Miraculously My Own | Part I
20 Moms Share Their Story of Being the Non-Biological Parent in a Two-Mom Family
Motherhood; every mother has her own story to tell and experiences it in her own way. Still, it's undeniable that hearing stories and experiences from someone you can relate to helps us to feel reassured and encouraged. So what if you don't relate to the majority of moms and their experiences of motherhood? What if you find yourself comparing and relating to the next closest thing - a father. But what if that still doesn't feel right. You see, non-biological motherhood seems to be defined by everything that you are not; non-biological, non-carrying, non-birth, non-genetic, not the father. But is carrying, birthing and being biologically related to a child really what makes a mother?
These moms will show you exactly why those things are not what makes a mother.
When my wife Rachel and I made the decision that we wanted to start a family, we determined that two kids would be perfect. We'd use the same donor and I would carry the first since I am four and a half years older than my wife and in my late 30's.
I was adopted after my parents had been unsuccessful trying to have kids for 3 years, so I didn't know anything about my medical history. Though I have always been athletic and kept a healthy lifestyle, the fertility center we were working with recommended I take a genetic test as I could be a carrier for something I'm completely unaware of. I took the test in December 2017 and in the meantime, Rachel and I had selected a donor through Seattle Sperm Bank that we were excited about after 6 months of searching. When we received my results in January 2018, we learned that I have a blood clotting condition and I needed to start taking 81mg of aspirin/day for the rest of my life. Major shock! So I'm 2-4 times more likely than someone without the condition to have a blood clot and if I got pregnant, it would take my chances to over 60%. At the time, I was also flying multiple times a month for work - 2nd greatest increase in my changes of having a blood clot. I was on a work trip at the time when Rachel and I were discussing my results. Rachel was not ok with how high my risks were of issues for both me and a future child. I am also the bread winner with Rachel's job as a physical therapist giving her many options to reduce hours or become PRN to spend more time with our children. It was in that very moment during our discussion that I said "Babe, carry both of our children. I think it will be amazing that they'll both be full blood related and if anyone is more prepared to raise children of the same blood, I feel quite qualified."
I didn’t have any worries or concerns regarding being the non-biological mother, I know that being adopted has prepared me for this my entire life. The only "worry" we had was whether we'd come up with a girl's name we liked! We had 2 different boy’s names (1st and middle) in no time, but could not agree on a girl’s name at all. That's actually the reason we decided to find out the gender - we didn't want to worry about a girl’s name if we didn't need to! Rachel's pregnancy was great. I do recall twice during her pregnancy feeling sad that I wouldn't have a "mini me" running around in this world, but those moments quickly came and went. Seeing how much my wife was glowing made my heart greater than I could have imagined, and reassured me we made the right decision. During the pregnancy, we would talk to our baby every night before bed and as we got farther into her pregnancy, we'd read stories and sing to her. At 20 weeks when we found out our baby was a girl, we chose her name rather quickly after, Riley. Calling her by her name made the entire experience so intimate. My wife kept saying how much "she" felt like a "Riley". To help me bond more, my wife ensured I got to feel her moving and I was the one who read or sang to her before bed each night.
I love our birth story so much. We were about 2 weeks away from Riley's due date (4.4.19), Rachel was not dilated and we were beginning discussions on selecting an induction date. The weekend of 3.22.19, I went into nesting mode. Our bonus room was cluttered with tons of baby stuff and I put everything into closets except 2 bassinets we were going to need. We finished up Riley's nursery and I finally put the car seat base into my car (the one we were taking to the hospital). Sunday night, I ended up working late to catch up on some things and went to bed at 12:30am. Rachel had been sleeping in our guest room downstairs, my phone rang at 1:50am and I saw it was her. I picked up and she said "I'm not kidding, my water just broke". She was so calm and collected; I was in We Need to Go! mode. We got to the hospital at 3am on 3.25.19, still no dilation. Epidural at 3am the following day, plus many rounds of an oral pill to soften her cervix.
At 7am she was 2cms, but the doctor said to anticipate another long day, likely an early evening delivery. By 11:30am the nurse came in and told me that if I'm going to have lunch, I should go now. When I came back into our room, I took two bites of my lunch and the nurse burst in and said it's go time! Riley's heart rate had been dropping during the rounds of those oral contraceptives (common) and it finally got low enough that the nurse felt we needed to move forward. She called our doctor who was in the next building. We began pushing in the meantime, we got to 4 pushes and her head was crowning! Our nurse said we needed to stop pushing because the next one could be the delivery and our doctor had not arrived yet. I could see her head which looked slightly blue and it was only in that moment that I had any concern during the process. 30 seconds later our doctor walked in, looked over and said, "Wow, this is happening right now". She told the nurse not to move who was standing right in front of my wife with her hand on my daughter’s head. Within 1 minute, our doctor sat down, told us to give one hard push, and there she was! Riley came out in 5 total pushes and perfectly fine!
The moment I cut the cord was the moment tears filled in my eyes. It was REAL. She was MY baby girl. I got to experience the entire process and felt in the moment with everything. I can only describe this as the greatest feeling I've ever had in 38 years of my life, only 2nd to marrying my beautiful wife. Our nurses were fantastic, our doctor had many same-sex couples so she was great - not once did we ever feel less of a couple or underappreciated. Everyone made us feel like we were on top of the world.
Rachel did skin to skin for the first 1.5 hours and then I did for 1.5 hours right after. Was the bond instant - oh hell yes! The bond we felt truly began during the pregnancy and for me, cutting that umbilical cord severed my place in her life. I really never had many worries about whether I'd bond or not, I'm such a lover that I'm only concerned I'm going to smother her with too much love.
My wife was not able to breast feed, so we split bottle feeding equally and there is no question that it helped me form a deeper bond with Riley, as she experienced me just as much as her birth mom. I ensured I gave Rachel as much time to take naps during the day, shower, and have an uninterrupted meal so she could feel like a "person" again. On the weekends, I would take all night shifts so that Rachel could get a full nights rest - and it was great for me because I felt Riley got to know me as her "Mommy" quicker in the process. No jealousy of my wife was ever felt whatsoever - truly the feeling of equality is what I've felt.
Have I ever felt like others don’t see me as a “real” mom? Not at all! I wear Riley more when we are out and about because Rachel is still home with her so it gives her a break. I also gained some sympathy weight (not much, haha), but I joke when people don't know who gave birth that it would be hard for them to tell anyway.
Riley is 5 months now and we haven't seen her prefer one of us over the other yet. I can make her laugh a little more so my wife thinks Riley is going to see me as the fun parent! Riley started daycare just after 4 months, and so far everyone there has treated us like parents with a child. I am listed on the birth certificate as "father", but I know our government takes forever to change things so it really doesn't bother me. All I care about is that I was able to legally marry my wife, and legally be the mother of my daughter ever since she entered this world.
I have not faced any negative experiences with my family either - both of our families have been completely open arms. We gave both grandparents their 1st grandchild!
I think what has been the most positive experience for me so far has been co-workers and clients (who many are very southern, very Christian) always want to know how my baby girl and wife are doing. I'm filled with happiness constantly.
I'm over the moon in love with my daughter and feel just like I carried her for 9 months because my wife and I made every decision together and she ensured I got to experience as much of everything I possibly could.
My advice to other intended non-bio parents is to be the best teammates for each other. My wife couldn't breast feed so I bottle feed equally as many times as my wife. When I went back to work, I took over caring for my daughter right after I got home and up until 12:30am each night so that my wife could have some down time and sleep as many consecutive hours as possible. Be in-tune with each other, soak up every single moment of pregnancy and your child's time. Smile and laugh often and especially when your little one starts crying - this is how I was able to be patient and not lose my mind with frustration. These moments will not last long and you'll wish you had them back as the months pass. And whatever you do, remember you WILL get to sleep long hours again one day.
My partner Monica and I started dating in February 2017; some would say it was love at first sight. Like many others, we met online and immediately fell in love with one another. Due to us both being of a mature age, the subject of having and wanting kids was quickly discussed within the first few months of us dating. For me, wanting a baby and a family was a big deal, so I knew the person I ended up with had to have the same goals. We discussed everything from who would carry and whose DNA our first baby would have. Being from the Deep South (Alabama), some conversations are still very uncomfortable and new to me. But it was an easy decision for me. I knew early in advance that I did not want to carry and we felt that our first baby would have Monica’s DNA, and if we decided to have another then we would look into egg transfer. Even though I think the ability to carry and make a baby is the greatest thing in the world, for me it was not an option.
