At some point, someone will ask me the single most upsetting question about my future kid’s donor:
Do you ever wonder about the real mom?
Obviously the person asking will either be an idiot or an asshole, but either way I’ll know what they’re thinking, and that’s precisely the problem.
We live in a culture where the definition of the “real parents” is in flux. It’s traditionally understood that real parents are the people who you look like, and it takes a certain amount of work to undo that conditioning. In the meantime, insensitive comments like these make DE parents a tad upset.
For example, donor egg moms really, really, really don’t like when egg donors are referred to as mothers of any sort, and phrases like “genetic mothers” can send folks into a tizzy. What they’re reacting to makes sense, mind you. It’s threatening to feel disconnected from your DE child (which is bound to happen because parent-child relationships are nuanced), and it’s threatening to have your bond with your DE child devalued by people around you (which is bound to happen because people are idiots). In context, these moms’ reactions are completely and entirely appropriate.
What I struggle with is that DE moms defend their legitimacy by saying things like “I carried him,” “I gave birth to him,” and other assertions of biological involvement. I get what they mean, but this argument makes me uncomfortable because it implies that mothers who didn’t give birth to their children aren’t as worthy of the “mom” title and – the inverse – that birthmothers and surrogates are. All of which is to say that I think pregnancy a flawed defense of motherhood, and my opinion is that we shouldn’t use it.
As a community, our tact should be different. It’s simply a matter of reinforcing what we know to be true:
The real parents are the parents who raise the children.
This approach is particularly important when we consider that we’re a part of a broader community of women, men, and couples who’ve turned to donor eggs, donor sperm, surrogates, and adoption to help us complete our homes. Defining parenthood is a collective concern, and we should do it in a way that is as inclusive as possible of these diverse family make-ups.
Personally, (as I’ve mentioned before) I don’t feel threatened by having my donor referred to as the genetic mother. She is the genetic mother, and I’m the biological mother. That’s the situation, and I’m not afraid to name it.
The problem would be if you say anything about her being the real mother, at which point I’m also not afraid to mother-fuck you up.