two uteri, two mamas pregnant, AGAIN, with baby number two

the ‘other’ mother May 25, 2008

Filed under: ttc — charlotte @ 3:11 pm

WARNING: Complaining ahead. Don’t go there if you need me to be rosy and grateful.

Being the other mother thus far, is unfun, to say the least. Maybe I’m the only asshole who feels this way.

It seems that even the lesbian books who discuss the sucky parts challenges of being the “other mother” just seem to be having a different experience than me. Maybe it is just my personality, or the fact that I was a birth mom so recently. I don’t know. But it ain’t easy, I tell you that. It isn’t “challenging”. It sucks.

For me.

And I’m feeling pretty alone in this. No one in our lives, IRL, has experienced motherhood from this perspective. I have no strengths in this area (being easy going, trusting, selflessly caretaking – like my dear S). But I can’t even compare myself, really, to how she handled being the other mother because it was so different the first time around. And she’s a different person. Plus, when S was in this role she could fall back on being related to Smarty, because she was. Every way Smarty looked, everything he did, every attriblute, could have been from her gene pool (S’s brother was our donor).

Yet, S was so good in this role and that makes me feel like even more of a failure.

All the stuff I read about on this topic it discusses fairness issues, which just don’t work for me.

Chicory and I had an interesting discussion about this recently, when she was at my house. About the need lesbains have for equanimity, fairness, equality. How this isn’t a bad thing, but sometimes it simply doesn’t work int he parenthood realm. For instance, when S and I get into the fairness game about babies, we both loose. We get lost in youstayedhomefor3yearsIonlyget3months or youworkedfromhomefor1yearwhileIonlyget3weeks.

Not fair, on either front. Same with the breastfeeding. I feel this pressure from to ‘let S have her turn‘. Her turn with the birth, with the breastfeeding, with the decisions of early infancy. Because I had my turn with Smarty. The problem with this is that we are in a totally different situation now. There is no fair. There is no turn. Or maybe there is, and I am just a giant selfish bitch.

I just don’t know how to DO this. Be the other mother. Be not desperately needed by the baby. Not tied down. No relentless infant demanding my boobs. No constant skin to skin with that soft creature. I feel like I could disappear and she wouldn’t notice. Which, at this point, is true.

For me, when there were motherhood doubts, as the birth mother, there was this primal reassurance, yes, yes, this is my baby, I gave birth to this baby, this baby needs me, this baby needs my milk, I can’t run away (ever) from this baby because I am his mother. This time I have no reasurrance, internally. I have the opposite. I feel, starkly, the contrast. How unneeded I am. How little time I actually spend with her. How much she doesn’t look like me.

This role is WAY harder than even my pessimistic nature anticipated. Like WAY.

Also, we are both the moms, and I wish people in our lives would stop referring to her as the ‘new mama’. She has been a mama for 3 1/2 years. I suppose they mean she just gave birth. That is ‘new’. I don’t know. It just seems that our friends and family, even the sensitive lovely ones, often say things that sting…that highlight the differences I am already painfully aware of and defensive about. Oh, and it doesn’t help that Littleo looks exacly like S. That is constantly commented upon, by everyone. Secretly, alone in our home, I am completely thrilled that she looks like my beautiful S, and surprised and grateful that she does not look like our donor. Yet, I wish that people were a little more thoughtful about saying that so often. It hurts my feelings, as a constant reminder that she looks NOTHING like me and is not related to me in any way, and it hurts S’s feelings that it hurts my feelings. Good times.

I feel left out. Sad. Not needed. Unconnected. And, sadly, I’m going back to work next week. I am afraid that everyone thinks I am an ungrateful asshole for complaining about this at length, when we have this gorgeous little baby, but this blog has never been about all of my easy happy feelings, so why lie? Why pretend that this time with our perfect baby is blissful?

One of the hardest parts has been Littleo deciding she doesn’t want me to comfort nurse her. It is probably necause i don’t have milk yet, but I can’t help but feel incredibly rejected – like the lesser mom – rejected by my own kid. Unable to comfort our daughter the way I did for so many years with our son. Logically, I know that I will need to work hard to breastfeed, and that I cannot take the actions of a 23 day old baby, personally.
But this is not logical. This business of motherhood is primal.

