Sorry for the long stretch between posts . . . my daughter was born! These are the days of learning each other. Of sleepless nights and baby gazing. Of beautiful and tired and joy and newness and togetherness. I will post about it all soon. Promise.
Sorry for the long stretch between posts . . . my daughter was born! These are the days of learning each other. Of sleepless nights and baby gazing. Of beautiful and tired and joy and newness and togetherness. I will post about it all soon. Promise.
“I can’t close my eye.”
I lift from my pillow and look over at her. Her eye is puffy and red. Her face is awash with fear.
“What’s happening to me?” she asks.
I don’t know. I don’t know what’s happening to her.
What I do know is that her mouth barely moved when she spoke. What I do know is that I am worried.
We call the midwives, who urge us to go to the hospital. We go.
Hospitals are so strange. Simultaneously sterile and sickly, I find myself using sanitizer every two minutes. I don’t like that my wife is here. I don’t like the idea of her getting sick or the baby getting sick. I also don’t like what is happening. I don’t understand what is happening, but I know that I don’t like it.
One half of my wife’s face is completely paralyzed. She can’t blink and she can’t move her mouth. One eyebrow lifts slightly higher than the other—the left side of her face alert, the right, drooping.
We are called into triage where a friendly man asks my wife what is happening. She can’t talk. I explain how yesterday her ear hurt. Her ear still feels clogged. Her head hurts and last night her mouth started to tingle. Today, terror.
He asks her to squeeze his fingers, to press her knees up against his resistance, to kick her feet. Good, good, good. Most likely not a stroke. We breathe a collective sigh of relief. So what is going on?
We are escorted to a room. We wait. The waiting is both frustrating and a relief. If they aren’t treating this as urgent, maybe it isn’t so serious. I send a quick text to update friends and family. My wife reclines on the bed, sits up, stretches, paces. She’s anxious, and this clinical setting is doing nothing to allay her fears. “I’m so glad we’re not planning to birth in a hospital,” she says.
Eventually a doctor comes in. Thank goodness.
“Bell’s Palsy,” he finally proclaims after examining her. “We have no idea what causes it. It usually goes away on its own, but we have some meds that might help. I have to check and see if they’re safe for pregnancy, though.” He leaves the room.
Our heads are spinning. Bell’s Palsy? Out of all the complications we feared, this was not one of them. Neither of us know very much about it. At least it isn’t a stroke, we tell ourselves. At least it’s not Lyme. At least they’re not forcing us into an emergency C-section. At least.
The doctor comes back in the room with a clipboard. He tells us about the medication he’s prescribing. He tells us that facial function may return in six months to two years. Two years. The words hang in the air like smoke.
We leave the hospital and head to the pharmacy. We drop of my wife’s prescription. We pick up an eye patch. We start driving out to pick up our farm share. My wife cries silently beside me. I know this is not what she had hoped, not what she imagined. She’s in pain, she’s in disbelief. She’s unable to use half of her face.
Next day, we head to Northampton, Massachusetts to get my wife a prenatal massage. We tell the massage therapist about the Bell’s Palsy. We tell her we hear it’s more common in pregnancy. She tells us that in the twenty years she’s been offering prenatal massage, this was the first she’d heard of it. She tells my wife she’s afraid she’ll fall off the table due to lack of depth perception. Then she tells my wife to relax. Right, I think. Because this conversation has been really relaxing.
I walk around town while my wife gets massaged. Northampton is known as a lesbian haven, and I pick up a cute onesie that reads: Proud of my moms. I browse a few more shops then head back to pick her up from her massage so we can browse together. The difference between walking the streets alone and walking with her is striking. I can feel her distress and embarrassment. She struggles with whether to wear the eyepatch as her increase in physical comfort directly corresponds with her increase in emotional discomfort. I sense her anxiety as we walk. I sense the eyes of others, darting toward her then darting away. Mind your own business, I think. I hold her hand tighter.
We head home and decide to beat the heat with a dip in our local river at the dam where the water pools. When we arrive, my wife panics. The shore was teeming with children. “They won’t bother us,” I assure her. She apprehensively follows me to the water. She dips in.
