Thursday, April 19, 2007

Confessions of the Other Mother

In upbeat news: I got my pregnancy organizer in the mail. Oh, what fun! It has lists, and boxes to check off. And more lists, and more boxes to check off. I love it. I had no idea such a product existed until we did our pregnancy book searches. Get ready for this, Maeby.

Today is the 2nd ultrasound with Dr. Quick (and the 3rd counting the one we had with Dr. Mellow). Fingers crossed for positive results.


I definitely need to get the book by that title (of this post).

I've been mulling this post over in my head for a few days, and was urged on to the computer by Charlotte's thoughts.

Through the whole TTC process, and even once we finally got Co knocked up, it never crossed my mind to worry about being the non-bio mom. Though I want to be pregnant, I also want very much to have a child that is a part of Co. I have no concerns about loving the baby, or feeling connected to it. I mean....look at how connected we both are to the dachshund (who, by the way, is adopted). On a more serious note, I've always known I could be comfortable with (human) adoption, we just have a preference for this way and so far it's worked (knock wood).

For purposes of clarification, when I use the words "Mom" and "Dad" throughout this post, I mean them in the most stereotypical/archetypical way. And probably I mean them as they have been informed by my own experience of a "Mom" and a "Dad." Obviously these roles have fluidity in our real lives.

I've had unexpected flashes, as we move slowly, superstitiously through the pregnancy, of fear and anxiety. As Charlotte indicated, it's really only as we interact with people outside of our relationship, and outside of our world. Co and all of our lesbian/honorary lesbian friends (both in and out of the blogosphere) treat me as I see myself: co-mom.

But, I am realizing, not everyone does. Co and I found out about "our" pregnancy first, so for a brief moment Co was the only preggie in the mah-jongg group (though by no means the only one trying). As such, we got to set the unspoken rules, and I was able to be the mom I see myself to be. But now that CF is pregnant, that's changed. She and Co are pregnant. The rest of us are not. There doesn't seem to be any middle ground. (Fortunately this has no effect on my passionate feelings for mah-jongg.)

I had a minor meltdown at the OB the other day. I was leafing through one of those "How Your Baby Grows" pamphlets and showing Co pix of the little tadpoles. She snapped at me to stop (apparently they were grossing her out and she was nauseated; I thought the tadpoles were cute). I admit that I was being gross when I tried to tell her what amniotic fluid is made of* but I didn't realize she was feeling sick. She whispered that she was trying not to puke, so I offered her the Preggie Pop in my pocket and kept my factoids to myself. Shortly after this interaction, she moved to sit next to CF and the two of them started whispering and giggling obviously, but inaudibly (to me). CF's husband was doing a crossword puzzle. I finally went out to do some errands (no problem due to the whole late-because-delivering-a-baby thing) so I would be blubbering on Big Avenue rather than in the tiny office. (There was more to this decision on Co's part that can't be blogged, but the point is, I was hurt.)

That same day CF said her hubby and I should start a club. And again, the sting: I am the one who did the research, made the phone calls and appointments from sperm bank to midwives, mulled over all the decisions, read and Googled so much I at times know more than Co about conception and pregnancy. Certainly I don't share that with hubby. Yet at the end of the day, that's his biological baby. I don't share that with him, either. So that made me want to cry, too.

Co reminds me that in terms of my own behavior, she (Co) did motion to me to come sit with her when she moved to sit with CF. But by then I was Hurt, and therefore Sulking, so I did not. And by the time I needed to get out of the office to do my errands, CF and her hubby were off having lunch, so I left Co alone in the waiting room. I can definitely be a brat.

My sister enthusiastically IM-ed Co after we got the first ultrasound to congratulate her, even though I was on IM as well. Co said something like "yeah, congratulations to both of us" and my sister said "You're the one who's pregnant!" Yeah. Thanks for the reminder, Easily Fertile Sib.

I do believe that I occupy an unfamiliar space, at least to heterosexuals. I am not a dad, I'm a second mom. Perhaps the closest existing (heterosexual) category is stepmother, which is fraught with its own issues. When one couple we know had a baby, a mutual friend of ours said (of the non-bio parent) "She's a dad!" At first I thought that was a weird thing to say but then I realized it's kind of true, in this friend's case. She's not the biological parent and her role is more like my own dad's was (I mean this in a good way, my dad's role in my life having been complicated to say the least), in that there's no question who the "mom" is. I've seen this in other queer relationships, and there's nothing wrong with it. There are lesbian "moms" who don't want to be called Mom, or any facsimilie thereof. That's an easier dynamic to understand from the outside.

But I am no lesbian dad. If anything, my stoic, athletic, sports-watching Co will be the "dad." I am all mom, all the time, from the time I adopted my C*bb*ge Patch Kid (which I did legally, I sent away for the certificate and everything) through my adoption of the infant-sized Maggie Mae. I won't mind not being the "boobie mama" (thanks to Charlotte for the term) this time around but I am going to have to make clear, I guess, that today, at 7 weeks 1 day, I am the mama, and I always will be.

More food for thought on this subject can be found here.