The truth is I could spend more time with my daughter. I could pick her up and rock her more. I could try harder. I could. But with Smarty I didn’t have to work hard for his attention, or to soothe him. I had magical boobs that fixed everything.

I don’t know, maybe if I was a dad this would still be hard, but there would be no comparison to the other experience, and if there was (like for a trans dad) there would be a new role to fulfill, a clear place to exsist, with its very own holiday – coming in June. But I’m not the dad.

And please, friends, do not think that I am talking shit on this caretaking role, on being the one who didn’t give birth. I have nothing but respect for all the women who accept this role with grace, and embrace the beauty of it, the realness of it, the complicatedness, and fiercely love their babies. I only lament that I am unable, yet, to do the same.

I am too scared, in recent days, to reach out to Littleo, because it hurts. The distance between us is growing and I do know that I am her mother and I am the only one to bridge the distance, to work harder, to find my place, to be brave – to love her despite how much it hurts to do so, despite the differences, despite my own pain.


Right now that feels slightly impossible, and that is the ugly truth.


24 Responses to “the ‘other’ mother”

  1. bleu Says:

    even if it doesn’t feel like it, even if she doesn’t seem to. LittleO needs you, YES YOU. She needs you to be her parent too, just as much as she needs her other parent. Breastfeeding or not she needs you. She needs you to get you both oast this awkward part and she needs you to show her how tremendous of a bond you can have.

  2. Amanda Says:

    I can in no way know what you’re feeling. I’m not a parent and will not be for years. All I can say is that precious baby will not love you less when she grows up because you didn’t harbor her in your body for 9 months. You’re still one of her two lovely mothers. Littleo is luckier than many out there to have a mom who is willing to open up about these sucky feelings. Too many moms (and dads) just run away or shut down. I send you my best wishes and support in sorting through this.

  3. ~ d Says:

    I just want to sit beside you for a second and hold your hand in validation of all that you are feeling. Having been the birth mom first, then the ‘other’ mother next, it really can suck (it has in so many ways for me). This role threw me under the bus, more so than I ever ever imagined. So I’m not going to tell you to suck it up, or that things will get better, because I know that you know that already. What I will say is that I’m sorry that it is sucking for you because I know how helplessly painful it is. Try the comfort nursing again. It could have been that she was going through a growth spurt and desperate for milk, who knows. Definitely try it again – maybe when she’s sleepy? Keep talking about it and keep doing what you can to connect with her. There is joy, but sometimes it’s hard to see when there is so much gray. I’m thinking of you.

  4. Chicory Says:

    It is hard. It is so damned hard. I’ve never been the birth mother, but I’ve WANTED to be the birth mother, and though I loved Sassa with all my heart the moment she was born, it was SO HARD not to be the one breastfeeding her, not to be the one home with her, not to be the one she needed. And there were days when I abdicated and didn’t try and resented when I’d come home from work and Klove would thrust this crying baby at me. And then, over the weeks, I would try harder and that primal need of the baby for food would lessen (what helped here is that Klove’s milk didn’t come in and so I formula fed — so when you get milk in, or when S can start pumping — this will play for you, too) and there would be bonding and rewards. Sassa talked to me, first. She cooed at me in response to my cooing at her first. That was a huge benefit to being the one who wasn’t always shoving a boob in her face.

    But yes, I remember how hard it was, how easy it was to let resentment and frustration and anger in. How very different it was from the way I was wanting to mother. And it probably doesn’t help that there’s a very active toddler demanding a lot of attention — and that you’re the one most able to give it to him now. That’s a dynamic that I haven’t encountered yet, and I’m sure it has an effect of hampering your own time with littleo.

    And, on a side note, if we managed to say anything insensitive while we were there, we are so very sorry, and please let us know what it was so that we can make sure never to say such a thing again.

  5. charlotte Says:

    chicory, you said NOTHING insensitive. our conversation was helpful to me and validating – sorry that wasn’t clear in the post.

  6. scarredbellybutton Says:

    It’s certainly a role that has it’s difficulties and pain. For me one of the shittiest parts has been people only acknowledging DP and not me as the “new mother”.

