My wife and I have been together for nearly four years. From the beginning, before we were even official, we knew we would want to have a child (or children) together. We have two boys from my previous relationship. I always assumed I would have more children, and my wife, Carly [ed note: all names have been changed], always knew she wanted to be a mom one day. Well, she was thrown into the role of Mom pretty quickly after joining forces with me.
Carly is a naturally caring, loving, understanding, and fun person — the boys took to her easily. Though it took a while for all of us to fall into our family roles, it happened naturally and without intention. Not too long ago, while our youngest was still trying to figure out Carly’s title, he labeled her “Half-Mom.” It was his way of assigning a loving title to this woman who loves and cares for him, but isn’t the one he’s been calling Mom all of his life. Now that Carly and I are legal domestic partners, the boys rejoice in calling her their Step-Mom (kids and their logistic ways).
Even though Carly and I knew we would want to have children together, we never had serious how-to discussions until last summer. I had a dream that I was carrying Carly’s baby, and I wanted it so badly that I was crying about it as I shared my dream with her. This sparked our baby planning. Ideally, we would choose in vitro fertilization (IVF), pick a sperm donor, have Carly’s egg fertilized, and I would carry her baby. Realistically, our finances do not allow for that route of conception. After entertaining numerous ways of going about obtaining our goal (including the idea to sell Carly’s eggs to afford for us to do IVF), we decided we would take turns carrying — we would have two babies! Because I am nearly eleven years older than Carly, we decided I would go first.
Off to the sperm bank we went, to shop for donors and insemination supplies. Our sperm bank has a forum, and we spent huge chunks of our days researching successful routes of trying to conceive, and asking questions about how to check my cervical mucus for optimal fertile consistency. We bought all of the books we could find on insemination at home (there aren’t many out there). We perfected tracking ovulation, and determining my peak fertile times each month. Basically, we became laymen fertility experts. Unfortunately, nine tries later, we still weren’t pregnant.
Honesty, when trying to conceive, is crucial. There are so many sneaky emotions that pop up — you cannot try to suppress them, hoping they will go away, because they won’t.
This is when Carly got honest. Honesty, when trying to conceive, is crucial. There are so many sneaky emotions that pop up — you cannot try to suppress them, hoping they will go away, because they won’t. If you don’t share them, they fester under all of your existence just waiting to attack under the guise of some unrelated annoyance. Carly shared that she was tired of waiting for us to be pregnant, and frankly, she wanted a turn at trying. I had been waiting to hear that from her, whether she had been thinking it for some time or not. With each negative pregnancy test, I felt like I was failing us, and postponing Carly’s desire to carry a child of her own. When she shared her impatience with our trying to conceive process, I agreed that we should turn the role of baby host over to her uterus.
The month that followed, after that decision, was a difficult month. There was a lot of crying and hurt feelings between both of us. Each of us felt that we were going through a difficult adjustment and that the other wasn’t being supportive enough. I was up-front and completely truthful about my feelings in regard to our new plans. I felt hopeful that getting Carly pregnant would lead to our desired outcome faster than focusing on my uterus, as we had been. I wanted to stop trying with my body. I loved knowing that she would finally be able to do what her body has been telling her it’s time to do.
At the same time, I was having a difficult time adjusting to this new idea of “mom.” I had always identified with my role of mother as being the carrier, the birther, the nursing party (feeder), the one who holds all of the mom cards (if I’m going to be candid). Seeing myself as the supporter, the one who guides the other parent through this big adventure, wasn’t how I identified with being a mom.
I have had to take a big step back, and take a long look at what I really think it means to be a mom, not how I have identified all of these years as a mom. When I did that, I saw that everything I value in being a mom has nothing to do with my past experiences of carrying a baby. Everything I contribute to being a mom is all that will allow me to be the most involved parent to our child — pregnant, or not.
I see motherhood as this experience un-parallel to anything else I will encounter in life. It’s about putting another’s needs before any decision you make for yourself, getting up in the middle of the night because your child needs you (and you don’t even consider that there might be another option), loving something so unconditionally that you strive to understand where they are coming from without effort, and being compelled to guide them through all of life’s struggles simply because you desire the best outcome for them above anything else.
Do I need to carry a child to place myself in that position? Absolutely not! In fact, I’m already there, and we aren’t even pregnant yet! In one week, I will be trying to get Carly good and pregnant. I feel like we are so close to creating this next contribution to our family that I almost forget it might not happen the first try. I figure that just means I am ready. Now, I know that I haven’t changed the way I identify as a mom — I have expanded my identity as a mother.