On being a donor kid: checking in with Marcel and Sam

Marcel Marcel
Marcel Marcel

Often a driving impetus for a blog post comes from the outside. The most recent query came in the form of an email from a reader who was seeking the experience of one who came before her, on the issue of having a biological child with the help of a donor, specifically chosen with the consideration that the biological offspring would then share certain traits with her first child, who happens to be adopted.

Translation: we are white, our kid is not. If we enlist the help of a donor who looks a lot more like our kid, what are the implications later on for the kid? More specifically how did I teach Marcel to celebrate his story, and how does he understand it? Does he or did he resent in anyway his being outside the normal understanding of how we get here?

I decided I would start by asking Marcel. His answers were really revealing, and not in ways I necessarily was prepared for:

Me: Marcel a woman is writing to me asking if having a child with the help of a donor is something that will make sense to her kid one day. Can you tell me what you think?

Marcel:  Well, it was very hard. It takes a long time to get used to it.

Me: Can you tell me, what is the hard part?

Marcel: What is a donor? It’s hard to figure out. A donor is like a parent. But he doesn’t want to be a parent- he just loves you enough to bring you into the world.

Me: That sounds like you have put a lot of thought into it. Is it hard to understand why Mommy chose to bring you into the world that way?

Marcel: A donor gives you all these good things, and you still get to have a dad. But if friends asked me to explain it? I’d be scared I wouldn’t get it all yet. Well, maybe I would. Would I?

Me: If you need help with it, we could talk it about some more.

Marcel: Sometimes it makes sense. But people don’t always ask when it makes sense.

Me: Hmmm. Maybe we should work on a script for when it isn’t as obvious?

Marcel: That helps if I remember the script.

Me: Do you feel like your donor loves you?

Marcel: More than anything. And I love him more than anything. When I see him we have to figure it out all over again. And we do. And so does my dad.

Me: Why do you think I decided to have a donor help me make a baby?

Marcel: Because you and Sammy wanted Sammy to have a brother that looked like him, and understood him, and loved him. So it worked out that way.

+++++

Me: Sammy, why do you think I used a donor to bring your brother into the world?

Sammy: Because you weren’t ready to be in a relationship.

Me: Did it have anything to do with you?

Sammy: No.

Me: What about the part where Marcel’s donor is brown skinned like you. Did that matter?

Sammy: It mattered to you. But I don’t care.

Me: You think if I had a white kid, and not a brown kid, it would be the same to you?

Sammy: Well, maybe. Maybe not. I don’t know yet. I want a sister. Probably a brown one. Then you can worry about her hair and not mine.

+++++

So clearly there is more work to do in the big picture part? Or maybe there isn’t. What we intend, and what they take from it, are so wildly unrelated despite all of our intentions. What I learned most from all of this? Clearly there are questions, and unknowns, and ways of constructing the world, that the boys are holding onto that I had no idea about, because I hadn’t asked. This is often the case. My best intentions, play out so differently than their experience as a result of my best intentions.

In terms of celebrating adoption and donor assisted conception equally? Differently? These are good questions. Marcel seems super confident that his coming into being was intentional and the result of a lot of love. What more is there? If anything I think I err on the side of making a bigger deal of the adoption story, because I want to make sure Sam always feels that his arrival into the family has the same core value as a biological entrance into the family. Marcel, is often trying to establish that he “knew Mama longer than Sam because I started in her belly..” We talk about how Sam was growing in my heart while growing in Tea’s belly (his birth mother). To that Sam usually just says; “Dude. I have been with mom for three more years than you.”

Additional resources: I found the following article of interest while considering my approach to this post.

 

Ready or not…

Bring it 2014!
Bring it 2014!

Clearly this year has big designs on Mama C and the Boys. For starters, Shrek and I are getting married this year. This means, among other things that I can no longer say; “We’re planning on getting married sometime next year.” Never has the switch from December to January seemed so significant.

Shrek presented me with a stack of the final old school co-designed and home printed “Save the Date” cards wrapped lovingly in plastic wrap yesterday morning. I’m mailing them out Catherine. I am marrying you. It is happening you know. 

Gulp.

It has been a year and half since he proposed.

It has taken us that long to agree on much of anything, let alone a date, a place, and loosely on what such a celebration might actually sort of look like.

OK, the truth is that is has taken me that long to believe that I am really cut out for the long term committed relationship thing. I was just becoming so competent at getting along well with single mother me when he came along. I’m only half kidding. Learning how to be a half way decent (adoptive, transracial, and donor assisted) parent, with a professional life, who managed to practice a little self care, maintain a few friendships, write an occasional poem or blog post, and take care of a hundred year old house was no small potatoes. To do all that and still find myself to be agreeable company at the day’s end was heroic. I was a rather impressive solo act on the dance floor. The music doesn’t just switch from the Flashdance theme song to Louis Armstrong’s ‘Bout Time like that.

