Author Archives: Lottey

A Month in the Life

As you may have noticed I have shifted into a backseat role with Turkey Baster and a Bottle of Wine and will now be doing a monthly post as a contributing blogger.  So with that here are a few glimpses of my past month as a non-gestational, queer mummy to my firey three year old daughter:

September 2:  A close friend of ours is over having an early dinner with us and he shares that he recently sang a cover of  “Ho Hey” by the Lumineers with a friend of his at an open mic.  “I love that song!” I chime in.  Our daughter wants to hear it so we YouTube the video.  She is instantly in love.  We dance around the living room singing along; I lift her up in the air at the “HO HEY!” parts.  She is wearing purple jeans, a mint green t-shirt and a darker mint green handkerchief around her neck.  She looks really cool.  “Did you pick that outfit out?” I ask.  “Yeah!” she chirps.  She is one cool kid.  We smile and let the music wash over us as dusk settles through the house.

September 16:  It’s an early drop off day at the preschool today and my daughter is still sleeping. I check the clock- we should be leaving now.  She slept terribly with a long nighttime waking after wetting the bed.  We are all tired and cranky this morning.  I finally can’t let her sleep any longer and my attempts to wake her gently by keeping her door open and walking around noisily are not rousing her exhausted, small body.  I wake her and she is very sad to be up.  Worse yet, I have to tell her, while bent over my shoulder in my arms, that we need to bring her breakfast to school because we don’t have time to eat at home.  Her body is extra warm from just waking and her hair is a wild mess of beauty.  She sobs in my arms: “I DON’T WANT TO EAT BREAKFAST AT SCHOOL!”  Her face is contorted in sadness and tears stream down her face.  I don’t want her to either.  Today I feel sorry for myself- for our family- that we both have had to work full-time to keep a roof over our heads since she was four months old.  “It’s ok honey, I know, I know, you can feel sad about it.”  I want someone to tell me the same thing.  This stinks.

September 20:  Our daughter is such a funny little person.  She has a phenomenal vocabulary for a three year old and is incredibly articulate.  She is constantly telling stories; I would not be surprised if she was a writer one day or even a professional storyteller (do those still exist?).  I feel so lucky to have this little guy in our lives.

September 24:  I have to explain for the umpteenth time in my life to a student I work with who has a litany of curious questions a loose version of how our daughter was conceived, what role our donor plays in our lives, and what my daughter’s ethnic background is (she’s biracial).  Sometimes I feel tired of answering these questions.

September 27:  My daughter wakes and starts hollering for “Mama,” her other mother, my spouse.  Mama has already left the house, having to be at the high school where she teaches for around 7 am.  She is upset, really upset, that Mama is not there to greet her as she wakes up.  “Mummy’s here honey.”  I say in my gentlest voice.  “I WANT MMMMAAAAMMMAAA!” she screams, writhing in her bed, rolling off the bed, then writhing more on the floor.  “I know, honey, I know.  Mama kissed you before she left but you were still sleeping.”  “I WANT MAMA!!!!”  This goes on for nearly a half an hour.  She is a body of tossing, intense energy rolling about the floor.  We have a speaker phone call with Mama in the kitchen while she writhes around on the floor some more.  I try to just sit with her feelings and not take on that I am not comforting enough to her.  After a while I ask her if she wants space and when she replies yes, I edge away a bit, but also let her know I am right here if she needs me.  Finally I gently offer that we can make a smoothie.  “That sounds good Mummy.  Can we have mango?” she sniffles between final tears.  I sit her up on the counter while we pour items into the blender.  She stops near the end of making it and hugs my middle and I hold onto her for a long time, hugging her back.

– Charlotte

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Titles Speaking Volumes

Hello dear readers, it has been so long.  Betsy, my tireless, phenomenal literary co-pilot has been holding the blog torch for all these weeks.  I have been dealing with some personal things and I am going to try to slowly start re-posting about my journey as a queer, non-gestational parent.

So much and also so little has gone on in these past six weeks.  During that time, I found myself thinking up blog post topics in title form, almost the way my brain sometimes (frighteningly; embarassingly) thinks in Facebook status update mode, summing up my daily or moment-by-moment  experience as a human to a series of one-liners:  “Why is it so hard to hang a picture by yourself?” or “The house is in shambles and all I want to do is go to bed. Anyone?”

