Tag Archives: genetics

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

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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.

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

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

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

The (Un-) Zen of Non-Gestational Parenthood

“I don’t want to hold Mummy’s hand!!! I want to hold Mama’s hand.”  I am sick of coaxing, trying to get her to pick me first, trying to get her to pick me at all.  Forget it.  “Fine. You know what?  Mummy is not going to join you on the walk.  Go have fun with Mama.”  I walk away stoically, bitter and sulking all the way across the wet, long-grassed lawn, cursing that it hasn’t been mowed sooner and that it’s rained for ten days in a row now.  My spouse is calling out to my back, asking me nicely to return; they want me to join them.  Please come back.

I eventually do, we go on the walk, strolling through the beautiful, wide-mouthed park that flanks the road near our home, and our daughter even holds my hand.  Somehow it doesn’t have the sweet joy that holding a small, warm hand in yours usually does because in my mind she’s only holding it because I guilt-tripped her into it, not because she really wants to.  At least that’s what I tell myself.  Exhibit A of one of my less than finer parenting moments.

I am all too aware that spinning on my heels like that is exactly what not to do if you want to assure your child that you love them unconditionally, even when they are treating you like a pariah and raking you through the coals with a drawn out phase that feels like the toddler version of the teenage years. But I can’t help it; I’m human and when I’m having a parenting low phase myself and have heard what feels like the 100th rejection in a day, I turn into a child myself. My feelings get hurt by this small person. The parent educator and writer Alfie Kohn eloquently wrote, “Parenthood is not for wimps.”  Yeah, about that.

I am reading a book now on mindful parenting in hopes of realizing, repeatedly, that these regular slights have little to do with me and a lot to do with my daughter being two. Really, that’s all it is.  I know this in my heart.  I know she loves me.  She actually exhibits it rather regularly.  And she can be sweeter than any person I’ve ever known.  Toddlers are emotions fully exposed- raw, radiant, and brash. I am trying to hold that up in the face of all this emotional riff-raff and be the rationale adult in the room.  My actions and internal response is more in my control than her adolescent behavior.  I need to maintain my compassion- towards my daughter, my spouse (who is a tender, nearby target that I can easily throw emotional arrows at), and perhaps most of all, towards myself.  I am doing the best I can.

Talking about it helps; realizing you’re not alone and that this is exceptionally common amongst queer, non-gestational parents. So does muttering, “Mummy doesn’t like you either right now” under my breath as I pivot into another room un-heard (or at least for a split second my ego feels like it’s had a teenage triumph of the wills).  In my experience running a support group for queer, non-gestational parents this is one of the most common issues that arises for folks- being second fiddle outside of, as a friend calls it, “the golden, inner circle.”  It takes continual patience and reminding yourself that it’s nothing personal.  Really.  It’s not.  This is not to say there aren’t practical things you and the gestational parent (or other caregivers) can do to help ease the third wheel phenomenon that’s orbiting your familial universe*, but I’m realizing that perhaps even more importantly,  it takes inner, self work to survive this phase.  In their book, Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting, Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn state, “The very fact that we are a parent is continually asking us to find and express what is most nourishing, most loving, most wise and caring in ourselves, to be, as much as we can, our best selves.” In my better moments I can see with clarity that it’s a great opportunity to get over myself and practice true unconditional love.  To be my best self.

Parenthood is a spiritual (and often maddening) path. I have learned some of my greatest lessons around issues such as non-attachment (yes! she’s sleeping through the night! Oh wait… or even more: I cannot fully control what happens to her…).

Tonight, my daughter did not want to give me a kiss when I arrived home from work or when she was going down for bed.  She usually gives me a big, mouthy, wet one directly on the lips before she rolls over with a cushy rumple sound of her diaper.  I asked her, as I always do, “Can Mummy have a hug and kiss good night? Can I give you a kiss sweet girl?”  To this she sassily replied, “Mmmm… NO.”  I was hurt and annoyed, I’ll admit that (no kiss?), but I took a deep breath and said, “ok, good night.”  Then I walked out the door.  As the door was gently shutting behind me I realized that the one thing I wish I had done differently was to let her know that I love her, because I do, even when she doesn’t want to give her Mummy a kiss.

~ Charlotte

*For suggestions on how to deal with a child’s preference for one parent or rejection of one parent, check out the following books and resources: Becoming the Parent You Want to Be: A Sourcebook of Strategies for the First Five Years by Laura Davis and Janis Keyser; the Berkeley Parents Network at http://parents.berkeley.edu/; and What to Expect The First Year by Heidi Murkoff, Sandee Hathaway, and Arlene Eisnberg