    Interestingly I ended up being the main caregiver and most people who do not know our family well assume that I am the biomom. And he looks nothing like me. (It helps though that he doesn’t look like DP either – he looks like his donor).

  7. My children are way up in their 20s and i often still feel like they don’t “NEED” me. My youngest got married on Sat. wedding pic on blog. And while I was just as proud as I could be, I still felt unworthy of my role. Ya know?

    When I look at them as grown men I want to break into that song “The Cats in the Cradle’ and I am the BIO mom.

    Raised them as babies by myself, worked constantly from the time E was two months old and got alot of help from family. Thank God, but I still resent it to a degree. In many ways I think they see me as the the favorite flighty aunt or something.

    Same goes with my grand-daughter who spent much more time with my mom as an infant then she did with me because of my miscarriage, caregving duties with cancer stricken ex and demands of my job,etc …

    I get to spend alot more time with her now BUT regret not getting to spend more time with her and it’s amazing . One of the reasons I am so hellbent on leaving this job following thru on going into semi retirement/working from home and having a normal home she can come to to spend time with us.

    As you know, they GROW so fast. Just be there, love her, and find your own ways to bond , demand your own time with her too. That’s important. She needs you too. Even birth moms feel this way like suddenly sharing your life with a little alien.

    But please know I do understand THE THINGS you are feeling right now.

    Enjoy her and feel better.

  8. rebecca Says:


    first time commenter here. i just wanted to write something in support; i can feel your hurt in your writing. it is good that you are expressing it.

    i also wanted to empathise — although i cannot possibly know how you feel, there is an amazing diversity of family situations out there, and roles that are challenging. example: my husband is divorced and his two daughters (7 and 8) live with us. i had NO idea going in (and i am glad i didn’t) how effing hard the stepmother role would be, especially since i am their primary female caregiver. and i am not the woman they really want. it’s hard. it’s not the same as your situation, but i just really felt a lot of empathy when i read what you are going through, especially when you say that you are too scared to reach out to her and you feel the distance growing. i SO understand that, when one of the girls lashes out at me it makes me desperately want to retreat and give up.

    (and please know that i am not trying to be an asshole and turn this around to be all about me… i am just wanting to say, in some ways at least, you are not alone in having these messy feelings. i know you know that but it sometimes helps to hear it over and over again.)

    and i promise, it will get better. this newborn-neediness phase is, after all, just a phase, and it is probably one of (if not the) most difficult phases you will face. but there will be times when she wants you and only you, and you will be surprised at how rich your relationship with her will be as she grows, and how fiercely you love one another.

  9. rebecca Says:

    oops, my computer turned an 8 and a ) into a smiley. no idea how that happened. it was supposed to say that they are 7 and 8!

  10. Calliope Says:

    I love you so much & your honesty about this is just breathtaking. I can’t imagine that there are many women that have been in your particular shoes at the moment and that must feel lonely. What is SO clear is that all of these complicated emotions come from such great love.
    Also- and I hope this doesn’t come out wrong- but I feel like LittleO is totally related to you in every way. She was dreamed of & conceived out of your relationship with WTF and RM & S.
    I hope that comes out the way I mean it…I would hate to say anything stupid right now.


  11. MamaPenguin Says:

    Our situation is not identical, as my partner is male, but we’ve had some conversations about how he feels utterly useless around our son because our son didn’t really “need” him and how, please tell us world, could he rectify loving something so damn much with the seemingly cold disinterest vibes being cast out by the boy. In the end, he just decided to bide his time. Our son is five months now and has become incredibly interactive with his world and his father. I think he’s finally starting to feel loved by this child, though certainly not needed. He’s always stated that it’s an incredibly rough pill to swallow. We think the “needed” part will come later, when Ben is older and I transition away from the majority of the feedings. I’d like him to read your post. I also wish more peopel talked about the feelings of the nonbirth parent, because I have a hunch that it’s not as unusual or uncommon as one might think. Everyone puts on happy face when they talk about their kids and families. But happy face is generally nothing more than a great mask.

  12. Co Says:

    Hi. Maybe you don’t want to hear from me, as bio mom to Jo, but I am thinking ahead to when I won’t be. I understand the magic boobs and their power. But I remember, too, being shocked that when Jo was around 1 month old, they weren’t as magical any more. When he cried, it didn’t necessarily mean he wanted a boob or a diaper change. Sometimes it meant he wanted to be entertained. Crazy!

