What Defines A Mother ?

Yesterday, sitting in the waiting room of our auto mechanic with an elderly woman, somehow the subject of our children came up.  She seemed shocked to hear I gave birth to my youngest son at the age of 50.  Honesty demands that I always admit that I needed medical assistance to do that and rarely do I feel that it is anyone else’s business as to exactly what that admission means.

Yet, as I contemplated writing my essay for today, I felt that I needed to be honest about the fact that my sons are donor assisted conceptions.  We have faced the issue directly this year with 23 and Me DNA kits for each of our teenage sons.  I knew that our egg donor had hers done and it is remarkable how close we are at the genetic level – as to cultural heritage and our maternal haplogroup – without actually being related at all.

I also gifted my husband with a 23 and Me kit over a year ago and then, knowing that the honest truth must be admitted to (though we have never hidden the unique details of our sons’ conception from them and told them their story at a level they could understand at a young age, as well as have taken them to meet their donor on more than one occasion) my sons were finally old enough and mature enough to get a more detailed understanding of what makes them special.

It is difficult for me as the woman who carried these boys in my womb and nursed them at my breast for over a year to see another woman listed as their genetic mother but that is the truth of the situation at a genetic level.  It was my OB, who first made us aware of the possibility of conceiving the children my husband decided he wanted after 10 years of marriage, and we had tried and we even failed to jumpstart my very last egg with a hormonal injection, who then said – “there is another way.”  It was either end a good marriage so my husband could marry a younger woman or take a leap and do something slightly unconventional.

My older son has not expressed what his feelings are about the situation.  He was contacted by a relative of the donor at 23 and Me.  I advised him to tell her to ask the donor about it.  My younger son seemed disappointed to learn that he doesn’t have any of my DNA.  My OB once explained to me, how much the gestating mother contributes to the development of the fetus – turning on or off genes and contributing to the nutritional preferences and emotional environment.

At the time my husband and I made this choice, I didn’t know anything about the issues all adoptees contend with nor about what a separation of mother and child does to an infant.  Yet, given the reality that these fine young men would not exist in any other way, I think we did the best we could to fulfill their father’s desire to have children of his own and limit any deep wounding for our sons.  I am the only mother they have ever known since their procreation started.  And I do have a daughter and grandchildren that are genetically, as well as biologically, related to me and so, I do understand what it was that my husband was yearning for.

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