In answer to your question about whether I’m bonded with my baby after 14 months: Yes. Totally. Mostly.
And if you want the emotional play-by-play, here it is:
Love: Yes. I totally love her. It wasn’t instantaneous, and it didn’t happen like it apparently does for every other woman on the planet, because evidently I’m the only donor egg recipient in history who didn’t feel instantly connected as soon as I saw the flicker of her heartbeat, but you know what? I don’t really like those people anyhow.
Bonding: Sure, but not right away. For me, the real bonding started at around 5 or 6 months. Maybe it was because that’s when she started sleeping through the night, or maybe it was because she was less of a poopy lump of need and more of a …. I don’t know … person. Either way, by 10 months, I felt much more of a connection, and by now she’s profoundly in my heart.
Resentful of My Husband: No, actually. I thought that would be a factor, but it really isn’t. I can’t tell you if this is because of anything he does or doesn’t do, and I have no idea if it was all our therapy, but it’s a non-issue. I’m not even bothered during her Daddy phases, which is something I was warned would happen. Every kid has Daddy phases; genetics have nothing to do with it. It’s just not a problem for me.
Who-Does-She-Look-Like Awkwardness: Not really. If the person asking just forgot about the donor, then I remind them: “those eyebrows are all the donor’s.” If it’s someone who doesn’t know (and I don’t care to tell), then I skirt the issue: “She just looks like her.” And enough people think we look alike that it doesn’t come up very often.
Sadness about Loss of Genetic Connection: This is a tough one. There are the times when I really pine for a genetic connection, and I don’t always know how to navigate those moments. Just the other day, my dad was feeding her and said, “Her appetite comes from me.” My heart breaks a little because I really wish her appetite did come from him — well, not necessarily his appetite, but maybe his musicality or his smile. Even now, I’ve got a few tears streaming over this loss, so I guess it’ll continue to be a process.
What Ifs: Yeah. All the time. Can’t help that one. But luckily that regret isn’t isolated to just waiting too long to try to have a baby. I also wish I’d chosen a different major in college. And grad school. And that I’d been more professionally successful. And that I were an overall better person.
Jealous of the Donor: Jesus, I didn’t see this one coming, and I don’t know how I could have missed it. Maybe it’s because my daughter looks so much like her. Last month the donor texted me a Happy New Year with a couple of photos of her son (17-months old), and holy shit, our kids look exactly the same. So unsettling. I was so uneasy about it that I had to ask her to not send anymore pictures for now (she felt horrible). Thankfully my feelings aren’t directed at her, but I just quietly wish I had a baby that looked like me, too.
Jealous of Women with Babies that Look Like Them: Yup.
Jealous of Young Women Who Will Have Babies that Look Like Them: Yup.
And honestly, I’m not even the jealous type. I never pine for other people’s cars or husbands or clothes (well, maybe clothes), but the baby thing… Yeah, that one stings a bit.
Wonder if I’d Love My Own Genetic Baby More: This one seems to be sticking around for now, too. And it’s such a stupid question because I’ll never know the answer. Even if I had two babies — one genetic and one not — and I loved the genetic baby more, I wouldn’t know if it was because of genetics or for other reasons. It’s such a dumb thing to ponder. But I can’t help myself.
Conditionality of My Love for My Daughter: Dude, how horrible am I that this is actually a thing? When we had the neurofibromatosis scare, I really did feel that I wouldn’t love her as much if she looked like the elephant man. It seems so counterintuitive: shouldn’t a mother feel more protective when something’s wrong with her kid? What a shameful thing to admit, but what can I say? It’s true. Now with a few months’ perspective, I realize that it was partly an emotional defense from facing with such a scary prospect, but I still don’t know that I could have been the mother I needed to be. Thankfully, that conditionality is waning now that we’re more fully bonded. I feel pretty certain that if something came up today, my commitment wouldn’t waver. But back at 9 months, it was too soon. Then again, I’m also the mother who finds her kid more adorable when she’s dressed cuter, so maybe I’m just an asshole.
Would I Do It Again?: Yes. Yes. A bazillion times yes. I love being a mother. I love doing whatever I need to do — therapy, reading, writing, talking to my husband, talking to other parents — to make myself a better person for her so that she has all the benefits she can. I’ve been a super hand-on, stay-at-home home for her first 14 months, and my life is so much more fulfilled now. If I had to accept a child-free life, then I like to think that I would have done it with grace (although I probably wouldn’t have), but I’m grateful every day that my daughter has made me a mother.
Will I Do It Again?: That’s a story for another post.
PS: If there’s another emotion, fear, or question that you’re wondering about, write a comment or shoot me an email (chickandeggs at gmail), and I’ll add it here.