For a moment, I can see her relief. For a moment, I watch as the cool water washes away her stress. I smile. She looks back at me through her non-eyepatch eye. It’s impossible to hear over the roar of the rushing water spilling over the dam, so she signs “sorry” and “I love you.” I sign back, “I love you, too. You’re beautiful.”
Just then, a pre-teen boy runs over. “I like your eye patch, pirate lady!” he shouts. Embarrassment floods over me. I’m appalled. “You need a sword!” Before I can do anything, the boy chucks a stick at my wife, runs to a nearby rock, and crows like Peter Pan.
I look over at my wife, thinking she will break down, worried she will start sobbing and that I will be unable to help her in any meaningful way. But she doesn’t cry. She just stares.
Early on in my wife’s pregnancy, I had no idea that inducing lactation or co-nursing were possibilities. Like pregnancy, I thought breastfeeding was going to be exclusively her domain. I had been struggling with my lack of connection to this baby when our midwives mentioned that my body could do something many male bodies cannot – I can produce breastmilk.
I picked up the book Breastfeeding Without Birthing to learn more. I learned that inducing lactation is possible. I can be a supplementary food source to my child (or even a primary food source), and I can achieve that closeness, attachment, and bonding that comes from breastfeeding. Furthermore, as ethical vegans it is very important to my wife and I that we supply Baby with vegan breastmilk. Having two potential sources of milk increases the likelihood that Baby will be exclusively breastfed.
The first step in the accelerated protocol is to take birth control for at least a month. Birth control pills mimic pregnancy hormones and stimulate breast tissue growth. I got my birth control from Planned Parenthood, and I took only active pills for about five weeks. I also took Goat’s Rue, an herb that promotes lactation. I ordered a breast pump through my insurance. As those five weeks progressed, I noticed significant enlargement in my breasts. On one hot day, I even found myself leaking colostrum!
After five weeks, I stopped the birth control and started pumping. I pumped every three to five hours, even in the middle of the night. I also introduced galactogogues, such as Fenugreek and Blessed Thistle. Domperidone is also a commonly consumed glactogogue for those inducing lactation, but it is only available in the States through compounding pharmacies. I drank copious amounts of water and made sure my diet included oatmeal and Brewer’s Yeast.
The First Week
|Day 1||Thursday, 6/29/17||Pumped for 30 minutes each time on high setting, clear droplets formed on the tips of my nipples.|
|Day 2||Friday, 6/30/17||Pumped for 30 minutes each time on high setting, clear droplets formed on the tips of my nipples, slight white mixed in with the clear. Started to get sore.|
|Day 3||Saturday, 7/1/17||Pumped for 30 minutes each time, started with gentler setting and progressed to higher setting over the course of the pumping, very small amount of milk produced, not very white. Very sore.|
|Day 4||Sunday, 7/2/17||Pumped for 30 minutes each time, started with gentler setting and progressed to higher setting over the course of the pumping. Produced approximately 1/8 ounce in the morning, 1/3 ounce in the evening. Very white. My wife said, “It smells like milk!” Began saving (freezing) production. Got a bad blister on my areola. Ouch!|
|Day 5||Monday, 7/3/17||Pumped for 30 minutes each time, started with gentler setting and progressed to higher setting over the course of the pumping. Produced approximately 1/3 ounce in the morning, 1/2 ounce in the evening, and 1/2 ounce at night. Ordered a smaller flange size.|
|Day 6||Tuesday, 7/4/17||Pumped for 30 minutes each time, started with gentler setting and progressed to higher setting over the course of the pumping. Produced approximately 1/2 ounce every time. Started to feel like I needed to pump if I went too long in between pumping sessions. Started to feel less sore. My breasts filled up and I had to go pump after watching a friend’s baby nurse.|
|Day 7||Wednesday, 7/5/17||Pumped for 30 minutes each time, started with gentler setting and progressed to higher setting over the course of the pumping. Produced approximately 1/2 ounce every time. Milk flow moved from drops to spray!|
Shortly after my first week, I began to chart my pumping and production amounts.