    That first month is hard and yeah, all littleo does is nurse, I’m sure. But babies grow and they start to need more varied things. Once that happens, you’ll have more opportunities to be the one to soothe her.

    I remember Lo enjoyed when she finally got to feed Jo from a bottle. We waited until 6 weeks to try our first breastmilk in a bottle. It was important for us to do b/c we knew we’d both be back at work when Jo was 3 months old. She was in her glory.

    I can imagine it might be hard for you to feel a connection. But that doesn’t mean you won’t get there. It might be good, once littleo is older and she is bottle-feeding, for you to do things alone with her for a while just so you two can bond together. You don’t have magic boobs right now, but you will find ways to soothe and comfort littleo, and then you’ll feel more like her mother. Not an “other” mother. Her mother. I know Lo’s mom had a hard time not having magic boobs, as a grandmother. But she has found many ways to comfort her grandkids without them.

    I am sorry others are so insensitive with their comments. And that your current careers and finances mean that what you were able to give each other with Smarty can’t be given with littleo (maternity leave/stay-at-home mom opp). It’s not fair. But I hope you and S. can find ways not to feel resentful about it. Because it just is.

    Sorry if my thoughts aren’t helpful. Hang in there. Littleo does need you and so do S. and Smarty.

  13. thank you so much for this post. As the one carrying our child I so often worry about what A. has going on in her head and I am trying to proactively protect her – but your discussion of “fairness isn’t possible” is really relevant. Thanks for the honesty.

  14. jay Says:

    thanks for your honesty. i have nothing useful to say as no kids yet, but i’m quite sure that the first bit has to be the worst, and when the magic wears off the boobs, things should even out a bit. and yeah, life is never fair, is it? hang in there, eh xx

  15. indigoscot Says:

    also a bio-mom here, but i can talk from dp’s experience….yes, i have the magic boobs (still bf’ing at almost 10 months) but sometimes he wants dp – he says mama for her mamum for me and sometimes the magic boobs don’t put him to sleep or comfort him. when he was teenytiny, even then dp could put him to sleep w/o a boob. littleo is your daughter even if you’re not doing all the usual mom things. hang in there mama!

  16. tonya cinnamon Says:

    you know even if the breastfeeding doesn feel bonding due to littleo wanting to breastfeed from you.. she still needs you – your her momma and she needs her other mamma..
    she needs the closeness of you -your scent .
    my son actually when he was born had issues bonding with me and i found that if he slept close by me or had something with my scent on it . that it helped. a lot..
    sending hugs to you and your loves……
    ps. vent all you want….were here to listen and give hugs 🙂

  17. Clare Says:

    God I am so with you! Or at least I was full-time with you when Al was born…a year down the track things are different most of the time (not all of it thou!). As the non-bio mother of the second child and the bio mother of the first all I can say is it is bloody hard work at times. My situation is a bit different as my bio child is Gaye’s step child. But my feeling when Al was coming and came along were very complicated.

    I realised how much of my identity was about being ‘a mother’ and ‘the mother’ in our relationship (and my life more generally). I was home full-time with Thomas until he was more than 2 (with a bit of wrk from home) and then have basically organised my choices about work and holidays and time on and off around him and his schedule ever since. He was the centre of my world – still is.

    I really didn’t know how to bond with Al if I wasn’t being those things. I focussed my attention and effort on trying to get to know him and to support Gaye. But it felt very weird. I had two weeks off work with Al and although I take on a considerable amount of his primary care now (and am trying to find a new job so I can work less time and Gaye can work more) it has been a real struggle for me to (a) let go of being a mother in the way I am with Thomas and (b) allow Gaye to take ‘her turn.’ Sometimes I have resented it no end. Sometimes I have just gone with it.

    I have struggled to work out how to be a mother to this child who I can’t mother in exactly the same way I did with Thomas, and yet despite no biological connection a year or so down the track my tie to him really is incredibly strong.