It takes time. Time, patience, and perseverance from both of us.

I am slowly realizing just how hard I have been fighting against this for the last two years to be completely honest. Having never experienced a long term committed relationship before (this is the longest relationship I have ever been in) I was, and still am very new to the lexicon of long term love. My dating dictionary was pocket sized, and honestly did not even have a definition for intimacy in it. Or at least one that applied to someone over the age of twenty-five with two kids and a whole lot of Hallmark Movies dictating her idea of the perfect relationship. I sense that I believed on some level that to lean into this relationship, meant that I had to abandon my identity as SUPER SINGLE ME which had come to be the only me I could really count on and trust. It is only in the last few months that I have experienced a merging of the capable, independent, creative, dynamic, relational, multifaceted me, with the partner, co-parent, lover, creative, dynamic relational multifaceted us. Follow me so far? It’s OK if you don’t, because I’m just getting the hang of it too.

Here’s an example: this time last year I had the HARDEST time sharing Shrek with his grown kids. I would act out when he seemed to disappear when they came into town for the holidays. I needed constant reassurance that I was important too. I put on my best bonus mom face when they were here, but then when we were alone instead of celebrating his marvelous love for them, and them for him, and all the ways everyone was thriving I would either pout, withdraw, or argue some minutia.  It was as if I was always looking for evidence that he wasn’t REALLY in this with me and my kids…

Now forward a year, and you would see a completely different emotional and relational landscape. The arrival of his kids in town was exciting for both of us. It meant more connection for me and my kids, and a sense of ease and balance for Shrek for the brief time he had with them. As his relationship with each one is it’s own entity it meant seeing different sides of him too. My independent self enjoyed the alone time I had with my two when he was off with one or two of his five. My relational self loved planning meals, shopping for the perfect bonus kid gifts, and showing up for Shrek in a way that made him feel supported and loved. In turn he was of course very loving and affectionate with me while they were here and in a super happy mood for most of the last two weeks. No wonder he was all hearts and twinkles when he handed me those “Save the Date” cards.

And, all this time I really thought that Shrek was the difficult one. Huh.

_____

Mama C and the Boys +1. Single mama dating found her Shrek (in a pink boa)

My very fine fellar with a boa

I am in a relationship with an amazingly generous, gentle, funny, socially conscious, caring, reliable and goofy man. He is pictured above. He wore that mask to meet me on a playground and be able to hug me in public. I said I wouldn’t hug in front of my students. I was being weird. He was being funny.OK, so the mask might seem weird to you. To me it was magic. It was about meeting somewhere in the middle, and laughing along the way. Continue reading “Mama C and the Boys +1. Single mama dating found her Shrek (in a pink boa)”

Adoption guilt, safe kid gratitude and birth father surprises (a Mama C mixed bag)

Last week I read a very moving post about adoption guilt at See Theo Run. I have been thinking about the post since then, and returned to the site to leave this response:

I’ve been thinking about this post for some time. I feel both inspired and eased by your honesty. Guilt is perhaps not the word I would embrace for me. Perhaps the word has some limitations. Let’s come up with another? A word that can capture all this guilt: about having our family come together in direct relation to another family coming apart. Our-this is my family guilt–built on a world where there is no social justice if a woman/man must choose for a certain handful of reasons (economic based often–and not always by any means) that she does not have the support to be able to parent. Guilt that the child we have chosen to parent had no choice in his or her story being written this way. Guilt that we are not allowed to ever forget that these two factors collide so that we could realize our deep and unwavering desire and longing to love and parent this child for the next fifty or so years. Continue reading “Adoption guilt, safe kid gratitude and birth father surprises (a Mama C mixed bag)”

Take me to, to the other side…

After the responses I received from yesterday’s posts (off line, FB messages and on the post) I thought I better remind my fantastic followers that I also live over on the other side of this is hard a great deal of the time.

Things I am grateful for as a single mom:

1. Cuddles, huggles, night night needs, pile ups, spooning, and movie nights in my bed.

2. Planning vacations wherever we want to go, and asking whoever we want to come with us.

3. Cooking for kids, and leftovers for me works just fine.

4. We only need a little car.

5. Immense pride when my kids do well, which is very often because this  highly functioning, loving, with it parent is absolutely enough and my kids are doing beautifully in this family of three.

6. How easy it is for people to accept offers to help.

7. During my journey to Sam, and birthing Marcel I was able to choose the people I knew could handle all of the mess and the joy with the most ease and skill. Having that lifetime connection with them.

