30/52 – Relationship
The conversation at our dinner table tonight went something like this –
Doodle: I was in Mommy’s tummy (long, thoughtful pause)… Mommy was in Gramma’s tummy!
Otto: That’s right! And whose tummy was Gramma in?
Otto: Nope! Gramma was in Great Gran’s tummy. And who was in Mama’s tummy?
Otto: No one, silly goose! I adopted you. Just like I adopted Bella and Bubaloo.
I’ve spent a lot of time pondering the gestational/non-gestational divide in motherhood and trying to figure out where Otto and I fit. We keep on having friends grapple with this maternal divide, in particular the mother who did not gestate the baby, and I drive Otto nuts with my semi-irregular inquiries as to whether or not any non-gestational parent irritants, concerns or issues have bubbled to the surface.
I keep on expecting the other shoe to drop. I keep on fearing that some sort of emotional complication is bound to arise. But no. There hasn’t been one to date.
To be fair, I’m not really sure I entirely understand the non-gestational parent conundrum in two mom families. Maybe that’s in part because we adopted first and intentionally chose to parent two children which we did not create, birth or have any genetic linkage to. Perhaps origins of any struggles the non-gestational mom has more to do with her own feelings of mothering and how one defines motherhood when you didn’t grow your baby.
As a mother through birth and adoption, I can say in my experience that I connected to none of my children instantaneously. I was never overwhelmed with the sudden rush of love. Attachment wasn’t immediate.
With the big kids, they were tweens at the time of our adoption, and it took six months to a year for those bonds to grow. The early months were a haze of being strangely familiar and unfamiliar with children who started to call me mom. There’s nothing like asking your child if they’ve had chicken pox while standing at the front desk of the school, or inquiring as to what their favourite pizza toppings are while cupping your other hand over the end of the phone as you place your dinner order.
With the baby, I birthed her on our bathroom floor, and I didn’t know what to do when she left my body. The midwife actually had to ask me if I wanted to hold my baby as I sat there in stunned silence. One minute I was pregnant and in labour, and the next minute there was a very strange looking newborn in my house. My brain didn’t make an adjustment that the child I had just birthed was truly mine.
When she cried I felt compelled to do something about it – was this strange infant hungry, or did she need a diaper change? I didn’t do it because there was some underlying force that made me want to respond, but because I knew it was the right thing to do. I responded to her cries because that’s what mother’s were supposed to do. I lived in constant fear that I would kill my child, or she would die in my care, and I knew I’d struggle to recover from that trauma. It took about a week before I didn’t feel like I was driven solely by the fear of killing an infant child. In that time, the baby was less strange. She became familiar. My heart warmed to her. She became the Doodle.
I’m pretty sure that many two-mom, or two-dad, households don’t talk about the child they created in terms of adoption. I never actually think about the Doodle as being an adopted child as she was very much intentionally created by her two mommies. Had we used sperm from an unknown donor there would have been no adoption. We would have been able to put both of our names on her birth certificate. But because we knew our donor, and legally parentage is defined solely by a genetic contribution, and not the intentions of the parents creating the aforementioned child, Otto had to adopt her in order to have parental rights. These are the laws in the place where we reside.
The very fact that all three of our children are adopted is something incredibly special in Bella and Bubaloo’s eyes. It means that all kids were chosen in some way. It also means that they share a very tiny sliver of history with their little sister. There’s way more to this, but it’s not something I have words for. It’s the way their bodies react, the non-verbal part of their communication, that tells me so much when we talk about how the Doodle is adopted, too.
Otto and the Doodle have a very special relationship and bond that has been there since the beginning. And for the last six or so months, the Doodle has had a strong preference for her mama. It’s Mama this, or Mama that. Only Mama can comfort her at night, or play with her at the park. Only Mama can help her get dressed, or ask her to go to the potty. The Doodle never has a meltdown when Mama picks her up from daycare or asks her to get into her car seat.
Just like Otto has never questioned her role in parenting the Doodle, the Doodle has never questioned Otto’s role as her mama. They own their relationship.
The Doodle is Mama’s darling. And Mama is the Doodle’s sweetheart.