18 In Baby

Finding Motherhood Without Pregnancy

It feels like just yesterday we were anxiously awaiting the birth of our first born. I remember as the weeks went by in Micaela’s pregnancy, trying to imagine what he would look like. Would he have features of our donor or would he hit the genetic jackpot and resemble Micaela? I remember trying to imagine myself as a mother and mentally preparing myself for the sleepless nights I had been promised. I remember worrying about how Micaela would handle labor and what I needed to be doing to support her. Things most expecting parents probably ALL worry about. But I also remember other things.

Things most couples don’t ever have to think twice about.

Things like how to navigate hospital forms that listed “mother” and “father.” Things like how I would be addressed by staff and if they would allow me in the OR should she need a cesarean. I remember worrying about the birth certificate and if I would legally be able to be listed on there. But by far, the question weighing heaviest on my mind, was if I would feel like Mateo’s mom.

Micaela got pregnant via IUI and I wasn’t giving birth, so physically, this was all her. We had planned for this pregnancy together, selected a donor together, we had been through conception ups and downs together, attended every prenatal appointment together, but somehow as D-day quickly approached I found myself feeling less together and more like a third wheel. Even though we had attended a birthing class and I was well aware that I would be actively participating in his birth, I still felt like I would be on the sidelines and not in the game. Although I had thought about when this day would come for years, I still found myself ill-prepared emotionally for what it would be like as a woman to have a child without actually having the child.

I remember worrying I wouldn’t feel like a “real” mother.

But birth is a miraculous thing. Something happens when a new innocent being comes earth-side and whether you are there actively pushing or actively participating, a shift happens when you assume responsibility of a life. Life and love take on an entirely different meaning and my previous fears seemed irrelevant. All my insecurities about motherhood and if I would feel like a “real” mother no longer mattered. All that mattered was him.

I sobbed uncontrollably for the first four hours of his life and semi held it together for the next eight. By the end of his first day of life my eyes were almost swollen shut and I had perfected the ugly cry, but I was SO in love.

Mateo was here and after waiting 41 long weeks of watching Micaela carry him, it was finally MY turn to hold him. And although I didn’t have IV’s or a postpartum bump, I was his mother.

The early days of motherhood were so full of awe and wonder. All of us were learning and everything was new. Sure, Mateo needed Micaela- in fact he depended on her for survival. But I also felt needed and I didn’t feel like the third wheel I had feared. Micaela ended up having to get a cesarean and although in good spirits, wasn’t as mobile as she was used to being for the first few days. But guess who could spring up and quickly grab Mateo if needed? Me! Often times when Micaela would hold Mateo he would just want to nurse. It was hard, especially when we were trying to sleep train him. But guess who wasn’t nursing and could easily soothe without feeding him? Me!

I felt capable, I felt needed and most importantly, I felt like Mateo’s mom.

Over the last two years of Mateo’s life I have come to realize that motherhood is about so much more than sharing DNA. Sure, Luca and Lola have many of my physical traits and it’s really special to see how my genetics have manifested in them. 

But genetics are only a small fraction of what contributes to one’s individuality and definitely not what is needed to earn your motherhood “M.”

For me, being a mother to Mateo is about guiding him to be a loving, kind, thoughtful and intelligent human being. It’s about helping him grow to become the best possible version of himself and loving him unconditionally on his journey through life. It’s about being present for him. It’s about supporting his dreams and honoring his individuality. Regardless if I see myself in Mateo or not, I know these are the things that make me his mother, not a genetic link.

So whether you come into motherhood by adoption, foster care, egg donor, labor, or by love, just remember there are so many other things besides biology that make you a Mom (or in my case, mama).

As always, if you have any questions or stories you would like to share, please leave them in the comments below!

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  • Lydia
    November 4, 2018 at 8:36 am

    I love this! I feel like there are so many options to consider in the future when it comes to having a baby as two women and hearing your experience during Micaela’s IUI is so great. Thank you for continuing to share your experience! I’m excited to hear about your pregnancy journey.

  • Merrin
    November 4, 2018 at 8:54 am

    I adored this post! Even though I’m still very far away from motherhood, the things you articulated are the worries I’ve also had about my future family! Now I’m even more excited about my future little ones!

  • Ivy
    November 4, 2018 at 8:58 am

    This is such a real reflection of motherhood. Thank you for opening up and being so vulnerable and allowing us to see what you went through emotionally while micaela was pregnant. Just beautiful.

  • Melisa
    November 4, 2018 at 9:10 am

    Thanks for sharing! Also…I was curious, how many months after Mateo was born did you have the IUI that lead to Lola and Luca. Did you guys plan to have them close together in age?

  • Taylor
    November 4, 2018 at 9:13 am

    I was so worried about this when we decided my wife would carry first. We are still in the process of trying to conceive but this post was so helpful to know I’m not alone. God bless you and your family.