Some of the past six weeks’ potential blog post titles? Here’s a few that I remember chewing on:

“Forgive me for I knew not the trials and tribulations of raising a 3-year old.  An apology to all those I judged before becoming a parent (and other confessions).”

Or, “Small, but profound, moments of love returned: My 3-year old tells me she ‘loves me too’ while wrapped around my legs, pretending to be my ‘baby bat’ under a blanket wrapped around my body (I’m Mummy Bat of course).”

Or, “Like a fool I learn yet again: one-on-one connection helps my daughter trust me and lessens me being rejected by her.”

You see, there are countless things I could have written about and maybe in just sharing glimpses of them you get a sense of my experience as a parent and even nod in recognition.  Each day is somehow more of the same and also brand new. Each rounding of the corner of parenthood following this pattern.  Parenting is one of the most humbling things I have ever done.  Often I feel like I’m no good at it, that I’m impatient, maybe even slightly bored.  But there are also these moments of the purest joy, love and beauty that are unlike anything I have experienced since, well, childhood. But isn’t life like that?  A mixture of the mundane and the awesome?

– Charlotte

DOMA Privilege

Last week the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.  This historic move will grant same-sex couples in states where queer marriage is legal federal recognition.  Couples like me and my spouse in the liberal state of Massachusetts, for example.  We should jump for joy, right?  We can now file our taxes jointly and glean the same financial benefits straight, married couples do.  We can get on the same health insurance and not be slapped with a hefty fee (likely around $2000-3000 for our family) come tax time because of being a same-sex couple and getting fined the discriminatory “imputed income” fee.  We can have the peace of mind knowing that our family is recognized not just in our teeny-tiny, east coast state, but on a federal level too.  Partly, we did celebrate, it’s a big deal, it’s progress.  But it is only that- progress- and not a full swing to something fully just and liberatory.

And that brings me to my dear friend, fellow blogster, and non-gestational mama, Betsy.  She’s awesome, right?  Her family is awesome, right?  We love them.  They are clearly raising their little guy with care, integrity, and love.  COOL.  Besides sharing a blog, Betsy and I also share several things in common amongst our families and I’m not just talking about the obvious ones like how we both are queer or how we’re non-gestational, non-bio mothers.  We share small, but strange, coincidences that I think are a mystical sign of our connection, like the fact that we have many family dates in common (as in, dates on the calendar): anniversaries that overlap with birthdays, etc.  But even more central to this post, we share the fact that we both were married in Massachusetts to our dear sweeties, we both had our children and filed for second-parent adoption in Massachusetts, but have most of our family living in western North Carolina.  Betsy and her family moved there soon after their son was born to be closer to them- totally understandable.  My parents are lucky if they see my daughter two times a year- something that I know pains both us and them even though we cherish the time we do have together.  We have chosen not to move there for a number of reasons, but I do feel sad thinking about how my parents and my sister and her family, won’t get regular connection with my daughter and our family.  It’s a sacrifice.  Here’s the thing though:  remember what I started talking about… DOMA?  Families in North Carolina, including my dear friend Betsy’s, won’t get to benefit from DOMA being stricken down because NC never did recognize or grant same-sex marriages.  And although Betsy and her spouse are all set with “second-parent adoption” (hate that term) rights for Betsy since they filed in MA before they moved, couples who have their child/ren in NC and stay there can’t file for second-parent adoption rights so that the non-gestational parent is protected because NC is one of the few states in the nation that doesn’t allow for same-sex second parent adoption.

So while we were all parading around Facebook with gleeful posts, singing in the streets, and hugging each other after the Supreme Court’s decision, these families, sadly, were still in the exact same position they were before (or at least things are murky for them in this regard).  It’s important to recognize this because I can already see how it could be easy to stop here; to say we’re about to cross through the finish line of this race towards queer liberation, but we’re not.  And of course there’s the reality that even if marriage were granted to all same-sex couples, regardless of where they lived, that there are still so many other hurdles to be overcome for queers.  Marriage equality was never where our fight stopped.

Tonight, a week past DOMA, I am recognizing the privilege that I have as a queer person living in Massachusetts.  I have so many privileges- race, class, ability, and more- but I also have this privilege now.

