for this meeting.  Before I could even say the words, he articulated what I was going to ask for: that they follow our lead after this meeting.  We’ll see how it goes and how we’re feeling and we’ll be in touch if we’d like to get together again.  This could be the start of our daughter having two additional people who become part of her web of loving support- which includes my parents, my spouse’s parents, my siblings, my spouse’s siblings, my auntie, a long line of cousins, and a few friends who are integrally involved in her life and have thus been named “Uncles.” Or, it could be one meeting.  I just don’t know.

It’s strange- I don’t feel trepidation about this meeting. I just feel like we’re walking into the unknown.  I was not necessarily ready to take this step before this time, thus our waiting for nearly three years.  I think it’s a culmination of the trust we’ve build up with our donor, my spouse and I working on strengthening our relationship and communicating with one another until we fully understood and respected each others’ concerns about meeting them.  I could be being naive, but I feel safe about this meeting.  A big part of me feels like my daughter can never have too much love.  It reminds me of when I did my first ten day silent meditation retreat.  It was hard- brutally hard.  My ass hurt, my brain was driving me crazy, my back ached, and I convinced myself that I was getting lock jaw because my jaw kept clicking every time I would eat during meal time.  In the silence of that mess hall I listened to that dull click in my head and I was sure I was walking out of that retreat center not talking even after silence was broken.

But I also had great epiphanies and moments of such ecstatic joy I am certain that I had tiny glimpses of what is referred to as nirvana.  In one of those moments I had such a clear, intense thought that it kept beating through me like a pulse coursing through my body: you have an infinite amount of love to offer. you have an infinite amount of love to offer.  you have an infinite amount of love to offer.  It wasn’t even words really.  As I sat there with tears streaming down my face, my eyes pressed tight, but my neck wet with tears, I had a knowing in my entire body.  There I was at that center because I had suffered a heartbreak I was convinced I would never heal from and I could see more clearly than I ever could before that one’s heart is never fully broken.  Our capacity for love is infinite.  So I take that into this weekend.  I could latch onto my insecurities around not having carried and birthed our daughter… around the fact that she doesn’t carry any of my genetic material or biology… that she doesn’t look a thing like me, even by a stretch.  And yet, I choose to not take that path.  I choose to be open to the possibility of even more love in my daughter’s life.  Or at the very least, exploring the option.

– Charlotte

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.

A Fine Balance

Often Betsy’s posts spur my own thoughts around what to write about- it’s a fabulous part of doing this blog together.  One of Betsy’s recent posts got me thinking and I had this realization about why it’s sometimes tricky for me to come up with material to share on this forum, even though I think opening up allows the most meaningful parts of my experience as a non-gestational parent to be shared and received.

We have a known donor and he is a good friend of ours. We don’t go shouting from the rooftops that he’s our donor, quite frankly it’s not really anyone’s business and I want to respect his privacy.  At the same time, it’s nothing we’re embarrassed or ashamed about and we feel strongly that being somewhat transparent helps normalize the reality of what we had to do to start our awesome, little family… so our good friends know as do some family members. I feel sensitive about what I share in regards to having a known donor since anyone with access to the World Wide Web can stumble upon this information.

I will admit that there are things that come up for me around being a queer non-gestational mother that are around having a known donor and how this fact impacts my life and experience as a parent.  Not because our donor is doing anything wrong- he’s actually incredibly thoughtful, respectful, and generous- but simply because of the reality of being a non-traditional family and me being the odd-lady-out so to speak in a society that institutionally and culturally doesn’t fully understand or support non-gestational parents (and I’m saying that living in a state where I actually have some legal protection).  The fact that he has a biological tie to our daughter and I don’t does make our situation a bit complicated.  Again, nothing he’s doing wrong, it just is what it is.  Maybe it’s more the fact that we have to have a donor period that makes it complicated.  I actually have found that as time has gone on I have come to associate love and warmth in regards to how our donor plays into our life as a family. He has been overwhelmingly cool and respectful about this whole gig. I can see that our daughter likes him and he cares about her and anyone who cares about her has won some high points in my book.  And yet there is this small, admittedly probably insecure, part of me that gets nervous and territorial sometimes like I need to defend my role and prominence in our family even though it’s probably not really being threatened… at least not by our donor.  It’s like I’m swinging quiet punches, but I can’t see my target and I don’t even want to be fighting.

At different points in my life I’ve thought about how polyamory* seems like something I could get behind, if I was born into a different world than this one that is (think Starhawk’s utopian San Francisco ala The Fifth Sacred Thing)… one where everyone involved was supremely intentional, thoughtful, safe, respectful and loving. Yet in reality it seems like a lot of work and rather exhausting, even though I know some people do it with grace and joy.  Maybe that’s a metaphor for my own little family and our donor: I want to believe it can work, and most of the time it really does, but the larger society makes me question things along the way.  I think I will have to use my instinct as my compass and hope for the best.  Right now it’s a balancing act between respecting my own needs and being open to what will bring the most joy, love and support into my family.  My compass is saying to trust the path.

– Charlotte

* “Polyamory (from Greek πολύ [poly], meaning ‘many’ or ‘several’, and Latin amor, “love”) is the practice, desire, or acceptance of having more than one intimate relationship at a time with the knowledge and consent of everyone involved.” – Wikipedia, 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

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