Are You My Mother? Why I Donated My Embryo

The woman he will call mother is a stranger to me.
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Are you my mother? The sweet story of a baby bird who arrives in the world and must search high and low for his missing mama was one of my daughter’s favorite books in her earliest years. The lost soul asks the question of everyone he meets until, at last, they are reunited.

I haven’t thought of the story in some time, but this week, its rhymes form an endless loop in my mind. Because yesterday, a life with all the potential of my daughter ― and half my DNA ― was given the chance to begin his journey into the world.

But when he arrives, I will not be there. It will not be my face that he sees, nor my arms that hold him close. The woman he will call mother is a stranger to me.

And what it means to be a mother is weighing heavily on my heart.

Our journey to parenthood was a long road with many unexpected turns and no shortage of disappointment. When our sweet girl arrived, we were elated. Our long-held desire was finally realized, and we declared our family of three to be just the right size. As an only child, I recited the benefits of raising a singleton like a mantra until my husband and I came to believe them.

But as time passed, my mind would wander to the remaining child that could still be. Our final round of IVF resulted in four embryos. The first did not result in a pregnancy. The next two were transferred simultaneously, and I became pregnant ― with twins! But one did not make it to delivery. That left us with one daughter. And one remaining embryo. Waiting for his chance.

Am I his mother? I asked myself over and over. Our genetic connection is indisputable, but a mother is so much more. To be a mother is to comfort and encourage ― to correct and protect. It is being there for the 2am feeding and the 4am trip to the emergency room. It is kissing away tears and hugging away fears. It is being on-call 24 hours a day ― every day ― and putting your child’s needs above everything ― and everyone ― else. And I gave that responsibility ― and privilege ― away.

Despite hailing from different faith traditions, my husband and I shared the unwavering conviction that Baby D was a life that should have the opportunity to flourish. But we agreed the risks were too high for us to endure the process again.

Having been on the receiving end of an embryo adoption earlier in our journey, paying it forward seemed the right choice. We found peace in the decision to play a role in helping someone who was biologically unable to have a child become a parent.

When we received news of our first match, we searched the story and photos of the potential adopting parents for a sign. Are you his mother? I asked. Will you rock him through sleepless nights? Will your heart break at his first smile? Will you marvel at his first word?

The answer seemed to be yes, but the arrangement fell through. The news flooded me with doubt. I asked myself, my husband, God: Am I his mother?

Before we could answer the question, another match presented itself. Are you his mother? I asked. Will you love him through tantrums? Will you thrill at his first steps? Will you read his favorite books until their words are embedded in your heart?

And now, finally, the question has been answered. Yesterday, a lovely young stranger received her opportunity to become a mother ― his mother. In two weeks, we will learn whether the transfer resulted in a pregnancy.

As we await the results, I want desperately for this couple’s prayers to be answered. I want this child to have a life filled with love. But I also long to go back and answer the question differently ― to embrace the incredible responsibility of being a mother in all its fullness. I want to be the vessel that carries him and the arms that welcome into the world, the smile that reassures, the voice that says, yes, I am your mother.

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