Miraculously My Own | Part II
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.
There is no doubt that my wife and I both wanted kids. We always said I would "go first" because I'm two years older (which seems to be exaggerated in my wife's world). Before we got engaged and married, we ended up relocating from DC to Chicago following an interesting job opportunity for my wife. After the move, I became a financial services consultant and travel 80% of the time. Needless to say, I don't feel as energized and healthy as I used to. Since we wanted to start our family, we decided that my wife should go first instead. For me, it was easy to hand off the responsibility of pregnancy because I couldn't picture myself being pregnant and traveling, or getting heated in a client meeting with leaking boobs!
I've always wanted kids, but I've never felt like I needed to experience pregnancy or give birth. I almost feel lucky to have a partner that wanted to experience everything. She went as far as wanting to do everything as natural as possible! I would probably be OK going through with it if I knew I could have drugs and a C-section guaranteed. However, I also suck with needles and would not have made it through all the blood tests. I complained about the handful of vials the fertility clinic had to take from me on one occasion! I'm so bad, that I made our friend give her the trigger shot in her butt, so she technically had more to do with the baby making than I did!! I also don't think I would have been able to handle the weird feelings inside my body. The first time I had my hand on my wife's belly to feel the baby kick, I got nauseous and almost fainted!
While we were "shopping" for a donor, my only request was a donor with blue eyes. However, after extensive financial modeling (we use spreadsheets for everything in life), we determined nobody with blue eyes had the height, build, or health history we desired. I was momentarily excited because we found a donor with a toddler picture that was IDENTICAL to myself! Unfortunately, his celebrity look-alike was not so awesome looking... so we passed on him. We still ended up with a donor that had a fair complexion and light brown hair (that I dubbed "Attitude Boy" based on his photograph), and to me a healthy baby was more important than the blue eyes. Currently, at 4.5 months old, our baby still has bright blue eyes. I am crossing my fingers they stay that way! While it would be nice to have a resemblance to my child, it really isn't important because half the time I can't tell which biological parent a kid takes after anyway.
I honestly care more about my children being biologically related to each other so that they can have a common identity.
The week after our IUI procedure, we went to a presentation from Cali Cryo that included legal considerations for same-sex couples. It sounded like standard protections are needed to protect ourselves from each other. I thought it was very interesting that even my wife needed to technically adopt the baby after birth, despite the fact she would be biologically related to him! Luckily we live in a big city where we don't face discrimination. Just in case, we've made important life decisions in places that we know the law is more likely to be on our side (such as getting "fake married" on one side of Lake Michigan and getting "real married" by one of our officiant friends a few months later so that we could register our marriage in Illinois instead of Michigan).
My wife is very competitive and is annoyingly good at everything she does; this included being pregnant. I'm the type of person who gets morning sick from eating too much the night before, so I can just picture how horrible my experience would be. I was really hoping to go first so that I could experience something that she didn't know anything about. However, now I can NEVER get pregnant because hers was so easy that I would never be able to complain about anything!
Right after confirming the pregnancy, we found out that the combination of hormones and IUI process we had completed had a 20-25% chance for multiples. On top of this, my wife started having hunger cravings within a week of IUI, and each blood test showed a higher than average level of hCG. Per "Dr. Google", these were symptoms of twins! We immediately used this as an excuse to look for a larger single family home to replace our three bedroom condo on the top floor of an elevator-free building. We joked about the idea of BOGO ("Buy One Get One") since those little donation vials are so expensive (and required two per cycle). I even bought multiple rainbow onesies for an announcement in the case of twins. Since our family and close friends knew when we did IUI, and when we were finding out about the pregnancy results, we agreed to have "twins" be a surprise for the general pregnancy announcement. I think in those initial weeks before the first ultrasound, we became set on having twins and were almost disappointed when we found out there was just one (although not a bad problem to have, especially since he was the size of two babies!!).
The down side of knowing about the high chance of multiples is the form we had to sign about being open to discuss our options if there were "a lot" of multiples. I was very concerned and worried about having to make a decision to terminate a selected number of embryos if there were somehow more than two (or whatever our maximum number would have been).
The biggest inconvenience during the pregnancy was shopping and pulling together this sentimental push present! Mind you, the baby was due on April 21, so I figured I was VERY safe buying some April diamonds and focusing the push present around an April birth month. Around rolls April 30th, and at 9pm that night, I realized it wasn't going to happen... so a supplemental emerald gift had to be ordered.
I was so nervous and worried that anything could happen that I never let myself get excited about the pregnancy. I think the first time I got excited was somewhere in the early 20's number of weeks where it was likely the baby would survive birth (and no longer be labeled a miscarriage). It took a really long time to feel real. I think part of this had to do with the fact that this was our first attempt at the pregnancy, and based on statistics, we didn't think it would happen.
I made sure I was home for all appointments, and scheduled appointments around my travel schedule. I also made sure friends were around to support my wife for appointments I couldn't attend. We brought friends and/or family members with us to ultrasounds too! Most nights, to help me bond with the baby, I would pick 3-4 books to read to the belly. Usually I would put my wife to sleep as I read to her belly, so I'll just say they both enjoyed it!
We toured hospitals VERY early in the process and found a place that felt right that ended up having an awesome midwife group that were very supportive. We also found a kick ass doula. There is no way we would have made it through without her!
After an amazing pregnancy, the birth was anything but. His head got stuck, he had shoulder dystocia, my wife had a retained placenta, she hemorrhaged and lost several litres of blood, she had a 4th degree tear, she lost consciousness, received two blood transfusions, and we needed forceps for the delivery. I just remember wondering if it was ever going to end, and if we would have the baby come out in one piece (I am still amazed). She did all of this without an epidural.
The Monday morning we went in to be induced, it was a pretty quiet day in the labor and delivery wing. However, in the first few hours there, we heard a "code white" called. I looked up the meaning and found out that it meant a "non-patient" was in need of medical attention. We laughed about it, but at that point I promised myself that we would not need a code white for me during the labor and delivery process. I was being a good wife and standing by her side, and didn't eat anything in front of her! With that said, there was a moment I had to sprint and dive onto my cot because I almost fainted (and nothing exciting was even happening!!) I was so exhausted around the 24th hour that I went downstairs to get coffee and walked into a pole. I still managed to avoid the code white!
Because my wife and the baby were so happy and healthy throughout pregnancy, we got to 42 weeks and 1 day before we met our midwife at the hospital to induce. We walked MILES the day before, ate spicy food, and tried everything (except castor oil). The most recent ultrasound had the baby estimated to be about 9 pounds. Upon arriving Monday morning, the midwife estimated an 8.5 pound baby by feeling around (later, we found out her placenta was 8.5 pounds...yes, that's VERY large). At this point, my wife was still dead set on a natural birth (other than the help of pitocin). By Monday night, she was just starting to feel contractions and the pitocin was already pretty high. Contractions lasted throughout the night and she began to push on Tuesday morning. After 6 hours of pushing and assistance, the forceps finally got him out. He was 16 days late, weighing 10 pounds 1 ounce and measuring 22.5 inches long.
When "IT" finally came out (over 30 hours later) and was put on my wife's stomach, it was just staring at me. So, I stared back. I think I was in shock and processing the 6-hour complicated delivery. I did not have an instant bond and basically wondered what this THING was... I didn't even think about the fact that I didn't know the gender.
Somehow my wife was the one to ask what "it" was. We were still staring at each other while she moved the cord out of the way to see he was a boy. The next moments were a blur until I was in a chair doing skin-to-skin with him (awkwardly trying to hold him as every doctor and nurse on duty was stopping by to see the final results!).
I was nervous at first, but at 10 pounds 1 ounce, he didn't feel as fragile as I was expecting. With all the delivery problems, it took the doctors a really long time to fix up my wife, so I was able to take him and do skin-to-skin for the first couple of hours.
Honestly, my biggest concern the first few weeks was if he had brain damage after watching the birth (especially the forceps). I'm glad to say he's ahead of the game (but don't give him too much credit with how late he was).
I've always heard about the "instant bond" and the "love at first sight" with a baby. I would say it took me a couple of days to feel a bond and it is still getting stronger every day 4.5 months later. The thing that nobody told me was the intensity in which the love and bond with your partner changes after going through the birth. The process was so intense and she did awesome. I'm the worst at expressing emotions, so I'm probably not doing this justice, but it really was overwhelming to watch her go through what she did.
Our baby rarely cries. We really hit the jackpot. Even parents at daycare comment on how happy and smiley he always appears. However, he definitely inherited ‘hanger’ from his mom. Sometimes I find myself getting upset that I can't comfort him or calm him down. My wife wants to breastfeed over bottle feeding, so I sometimes have to hold him while he cries until she is ready to nurse him. She swoops in to save him, and he's automatically happy, which definitely leaves the feeling of inadequacy and jealousy. It has nothing to do with the act of nursing him, but more to do with the fact that she has this "power" that I don't!
My wife also picked a non-traditional "mom" name based on her family heritage. This left me with the opportunity to be called Mom or Mama, which is awesome!
My younger sister (unmarried/no kids) recently asked if I wanted to have a kid and why not. I honestly feel lucky that I'm with a partner that crazily wants to experience being pregnant. Immediately after giving birth, she said she would do it again. I think we found the "designated birther" in our family! The primary curiosity from friends and family was the process of finding a donor. My uncle referred to the process as creating a "GMO" baby, and ironically his initials are "GM".
I've never been put in a situation of feeling like others don’t see me as a “real” mom, but I also know I have my own experience and perspective when it comes to conception, pregnancy, birth, and motherhood. Regardless of what people say or think, I am a mother. However, at the same time, I would never compare myself to someone that carried a baby for nine months and then goes through the process of giving birth. Being there and experiencing it in my way was just as important, but it was very different!
I haven’t felt like our son prefers my wife, I think it depends on how hungry he is! Other than that, he's too young to tell. I'm just happy that he still smiles and is happy to see me at the end of the day or after my work trips!