My only worry and concern in the beginning was that if I had no genetic ties to the baby, would he respect me and call me “Mom.” Would he question my love and say “you are not really my mom”. This is still scary to think that if he ever gets mad he could say that. I don’t think I am alone when I say that. The fear of being there for the entire process from insemination to birth and to have that child not look at you as their mom is terrifying. But Monica ensured me that if we decided to move forward, she would do anything and everything to make sure I felt included in this process. We were not married at the time of discussing our future child, and Monica - being the most loving and supportive person I know - surprised me by saying, “Babe how would you feel if our baby have your last name?” I cried and I cried; this was the icing on the cake. My soon-to-be child will forever be connected to me by our last name.
After 5 months of dating, the conversation came up again regarding us starting to think about our options and seriously consider moving forward with the process. We made our first doctor’s appointment to have Monica examined to make sure that she and her ovaries/eggs could carry our baby, and find out our next steps. During the examination, we were told they saw something (a cyst) that we should consider removing and also discovered that her egg quantity was low. Also, with being of a mature age you are considered more high risk than someone in their 20s. Immediately, we went into worry mode thinking that perhaps this would not be possible for us. But we follow the doctor’s orders and had her schedule for an out-patient procedure to remove the cyst. Watching my partner endure this painful procedure made me fall deeper in love her - knowing that she is more than willing to put her body through this pain to make a dream a reality meant so much to me. After the procedure we were cleared to move forward with the IUI procedure. I should note that the donor selection process is very stressful especially when looking for African American donors. Monica is Colombian and we wanted to find an African American donor in order for the baby to have similar features to me.
Fast forward to insemination month, the nerves were flowing as the day was finally here. Of course, I immediately went into worry mode. ‘Will my partner be able to carry the baby full term?’ ‘Will there be any complications…what if… what if?’ These questions consumed me so much but I had to be strong for her and handle every situation that may arise during the process. After the procedure we returned to the car, looked at each other, and both said, “We are about to become parents!”, even though we had prepared for this day, you never know what feeling or emotion will come over you until it’s finally here. Not only had we been together for less than a year but we were about to embark on the scariest and most exciting journey that either of us had ever been through. Once the initial shock wore off, we were both excited and nervous about the next two weeks. The wait was hard for the both of us. We, like many others, checked early and the results were negative. So we both agreed to wait the full 2 weeks. We tested again - same results. We went back to the doctor and our fears were confirmed; we were not pregnant. The worries came back. What if this is not meant for us? What if we try again and get the same results?
After the results, Monica was devastated (as was I), but I tried my best to reassure her that the first time doesn’t take for a lot of people, and that this doesn’t mean that anything is wrong with her. I told her that we would try again and again if we had to. Of course, we had to try again, so September became another insemination month. This time I think we were more nervous than the first time. Everything went well and the 2 week wait was on.
As before, Monica decided to take a test before time and not surprisingly, the test showed we were not pregnant. I said, “Babe, can we please wait a little longer before you test again?” So she waited and we waited. October was here and I decided to go into NYC to attend my usual church service and Monica stayed home. After service, I jumped on the bus and headed back home to Jersey. Monica said, “Do you want me to pick you up from the bus stop?” Without thinking that this is strange I agreed. On the journey home I fell deep into my thoughts about the pregnancy and how we would handle it if we found out the 2nd attempt did not take. The bus pulled up and I jumped in the car. In my seat was a note that read “look in the back seat”, I turned around and another note says “first comes love, then comes baby Sugars”, and with it laid a pregnancy test that had two strong visible lines. I put my head down in shock and immediately began to cry. I said, “Are you serious babe!” she, with tears flowing, replied “Yes baby we are pregnant!” Of course everyone’s first question is “Are you sure? Let’s go buy more tests.” We hurried to Walmart to purchase two more and had the same results – pregnant! At this time we were excited and thought… ‘Who should we tell first?’ Monica’s mom is in the Jersey area so we bought some balloons and rush to her work to surprise her with the news that she will be a grandma! After a few days I got the courage to tell my sister and decided to hold off on telling my mom until I saw her, fearing that her reaction would not be positive.
Two months later I traveled home to Alabama for the holidays and decided to tell my mom about the pregnancy. She was very indifferent and the response (as I expected) was not positive in the beginning. But I did not let that affect our happiness. Once she finally met our baby at 6 months, she immediately gravitated towards him. But with us living up north and my mom down south, it’s been hard to have them bond. However, my sister and nephew treat him as family and love him dearly.
2018 was upon us and the pregnancy was going great. Our baby was growing and getting stronger every day, and aside from the usual pregnancy complaints, the overall pregnancy went great for Monica. Throughout the whole pregnancy, she made sure I never felt left out and always made sure everyone acknowledged me as the mother. Some months later we decided to make our official pregnancy announcement via Instagram, and to our surprise everyone was so supportive and happy for us. A few months later we discovered our baby’s sex, “IT’S A BOY”, and his due date was July 18, 2018. We were so excited, even though we prayed for a happy and healthy baby, we both secretly hoped we were having a boy.
In order for me to bond with him, I would talk to him every day, read books, gave him a nickname (Juicy), and told him how much we loved him and couldn’t wait to meet him in person. With that being said, I think bonding was totally easy for me.
The months preparing for the baby were pretty busy, prepping for a baby shower and celebrating my birthday in the June. We had a very busy schedule leading up to little Juicy’s grand entrance. On July 3rd at 2:40 a.m., I was awoken to, “Babe I think it’s time we need to go to the hospital”. I rushed to get the bags in the car and began the drive to the hospital. The drive was the most nerve wracking drive ever, the thoughts of ‘he is early, is everything okay?’ Upon our arrival at the hospital, we were greeted by our friendly staff of nurses that made the whole experience comfortable and educational. They never once treated me like an outsider or made me feel that I should not be included in the whole process. At 11:31pm, exactly 3 days after celebrating my own birthday, weighing in at 6lbs 11oz, Nikolas Alejandro Sugars decided it was time for him to join the family - as I am writing this I am crying.
When I first saw him come out, the bond was instant, but nothing compares to when I actually held him and his eyes opened. From that point, I immediately said, "This is my son", and my worries quickly vanished for the most part. It's amazing how you can love someone that biologically isn't yours. The bond that I share with our son is nothing I ever could have imagined. Nikolas and I bonded quickly, and I constantly did skin-to-skin with him so he would recognize my touch and smell. Monica would actually say he has bonded with me more so than her. Aside from my mom at times making me feel like she sees me as less of a “real” mom to our son, I haven’t been made to feel ‘less’ by anyone else. Never once was there a time that I felt jealous or inadequate compared to my partner. To make our bond tighter, I officially adopted him on November 14, 2018. There is nothing anyone can do to take him from me now.
We do get the occasional “who’s the real mom?” question, but we quickly correct them and say we both are. Monica makes every effort to ensure everyone knows who I am, and is always quick to point out that I am his mom and make sure I am always included.
In closing, my relationship with my son is wonderful. I truly did not think I could love someone so quickly. My kid makes the worst day brighter. His smile makes my heart smile. I couldn't imagine my life without him. He is and will always be my son, no matter what. Monica and I are extremely thankful and grateful to God every day for giving this little guy to us.
As individuals, Jory and I never really wanted kids. At least that was the case until we met each other. We always joke that’s how we know we are meant for one another, because we’ve only ever wanted children and marriage with each other. I knew I wanted to have kids and marry Jory before she did. I was the first one to bring up the topic. I had remembered all our previous conversations when we were just friends, about how neither of us really wanted kids, so I was very hesitant. We thought we were too selfish to ever be able to love tiny humans more than ourselves (it sounds crazy looking back on it now). So when I first brought up the topic it was to my surprise she was equally as excited and receptive as I was, I couldn’t believe it! We had been together 4 years and had never once talked about having kids. It was all so exciting; I already couldn’t wait to get started!
That same day we went into overdrive and started researching the best sperm banks, fertility doctors, cost, process…etc. We wanted to get started as soon as possible. We knew we both wanted to carry a child, but we simultaneously decided that Jory would be the first to carry. At the time I had a better paying job and was making most of our monthly income. After seeing how much it would cost, I wanted to work as much as possible to pay for all the expenses. Jory wanted to be the first to carry because she is two years older than me and felt her biological clock ticking! I remember being happy at how easy it all seemed. I remember having made mental notes at how I would rebuttal her “no”; I never imagined she would say yes to all of it!
