Biological Motherhood: I get to be different

it's hard being his world

it’s hard being his world

I have been in the midst of several conversations lately, with friends, about our own mothers, and all the ways they failed us as children, and are failing us currently. Like my own mom who failed to recognize any symptoms of anxiety in me as a child and failed to connect with me as an adult when she finally learned that I had anxiety. And while my mind understands that I will fail Potamus in so many ways (my heart has yet to catch up to that reality, and oh how it will break when it does), I have been reflecting on the fact that, at the end of the day I get to be a different mother than (both of) my own.

There have been conscious differences, like extended breastfeeding my 20 month old vs. being formula fed or Montessori bed-sharing. But in these conversations, about making all of the conscious choices to be different, my perfectionistic (as in, I’m going to do EVERYTHING differently) brain was rocked a little while driving down the road, because, AUTOMATICALLY there will be differences with me as a mother than my own.

Because I carried and birthed my baby. And he is a firstborn son. I was a firstborn daughter. And I was given away to strangers at 3 days old. I was given to a mother who didn’t carry and birth me from her own body, so these differences have set us on a very different course from the beginning.

In what ways are do you hope you’re not like your own parents? In what ways do you hope you are like them?

Adoptee becomes a biological mother

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“hey monk-monk, where do babies come from?”

“Offices,” I replied, without missing a beat.

I was 6 years old, and that was my reality. One day we were a family of three, and the next, four, and later, five. In my family, pregnancy skipped a generation, and while I vaguely understood how other people’s babies might be welcomed into the world, I believed my existence began at day 3 when I entered my family, and that offices were where you went to get siblings.  In fact, it wouldn’t be years until I witnessed pregnancy firsthand by watching my co-worker’s belly grow daily.

Growing up I had no real desire to be a mom. Childhood games of “house,” with my siblings, revolved around the premise of orphans dealing with some sort of crisis (shipwrecked or lost in the woods, etc), and I, as the big sister was tasked with caring for them. I played with dolls, but they were never my babies, always my friends. Even into my early twenties, I had no maternal drive to procreation. Boof and I talked about having kids someday, and both agreed that if it happened we would welcome it, but we certainly weren’t going to stress about it if we couldn’t. In the back of my mind I always just assumed I would never become a mom. And I was mostly okay with that, or so I thought.

So when I found myself unexpectedly pregnant (yes, it only takes one time without protection folks),  I realized I better get my act together and explore my relationship to this reality that I would become a mother…and a biological mother at that.

Having two mothers is sometimes confusing  and painful. There is one woman who I knew for 9 months and then didn’t see again until I was 25. Then there is another woman I met on day 3 and have not known life without.  Both mothers have informed my existence, and yet here I was trying to figure out what kind of mother I would be. I will have given birth to a child and will never be apart from him in the way my biological mother was apart from me.

During the first few weeks I literally felt like the only woman to have ever been pregnant. And in some ways, I was. I could go to my mother for support, but found myself censoring my thoughts and feelings to protect her from the reminder that she never experienced pregnancy herself. We mostly stuck to facts, and part of me was sad as I was the one teaching her about cervical dilation and signs of braxton hicks vs real contractions. I practiced becoming a mother by teaching my own about what physically carrying a child was like.

And I couldn’t very well go to my biological mother during this time, as my pregnancy is a painful reminder of carrying and not raising a child herself. So while I knew a few things, like that I was born c-section, but mostly was flying blind about how my own pregnancy would progress.

What I was able to do during this time was explore my own feelings about becoming a mother, without having to compare myself to my own mothers. I got to listen to my body and respond manfully to my own self and not second guess whether I was doing it right. While it could have been seen as re-inventing the wheel, giving birth to my son  felt more like creating a beautiful piece of original art, rather than trying to create a poor imitation of a masterpiece.  He is the first biological relative I will have known from the beginning, and I am enjoying being his mama.