My biggest difficulty is trying to catch up with the sympathy bump loss!! My wife lost 20 pounds in one day.... the excess weight I gained during her pregnancy is not coming off with the breastfeeding!
Since day one, it has been interesting to see how adaptable our baby is and how extremely happy he always is. The fact that other people (even people we don't know at the daycare) can point this out; I sometimes attribute these characteristics to having two moms!
For me, it's more than just my role as a parent because that came so naturally and I love my baby more than anything (especially when he makes the same facial expressions as my wife in miniature form). There is nothing that compares to or comes close to what my wife did to bring him into this world. If you're expecting, be prepared to love your partner more than you ever thought possible.
From the very beginning of our relationship, Samantha shared that she wanted children -10 children to be exact! She wanted a big family and knew she wanted to carry. At the time I did not want any children; I wasn’t ready mentally at all and actually didn’t have a goal to be a mom. 5-6 years passed and while we were enjoying the life of two women, I began catching “baby fever”. I saw kids in the park and would smile, kids at restaurants, and would talk to parents with lots of curiosity. Samantha and I talked briefly about children as time moved on and then it increased to daily conversations as to who our donor would be and then finally started looking at sperm banks. It was a gradual thought process so it wasn’t difficult. We gave ourselves time which helped a lot.
The biggest concern I had in the beginning about being the non-biological mom was breastfeeding. I thought our child would be upset that I had breasts but could not produce anything for them. I thought the connection would be dull and I would have to try harder to build a bond with our future baby. A concern I did have was the height of our donor. I am a tall woman and my wife is much shorter so I figured the balance would be great.
My biggest concern during pregnancy was making sure my wife was comfortable. She had surgery twice in her life as she had scoliosis as a child, so her ultimate fear and unwanted occurrence was to have a C-section due to the healing process. With that, I hired a doula and chose a birthing center for her birth experience.
During my wife’s pregnancy I just could not stop talking to baby. From rubbing her stomach to reading to baby, we always had our special moments. I’m so thankful my wife allowed me to explore her belly and comfort levels during this time because although I was not physically pregnant, the connection was there for sure.
At 1:30 a.m. on Feb. 12, Samantha (who is known as Umi in our family) felt a sharp pain that woke her up. We knew the process was about to begin. We headed to the birthing center with our doula and began the birthing process. For us that meant walking up and down the stairs, bouncing on a ball, and counting the longest squats ever. It was about 11 hours of discomfort but with the positive reassurance from the staff at Brooklyn Birthing Center as well as our doula, Samantha’s birth was great. It went as planned with our birth plan, everything except the date. Our daughter was due on Feb 7th, she came on Feb 13, the same birth date as her birth mom, that was not planned at all!
When Abigail was born I was in such shock and so excited that I did not feel the connection immediately. I was overwhelmed with thanks that the birth went well and my wife was no longer screaming out of discomfort that I didn’t even realize we had a baby! Within a few hours Abigail began hunting for her first breastfeeding session and actually crawled up to me! I was so surprised and in pain from her special moment all I could do was scream. However that moment showed me the connection was absolutely real, birth mom or not!
The first few months of parenthood were definitely new for us. We did use Dr. Google and we did spend a lot of time on YouTube, which helped so much. Bonding with baby was every day and every night as in our one bedroom NYC apartment, our moments were together. From breastfeeding to countless couch naps - it was just great. We did lose sleep but becoming moms and naming ourselves as Two Mommies and a Baby was something we planned for and we were extremely happy.
Our moms were absolutely supportive of our parenthood journey 100%.
My wife’s mom was at the birthing center when she gave birth and my mom was on call waiting for delivery while at home in Connecticut. My mom defends herself very pridefully as a non-bio grandmother and shows extreme love for her granddaughter. Samantha’s mom takes our daughter in 100%, as well as me as her daughter-in-law. She respects our option not to go by mommy or mama and addresses us as Umi and Uma to Abigail. We decided on Umi and Uma because Mommy and Mama was just too simple for us. I go by Uma which means Indian Goddess in a Hindu dialect and Samantha is Umi which means mom in Arabic. We do not speak Hindu or Arabic but do appreciate the alternative.
People know me as Abigail’s mom and I have much pride and respect as a parent so I’m thankful no one has attempted to tell me different. I am a real mom, I do real mom duties, I have real mom emotions, I have a real legal marriage and we have a real baby.
Abigail absolutely loves nursing so that bond is very strong with Samantha. I thank Samantha very often for her duty as she’s still nursing at 19 months. Sometimes I do feel bad that I cannot give Abigail the immediate comfort of nursing but I do find other ways to provide the comfort. Our bond is real every day. From bath time to jumping on the bed together, we’re all smiles!
People often question “how” I became a mom without giving birth to Abigail. I don’t take this as an offensive question but more of an opportunity to educate. We did have an error on Abigail’s birth certificate where I was listed as father. This took a while to be corrected but once it was addressed there were no further issues.
Positive experiences are always welcomed! Since becoming moms we have learned so much about parenthood. Abigail’s daycare respects us as two moms, they don’t question much although it is outside of “the norm” but we are respected and we do appreciate that. With us showcasing our parenting via social media, as well as our book representing queer women of color, we do receive much appreciation. We are always looking to support parents whether they’re a part of the LGBT+ community or not and our pride and happiness shows that.
Our daughter loves her moms. She appreciates the emotional and physical love we share with her. When becoming a parent, always understand there is no right or wrong answers. You will learn through your own journey and no one can create that journey for you except for you.
When my wife Georgia and I first started dating, one of the things that attracted me to her, was her desire to one day have a family. I always wanted 4 kids, as crazy as that may sound. Georgia wanted at least 2 little ones and so having kiddos was always the plan for us. We often joke that we were the most “traditional” non-traditional couple around, in that I asked for her parents’ permission before proposing and then went with a big over the top proposal on an island. Our friends threw us a beautiful engagement party and bridal shower, before we flew to Cabo San Lucas Mexico in 2009, with 40 of the people closest to us to wed. Almost immediately after getting back from Mexico, we started having those real baby-making conversations. I think we both always thought that I would be the only one to carry in those early years of dating, but once it was time to get the ball rolling, our plans began to change a bit. We discussed the fact that Georgia was 4 years older than me and that if she had even the smallest desire to carry, she may want to consider carrying first. We talked and talked about it and after much thought on her end, she decided that she wanted to give it a try. I was 100% on board with this and within a month we were seeing a fertility specialist.
In the beginning, I didn’t really think much about how my experience could be different from G’s, as the non-belly mama. I was more focused on the excitement of us finally having success following our 7th IUI and that our daughter was on the way! I did my best to research ways to bond with the baby while Georgia was pregnant and felt that if I just did everything the books and articles said to do, things would be just fine. I talked a lot to G’s belly, played music and cuddled with her baby bump, every day after work. On the day that Gracie was born, I was the first to hold her and immediately had skin-to-skin with her, up until the minute she had to be transferred to the NICU. Our gal was born with a cleft lip, something we learned of when Georgia was 28 weeks pregnant and so we knew that would alter our birth plan, months before she was born. We decided before the big day that regardless of how soon they took Grace from our room, I was to stay right by her side and so that’s what I did. My poor wife ended up being all alone when she was stitched and cleaned up following birth, because I was with our daughter until Georgia was wheeled in a few hours later.
When I think about my experience as the non-bio mom and how it’s evolved over the past 7+ years, (with 2 kids), there are some experiences that definitely stand out as being difficult or hurtful and one of them was the process of helping our families get comfortable with our roles as bio-mom and non-bio mom. More than anything, we just wanted all parties to understand that there was no difference and we expected to both be treated as Gracie’s moms, equally. When Gracie was a baby, I noticed that my mother-in-law seemed to have a hard time calling me mom, when talking to Gracie about me. She would say weird things like, “say hi to her” instead of, say hi to mama, or “look she’s here”, rather than mama’s here! It happened so often and felt so forced and awkward that it had to be addressed. I tried not to read into the behavior too much, even though it was hurtful and because my mother-in-law quickly changed her vocabulary to be more inclusive of me as the other mom, I let it go.
My mom also displayed some interesting behaviors when Grace was a newborn. My in-laws had the baby during the week, following our FMLA and so Gracie bonded with them more quickly than she did with my mom, whom she only saw every couple of weeks. My mom would often get her feelings hurt and took it very personally when Grace showed preference for her biological grandmother. My mom started making more frequent comments, until the day I had to finally have a conversation with her about how she was making things difficult for me as a new mom, by always being so critical of how Gracie behaved with her. I mean, she was a baby for crying out loud and babies naturally gravitate more towards the people they see more. Thankfully, the conversation helped and that whole situation got better.
There are so many examples of little things like this that we made it through as a modern family with one bio-parent and a non-bio parent. I’m very thankful that while there were challenges along the way, we’ve been treated with respect and love, in mostly all situations. We had an amazing fertility clinic that treated me like every bit a parent as they did Georgia. Our pediatrician always made sure to make eye contact with me during doctors’ appointments and was great at including me in Gracie’s visits from day one, and the 2 schools that our gal has attended have been inclusive and respectful of Georgia and I as Gracie’s moms. I think the biggest contributor to this has been my self-advocacy as a mother equal to my wife. I think I was so fearful that I would be viewed or treated as less than, or not Gracie’s “real mom”, that I had to find my voice very early on and had to make sure I was heard and recognized, whether it be at parent/teacher conferences, doctor’s appointments, extracurricular activities, family functions, etc. What’s been very ironic in all of this is that most people have always assumed that I was the bio-mom and that Georgia was the non-bio mom, I’m assuming because I am the more femme of the two of us, but who knows. Little do most people know, I tried for years to get pregnant, but never could due to MTHFR and PCOS...
