She’s here. The child I could have been a mother of. Kinda. Sorta.
When James and Kris approached me jokingly (but really not) about giving them an extra egg, I laughed it off–I was too old to be in the business of donating eggs. But of course I dwelled on it for weeks on end reading extensively about the bioethics of fertility medicine. As close as I was to them, and as alluring it was to pass on my genes without financial or legal responsibility, ultimately, I decided it wasn’t the right decision for me.
When I saw my bestie last year, I sensed something was off. Three months later she would disclose she was in New York (Connecticut) not for a business meeting, but to have fertilized eggs of James and Kris (surrogate egg donor) implanted. Intellectually I knew she was telling me as early as she could, but I still had to work through the feeling of not being privy to the intimate arrangement of my very good friends.
Thankfully, I came around quickly enough and was part of the support network of the unconventional pregnancy. When the bestie needed to vent because a gay man was still not a woman and didn’t quite appreciate the physical sacrifice she was undertaking, I was there. (Not that I really know what it’s like to be pregnant, but I pretended.)
Well, she’s here now, this child of James and Kris. Gone are the days of hitting gay clubs in Chelsea and Fire Island, watching RuPaul’s Drag Race, or James chastising me about what a hot mess I was. My gay male friends, the couple that I sat with at wedding tables, the ones who were up for a late night drink on a school night, the ones I would make stupid jokes about tea-bagging with…
“We welcomed this lady earlier today and our lives will never be the same,” James posted on Facebook. That’s right. It certainly won’t be the same for me either. I love you Gaby. I am one of your aunties and will always be here to support and guide you. And I knew your parents in the days before they were parents (sigh). And perhaps I could have been your biological mother. But no matter, I am here for you.
I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the quality essays in this book, a book that wasn’t around when I started this blog. These writers have become my imaginary best friends, my older sisters and mentors, individually and collectively soothing my frayed nerves– “It’s okay, we didn’t have kids, and we turned out alright.”
My new BFF Courtney Hodell introduced me to a new word, “allomothering.” Observed throughout the animal kingdom, it describes parental care given by a non-genetic mother. Sounds familiar–like that aunt who researched and offered to pay for a tutor after a parent-teacher conference she wasn’t even at, the aunt who is reading sex ed books for tweens with a glass of wine in hand to pre-screen them for content, the aunt who is routinely texting her niece’s mother to make sure her Halloween costume is completed in time… yeah, that hag with maternal sensibilities and no umbilical cord.
Hey kiddo, when you grow up and turn out alright, maybe you’ll remember me.
“I find myself increasingly critical of other people’s parenting. I think it’s a good thing I don’t have kids. I think I might be overly hands-on,” I confess to a fellow sans*.
Summer’s over, school’s back on, and I had a number of incidents where I had been perplexed: the decision of a friend who barely arranged for playdates to enroll her rather nocturnal daughter in a full-time pre-K program with no adjustment period; or my colleague’s comment that a full day of school was already excessive and kids didn’t need homework.
“Maybe the fact that you’re critical is you subconsciously wanting kids?” she suggested.
I hadn’t thought of it that way.
*Sans is a shorthand for “sans enfant” which in other parts of the world is generally referred to as “childless” or “childfree.” I find both terms loaded so excuse my French.
They were playing Lauryn Hill’s “The Sweetest Thing” at brunch today.
The sweetest thing I’ve ever known
Was like the kiss on the collar bone
As I recall, the song was inspired by her newborn son. He nuzzled his face as she held him–and it was a love song.
I was flipping through an old childhood album. Apparently, when I was five, I invited my mother to come to my house (when I became a mother) to enjoy the meal instead of slaving away in the kitchen. For most of my life I assumed I’d be a mother. My friends and I would guess what our bodies would look like when we’d get pregnant–“You’d totally blow up,” “Emma’s gonna be those annoying cute compact preggo women”–I envisioned wearing a maxi dress while pregnant, feeling feminine and powerful (and I would magically have the compact pea pod belly, despite DNA). As for delivery, water birth was the only way to go. My parenting style would be firm but loving, and my children kind, creative, confident and grounded. And yes, my mother would visit often, and we would have a large sit-down meal once a week.
It’s not that I’m strongly attached to these thoughts. It’s more about the length of these assumptions. For 99% of my life, I thought I’d be a mother.
And here we are…let’s just say I confound expectations.