Friday, December 5, 2008

An old scar

We just had Lyn's midwife appointment and got to hear the heartbeat again! We're happy and relieved. We are also starting to get over the monster cold from hell, which is a relief. I'm still coughing my head off, but my fever is gone and I don't feel quite so crappy. Lyn is still coughing and puking, but the puking is down to once or twice a day and she is starting to seem almost perky. She's taking a much-needed day off and buying some maternity clothes.

We recently started to tell more people about the pregnancy. Overall, it’s pretty fun. As the non-pregnant one, I’ve noticed a few things. When I tell people, “Lyn and I are going to have another baby,” they immediately ask who is pregnant, or sometimes I just tell them by following that sentence with, “Lyn is pregnant!” This isn’t really surprising or troubling because of course people want to know who is pregnant. People say all of the appropriate congratulatory things. That’s gratifying. But it’s not as much fun as when I got to tell people I was pregnant. It’s almost as good – but not quite.

Sometimes people want to know if we are using the same donor. This is interesting. I totally understand the curiosity, but it makes me a little uncomfortable. With Leigh the issues of donor and genetic relationships have mostly gone away (for now) so I’m not used to talking about it. There’s still the occasionally resemblance talk, however. I look like Leigh, and when people comment on that I wish that they’d realize they’re also making an oblique comment that Leigh doesn’t look like Lyn. For her part, Lyn does occasionally get a comment that she looks like Leigh as well. We’ve decided that in all cases the proper response is, “Thank you,” and leave it at that.
So I’m not used to talking to people about donor issues anymore and it feels somewhat intrusive. I haven’t gotten the question phrased as, “Will the new baby and your current child be half-siblings?” but Lyn got that question at the doctor today. We’ve decided on a good response to that one: “We were able to use the same donor, but of course they are full siblings.”
I’ve also been thinking about how badly that innocent question, “Did you use the same donor?” would hurt if we weren’t able to use the same donor. Using the same donor was important to us. We felt as though each member of our family having a genetic link to one other member (me to Leigh, Leigh and Lyn to this new child) would knit our entire family together genetically and solidify our connections as a family. Of course, that’s not really a rational way of looking at things. We obviously believe that deep connections are possible without any genetic link. It can be painful to admit that a genetic connection is important at all, but it clearly is because so many of us work hard to try for the same donor for a second child.

I understand that the idea of two women having a baby together is really interesting. I’m certainly curious when I meet other lesbian couples having children. But in addition to being interesting conversation fodder, the details about how we acquire our children are very personal parts of our family. Like many other married couples, we would really love to be able to combine our genetic material to make a child, but we cannot. We’ve made peace with that, we love our daughter absolutely to pieces, and we are ready to open our hearts to a new person in six-and-a-half short months. We’ve worked on our issues around who’s the “real mom,” and I can honestly say that don’t have any at this point. But there’s still this little spot that chafes. It’s the place where we decided to create our first child together through one of us giving birth. It’s that place where one of us is connected genetically and one of us is not. It’s that place where Leigh looks more like one of her moms than the other (despite her dimples). This isn’t some kind of deep wound – we feel bonded as a family and know that each of us is essential. It’s more like having a scar that still hurts a little when you rub it. When you tell me how much my daughter looks like me, or when you ask if we used the same donor, then I’m reminded of that old pain. Those may be innocent, well-intended questions, but you are poking around in the sensitive guts of my family.


Anonymous said...

It's been interesting for me to read your and Lyn's perspectives on two mom parenting. You're both so thoughtful about your parenting decisions and family and reading your thoughts gives me a lot to think about. I really admire how deliberately you treat each other as equal parents and insist that others do as well.

Anyway, congrats on a good midwife appointment and on getting to hear the heartbeat again.

Lyn said...

I'm not sure combining our genetic material would really have been all that wise...two mathematicians and all. Or that's what I tell myself since it was never an option...because of course I would love to know who a combo of our genes would be.

Gail didn't mention another interesting thing that happened yesterday regarding "telling." She told our neighbor we are expecting and included the info that I'm pregnant, and our neighbor asked for a reminder of who birthed Leigh (fairly tactfully, and this is a great neighbor). The thing is, this neighbor was told previously that Gail birthed Leigh...she just forgot. I kind of love how quickly it can become irrelevant, and it does feel strange to be back in the brief window of time where the distinction matters.

Anonymous said...

As someone who did not get to use the same donor, I can say that it does kind of hurt when people ask. But it only hurts because part of me is still upset that we couldn't have another child with Cakie's genetic material because we love him so much. What I've come to find out is that I'm so in love with this second child anyway, I didn't so much need the same genetic material. I just hate when people ask it as though they just had the brilliant idea themselves for the first time.

I also like that you respond by saying that they are both full siblings. Thanks for the post.

Anonymous said...

even though we only have one baby (so far), i totally relate to all of this! you're a couple of steps ahead of us (my wife gave birth to our son and i'm planning on giving birth to the next one in a few years), and i love looking forward to how our feelings might progress. thanks for your thoughtful honesty.

Anonymous said...

very, very well said!

and we can certainly relate to wanting the genetic connection for our children. so much so that we spent $20K on IVF to up our chances of achieving pregnancy when we only had 1 vial left of our precious "retired" donor. had it not worked, my wife was willing to forego the experience of pregnancy to ensure that our daughter had a bio connection to her future sibling. i'm so thankful that it worked because i wanted her to experience the incredible journey that pregnancy is the way i was able to without compromising something that we both felt so strongly about for our children.

Anonymous said...

I so appreciated this post... for several reasons... even though I'm straight, my husband & I needed a lot of help to get pregnant, and sometimes even the most "innocent" of questions do raise painful memories, and worried thoughts about the future. Also, I get so damned annoyed when people tell me that my half-siblings are "just" half. What the hell does that mean? They're my brother and sister! Anyway, thanks for sharing your thoughts!