There are two reasons why I don’t publish posts often enough. The first has to do with generic laziness. I can lie and say that I’m busy, but I’m all caught up on Empire, so laziness it is.
The other is that I’m committed to writing only about donor egg related issues, and those don’t come up all the time. And when they do come up, they’re usually too intense for me to want to buckle down and type, so instead I just cry or watch an episode of Empire.
But my daughter is turning two in a couple of days, so I thought I would mark the occasion by telling you about your worst nightmare.
“Mama, go away.”
“Mama, go away” is something I’ve heard a lot these past few months. “Mama, go away. Daddy come.” For days. Then weeks. Then months. “Mama, go away.” Over and over and over again.
I tried to keep composure at first and remember information that I got three years back. During the therapy session required by the clinic before our first donor egg transfer, we were forewarned about how devastating daddy phases can be for donor egg recipients when the father is the genetic parent. “Every kid has a daddy phase,” we were told. “It has nothing to do with genetics. It’s just a part of parenthood.”
A few weeks into the daddy phase, it got worse. She wouldn’t want me next to her when we ate, and she’d run away when I’d pick her up from daycare. “Mama, go away. Daddy come.”
Like I said. Nightmare.
I cried myself to sleep for nights in a row. I read dozens of articles and blog posts in search of help and hope and advice, and all I got was a bunch of crap about how we should save her favorite books and pastimes for her time with me. None of it worked. It’s not like she was going to forget that she didn’t like me. She just didn’t like me.
So I cried myself to sleep a bunch more. Sometimes I’d lay awake hoping she’d come around, but mostly I wondered if it would matter to her if I died.
I finally came across two articles that actually did help. One suggested that I consider how the favored parent was interacting with the kid, and then advised that the other parent reflect that behavior. The situation in the article — which paralleled ours, actually — was that the kid had entered into a world of imagination, and the favored parent was super engaged in pretend play. The other parent was just too literal to be fun.
OK, so I needed to build forts and make up stories about her dolls. Check.
The second article talked about how toddler brains have a hard time understanding that they can love two people at the same time. It’s a cognitive challenge: how can I adore Mom if I adore Dad? (Side note: how dumb are toddlers?)
But alright. I’ll talk to her about love and about how our hearts are big enough to love our whole family. Check.
Then every once in a while I devolved into toddlerhood myself, and when she would tell me to go away, I’d say it right back. “You go away.” “No, you go away.” “No, you go away.” I’m not proud of the tactic, but it was incredibly effective. She would either end up laughing, or she’d get completely frustrated; either way, I’d catch a break.
Then one night she got sick. Nothing terrible. Just a cold, but she was up most of the night, and all she wanted was her mama, and I knew then that it would matter to her if I died. That helped.
And then it passed. Or at least changed. It gradually lessened, and now she says “go away” to both of us fairly equally. It still feels kinda crappy, but I don’t take it personally anymore. And my husband couldn’t care less when she tries to banish him.
But here’s the crux of the thing: while it was horribly, horribly horrible, not being a parent was worse. It just was. Nightmarish as that rejection was, pining for a child was a whole other level of devastation, and even as I was crying myself to sleep with my kid in the next room, I knew that not having her there would be worse. No question.
So despite my utter failure to keep this blog updated, I was motivated to share this now for two reasons. First, and in keeping with what my readers have come to expect, I feel compelled to be honest that donor egg parenting isn’t always the best. There are a lot of donor egg blogs out there, and I haven’t seen many that are transparent about the hard stuff, so this is for the donor egg moms who are looking for affirmation that they’re not alone: there is indeed hard stuff, and I’m right there with you.
The second reason is that I know that intended parents pore through this blog as a way of processing their fears, and I want to address the question of whether it’s worth it, and yes it is. At least it is to me. “Mama, go away” is a problem I’ll take if the alternative is to never hear someone call me “Mama.”
And yesterday was the first time she said, “Mama, I love you.” Unsolicited, and followed by a kiss.
“Mama, I love you.” Something Daddy’s never heard.
So, yeah. Hard. But worth it.