My struggles with infertility have been the most painful of any experiences in my journey as a non-belly mama. I feel that part of what helped me to take things in stride and find joy in my role as Gracie’s non-bio mom, was that I always thought that one day I would get to experience pregnancy too. For me, that was the only part that was missing. The love between my daughter and I was immediate, from the moment we learned that she was on the way. I feel we bonded from the start and although she has always been a mommy’s girl, we’ve shared a special closeness from day one. Still, I wanted to know what it felt like to feel that miracle of life growing inside of me and so we tried so very hard to make that happen.
3 years of endless fertility appointments, acupuncture sessions, IVF, frozen embryo transfers and too many IUIs to count, ended in miscarriage, depression and anxiety. I lived in that dark place for far too long, trying to will my body to do what it needed to do to make a baby. Then one day I woke up and everything felt different. I realized just how unhappy I was and that I was missing out on enjoying the family I had, in my quest to create the family I thought I wanted. I realized that all I’d ever known was the experience of being Gracie’s non-bio mom and it was my greatest gift, so why was I trying so hard to change that story? I let my wife know a few weeks later that I was done. I then asked if she would be willing to try and carry for us again and she said – heck yes! Our son was born that next year on April 11th, 4 days before my wife’s 39th birthday. The whole experience really opened my eyes to the reality that sometimes in life everything has to fall apart, before it can all fall together.
2.5 years ago, our sweet little guy completed our family in the most perfect way and I just could not be more thankful. Oh, and he’s a total mama’s boy!
When my wife Sarah and I started talking about having kids, we had discussed that we would both ideally like to have one each, but planned on Sarah going first as she definitely wanted to carry (I was on the fence about it!) and she is also 5 years older than me. We decided after initially wanting to try IUI, to do IVF. This was mostly due to Sarah travelling a lot for work - we found IVF much easier to plan our lives around, whereas with IUI, on two occasions Sarah ovulated on the day she was heading to an important meeting or was away for work!
I didn't feel at all concerned about not having a biological connection to my child - I think maybe it was because from early on we knew that if we were to have kids that it would be likely the case for one of us (whether it was through one of us having the child, or if we'd adopted), it wasn't something I spent much time thinking about. Also, I love Sarah with all my heart so I knew it would be incredible to have a mini-her running around!
Out of the two of us, I am very much the organiser, planner, researcher, and one that puts plans into motion, so I think that is how I made myself a really big part of Sarah's conception and pregnancy. I made all the appointments, packed the bags, helped her through every step of the way - even though the procedures were happening to her, I was reassuring, asking questions, there for everything. I made her smoothies every day to help her get nutrients, gave her shoulders a massage for almost every day of the pregnancy, and even gave up everything Sarah had to give up for the pregnancy, food and alcohol-wise. It just helped me feel like I was the very best partner I could be for her, and for our baby. Sarah was really good about helping me 'get to know' our baby in her belly - we'd spend ages every night using a little Doppler to hear her heartbeat, and after her first kicks at 17 weeks, trying to get me to feel them too. I'd also sing her a lullaby every night before bed ('Blackbird' by The Beatles), which she actually ended up responding to after she was born, which was incredible!
The day of the birth was magical - Sarah had a planned Caesarean because baby was breach, and it was a lovely sunny day - so I did what I do best, packed all our bags, snacks, games, things to help make Sarah comfortable - and we headed to the hospital. We had a day of playing board games in the sunshine at the hospital before we were called for our C-Section, and in the room we were able to put on a playlist for Annabelle to be born to. It was wonderful. Nobody questioned who I was on the day - Annabelle came to me first, and I was able to cut her cord - both of which were such memorable experiences I'm so proud of. I was really a part of the birth, as well as the pregnancy.
When Annabelle looked up at me with her big dark eyes, I felt a million emotions all at once. I couldn't believe that we had made her, she was here, and she was ours! I was her mother, responsible for her life, happiness and well-being. Wait that can't be right, we'll get to take her home? On our own? Are you sure? What have we gotten ourselves into!?
It was there, at the hospital, where my concerns and worries actually started, and where I finally started to realise that things might be harder for me than I expected. The first few days of Annabelle's life, in the hospital while she and Sarah were recovering, numerous staff members referred to me as the mother's 'friend' - which while we quickly corrected them, was my first taste of feeling 'other' in the life of my little girl. It was angering as surely in a hospital situation where only partners can stay until a certain time, it should be assumed the person there is partner first? It'd be less hurtful to assume someone was a partner and be corrected than the opposite. I also found it really tough in those first few days while Sarah's milk was coming in not being able to comfort my baby. I remember on Day 2 Sarah got up to use the bathroom and was gone for like 10 minutes (as she moved so slowly due to her C-Section!), and Annabelle screamed because she was hungry for that entire time. By the time Sarah came back, Annabelle was crying, I was crying (I'm actually tearing up now, thinking about it!) - I felt like the dads in the room all thought I was completely over the top, but I hadn't considered that not being the breastfeeding mum meant I wouldn't be able to soothe my own child.
It was not being able to be Annabelle's comfort through breastfeeding early on that I'd say has been my biggest personal struggle in Annabelle's life so far related to not being the bio-mum. I'm the more cuddly of the two of us, more calming - within our roles in our relationship Sarah's the more 'fun', playful one, I'm the protector and comfort - this is the case for Sarah, for Bisbee (our cockapoo) even, but not for Annabelle - her comfort is Sarah, she needs a lot of comfort at times, and I can't say I don't struggle with a bit of jealously about that. If Annabelle is tired, or really upset, sometimes she dives off of me reaching out for Sarah, which has been really tough not to take personally. Luckily, Sarah is really understanding, and never wants me to feel less than or left out, so when that happens, we regroup and then both focus on having her do more with me to try to even the scales again. I do believe that this is mostly down to the time and bond she's had with Sarah through feeding, and if I had my time again, I'd try to induce lactation myself, so I could have that bonding time with her as well from early on, and be more equal when it comes to comforting our girl.
As it was clear early on I wouldn't be comfort to her, at least for the moment, I threw myself into trying to figure out what I could be to Annabelle if it wasn't cuddles - I focused on trying to make her laugh, which is still my favourite thing to do with her. It was harder for me than expected, especially as I am not a naturally 'silly' person, but I've overcome it as I'd do anything for that smile! I also took charge of any responsibilities that would give me time to bond with Annabelle - I would change every diaper when I was at home, and became the master at rocking her to sleep! Two of the best milestones in my bonding have been when we started weaning Annabelle, as I am the main cook, all of a sudden I was a source of food too, which I loved so much. I also really love food so found it so fun to show her different foods and textures, and watch her devour them! The other most amazing thing was when she started wanting to help us do things, which has been more recent. She loves to 'help' me cook, so I do a lot of one-armed cooking and let her stir pots, and taste along the way. She also is a decent cleaner - she loves to dry dishes and help move the hoover.
Our families have been nothing short of amazing - mine in recognising Annabelle as their grandchild without a biological connection, and Sarah's in never making me feel like they think I'm less than Annabelle's mum. We've both been pleasantly surprised at how excited our families were, but I suppose they see that family is more than just blood, and especially as she is the first grandchild and niece on both sides, she was always going to be wanted and loved as much as she is!
Strangely, the place where I have felt most dismissed as Annabelle's mum was at the hospital, after she'd been born, but I think that is because we learned our lesson there. Now when we are in a new situation we are very quick to identify ourselves, instead of waiting for the other person to guess, almost always incorrectly, or to assume. 'This is Annabelle, and we are her mums.' or 'I'm Sarah, and this is my wife, Laura.' Often if we are in a situation like a Doctor's appointment where we are together, I will carry her in, I will answer the questions, and as Annabelle looks a lot like Sarah so she doesn't tend to be dismissed, this tends to mean we don't get questioned. On holiday recently if Sarah had Annabelle and someone said 'Oh your baby is so cute, how old is she?' or another question, naturally I answer 'Thanks, we think so! 14 months.' or whatever the question may be, not allowing myself to be the assumed 'friend'. We both find it frustrating that we feel we have to do this in order to come out in front of the public's assumptions, but it's worth it to not feel invalidated. And really, for us as two femme lesbians, it's an extension of what we have done for our entire relationship - mentioning 'my wife' early on in a conversation with a new colleague so they don't assume I'm married to a man, requesting a room with a queen bed in a hotel, as in the past when we've arrived at check in they've changed us to a twin room, and insisting on going together despite questioning to the window at passport control as we are a couple, and now a family, who they wouldn't query if we were a male/female couple!
Because we are on the defence about being treated as a family, the times where someone has assumed us a family before we've had a chance to state it, really stick out in our minds. On our first outing as a family, to Stratford-Upon-Avon a few weeks after Annabelle was born, Sarah was feeding her on a bench by the river and I had Bisbee on my lap, just watching my beautiful newborn. A woman came up to us specifically to tell us what a beautiful family we were, and what a gorgeous baby we had. It was soon after the hospital experience, so I teared up at this simple act of validation. It was the first time we'd been recognised as a real family. We also have felt very accepted at the daycare that Annabelle goes to a few days per week. The nursery manager, who showed us around initially, didn't make assumptions as to who I was - she just showed us around like we were both equally important in Annabelle's life. Which of course, is the way it should be. We love that there is at least one other two-mum family in Annabelle's class, and that they really think about how to make the children feel included - for Father's Day, Annabelle made a card at daycare, and her teacher said to me that they'd left it blank so she could give it to one of the special men in her life. We feel very lucky that she goes to such an inclusive daycare.
