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IV. Phase four: Laura asked, "Where is my mommy?" and David began to tell her story

While I was away for the summer break, and Laura was two years and seven months old, David left a message apologising for calling but asking if I could call back.

David told me that Laura said, "I want my mommy” emphasising the word my, and that despite our talk, he was not expecting this. He asked her if she wanted him to tell her the story of how she was born, and she said yes. He told her he wanted to have her very, very much and that for anyone to have a baby, you needed: a sperm, an egg, a lady's body to carry the baby in her tummy, and someone to love and take care of the baby when it was born. There were two nice ladies who helped him. One gave the egg and the other carried Laura in her tummy.

David said Laura was very attentive while he told her this. He said it made daddy so happy to be able to have her. When he was finished, she said "again”, and he told her again and that happened three times. He also told her she had met the lady who carried her in her tummy and that lady was Cindy. The next day Laura asked to see Cindy, and David said they would visit her soon. David told me he hopes Laura does not get too focused on Cindy as a mother and then feels like she was not wanted by her. David said that after talking Laura played with a stuffed animal kitty and asked David, "Where's the kitty's mommy?” David said maybe the kitty has a daddy, and Laura repeated, "Where's the kitty's mommy?” David repeated maybe she has a daddy and Laura said, "The kitty's mommy is hiding.” I said it was wonderful they could talk about Laura's birth story and that Laura could play about it, but I wondered why the kitty could not have a mommy. David realised he had felt anxious about Laura's wish for the kitty to have a mommy and had blocked that play for her.

We talked about the importance of Laura being able to imagine and play different family scenarios and to express her feelings about them.

In this phase there is a mother in Laura's mind that belongs to her, "my mommy”, and a dialogue between David and Laura about who comprises that mommy. Ehrensaft (2000) describes how the construction and destruction of the representation of the absent parent is an important dynamic in donor families.

She gives examples of parents and children, usually latency age, who struggle with constructing images of the donors, making them into real whole people not just sperm or eggs, and also destroying representations of donors, minimising their importance as whole people so as to keep from devaluing themselves and the parent that is actually there. This tendency can be seen in David and Laura—a struggle to keep mother representations from looming too large and interfering with David being experienced and understood as the primary object, but also a struggle to let into consciousness the other "mothers” who contributed to Laura's life.

It was very important for David to have someone he trusted, whom he knew witnessed, validated, and valued his position as primary parent and father, to talk with about his concerns about that position, and to become comfortable pleasurably musing about Laura, Luke, and their development. Often I was aware that I might be filling in as a maternal figure for David, and that I served that function even for Laura around the time of Luke's birth. I knew I was extending my role as observer but didn't feel like a therapist or a friend. I felt a little bit in new professional territory. Throughout the observation, I also was very aware of how moved I felt by David's generosity in opening his family to me.

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