This is how I feel about the notion of motherhood when placed in the alternative world of donors and surrogates. I am out there with my donor and my surrogate on stage and we are all telling a story. As I try to come to terms with what this means for me, I find it really interesting how it all seems so malleable. Is there really a truth?
I've already read a lot about surrogacy and I hear over and over, including my own thoughts, that we give up the carrying part but the egg is ours, and therefore we are the "real" mothers. I hear on the other side of the coin from donor egg recipients that even though the egg, or genetic material is not ours, we will carry and nurture this child in our bellies and that makes us still feel like the "real" mother. So what's a girl to do if she doesn't carry the child or provide the egg? Now the canon ball argument is blown onto the stage. The "real" mother is the mother who raises the child - period.
Even though intellectually I can say that over and over again to myself, the notion of creation still remains on the game show stage for me. It's all conjecture for me at this point since I don't have a child yet so I feel like I am just rationalizing, persuading myself, justifying. I can't help but keep asking what does all this biology, physicality, technicality, intention, nature, nurture all mean to me? So I decided to turn to webster to help clarify my thoughts:
1 a: a female parent b (1): a woman in authority ; specifically : the superior of a religious community of women (2): an old or elderly woman
2: source , origin
3: maternal tenderness or affection
4 [short for motherfucker] sometimes vulgar : motherfucker
5: something that is an extreme or ultimate example of its kind especially in terms of scale
So let's take this one definition at a time.
Definition Number 1: a female parent b (1): a woman in authority ; specifically : the superior of a religious community of women (2): an old or elderly woman
This one is fairly easy. I will be a female parent, in authority, although technically I am pretty much equal to a gay man - wanting to have a child with the man I love but with no uterus or egg to offer the endeavor. And yes, eh hum... I am an "old or elderly woman,"according to the reproductive world. Okay, overall I can check this off as "Yes!"
Definition Number 2: Source, origin
This is where it gets sticky. For the all the debating about how far back we have to go to find this - our intention, our money, the womb, the egg, the petri dish, nature/God/the divine/just plain luck - obviously we can choose any of these things that feel truthful to us. An outsider can just see the money and the petri dish and their fists are raised in moral disgust. An insider can just as easily see it in a billion beautiful and logical ways. We have to pick among the many truths to let us feel comfortable with what we are doing, what we are becoming, and how we identify ourselves as mothers. I have been really wrestling with this a lot but it's forcing me to gain new perspective (see Definition #3).
Definition Number 3: maternal tenderness or affection
As I traced back the potential origins of life, I've focused on my personal dilemma of being on the farthest end of this spectrum. I have to cling to "intention" and "raising the child" as my definition of "real mother." But in the past week I came to realize that getting comfortable under my own skin about donor egg requires more than talking about it logically. It requires going really really deep, I mean hyperspace deeper into yourself. I even went to a Buddhist meditation this week and what struck me the most was the redefinition of self that the guru proclaimed. In a nutshell, he argues we cling to "self-cherishing" or self-centered views of ourselves that aren't really true. The real "self" is the potential self. The deepest part of who we are is our potential selves, which is limitless despite limitations we cling to. So I've been digging deep these days, doing the archeology of myself, and I realized I left out one major source/origin in this motherhood trace back - LOVE. Sorry to get Beatles-hippy on everyone but "All you need is love" couldn't be more obvious and true. In understanding how this donor child will be "mine" and how I will be the "real" mother goes to the deepest part of my ability and capacity to love this child. I would even argue that the origins of love go further back or are the same as nature/God/the divine. But this still isn't easy. I can only hope that once I see that cute baby I will be awash with love. But that's still not enough of an anchor right now for me to hold on to. I have to take on a whole new sense of identity. I know I have to go to the outer limits of who I am. This is my most strenuous exercise these days - preparing and believing that my potential self will have limitless ability to do this.
Definition Number 5: something that is an extreme or ultimate example of its kind especially in terms of scale
This one's also a no brainer. My current "Baby X project" has moved to a scale beyond most people's imaginations. It's an ant farm of logistics and an ongoing rumination of how this effects my future. Now managing two women to make me a baby, I'm the ultimate project manager. But it doesn't stop there. Surrogates often remain loving parts of children's lives as the "nice lady" who carried them because mommy's tummy was broken. On the donor egg front things become more difficult. What role does the donor play in the child's birth story? Even though there is the constant proclamation that the donor is not the "real" mother, donor egg parents are also recognizing what that genetic link might mean for the child when they are older and want to know more about this donor. So yes, no doubt, this is a mother of a project.
So I am learning and practicing to stand for the first time, just like a child. I have to start out kind of wobbly with fear and skepticism before I can stand with confidence and conviction when the host shouts out "Will the real mother please stand up?" As Mother's day approaches, I ask for all infertiles at one moment of that day (May 10th) to stand up from where they are sitting and practice.