In short, being the non-bio mum is complicated - for me, more so than I expected it to be. If you're like me, you'll struggle a bit with feelings of inadequacy and a question around your role as mum in your baby's life. My best advice for this is to always talk to your partner, communicate your fears, your worries, and come up with a plan together to combat or help you with your feelings. Also, and this is advice that sounds obvious but is comforting in relation to this, but also to a lot of things when it comes to a baby - everything is a phase. Baby isn't sleeping more than two hours at a time? Hang in there, the stints will get longer. Baby tends to favour one parent? This will likely change or at least become more equal as they start to discover the world around them. Babies seem to change so frequently, in a few weeks you'll have found your place and you'll be worrying about new and completely different things! (Like us currently - 'Why has Annabelle seemed to skip walking and insisted on running absolutely everywhere??') The other issue you will almost definitely come across is people who, often without meaning to, make you feel 'other'. It is tough, but now I choose to look at it that I have the opportunity to teach these people, who possibly have not come across a family like mine before, not to assume, but to ask (politely), or to think partner over friend first. You'll also come across plenty of amazing people who don't make you feel lesser than, who support you and assume your role correctly. But best of all, at the end of the day, none of those people matter - what matters is you and your other half, and your baby (and if you have one, your pet, who already thinks you're the best ever!). And as long as you are the best parent you can be for your little one, you'll not be only the non-bio mum, but just simply 'Mum'.
If you would have told us about 5-6 years ago that we would have a child we would have never believed it. In the beginning, we both agreed that we didn't want children. Tranay has been a preschool teacher on and off for 17 years and I was just a wildling (for all my Game of Thrones lovers). I had been through a lot and I didn't feel like I was mentally, emotionally, or physically repaired enough to be someone's mom. In my mind, I was damaged goods and no child deserved to pick up my pieces or receive broken pieces of what was left of me.
About 3 years ago, Tranay and I tossed around the idea of growing our family. We had been together for 7 years, married for 3. We both played vital roles in our sibling's lives due to hardships that sometimes come with life so we knew that together we could do this.
We began doing a ton of research. We researched donor websites, pricing, different hospitals, and we watched tons of actual IUI and IVF videos. We wanted to walk into this process with as much knowledge as possible because unfortunately, we are living in a time where medical professionals aren't always honest and some are more into profit than the well-being of the actual patient (just my opinion from my own experience in life).
We decided that Tranay would carry our first child because she was older and she made it very clear that it was now or never. I was in the process of trying to get promoted so that I could bring in more income for our family. Two under two was the original plan (meaning we wanted to have our second child before our first child turned two). She would carry the first child and I would carry our second child. Given the circumstances that we were in at the time, this was an easy decision.
Once we felt we'd done enough research we made an appointment. Our RE was amazing. He gave us the percentages of having one child, twins, and triplets. He gave us a list of donor sites that he recommends and gave us the top sites that he suggests from 1 to 3. He went into grave detail about how important blood type, CMV status, HSG testing, RH Factor and several other things were. We went home, did our research, and narrowed down sites and donors.
We ended up picking a donor who matched Tranay to a T in regards to what we discussed with our RE. He was the only person that matched her in every category. We paid for the sperm, set up our appointment, and were excited about starting our process.
Throughout the entire process, we kept our immediate family updated from start to finish. So each time we had an appointment they would call and wish us well before and we would call and give them an update immediately after. Our support system was phenomenal before, during, and after this entire process. Our families have been super supportive of both of us and we are both lucky and grateful to be blessed with every one of them.
We went through 3 actual inseminations. I guess we can say the third time was a charm. We started with triplets. One sac and two heartbeats but we ended with Chance (which is how he got his name). Embracing this loss was a hard process. I cried for days. Going from hearing the baby's heartbeat to hearing that the baby didn't pull through and the other baby just had no chance at all was gut-wrenching. It took a while for me to process it but I just see it now as I still get to be a mom so I'm thankful. I do believe that things happen for a reason and what is for you is for you.
Pregnancy was an amazing experience. I love music so I would listen to music with the baby (whenever I used headphones I made sure the volume wasn't super loud). We listened to everything from Jazz to old school R&B to calming tones before bed at night. I read books to the baby (Tranay would pick the book). Every day I spent hours after work talking to the baby. Every chance that I got I tried to engage the baby while Tranay was pregnant. My biggest concern throughout our entire pregnancy was keeping Tranay as happy and stress-free as possible. I am a strong believer in whatever momma goes through passes to baby because they are sharing Momma's body. People always tell us how happy Chance is and I do believe that it comes from us getting a head start through pregnancy. What you expose momma to becomes exposure to baby (just my thought process). Because of this, I felt like I wanted Tranay to always have happy thoughts, feelings, and emotions so that's what I worked toward providing.
The birthing experience was awesome. Tranay did a phenomenal job. We went into labor at 39 weeks. We had an appointment that Tuesday morning and were scheduled to be induced the following Friday. Chance had other plans. Two days before his due date he made his debut. Tranay’s water broke right before bed. I called the hospital and they told us to come in. Of course, Tranay wanted to take another shower so she did. After getting out of the shower she lost her mucous plug. I helped her get dressed, grabbed the hospital bags (that I packed months prior out of excitement), and we headed to labor and delivery.
Tranay was super tired after having contractions for hours and hours. She threw up all her dinner and was upset about her Panera Bread hahahaha. She went into labor around 9 something at night but Chance didn't come until 12:52 p.m. the next day. So we had about 14 hours and some change of active labor.
Throughout our entire process, we had just about the same hospital staff. The only changes were the night and day crew at labor and delivery. I must say that they were all amazing. We still take Chance to visit our RE and our Midwife and her team regularly. When it was time for Tranay to push our Midwife stopped what she was doing and came to deliver Chance. She didn't want anyone else to do it! We love these people to no ends. They made us feel comfortable at all times. Because of us some of the paperwork that you have to fill out at the hospital was changed to include ALL families.
When I first got to meet Chance I was in awe. I couldn't believe he was finally here holding onto my finger as I looked at him in admiration. He was more than I expected. He was alive and in my arms. I felt so happy. I couldn't stop looking at him and smiling at him. Tranay and I both did skin to skin and the nurses worked with Tranay on breastfeeding. Chance wanted to lock onto Tranay’s breast about 30 to 45 minutes after he was born. It was the cutest thing ever. I knew I loved him from the time I heard his heartbeat for the first time but holding him felt so surreal. The only concern I had at that moment was how I could be supportive and helpful throughout the breastfeeding process. It can get stressful and overwhelming (from the articles I'd read and the breastfeeding mom groups I joined) and I wanted to be a part of it all helping and supporting as much as I could.
Bringing Chance home was the happiest day of my life. I still did the same things with him that I did throughout the pregnancy. He is 15 months now and some days I still can't believe we have a little human at home with us. The first few months were amazing. It was a learning experience for all of us but never a loveless experience. Tranay and I supported each other throughout the process. I always got up with her in the middle of the night while she breastfed so I could change Chance. I never wanted her to feel alone or overwhelmed. Surprisingly Chance didn't cry throughout the night and he went to bed around the same time every night. We were super lucky.
The only time I ever felt inadequate is when Tranay realized that she didn't have a good pump response or times when she would have a hard time getting him to latch. Watching her break down sometimes was hard because I wasn't breastfeeding so I can't say that I knew exactly how she felt. I always did my best to encourage her and help her without being overwhelming or starting an argument. She was under enough stress. I just wanted to take that away and soothe her as best as I could.
Our families weren't here for Chance’s birth by Tranay's choice and I can honestly say that at first I didn't agree but afterward I think it was the best thing ever. Sometimes too much help can become overwhelming for Momma. It can lead to extra stress, anxiety, and unnecessary arguments. Giving birth to a child is an exhausting process. The healing period directly after can be pretty tough on the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of Momma. So having just us around during and after strengthened our bond and gave us time to experience life with Chance head on together. It gave Tranay time to relax and it gave us time to create a rhythm and flow in our lives that made things convenient for us.
This didn't stop our parents from being supportive. Tranay's mom was pretty upset at first because of course, she wanted to be there for her first biological grandson but she respected her wishes. I sent out a mass text from my phone after delivery and let everyone know that Chance arrived and he and Mom were getting some rest. I also made everyone aware that Momma needed rest and she would reach out once she was feeling better. So everyone communicated through me. Once Momma felt better our family video chatted with Chance and checked on us every day without being pushy or overwhelming. They were all so excited and filled with joy. To this day he talks to his grandparents, aunts, and uncles on video chat just about every day. They all love him to no ends. Everyone is grateful and supportive of us and Chance.
We did face one negative experience with an Aunt but when it comes to showing us the respect that we deserve we don't back down and we don't ever make each other feel like we have to choose sides. It's always us or else! So we handled that by making it known that respect will be given or you will be eliminated from the equation. Sometimes you have to step back from things and understand that things take time. Every action doesn't deserve a reaction and we all process life experiences differently. If things are meant to be they will but we will never force it. Eventually, things got better and I'm happy that it did because love is love in all aspects and with everything that is happening today we need more of it.
We do sometimes get the question, "Which one of you is his mom?" I find this question irritating but I never belittle or berate those that ask. I don't ever want to assume anyone's intentions, knowledge, or lack of in regards to any situation. I pledged to myself to combat difficult questions with knowledge and feedback and to not take everything personally. It's my world because I live it so I'm aware. That doesn't mean that the entire world is. So when asked this question we always say we both are but we also explain our process and make people feel comfortable to ask questions. We always try to keep an open mind and heart and we always hope that our positive reaction and willingness to share our experience will help others in the long run.
For the most part, we've had a ton of positive experiences. Even with breastfeeding, we get a lot of positive feedback (mostly from older couples). We are often met with tons of questions but as I stated before, we honestly love the question portion. I'd rather people ask than to assume or just stare and be creepy about it. The only negative experience we've had was with a lady when we went shopping in Branson, MO. She didn't want to use the bathroom because we were in there together with Chance. We don't take things like this to heart because we are aware that people like this exist. We can't let someone else's negative actions ruin our day or take us out of character. So we laugh, treat them kind (because it burns their souls), and keep it moving.
This entire process minus losing the other babies has been positive. The support that we have received and the people we were able to help by simply sharing our story has been amazing. The positives outweigh the negatives for us. The love that our son receives adds value to our lives every day. He is so loving because he is surrounded by love everywhere he goes. From co-workers to family, to friends, strangers, medical teams, etc. This has honestly been a great experience for all of us.