We are still about four weeks away from my wife’s due date, and already we have over 40 ounces of breastmilk in our freezer. This process is exhausting, but I hope it will be worth it. I cannot wait for the day I’m actually nursing Baby!
To my beautiful wife:
Here we are in our last days of being just you and me. In a few short weeks, we will be three. I am excited to meet our baby and to embark on this next stage of life with you. I am also a little nervous and a little sad that our time as a team of two is ending. It’s bittersweet.
I remember the first day I met you after several weeks of chatting online. We were both university students. You had recently discovered your interest in women and when you saw that my online profile stated that I was interested in both women and men, you sought me out. Little did you know that I was still in the closet, and that I had only expressed an interest in women because I was new to social media and didn’t understand the implications of my selections. When prompted about my interests I had thought, Of course I want to be friends with both women and men! Oh, that naivety. But then we met. In person. In Geology class. You were turning in your homework and I timed my approach to the front of the room so that we coincided. I looked at you and you smiled. Sharply, shyly. You looked away and quickly shuffled out of the room.
I invited you to the campus Queer-Straight Alliance meeting. You were there as queer. I was an ally.
“Hi,” I said. I introduced myself and explained who I was.
“Hey,” you said (trying to play it cool). “I know who you are.”
We sat on the floor and you hugged your knees to your chest. I sprawled on the dirty carpet, half paying attention to the meeting, half looking at your gorgeous curling hair, your soft blue eyes, your awkward cuteness, your many string bracelets.
You and I became fast friends. We did everything together. We spent time at the river, we organized demonstrations for women’s rights, we marched in the streets over the unjust outcome of California’s gay marriage ban. We laughed. We ate. We drank wine. I came out as a lesbian.
We moved in together as friends, as roommates. Early mornings we would walk to the fish pond, drink coffee and discuss books. We recited Richard Brautigan poems. “Your Catfish Friend” was a favorite.
If I were to live my life
in catfish forms
in scaffolds of skin and whiskers
at the bottom of a pond
and you were to come by
when the moon was shining
down into my dark home
and stand there at the edge
of my affection
and think, “It’s beautiful
here by this pond. I wish
somebody loved me,”
I’d love you and be your catfish
friend and drive such lonely
thoughts from your mind
and suddenly you would be
and ask yourself, “I wonder
if there are any catfish
in this pond? It seems like
a perfect place for them.”
Then one night we became close. Very close. We held one another and found a new version of the love we always had for each other. The sky cracked and rain began to fall.
“Come on,” I said, dragging you outside. We basked in the summer rain together, smiles spreading across our dripping faces. “This is a good omen.”
Days turned into months, months turned into years. I am going to marry this woman, I thought. I bought a ring.
We took a trip to New York City. At the time, we were living out west. I remember being nervous about how I was going to get the ring onto the plane. I didn’t want to put it in my checked luggage, but I was also unsure whether airport security would search my carry-on luggage or whether it would trigger the metal detector. The last thing I wanted to do was propose in an airport! I sewed a little pouch into the pocket of my coat and placed the ring inside. I remember breathing a huge sigh of relief when it made it through!
We got engaged in Central Park on a little bridge. I had never seen you smile so brightly. Your radiance stood in stark contrast to the gray New York sky. It was early spring and the trees were just beginning to bud. You adorned your hair with little pink flowers. I took photo after photo. I could not get enough of you.
We were married in 2012 in a beautiful field in Vermont. It was just you and me. It was perfect.
We recited an e.e. cummings poem at our wedding:
if everything happens that can’t be done
(and anything’s righter
the stupidest teacher will almost guess
(with a run
around we go yes)
there’s nothing as something as one
one hasn’t a why or because or although
(and buds know better
one’s anything old being everything new
(with a what
around we come who)
one’s everyanything so
so world is a leaf so a tree is a bough
(and birds sing sweeter
so here is away and so your is a my
(with a down
around again fly)
forever was never till now
now i love you and you love me
(and books are shuter
and deep in the high that does nothing but fall
(with a shout
around we go all)
there’s somebody calling who’s we
we’re anything brighter than even the sun
(we’re everything greater
we’re everyanything more than believe
(with a spin
alive we’re alive)
we’re wonderful one times one
These past five years together have been a journey through laughter, love, home buying, daytrips, bonfires, hikes and swims, activism, snuggles, but most of all, joy. We spend our evenings sipping red wine and dancing in the kitchen, the aroma of cast-iron cooking in the air. We ski in the winter, snow and sharp air biting our faces. We come home and soak together in the warm tub, caressing one another, inhaling the sweet smell of each other’s skin.
