I'm your 'real' mom
She points to the egg donor illustration page. “she looks like you mommy”. "Actually, that is a depiction of the egg donor who helped us make you. We don’t have much information about her, but that’s kind of what she looked like." “Oh mom, you mean that’s my "real" mom?”
I will always remember this question because of my reaction. I instinctively gasped, and froze. It caught me off guard. A flood of questions went through my mind. Where did she come up with that? We've talked with our children since they were 2yrs old about their origins. They have heard the story many many times, about us needing a donor etc., maybe it was the visual illustration in the book that prompted this, but never has there ever been talk about the distinction between a "biological mom" and a "real mom". I'm sure that discussion will come up later.
In the meantime, I tried to stay composed in the face of our 6-year-old daughter. I physically pulled my arms tighter around her, hugging her as if someone was going to take her away from me. And with a calm, and slightly forced cheerful tone, I said “I’m your real mom, silly. She was our helper person, our egg donor." Then she asked "why didn't she want to be a mom?". I then replied to the best I could come up with... "I don't know. But I do know that she wanted to help us, so that I could be your mom.” She was satisfied with that answer, and nonchalantly continued on to turn the pages of the book, then she got off my lap and went to play in the other room.
I, on the other hand, was left stunned, yet simultaneously impressed with her candid, unassuming direct hit-to-the-heart question. I felt as though I had just been dismissed, unappreciated for all I went through, all we had strived for to have her in our lives. She doesn't know how many years it took us to finally conceive, the doctors appointments, the tests, the exams, the shots, the tears, the meds, more shots, finding the right donor, and the stressful significance of the timing with the donor, doctors and staff, the money, the stress, the pregnancy, the-twin-pregnancy-big-as-a-house-pregnancy, the first 5+years of sleepless nights, being in constant "baby survival" mode? Why did I feel as tho I was being treated with such indifference and disregard? Fear. My fear, not hers. My feelings of inadequacy and "less than". I realized that I needed to be kinder to myself, and give myself a break. I needed to learn more about how to make peace with my perceived weaknesses, to become familiar, and embrace this uneasy feeling of "less than" and to stop this kind of thinking. Because it's not true. I'm not any more "less than" because I needed help to conceive, than a child is "less than" for needing glasses to see.
Being able to be honest with oneself and vulnerable enough to seek help, takes strength. It's an oxymoron. To be vulnerable, you have to have strength. But to have strength, you first have to have courage. Her response wasn't about me. This is her story, and I realize that she'll have different variations and versions of how she wants to think about it, how she wants to imagine it, and how she will want to talk about it throughout her whole life.
And then I'm reminded of a poem I read many many years ago before I even thought about having children, let alone what it would mean to be a parent:
Your Children Are Not Your Children.
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you, And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts, For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls, For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth. The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and he bends you with his might that his arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness; For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so he loves also the bow that is stable.
(BTW, this poem is illustrated, and free as a PDF download here)
What unexpected emotion caught you by surprise from your child?