I honestly can say that I worry more about how Chance will be treated because of the dynamics of our relationship than I do anything else. I don't want him to be teased or bullied at school because his family is different. I don't want adults to make snide remarks toward him because they disagree with our lifestyle. It's a painful thing to think about. In the beginning, I often wondered if he would have a bond with me because we don't share blood but now that he's here I see that those were just nervous thoughts. I'm his most favorite person in the world. I think Tranay gets jealous sometimes but I always remind her that she did say that she was having him just for me. I like to joke and tell her that he heard her and he's just playing along.
With everything that was going on with the transgender population of the Military, I did begin to worry a bit. I am in the Military and we do travel from state to state and different countries. For a while, I panicked about adopting Chance. I felt like signing his birth certificate wouldn't be enough. I worried that if something happened to Tranay he would be taken from me. Thank God we have great family members because I know they all would support me but the thought was truly scary nonetheless. In the state of Missouri, we are both seen as Chance’s parents on the birth certificate. There's no mom and dad. Just Mom and Mom. So that made me feel a little at ease but I still want to fully adopt him because I don't want to ever have a feeling of uncertainty or have him separated from me because something changed. Things have been unpredictable lately and I want to protect him as much as I can.
If I could give any advice to other non-bio parents I would say go with your gut. Maintain open communication with one another. Understand that your process is YOUR process. Every individual is different so please don't ever compare your experience with the experiences of others. Be supportive of each other and never let the opinions and/or wants of others (to include family members) to deter you from your decisions. Always do what is best for one another and never feel guilty for doing so. There is no manual for raising kids so do your best and keep love at the top of it all. Postpartum depression is real so if you ever notice changes in your partner, do not be afraid to speak on them and encourage your partner to seek help. Raising children is not easy but it's possible. Have faith in your ability and never lose sight of your destiny. You are the chosen one for a reason. If anyone ever needs someone to talk to I am always here and I don't mind assisting when or if I can. Together with shared love and support, we got this!
My wife, Malene, gave birth to our daughter almost three years ago... and we are also expecting a baby boy in February! For both pregnancies we had IUI at a fertility clinic using Malene’s egg and womb. We selected an anonymous donor from a sperm bank and used the same for both pregnancies. This means both children are fully biologically related to each other, and also biologically related to their Mor (Danish for “Mother”), but there is no biological relation to me, their Momma.
For us, it was an easy decision on which one of us would carry our children. When we both met, Malene made it clear to me what she was looking for in a life partner, what she wanted. One of those things was a family, and to experience being pregnant, and to stay home to raise them while they are young. She laid her cards on the table from the start! And honestly, although I had hoped that a family was in the future for me one day, I had absolutely zero desire to be pregnant or give birth! So we agreed that Malene would be the gestational parent, and I would focus on my career to ensure that as a single-income family, she could stay home to raise the kids.
After deciding who would carry the baby, there was the decision on whose egg to use. We agreed that we would prefer to try the IUI method first as it would have been
cheaper and less invasive for us. This is a decision that I especially had to consider carefully as it would mean that I would be a non-biological parent. As a non-biological mother-to-be, before we started our journey of conception, my biggest concern was how would I connect with my child? Would he or she see me as their "real" parent? Would I feel like the equal 50/50 parent, or a second-best halfway-mom that was parenting someone else's kid? I did a lot of soul searching, and spoke to my wife about my feelings openly and honestly. I knew it was her dream to be pregnant, but I couldn't let that stop us from speaking about our conception options and our own feelings and insecurities.
Something that helped was to speak to someone who was already a non-biological, non-gestational mother. Though we had only met a couple times, she was amazingly open as I spoke to her about my insecurities and asked for her perspective. The best advice she gave me was that you get back what you put in. After Olivia was born, I made every effort to bond with her. My wife was breastfeeding so there were many times when I of course couldn't take over, but I made it a point to be there every time I could, no matter how tired I was. It would be so easy to call "not it" because
I am the one that needs to get up for work and perform at a highly focused level throughout the day. It's about all those little moments; the long nights, rocking Oli to sleep, singing to her, the mid-night diaper changes, the being home for momma/Oli bath-time every night - those all helped solidify our bond as mother-daughter. Back then and to this day, my wife is amazing about including me in the little moments. We FaceTime when I'm at work and am able to step out for a quick moment. Or if I know I won't be able to, or when I'm traveling, then I send videos for Olivia to watch. When Olivia asks Mor for something, my wife tells her to ask Momma so she gets used to coming to me for things even though they're home together all day. It's not always easy, but it's about consistency and working together to be intentional about the kind of parents we want to be.
After conceiving and during the pregnancy, the same worries were there, but they were fading as I felt a connection to the baby already. There is so much that goes into conceiving a child in the way that we did. So much consideration, so many decisions, so much emotion, so much love, so much partnership, and so much outside support. I read and sang to the belly every day because I was so concerned that the baby would know my voice. By the time we were pregnant, I felt like I was in it equally with my wife. We were experiencing the same thing together but differently. Watching her carry our child, give birth, and breastfeed - she is a hero - and I was there for her through every moment of it.
Our birth experience was overall a positive one. I did get the sense that we may have been one of the first same sex couples to give birth in that hospital. The paperwork and the hospital tour were very much all about “mom and dad” and didn’t leave any consideration for other family makeups. In fact, the hospital tour before the pregnancy was most uncomfortable because there were only five couples on the tour and one was my wife and I, and another was a young single mom-to-be and her mother. The woman leading the tour kept saying “the dads” do this, and “the dads” go here, etc. I’m certain there was no ill intention and it was a case of the Hospital not updating their training in the past century, but I was thinking the entire time, “hell-o … we are standing right in front of you.”
During our birth we had a wonderful Midwife who let me deliver the baby, and a Doula whom we also adored. It was incredibly brave and selfless of my wife to let me be down there and so intimately a part of Olivia’s birth. It was truly the most amazing experience of my life. From the moment that I put Olivia on my wife’s chest, I was in love with her and my love for my wife had transformed. I never felt side-lined, or like a partial mother, and was just in absolute awe of my warrior wife and the family that she made for us.
After the birth, we had planned to keep the baby naked on our skin for the entire 48 hours until discharged. The only strange moments were when the nursing staff rotation felt awkward that my wife and I were both topless in the room throughout our stay. I suppose it’s normal for the birth mother to bond with skin-to-skin time, but maybe either they don’t see that so often in dads, or they don’t see so many bare breasts in one hospital room! I did have to tell one nurse “no, thank you” I do not wish to put my baby down and get some rest (translated, get myself dressed). But otherwise, I feel like the staff went out of their way to make us feel comfortable.
The first few months of Olivia’s life were an adjustment for us all. We spent the first couple weeks staring at her and getting to know what she was crying for, and bonding as the three of us. There were times that I felt inadequate when I had to wake my wife up because the baby was hungry and I wasn’t breastfeeding. Once I focused more on the other ways that I could soothe and bond with my baby - like getting up in the night, singing her to sleep, and changing diapers - those feelings subsided.
And then there was work. I only had two weeks off work which I thought would be enough as it’s what my male friends took after their wives gave birth. Wow, was I wrong to compare myself to them. I was a total mess going back to work so soon. I felt like I had left an arm at home and my emotions were all over the place. I felt guilty, sad, and alone at times because I didn’t fit into any category. My wife absolutely was having a different bond with our baby than I was. She carried our baby, gave birth, and was breastfeeding. I was supporting her and grabbing every moment of time with our baby that I could. I thought that since I didn’t fall into the same category as what birth moms were experiencing, then I will be able to relate to the dads. What I have learned through that experience is that I may not have the same bond that nature creates between a gestational mother and the baby, but I was still very much a mom and a woman and had my own emotions that didn’t fit into anyone’s box but my own.
We are so very lucky to have supportive families who do not treat our child any differently or express that they feel she isn’t mine. Of course we have had comments from other people in our lives or complete strangers asking who is the ‘real’ mom, do I ever want to have a kid “of my own”, asking if I’m the dad, and all sorts. In those situations, as long as there is no ill intent, I always make sure to stop and answer the question. I think if more people were less quick to be offended and instead gently correct and educate, then the world would be a more inclusive place.
Most people just don’t know. They haven’t come across our “situation” before. The most common question I’m asked is if we know who the dad is. I typically respond with, “Olivia has a donor, not a dad. And she has two moms.”
As I write this, Olivia turns three years old in a couple of weeks. She is the most amazing human being that I have ever met. She looks exactly like my wife, and I love it. She acts like me so much that people often comment that we are so alike, and I love that. Olivia has different bonds with us both. When she hurts herself, she wants her Mor. When she is scared, she wants her Momma. She doesn’t like one of us more than the other, or feel like one of us is her mom more than the other. Olivia and her Mor have so much fun together in the daytimes while I’m at work. But, the best thing in her life is when we are all together. She asks Mor several times a day, “where is Momma” or “find Momma”.
My favorite moments are when Olivia looks into her moms’ faces and then wraps her arms around our heads and pushes us together so we kiss while she beams up at us. And then she does the same again and puts her face in between for a big family hug and kiss.
My advice to other non-gestational, non-biological moms-to-be is this:
1. Communicate openly on your feelings and work through them together.
2. Find other people who have been in similar situations for support when you need it.
3. Make the effort - early on and continually - because you will get back what you put in.
My insecurities have been totally wiped away by the love of my daughter and the bond that we share, and the bond that the three of us share together as a family. For me, genetics and other people’s opinions don’t come into play at all because I feel every day how much Olivia loves me as her mother, and I love her as my daughter.
Before my wife and I were happily married, we both knew we wanted children. We didn’t know exactly how many yet, but we knew for sure that we wanted to be moms.
