Birth mom and . . .

Mookie has been interested in how babies are made for a long time. I’ve answered numerous times, since my dear wife’s response is invariably to say “That’s Mama’s department” and hide in her cave. She claims it’s because I’m the go-to person on what she calls “the squishy sciences”–i.e., biology–and it’s true, when Mookie has physics or engineering questions, I refer her to Mommy (but don’t hide in my cave, because I’d like to know the answers too). I do like biology and know more about anatomy and physiology than she does, dating to my 3rd grade ambition of becoming a doctor, but we both know the truth: she’s avoiding That Topic.

So Mookie and I have often consulted “the body book,” a favorite of mine from back in that 3rd grade year, which I’m sorry to see is out of print because it’s terrific. She knows quite a lot about how our bodies work. Nevertheless, different pieces of the puzzle fall into place at different times. Last week, I made a comment about some trait she got from Mommy, and she said, “No, I didn’t, because she isn’t my birth mom.” That was the first time we heard her put together the concepts “mother who gave birth to you” (amply demonstrated by photos of me pregnant) and “mother from whom you get some of your traits.” Actually that isn’t necessarily the same person, but she doesn’t know about IVF and that one mom can contribute the egg while the other mom gestates the baby, and as it happens, that isn’t what we did, so she is right: the egg that made Mookie came from me.

Other questions she’s raised have been about adoption (“Did you adopt me or did you have a baby and it was me?,” which I think probably didn’t arise from her having two moms but from her knowing that many people are adopted, including some of her school friends) and what childbirth feels like (having received an honest answer, she is dead set against it and intends either to adopt children, or else have her friend S., whom she plans to marry unless she marries that nice boy we met in the airport the other day, be the birth mom). But one question she hasn’t asked is how two women managed to conceive a child in the first place. She has all the information she needs to figure out that she’s missing a step of the process, but the penny hasn’t dropped. One of these days she’s going to say, “Hey, wait a minute!” the way she did yesterday when she finally made the connection between Chewie the Wookiee and Chewie our late cat.

I wonder, though, whether the imbalance of having one parent who conceived and bore her, and one parent whose role is less evident, has been on her mind, because a few days after her “I don’t take after Mommy” declaration, while we were visiting family, we had this conversation.

Mookie: How do you make babies?

Me: [I offer silent prayer of gratitude that my dad and stepmother are on the other end of the house, explain the man-has-sperm, woman-has-egg thing again]

Mookie: And then the baby comes out of the birth mama. I’m never going to do that. Maybe S. could be the birth mama.

Me: Maybe. You’ll have to ask S. about that.

Mookie: Or I could adopt a baby.

Me: Great idea.

Mookie: What names did you have for me before you named me?

Me: You mean, what other names did we think of?

This was a departure. We’ve told her how we chose her name, but she’s never asked about it in the context of pregnancy and birth before.

Mookie: Yes.

Me: Well, you know we were thinking of names that began with __, after your great-grandma . . . [I tell her a few names we considered]

Mookie: Why didn’t you pick those?

Me: Oh, I would like one but Mommy wouldn’t like it as much. And Mommy liked _____, but it’s my middle name, and I thought you should have a different name than mine.

Mookie: I’m glad you didn’t choose that one. I would choose ______ [her actual name, which I’ll call {Mookie} from now on to add a little more confusion].

Me: Well, that worked out perfectly. We must have known.

Mookie: So how did you choose it?

Again, this is all old territory, but she’s never asked about it step by step like this.

Me: So we were talking about this name and that name, and then one day Mommy called me and said, “How about [Mookie]?” “[Mookie]!” I said. “That’s beautiful!” And we named you [Mookie].

Mookie: So you’re my birth mom and Mommy is my namer mom.

Me: Yes!

Mookie: [laughs]

Me: You’ll have to tell Mommy that when we get back home.

Mookie: I want to tell her right now!

So we are now her Birth Mama and Namer Mommy. Maybe it is her way of making sense of our different roles. But I still think she takes after her Mommy. Smart as a whip, stubborn as a nut on a rusted bolt, sweet as maple syrup.

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