Monthly Archives: February 2013

Mama’s Night Out

Last week, I took myself to a concert.  I sat on a stool at the back of the room, drank a beer and chatted meaningless chatter with really drunk strangers before the show.  The music was amazing (acoustic Matisyahu, if you are interested) and I often found myself with closed eyes taking it all in.

As the night went on and people became more drunk, I realized that I was not in the safe little bubble of my life.  There were cat calls too loud when one paid $30 for the ticket.  There were the people who were swaying, not because of the music, but because that last beer put them over the top drunk.  Then, there was the short guy who the tall women let go in front of them.  Just so happens he ended up right behind me and I could feel his small-man hot-breath on the back of my neck, almost damp from the beer I am sure he had to show I.D. for.  That was the last straw.  I pulled the hood of my sweatshirt up over my head and tried to drown out all the debauchery around me.  I looked like a fool, but so did everyone else so I don’t think they noticed.

For a while, I was able to really focus on the music.  The it was 10 p.m. and he still wasn’t done and I started to wonder if I might fall asleep on the fifteen minute drive home.  I stuck it out for a terrific encore and then bolted for the door as soon as the house lights came on.

I was really glad I went.  But the next morning, when my boy and I were dancing to Matisyahu’s albums in our living room, I realized that there is no where else I would rather be.

-Betsy

Cutting Myself Slack

I am sick.  Again.  I just got over a three-week long virus last week and now have caught S’s cold.  Usually, my mom watches M two days a week so I can get stuff done, but she is preparing to have surgery in a couple of weeks and has been instructed to stay away from our germ-fest.  So, I don’t have any help during the day.

I have a lot to do.  Deadlines I have missed, laundry that needs to be folded, bills that have to be paid.  And today, I am cutting myself some slack.  I am giving myself permission to not get everything done.  I am giving myself permission to feel crappy, write a half-ass blog post, drink some tea and go to bed.  Sometimes, as parents, I feel like we don’t give ourselves this sort of permission enough.

There it is.  That is all I have for you.  Cut yourself some slack sometimes. Goodnight.

-Betsy

Visibility

Zebra-doctprToday we took our boy to “Purim-palooza”.  (For those of you who don’t know, Purim is a very celebratory Jewish holiday full of costumes, sweet treats, games and revelry.)  It was a blast, especially since M won the costume contest.  He was a zebra-doctor if you can’t tell from the picture.  I think he was the youngest one on the stage and that is why they gave him a prize, but regardless it was awesome.

I met a woman during the festivities who said something I keep thinking about.  She is a straight mom who moved to my town from Seattle.  After a few minutes of chit-chat as the four parents watched our sons come down the huge inflatable slide, she whispered, “So, I am assuming you are together.”  She motioned to S and then back to me.

“Yep,” I said.

She proceeded to tell me that all of her friends in Seattle had been gay moms and that once she moved to the south she kept thinking, “Where are they?”

The reason I keep thinking about this is because we are everywhere.  Maybe it is my skill of being able to spot a our kind from twenty yards, but I see queer families all over the place.  Why hasn’t she seen us?

I think this has to do with our families so often being invisible.  One parent is often perceived as the parent and the other is just the ‘friend’.  Or, my favorite, the nursing mom is the mother and the non-nursing mom is her sister.  It seems that even with folks who consider themselves to be totally liberal and accepting, first impressions can often be quite wrong.

At dinner with some dear friends last night (themselves queer mamas to a three month old), one of them told me a story about how they were out and about and an elderly couple came up to them.  The interaction went something like this:

“What a beautiful baby!”

“Thank you!”

“He is so lucky to have two wonderful mamas!” And the couple was on their way.

A moment of real visibility for my friends’ family.  A beautiful moment of people really seeing each other.  I love that story.