Soon there will be another person to love. A new sweet smell. New soft skin. I cannot wait to meet her, to hold her, to nurse her. I cannot wait to share the love we have with her. She will be my second love.
You are my first. You are my first great love. I will always think back on these past eight years with fondness. I hope to cherish these few remaining days – days where it’s still just you and me. Because one day, before we know it, in the blink of an eye, there will be three of us.
I am looking forward to that day. I am eager for it to arrive. But in these final precious weeks, I want to focus on you.
I want to love you more than you’ve ever been loved before.
We decided to throw ourselves a baby shower. The only hiccup? We hate baby showers. So we decided to throw ourselves a Vermont-Style Baby Celebration: no games, no gifts, just a mellow gathering of fun in the sun.
We invited friends, colleagues, neighbors, and their kids to come over to our house for a cookout. Being relatively new to the area (we moved from Central Vermont to Southern Vermont a little over two years ago) and being somewhat reclusive (we’re not really the party-throwing types), I wasn’t sure how many people would attend or whether the party would be successful. It turned out to be great!
I did the morning scramble, rushing around trying to tidy every last corner of our house. I spent a significant amount of time working on the upstairs. Turns out, no one goes upstairs for an outdoor party (go figure). I also set up the grill, cleaned up the patio, fixed up the lawn games and kiddie pool, and set up the food. I put up lots of little festive balloons.
My wife did our other Saturday morning activity—she headed to our local farm to pick up our community-supported agriculture (CSA) share. Little did she know it was strawberry week and she would be bending over and picking two quarts of strawberries—not an easy feat for someone who was then 33-weeks pregnant!
People started to trickle in around 2:00 PM and brought with them a ton of, you guessed it, strawberries from their own CSAs. Every counter quickly became covered in everyone’s fresh-picked strawberries! I was still in the mad dash to get everything together. Thankfully, the kids entertained themselves with our backyard play structure and the adults enjoyed snacking and playing with the Frisbee and Badminton sets. When my wife and I finally relaxed and joined everyone, we found ourselves showered in love and well-wishes, which is much better than being showered in presents (though contrary to our requests, that happened too).
I couldn’t help but sit back and look at all of these lovely people and their joyful children and think, These are going to be the people surrounding my child and supporting her as she grows. These people will shape her future. In that moment, I couldn’t think of anything better. Well, except maybe that gallon of frozen strawberries now in our freezer.
On Friday I went to my local Planned Parenthood. Aside from the one time I stopped in to get pamphlets while staging a protest against some anti-choice people who had paraded onto my college campus, I had never been to Planned Parenthood before. I had certainly never been inside as a patient. But there I was, seeking birth control as part of the Newman-Goldfarb method for inducing lactation. I was nervous. What if they thought it was weird? What if they wouldn’t give the birth control to me? I tried to remind myself that I am a strong, capable, responsible woman in her mid-thirties exercising my right to reproductive medical care. I tried to remind myself that I had nothing to be nervous about! I tried, but I was not very successful.
The office was quiet, but friendly. A woman behind a desk handed me a clipboard and some papers.
“Fill these out,” she said.
I took a pen and sat down next to a big bowl of condoms and a book titled Dear Planned Parenthood: Love Letters from Catholics. I filled in all the highlighted sections of my form and handed it in.
“Thanks!” the woman said cheerfully. “Have a seat and we’ll call your name when we’re ready.”
I walked back over to my condom-side chair. I flipped through the book. Another woman walked in through the front door. Bounded, really. She had short, choppy hair with blue streaks in it.
“First time?” she asked. I thought I was playing it cool, but I guess my naivety showed.
