Commence heteronormative parenting group

The hospital system through which E was born offers optional parenting groups based on a baby’s age and family’s location. For six months, a group meets every other week for two hours – the first half of the session is typically dedicated to a topic of interest to the group and the second half is for social time. While we have a lot of rad parents and kids in our lives, we liked the notion of connecting with parents whose children are experiencing similar milestones and challenges around the same pace. K and I decided to be brave and enroll in one of the evening groups and our group started this week.

Birth story aside, I knew that we’d be the weirdos of the group, and I say that mostly with pride. Even most of our mundane parenting choices and preferences (cloth diapering, baby-led weaning, babywearing, baby with a hyphenated last name, etc.) put us on the fringe of most circles. Oftentimes, the knowledge of our stark differences leaves us with the expectation of needing to defend our identities and choices, which doesn’t make for a very comfortable setting. Still, we figured that we’d be interacting with mainstream parents eventually and decided to dip our toes in when we still had the option of dropping out of this particular group.

I was right in our assumption that we were rather different from other parents, but I was expecting more judgment or hesitation from the other members. Instead, we were greeted with warm smiles and friendly questions. I also expected more stay-at-home mothers in the group, but I believe all are households in which both parents work outside of the home, likely because it’s an evening group offering. I imagine that our group feels and looks a bit different from the groups that are offered mid-morning and likely attract only mothers. I was also surprised to see that one of our group members is a local elected official who is very progressive.

K and I are on the fence about whether or not we will eventually tell the group members about E’s origins. We plan on being very open with our baby, family members and friends, but when it comes to the rest of the world, we’re kind of the standpoint of disclosing on a need-to-know basis, and I realize the privilege in our ability to make that decision. Ultimately, I want E to have as much agency as possible with regard to the disclosure of his birth story, and that can’t happen if we’ve told everyone and their brother. With that in mind, K and I were a little nervous when our icebreaker was to tell our birth stories. To sidestep the issue of needing to get into something so complex with literal strangers, I opted to tell a very vague but hilarious tale surrounding E’s birth, when he made his debut and promptly peed an arc above everyone in attendance. “He has enjoyed making a big first impression since day one,” I quipped.

E was very social and smiled at parents and babies alike. I think he might have been the only baby present who didn’t cry at least once. He had a great time wiggling on the floor with some of the other kiddles, and when we took a group picture of the babies, E had his arms casually slung around both of his neighbors, as if to say, “I’m hangin’ with my bros!” (There is only one girl in the entire group!)

One thing that I greatly dislike about the group relates to the hospital’s organization of it. At the time of each baby’s birth, the hospital promotes the parenting groups and gives everyone the option of signing up if it sounds interesting to them. Before we were discharged from the hospital with E, I sent an email to the parenting resources coordinator at the hospital to sign up for the group. In my email, I relayed the requested information including my full name, my husband’s name, our location and our baby’s date of birth. When the group was formed, K – not me – and a list of clearly all women received a mass email with the details, even though I had never sent his email address to the parenting resources coordinator. Then, the night of the group, our volunteer facilitator passed around the group roster, saying that this information was provided by the hospital, and asked us to update or change anything we needed or wanted. Luckily, she handed me the roster first, which allowed me an opportunity to black out inaccurate/inappropriate information before others saw it. The roster was a bolded list of all women’s names, including K’s legal/given name (again, I never disclosed that to the parenting resources coordinator), their contact information, babies’ names, and husband’s names with the word “father” in parentheses after the men’s names. E’s last name was listed as being K’s last name, which isn’t on ANY paperwork anywhere, and my name, which was in the “husband” area (not labeled, but clear that’s what the intention of that spot was) had parentheses with nothing inside of them, like they couldn’t even figure out what my relation to this family was! Now, it’s clear to me that the parenting resources coordinator used health information on file at the hospital instead of the information provided to them by the parents as they were signing up for the groups, and that does NOT sit well with me. I plan on reaching out to the coordinator right away to let them know that we are displeased by this fact and that we never consented for this information to be relayed to others.