-Betsy

Video

Hello, I Love You, Let Me Tell You My Truth

Recently a close friend of mine told me about Social Worker and “Researcher Storyteller” Brene Brown’s TED talk on “The Power of Vulnerability.” I finally had a chance to watch it and was incredibly moved. Brown is funny, insight, smart, likeable, and makes a convincing case for why being willing to be vulnerable is a critical link to connecting deeply with others, as is belief in our own worthiness of love. Her talk got me to thinking about both why I write this blog and what I expose on this very public cyber venue.

My writing on here is inspired by my experience being a part of a phenomenal writing group for several years that my dear friend Joan leads in the Amherst Writers & Artists tradition. I remember attending my first group, from Joan’s urging (which was interesting, because Joan had never read my writing nor do I think she knew that I had been writing since I was a kid for my own creative pleasure), and being terrified when the first exercise was introduced. What? We were going to go around and read our writing just minutes after we had busily etched something on the page? But that was messy, unkempt, cluttered words on a page… I couldn’t share that with others, never mind people I don’t know! I was paralyzed. Joan told us that we always had the option to pass, and I seriously contemplated using that “out” and even mentally gave myself permission to do so for the entire first meeting, if not longer, should I feel so inclined. Yet somehow when the readings paused and all eyes looked at me and Joan asked if I wanted to read what I wrote, I did. Strangely, it felt liberating. I didn’t write anything profound, but it didn’t matter, people responded, people saw themselves on my page, and that kept me pressing down on my pen and opening my voice with a crack to the group week after week. Maybe even sometimes they felt entertained. Maybe even sometimes I believed I was an ok writer. It didn’t matter. I just knew I had to keep doing it.

Fast forward to a year later and I get my first essay published- I was elated! It was a small, indie, radical magazine, but I didn’t care, it was magic to see my name in print and a photo of myself in a magazine that I had flipped through in a natural food store for years. From that first essay, Betsy contacted me about writing together and working on a guidebook project for queer, non-gestational mothers. I was hesitant- me? But I am a total newbie at this writing thing and I am even more incompetent as a new parent. I feel like the infant here! I need someone to show me the way; I can’t be leading others. But our book isn’t about that, nor is this blog.

And that brings me back to the message imbedded within that surprisingly powerful video (seriously, take the 20 minutes and watch it). I have more than once questioned what I have put up on this blog and on another Web site I write for (www.itsconceivablenow.com)- am I exposing too much? Am I too honest? Is this going to come back to bite me? Will I lose a job opportunity for making myself this vulnerable? Am I making people uncomfortable, or worse, do they feel bad for me? But I am writing my truth; I am exposing all my vulnerable parts about my experience of being a parent. (Hopefully, my occasional humor makes it slightly more tolerable.) Yes, I feel particularly vulnerable because I’m writing from a position in which I already feel a bit on shaking footing (being the non-gestational mom), partly because of not having as much societal backing with not having a biological or genetic connection to my daughter, but even more because of all the subtle things being a non-gestational mom brings up for me emotionally. And yet, I write from this place because it’s what feels true to me. I don’t feel shame about it, instead I feel connection when others write to me and echo similar experiences or offer words of encouragement, laughter and meaning. I feel a part of something bigger than my small family of three. It’s been a wonderful experience. I feel whole-hearted.

– Charlotte

Banana

My boy said “banana” tonight.  This might not seem like such a big deal, but until now (even though he is a little advanced in the talking category, which my mother says is “pay-back”) banana has been “nee-ma-nah”.  When he makes these changes, it feels like the earth shifts a little and I become physically aware of its rotation.  Each moment moving further away from baby and closer to kid.

I have always been one of those people who is way too conscious of how quickly time passes.  When I was a kid myself, I would have nightmares often in which my parents died and I became the oldest generation in my family.  In my twenties, this was exacerbated by the deaths of my three remaining grandparents and several people I knew who were my age, the Iraq war and Sept. 11, 2001.  These events made me think I needed to breathe deeper because tomorrow isn’t a given.

Having a child had mellowed me in some ways.  Because a toddler takes so much attention, I don’t have the room in my brain to worry about all the other things I used to worry about.  I worry about new things: his significant over-bite, the temperature in his room at night, whether or not he will ever be able to go sledding.  Mostly, my worries are about his comfort and happiness.  There isn’t much room for anything else most days.

