Category Archives: Being Non-gestational

Guest Blogger: Jen Daigle-Matos

Agua y Amor

When Ita asked for water the first time, she said “agua”, which is Spanish for “water”. She loves to eat rice and beans, and the first time she danced, it was to a song by Puerto Rican salsero, Marc Anthony (Jennifer Lopez’s ex-husband). She loves in Spanish, too. She has learned to squeeze her moms with eyes shut tight, baby-feet-in-sandsaying “tanto!” which means “so much”. She has my cousin’s sense of humor, my sister’s movements, my grandmother’s pensiveness, my mom’s watchful eye, and my sense of joy.

Biologically, she is not ours.

My wife (her birth mother) and her donor are White. I had to adopt her and jump through scary legal hoops to establish what everyone knew—this is my baby. My baby. Born White and culturally Puerto Rican, she’s a little White girl with the grit in her gut and glint in her eye of a Latina. Some folks can’t see our connection. This summer one man asked, “So are you her nanny?” Other folks, the folks who know that love is thicker than blood, know biology isn’t the only connection love creates. My aunt looked at Ita, looked at us and noted “but neither of you have blue eyes.” The staff at my doctor’s office whispered me over and said “Jen! She looks just like you!” I reminded them that this was a biological impossibility.

A biological impossibility.

C and I plan on taking Ita to Puerto Rico someday. We tell her all about the food she’ll eat, the sounds she’ll hear, and the agua she’ll swim in. We tell her about the friendly Puerto Ricans, her people, the ones she’ll meet and we know she’ll love the island. We know this because she is as warm as the Puerto Rican sun, and when her toes touch the sand, she will be home.

-Jen

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2 years, 10 months and 6 days (or Chocolate Waffles)

chocolate wafflesMy boy is weaned.  Not by his decision, which is what we wanted for him, but out of necessity.  Last week, we told him that he could nurse in the mornings for a few more days, but no more nursing at night. The next morning, he didn’t even ask.  Just like that, it was over.  It has now been a week.

Anyone who knows M knows he is a boob man.  That kid would have nursed until he was 16, “Uh, Ima?  I’m about to go out.  Can I top off my tank before I go?”  Awkward picture, but you get the point.  S and I have had MANY conversations about when to wean him or whether to wean him or let him do it himself.  We had decided that three would be a good age for him to get off the sauce.  He and S have been talking about it for months.  We had a prize in his sights.  When he stopped doing nanas, he would get batteries in his turtle night-light.  Lame, I know, but he was excited.

Then we sprang it on him, one month and 25 days early.  He has been kind of depressed since.  He has been talking a lot about being sad about one thing or another.  He has been uncooperative about little things and as he said, his face looks sad.  And this, my friends, is breaking my heart.

As the non-nursing mother, I have been looking forward to the end of nursing as the great equalizer.  I thought that maybe he would cuddle with me, too, if there was no lactation in the house.  I thought I would be so excited.  Really, I also feel sad.  I feel sad that we weren’t able to give him time to adjust to the idea.  I feel sad that he won’t experience that kind of closeness again in his life.  I feel sad for S that a sweet, special thing is over for her, too.  I feel sad that M is so sad.

I know we will all get over it eventually.  Maybe the distraction of Halloween will help.  Maybe not.  The cold winds visiting our town certainly don’t.  They make anyone want to snuggle up on another person, getting as close as possible.  Tonight, when M was having a particularly down moment, I told him that sometimes, when S and I are sad, we like to get under the covers and watch t.v. in bed.  So he did that, a stuffed bunny under each arm.  When I asked him what he wanted for dinner, he said waffles.  So, I made chocolate waffles.  The waffles didn’t make him instantly happy again, but he sure liked they way they tasted.  Today, I’ll take what I can get.

-Betsy

PS. Here’s a link to the recipe I used.  Totally works with some peanut butter and bananas on top.  Be warned: super chocolatey! Gluten Free Chocolate Waffles

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

His Face

M is starting to look like S.  His face is lengthening and his smile is more reminiscent of her than me now.  There has been great comfort in the fact that people often think I gave birth to him, that his blond hair came from my mother’s side.  I am a little conflicted about him starting to look like her.  When we are together, are people going to see a perfect marriage of our genetics or are they just going to notice how his eyes don’t look like mine at all?  Maybe both?

