Originally Posted by xoxlt
My DW and I are TTC, and we have decided she would be the bio mom, for health reasons. I wanted to know if there were certain ways that non-bio-moms dealt with not being the bio mom, and if that changed the motherhood experience for anyone.
First, congrats and good luck TTC. Second, as soon as we found out my wife was pregnant with our first, I realized I hadn't fully understood the ramifications of what I signed on for as a non-bio-mom. I could write a book, but I'll try to refrain here. Neither of us had realized how deeply the definition of "mother" also includes the idea of "one." This holds for society as a whole, but perhaps more importantly, is deeply present in the assumptions and beliefs we carry with us into parenthood. My wife and I both had to work to expand and change our assumptions around parenting and mothering in order to make room for two of us. Critical to us pulling that off was that my wife is extremely generous, and was not threatened by my insecurity on this issue. She really listened when I brought up my worries, and we worked together to make sure that we were building our family the way we had intended. We really didn't want to end up as a family with a "mom" and a "back-up" or "secondary" mom. That works for some, and many folks plan who will carry in deference to such a planned family structure, but that would not fly for us. And to really pull off true co-parenting as two women? It does take some work, or at least some awareness.
In our case, some things that really helped get us on solid footing quickly:
1) I took substantial leave, and because I was still in grad school and we were really dependent on my wife's job, I did more of our daughter's caretaking the first year (my wife still did a lot, I just did a little more). This helped me catch up quickly on bonding. Now that I'm pregnant with our second, we're planning to have my wife to a bit more infant care because it worked so well last time.
2) I had been really worried about not nursing. After a few months, I realized that even though nursing is great for bonding, time is just as important. I had lots of time with our daughter, and we're thick and thieves, and we were even when she was tiny.
3) It helped to have areas where I was the "expert." I was super gung-ho on cloth diapers and babywearing, and my wife graciously let me take the lead in those areas. It really built my confidence quickly as a parent to know that I could do some of these things well, and gave me good things to talk about with other parents, even though I couldn't really participate in the birth and nursing conversations much.
4) I reached out immediately to other parents and other moms. I attended many new mom/parent groups, sometimes as the only mom with our daughter, and it was helpful to get that social feedback that I was really a mom. When I saw that other people saw and interacted me as a "real" mom, it was easier to hold that confidence myself.
5) Taking a very identifiable parental name (I'm Mama). Once our daughter started to talk, she reaffirmed our relationship whenever she hollered "mama." My wife is Ima, and though we didn't decide on these names for this reason, she has said that she is both surprised at how hard it can be sometimes to have a less recognized title, and that she is glad she does, because it has given her some understanding of what it is like to possibly be perceived as a "second" or "non-standard" parent.
Originally Posted by xoxlt
I know that I will love my child with all of my heart and not feel that the bond was not as strong because I'm not the bio-mom, but it is something that I have been worried about. Any advice or personal stories would be greatly appreciated!!
It's not crazy to worry about it at all. Fact of the matter is, your bond *is* less right at the beginning if you aren't carrying. But that doesn't mean it has to stay that way. Especially if you and your wife plan ahead, you can really set things up so your whole family feels secure and solid as soon as possible.
There isn't a ton of writing out there for non-bio-moms. The other mother anthology edited by Harlyn Aizley is pretty much it, but I do think it shows her editorial bias that a non-bio-mom is really more supportive than central (don't get me started pulling quotes from the book). Some of the essays in there scared me to pieces before our daughter was born, but it is worth a read. Do consider stopping by our blog (see signature). These issues are our favorite blog fodder.
Well. So much for not writing a book. Good luck.