He will be (legally) mine

To Whom It May Concern:

I have examined the patient, C, and have found her to be in good health. I have no reason to believe that the patient’s health status will in any way compromise her ability to be an adoptive parent.

1972448_10103694651286023_1656771591_nThose are the contents of the letter I obtained today from a local urgent care clinic so that I can submit the step parent adoption process to finally call E my legal son. I am stopping by the courthouse first thing in the morning to drop off the mighty load of paperwork required for the process.

I’ve heard a number of same-sex couples who were legally married last Saturday have already begun filing the paperwork for step parent adoption and are being assigned caseworkers. Step parent adoption, as opposed to second parent adoption, is for legally married couples. Second parent adoption would then be reserved for committed, but not married, couples, but is not currently available because of the stay issued by the Sixth Circuit Court. Truth be told, I don’t love the emphasis on biological vs. non-biological connection to a child conveyed by the title “step parent,” but it seems like a streamlined process that will provide me with the same legal rights to my child, which matters more to me.

After I submit the paperwork and a case worker is assigned, I will have an initial interview with the case worker, pay for fingerprinting, and then schedule and pay for a second assessment, which I think is actually a home study. At that point, it will go to the judge for consideration and, hopefully, finalization.

I was initially quoted $1,500 to go through the process with a knowledgeable family law attorney, and that was what we had planned to do. We spoke with a friend of ours who is also a family law attorney, who encouraged us to submit the paperwork quickly and without the hiring an attorney. The paperwork is really straightforward and is available with instructions on the County’s website.

In about 12 hours, the ball will officially be rolling, folks! We can use your positive energy, prayers, and good thoughts for an ideal and expedited outcome for the sake of our family.

An open letter to my 7-month-old

Dear Son,

You are growing and changing so rapidly. Last night, I cried as I was falling asleep because I’m sad about how quickly time is passing. I’m afraid that I’ve made decisions I regret, many of which have kept me from focusing on what truly matters – you – instead of an endless list of meaningless tasks and logistics.

This morning, you gave me the greatest gift of your musical laughter. After consuming an impressively large bottle, instead of immediately squirming out of my arms to play like you do so often these days, you initiated a game of peekaboo with me. You lifted up your burp cloth to hide your face, and when you dropped it, you squealed with joy. You did this over and over again, and we took turns hiding behind the burp cloth, you laughing with each and every reveal. Having such a fun and loving time with you this morning made it very difficult for me to leave and go to work.

20131111-090034.jpgYour newfound mobility scares Mama a bit because she knows that this is just the beginning of your increasing independence and decreasing need for constant assistance. When I see you make your way over to your toy bin, pull it out and peek inside, your “jackpot!” reaction warms my heart and reminds me that we are both doing our jobs to help you become the person you’re meant to be.

Words can’t fully express my love for you, son. I hope that my actions each day convey the depth of these feelings.

Xoxo
Mama

Family reunion

Yesterday, K, E and I attended an event that’s hosted by the reproductive endocrinologist who helped us conceive E. It was held in a park with a bouncy house and free ice cream from an ice cream truck, and was meant to be a sort of family reunion for families who have expanded because of the staff’s loving expertise. K and I wanted to attend because our lives had gotten busy and we had never gotten the chance to take E into the office and thank the staff.

It was a lovely park that we didn’t even know existed, and the weather was perfect for the event. Staff members ooed and ahhed over E and other babies in attendance. The oddest part was an unofficial receiving line of sorts where parents and babies waited to speak to the doctor. It felt a little bit like an unintended “meet your maker” sort of moment, but likely only because there were so many thankful parents (like us) who wanted to say hello to the doc.

The doctor’s practice is located in a very upscale nearby community, so K and I weren’t sure what sort of crowd to expect at this gathering. I was pleased that so many of the families seemed down-to-earth and friendly. We chatted with some of the parents about each other’s babies, milestones, etc. K and I confessed to each other later that we each spent time wondering about each of these family’s experiences with infertility. Thoughts of, “I’ll bet you were a cycle monitored, fertility med sort of family,” and, “IVF with egg donor for sure,” kept swirling through my head.

