This wasn't helped by someone asking me about my Mother's Day plans with my mom and assuming they didn't include the baby, because that person doesn't really think of Kit as my child or as my mother's grandchild. I've lost count of how many times people have erased my various identities--seeing me and J as a het couple, getting my pronouns wrong all the time, assuming X mattered less to me than J because of gender and distance, to name just a few--but oof, this erasure hurts the most, because on some level I believe it. (And also because the whole idea of being a parent is new, I think. I'm still not really used to it at all, so if someone says or implies I'm not one, I don't have that rock-solid identity certainty to brace myself against.)
I vented on Twitter, as I do, and oh_also sent me to First Time Second Time, a blog by two queer parents who each gave birth to one of their kids. They write a lot about being non-gestational parents and it's really good. Their non-bio mom manifesto is exactly what I needed to read tonight, and the last two paragraphs in particular:
Even though I really hate the “Different but Equal” refrain, I’d be hard-pressed to say that my relationship with Leigh wasn’t different than Gail’s, at least during early infancy. So even though I get annoyed by such statements, I also sort of agree. But if I truly believe I do have a different and equal relationship to Leigh, even though she didn’t grow inside me, even though I didn’t nurse and nourish her as a baby, and even though she does not look a bit like me, there must be something else that I offered her. What is it? What is the “something extra” that I gave to her, that she wouldn’t have gotten in a family with only Gail as her parent?I will clutch this to my heart forever. For-ev-er.
This has been eating at me for years. Sure, I can see my influence in her mannerisms, the clarity with which she expresses herself, her bull-in-a-china-shop quality, her overt enthusiasm, and her love of connecting with all kinds of people. But none of that seems quite like the answer. The other night, though, I realized Gail had finally figured it out. What I offered to her, that only I could offer her, was my choice. I chose to parent her, and chose to love her deeply, despite a multitude of pressures that said either that I shouldn’t love her, or that I was unnecessary. Some of those pressures said explicitly that I’d damage her by my mere presence (those coming from, say, the religious right). Some of those pressures were more subtle, like the ones that said it wasn’t important for me to take leave to spend time with my new infant, or the ones that said if I pushed too hard to feed her or spend too much time with her, I’d take away from her all-important “primary” bond to Gail, resulting in some sort of vague but longstanding psychological damage. It is precisely the central challenge of being a non-bio-mom, the need to choose to parent your child, that makes the bond special. To spin something precious out of what looks and feels like nothing at the outset — no pregnancy, no genetic link, no nursing link, no overt need on the part of your child — is truly a gift to your whole family, and it is a gift that only you can give them.
I will quibble only to say that each of us made a choice--each of us and all of us made many, many choices over a period of several years--to be Kit's parent. J chose to father the child and X chose to carry the child, and their biological contributions don't make their subsequent choices to be devoted, attentive parents any less important or essential. But my lack of biological contribution doesn't make my choice any less real or meaningful.
I write this from the rocking chair in Kit's room, where I plan to sit all night. Their fever's broken--it never got above 101.2, so we were never super worried, but any kind of fever is no fun--and the congestion is easing, but they're still snuffly. My anxieties are soothed by listening to them breathing, and if they wake up fussy I want to be right here for them. They slept on my lap for a while, and when I stood up to put them in the crib, they woke a little and turned their head and pressed their face against me in the purest gesture of trust and comfort-seeking I've ever seen. They chose me too. I choose to believe them.