I would be lying if I said I had no insecurities throughout the entire process. However, the insecurities didn’t set in until Jory had actually become pregnant. The insecurities were never over the love I already felt for the tiny baby growing in her belly. Instead, I feel a lot of my insecurities stemmed from what some of our family members thought. I felt people thought I would never love the baby as much as Jory because he wasn’t going to be biologically mine. I let all of their whispers and thoughts get in my head. That’s when I sort of became possessive, for lack of a better term, over her pregnancy. I felt that because I wasn’t the biological parent, I needed to almost overcompensate and be as involved as possible. Looking back on it now, it’s not that I was insecure over the fact that I wasn’t the biological parent. I was overcompensating for the lack of support and validation we received from family and friends.
As our pregnancy progressed, I found I was also experiencing a form of jealousy towards our sperm donor. It was like a form of penis envy (don’t laugh, it’s the best way I can explain it); I wanted the baby she was carrying to be genetically OURS. I never imagined I would have these feelings. Up until this point of the pregnancy I was just thankful we were going to be able to experience motherhood! I didn’t need the baby to be genetically mine, but then why was I feeling this way? As it turns out, it was because I was indeed very jealous of the sperm donor, duh! Jory and I were both already so in love with the baby in her belly, but she was experiencing a level of love I couldn’t wrap my head around. She was grateful for our donor; she understood that if it weren’t for him, we wouldn’t be experiencing the love we were feeling. It took me almost the entire pregnancy to understand the level of gratitude she was feeling.
As her pregnancy progressed, my worries shifted to her having a healthy pregnancy. I was overly concerned about her mental and physical health. A couple of years prior to getting pregnant my older sister had a stillbirth. It was the most painful thing our family has experienced. I was irrationally afraid this would happen to us. I became obsessive over her pregnancy. I was constantly reminding her to take her prenatal, about her next appointment, always asking if she had felt the baby kick and how many times. Jory was always so patient with my ‘possessiveness’. I feel like she let me take control of all these aspects of her pregnancy — not because she had pregnancy brain, but because she probably sensed I needed it. Being so involved helped me deal with the insecurities I had. It helped me feel like a real parent. Being so involved with the pregnancy gave me a sense of ownership that I feel biological parents feel.
The birth was a crazy and chaotic experience! Jory was only 38 weeks and we were at a routine checkup when they recorded her as having high blood pressure. Our midwife was concerned it could be preeclampsia so we ended up in the hospital that same night! This was all going NOT according to plan. Jory and I had a birth plan and a doula. We had it in our heads that she would labor at home for as long as possible because she wanted to have an un-medicated birth. We imagined a beautiful and spiritual birth, so she was sobbing when they said they were going to have to induce her. I wanted to cry with her. We had it all written out in our birth plan – she wanted to labor freely with minimal medical interventions. It was depressing to see her attached to all the fetal monitors and crying.
Thankfully, Jory went into natural labor that next morning! During the labor process I felt useless. I was her wife, a woman who had never experienced birth, reminding her to breathe and to think happy thoughts all whilst she’s whimpering in pain and throwing up. I didn’t know how to help her; I just wanted her to not be in pain. At one point I remember Jory saying, “I don’t know how much longer I can do this.” A big part of me wanted her to have an epidural because I didn’t know how else to help her not be in pain. Looking back, labor was fast and our son came in just under 6 hours. But while I was in the moment, I felt useless. I knew how to help my wife, we did all the research; we practised all different types of scenarios. But still, I felt like I was doing nothing to help.
Axel was born on July 7th at 1:59pm. I cried like a baby as he came out and as I cut the cord (a nurse had to help me keep my hand steady because my eyes were blurry with tears). We were both so happy and filled with love for this tiny human. Jory had the un-medicated birth she wanted and I got to experience him be born. I did have an embarrassing moment though; I almost missed my sons’ birth because I passed out for a couple of seconds! I remember holding her hand while holding one of her legs up while she was pushing and thinking, “holy shit, please don’t die.” I was so overwhelmed by what I was seeing (lots of blood) that I almost passed out and had to sit down for several minutes. I gained my composure right when his head was coming out.
After he was in her arms and nursing (and I had fully recovered) all the medical staff started poking fun at me. They said I would have been the first woman to pass out during labor. Apparently only men have done that. This lightheartedness is the perfect example of how awesome our medical staff was! Everyone involved was super welcoming and loving of our newly formed family. In fact, one of our doctors had a gay daughter who was beginning her own journey into parenthood with her partner.
The first few weeks as a family of three were a blurry bliss. He was everything we had ever dreamed of. Sadly, those emotions lasted only a few weeks before reality set in. Being new parents is difficult! The late nights were especially difficult for Jory since she exclusively breast-fed. I quickly realized that all I could really do was change his diapers and clothes when he had blowouts. All he wanted to do was be on her (we called him a booby monster). I started to feel useless. All I could do was make sure my wife was fed and hydrated and Axel had a fresh butt. Looking back, I know I was doing enough, but I wanted to do more! I wanted him to want me as much as I wanted him. It’s silly, but I wanted him to need me as much as he needed her. Even though Axel didn’t need me, I made it a point to make him find comfort in me. I started baby wearing (ring slings and woven wraps) to help with our bond. I would get home from work and we’d go on walks together. Anytime Jory needed to shower or eat I’d put him in the sling and I’d just rock back and forth. It helped us both a lot! It gave me the validation I needed and it gave Jory a much-needed break.
For the most part our families were equally elated with the birth of our son as we were. No one can deny the cuteness of a newborn baby! My wife’s parents, however, still wished the birth of their grandchild had been under different circumstances. They wanted her to have had a family with a man. And I think any hesitation they had over Axel was because they were still mourning the loss of their daughter ever having a “normal” life. In fact, when Jory was 8 months pregnant her parents gave her a movie which told the testimony of a once gay man who had found Christ and had reverted to being straight. That was a blow to the both of us. We had felt that they were coming around to the idea of us having children. They even helped us throw her a baby shower, for god’s sake! I felt like that was their last attempt at “saving” her from bringing a child into the world with another woman. They now have come a long way and become more accepting of us and have started be more involved in our children’s lives.
As Axel got a little older and his physical appearance really took form I noticed that I started to become self-conscious of how people perceived my relationship with him. Not only are we a same sex couple, but we’re also an interracial couple. Jory is white and I am Hispanic. The donor is also white. Axel came out super light skinned with bright red hair. Strangers love commenting about the hair; they say things like “does the dad have red hair” or “wow, where does he get that from?” It started to become a coming out story every single time! I’d quickly walk them through our story and wonder how they felt about gay people. It started to get exhausting having to explain our family to everyone we met. It felt like it only happened when I was alone with Axel. People would either look at me and assume I was the mom and then look around for a man with red hair or they would assume I was the nanny (the nanny comments hurt the most). I had to quickly learn to laugh it off and jokingly play off the hair or else things got awkward really fast once they found out I was one of two moms and they had just made an ass out of themselves. Now I don’t care to answer or give an explanation if I don’t feel like it.
I am his real mom. I have been there since he was just a notion, a dream. I’ve been there every step of the way. I love it when Axel runs up to me screaming mama and everyone around us does a double take. I see their wondering eyes, questioning how he came out of me. They don’t know that he didn’t! Families come in different shapes and sizes. There are heterosexual couples that adopt children that don’t look like them, people!
Luckily this has been the only form of discrimination our family has faced, if you would even call it that. If I’m being honest a lot of what felt like discrimination was due to our insecurities. Once we learned to just own the fact that he and I look so different, things got so much easier for us. We stopped caring about what people, like our families, thought. I stopped feeling like I had to explain my family to everyone. I realized our story is not for random strangers to know, they don’t deserve it. Once we did that, all the mental and emotional barriers we had created vanished. Everyone in our community of friends and family see me as his real mom. I feel like that’s the best advice I can give to anyone: get out of your head, don’t waste any time on other people, and just love your children!
My wife Allie and I have 3-year-old boy/girl twins who are biologically related to her, and a 2-month-old little girl who is biologically related to me; my wife carried all of them.
From the first time Allie and I discussed the potential of having a family, it was an obvious and mutual decision that she would carry. Allie had always wanted the pregnancy experience. Whereas I, at no point in my life, have ever wanted to give birth. Allie is four years older than me, so we decided to use her eggs first. We did IVF and used an anonymous donor (whom all our children share). Prior to us being pregnant, I had absolutely no reservations about being the non-biological mother. I was excited about the possibility of having a sweet little baby with similarities to my wife.