Square one: find a man. Sounds easy right? Not so much. This was before all the research we did, all the trial and error, all the stress and heartbreak, it came down to an issue we definitely never thought we would have or want to have… finding a man. We knew we wanted it to be someone we knew. They didn’t have to be very close, if they were, cool, but just someone whose actions, mannerisms and behaviour we were familiar with. I know, I know, beggars can’t be choosers, but I’ve seen some pretty crazy “nature V.S. nurture” situations where a child had never spent any time with their biological father but they were EXACTLY alike... it was enough to scare us out of sperm banks, to say the least. But who? We knew many men who would joke about helping us, I’m sure you could imagine why, but once they found out there wasn’t going to be anything in it for them, the excitement on their part faded. This brought the first of many heartbreaks along the way. A few of the men were honored, but respectfully declined. Which was understandable, it was a big request; even if you were completely uninvolved (like our donor) it’s a responsibility. Then there were the friends, who became acquaintances, or worse... nothing. Then the men who said yes, then tried once, then ignored us; or said yes and just never responded to our messages after that. It was devastating.
This gave us some time to focus on other things, like who would carry first and research more about transporting the sample and what we do with it in the safest and most sterile manner, as well as construct a contract we felt would protect us all. Then there was the one we thought WAS the ONE... he helped us for over a year, with no results. We were all frustrated to say the least, which ultimately ended in another (temporary) loss of friendship. Then, another year later, a miracle happened. An angel came and asked us, in the most unconventional way, if we were still looking for someone to help us make a family, and he never gave up on us!
Who should carry? Since my wife and I were never on the same cycle in the beginning it was basically a “your turn” kind of situation. With every not working chance, one of us would get the sample, then we would wait... by the time one of us sadly got our cycle, the other was ready for their chance at pregnancy. With our new hero in our midst and our first try sterilizing our ‘equipment’ in a new way, and our first time with his sample, it just happened to be my wife’s turn. And would you know it… FIRST TRY! It was a moment I couldn’t believe, and I will surely never forget! Test after test - ALL POSITIVE!
Watching my beautiful then fiancé grow with our life inside her was one of the most fulfilling times of my life. I swear I spent hours reading, singing and talking to her beautiful growing bump. Surprisingly, I didn’t feel anything about not carrying them, I was there for her, whatever she needed, eagerly counting down the days to each milestone, to each exam, each ultrasound, the time we would discover the sex… every little thing until I could help her deliver our perfect human into the world.
Then came the day! I thought it would go a lot faster, and a lot smoother. Movies don’t prepare you for real life. You think it’s like one moment, you feel a pain, the water breaks… your breathing heavy and in no time, you have a new life. I know now, that’s not that case, but even less often, you have the situation we had…
2 a.m. she woke me up, in pain with contractions. I helped to ease her back to sleep for about an hour or two, until she couldn’t take it. We rushed in to triage where they told us that she was barely to a one, and that we should walk around until she feels contractions that are one minute long and 5 minutes apart. We headed to breakfast and then to the closest mall. We walked, FOR HOURS. Some of the contractions were so painful she keeled over in pain or had to catch herself on the wall. So, we went in. Nothing. They made us walk for HOURS more. At this point, we had spent the better part of 15 hours just walking. They finally decided to send us home vs out for further walking, they gave her a drug to help her relax and rest. She was tired, our beautiful boy was tired, and rest was needed. We got home and she got around an hour of sleep, only to be woken up with even more pain. She went to the bathroom and found her mucus plug, so we thought going back in was the next step. This is where our dream almost turned into a nightmare. The triage nurse was actually a midwife. I wouldn’t go as far to say she wasn’t qualified to deal with what my wife was going through, but it was apparent she wasn’t taking the situation seriously. My wife was in immense pain and at one point told the staff that her water had broke, to which they replied, “No it’s probably the lubricant from checking you”. My wife moved herself back on the bed to reveal a large puddle with a green substance which we later found out to be meconium, which means our precious boy was in distress and defecated in the womb. I’m no Dr, or Nurse, but to me… that called for a bit of an emergency, but the urgency never came to the staff. She was not dilating and that didn’t even seem to faze them. Here, watching the strongest woman I know suffering this pain that I couldn’t even imagine, enough to break her, enough to make her cry for 24 hours when I hadn’t seen her shed so much as a fake tear in all the years we’d been together, and they did nothing. I felt helpless.
Eventually they moved us to a labor room. They hooked her up to machines, and they finally gave her pain medication. People were in and out loading her up with what I figured was fluids from being so exhausted. Things might have been starting to look up… nope; they doubled my tiny 110lb wife up with twice the fentanyl she should have had. They also gave her an epidural. The combination of drugs knocked her out. I thought, at first, this was a good thing, finally not feeling pain, finally getting some rest… until they started losing them. It started with our son first, 3 nurses in and out using an external and internal heart monitor, only to be met with silence. Then my wife, her heart rate was dropping to a terrifying rate, then a fever. “It’s normal” the nurses told me, in an obvious panic. Again, I’m not Dr or Nurse, but that was most definitely NOT normal! Then they whisked her away. What felt like an eternity later, a nurse came back with a monkey suit for me to wear, and told me they will be back to get me. They were prepping my beautiful babies for emergency surgery.
The moment had come. My baby was coming into the world. I forgot how I imagined it, how I’d hoped it would be, I watched the doctors pull out all my wife’s insides, I watch them cut open his old home to bring him to ours, pulling him out results in this GIANT suction sound, he was stuck. All this time, all the pain she was in, he was jammed inside her with no hopes of ever coming out naturally, and they never knew, for over 24 hours. But that didn’t matter anymore. He was here! His cry, like an angel. My stress and fear melted away. I held him in my arms, and it was everything. Anything I could have ever wanted, everything I ever dreamed. I looked into his eyes and he looked into mine and it was destiny. If our journey and everything we had gone through didn’t make me believe that everything happens for a reason, this moment, halted in time, did. My heart broke for my wife, a total of 2 fentanyl and 2 epidurals left her in a stupor, and she could barely see let alone hold the little miracle we worked so hard to create! It was unfair. I know she wouldn’t admit it, but I think it still affects her, 5 years later.
After the birth, came the announcement, naturally. We were proud moms! Our Facebook announcement brought a ton of support, and one message from a stranger I will never forget, about how we should be ashamed and we’re going to hell etc. etc. I know that person was trying to bring me pain, but little did they know this was the happiest moment in my life. There were no words that could stop the joy I felt. I still laugh to this day that their time was wasted trying to cloud my sunshine.
The aftermath: as a result of my wife’s traumatizing labor and delivery, she suffered from PPD, something that she kept secret for a long time. I knew something was off, but she never let on, so I didn’t assume. I knew there were many changes that happen following a birth. We split the new responsibilities fairly. He did not latch, so every two-three hours when he was due to eat she would pump and I would feed him. It was a great compromise. I also took on extra so she could heal. I washed her pump equipment, I did laundry and I changed him every time I could until I had to go back to work. Since he was born around Thanksgiving our family was SO supportive. They brought us thanksgiving dinner, they came to help us clean, and they were there to help us relax. It was amazing.
I have been extremely lucky considering our ‘modern family’ - my son looks more like me than his birth mother. She also seems to think I’m his favorite. There is always that thought in the back of my mind, though, that since we are a same sex couple, people think that she was with a man before me and I’m just ‘playing’ mom, or that we actually did it the old fashioned way to make him, which none of the above is obviously true. I’m a naturally sort of suspicious person, so anytime I feel like we get looks that are less than pleasant, that’s kind of where my mind goes. I try not to let the thoughts that I’m not the ‘real’ mom even permeate my brain because as far as my small family and our extended family is concerned, I’m just as biologically his mom as she is, I put him there, much like a father would, and he is my everything.
One thing that saddens me is that since our love was not legal in our state at the time of our first sons’ birth, we could not be married, and they wouldn’t even allow me on the birth certificate at all. Which is just funny to me because a man doesn’t even need to be married to a woman to claim a child, give them his name and be put on the birth certificate; it’s completely unfair. It also kind of gets under my skin that here, EVERYTHING is ‘mother & father’ … medical forms, school forms, sports activities, etc. At first I thought it was funny, like on the band bracelet at the hospital, but it’s since gotten pretty old, I can either choose father or ‘legal guardian’ or ‘other’. I’m none of those. I am his mother. It’s the 21st century, get it together society. I usually cross out father and write mother! Though, I have been very fortunate in that regard because most people just assume I am the birth mother.
In short, the last 5 years of my life have been amazing. Most of the time, people don’t treat us any differently, a lot of people even think it’s amazing that we made this miracle family without the intervention of doctors or doing things ‘the old-fashioned way’. Everyone treats me like I’m his mother, because I am. No one would ever know or think any differently. This has been the most wonderful time of my life. I couldn’t be prouder of the little man we have created and all the memories we have made and how perfect our family is to me. I am his hero and he is mine. If I could give anyone any advice it would be take it one day at a time, and never listen to the haters, because there will always be haters, but your love outshines them! Your little will look to you for how to react and how to treat people, whether you birthed them or not, you are their everything.
Deciding who would be our children’s biological mother was one of the easiest decisions made during our process of trying to conceive. Being a biological mother was very important to my wife, Karla; she desired the experience of being a biological mother and carrying a child more than anything. As for me, I just desired a family, regardless of how we achieved it. Also, Karla’s health history and family health history are far superior when compared to mine, so it made sense in that aspect as well. We decided we wanted to have two children to complete our family, God willing. We discussed the possibility of doing reciprocal IVF for a second child, but we were blessed with twins on our first round of IVF.
I had only one concern regarding being the non-biological mother before beginning the process, and that was my in-laws. Karla and I had been together around 8 years and actually got married in the middle of our TTC journey, and for our entire relationship her immediate family did not accept our relationship. The whole situation was pretty messy, and while Karla still maintained a relationship with them, it was strained and it hurt her. I feared that if anything happened to Karla during pregnancy, where she was unable to make her own decisions, that they would not respect the decisions I would make for her and our children. Some of this fear dissolved when Karla and I were married just two months before we were pregnant, but same sex marriage was new and there were still a lot of unknowns. These thoughts continued to trouble me throughout the pregnancy, and I had no resolution as her family would not communicate with me. Another concern was breastfeeding. We had intended for Karla to breast feed, I did have concerns of missing out on that bonding experience. We discussed options and had decided that depending on how Karla and the boys tolerated it, we would start off or transition early to pumping. Unfortunately, Karla was never well enough after delivery to consider breastfeeding, and when she was stable her new medications didn’t allow for breastfeeding.