I am assuming the questions from strangers will ensue, “Does he look like his dad?”  Which leads to me answering and cringing a little while I wait for their response.   But really, who knows?  Maybe he will go through this short phase of looking like her and then start looking like me again.

When I told S that he is starting to look like her, her face lit up.  I think there is a part of her that thinks she earned it by gestating him and pushing him out of her vagina.  I would have to agree on those points.  Part of me is excited for her because I know how important it was to her to have a biological child.  The similarities in appearance are just a tangible example of genetics.  The other part of me is jealous.  Yep.  I said it.  A little jealous.  Not that I would ever want to be pregnant or give birth, but it would be nice to keep up the rouse that I did for just a little longer.

-Betsy

The Nanny

Sometimes, I feel like the nanny.  After S returned from being out of town for a few days, M can’t get enough of her.  He wants to nurse and snuggle on her to no end.  Right now, he is sick.  He came down with an instant cold after playing in the rain for an hour yesterday.  All he wants is S.  He woke up from his nap every twenty minutes today, sobbing for Ima. He would flail his arms about and squeak out through the ears, “No Mama.  Go away.  Ima!  Ima!”  He knew full well that she was at work.  He just knew he wanted her more than me.

This is the part of being a non-gestational parent that is tough.  He gets something from her that he can never get from me and I can’t help but think that came from being in her womb.  He gets a lot from me.  I know that.  But there are just some intangibles that I can’t replicate.  It is hardest when he is sick or hurts himself and wants her and not me.  In those moments, it doesn’t matter that I am home with him day after day, wiping his butt, making him food, teaching him fun things.  He just wants her.

When I think about the important people in my life, I know that I get things from each of them that the others might not be able to give me.  I love them all just the same.  I am hoping this is what goes on with M.  He loves me deeply, but sometimes he just wants her.  I get it.  And it still hurts.

-Betsy

And we’re back…

P1060396I took a week off from writing.  We went to the beach, played in the ocean and had a great time just  being together as a family.  And now I am back.  I wanted to take a little time away from this blog also.  Sometimes it is hard to keep writing every day not knowing who is reading, if anyone.  It is a challenge to make oneself vulnerable by posting about parenting’s trials.  The time away had me thinking about why I want to write this blog in the first place.  I want to write, I remembered, because I can recall how alone I felt in those first few months of my son’s life.  Trying to figure out where I belonged in my own family and in the eyes of the world at large was exhausting.  So, now that I have a good idea of where I fit, I write to share my experiences.  I write to let you know that you aren’t alone.  Sometimes I write because I want to hear from you.  I want to know your experiences to help me feel not so alone.  I write for all of those reasons.  So, just a short one today. Titillating topics to come…

-Betsy

PS. Way to go Minnesota!  12th state to pass marriage equality!

Pissed Off

Ok, queers.  Get your shit together.  Here is a story that really makes me mad:  Back in 2005, after things had gone south in their relationship, two women in North Carolina went to court over who should receive custody of the child they conceived together.  This child was being raised jointly by both mothers.  The non-gestational mother was granted a second-parent adoption (back before it became illegal as a result of this court case).  When the gestational parent decided that she was more well suited to mother the child, she took the non-gestational mother to court saying that she never should have been granted a second-parent adoption in the first place.  The case went to the NC Supreme Court which sided for the gestational mother, negating the non-gestational mother’s adoption of the child.  She was granted joint custody with limited rights to see the child.  Whoopie.  WHY DO WE DO THIS TO EACH OTHER?

I know several cases involving lesbians where one gave birth to their child[ren] and once the relationship dissolves, the gestational mother decides she is more of a mother than the other.  BULLSHIT.  I have heard bonding used as a reason for this.  Sure, a baby may bond with its gestational mother first, especially if breast-feeding is involved.  But there is SO much more to parenting than breast-feeding.  What about caring for the breast-feeding mother? Changing diapers? Feeding the adults? Cleaning the house? Rocking? Shushing? Walking? Shared sleep deprivation?  I could go on.

Gestational mothers pulling this shit makes me really angry.  Not only do I feel angry for what they are doing to the non-gestational parent, but I feel angry for what they do to the queer movement.  Recognition of our families is vital for our children to grow up feeling seen and respected.  When they pull this, gestational mothers are saying, “I am really the mother.  Not her.”  Fuck you very much.

My kid didn’t come out of my vagina and he hasn’t ever suckled at my breast, but I am his real mother too.  100%.  Try to prove different.

-Betsy