“Don’t even sweat it!” she exclaimed, then bounced off to chit-chat with the ladies behind the counter.
Just then, a woman with dreadlocks appeared and called my name. I grabbed my things, stood up, and followed her. She told me she needed a urine sample and sent me to a room. When I reemerged, she took me down a hall to another office room.
She smiled and introduced herself. “I’m just going to ask you a few questions,” she explained. “First, what brings you in here today?”
“I’d like some birth control,” I told her, nervously.
“Okay – what kind do you want?”
“Sure, sure,” she said. This was routine for her. She clicked through a few boxes and asked me a bit about my medical history. I answered more shyly than I expected as I stared at a poster on the wall covered in giant letters stating WE ALL DO IT. Two sets of legs, male and female, tangled with each other through the O.
“Are you currently having sex?” she asked.
“Yes.” But not the kind on that poster, I thought.
“What kind of birth control are you on now?”
“Oh.” There was a long silence.
“My partner is a woman.”
“Oh, okay!” she said, clearly relieved. “But wait – do you have more than one partner? A male partner, perhaps?”
There was another long silence.
“I’m sorry, but can I ask you something?” she looked at me, puzzled. “Why do you want birth control?”
“My partner is pregnant,” I explained. “We want to co-nurse. I’m following a protocol to induce lactation, and this is the first step.”
“WHAT?!” A huge smile spread across the woman’s face. “That is AMAZING! I didn’t even know you could DO that! Oh, this is so exciting!”
Her excitement put me at ease. “Yes!” I said, fears and nervousness suspended. “It is exciting.”
“Oh, gosh. Okay. I’m going to go get the doctor!” the woman sprang out of her chair and rushed out the door, her smile still hanging in the air.
A few moments later, the doctor walked in. She had short hair and cute glasses. She wore big pink earrings that were in the shape of either flowers or vaginas. Very Georgia O’Keefe.
“How’s our most exciting patient?” she asked. I smiled back at her. She talked to me for a bit about the protocol and searched her database for the best choice. She showed me how the clicking circle birth control dispenser worked and explained when to take each pill. She told me that I might feel a little ill at first. She packed up my pills, tucked them into a white paper bag, and sent me on my way.
The women behind the desk waved and smiled. “Good luck!” one shouted. Another clasped her hands beneath her chin.
After six months of the mainstream medical shuffle, we decided to interview some midwives. It took all that time to realize that for as much thought and planning and effort that had gone into getting Her pregnant, neither she nor I had put enough thought into prenatal care. When the pregnancy test came up positive, we did what every set of expectant parents do – we went to the hospital. From there it was all scans and tests and ultrasounds and group care. The experience was not tailored to our specific healthcare needs or personal desires. She was just another pregnant lady due in August, and I was just there for the ride.
When yet another appointment took two hours and the primary result was a computer print-out of the outdated USDA food pyramid, we decided to reexamine what we were doing. We bought books. We watched documentaries. We called the midwives.
We had our first appointment with the midwives about a week and a half ago. In our hour-long consultation, the midwives sat down with us and let us talk about our hopes and dreams for our birth experience. We talked about homebirths and whether She was a good candidate. We talked and we listened. We discussed safety and comfort. We heard Baby’s heartbeat. We felt understood. We decided to walk away from mainstream medical care and into the care of the midwives.
During our appointment, one of the midwives said something to us that struck me. We were talking about my role as the non-gestational parent. I mentioned how I was feeling a bit like an outsider. The midwife noted that most partners feel this way, including heterosexual fathers (even if to a slightly lesser extent due to the baby containing their DNA). There’s that same helpless feeling; that same sideline feeling. Then she quipped, But you can do something those father’s can’t – YOU can breastfeed your baby.
The idea of breastfeeding the baby growing inside my wife was exciting, confusing, and fascinating. But how does that work? Can I really do that? Wouldn’t it be weird?
