When writer Lucy Fry’s wife became pregnant, she wasn’t sure how to feel. As the due date grew closer, she missed appointments and trips, and even considered running away. Ahead of Mother’s Day 2020, she shares her story.
When my wife, B, told me she was pregnant, over four years ago now, I felt numb and vaguely worried.
She was so excited and hopeful about the news. So why didn’t I share in that joy? Not only had she recently miscarried – and the remnants of that trauma were very much still hanging around, in different ways, for us both – but I had begun to wonder if parenthood was, really and truly, what I wanted.
I was obsessive about writing. I also loved weight training, yoga, and I was learning to hold a handstand. All of those things took up a lot of my time, requiring the kind of rested body and clear mind that I knew a baby would prevent. Was I about to lose all my independence, along with my ability to do everything that brought me joy?
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It was too late to change my mind. Since we met eight years previously, B had always been adamant about wanting a child (and to be pregnant) and had pursued that goal single-mindedly.
It was she who had begun looking for a suitable donor, set up meetings, bought insemination kits and books and changed her diet and lifestyle to ensure she did everything she could to improve her chances of conceiving.
This was the dream, for me, since all I’d heard from my own mother about the pregnancy and childbirth part of motherhood was negative. Yet I had always imagined that one day, in the far-off future, I would have kids.
Now here was B, thrilled to carry, birth and breastfeed our baby, to take a year off work, and generally be number one.
All I would have to do, was, well… what exactly?
This time our baby – our son – developed well. We passed the crucial three-month mark, and then the torturous ‘anomaly’ scan at 20 weeks. With every milestone however, I became more and more anxious and dissociated. Yet everybody kept telling me what a fantastic parent I was going to make! I was naturally playful and loving, had always adored the company of children and was a very enthusiastic aunty.
I felt so guilty for my seemingly-illegitimate feelings (I had wanted a baby, so why wasn’t I happy now?) that I acted out. I missed hospital appointments. I missed shopping trips for baby stuff. I even thought, very briefly, about running away.
I see now that I had no point of reference, and that is always terrifying. I didn’t know at that stage that for every hour of sleep lost there would be a few seconds of exquisite, profound connection with a tiny being who I adored with my every cell.
I also felt out of place, and weird – often. We were the only same-sex couple in our very heteronormative ante-natal classes, for example, which left me and ‘the boys’ in a group together whilst ‘the girls’ talked about breastfeeding and epidurals. Also, I had internalised the impostor syndrome often placed on non-biological parents by much of traditional society (and certainly the white, middle-class, Christian society that I grew up in during the 80s and 90s).
My mother asked if I was sure I would be able to bond with a child that wasn’t genetically mine (she wasn’t the only one to worry) and acquaintances made jokes about me being ‘the dad’. The other question was around rights. So what happens if you two split? They asked, constantly. Will you be stopped from seeing your child?
There is so little widespread knowledge about same-sex parenting that people often assume I had to formally adopt our child, even though it’s been over a decade (2009) since the law has stated that any person in a Civil Partnership with a biological mother of a child conceived via donor sperm will have legal parental responsibility.
Even the most liberal, clued-up friends in my social circle still asked the question: what will he call you, then? Simply assuming B would be mummy and I would be… well, what? Quite truthfully, I wasn’t sure. I wanted to be mother and not mother. I wanted to inhabit this new space of not-tummy mummy but also unshackle myself from some restrictive old-fashioned ideas about what motherhood looks like.
But then my son was born. B went into surgery immediately, leaving me with the ‘golden hour’. It was transformative; it all made sense; any uncertainties just fell away and, apologies for the nauseating cliché but, I fell in love. Every day since then, that love has grown. It has been stretched and strained like dough, and tastes more delicious now, in the lead up to my third Mother’s Day as my son’s mummy (and yes, he calls me mummy) than it has ever been.
Easier Ways To Say I Love You by Lucy Fry is available to buy here
Images: Getty, Unsplash