The smile on his face when he said “banana” was huge.  The newness of that word filled him with pride and excitement.  There are a lot of these moments lately as M has started to lose his baby fat, play independently and take more of an interest in having friends.  While I, too, am filled with excitement for his day-to-day discoveries and accomplishments,  I can also feel the movement under my toes.  Sometimes, I want the rotation to slow down or even pause for a while.  Sometimes, I want him to be my baby forever.

-Betsy

It Finally Happened

I have been waiting for it to happen.  Thought a lot about what I would say and how I might react.  Maybe I have even rehearsed a little in the shower when no one else was listening.  Today, someone made a comment about M’s ‘mom and dad’ in front of him.

The funny thing was, the person who made the comment (though her memory is faulty) has met me at least five times over the last months and knew me by name and face about 15 years ago.  While she might not remember all things about me, she should remember my very queerness.  She works in a local bookstore that I frequent (where I am also known for winning a contest there not too long ago).  Small, independent bookstore with a cafe.  Got it?

So, I am there with M.  She walks over and I say, “Hi, Veronica*.”  She smiles at me and says hello to M, not even a glimmer of recognition.

“You are so cute!  What is your name?”
“M,” he replies.
“That is such a nice name,” she follows-up.  “Your mom and dad named you well!”

Without missing a beat, I say with a smile, “He doesn’t have a dad.”

“Oh.  I mean your mom, then.”
“He has two moms.”
“Oh.  I guess I should start saying ‘parents’.”

And that was the end of it.  We have trained M to know that he has “two mamas” and that he does not have a dad.  I look forward to him being a little older and being able to quickly verbalize this reality.  I think it will be fun to watch people’s reactions.  Is that so wrong?

I am pretty sure that this won’t be the last time someone makes a comment about his ‘dad’.  I often wait for it when people remark about how tall he is or his beautiful blue-gray eyes.  “Does he get that from his father?” I expect, though it has never happened.

When I think about what I want to give my son, I think about resiliency.  I want to raise a resilient child who is able to deal with a multitude of situations and people.  I guess this is just the beginning.

-Betsy

Meme Dot

DSC05366

Today would have been my grandmother’s 96th birthday.  She died seven years ago, well before I was preparing to become a mother myself.  She was the type of woman who loved babies, didn’t like kids who got into her stuff, was always on the go, and LOVED a good dirty joke.  We became friends when I was in my twenties.  Until then, we pretty much tolerated each other.

I was one of those kids who thoroughly enjoyed going through her stuff.  I would touch every piece of jewelry she owned, smell her makeup drawer, try on her clothes and shoes.  She was kind of magical.  She grew up in the mountains of southern New Mexico with very little material possessions, a bunch of siblings and an alcoholic father who died when she was just a girl. Until the day she died (and despite a diminishing mind), she was most proud of two things: her biceps (which she said she got from playing baseball with the boys as a child) and her love for my grandfather.

Since becoming a mother, I think about Meme Dot a lot.  I wonder what she would think of my son (who would probably have a blast touching all of her things).  I wonder if she would see my face in his, despite no genetic connection.  I wonder if she would understand how we made him and that he is my son, too, even though he grew in S’s belly.

I think she would get a kick out of him.  She would laugh when he makes silly sounds and she would help him into her high heels just for fun.  She would sneak him mini-doughnuts and ice cream and plop him in front of cartoons (all taboo in our house).

I have been very lucky with having an incredibly supportive family.  When my mom told my grandparents that I like girls, my grandmother’s response was, “That’s ok.  I play golf with lesbins all the time.”  (Typo intentional.)  For a mountain-mama in small town New Mexico, she was amazingly progressive.  It might even have been after I came out to her that we started to become close.  I bet she would have struggled a little with who’s vagina M came out of.  I bet she would have wondered if he was really hers too.  But in the end, I think she wouldn’t mind if he touched her jewelry or tried on her clothes.  I think she just would have loved him crazy.

-Betsy