The process didn’t feel real until we had a positive pregnancy test and due date. During the pregnancy was the first time that thoughts started to cross my mind, like - What if the child feels less bonded to me from the start? Will I not have that immediate connection/love that people talk about because we’re not biologically related? Is that feeling biological? Or what if when the child is old enough to understand that I’m not biologically related – will they feel differently? Like I’m less of their parent or our bond is somehow less? At no time did I regret our decision; I just started to have a few nervous thoughts.
In the initial 12 weeks of pregnancy, my wife and I kept all decisions and information just between us. I felt 100% involved. Once we were 12 weeks pregnant, we started telling family and friends and for the first time, I started to feel on the periphery of the process. The conversation shifted to be all about my wife and the donor; their physical features, developmental milestones, etc. Which I can’t fault anyone for – I get it – I also wondered what the babies would look like and what their personalities would be like. I struggled with not feeling a part of that conversation but still wouldn’t have changed a thing. It was just a reality that I needed to deal with.
During the pregnancy process, Allie and I really grew as a team. Our relationship became deeper if that makes sense. In the evenings we’d plan the nursery and lay on the couch listening to the heart beats using a Doppler. I felt like together we bonded with the babies before they were born. I felt them kick and roll around every day. I went to every one of the scans and health checks. However, during the appointments, I often felt somewhat outside the circle. My wife and I are both often assumed to be straight, so I was commonly assumed to be a support person and not a parent. My wife always tries to make it known that I’m the other mother but it’s always a little disheartening when it happens.
The birth was far from the romantic serene setting I pictured – there were multiple scary complications. I had built up this one moment in my mind of holding the kids for the first time and feeling this electric rush or something I’ve never felt, but for the first hour of the babies lives, I held them while praying not to raise them alone. It wasn’t really until we were in the recovery room hours later – that I could breathe and look into their eyes, hold their hands. That’s when I really felt a rush of maternal protective instincts and a love that I can’t describe. I can confidently say now that there is absolutely nothing biological about the instant love I had for my children. When those little eyes opened, and their little fingers held on to mine – any concerns / nervousness about our non-biological relationship/bond were gone. As I got to know them, I loved them more. It’s this feeling like I know I loved them with all my heart yesterday, but I love them more today and I didn’t think that was possible.
The hospital staff during the delivery and recovery process were fantastic. At no point did anyone make us feel out of place. Everyone was very supportive and seemed genuinely excited for us. The birth registration process was inclusive – on all forms there was a “biological mother” and a “father/other parent”. I’m grateful that we live in Canada and there’s nothing extra I needed to do to be the legal parent. To be sure, we reached out to a lawyer to inquire about the process to ensure we’re both 100% legally the parents. They told us that they’d love to offer us services – but there was absolutely nothing that needed to be done. It was refreshing and relieving.
Throughout the whole process, our families and friends have been very supportive and excited for us. They’ve loved the kids since before they were born. My mom cried tears of joy and immediately told her friends after we told her. My entire family has embraced our family from the beginning.
As a two-mom family, we’ve never experienced any outward discrimination, but we have experienced lots of heterosexism. Very early on, it became apparent that we were an invisible family. The most common question we get from strangers is “whose children are they?” which can be quite exhausting. There have been a few isolated incidents where acquaintances have made comments about me not being the “real mom” and asking me if I’ll have “kids of my own” one day. I correct them and move on. And once people realize we are a family, they’ve all been very nice and appropriate.
From the moment they were born – they were my kids. I’ve never felt less of a parent or jealously towards my wife or felt like the babies preferred her over me. Like any kid, they go through stages. Sometimes I’m the favorite and sometimes it’s my wife.
During the first few months of our babies’ lives, I felt so much love and an indescribable bond to my kids and my wife. Genetics didn’t cross my mind. The more I got to know each of them, the more I loved them. We bottle fed the twins, for various reasons, which I think really allowed me the time to bond with the kids one on one (or two in this case).
Last week our kids started preschool for the first time. We’ve met the other parents, teachers and head of the school. No one has treated us any differently! It’s been positive. It’s really comforting to send them off to a safe, positive and caring environment where we only worry about the standard parenting things like separation anxiety.
My advice to other intended non-bio parents would be:
- Make sure you and your partner are solidly on the same page about who wants to carry and who will be the biological parent. Being confident in this decision helped me work through any doubts as they came up.
- During the pregnancy, try to be as involved as possible. Attending appointments, ultrasounds, feeling the babies kick, etc., this helped me to feel close to them before they were born.
- How a couple decides to feed their child is an intensely personal decision but if there is a bottle feeding, then have the non-bio parent do some feedings. We found that having me do a lot of the feedings helped with bonding and allowed for a more equal division of tasks.
- Be prepared for some inappropriate comments and have a plan for how you’ll respond. Responding respectfully but assertively always made us feel better than letting comments slide.
Being a family really has nothing to do with genetics. It’s love, as cliché as that sounds – that’s all that matters.
In the very beginning, my wife and I decided that she would carry because her periods were more regular than mine and we felt she could get pregnant without any added drugs. The decision for her to carry was pretty easy and simple at first. She did just as we predicted, and got pregnant on the first try. Later on in the pregnancy, I was diagnosed with primary ovarian failure, significantly reducing my opportunities to carry a biological child. I had visions of looking my child in the face and seeing a resemblance of me there, seeing certain mannerisms that I have in him, and taking up similar interests as me. I soon got over that and thought of all the ways I could nurture him and develop a close bond so much that he and I would not even realize that we were not biologically related.
I think one of my biggest concerns was preterm labor and having a premature baby. As a registered nurse I witnessed first-hand many premature babies and the many struggles they had. So to avoid preterm labor and subsequent delivery I would watch my wife closely, probably too much if you ask her, and made sure we made each prenatal appointment and took her vitamins. I would also monitor her eating habits to make sure she gave our fetus all of his nutrients. So I worked late most nights and when I got off work often times my wife would be asleep. I would shower then curl up next to her and hold/rub her belly. I would read to him in her belly and have conversations with him. I knew he was listening too because he would kick and squirm. I swear he knew what time I got off because he was so active in the night time versus the day.
Fast forward to the birth, we had a midwife and we delivered at a birthing center instead of the hospital. My wife had many fears of the hospital systems and I worked in one all day so the choice for a birthing center was pretty easy for us! Our midwives were amazing and so inclusive. They respected us as an LGBTQ couple and we never felt any insecurities about our family or how we conceived.
We started off in the warm tub as she labored through the night and into the day. We are talking 23 hours of moaning, groaning, aches, pain, and lots of back massages from me. At the 24th hour things suddenly took a turn for the worse. She and I were both in the tub dozing off between intense contractions and the midwife would check her vital signs then the baby’s heartbeat. She and I were barely conscious when the midwife told her that she needed to get out of the water and onto the bed because the baby’s heartbeat had dropped. Instantly, my nurse brain kicked in and I flung into action. All I could think of was there is no way my dreams of becoming a mom was going to suddenly disappear or my son was going to suffer any brain damage from lack of oxygen if I had anything to do with it. The thing was, all of my experience was in ER nursing and not labor and delivery. I felt helpless in a way but if needed I was there to resuscitate if necessary. I hopped out of the tub and got on the bed with my wife and encouraged her to push! Push that baby out like nobody’s business! The midwives were telling us that his umbilical cord was being compressed and the only intervention was for her to delivery this baby. One hour of hard pushing, sweating, tears, and me shoving oxygen in my wife’s face (which she hated) and our son Zen was finally here. The midwives allowed me to assist him out on the last push. I was the very first person to hold our son.
The moment I held him is truly hard to describe. I felt like the gates of heaven opened up and a golden glow was all around us. It was truly a surreal moment. All of the anticipation, months of planning, months of wondering what this moment would feel like and it had finally arrived. He was just perfect. His little nose, ten tiny toes, and his little cry that pulled at my heart strings. He was all here healthy and intact. I felt an instant bond, a mother’s love, and an incredible sense to protect this little being. My original concerns of not seeing a reflection of myself in my child melted away quickly. Actually, our son looked exactly like my wife and seeing a familiar face that I already loved in this tiny human made it easier to forget that the baby was not biologically mine.
The first few months at home with Zen was an adjustment for sure. He cried a lot, and don’t get me wrong I knew he was an infant, but I felt like he cried more than most. My wife and I had decided before he was born to exclusively breastfeed. The breast literally was the only thing that kept him calm. He literally did not have to be nursing either, just the smell of her milk would sooth him. Don’t get me wrong, I know that he needed this for his development and her bonding, but I truly felt left out for a while. I felt inadequate, I couldn’t comfort him, sooth him, or closely bond with him in the way I had imagined. I did become jealous of their bond and longed for the day he would acknowledge me as his mom too.
