It has gnawed at me, why this second time parenting has been so hard for me. It just isn’t that I am older or that I have another child to parent, it is something else, too. This is hard to share as I do not want to give the wrong impression but I’m nothing if not honest so, after coming to realize it, it only seems right to share it and especially for those considering using donor gametes or even adoption (and especially if you have a biological child).
I read a lot of blogs, mostly infertility related and a fair amount of those related to donor eggs or adoption. While a lot is written about the decision to use donor eggs or adopt, about coming to terms with the loss of a genetic connection, about disclosure to the child and worries over bonding, not as much is written about how the mother viewed herself as a mother to her new baby/child.
One of the reasons (and not the only reason, not by far, but one of the underpinnings) as to why this has been so hard is because I doubted my ability to naturally parent this baby boy. He is from me but not of me. I never in a million years thought that that was going to be a factor but somehow, un- or sub-consciously, it crept into my psyche, that because he is not genetically linked to my husband or I, I would not know how to parent him.
It took me weeks to realize that this was a guiding force. That, because we didn’t share genetics, I felt unqualified to parent him right. That has nothing to do with the deep and profound love I feel for him or the gratitude at even being able to grapple with this high class problem, but that is the crux of it.
Someone here commented that I judge myself too harshly and in this way I know that I have. It wasn’t conscious, and I know this is going to sound crazy or out there, but I have felt a smidge like he was judging me, like I was trying to pass some test to prove that I deserved to be his mother.
There, I said it. Like I said, it is only recently that I was able to verbalize to myself why this has been so hard. Yes, of course, all the other elements of parenting a newborn at my age are still valid and, yes, cumulative sleep deprivation is a killer on so many fronts. But, even though caring for him as a completely dependent human being came naturally (i.e. I knew what to do), I felt like a stand-in mother while doing it.
Understanding it has been key to a deeper bond with my second son and an easing up on myself. There is power in acknowledging things for what they are and moving on. It is just so odd, in an other worldly way. It’s like even my pregnancy with him was a dream. As if one day someone just handed me this newborn and said, ‘he’s yours’.
Now that I know my vulnerabilities in being his mother even though we don’t share the same genes, I can get on with it already. Never once during the process of considering using donated embryos through to today did the decision ever feel anything but the natural progression of our journey. Never once did I second guess or hand-wring over whether we should proceed or whether I was capable of having a baby born from donated embryos and fully embracing him and his story into our family and feeling confident that I could explain his origins to him in a way that would hopefully convey how very much he was wanted and loved before I ever met him. I just never considered that I might feel in any way different mothering him than I did my first son.
So, when I did feel different and it didn’t come as easily (or I didn’t let it come as easily), it was easy to look at the obvious external factors. But there, deep below, likely where my own adoption abandonment issues live, a self-doubt crept into my perception of being his mother and then manifested into how I let myself mother him. As if he would somehow know or sense something and think me inadequate. And so it became a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy in how I viewed myself.
It is, of course, unabashedly untrue, like so many of the things we tell ourselves about ourselves. But, it wasn’t until I let myself think it and then hold on to it that I can now let it go and get on with the very joyous act of mothering him in the best ways I know how.