Bonding with the babies while my wife was pregnant came very naturally. I went to every appointment and every ultrasound, and let me tell you there are a ton of appointments with IVF twins! Karla and I took infant and child CPR & first aid, parenting classes, and lactation classes together. Karla would give me very informative reports of how she was feeling, where the babies were kicking her, and what her cravings and aversions were. I talked to the babies every day and felt their movements every day. I chose the nursery theme and decorated it.
The day the boys were born was hands down the most emotional day of my life, I experienced every emotion, and little did I know that the next week was going to be a rollercoaster of feelings and the hardest week of my life. The boys were born via C-section one week earlier than expected due to Karla being diagnosed with preeclampsia. There were complications, Karla was very ill, our son Micah was delivered first and I got only a glimpse of him and briefly heard his cry before he was taken away by the team of health care providers standing by, Malachi needed resuscitation and I didn’t get to see him up close for about a half hour and couldn’t hold him for another hour. It was hard because, I had waited nine months to hold my babies and now I had to wait longer. When I was finally able to hold them both, I was overcome with joy; it was the happiest moment of my life. I was still worried about my wife though, who was hemorrhaging in recovery and still uncertain what went wrong with Malachi’s delivery. Within 24 hours of delivery, both of the boys were transferred to another hospital into the NICU for very low resting heart rates, and Karla was in a medically induced coma, on a ventilator, in the ICU. The happiest moments of my life quickly turned into the scariest, and my fears of her family overruling worsened. Fortunately, both of the hospitals we were at were more than excepting and supportive of our family. Between the boys and Karla, I felt like we had consulted with every adult and neonatal specialist at the hospital, and every single health care worker from the top of the ladder to the bottom were professional, understanding, caring and compassionate. We could not have had better care. All the doctors and nurses made sure to ask how we wanted to be addressed as their parents (Mommy and Mama) and they made sure to address us as we requested. The NICU nurses gave me a book to read to the boys, the book was Mommy, Mama, and Me by Leslea Newnan; it is still one of their favorites. The only undesirable occurrence on behalf of the hospital was that the hospital did not yet have parent/guardian birth certificates, so one of us was forced to sign the certificate under the father section. There was a silver lining though; Karla’s family began to communicate with me, which allowed them to see our love for each other, the situation lead to a change of heart for them.
Because of the circumstance, I think my experience, in the beginning, as a non-biological mother is unique. I never felt inadequate or jealous of my wife, I felt sorrow and was scared because of her condition; she nearly lost her life having our children. Karla was worried the boys wouldn’t recognize her or her voice because she was not able to hold them or bond with them until 5 days after their birth. The first few months of the twins’ life my wife was still ill and recovering. I provided the majority of the care for the boys until they were two months old. I was very fortunate to be able to take a full 12 weeks off for maternity leave. I bonded daily with the boys during feeding, tummy time, and baby exercises and play.
I am blessed that my family has always been accepting of mine and Karla’s relationship. My family loves Karla and our boys as they would love anybody else in the family. In fact, I kid that they like her better than they like me. I was however, a little concerned if my 90 year old grandmother would understand and accept our children. It took a lot of explaining, but eventually she understood and was so excited about her twin great grandsons. I have never experienced any derogatory comments about not being a “real” mom.
There have definitely been times where I felt like one or both of the boys prefer Karla over me. This is difficult to avoid because Karla is a stay home parent, she spends more time with them than I do, so naturally they tend to go to her for their needs and wants, especially at this age (they just turned 3). To handle this, we remind the kids that Mamma is home (me) and I am here to help and play with them too. We also make opportunities for me to spend time alone with the kids together and one to one with each child.
My experiences as a non-biological mother have been positive, I have never felt discrimination or like less of a parent, and I am so thankful that I can say that. We attend church, many play groups, ISD therapies and early preschool and never once have we faced a difficulty regarding being same sex parents nor have I experienced difficulties for being the non-biological mother. Honestly, I don’t recall getting asked who the biological mother is, other than for medical purposes. I have an excellent loving relationship with our children and that love is reciprocated from our children. My advice to other non-biological parents: think about and plan ways that you will bond with your child during pregnancy and after, before you begin the process, it’s best to be prepared. Secondly, feel all the feels or in other words don’t dismiss your feelings. It is likely you will have feelings you never expected, allow yourself to work through them and talk to your partner about them.
When I first met my wife (Luciel) 9 years ago, one of the first conversations we had was about if either of us wanted kids. She had a son from a previous relationship and expressed her deep desire to never be pregnant again. At that time, the only thing I had ever wanted was a child of my own and to experience giving birth, so this was a perfect match. Seven years later and after discovering that I do not ovulate properly and that my body simply did not produce estrogen like it should, it was made very clear that it would be extremely difficult for me to get pregnant. So, when the talk about my wife and I having a baby became serious, I think we both automatically assumed she would carry - I mean we both knew her body worked just fine and mine was up for question. It also didn’t hurt that her insurance covered a lot of the IVF process. By this time my wife still didn’t care to be pregnant, but she was willing to do it for the sake of expanding our family. She never cared if we used her eggs or mine, she simply didn’t want to give birth but nevertheless, that was the plan.
As this dream was becoming a reality, I realized how much I wanted a baby with my DNA. I wanted to look at my child and see my face or my personality somewhere in there. I never realized how much I wanted to look at a baby and know that they had my blood running through their veins… to be an extension of myself. I had this mentality that it wasn’t fair to use my wife’s eggs because she already had a child and knew what her own creation looked like and I wanted that. It was that feeling that sparked feelings of jealousy towards my wife. Hence, somewhere deep inside, I was scared that one day I would feel the slightest hint of resentment later in life by not knowing what my own DNA would create.
The funny thing is, my family also began making a big deal about us using my eggs and made it known that they did not want my wife and I to use her eggs. The more they made an ordeal about it, the more I began to see how trivial it was to care whose eggs we used. I just wanted a baby with the woman I loved and with that mindset I couldn’t think of anything more beautiful than to see my wife pregnant with our child. To feed her all the weird cravings her little heart desired or to massage her swollen feet. It was the small things I now wanted to experience, and it made me excited to get the process started. All I ever said was I wanted a baby who looked exactly like my wife and had my skin tone. Being half Black and half Mexican, and my wife being full Mexican, we decided to use a Black donor to make this possible. Now that I was at peace with the decision, my wife was now in turmoil; she knew how strongly my family wanted our child to be from my DNA and she feared that they wouldn’t love or accept our baby if we chose to use her eggs. Because of this, it made our IVF process emotionally very hard. She protested against using her eggs and kept pushing for us to use mine, but this was no longer what I wanted, and I knew her reasons for wanting to use mine weren’t good ones. My family’s approval, to me, was not a good reason to affect the biggest decision we would make together. After endless discussions and some arguments, she finally agreed that we would use her eggs. Simply put, whoever didn’t accept my child did not have to be in our life!
Knowing that I was not going to be the biological mom did concern me greatly. I really wondered if my bond would be different than the one my wife would have with our child. I wondered if somehow our baby would know I wasn’t his mom and we wouldn’t have a connection and he would always prefer my wife. I worried that I would not get that automatic “mother instinct” they say occurs the moment you see your child.
We had both wanted this baby so bad and when our pregnancy was confirmed, emotionally we were completely vested so my constant fear was with our unborn child. Is he/she ok? Is he/she developing correctly? Are they healthy? Are they getting enough nutrients? Are they comfortable inside there? Are they in a weird position that’s hurting them? Does he/she have all her limbs and organs in the right place? I am a natural worrier, so this scenario only heightened my every fear.
I had purchased a heart monitor from amazon and every night I would put it against my wife’s belly to make sure I was able to locate our child’s heartbeat. Every single time I would put that device against her belly a quick thought always ran through my mind of “what if I can’t find the heartbeat?” and every time I did a huge relief came over me. The worst part about having all these fears was the fact that I had to deal with them by myself. The last thing I knew I wanted to do was to worry my wife because I was fully aware that whatever stress she felt so did our baby. I was left to calm my own thoughts. I would tell myself “he/she is fine, everything is going to be ok, stop worrying, everything is ok, everything is ok, EVERYTHING IS OK!”.
I think it was very easy for me to bond with our baby during the pregnancy. I did not miss a single appointment, so every time I saw my baby boy on the screen, I loved him more and more. I imagined what he would be like. What he would look like, what he would smell like, I imagined him in my arms all the time. I would talk to my wife’s belly at times, I would read to him and play him music. I bought these headphones made especially for pregnant bellies and he had his own special playlist. I LOVED nothing more than to touch my wife’s belly and she never denied me the right to do so.
During the birth, my son was sitting very high inside my wife and he simply would not drop. Even though my wife was dilated at a 9 he was still too high and with no intentions of coming down. We did a trial run and the doctor had my wife push 3 times. Each time, my son’s heart rate dropped drastically. At that point he looked concerned and said we could wait and see if he would drop but we would risk losing him or we could opt for a C-section and get him out right away. There was nothing to think about… we said, “GET HIM OUT NOW!” And just like that everything happened so fast. They handed me scrubs, a hair cap and shoe covers and we wheeled my wife into the surgery room. I wanted so desperately to breakdown and cry. I was so worried about losing both my wife and my son. I was shaken to my core inside, but all my wife saw was a smile on my face as I held her hand, kissed her face and kept assuring her that everything was just fine.