My mom, siblings, and grandmother all treated Zen with love and no different from the other kids in their lives. When I first came out, my mother was not in agreement with my lifestyle but definitely through the years came full circle and fully supports me with no backlash. I think I am the first to make things known that I am Zen’s mom. I think I don’t give people the opportunity to discredit me as Zen’s mommy.
I would say at this moment in time Zen prefers my wife over me, but honestly she is the one with the breast milk. So his entire nutrition is all with her so I can’t say I blame him. It hurts sometimes but I remind myself that he is only a baby and our time will come when our bond will get stronger. I have yet to experience outright discrimination as his non-bio mom. I’m sure there may be times this may happen when he starts school but as of right now it has not happened. I am listed on his birth certificate as father/other parent.
I have also had some positive experiences from others when they stated that Zen and I look similar or favored me.
In summary, the first few months of Zen’s life was a struggle to bond because he wanted to be under my wife (the food supply). As he grew older and had other interests I became one of the most important people in his life. We bond over making silly faces, playing tickle match, and exploring the outdoors. I would advise any non-bio moms to be involved in every aspect of the pregnancy as possible. When the baby arrives, take initiative to do all non-feeding things like bathing, burping, and diaper changes so your baby knows you care for them as much as the bio mom. I would say rest assured that your baby will see you as their parent no matter what and no one can take that away from you.
I have never told a journey so beautiful and raw in my life. It hasn’t always been the easiest journey, but it’s mine; and I love it. Let me just start with the thing that attracted me to my wife when I first met her, her daughter. I fell in love with this 2-year-old dream girl who gazed at me with longing eyes and copied every move I made. She made my heart flutter and that was something I had never felt before. You have to understand; I was lost at 23 and had never known the love of a child.
Since my wife, Chelsea, had carried a child, to me, it only made sense she carried the next one, right? I am a stud who dresses very masculine, but still feel very comfortable in the fact I am a female. The thought of dressing in slacks with a button down having a huge pregnant belly made me feel unbelievably insecure. But how do you as a woman, not get to experience the kicks and hiccups felt? This touched a place I had never felt as a very confident person; it made me vulnerable. I made the decision nonetheless, to let my wife carry our soon-to-be child. The beauty of this decision came easily in the fact she had already had a child, I have raised and loved as my own. I can honestly say I was truthfully never scared in feeling a connection with this child due to the connection I shared with Cali, OUR first born. To think I get a chance to make an impression from the start and show this child what true love and support means, was an absolute blessing to me.
The first time she told me she felt him kick; I couldn’t help but be absolutely excited and completely torn at the same time. Am I going to feel connected to this little guy? He hears her talk all day every day. What if he doesn’t even recognize my voice? It was important to me though that through our pregnancy I was very active with engaging with him. I sang him happy birthday every week that passed, just counting down. Also, as a guitar player, I would play late at night and sing to him while playing. Luckily, it was also very important to my wife we make a connection early on, while he is in the womb.
From the get-go, we did a lot of research on LGBTQ friendly Obstetricians in our area. It was important to us to find a doctor who had not just heard our journey, but accepted and understood it. Our fertility clinic was LGBTQ friendly and recommended an amazing doctor that communicated with us as family the first time in her office. Then to follow, the hospital staff told us the whole time we were their favorite patients. My wife cried when we moved from labor and delivery to postpartum. We had a complication that put us in the hospital 5 weeks (to the day) early from our little man’s arrival. My wife was absolutely terrified, and all I could do was be there for her, and we prayed. Twenty-five hours in labor, five minutes pushing, Jaxon Ryan was born into this world. To say I cried is an understatement, I sobbed…ugly sobbed. To hold my son for the first time; nothing will ever compare to that. He looked at me and stopped crying, instantly. I placed my finger is his tiny fist, and literally it was my family and I against the world. Any fear I had about missing the kicks, the pain of delivery, the bond of feeling him inside me – all gone.
Chelsea’s family has had a lot of trouble with our relationship from the very beginning. When they first found out we were together they attempted to take our daughter away from her saying Cali couldn’t be raised by two women. Her family did not attend the wedding and had quite a hard time when announcing we were going to try to get pregnant. Surprisingly, they have started to turn a leaf and accept me and Jax in a way I did not think possible. My family, on the other hand, has been supportive from the very start. My mother treats our kiddos just as they are her own – spoils them rotten to the core. My parents tell all their friends they are their grandchildren
and not a single person thinks anything different. It has been tough to deal with the one side of things, but I am so thankful to have such a supportive side.
I would say one really tough thing in this pregnancy is that, since I came into our daughter’s life when she was 2, a lot of people kept congratulating me on being a mom when Jax was born. As offended as I would be, I would kindly laugh and remind them I have enjoyed raising my daughter and can’t wait to see the differences with a little boy. Even if people don’t say it to my face, I know they are thinking I once again am just a “step-parent.” How can he be MY son if he was still not made with any of my genetics? I am quick to remind myself that just as love does not see gender, it also does not see blood.
Bond. What a word. How do you describe bond? Is it fun, laughter, or respect? What makes you feel the closest, most personal bond with your child? For me, I have struggled since day one with our daughter feeling closer to my wife. She will always whisper in her ear, or used to actually exclude me from games they were playing. This was a tough time and truly tested the relationship between my wife and I. I often got my feelings hurt and it is very hard for a young child to understand that. My wife really had to step up as the mediator and help mend the bond. To help bridge the gap in our relationship and help us work through whatever it was she was feeling that she couldn’t come to me. As she has grown, I will say it has gotten better, however, being as I am DEFINITELY the tough parent, we still do have our struggles. We have worked hard, and still continue to work every day to find where we hold a place in each other’s hearts. Jaxon, well, he just loves us both. From the get go, that boy is the happiest when we are BOTH around. My wife always tells me he loves me more because of certain things he does, or how he grabs my face; after so many years of coming second, I take it and run with it.
The journey of being a mother is probably the most rewarding one I have ever felt. When you study really hard for a test and your baby walks through the door with a perfect grade. The first steps, first words, first bike ride. No corporate accomplishment I have ever achieved, no home, no car; nothing…has ever made me feel the joy my children bring into my heart. It is so dang hard, but so rewarding. It is important to me and my wife that our kids understand what L.O.V.E is. not color, not race, not gender, not religion, what LOVE is. I will never forget the time I was driving my family around, and we were at a stop light and I turned around and asked my (at the time 4-year-old) daughter what love meant to her. She paused, for a long time (I almost thought she wasn’t listening to me) then quietly from the back seat she says, “Mama, love is when you gave my heart wings, and you taught it how to fly.” Every day I try to live my life by this wise, young statement. I am here to teach my children how to live, love, and be loved. I don’t need blood or genes to define my love for my children. Biological or not, carried in my tummy or not, I have never loved anything more.
My wife Hayley (H) and I have been together for ten years. We decided that H would be the biological and carrying mother to our children. She had a strong desire to carry a baby and it felt right in our relationship for the carrying mother to be her. We thought that since H is older, if she were to have a biological child it would be the right time. I also thought that if there were any biological personality, character or physical traits passed down to the child, I would love it if it was from her.
Although we established that H would carry and be the biological mother to our child, I did have a lot of worries before beginning the process. Some of my friends who didn’t carry but who were the biological parent to their children had experienced feeling isolated and less connected to their partner (both through pregnancy and once the child was here); I worried that I would have these feelings and worried that these may also be magnified as I would also not be biologically related to the child. I also worried that I would somehow be less to our child. I had feelings that I could be replaced and even though I could do all of the things that a 'dad' could do I still wasn't a Dad, and so I had worries that the child would 'prefer' or want a dad in my place. This tied in with jealousy of the donor, even though I was (and am) extremely thankful to him, I was jealous that he would have a biological connection to our child and I wouldn't. I was sad that I couldn't have a child biologically related to both me and the person that I was in love with. I very much related to infertile heterosexual men in the early stages. People made comments (never maliciously - always in jest or in good will) about 'doing it for us/me' and 'it only taking a few minutes' (to provide us with sperm/give us a baby), which made me feel even more like I couldn't provide and give to H what we needed to enable us to have a family. It also frustrated me how easily other people had a baby, parents who treated their children badly and the feelings of unfairness that we couldn't make a biological child together naturally when we love each other so much, even though I understand we are both women and that's not how it works! There were definitely a lot of conflicting thoughts and emotions experienced during this time! I had worries of what my role would be and how other people would see me and my role, whether I would be validated and taken seriously as the child’s parent. I also had worries about whether my identity (of which being a lesbian is a core part) would be watered down somehow, even though of course lesbians can have children. Overall, I had many conflicts of thoughts and feelings often based around societal stereotypes. These were very prominent during our IUI and IVF cycles, but went away slightly during H’s pregnancy and generally lasted until Oscar was probably about 4 months old. I still have some of these worries to some degree for Oscar as he gets older but most definitely in much lesser amounts.