8. When the pediatrician says things like; “Catherine I have no concerns whatsoever about these kids, or your ability to raise them as a single parent. In fact, you really do a bang up job and it shows in so many ways…” And then the next day when another doctor says; “Go home and tell your husband…” and I say; “I don’t have one, but if I did I probably wouldn’t share that with him anyway.” And he balks and says; “Oh I’m sorry.” And I look at him like he has multi-colored slime all over him, and say; “Why? I’m not. I choose to do this on my own, and I’m doing beautifully.”

9. Dancing to All the single ladies in the kitchen, cranked up super high at least four times in a row with the boys, pointing to our rings while swishing the rest of us-and feeling like it is some kind of ridiculously meaningful ritual.

10. Being able to listen to the lowered voices of the wives/partners who admit in secret that they; “sometimes wish they could change places with me…and didn’t have to  worry about their husbands/partners who are not employed/taking care of themselves/unreliable/cheating/not present as parents/glued to the television. Realizing hard is just hard.

Things I’m grateful for as a transracial mom:

1. My entire white mind world was turned inside out, and the new version is 6000% better and improving daily.

2. The strength and beauty that comes from living in the margins.

3. Opportunities to advocate for children (and families) of color  (mine and others). A new found voice  to talk about bias and education for starters.  Learning the difference between speaking for someone, and speaking of that which I notice is a systemic inequity that starts with my own stuff is a hugely satisfying part of that work and path.

4. The new families that are in my life because we are all parenting in the hue.

5. Buying as many of the Black Barbie and other dolls as I can from the Toys R Us so that they identify the need and increase their inventory.

6. Giving those dolls away.

7. The friendship with my son’s donor and the possibility of a deepening relationship with Sam’s first family.

8. Feeling uncomfortable on a cellular level when I realize everyone in the restaurant is white, and choosing to go somewhere else instead.  Sam agreeing that is a good idea. Discovering three mixed/ families of color at the following restaurant, and learning that one of them knows us from the blog.

9. The incredible support and connection of the adoption community in real and ether time.

10. Sam. Marcel.

My beauties/ All rights reserved 2011 MamaCandtheboys

Known Donor 101: Celebrating the success

Chillin' with Tree

Known Donor 101-A simplified version of what I figured out in the last three years.

xxxx

1. I have to listen to what he needs around this evolving relationship too.  Fear can not be a platform from which I ask for what I need. (for me the “fear” was not ever based in reality, but in old stories I wrote about other relationships in my own life, and my children’s lives.)  Fear often uproots my clear thinking heart.

2. Admit that you really don’t know what is best, and it may be different from what you want.  (I mean that I am not a donor conceived child, I have no experience with this. I have intuition, and mama-hood as my guides.) Isn’t “best” a myth anyway?  It is how we work together that makes this work. Continue reading “Known Donor 101: Celebrating the success”

Four years ago today (a birth story)

Four years ago today, I looked like this:

In Mommy's tummy-by Marcel/ All rights reserved Mama C and the Boys 2011

according to Marcel.

I love October for his birth at the beginning of the month, and the anniversary of learning that Sam’s first mama had chosen me to be Sam’s everyday Ma at the end of October. It is the time of the year that I often feel my best–in many connective tissue to the world ways. I always feel like writing poetry, baking, taking pictures, hiking, making things. Continue reading “Four years ago today (a birth story)”

D is for donor-on meeting Tree again

A few weeks back Marcel met Tree.

Tree met Marcel.

We met at a park, and played baseball and alligator.

After an hour or so, we all parted with hugs. Sam was there too. It was all good.

It had been a few years since the donor had been in this hemisphere.

Marcel was beyond easy about all of it. He knew for a few weeks prior that Tree might be in town, and wanted to meet. Marcel agreed to that, and suggested a playground. Continue reading “D is for donor-on meeting Tree again”

Out takes: a retrospective

Marcel and Mama/ Mama C and the Boys
Earlier.../ Mama C and the Boys
oh dear/ MamaCandtheBoys
That was only 3 years ago?/ Mama C and the Boys

This picture taking ritual appears to happen in the mornings, when an older brother is sleeping. Feels like a lifetime since this morning, let alone the moment captured above. There will be a day, when a post of some merit will appear here again. Until then, dear reader I am inflicting the picture drawer on you. Hope it was worth a pause, a sigh, and an Uh-huh. The boys have been taking up a lot of space in the world these days. In remarkable ways. In hard ways. In good ways. In how-do-I-have-this-conversation-for-the 1,000th-time ways. In please just fall asleep ways. In how did you burrow down deeper into my heart ways. In raise my head up to the ceiling and ask for patience ways…

Morning with Marcel take 2/ MamaCandtheBoys