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!