For now, K and I plan to continue going to the group unless or until we decide it isn’t meeting our needs, or if the downsides end up outweighing the benefits. Hopefully, there are more interesting anecdotes to come..!

On privilege

[This post was written on December 28, 2012, but since we weren’t yet making Falco’s sex public, I couldn’t post this until now.]

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it will mean to be parents of a small person who, from the time of his entry into the world, will already be gifted a whole lot more privilege than either of his parents received and experienced. Falco’s privilege gift basket includes but is definitely not limited to:

  • Being a cisgender male. Sure, Falco, your daddy walks through the world as a man and, as such, receives a lot of unearned privilege as a result. It is so very different to be a cisgender male, to have your biology and body match your gender identity, and to have a penis in a world that seems obsessed with the phallus. How in the hell are we going to deal with this when neither of your parents can relate?
  • Being a white person in a world that values whiteness, equates beauty with white standards, and routinely and systematically oppresses people of color. Your mommy and daddy believe that parenting around white privilege will be quite a challenge, but as people who have experienced white privilege their entire lives and actively and carefully work to consider and address issues of racism, we feel prepared for this particular challenge.
  • Being a person whose parents are perceived to be a heterosexual couple. Nevermind that you were birthed through your papa’s vagina, Falco, or that your mama will not yet have legal recognition as your mother, as the majority of the world will never know this. Once you are here and in our arms, the public will see what they perceive to be a mama and papa wearing you, carrying you, and loving on you. They will interpret our family unit as “normal,” which is gross and unfair. Luckily, you will have a lot of people in your life who are queer, have queer parents, and love queer people. Your father and mother also grew up with parents who were perceived to be heterosexual, and we will make sure that you have access to all sorts of family structures and thoroughly understand that family is not about biology, gender, sexuality, or number of adults that one might have in their lives.

Everytime someone tells me how I will soon see that raising a son is “easy” – and trust me, it happens with shocking frequency – I want to scream at them, “If raising a son is so ‘easy,’ you’re fucking doing it WRONG!” One of our friends, badass feminist blogger Cristy C of UpRoot fame, has uttered the following many times and it really resonates with us: “It is easier to teach someone to resist their oppression than it is to teach someone to refuse their own privilege.”

Raising a son who understands and rejects the nuances of the privilege he is handed simply for being born who he is will quite literally be the largest challenge we will ever experience. Bring it.

Everyday Heterosexism, an update

If you recently read about the heterosexist poll I received in an Everyday Family weekly pregnancy email, you might be interested to hear that I received a response to my complaint about the exclusionary language:

Hi C,
Thank you for your communication to EverydayFamily (www.everydayfamily.com).

Thank you for your feedback. We have updated this poll within our email and site to read ‘partner’ rather than husband.

Thank you for your membership,

Megan
Member Services
EverydayFamily

They really did change it, too. How do I know? For some reason, they send me emails at the beginning and the ending of each week. The change is documented below:

No longer heterosexist!

Now, this action and response doesn’t address every exclusionary issue at-hand with their original poll language, it’s a definite improvement. It’s also an important reminder that expressing what doesn’t work for you or your family and speaking out against exclusion and injustice sometimes, though not always, yields results.

Everyday Heterosexism

While those weekly pregnancy updates from such sites as Everyday Family and BabyCenter clearly do not apply to K and I in most cases, I truly get excited when I receive them because they help me to understand where K and Falco are in their developmental stages. While reading their emails, I manage my expectations and edit pronouns and gender identities to better apply in my head. Today’s 30 week Everyday Family email is too much for me to bear, though. It contains a completely heterosexist, assumption-laden survey:

everyday heterosexism

I just needed to note my outrage by this ridiculous, exclusionary language.