During the pregnancy I worried that H and the baby would bond more than the baby and I could, as they were together all of the time. I worried that the child would recognise H as their parent at birth but not me. I worried that H could feel like she was carrying someone else’s baby (which I felt when linking to sperm during the IUI process). I was also worried that I would be pushed aside at the birth and wouldn't be taken seriously as the baby’s parent, H's voice, main support and back up. All through the pregnancy H was so supportive and validated me and my role, and always did her best to make me feel part of everything. I tried to hide my worries and feelings through the IUI/IVF process as H had her own worries about the fertility process and I felt a distance between us at this point. Through the pregnancy this did get easier as I could be more vocal as H was in a better place, which then made us reconnect more. To help me to bond with our child through the pregnancy I sang to him, talked to him, explained things to him like what we were doing, where we were going, what different noises were. I felt when he kicked, went to all of the scans and appointments, and also named him.
The birth was a fantastic experience. I made sure that I was with H, made it obvious that I was her wife, her main support and spoke on her behalf when needed. It felt like a team effort to get Oscar out and I felt like I had a clear and central role to support her through it. H's mom was also there and I felt like she was supporting H through it but also supporting us as a unit which was lovely. The midwife for delivery was great in encouraging me to touch his head first as he was crowning and let me help deliver him by supporting and turning his head as he came out. I felt very protective over him from the start. I felt a bond instantly, although I continued to have my worries and concerns.
H was amazing and I was very proud of her, she also showed in those first few hours that she viewed Oscar very much as my son as well as hers.
I had to go back to work after 3 weeks whilst knowing H was going to have a year off work with him. This was hard as I saw H's bond getting stronger with him at the same time as I was going back to work. She seemed to quickly gain confidence with him and knew what he wanted more than I did. She was also breastfeeding and seemed to be the only one who could soothe him when he was upset, which made me feel inadequate and jealous at times. I was sometimes jealous of the bond that they had whilst he was feeding. I still really enjoyed my time with him but felt like I couldn't contribute as much with him directly and was contributing more on practical household tasks. H was always encouraging, always treating me as her equal in parenting, treating us as a unit and referring to Oscar as my son which was great. It felt like mine and Oscar’s bond strengthened massively around 4 months old, and we got into more of a routine with our parenting roles, and also when H stopped exclusively breastfeeding around 5 months when I could then feed him and give him bottles. I also started doing bath time which gave us time together.
Our family have been really supportive on both sides with our relationship, family and me as a non-biological parent. They don't treat me or Oscar any differently. We have had no negative experiences and we are clear as a family that we wouldn't see or communicate with anyone who didn't treat us as a family unit to protect Oscar and ourselves.
I do, however, feel like others don't see me as a 'real' mom quite regularly. This has definitely got easier as Oscar has got older and the validity comes from him, the comfort and enjoyment that he gets from me and his recognition that I am his parent. I also believe that no one else could love him like I do, and so it doesn't matter what others think because I do my best for him and for us as a family every day. I do and can parent him as good as any other and I know that he couldn't be more loved than he is. This viewpoint has got much clearer as I have got emotionally stronger and Oscar and I have established our own connection.
I do sometimes feel that Oscar has a stronger bond with H but they spend all day every day together whilst I am at work, so it feels like this is the reason more than biology. Their bond doesn't affect my bond with him and I enjoy seeing them have that bond now. I feel very lucky to have them as my family! I feel like we both have our roles and space and that we can work together to parent him which I feel has brought us closer in some ways as we share the enjoyment and are now a family unit, a team.
We are based in the UK and as we are married and did IVF through a fertility clinic, I could go on the birth certificate automatically as parent. So any difficulties I have faced as the non-bio mom have been social rather than legal. Having to constantly 'come out' as a two mom family has become more of a need than I thought it would be as people often assume that I am the friend or sister. Birth prep class talking about dads and pregnant moms, having questions about my sexuality and 'how (my) family are with it' from health professionals after correcting them about my role, and a lot of 'who is the mom' and 'who are you' have been a few of the everyday experiences. I treat most questions now as an education piece rather than getting annoyed about it as I think for a while it was definitely affecting me more than anyone else and no good was coming from it. I still find it hard when people just assume the baby’s mom is whoever is holding/pushing him and don't include the other parent in any questions or conversation, either way around. I think this is also wrapped up with societal assumptions of gender and sexuality as if with a man he is assumed to be the dad.
Generally, I’ve had more positive experiences than negative experiences as a whole, mainly positive from family, friends, places of work and from people we know. I think as we were already established as a couple with family and friends it wasn't that surprising that we were starting a family and people saw us and treated us as a unit throughout. Family and friends also referring to me as 'Momma' (my chosen name) when talking about me to Oscar means a lot. My work place, bosses and colleagues were also very supportive of me as an individual and of us as a family, giving me the time for appointments for IVF as well as pregnancy and helping me get my pay sorted through 'paternity' leave. I have more respect and love for my wife than ever before and feel massive gratitude for her seeing me as Oscar’s mom before I did, and for truly treating me as her equal in parenting. We have also had positive experiences at birth registration and with some health professionals.
In conclusion, there have been many emotions and feelings attached to being the non-bio parent whilst going through the fertility process, pregnancy, birth, and parenting that have been sometimes difficult to navigate and there are still things now that I am working through. Things definitely get easier as you actively parent and when you share positive experiences together. Having your own mom/child time together is so important and having times where you take the 'lead' parent role. For example, bath time, breakfast time, nappies, getting dressed etc. The concerns and feelings I had (and have) make me reflect on my own stereotyping, the way that I think and why I think like that. I still have my triggers and I think it’s important to be open in communication with your circle (partner, families etc.) about these. I feel like it has made me grow and develop emotionally so much better than before. I haven't lost any of my lesbian identity (infact I now feel even more of a lesbian for having a child with a woman as well as marrying one!). It has made me more proactive in wanting to actively work towards equality in society, especially in relation to LGBTQ. Positive and negative experiences have made me more forthcoming in establishing my position earlier to outsiders (as H’s wife as well as Oscar’s parent) and I am more open about what's okay and what's not okay for us and our family with people in terms of behaviour and language. I still have anxieties about donor questions/obsessions in the future, but feel like I have more tools and experiences to face that now. It helped seeking out resources and other people with experiences to give me potential answers to difficult questions that we may face and to bring our children up as strong, confident individuals that feel adequately equipped to face the world. It has made me a better momma to Oscar to have gone through this journey as I have more confidence in who I am and who we are, and it has made me realise what a mom really is and does, and that that is what makes me Oscar’s momma, regardless of biology.
My wife Jessica and I met in college in 2005. We have basically been inseparable ever since. We were married in October 2016 in Kentucky. From the very beginning, we always knew we wanted children. We also always knew that Jess would carry our children. The rough draft of our family plan was two children, one using Jess’s egg and one using mine. When the time came to actually start the baby making process, we studied over our options. We had always talked about Jess carrying my egg first and then using hers for our second child. But after meeting with our doctor a few times and running the numbers, using my egg was more expensive than we were expecting at the time. We decided (and it was an easy decision) to use Jess’s first. I remember feeling a great sense of relief when we finally made this decision because it meant we didn’t have to wait any longer and we could start the process right away.
After six rounds of fertility treatments, we found out we were pregnant on Christmas Eve. A few days later, we found out we were having twins! I was so excited to be able to take care of my pregnant wife. It was easy and natural to bond with my children during the pregnancy. Even before she was very far along, my night time routine consisted of reading and playing music to Jess’s belly. Jess was usually fast asleep while this was going on, so it was often just me and the babies.
Every once in a while, I would have some anxiety that our kids wouldn’t look at all like me. We eased these concerns before the pregnancy by choosing a donor with many of my attributes. I am half Iranian, so we chose an Iranian donor. This gave our kids a biological connection to me and my family. We got pretty lucky and found a donor that favored me with fair skin and dark hair and eyes. This was important to Jess and I and made me feel connected from the very beginning.