    When he was about 8 months or so there was a real shift. Gaye was working more (still breast feeding) and Al decided that he really really liked me (rather than being content with me) and something inside me clicked and said it was okay to feel differently about Al than I do Thomas. It was okay to be a different parent to them. That most parents are different with their first and second children (an added complication for us as although Gaye does love and care for Thomas she is not his parent), that most parents form different relationships with their individual children and that it is not more or less. It just is. And most of the time now it feels okay. In fact most of the time I just revel in his company and getting to see and know the little being that he is. Thou I still do feel like a bit of an impostor at times – and I think – after talking to friends in similar situations – that this is pretty normal for the mother who does non-bio second. (Basically one of my friends summed it up by saying if you don’t know then you don’t know but once you know you know).

    I don’t find the looks thing an issue (neither or them look anything like me) but do find it hard at times not to relinquish my knowing or understanding of Al to Gaye when we are in public – or private. She spends more time with him than I do – and this is a difference I don’t note in het couples regardless of the time they spend with their kids.

    Anyway – you know it will be okay. You don’t need me to tell you that… but I am – indeed so with you!

  18. Erin Says:

    Hi, first time commenter here. Just wanted to say thank you for your post. I think the concept of the “other” mother is one of the major pieces that keeps my partner and I from moving forward on the decision to have children. I appreciate your honesty very much!

  19. Andrea Says:

    I really appreciate your willingness to share this stuff. As hard as this is for you, the honest perspective is invaluable to lots of us. I’ve learned more about the realities of lesbian parenting from you (& other blogs I read regularly) & close friends than I ever could in a book. It helps me to take all of this into consideration when thinking about having a baby since my partner was a single parent to three now grown children. You never know how you are really going to feel about something until it happens, but you can gain insight from other’s experiences.

  20. amy Says:

    i too want to thank you for your honesty here. i carried our first, my wife is hopefully going to carry our 2nd and i imagine i will feel very similarly. she is much more laid back than i and handled the “other mother” experience with such grace, i hope i can be feel and behave similarly but i suspect i won’t. time will tell…

  21. dlvc Says:

    I was in similar shoes a couple years ago, as non-bio-mom for our first (and not the graceful and generous kind). A few thoughts:

    1) Can you guys get some help with Smarty and/or chores, so you could get even a bit more uncomplicated little-o time? Possibly even time alone with little-o (maybe an hour between feedings)?

    2) When I tried to comfort nurse at something like 6 weeks, it didn’t take. But then about a month later, our daughter started it on her own. Babies change.

    3) You don’t need to put your relationship with little-o on hold until she’s bigger and nursing less (or nursing with you). You can build a relationship now. For me, time alone with the kid was tremendously important, even very early on.

    The fact of the matter is, the relationship between you and little-o is the weakest link in your family right now. Saying it is not the weakest link won’t magically make it a stronger one. I know you say that S can’t help you here since it sounds like she approached this differently, but clearly she has a great relationship with Smarty. She developed it somehow.

    And you’re right, most of the books out there (and really, discourse in the lesbian parenting community as a whole), tends to brush this under the rug. Rest assured you are not the first non-bio-mom to feel this way. Hang in there.

  22. angel Says:

    first time poster here….been searching books and blogosphere for some bit o validation for my experience..thanks for the straight up this is how it feels post. I am non-bio mom to our 9+ month old..I won’t be birthing a child so i won’t ever get the “I need you and only you” experience…just today I had a ” she is not my child feeling” and I am guessing it was more about me having a hard day for other reasons….and what I have learned are three main things..1- the distance and feeling of non connection is my own inside job to pay attention to and not feed into, even when I don’t want to or am attached to believing that L. doesn’t want or need me. 2-sometimes it just HURTS and that is how it is. 3-She loves me, wants to be with me and we are family.thanks again

  23. Jess Says:

    I am not a mom yet, but I am very grateful for your honesty. It really is a gift to so many of us out here.

  24. B Says:

    I realise this post is a couple of months old now, and so maybe this is all redundant.

    I read a book not so long ago called confessions of the other mother (Harlyn Aizley). It is a collection about the experiences of just that. Towards the end It started feeling a bit repetitive, but I really enjoyed it. There are also a few written from the perspective of being the birth mother first, and then the other mother, and the other way around.

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