– Charlotte

Reflecting on Father’s Day in a Fatherless Household

— First, dear readers, hello again. Sorry I have been gone so long (this is Charlotte).  I continue to be dealing with some challenging health issues which has been forcing me to go to bed early, which usually is my writing time with working full-time and parenting.  I will share when I can.  I like sharing and hearing from you in this space.–

Ok, so where was I?  Yes, Father’s Day.  That was yesterday.  A “holiday” I kept on forgetting about on and off throughout the day.  My omission was not because my dad is not meaningful to me, we’re actually really close, but more because he doesn’t live near me and there isn’t a father in our household with us two mamas at the helm.  Yesterday was also a social day for us.  We saw several friends, all of whom have kids, and some of whom were celebrating their own queer version of Father’s Day.  I appreciated hearing their stories about the day and what it meant for them and their families.

Towards the end of the day I reflected on what Father’s Day might be like for my daughter, as she gets older, with not having a dad to honor.  She has three, sort of even four, grandfathers who perhaps she will laud with cards and affection.  She has uncles (both blood-related and friends who play an especially meaningful role in her life) who maybe will get some fanfare on this day as our way of reclaiming the day and imbuing our own meaning into it.  Maybe that will be enough.  She has my butchy spouse, who as it turns out, is so much of a MAMA she makes me look more like the daddy in the house.  It’s a bit of a circus of curiosity and possibility. 

I have friends who don’t have fathers or who have have/had troublesome relationships with theirs and I know this day can be painful for them.  I’d like to think it won’t be hard for her. That we’ll provide enough love and support and hold up non-heterosexual models of families as just as viable an option that it will just roll off her back as something she doesn’t celebrate with her family (at least not in the traditional sense), but that isn’t a big deal.  I suppose only time will tell.

– Charlotte

You Can(‘t) Call Me Char

Lately my three-year old daughter has taken to calling me “Char.”  It comes out in a playful way, often when calling for me- “CHAAARRR!!!”- from across the lawn or our apartment and is followed-up by either a mischievous smile or even an uproarious snort of laughter.  She finds this hilarious.  She likes the reaction that it gets and she likes that she has picked up on that my spouse calls for me in this way- “CHAARRR!!!!”- from the kitchen while cooking, the bathroom when bathing our daughter and she needs a wash cloth, our daughter’s room when she needs a cup of water when it is her night to put her to bed.  I also find this amusing on one level, particularly because her mini voice sounds pretty cute calling my name.… but another part of me doesn’t love it.  Char?  You, my dear daughter, calling me Char?  I know plenty of progressive parents throughout time have been cool with their kids calling them by their first names, but I’m personally not a huge fan.  I mean, I’ve worked hard for the title of “Mummy” (or lately the other name she’s been calling me- “Mum”- which I really, really love… now if only she had a three-year old British accent… ADORABLE).  Maybe I’m sensitive to it because I didn’t give birth to her and am also not biologically related to my daughter so the title of mother feels so critical to me- like a societal nod toward my validity as a parent.  I don’t need this per se, I do know I’m her other parent, but I sort of want it.  What I don’t want is for the person in line behind me at the grocery store to hear her call for “Char” and assume I’m the babysitter and not her mother (did I mention we also look nothing alike?).  Plus her other mother gets called “Mama” with great consistency so I’m admittedly a little extra sensitive.  That’s us: Mama, Adelaide and CHAARRR.  I’m not especially down with the cause.  Maybe I’ll start dealing with the situation with wit, since she does have such a great sense of humor… I’ll call back to her like this: “yes, DAUGHTER???”

– Charlotte

This I Can Share

Today was the first day when I felt like I couldn’t remember what winter felt like.  It’s a bizarre New England phenomenon: when I’m in winter it’s as if there was never a summer, all my brain can register is SNOW, SNOW, SNOW.  Then summer comes in all its majesty and it’s as if a cold wind never blew through our little valley.  Autumn and spring are fast and fleeting, but perhaps that’s part of their magic.  May is particularly stunning in western Massachusetts. The flowering trees and shrubs are starting to bloom, many of the most showy flowers unveil themselves, the sky turns a brilliant azure, and the sun… oh to feel the sun!  With summer imminent also comes longer days, so today after work I was thrilled to be able to have time in our yard, or should I specify, our gardens. 

