Friday, April 22, 2011

Being Eggbert's mom

Before Eggbert was born, Mystery and I played the game that many parents play--talking about whose nose we hoped she'd get, whose eyes, whose hair, etc. I wanted her to look exactly like him; he wanted her to look more like me. As is not uncommon when we disagree, I won. When Eggbert was first born, she looked nothing like me. NOTHING! The nurses at the hospital all commented on it. My family commented on it. Strangers on the street asked me not if I had adopted her but where or how. I didn't mind. She looked exactly like a teeny weeny light-skinned version of Mystery, and I love the way that Mystery looks, so I thought that she was perfect. However, as the days went on, I started to wonder. Was it possible that the embryologist had switched the eggs? I couldn't stop thinking about it. Worrying about it.

The part that worried me wasn't that my eggs might have gone elsewhere. I was worried that they ("they" in this case being the clinic) would figure out that Eggbert hadn't come from my egg (perhaps when some Korean couple delivered a half-white baby) and try to take her away. I spent some time going over this scenario in my mind until I had formulated what struck me as a sensible plan: at the first sign of trouble, take the baby and flee the country.

Clearly, I was delirious with sleeplessness, which fortunately kept me from having the energy to get too worked up about any of this. I did eventually realize that the Egg looked no more like the average Korean woman than she looked like me. I now think that it's noteworthy, though, that my concern wasn't the loss of a genetic connection with Eggbert, or the loss of a hypothetical child from my own genetic material--it was the loss of Eggbert herself, the baby that I gestated, loved, and delivered. This is one of the reasons that I think that DE might be a reasonable choice for me.

As Eggbert has grown, some hint of a resemblance to me has started to develop. She now has a hair color close to mine (her black baby hair fell out and it grew back in a medium brown), her lips are quite a bit like mine, and her Mystery-like features are now arranged on a face that is shaped more like mine. She still looks a lot more like Mystery, but now she doesn't actively NOT look like me anymore. Nobody has asked where I adopted her in over a year. I think that parents that use donor gametes sometimes wonder how they'll feel about having a child that doesn't look like them. Having experienced that, I can say that it felt fine, and in fact, perfectly delightful. The surprise for me as she has started resembling me more is that while it hasn't changed my feelings toward or about her in the slightest, it has changed the way that I look at myself.

You see, my daughter is beautiful. I know, I know. Every mother thinks that their child is beautiful, and I love that. Nature does wonderful things to our brains when children come into our lives that causes us to see them through the rosiest of rose-colored glasses. I'm not saying that my child is more beautiful than anybody else's (in fact, when Eggbert was born, I've noticed that all of the kids in the world immediately became better-looking), but the Egg happens to be my exact cup of tea. And now I look a little bit like her. Therefore, logic dictates that if I look a little bit her and if she is beautiful then I must also be a little bit beautiful. I have always been critical of my appearance despite the knowledge that I actually look perfectly fine, tending to focus on e.g., the slight bump on my nose rather than the unusual and interesting color of my eyes. Now, though, sometimes when I see a feature or expression that I love on my daughter on my own face, it makes me feel a wave of something--sympathy? warmth? compassion? fondness?--for myself that wasn't there before. Put simply, she has made me like myself better.

I have a lot of moles on my arms and legs. I've never liked them (what's to like?), but what can I do? I had come to a place where they only annoyed me when my doctor told me that he wanted to biopsy yet another one to make sure that they hadn't turned cancerous (so far I've had six biopsies--all negative, luckily), but would still have chosen not to have them if that was an option. However, Eggbert likes my moles. There is one on my wrist that I had never given any attention. Its color is only a few shades darker than the rest of my skin, and it's not very big. It is, however, raised just a little bit, which apparently makes it delightful to the three-year-old touch. For the past several months, Eggbert has taken to rubbing my "spot" whenever she can. When I'm in the passenger seat of the car, she asks me to reach back toward her car seat so she can "touch my spot." When she's upset, she calms down immediately when she touches my "spot." If she's in my lap, she will absentmindedly rub my mole. And just like that, I've come to love that thing. It's a small sign of my own uniqueness; a quirk that my daughter uses to sense my presence and feel comforted. I think that's one of the great gifts that children can give to us. Not only the ability to see the world, just for a moment, through a child's eyes, but also to project the tenderness that we feel for them further, until it envelopes other children, other adults, and finally, even ourselves.