Looking at Falco again

Our OB wanted us to repeat our anatomy scan because the ultrasonographer didn’t capture everything the OB wanted to see the last time. K has been really stressed about this and we’ve both been really hopeful that Falco is developing exactly how our little one should be.

Today was definitely a rocky day. K was so stressed that he got a terrible night’s sleep last night. We woke up at 5 a.m. and while K was in the shower, I bundled up to go outside and shovel snow for the third time in 12 hours. (Can I just say what a shitty season this is to be a non-gestational partner?) We scrambled to leave early just in case the roads were still really rough, and managed to get to the ultrasound appointment before any of the fetal imaging staff members arrived. K was nauseous from stress and I was battling a pounding headache from sleep deprivation and/or impending illness.

The ultrasound tech was a lot less friendly and personable than the tech we had the first time. I was also really irritated by her heterosexist and gendered assumptions when she called K to come back by referring to him as “Mrs. Hislastname.” Seriously, Mrs.? Not every person in fetal imaging is married (let alone female, but I’m willing to let that slide since we’re a fairly unique case), so why not just call people’s first or full names?

The tech was really quiet while she conducted the ultrasound, only occasionally pointing out various structures. She spent a lot of time on Falco’s heart, which made my own heart pound with anxiety while my imagination ran away, worrying that they were repeating the exam because Falco had a heart problem. The coolest part of the ultrasound was when K felt Falco kick and, at the same time, saw the kick on the ultrasound screen and as movement on the outside of his belly. The ultrasonographer said that Falco weighs approximately 1 lb. 4 oz. and everything “looks average.” Even though we’re a family of overachievers, this information gave us a sigh of relief.

After the ultrasound, we slowly made our way through the Michigan slush to our next OB appointment. Thankfully, we were early, allowing us time to run a quick errand before the appointment. K’s blood pressure was slightly elevated for his typical measurement, but still very much within the normal range. The OB says this is something she is going to closely monitor.

By the time we made it to the appointment, our doctor had already received the new ultrasound report and said that all of the structures that weren’t visible in the previous ultrasound. We asked for clarification about why we needed the repeat ultrasound, and the OB told us that a number of times, little ones don’t cooperate in terms of their position, and not all structures are visible. Falco’s lips and heart chambers weren’t visible in the previous ultrasound. The OB assured us that everything is going well and that we have nothing to worry about. K needs to get his glucose tolerance test before our next visit in a month. Oh, joy of joys.

We’re breathing a sigh of relief from the good news and are looking forward for the milestones to come!

Confirming the confirmed & moving forward

K just got a call from our reproductive endocrinologist’s office with our first HCG beta number: 102! A nice, normal number for a gestational parent who’s anything but. We’ll be headed to their office, bright and early every Monday and Thursday mornings for the next several weeks, then we have a couple of ultrasounds, and are released to the OB office. K scheduled our first OB visit for late September when we’re right around 10 weeks.

In my quest toward mommy-to-be perfection (I’m certain I’ll examine this further in a future blog), I have this overwhelming sense of panic about the ever-growing list of tasks we need to accomplish in the next 35 or so weeks. I’ve already scheduled us for some classes and have begun investigating others. When it comes to classes, the one I’m most nervous about is the birthing class. The last thing we need is a heterosexist, judgy environment inflicting stress on my love and little Falco. Using a similar strategy as K and I did when finding a reproductive endocrinologist who’d be respectful to our “unique situation,” I decided to reach out via email to some nurse educators at our hospital. I introduced myself, explained our identities and concerns, asked some questions and thanked them in advance for their help. Now, we wait. Worst case scenario: K and I persevere by finding our own resources and path (something we’re quite used to) and a medical provider learns something new about the gorgeous diversity in our world.

K apologizes for his lack of posting thus far. I suppose we were ambitious when we thought that his first trimester would still allow him to feel up to accomplishing even his regular tasks, let alone starting a new project like this baby blog.