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.

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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.

FYI (if you’re a teenage girl)

This article was making the rounds recently and has been getting a lot of buzz:

FYI (if you’re a teenage girl).

Now, I’m all for encouraging young women to believe that their value stems from so much more than their appearance and that their actions matter, as part of this post addresses, but I have to say, as the mother of a son (at least until/unless he tells me otherwise), I have a few choice words about this post:

  1. I’m horrified by this particular mother policing her kids’ sexuality and invading their privacy.
  2. I particularly hate that she puts the blame and responsibility for men’s urges and subsequent actions on young women. She’s saying that someone can’t be sexually stimulated by something and be able to control his/her urges. Boys will be boys, after all.
  3. What about teaching her young men that women are people who should be respected and that they aren’t just bodies – or worse – body parts, placed on Earth for their sexual stimulation and gratification?
  4. Her assumption that her children will be heterosexual is nauseating and ridiculous.
  5. Double standard much? Young sluts ladies, don’t parade around braless in your pajamas, but be sure to check out my shirtless sons and husband who are flexing at the beach.

What do you think about this parent’s approach to sexuality and social media consumption? What is (or do you plan to be) your approach to these topics?

Edit: I found another blog post that is much more in line with my preferred approach as it relates to sexuality and social media. I decided to post the link as a great counterpoint to the above referenced post.

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..!

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.

Honoring Dr. King

I wanted to take a moment today, on this annual remembrance of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to share my favorite of his quotes:

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. The true neighbor will risk his position, his prestige, and even his life for the welfare of others.” – Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

To me, this quote is the very definition of what it means to be an ally. When allies are witness to injustice, oppression and prejudice, we make the conscious decision to act and be a part of the solution. Sometimes it’s tempting to sit back and wait for someone else to respond. Sometimes I think, “I don’t always have to say something…” I know that if I do not speak or act in that moment, I am a part of the culture of intolerance. Being an ally means that I am willing to be viewed as “that crazy lady,” eccentric, deluded, etc. if it means that I am actively communicating my support for people who experience oppression and making an effort to show bigots that people who may look or identify similarly to them do not all agree with their thoughts and actions.

What does being an ally mean to you?

Just when you think people get it…

This baby shower has brought nothing but grief and drama so far. K and I are both ready to tell everyone to forget about it.

In the middle of the night, when I was up for my regularly scheduled second dose of sleeping meds, I noticed that K’s Aunt K, the one who generously offered to host the baby shower, had sent an email in reply to K sending the names and addresses for our guest list. I was immediately annoyed when I read her email, which partly read:

I do recognize that you are a non traditional couple, however I envisioned a fun girls only afternoon shower rather than a couples party.  Please revise the list and we’ll keep planning a wonderfully exciting event 🙂

… crickets…

Can someone please explain to me how it’s even possible to have a “girls only” shower when the pregnant person doesn’t identify as a girl?! This aunt really should know better and I think that’s what upset me the most about her reaction.

Sometimes, when I’ve been thoroughly disturbed by something in the middle of the night, I wake K to process it, but with this situation, I knew he would be too stressed to go back to sleep if I did. I also knew that he would err on the side of accommodating his aunt, even if it meant that he felt awkward or made to feel invisible, and I didn’t even want that to be an option. Plus, I was feeling super mama-bear about the whole thing and really wanted to protect K as best I could.

Had any other in-law sent an email with this sentiment, I think I’d feel uncomfortable replying, but like I said, I hold this aunt to a higher standard and trust her to hear what I have to say on the matter. I took a deep breath and wrote as diplomatic and gracious of a reply as I could muster. Among some obligatory niceties, I said:

I think one of the challenges about a girls only shower is that we’d feel awkward about K being the only one there who, while pregnant, doesn’t identify as a girl. We tried to strike a balance with the guest list by inviting mostly female family members and a more diverse range of friends. I hope it’s ok with you if we have some of these folks there, too.
We sure appreciate you throwing this shower! It is such a sweet and thoughtful thing to do, and makes us feel so loved!
Love you bunches,
C

K didn’t read the email exchange until the morning. He was, understandably, pretty disturbed and hurt by it. His immediate response to me was to say, “But don’t you think that, as the host of the party, she has the right to say who she wants there?” This was exactly the sort of selfless reaction I had hoped to avoid by setting wheels in motion when I replied before he could react. I said, “Of course she gets a say, but we also get to politely tell her if something makes us feel uncomfortable, which is why I responded how I did.”

As of this writing, Aunt K hasn’t yet replied, but K and I have discussed a few options if his aunt decides she wants a gender exclusive party.

Why do family matters have to be so damn sticky?!

Gratitude, week 17

I can’t believe it’s been about 3 weeks since I’ve expressed my weekly gratitude! There’s always so much for which I’m thankful, not just during the upcoming Thanksgiving holidays, and I feel guilty for not having kept that top-of-mind recently. I am grateful for:

  • Being financially stable. We’re not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination, but I want to recognize the economic privilege we experience. None of this – from trying to conceive, to accessing healthcare, to affording baby items and man-ternity clothes, to feeding our baby – would be remotely possible. It’s really important to me to never forget this and to keep people who aren’t as fortunate in my heart and mind.
  • Having the ability to celebrate the upcoming holidays with people we love. We’re having Thanksgiving dinner with my in-laws, including my favorite of K’s aunts, and I am hopeful that we’ll have some conversations about pregnancy and our baby-to-be that will further normalize this experience for my mother-in-law. I think she’s really come a long way in her acceptance and understanding of this issue, but I’m sure that these conversations could only help this progress. On Friday, we’re headed up to visit my parents, where we’ll see my aunt and uncle, as well as my ailing grandmother, who is in advanced stages of dementia. It will be good to see them all again. It feels far to infrequent at times.
  • K finally feeling Falco move in a way that he can more reliably identify. Our weekly pregnancy update emails indicated that our little one is starting to hear loud sounds and might react by moving when s/he hears loud sounds like trains, car horns, etc. This information was especially timely because, on Friday evening, that’s exactly what happened. K was stuck driving the van home with the vanpool he shares with a group of 6 others. One of the vanpool members was late getting to his pickup location and the vanpool leader, who was sitting next to K, was yelling really loudly in Mandarin to the late vanpool member. During this ruckus, K felt Falco “swim” quickly, I imagine, to some safe corner of his uterus. Only we would experience such bizarre circumstances related to the first identifiable movement of our baby-to-be.
  • [I’m adding an extra gratitude, since it’s been so damn long since I expressed it!] FINALLY being able to see Falco again! This coming Friday, we’re having our anatomy scan and, if Falco cooperates, hopefully find out the sex of our baby-to-be! I’m so twitchy about this information and I can’t believe we’re finally going to know in less than a week! AHHHH!