In my quest to know more, I picked up the book Breastfeeding Without Birthing. The book was geared primarily toward adoptive mothers or mothers whose babies were born through surrogacy. However, the information was still there. In that book, I learned that breastfeeding without birthing has strong roots throughout history. Women nursed orphans, and communities nursed each other’s’ babies. I learned that lactation can be induced simply by repeated placing a baby to your breast, though most women today choose to induce by a combination of pumping and herbal supplements, or even pharmaceutical use. At this point, I would like to avoid pharmaceuticals, but it is really exciting to think that my wife and I might be able to share breastfeeding!
At first, my wife was a reluctant enthusiast. She worried that biology will take over and that she will be jealous seeing me nurse the baby. But she’s coming around. In fact, at this point I’d say that she’s almost looking forward to it.
One of the most wonderful aspects of being in a same-sex relationship is the equality of it all. We divvy up household chores and tasks based on who prefers the task rather than falling back on assigned gender roles. Pregnancy has offset that balance, and I’ll admit that it’s been a bit tough on our relationship. There are now so many obligations that are assigned rather than chosen. Co-nursing will allow us to maintain the balance that has served our relationship well for all these years.
Co-nursing will also allow for equal bonding and attachment and for reprieve for each of us when nursing becomes too tedious. It will help to establish both of us as Mother to this child. And, should one or both of us not produce enough milk, between the two of us we will be able to nourish this baby with our bodies alone. If we over-produce, we will be able to donate the milk to mothers in need, particularly vegan mothers who worry that introducing animal products not previously introduced in utero or in their breastmilk will be too much of a shock for their baby. There is so much we can do. I love being a woman!
And so the journey begins.
Midwives, home births, co-nursing – we’re in!
WARNING! Banned Books! Three words painted on the papered-up window of a bookshop in Portland, Oregon. Large and red, a deliberate exaggeration. In the center of the covered window was an opening. I had to look. I had to. Maybe it was my fascination with literature that was once considered immoral, illegal, or obscene. Or maybe it was the rebel in me. I walked up to that window and I peered in. I looked to the left and I looked to the right. Two-tiered shelves of familiar titles: The Catcher in the Rye, To Kill A Mockingbird, Beloved. Books that shaped this country. Books that shaped my life.
I remember seeking out those edgy books as an adolescent. At times I would pull one out and read in public, wanting to be seen. Mostly I would read in my bedroom, seeking solitude and privacy for those intimate moments where I was drawn into the storyline or drawn to the characters or when I saw reflections of myself drawn on the pages. The author’s candor spurred self-awareness. I found comfort, support, and understanding. I found pleasure. Formerly banned books not only helped me to discover myself, but also allowed me to realize new and exciting ways of being.
I see marriage as a collection of essays, ours newly printed. Her stories, my stories. Stitched together with string and glue, love and tradition. Single and flimsy at the beginning, but over time our collection grows stronger, thicker, and more enmeshed. Harder to tear apart. Harder to ignore. And like banned books, there is a realness to our story. There is a rawness. I find myself experiencing a new awakening, a new way of being, a story that is all mine but somehow more. Ours. Marriage has brought me companionship and intimacy. It is safe space to be vulnerable. It is the sharing of my dreams. It is seeing myself reflected in her—not because we are the same, but because she brings out the real me.
If marriages were books, I would have seen mine that day in Oregon, situated somewhere among the rows of those prohibited texts. Published in Vermont in 2012, my partner and I were bound together in one of the few states willing to recognize our story—to see its value, to appreciate its merit. I looked into the window’s opening once again and I imagined my marriage there, spine to spine with Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness, at once illustrating both how far we have come and how much further we have to go.
Fear and misplaced morality created a culture where artistic works were censored or forbidden, where marriages like mine were illegal. There are still some who denounce same-sex marriage, wanting to censor our existence, seeking to quash our story. They push back against the recognition of love as love. Of love as justice. Of love as equality. They are reluctant to acknowledge the unpublished volumes that have existed for centuries—the truth and the beauty that has moved out of the shadows and into the libraries. Once-banned books now accessible. Once-forbidden marriages now possible in all fifty states.
In reading banned books, my world expanded in ways I never thought possible. Marriage has been a similar experience. I am growing and learning. In finding someone else, I have also found myself. We write our story together, page by page, chapter by chapter. She and I. Her and me. Once banned, now bound.
