I have been thinking some about what oneofhismoms wrote about having more empathy for how hard it is to really back off and let one’s partner get the time they really need to parent, now that she’s been on both sides of the bio-vs-non-bio-mom fence. She writes:
“There are so many things about being a gestational mom that I overlooked before. Being the one who did not give birth was mostly awesome (and not in a valley girl way, in a full-of-awe way) but also difficult emotionally. Being the one who gave birth was difficult mostly physically. But because it is also hormonal and at least for the first year or so, so tied to my mammary glands, it was also emotional in a way over which I feel I have no control. Now I understand how hard it is to give your partner the time and space she needs with the baby. I do it. But I also see why some women have a hard time with it.”
This word from the frontlines, from someone in shoes nearly identical to mine (even down to spacing of the kids, and the near-religious advocacy for non-bio-moms everywhere), has me wondering how I will feel about “sharing” this baby come birth time. I have long said that even though it was sort of an accident, given our personalities, it is a really good thing that Gail carried first, placing me on the less traveled parental path. Gail is generally less territorial than I am, and this really helped her to be comfortable supporting my relationship with Leigh early on, and I was also so strongly motivated to jump in and build that relationship right away, perhaps more motivated than Gail would have been since she’s a little more “go-with-the-flow.” But here we are, just a couple months from welcoming this next baby, and it is still true that I’m more territorial than Gail. So I find myself wondering, which will carry more weight, my enthusiasm for Gail to connect with our new baby, as informed by my experience the last time, or a possible (probable?) hormone driven possessiveness that leads me to be reluctant to share the parenting time and mothering turf?
I’ve heard of other families who alternated uteri, where the second time through the pregnant mom felt a little harangued by all of the pregnancy advice. In our family, I fear it is Gail who is harangued. I’m so damn proud of everything that we figured out the first time about how to get an NGP on solid footing ASAP, that I have to remind myself to back off, and that Gail will find her own relationship with this kiddo, and she may not find it by the same path that I did.
Gail and I really like the book Kidding Ourselves: Breadwinning, Babies and Bargaining Power by Rhona Mahoney. It’s about straight families, and written mostly to straight women (and is, unfortunately, unnecessarily harsh on guys), but she gets a lot of stuff right about the unspoken bartering and bargaining that happens around parenthood, often even before there is a kid in the picture. One thing she writes about is how having some sort of “commitment mechanism” can help to make sure you don’t slip into a place as a family you’d rather not be. In her book, this would be about making sure all parenting doesn’t fall solely to mom in a straight family, but I think it applies here too. Lord knows I’ve spouted off about “selfish GPs” (of all stripes) not letting their partners actually, say, parent their kids, that I’d damn well better be willing to put my money where my mouth is this go round, and there you have it, a bit of a commitment mechanism to make sure I don’t hog the baby too much. We’ve also structured our parenting time to make sure Gail has substantial uninterrupted time with the new kid (3 days home for her, 2 days home for me once we start work in the Fall, both of us home for the summer), so that’s another commitment mechanism. But I also get that I’ve never had this particular experience before, and I need to be willing to be surprised by it, and not interpret any pang of territorial feelings on my part as some sort of failure. I’d be curious to hear any experiences along these lines from readers who’ve been down similar paths, from either side.