When we got into the surgery room it seemed like it only took them 15 seconds to get her prepped and began cutting her belly open. There was a small curtain-like cover between her upper torso and lower belly shielding us from seeing what was occurring on the other side. My wife was wide awake during all of this and I just kept telling her that I loved her and everything looked good. She kept asking me if I could see our son yet and at that point they had still not got him out. As I sat there beside her stroking her hair, she began to shiver violently. This wasn’t just an “it’s chilly in here” kind of shiver, this was a borderline having a seizure type shiver and immediately I was terrified. I kept asking the universe to keep my wife safe, to not let anything happen to her, to let her make it through all of this. And for the first time ever in my life I experienced a terror like never before because I was not certain that she was going to be ok. In that same moment I heard the doctor say, “Get ready to meet your son” and I stood up and recorded the moment they took my baby from his mommy’s belly. They took him right over to the table to clean him off and I looked at my wife and she said “go to him!” and that’s exactly what I did. I walked over and there he was. This dream of mine that had finally came true. He was 8lbs 15oz and 21 inches long of perfection. I heard his cry and it was a strong one. I felt empty in the sense of I had no idea what I was feeling. Nothing about that moment felt real. I looked at him and he looked right back at me, screaming his little head off, and all I kept saying to myself was “this is MY son”.
As happy as I was, I kept looking back at my wife as I saw the doctors still working on her and throwing towel after towel full of blood; I HATED it because I could not fully feel the enjoyment of this moment because the fate of my wife’s life was not yet certain. So while I was elated to be looking at my son, my heart was beginning to break out of fear for my wife. Thankfully they got her all sewed up and for the first time I picked our son up in my arms, swaddled him up, and I got the honor of introducing our son to his other mommy. I took him over to my wife and when I said, “this is OUR son”, hearing those words out loud brought on all the happy emotions that one single person could experience. I had not one single worry or concern in that moment. All I wanted was for my son to be healthy, happy, and safe. I wanted to hold him forever. I wanted to protect him from any and everything or anyone that could bring harm to him. My motherly instincts kicked in full blast. The hospital staff was great throughout the entire process. They truly didn’t miss a beat. From the time we checked in to the moment we checked out, everyone made sure to acknowledge that my wife and I were both mommies to this beautiful baby boy.
I have always heard that you never know unconditional love until you have a child and… WOW! Those words could not have been truer. My baby is not a sleeper so the first few months were very exhausting, but I loved every second of it. I did skin-to-skin as much as I could with my son. My wife breast fed him, but she also pumped which was great because it enabled me to feed him and that was a great bonding tool. Truly, there was no cognizant effort to bond with my son… I just did.
Never once did I ever feel jealous of my wife. Probably one of the most beautiful things my eyes had ever witnessed, excluding the birth of my son, was watching my wife breastfeed my son. For her to be his source of nutrition, I thought it was simply magical. The way a baby’s glands communicate with the mother’s body to tell it what they need… magic is the only word to describe that process and I simply felt honored to bear witness to it.
While my wife was pregnant, my parents and sister often asked why we did not or could not use my eggs so I was really unsure as to how they would receive my child. Unfortunately they could not get past the notion that we used my wife’s eggs, and what I assumed might happen actually did end up happening. Apart from my dad, my sister and my mom both did not make an effort to bond with my child simply because of the DNA factor. As much as they deny it, their feelings for my wife and us choosing to use her eggs affected their reaction towards my son. As a result, my relationship with my mom has been forever changed in a negative way and my relationship with my sister is a work in progress. My dad, on the other hand, has been amazing. He is a great grandpa to my son and the love he has for him is very apparent. In fact, my son is named after my dad and since my wife and son have my last name, my dad is beyond proud that my son is the only boy in my family that will be able to carry on the legacy of our family name.
In the beginning, I was very protective of my title as “momma”, even perhaps a little overly sensitive in some cases but truly, everyone has always acknowledged both my wife and I as momma and mommy to our son. Even to my great surprise I am listed as Mother on the birth certificate. So instead of “Mother” and “Father” being listed, we have “Mother” and “Mother” and I thought that was amazing.
I have had the honor of being the mother to my son Lennox for 16 months now and it has been the most exhilarating 16 months of my life. I often say that my son saved me from myself. He made me look at this world differently. He opened my heart in a way I did not think anyone could. He has taught me a love that only he could. They say nothing is perfect, but my bond with my son is. Everything that I am at this very moment, I owe to him. I am his biggest fan and he is mine.
Every time I look at my son I know and believe with everything in me that life played out EXACTLY how it was supposed to. If we had used my eggs or if we had chosen a different donor, I would not have “Lennox” and that is not something I could ever accept. DNA or not, my son is an extension of me. He is every wish and dream I ever had come true. He is absolutely everything I ever wanted in life. Our heartbeat is one and no amount of DNA could ever take that away. Any desire I had to have a child with my DNA dissipated the moment I laid eyes on him. In every sense of the word my wife and I created our child together and I would not change a single thing about the choices we made to bring my son into reality.
To all the non-bio parents out there, just know that everything you feel is normal. There is no right or wrong way to feel in order to prepare yourself for this life changing experience. But no matter the worries that you might have, no matter the concerns or inadequacies you may experience, I promise you that those all go away the moment you hold your child. Do not allow anyone to make you feel less than simply because you and your child do not share the same DNA, because DNA cannot determine the love between you and your child.
As I reflect on my journey to motherhood with Phoenix, I realize that it wouldn’t have happened without an equally important journey of becoming a partner and later a wife to Javoni. Both love stories were not consciously planned, but both always maintained the purest and most organic elements throughout its inception.
While the stories connect, they are both completely separate journeys. According to Phoenix, it’s simple: becoming his Mama, starts right after he was born. Mommy was looking for a girlfriend. She found me, we got married, and then we were all together with our dogs, Jack and Coke. In the mist of all this, he had his first encounter with the Tooth Fairy after losing his two bottom teeth. And now he is preparing to meet his baby sister. The end. (He was adamant about me adding the Tooth Fairy part — apparently it’s a big deal).
While it would be easy to view the trajectory of our lives through the purview of a six year old, the reality is quite different. My first memory of seeing him was via an Instagram image in 2014. I recall already being intrigued by Javoni and as I was scrolling, I came across the most adorable baby-toddler on her feed. I recall thinking: This is exactly how I envisioned my son would look! His 1 year old eyes, identical to Javoni’s, told many stories that I was eager to unpack.
Still, at that point, it never crossed my mind that he would be my ticket to motherhood. I wasn’t thinking long term. I simply thought that they were a beautiful pair. Eventually, though, as I got to know Javoni via FaceTime, I would see him in the background. He wasn’t talking but always found himself in the most peculiar situations. Sometimes those situations were up close and personal as she breast fed him.
My first in-person encounter with my wife happened with him right by her side. I can still see both of them turning the corner at their AirBNB. Just like it was yesterday. It’s a permanent recording in my mind. They were (and still are) these majestic individuals, but as a pair — they are indescribable. I’m convinced they were floating towards me.
Similarly, my first date with him, at the Zoo, was actually my first date with her too - yet, two separate experiences. He was still 1 year old, breastfed, and wasn’t talking to anyone. Of course, they understood each other instinctually - a bond that was solidified long before he was earth-side. It’s worth sharing that Phoenix didn’t really like anyone at that time. So, going into our first date, I wanted to give him space — but I also wanted for him to have the tools to communicate with me, if needed. So, I taught him his first sign-language word: “more.” That was our first bonding moment. The other day, I watched a recording of this very moment, at the Zoo. In the background, you can hear Voni mentioning her surprise that he was actually interacting with me. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I had passed some test. Not just with her; but with him.
Our bond continued to blossom from there. Unlike Phoenix’s version, I still wouldn’t consider us a family at that time. We certainly weren’t navigating parenthood together as they lived 1,200 miles away from me! After a few months, they moved right up the street. This was great news as I got to hang out with him constantly! At this point, he was my little Nix and I was his “Teedee.”
Despite living in two separate homes, we had our own very unique routine.
Unbeknownst to me, we had begun parenting together. Early one morning, I received a video of him asking where I was. After she told him I was at my home, he ran to the door eager to open it in order to get me. In his mind, I belonged there with them. It wasn’t long after that I purchased a home and they moved in. That’s when we officially navigated life together as two parents. I was ok with doing the parental work... but I wasn’t quite ready for the title change that he gave me. Around 2.5 years old, he started calling me Mama Teedee (Stevi). In my mind, I thought it was too soon. Apparently to him, it was perfect timing.
Phoenix has always protected me from anyone and everyone, including his other bio-parent who wasn’t so keen on him referring to me as Mama Teedee. My wife and I noticed that when he would come back from stays with his other parent, he would have a difficult time referring to me as “Mama.” It stood out because it was his decision to refer to me as such, so when he would stop, we knew it was because of some persuasion from the other bio-parent. After a day or two, he would resume. This was solidified one day when my wife and I were talking with him via FaceTime while he was away. During the exchange, he told his other bio-parent that he could call me “Mama” if he wanted too... In that moment, I realized that this kid really considered me his family too. From that day forth, he never stopped referring to me as Mama Teedee. In fact, I’ve since graduated to just being referred to as Mama.
Besides that short lived situation, I don’t feel that I’ve faced any barriers/discrimination as his non-bio mom. His teachers and schools have always been respectful. I’ve never had to jump through barriers to pick him up from school. They have never shied away from telling me important information. Seems like they have always viewed me as an asset to his growth and development.
While every “becoming” situation is unique, the biggest advice I can give anyone is allowing things to happen organically. Establishing a bond with the non-bio/step kid, starts with having a solid foundation with their birth parent. When kids (of any age) see that there is pure love, I truly believe they are also willing to open up their own heart to receive that same love.
We hope you enjoyed reading part two of our non-bio mom stories!
A big thank you to everyone involved.
Colleen - @collz13
Nyesha - @twomommiesandababy
Kristin - @dosmamas
Laura - @thesmithstory
Shaniece - @shaniece_watkins
Carrie - @my.name.is.momma
Nicci - @heyniccij
Maggie - @maggietheisen138
Sara - @saralyfe4
Stevi - @bindi_dot
Thanks for reading!
Same Sex Parents ♡