I love gardening.  I remember this twenty-something game where people would ask, “what order would you put sleep, sex, and food in in terms of your favorite things?”  Me, I would wedge gardening into that divine cocktail (and don’t even ask me to sort them).  I could spend hours in our gardens doing everything from mundane maintenance (aka weeding, weeding, and more weeding) to getting filthy and sweaty wrestling deep, entangled perennial roots that need to be split.  There’s something about being with plants and the earth that gives me an incredible amount of peace.  I like working my body strenuously and cultivating beauty through my efforts.  I actually like it when my hands and feet become so dirty that the soil is etched into the lines of my palms and angles of my feet.  It gives me a strange sense of satisfaction.  One day I dream of taking a master gardening class once our kids are older. 

So today it gave me great joy to have an hour after work to garden with my three-year daughter and spouse.  My daughter was eager to pick up the pitch fork, dragging it across the lawn under its weight.  She has her own watering can and she ran to get it so that she could water the new rhubarb plant we got from a friend (that is miraculously named, “MacDonald rhubarb,” my spouse’s maiden name).  It gave me such great joy to see her enjoying these small tasks; at the ready to help.  My mother was a devote gardener and I am convinced that gardening is something that is shared across generations.  My brother is an avid vegetable gardener, digging rows of annuals each year to supplement their meals. 

Being a non-gestational, non-biological parent to my daughter, I might not be able to give her my loose curls or my lanky, straight frame or even the way my biggest laughs are those  when no sound comes out, but I can give her this. 

This past weekend we walked along the river path by our house and I taught her the names of all the spring wildflowers and plants that were flourishing in the woods.  Trout lily, bloodroot, ostrich fern, skunk cabbage. She repeated their names and I smiled. This I can share with her.

– Charlotte

So This Is It

I was outside on a gloriously sunny, if not a bit chilly for my liking, spring day this past Sunday, pushing my little girl on her swing.  As I watched her small body bob up and down on the blue and red plastic cradle, I took in the scene.  I felt content, and for that I was grateful.  It was methodical and relaxing to watch the rise and fall of her figure against the brilliant sky and zooming grass.  Later we walked by the garden and chatted easily about where to till the earth for her children’s garden I had promised her this year.  It was so nice to have her be old enough (three) that we could have a full conversation.  The Children’s Garden would be a small plot for her (and her friend who was moving into the downstairs unit this summer and was nearly the same age) to do with it whatever they liked.  I vowed to not push my own notions of beauty onto that little rectangle- letting her pick out a plant each week that stroke her fancy at the local farmer’s market.  I would zip my usually controlling gardener lips.  I mused about how we could paint a sign in the coming weekend to stake into that ground announcing to visitors her special corner of our yard. 

I think why I share all this is that I had several very meta moments while these simple acts were unfolding- I was viewing myself going through motions of parenting I had envisioned before I was a parent, and here it was, upon me.  I have had this unnerving feeling since I started this whole parenting gig that I should be doing something more with my life.  Don’t get me wrong- I love that little bugger more than I could have ever imagined… she is so much to me.  I also greatly respect people who parent full-time.  Still, I was grappling with this whole identity business because suddenly my life felt extra simple.  I worked, I parented, I had a humble social life, and I wrote a bit when I could keep my eyelids peeled into the evening hour.  And then I did it all over again.  I used to be a part of various political activist groups, take a painting class, be in a writing group, garden avidly, have a much more raucous social life, travel more regularly, and much of that had halted with such a sudden swiftness when she had arrived that it took my breath away a bit.  I hoped to get back to those things as she got a little older, but I wasn’t doing most of them right now and I hadn’t been doing them for the past three years.  But what I think I realized on that Sunday morning in our yard with just my daughter is that this is what I had envisioned happening.  In my mind, when I thought about the early years of raising a child, I thought of spending a lot of that time focused on being a parent.  I actually thought I’d work part-time so that I’d even be parenting more than I currently am.  When we hadn’t been able to do that financially, my slice of parenting got ever thinner.  In my mind it wasn’t “just” being a parent; it was being a parent.  That felt like a lofty enough task and I had felt satiated by taking on that humble job for a number of years.  I wanted to do artistic and political activities, travel, and more, but with my child.  So there I was, plotting out a plot, if you will, and I was remembering that.  Right, this is ok, remember, this is what you wanted.  This is what you’re doing now.  It’s ok.  Maybe I think too much.  That morning, I was appreciative to have a lapse of contentment for however long it lasted.

– Charlotte