Our girls were born on a beautiful warm Saturday afternoon. Our birth story was unexpected and rather scary at times, but ultimately a beautiful experience. They joined us a little early and were born at 30 weeks and 5 days old. We arrived at the hospital around 11:30 a.m. (after a scary bleeding episode at home) and our little ones were born at 3:19 and 3:20 p.m. It felt like we were only at the hospital for five minutes before their precious cries rang out through the OR. Ellis and Ruben, who are named after their great grandfather, were tiny but very strong. Our beautiful Persian warriors.
Our nurses and doctors were all amazing. They were always supportive and at no time made me feel like anything less than the spouse and parent. Everyone we interacted with embraced our family. In fact, during our month-long stay in the NICU, we quickly became close with several nurses. Our NICU had a webcam system that allowed us to have a secure view of our girls when we weren’t there. We could login and see them any time we wanted. Our nurses started writing little notes to us and leaving them in view of the webcam. They would write, “Good Morning Mommy and Baba,” and “Mommy and Baba, my temp and blood sugar were perfect!” and “I can’t wait for story time with Mommy and Baba!” Jess and I cried every time we logged in and saw a new note. This was a small but comforting gesture when we needed it the most.
I think all new parents (carrying and non-carrying) have at least some level of anxiety about whether that bond with your child will be instant. This can be heightened when you are the non-biological parent. I knew that I would love these kids more than anything in the world, but I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a small voice in the back of my mind that worried about that instant connection. And our particular experience was even more complicated because our girls were three days old before my wife or I were able to hold them. But I am happy to say, the bond happened even before I was able to hold them in my arms. The moment those little faces were out in the world, I felt connected to them. Holding them only intensified that bond. Jess and I had talked about having kids for so many years that once we finally got pregnant it took a long time for it to feel real. And then finding out we were having twins made the whole thing even more surreal. In hindsight, I feel like I was just starting to get used to the idea of my wife being pregnant when the girls were actually born.
Over the years, Jess and I have had issues with our families. My mother has always been supportive and embracing of me and our relationship. She’s the mom marching in the Pride parade wearing an “I Love My Gay Daughter and Daughter-in-Law” t-shirt. Her and Jess have always had a very close bond. She was the first person we shared our pregnancy news with. It was Christmas day and the last present we gave her to unwrap was the book “How to Babysit a Grandma.” She cried for about an hour with pure joy.
My dad was a slightly different story. I didn’t officially come out to him until much later than everyone else in my life. He struggled in the beginning but ultimately came around and has been loving and supportive for many years. Despite this, I was still extremely nervous to tell him that we were pregnant. I honestly wasn’t sure how he would react. My biggest fear was that he wouldn’t see our children as his “real” grandchildren. It was a hope-for-the-best-prepare-for-the-worst situation. We took him to lunch one weekend and after some small talk I said, “Dad, you’re going to be a grandpa.” He looked at me with a lump in this throat and said, “Really!” while trying not to cry. Luckily, they were happy tears. He asked a few questions about how, where, etc. but was ecstatic. He’s been hooked on the girls since the moment they were born. My dad is not a text guy, he’s an old-school phone call kinda guy. But since they were born, he has started texting me every day asking how “his beautiful grandbabies” are doing and asking for pictures of them. And, although I don’t think he would love them any less, I think he really likes the fact that they are Persian like him. He is excited to teach them to speak Farsi as they grow.
Jess’s family has also been surprisingly supportive. Her family took a very long time to accept me as their daughter’s partner. And, honestly, I hesitate to use the word “accept” because it’s really more like tolerate. They are very conservative Southern Baptists in a small town in eastern Kentucky. So, by way of comparison, they are not the family marching in the Pride parade. The whole family basically ignored my existence for the first nine or so years of our relationship. But after we were married, they had no choice but to start including me. And they did slowly but surely, and we have developed a good relationship over the last couple of years. When we told Jess’s parents we were pregnant, her dad smiled from ear to ear while her mom stared in shock. They have loved the girls and have acknowledged me as the other mother, so I’ll call it a win thus far.
So many things lined up perfectly that often make me forget that Jess and I are not equally bio parents. The girls are not identical; in fact, they do not look much alike. But the amazing thing is that one (Ruben) looks just like my wife and one (Ellis) looks like me. So many people comment on how much Ellis looks like me. We each have our own little mini-me, which we could not have planned any better.
I am currently going through the legal process of a second-parent adoption to make sure the girls are legally recognized as my children. It’s a strange and unsettling feeling to have to “adopt” your own children, but Jess and I wanted to make sure we covered all our bases and are both their legal parents. It seems unfair, but I am also grateful that I am able to do this. Only a few years ago, same sex second-parent adoption wasn’t an option. I consider myself exceptionally lucky to have been able to create this family with my wife. It has been a wild ride already and we’re just getting started.
In the beginning, I originally did not want to have children until my 30’s. When I met my wife, Paola, that all changed. Deciding on who would go first was not difficult for us; my wife knew that she wanted to go first. She was very eager and I could not compete with that; I was okay with waiting. And along with that we had to decide how we would conceive.
My main concern regarding being the non-biological mother was that I would have no rights to our baby, and I feared that because he wasn’t biologically mine, there would be no physical connection. My wife had a great pregnancy, going into it I worried more about any extreme pregnancy symptoms that would occur. I feared an early term pregnancy. But thankfully my wife did not have any issues; it was an easy breezy pregnancy.
When our son Pharaoh was baking, we always sang to him, allowed him to listen to some of our favorite music, and we would talk to him and tell him all the fun and cool things we would do when he arrived.
The birth was amazing. It was a very tiring 20 hours of labor. My wife was super strong, and I was super supportive. Whatever she needed, she had it. The hospital was very supportive, and we were so comfortable after 48 hours that we did not wish to leave. Our family were not so supportive - everyone seemed to have an opinion about how we did things. We are not the traditional couple and we like to live life in a more holistic way. Next time we have agreed no family visits until the child is at least 1 month old.
When I held Pharaoh for the first time I cried uncontrollably, the love was instant, and my soul felt it. I was so happy. Every worry I had had went away, I knew that we had a connection and I know he recognized my voice. I do still have some thoughts about our connection, but I am working to grow past that.
The first few months with Pharaoh were very difficult because I could not take time off from work as it was a new job. So for the first 3 months I worked every weekday, and spent nights and weekends with him. For me that was not enough. I then took time off for 3 weeks to spend time with him. When we did spend time together, I would feed him or we would dance. I did feel jealous when Pharaoh was getting into his feeding habits. I felt that “he was on the boob too long”. And I didn’t get that same time with him. So, I decided to do some research and gained a better understanding of infant feeding and managed to work around that.
Our family is very supportive and they treat Pharaoh as if I birthed him. We have not had any negative experiences from family and close friends. Everyone who loves us loves him just the same. However, I always felt like my wife’s maternal grandmother still does not see me as Pharaoh’s mother because she is very traditional and does not agree with our lifestyle. But she is being more respectful.
I think that Pharaoh has a different and special bond with both his moms; they are both very strong bonds. But he does go to my wife more for comfort when it comes to the breastfeeding.
We have not yet been in any situation or circumstance where I was treated differently. Pharaoh does have some traits that resemble mine, like our eyes and lips. So, people always assume that he is my son. When we are together it’s obvious because our love for one another is like fire in the night. It’s easy to see. When we go to restaurants, playgrounds, etc., people just love our dynamics. My wife and I have the same ability to make decisions for Pharaoh. The only thing that she has denied me from doing in the past was piercing Pharaoh’s ears, which we decided that it’s best to have him wait until it’s something that he wants.
We have had many positive experiences but the one that sticks out to me the most is that I was able to adopt Pharaoh, so by law he is mine. Anywhere we go in the world, I will not be denied any rights to him. Another positive experience we have is as educators we have the patience to educate Pharaoh at home.
My experience as a non-biological mom is one that I would describe as uplifting. It teaches you that blood does not make you family. It is very important for me as a non-bio mom to love Pharaoh unconditionally. I earlier feared that I wouldn’t love him as much because he was not “mine”, and to me that is not real love. Pharaoh and I are very close, everywhere I go he wants to go, he mimics things that I do. When I walk in from work he is so happy to see me. Because he knows its music time; "Time to Party"! We also cook together, and he loves our arts and crafts. My word of advice to other non-bio moms is to be open and transparent. Clear communication between partners is extremely important, if I would have never come out and told my wife how I felt about being a non-biological parent, we wouldn’t have been able to work together to put my worries about being his mother at ease.