There was one family that was among the demographic I expected to see at this event: a privileged blond woman with her equally privileged mother and baby. They were, as K put it, a spectacle. The baby’s grandma clearly had a lot of plastic surgery and the entire family was decked out in a wide array of upscale clothing brands. The baby was cruising in a $5 bajillion stroller and had no short of seventeen toys dangling in front of her glitter beret topped head. I imagined that the mother had been married to a very wealthy older gentleman and, upon his death, had a doctor harvest his sperm so that she could conceive her miracle baby and secure a larger part of his estate for her and his postmortem spawn.

I wondered what others assumed our fertility journey was, and mused that they were all likely very far off from the accurate story.

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..!

Brighter day

Today has been a phenomenal end to what has been one of the shittiest weeks in recent history.

K, E and I went to the home of a woman with whom K went to high school because she was selling her used car. It was a 2000 Saturn with low miles, in really good condition, and K’s friend is the original owner. His friend showed us the car and we all went for a test drive. It isn’t perfect and K’s friend was super honest about some of the (VERY minor) things that could use work, but it runs well, has cold air conditioning, and is priced very fairly. Suffice it to say, it looks like we’ll soon be a two-car family! We’re going to meet his friend at the Secretary of State office (this is what most non-Michiganders know as the Department of Motor Vehicles) on September 6 to officially buy it and transfer the title. THE END IS IN SIGHT!

Afterwards, we spent a couple of hours playing and chatting with friends at a local park. We got caught up on all of our friend gossip, commiserated about baby illnesses and other parenting woes, ate some snacks, and played a little on the playground. K even went down the slide with E, which was really adorable.

Then, we came home, took turns napping and caring for E, then K washed dishes while E played in his bouncy seat (which we’ve termed his “executive chair”) and I baked gluten free chocolate chip cookies. Then, we all danced and sang to oldies music, as E seems to really like Motown (good Detroiter that he is!).

Yesterday, I did something super out of character, and went to my very first playdate with strangers (who AM I?!). A local queer parenting list owner and another member have sons who are just a couple of months older than E and were looking to get together. The list owner invited us to her home and I bravely accepted, knowing full well that it would mostly be a mommy get-together since, at our kids’ age, it’s mostly snuggles and minimal parallel play. We mostly sat around in her living room with the boys, talking about typical getting-to-know-you parenting topics like where we take our kids to daycare, which pediatrician we see, and whether or not we want additional children. We also talked about typical queer parenting topics like how we conceived, whether or not we’re legally married in another state, and what other queer parenting resources/groups we access. It was a fun mommy milestone for me that I’m really proud of myself for embarking upon.

Thankfully, we left this weekend fairly open to allow a lot of time to decompress from traveling last weekend. I’m thinking we’ll be taking a lot of naps and catch up on television shows between chores, and that sounds like absolute perfection to me after the past week of diarrhea, fussing and repair dude in our home.

Older than dirt

I officially turned 35 last weekend and I certainly feel every single second of it.

Lately, it doesn’t seem to matter how much sleep I get at night (E sleeps through the night and I’m grateful) or how many naps I take during the day (if I’m lucky enough to get one), I. Am. Wiped. I knew that parenthood would bring a new level of exhaustion, but I never realized how terrible the exhaustion could be. My fibromyalgia and carpal tunnel are flaring, I’m having frequent migraines, and I just feel so worn down.

In an effort to keep this post from becoming yet another mommy pity party, I am happy to report that K gave me the perfect birthday gift: a French press so that I can make delectable, coffee snob approved, cold-brewed iced coffee. I’m used to drinking an iced coffee pretty much each morning these days, but I had one of my cold-brewed coffees yesterday afternoon as well. It was the equivalent of Spiderman’s radioactive spider bite: I. Was. A. Motherf*cking. Superhero. Lesson learned – bring on the beans!

This was my favorite gift this year and I got to spend my entire birthday at home with him:

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Still swimming

I’ve been clamoring to draft a blog post for almost three weeks but have been too busy to do so. I wanted to check in to say that we’re all still here!

I temporarily suspended my maternity leave after we got home from the hospital because of the large fundraising event that was on the horizon. I knew that my coworkers would have been completely screwed had I decided not to come back to help and, while it would have been my justifiable right to do so, the guilt would have eaten me alive. My decision to go back to work for two weeks translated into the most chaotic mayhem and lack of work/life balance I’ve likely ever experienced.

