Baby J has beautiful blue eyes. They’re big, piercing, limpid, gorgeous, all of it, and people often comment on them (also, I think they account for people mistaking him for a girl, which I find hilarious). He has the same eyes as Uno. I’m talking carbon-copy. It’s a pretty cool thing, because I also have blue eyes (well, more in the grayish hazelish realm) and we wanted a blue-eyed donor for that reason, though we ended up not going with one. And look! Ah, genetics, so random. Anyway, it’s quite obvious Uno passed down her lovely ojos. However, people often say that he looks like me, too – I don’t know if it’s his general facial features or coloring, but we do resemble each other. Another pretty cool thing, thanks to genetic lottery: our baby looks like both of us.
Even so, to me, one glance at baby J and Uno and the bio connection is apparent. I still find it weird when I’m out with my son and strangers comment on our resemblance.
So imagine: baby J and I are at the beach in my hometown recently, dipping our toes in the freezing water and hanging with my mom and two of her friends. He doesn’t tire of throwing handfuls of sand into his own face. As we’re getting ready to go, I hoist him onto my hip and he lunges like a wild octopus. At that moment someone new strolls up, and after polite hellos and “Deux, this is So-and-So, remember?,” I realize it’s a woman I used to babysit for, back in high school. I haven’t seen her in over a decade. We do the small talk thing. She exclaims over baby J and asks if this is my first child. Why yes, I say. We chat about my family, my job. I’m using the word “partner” the whole time, along with the pronouns “she” and “her” in reference to Uno. The ole work-around. I’m thinking this older hippie-ish woman gets it. Then she says, “He has SUCH BEAUTIFUL eyes. Does his dad have blue eyes, too?”
Ah ha. She doesn’t get it. No big deal, I’ll correct her, but I feel my mom’s eyes on me, making the moment more tense. My mom, who is so supportive and loves her grandbaby fiercely, is a bit confused / quiet about the donor thing. We’ve had some good talks, and I’ve given her some literature about it, but it’s still … I don’t know, sensitive. Or something like it.
“Actually, he has a donor,” I say cheerfully, firmly. “My partner gave birth to him, and she does have very blue eyes.”
“Oh, you have a WOMAN PARTNER,” this person says. She’s blinking rapidly and smiling too widely. “I mean, oh! I couldn’t have told. He just looks so much like you.”
Baby J, meanwhile, is ignoring the conversation and doing his best to get off my hip. I’m toying with his hair, pulling him closer, no doubt feeling a little possessive. I’m wondering what this might be like for him when he’s older and he understands, you know, the English language. The woman I babysat for is touching my elbow and says, “Did you see that movie?!”
I’m thinking: oh no she didn’t. Right? She didn’t. Cautiously, I say, “The Kids Are All Right?”
Oh yes, she did. “I LOVED that movie! It was SO funny! What an IMPORTANT film!”
“Well, I didn’t think it was very representative,” I say.
Ah, conversation falls flat. Luckily, one of my mom’s friends steps in. (Other issues with that movie aside, I was uncomfortable with how it showed a two-mom family navigating donor issues with their kids. Anyway).
After I finished with the eye-rolling, the moment got me thinking. Back when he was a smaller baby J, I felt a bit like an impostor when out with him alone: non-bio incognito. Gradually, the fact that I loved on him and soothed him and cleaned his poop every single day of his life trumped the uncertainty. As he’s no longer a passive recipient (was he ever passive?) of my care, he gives back, too. He slimes me with kisses and clings to my legs and shrieks with delight when I play with him. It’s not just the good stuff, either. He fights me and cries when I say no and all the rest of it. I’m his mama. Duh. And increasingly, I see myself in him. So does Uno. We joke about it, because he does seem to have inherited my temperament. “How’d you do it?” She’ll tease me. He’s an extroverted, moody, passionate guy, and while some of that is clearly about toddlerhood in general, it’s quite different than Uno’s even keel. He and I share a kind of energy. He’s curious, determined, restless, and I know just how he feels. We’ve got something crackling between us. It also means we sometimes clash spectacularly, but I love our connection and love what I see of myself in him.
Back to the beach moment. My mom says, afterward, “You know, I really forget about genetics! I mean, I just don’t think about them!” Her friends echo her. I know they’re trying to be nice, but honestly? They forget?
‘Cause I don’t. I don’t forget I’m his non-bio mom, any more than I forget that I have elbows. I’m not walking around thinking, “Wow, look at my elbows. Those are some elbows.” Nor am I bemoaning them, wishing they could be pointier elbows, or bigger, or thinner. I know they exist, I trust them to do their elbow job, and I like it that way. Similarly, I like being baby J’s non-bio mom. It’s just who we are. I can’t imagine – indeed, can’t bear to imagine – having a different baby or a different family. When he’s older, I’m sure our son will be well aware of our family makeup and the facts of his conception, and I hope he’ll feel as I do. I believe we’re meant to be together, and strangely, yet truly, we wouldn’t be who we are without our donor. Without Uno’s gestational relationship to baby J. Without my not-biological connection to him. I love who we are. I’d never want to change him or change us.