I may not have carried my son in my tummy for nine months, but I carried him in my heart for six years. Every night of these six years I have prayed for him, and asked God to keep him in His arms and hold him until the day we met. I had no idea how much I would love him. I didn’t know how it would feel to hear him call me momma for the first time, I didn’t know how it would feel when I had to watch him get shots, I didn’t know how it would feel to watch him take his first steps, or feel him wrap his arms around my neck. I didn’t know what it would mean to watch my heart walk around outside of my body. He has changed my life in every way. And I am forever grateful to him. Blood couldn’t make our bond any stronger. Our connection is like no other. I love him more than anything in this world, and I am so proud to be his momma.
My wife, Megan, knows what she wants and is very bold. She has wanted to be a mother since childhood. On our first date, she said “I want to buy a house, get married, and have kids in the next 3-5 years, so if that is something that you want, great, and if not then it was great meeting you, and we can be friends.” I was in awe of how strong and confident she was. It excited me, and I went forward taking our relationship very seriously. My sister told this story at our wedding, and added “that I don’t scare easy.” We mostly met that timeline, and our daughter, Hallie, was born just over 6 years after we met. I have a genetic disorder, with a 50% chance of passing it to a child, so I decided in 8th grade I wouldn’t have biological children. I am also on medication that wouldn’t have been ideal to take while pregnant or breastfeeding. My wife always had a dream of being pregnant, so it was an easy decision that she would carry.
I had a lot of insecurities about being the non-biological parent before we decided that we were going to try to get pregnant. My wife is adopted, and so part of me felt that we should adopt and both be on an equal playing field. I was worried she would have an advantage over me, not only carrying the baby but being genetically related. But, we live in South Carolina, and realized it would have been pretty hard to adopt here. And, during nursing school I shadowed a school nurse who shared her story of infertility and adoption with me. She explained the pain and stresses of each path. I realized there is no perfect way to have a child, and that I didn’t want to rob my wife of the opportunity to be pregnant, since she really wanted that, and I didn’t want to take the fact that we could carry for granted. I decided that day that we should move forward and try to conceive naturally.
I had worries before my wife’s pregnancy that it was going to be an awful experience for her. My nursing school maternity class put a lot of concerns in my head. But, we went through a great fertility clinic who said jokingly that the only fertility issue that my wife had was that she was a lesbian. We conceived on October 11th, which is National Coming Out Day, in Charleston, SC. It was actually the day of Hurricane Michael, and we had no power at our house, and we drove 2.5 hours to the appointment. We had been finding it hard to find a day that my wife was ovulating and wasn’t busy with important work events. We were so grateful the clinic was open that day and that we could both be there. We were so lucky and surprised when the pregnancy took on the 1st try. My wife had a relatively easy pregnancy, which was such a relief for both of us. Nobody talks about how scary and nerve wracking pregnancy can be. So many things can go wrong. We were very fortunate.
I was not very maternal before Hallie was born. I was excited we were having a baby, but didn’t feel that connected to her. It felt more like my wife was having a baby, and I was just along for the ride. My wife constantly sent me videos while I was at work of the baby kicking. And we would talk to her all the time. I didn’t expect how it was all going to hit me at once. The second she was born, every maternal feeling I had been lacking filled my body and heart.
The birth was the best moment of my life. Our OB was amazing and agreed to let me catch the baby. I caught Hallie in my arms and cut the cord, and it was my connection to her. My sister and mother were in the room and were able to take photos. It was truly the most magical experience. All of the staff at University Hospital Labor & Delivery in Augusta, GA were extremely supportive. They treated me like they would have treated any dad, and it was such a great experience. And because it was July 4th, when we moved to our postpartum room we could see fireworks from the window, and it was the best.
Every concern went away when I held Hallie in my arms. I didn’t expect it to feel so natural. I felt instantly connected to her and that I was her Mom. I did skin-to-skin with her while in the hospital, and it was amazing. I can’t explain the feeling of having your baby on your chest, but I felt our heart beats sync, and she will have my heart forever.
The first few months have been wild. I was able to take care of Hallie for the first two weeks that my wife had to go back to work, because I was in between jobs. There have been times that it has been tough, because she weaned off the bottle and wants to exclusively breast feed. I wish I could have had the experience of breast feeding, which is such a beautiful process. But, I am able to put Hallie to sleep every night and my wife struggles doing that. I am able to burp Hallie better than my wife. I have definitely been overwhelmed and had moments of feeling inadequate, but overall my wife and I are doing a great job and figuring it out together. Every day is new and different. It’s exciting and exhausting all at once.
Our family has been so amazing and supportive. Hallie is the first granddaughter and great granddaughter on both sides, and has been welcomed with open arms by everyone. She has more toys and clothes and blankets than we know what to do with!
I have not felt for one instant that I am not a “real” mom, which has been a relief but surprising to me because I expected that a bit. A lot of people that I tell I have a newborn look at me puzzled, and ask if I carried. When I say my wife did they always respond with “I was going to say, you do not look like you were JUST pregnant.” But I feel so included. Everyone at work is always asking about her. At one of our baby showers we had a prediction game about what her hair color, eye color, weight, etc., would be. Everyone at the baby shower kept saying “what was Jahna’s eye color?” “What was Jahna’s weight?” It made me giggle, because that totally didn’t matter. But the fact that people forgot that I am not genetically related was really cute and made me feel really good.
I don’t have “magic milk” as we call it. But I haven’t felt like Megan has a stronger bond with Hallie. She smiles at both of us, and looks at us like we are her whole world. Megan is a professional equestrian, and Hallie spends all day with her at the barn. I am working as a nurse full time Monday-Friday 9-5, and Hallie definitely sees her more. She is getting to the stage where she has more separation anxiety from Megan, which has been challenging for me. But when I get home from work she lights up. It is truly amazing.
We were able to get a Mother/Partner birth certificate in the state of Georgia which was really cool. We got a baby book from Spearmint LOVE that is for same-sex parents. I haven’t felt any discrimination as being the non-bio mom, which is surprising because we are in the south. We will see what going to school will be like and all of that, but we have been very pleasantly surprised so far. We haven’t looked into all of the laws yet, but are pretty sure that I will need to do a second parent adoption at some point.
A lot of family friends have said that Hallie looks a lot like me. We chose a sperm donor from California Cryobank who looks a lot like me. It was a very fun and special process for us to choose the sperm donor together. I know we are extremely lucky, but IUI was a very easy process for us. It took 10 minutes, and we were pregnant and went out to brunch. We chose an LGBT-friendly fertility clinic, and I felt extremely included in the conception. The birth was the most special moment of my entire life. It felt right because of my nursing and paramedic background to catch her, and I highly recommend doing that if you’re the non-biological parent. I am so grateful our doctor let me do that. It was all of the connection I needed.
California Cryobank has a sibling registry, and we have found one of Hallie’s half-brothers already. It’s really neat to see how much the two of them look alike.
I thank my wife every day for growing this beautiful baby, and for choosing me to go through motherhood with. It feels like such an honor. I never imagined love like this was possible. I am so glad that I didn’t let my insecurities get in the way. Being a mother is the most powerful and important thing I have ever done. I always said that I was fine with or without having kids. But now that Hallie is here, I really do feel like I would have missed something in life if we had not done this. It is amazing how little genetics matter. She just needs to be protected and taken care of. Me carrying her or not has nothing to do with the love that I can provide and that she needs. My life now belongs to that little baby, and I wouldn’t change anything for the world. My advice would be to make your relationship with your partner as strong as possible before going through the process of getting pregnant and having a baby so that when the baby is here, you can focus on enjoying the baby and not any stresses in your actual relationship. We work as a great team and it helps us not get worried about the little things in life. And, don’t let your fears of not being related to the baby get in your way. Your child won’t have a clue that you’re not genetically their parent – all they’ll know is that you love them and they love you, and that’s truly all that matters when it comes to love.
We hope you enjoyed reading the stories and experiences of these moms - we certainly did!
Stay tuned for part 2 coming soon!
Jen - @slamduhnke22
Tracy - @self_made30
Vanessa - @vnessadoll
Melanie - @clearycrew
Idalia - @buff87boom
Bex - @bexryan24
Kate - @kate.hl___
Natalie - @natkingcolls
Precious - @pharaoh_garcia
Jahna - @jahnamsalvo
Thanks for reading!
Same Sex Parents ♡
October 5, 2019