Sunday, 31 July 2016

Second Parent - Thoughts of a non bio Mum

started writing this post in hospital following the birth of our son, Oskar. It started out as an insight into the struggles of being a non bio parent, the things people said that although deep in the back of my mind I half expected to hear, that still hurt, or invoked indignation. 
However, since then this post has gone through many incarnations, and ended up surprising me at how it turned out. 

Whilst we were in hospital following Oskar's birth, and then during his jaundice treatment, 'Second parent' was the nicest way I had seen my relationship to my son described on documents. It was this at best, worst was a tie between 'father' and a neon, obvious, omission. I suppose this won't change until his birth certificate arrives, but back then, it bothered me. A nurse said to my wife that she needed to check her c section scar, and asked if she want her sister to wait outside? I realised she meant me, confused at how they thought 5'1, blonde, dark eyed, petite me, would be the sister of a 5'6, curvy, blue eyed, auburn haired woman, and inwardly resented her for insinuating that my part in all of this was that small. 

My wife's parents, full of excitement at their first grandchild, repeatedly pointed out my son's physical similarities to their family. They brought photos of relatives to demonstrate this likeness, "he's definitely a *their family name*" they kept saying.
I was a little helpless in these conversations, awkwardly unsure. I know he can never have my mouth, or my Dad's nose, or be definitely a *my family name*.  In the emotional tiredness from us having to set 2 hourly alarms through the night to feed him to clear his jaundice while staying in hospital, these things bothered me more than they should have. 

Weeks later, at a family party, Oskar cried as a relative held him. The relative passed him to me, saying 'go and have a cuddle from Aunty Sarah'. I was so stunned, so hurt, so confused, even embarrassed by that comment, I stayed silent. It was a relative of Lauren's, and in my baffled loss for words, and apparently unrelenting politeness, I said nothing. I regretted that moments later, a hundred things I should have said popping into my head.

People have commented that I 'did so well' to have 6 weeks off work with Oskar. I may not be recovering from a c section or birth (people ask if I am jealous of not carrying, and this confuses me. I have no desire to ever be pregnant and see no importance in a biological link, maybe if I did I'd feel differently, but being jealous of my wife carrying our baby isn't something I can comprehend), but I am his mum - six weeks is nothing compared to the months that a lot of mums are lucky enough to spend with their babies. I watch women complain about going back to work after a year with their babies, and envy them the luxury of that time. Going back to work for me was hard - it signalled me saying goodbye to probably the longest time I would ever have of just being at home with my son. I had to grieve for that and it was difficult for all of us.

To me, he is my blood. He was made from my love, from our love. We planned him together, we have had his name picked out for nine years - before most couples we know had even met. We chose his donor together, went hopefully hand in hand to our fertility appointments, we cried together when things went wrong and laughed tears of joy at every milestone. I gave my wife the IVF injections, every single one bringing our baby closer to the world. I watched on scans as her follicles grew, willing them on, and I sat holding her hand, fighting back tears as I watched our precious embryo put back safely in her womb. I loved him fiercely and completely, from before he was born. I watched him grow from a speck to a wriggling, hiccuping baby on scans, cried as we first heard his heartbeat, picked out his clothes and his nursery, dreamt a whole, beautiful, bright future for him.

I had listened to fellow lesbian non bio parents, who gave me honest admissions that when their baby was born, they did not feel a rush of instantaneous maternal love. I understood this, and I was prepared for it. But during the calm of our necessary c-section, with our wedding music the only thing breaking the peaceful silence, I held my wife's hand, feeling in a cocoon behind the surgical sheets, and at Lauren's request, I was first to hold our baby, skin to skin. 

And in that second, a powerful connection was made. He was my beautiful, perfect son, I would give the world for him. I have only ever felt this kind of love for one person, my wife, built up over nearly twelve years. But to feel that intensity of love for someone in seconds is mind blowing. It's pure and intense all at the same time.
Oskar, I will never be able to say I gave you my nose, or your lips, or your funny ears.  But I promise, I will give you so much more. I will give you strength, and adventure, and laughter, and knowledge, and kindness, and spirit. I will give you more love than you or I ever, ever thought possible. 

I do, and will continue to find joy in seeing my wife's similarities reflected in your beautiful face, a tribute of the strength and courage she showed to create you, grow you, and bring you in to the world. I'm sure along the years you will inherit my mannerisms, that old ladies will stop me in the park to coo over you and tell me you look just like me. 
Already people have commented that we have similar profiles, and that you look 'strangely just like' me. We oddly have very similar birthmarks, in the same place.

There is also the truth that there is no reasoning behind people assuming I'm not Oskar's mum. There are many times I would have the same issues if I was biologically his mum. Although biology never mattered to us - I never wanted to be pregnant or give birth, and we have seen fellow lesbian mums, or laurens sister who has two adopted daughters, show just how insignificant biology is - it is undetectable, wholly irrelevant. In fact, we have often guessed wrong at which mum in a two mum family was the bio mum.

Whoever is with the baby, people assume is the mum. As Lauren had a c section, I pushed Oskar in his pram when we want out. People would stop me to look at Oskar, ask me questions about how old he was, how he was sleeping. 

A waitress in a coffee shop, who was showing me where the baby changing facilities were commented - 'you look amazing, I can't believe you have a four week old baby!' But as Lauren's breastfeeding, she will often get the congratulations and compliments from strangers too. Whatever your family looks like, whether you have a biological  part in making your baby, or only the part that is much stronger than that, being a parent is the hardest thing most people do. But everyone finds their way - I never expected to love motherhood so much, or just how completely Oskar would feel like part of me and Lauren. 
And alongside Lauren adjusting to motherhood, I have found my place as Oskar's mum, and it's wonderful..
Whilst pregnancy and birth are beautiful, magical, incredible things, watching the one you love do those things is equally as amazing. But those things last nine months, and being a mother?
That lasts a lifetime. 

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  1. As many families around the world have proven, a biological link is not essential. As long as you love Oskar like he was your own (you clearly do) and he knows that (no doubt he will) then you are all one family x

  2. As many families around the world have proven, a biological link is not essential. As long as you love Oskar like he was your own (you clearly do) and he knows that (no doubt he will) then you are all one family x

  3. I cried when reading this <3. Thanks for such an honest update and for addressing the issues you've experienced. Needless to say, you're just as much his mum as Lauren. xxx

  4. Amazing .... You. The story. Oskar. Lauren. You both deserve the happiness you have, the love & support & now you definitely deserve this little man & he is just as much yours as he is Lauren's.
    I have no doubts you will do all for him that you can.

  5. Even though your not tied by blood you will always be tied by love. Reading this brought tears to my eyes i know exactly how you feel my daughter might not be mine though blood but she's my heart and soul and 100% my daughter and soo like me in many ways I honestly couldn't love her any more. I think the 3 of make a beautiful and perfect family and he will be proud to call you both his mums

  6. This is such a great story. I have a 4 year old boy who I had through IVF with my now ex partner. She gave him his first bath and cut his cord. She is also the legal parent of him and at the time he had both our last names although it's been changed back to mine now. She basically had the same rights as a father when it came down to legal rights. There are so many options for same sex parents you can also carry the other partners child and adoption is another option. I was only 24 when I decided on IVF and I did 3 cycles of IUI before hand that despite all that it's the best decision I ever made because now I'm a mum and it was worth every cent. Good luck on your families journey with little Oskar he is sooo cute! :)

  7. Thank you for sharing your experience. My partner and I have started trying to conceive and I worry sometimes about her experience as a non-bio mum, but posts like this help to reassure us. Both yours and Lauren's love for Oskar is so apparent and beautiful


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