  • Chelsey
    November 4, 2018 at 9:47 am

    This is the biggest thing my partner and i try to talk through and figure out. She will never carry…has no wish to because of some previous trauma. So she’s so worried it’ll never be the same for her. Thank you for this. It brought tears to my eyes & I can’t wait to have her read it.

  • Carla
    November 4, 2018 at 10:01 am

    Thank you for sharing that side of motherhood Raff. Here’s a something that I’ve always wondered… now that they are a little older is Mateo more drawn to Micaela and are the twins more drawn to you and vice versa mom to kid? Or do they seem to not show preference for one or the other? I ask this with utmost respect. All love to the Esquivel family ❤️?

  • Let Thy Food
    November 4, 2018 at 11:58 am

    Love this post so much. Love you and your family so much. This is a real tearjerker, so very beautiful. Thanks so much for sharing, and for launching your blog. Looking forward to seeing all the good you continue to do through this platform.

  • Gina Lovaglio
    November 4, 2018 at 12:24 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story! My wife & I will be beginning the pregnancy journey next year for the first time– she will be the birthing mother. You have eased a tiny bit of the same fears/worries I have been holding in.

  • Jen DeMichele
    November 4, 2018 at 1:24 pm

    Hi! My partner and I just brought a little one into the world. As much as your blog demonstrates all the positive emotions that comes with the birth of a child and starting a family together as two moms, were there any moments of jealousy or envy? I carried first due to my age and my wife is carrying next. We both adore our first daughter, Lucy, but we never expected the range of emotions that come with having two, very nurturing moms that want to provide for their little one.

  • Joy
    November 4, 2018 at 1:26 pm

    This was so needed. Thank you so much xo

  • Dana
    November 4, 2018 at 1:51 pm

    Ahh thank you for putting these words to paper (well, laptop!). Being the non-birth momma in a two mom family is a mix of emotions. I was so caught up on anxiety about how the world would see our relationship and if I would feel like Rowan’s mom, but it organically fell right into place. Our birth photographer caught that exact moment: https://www.facebook.com/emilykingphotographyy/photos/a.351718475231693/391846831218857/?type=3&theater

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful family! We’re right behind you in trying for baby 2…with me carrying this time 🙂

  • Jen DeMichele
    November 4, 2018 at 3:02 pm

    Hi. My partner and I just brought a little one into the world. We love what you have to say about the positives of a two mom family and how despite you not carrying your first child, you still found ways to fall into your maternal roll. However, did you ever feel jealously or envy and if so how did the both of you handle it? I carried first because I was older and my wife will carry next. We are both strongly maternal and have found unexpected emotions surface when trying to care for our little girl despite us loving each other and her deeply. Was just curious.

  • Carla
    November 4, 2018 at 4:25 pm

    Hello Raffinee, thank you for sharing that side of motherhood. I’ve always wondered if Mateo is more drawn to Micaela, the twins to you and viceversa. I ask this with the utmost respect for your family. Sending lots of love to the Esquivel family. ❤️

  • Tina
    November 4, 2018 at 8:42 pm

    i’m so glad you shared this and found it so helpful. I’m so excited you started this blog, our community definitely needed somethinglike this. Id love to hear a post about other parenting surprise you guys have had along the way. Like emotionally things that came up for you that were not expected. Thx for sharing.

  • April
    November 4, 2018 at 9:19 pm

    Absolutely beautiful post, and I thank you for sharing what many may have found terrifying to admit.. “will I feel like his/her mother even if I hadn’t carried him/her.” My partner and I talk about IUI, kids, etc., and have wonderful examples in another lesbian couple currently having their first daughter after 4 attempts! They’ve perfected the #twomomstrong, but it’s also a great thing to have you and your family to look up to as well. I’m also a nurse so find myself easily relating to your hectic medical schedules. I love what you’re doing — sharing your life as wonderful examples for the rest of us to be fearless, authentic, and loving. Thank you!

  • Liz Thorson
    November 4, 2018 at 11:34 pm

    ❤️❤️Wonderful, moving, thoughtful, honest blog, Raffinee. You are so awesome and I know I would love Micaela, too.❤️

  • Jasmine
    November 13, 2018 at 1:37 am

    I absolutely love this post. While I was reading through your story I could feel a weight lifting off my shoulders as I realize I am not alone in my fear that I would be “less of a mom” as I was not the one carrying our son. My wife and I just had our first child, Lincoln on October 21st.

    Throughout her pregnancy I had worries about not “feeling” like his mom. That I was already less important because I had no genetic contribution to his existence.

    I was so relieved when the moment came for me to cut the umbilical cord and getting to hold him for the first time, those fears disappeared.

    Now I know it’s the late night rocking to sleep, my raspy-off tune singing of Adele at night, the constant changing of my own shirt because he spit up on both us, and the tiny little hand wrapped around my finger while he sleeps that make me HIS mama.

    Thank you for your blog. It is nice to have someone to turn to look for inspiration.