I felt like I did my very best to maintain as much of the baby-related work as I possibly could while working 50-60 hours in a week. K took most of the nighttime feedings and diapering duties, letting me sleep as much as possible so I could be lucid enough to work. I was able to conduct the majority of my work from home and at all hours of the day or night, but this past week required me to be at the workplace more frequently. I thought that mommy guilt was going to eat me alive – and mommy guilt was pretty much the only thing eating, as I certainly wasn’t consuming food.

The event took place this past Thursday and I’m happy to report that we all survived. I think it went as well as expected. I now have a couple of work days next week that will be solely focused on event wrap-up, then I will resume my maternity leave. I am looking so forward to doing just that – spending time with my guys, bonding as a new unit, taking walks and naps, and learning what the new normal of our family will look like.

Looking back at these past few weeks, I can honestly say that I couldn’t have made it through without my family. Waking up with E’s milky breath in my face, seeing his sweet face and knowing that I could count on my handsome, loving and hardworking husband was my fuel.

Right now, I have a load of diaper laundry in the wash, just completed washing bottles, and am catching a rerun of Law & Order while E sweetly naps at my side. I’m waiting for him  to wake up for his next feeding, then will change his diaper, and run a few errands while he sleeps a few more hours. I’m still very much in a place of amazement about my new mommyhood status, but I’m loving it.

I promise I won’t be such a stranger in the coming weeks!

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.

Our Birth Plan

I originally password protected this post because there are family members who now have access to this blog and we were waiting until the birth of our child to announce his sex… which is male. Yes, readers – you now know that we’re having an amazing, deliciously imperfect little boy, whom we plan to encourage to express his gender however he wishes/decides. This post, which contains the finalized version of our birth plan, specifically mentions Falco’s sex.

Our Birth Hopes

Gestational Parent/Father-to-be: K
Non-Gestational Mother-to-be: C
Doula: Marie
Location: Our Hospital Birthing Suite

Hi there and thank you for your care and expertise during this exciting moment in our growing family! We’re K and C and this is our first baby. We appreciate you taking the time to learn about us and our birth preferences.

It is really important to us that you know that K, who is delivering our child, identifies as a man, uses male pronouns such as he/him, and will be our child’s father. We’d like you to also be aware that C is our baby’s mother. While we know that mistakes and confusion can occur, we hope that you will do your very best to refer to us using these terms.

Birth preferences:
We know that labor and delivery are unpredictable. Ultimately, we want the health of K and our baby to take precedence. Whenever possible in non-emergent situations, we’d like to discuss all procedures, including their risks and benefits, before they take place.

Labor:

  • We would like only necessary people in the room during labor and delivery. This includes C, our doula, a nurse, and our doctor.
  • K wishes to be able to move freely in order to naturally manage his pain. To this end, he would like a port to be inserted upon our admission, and for an IV to be used only if it is determined to be necessary. He would also like intermittent monitoring instead of constant monitoring techniques, when at all possible.
  • K wishes to be able to utilize natural comfort measures, including but not limited to the use of a shower or tub, changing positions, and the ability to walk to stimulate/progress labor.
  • We are aware of the availability of pain-relieving medication, and will request it if the father feels it is necessary. Please do not offer pain medication.

Delivery:

  • K would like to be able to push as he feels naturally compelled to do so (i.e. spontaneous/patient-directed pushing style). Please do not direct his pushing by counting.
  • We would like the ability to try different pushing positions, including but not limited to squatting, hands and knees, and toilet sitting. Please do not limit K to birthing our baby while he is on his back.

Cesarean Section:

  • We wish for both C and our doula to be present if a cesarean section is necessary.
  • So that we feel involved in the process, we would like for the doctor or nurse to describe what is taking place during the cesarean section.
  • While K is recovering from the cesarean section, our infant should remain with C, unless he is experiencing a medical emergency that requires immediate medical care.

Newborn care:

  • Cord cutting: We wish to allow our child to continue to be attached to the umbilical cord until it has stopped pulsing. At that time, C would like to cut the cord.
  • Temperature regulation: We wish for our child to be placed, skin-to-skin, with C or K, immediately after birth.
  • Eye treatment: We wish to forgo the antibiotic ointment in our child’s eyes.
  • Rooming in: We wish for our child to remain in our room at all times, unless he is experiencing a medical emergency that requires immediate medical care.
  • Circumcision: We do not want our child to be circumcised.
  • Feeding: We are unable to breastfeed our child and would like to use bottled formula.
  • Bathing: Due to a risk of severe maternal allergy, please do not bathe our infant with any product other than what we have provided.