scorecardMy wife had our son with IVF and a sperm donor. I worried I wouldn't feel like his 'real' mom, but that changed once he was born.
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My wife had our son with IVF and a sperm donor. I worried I wouldn't feel like his 'real' mom, but that changed once he was born.

Anna Malzy   

My wife had our son with IVF and a sperm donor. I worried I wouldn't feel like his 'real' mom, but that changed once he was born.
LifeScience3 min read
Anna Malzy and her son.    Courtesy Anna Malzy
  • Before our son was born, I had worries about whether or not I'd be seen as his "real" mother.
  • Strangers were sometimes confused about my role when my wife was pregnant, which was hard.

When I was about 14, I came across an old photo album of my mom's, which had some old snaps of her from her high-school days. I was delighted by these photos. I felt like I was looking in the mirror — I was the spitting image of her in these pictures.

Some years later, for my dad's 60th birthday, my sister and I decided to wear false mustaches throughout the party to pay homage to his fine facial hair, as well as to make ourselves laugh. When I looked back at the photos the following day, my sister looked delightfully comical and I, rather disconcertingly, looked exactly like my dad. I am, in different ways, a carbon copy of both my parents and have always grown up knowing this.

My son, however, won't look like me. I hope he'll take after me in other ways, but he is the biological child of my wife and a sperm donor, so he shares none of my genes. Before his birth, this fact constantly played on my mind. Though there was no way around it, I couldn't help fretting about having him turn to me one day in the future and accuse me of not being his "real mom."

It was hard for me when people were confused about my role in my son's life when my wife was pregnant

I'd already gotten a taste of this. Strangers would strike up conversation with my pregnant partner and I'd sometimes join in, answering questions about the due date and sex of our child. When looks of confusion about why I knew so much would flit across their faces, I found it difficult.

Anna (right), her wife (left), and their son (middle) in front of a ferris wheel on a pier
Malzy, right, with her wife and their son on a pier in front of a Ferris wheel.      Courtesy Anna Malzy

My wife always made an effort to draw me into those conversations. For her, there was no doubt at all who our son's other parent was; the ties would be just as strong between him and I as they would be between him and her. She was not brought up by her biological father and is very clear that the man who did raise her and her brother is their dad. Her faith in the nonnecessity of biology in creating filial ties has been unswerving, and she was a rock of assurance whenever I had doubts.

Six months ago, when our son was born, things immediately began to feel different. There is no obvious sign for people that one or other of us is his biological parent. They speak to whoever is holding him or pushing the stroller. I used to fear that if I were out alone with our son that people would somehow know I hadn't given birth to him, that they would think he wasn't really mine.

My worries have eased, and people are more curious than anything

This all dissipated pretty quickly the first time someone came up to me in the street and started chatting away to my son, as people do to babies, and asked me all the usual questions about how he was sleeping and eating and so on. It was a shock, but a very pleasant one.

Malzy's wife and their son.      Courtesy Anna Malzy

We have discovered that, in general, people are curious about our situation, rather than hostile toward it. We have been open with our friends and family about the whole process of IVF and using a donor, and we are happy to be that way with friendly strangers. We live in a small town in the southwest of France and don't know any other gay couples around us, so I suppose we are something of a curiosity.

I am happy to educate anyone who comes with an open mind, but I have my stock answer prepared if ever anyone asks us if we're worried about him growing up "different" — I'll simply say, "It's not that unusual to have one French parent and one British one."

As for our son, we plan to bring him up in as open-minded an environment as possible. We already read plenty of books to him about different sorts of families, we have documented the story of how he came into our lives to show him when he's older, and my wife will talk to him about her dad and how he stepped in to raise her, even though they didn't share any DNA, either.

I am learning the very real truth in the wisdom that what builds a family is love, fun, honesty, and care. Minutes after he was born, the midwife put my son in my arms and left the room. In that moment alone with this tiny new life, I swore to protect him, to love him, and to be the best mom to him that I possibly can, and I don't think having different genes will prevent me from trying to live up to that promise.