*Amniotic fluid is mostly made up of fetal pee. Well, you read the note!


Trista said...

Oh, I sent a loooong email to Charlotte about this, but I'm thinking I should just post about it, too. I, too, am not a lesbian dad. I'm a mother. I'm Julia's mother. But damn it if I didn't feel like I was in limbo freaky la-la denial land trying to convince people of this during the pregnancy and first few months post partum. I wasn't the pregnant one. I wasn't biologically related to the child. I wasn't any more important to the process than a good friend to the "real" mother.

I can tell you in my experience that feeling comes and goes during the pregnancy. But after the baby's born and you start visibly filling in the space of "mother" it does start to fade. No one would ever say that I'm not really Julia's mother now.

vee said...

This stuff is all fascinating to read about and is sparking lots of discussion in our household, so thanks for posting about it (I look forward to Trista's post too).
It's good for us to be able to draw those similarities with others like yourselves and it's really helping us think about the issues involved and to be prepared (well, as prepared as one can be). We'll be following with interest!

bri said...

Not only is amniotic fluid made of pee, but a couple weeks ago, TK started DRINKING his amnio-pee. Yum.

I am sorry there is so much complication and pain in the midst of this. I can certainly not say authoritatively, since I have not been in your shoes, but I can guess from my own experience that this will not be very much like stepmotherhood once it gets going. You will be there from the beginning - hell, you were an integral PART of the beginning - and for every adorable step along the way. You will not start trying to smoosh yourself into a kid's life midstream or convince the kid that you are a parent to it. It will have its hard momens but there will never be any doubt to that child that you are its mom.

ohchicken said...

i just purchased confessions of the other mother for h., as i will be biomom. she is in the giddy, researchy, i-can't-wait-to-feel-your-belly stage, but once i'm pregnant, and she faces the shaft from those who don't know they're shafting, i think it's going to be hard for her.

thank you lo (and charlotte...and trista) for speaking out so honestly.

jay said...

Hey, firstly that book is good, though I confess I have put it down after disliking some of the content, and am just about to pick it up again after finishing another (completely unrelated) book. Worth a read.

And yeh I know we non-bio mums - in my case, a non-bio-mum-to-be-when-vee-gets-knocked-up -face different situations entirely. I think it's important to do as much thinking as possible NOW before anyone arrives, and when they do get here, it will probably matter less and less and less. That is my view anyway. It helps me a lot that my extended family is rather unconventional, and my own mother didn't give birth to me, but she's still my mother, whatever.

Personally I am steeling myself for the insensitive comments from well meaning but badly phrasing people... it occurred to me the other day that I have actually been quite well prepared already, just from the TTC process, and I'm sure you have too, Lo. It's not that new? Not fun, no, but not new.

We non bios (to be, or hopefully) are a bit of an oddity to this world.

But we are mums too! Pure and simple.


Trista said...

oh, and, I so got into trouble with Kristin about bringing up the amniotic fluid is pee thing.

Of course, given how completely tactless I can be sometimes, my mention of the matter went something more along the lines of:

Hey! The baby's making amniotic fluid out of its pee now! I guess that makes you a toilet!

Um, maybe there's a reason she got so mad at me...

dlvc said...

This is such a great round of posts (trista, charlotte, others). I found my way here from via trista's post.

The pregnancy was an extremely hard time for me, as a non-bio mom. Ultimately, our family really benefited from addressing what came up during the pregnancy. So much of the societal definition of mother is tied up with the idea that there can only be one. This runs really deep, both in those around us, and even within ourselves.

One thing that has been really important for us is for my wife to be willing to step back, and give up some of her primacy as "The Mommy." So often we address these issues as only relevant to non-bio-moms, but they aren't. They are family issues.

During the pregnancy, on a trip to home depot, my wife had a very extended discussion about the baby with several cashiers and for whatever reason it was one of the times I felt particularly sidelined. We were recently back there and I had our 10 month old on my back. When the cashier started to ask me all about the baby I answered, but then stepped back to include my wife (this is one of the ways we present as a family in public...whoever isn't holding the baby answers the questions). But when I glanced at her to cue her to speak up, she was just standing back and grinning, not saying anything. She remembered...I just forged ahead, enjoying the attention. I feel blessed to have a partner who truly has concientiously made room in our family for two moms.

This has gotten too long, but really, thanks all for such great thoughts.

Polly said...

I'm a little late to this chat, but better late than never, etc. I'm so with dlvc: our partners -- that is, she who is carrying and birthing the child -- can do a LOT to ease the sense of isolation we might feel (clearly that's what Trista's great piece, Advice for Bio Moms, was all about). I also think that, despite our different gender ID's, my experience pre-birth was a lot like Trista's. Filled with a lot of worry about limbo, and SO different from my experiences after-birth. For one, as dlvc says, you can hold the baby, and god love you when you're holding the baby and s/he holds you back, you are a parent, the parent, whatever you want to call yourself. That's abundantly evident. In your heart, even if not always in the eyes of others. And given the blinding love you get from your little one(s), that's all that ultimately matters (so methinks, when all's said & done). Thanks for great food for thought.