And I could read her every day.
My brother-in-law and his wife are pregnant. They are exactly eight weeks behind my wife. We just found out.
Now that some time has passed, I’m happy for them and I am happy for Baby, who will have a cousin her age. But at first when they told us, it stung. They did the whole wait till 13-weeks then announce in some elaborate straight couple way. Thing is, we knew they were trying. We had been having discussions about how it was going. And they were lying to us. That stung. It stung when they made a big production about how their pregnancy was “promoting” my wife’s parents to grandparents when we were already making them grandparents. As if our family didn’t matter; as if our baby was not real. It stung when they went on and on about how they didn’t think the timing was right but had sex anyway and whaddya know, they’re pregnant (it took my wife and I nearly a year). It stung because I was jealous.
I want my family to count. I want my family to matter. I want my parents and my wife’s parents to feel like they really are grandparents to this baby we’re having. I want to have relatives as excited about our pregnancy as they are about my brother- and sister-in-law’s pregnancy. I want my in-laws to know what it’s like to have people less than excited for you or questioning your choices (“Why aren’t you guys just adopting since you can’t have a baby naturally anyway?”). I want to be able to have sex with the person I love and make a baby. I want Baby to be part me and part her. I don’t want to have to fight so hard to carve out our place in the world or to carve out my place as Baby’s mother. I don’t want to be the only one without a biological connection to the little ones in our families.
I told my wife I needed some space and went upstairs to cry. I got in bed and stared. I felt like I was being childish. Why couldn’t I just be happy for them? Why am I whining about fairness? Life’s not fair. I should get over it. But in that moment, I couldn’t.
Sweet Love, my wife said. I know you need your space, but do you mind if I come up? I have something to show you.
I heard her feet on the stairs and then saw her in the doorway. I saw concern in her eyes for the woman she loves, but I saw something else, too. I couldn’t place it. She walked over and sat next to me on the bed. She stroked my hair for a minute before taking my hand and placing it on her belly.
Suddenly, I felt a little push against my hand. I sat up, eyes wide as a grin began to spread across my face. I felt her kick! I felt Baby!
I pushed down a little harder. Kick, kick! There she was again! That was my baby! And this was her saying hello to me for the very first time.
My wife pulled me to her and held me. You matter, she said. This little girl is so lucky she’s going to have you as her mom.
I looked at my wife, this incredible woman carrying our child. All that anger, frustration, and jealousy began to recede. Because in that moment, we were a family. We were real. I knew it. We were the realest thing I had ever seen, experienced, lived, or loved.
Because in that moment, I was the luckiest woman alive.
It’s raining outside. I can see it through my window, but I can’t hear it. The raindrops are swallowed whole by the last vestiges of snow. The dreary time between seasons is upon us.
I feel a little in between, too.
When she and I first began this process of making Baby, I was so involved. We discussed getting pregnant over and over. We plotted and planned. We picked out donors and talked about her cycle. We monitored it together. When it came time to inseminate, I performed the task. When she got pregnant, we told everyone. We are having a baby. We.
But now it’s mostly her. I try to be supportive. I cook for her and rub her feet. I attend every prenatal appointment, read the books, and watch the documentaries. But even in all of that, I still feel like I’m stuck on the periphery. I’m there in the room, but I’m not doing anything important. I’m superfluous.
She’s quick to tell me how much she needs me, which is sweet. But I’m still trying to figure out my role. I’m not the birthing mother, but I’m not the father, either. Who am I?
To be honest, none of this really crossed my mind before a month or so ago. I was just chugging along, mom-to-be. I was excited about my role as parent. I knew this baby is as much mine as she is hers. But about five weeks ago, that started to change. I wasn’t inseminating her, and I had no one left to tell about our pregnancy news. What could I do to be useful? How could I stay involved? I decided to read books about my role. However, when I looked for them, they weren’t really there. On recommendation, I picked up a copy of the now somewhat outdated “Confessions of the Other Mother.” The stories, engaging as they are, started making me nervous. The happiness of all of the women in the book was tempered by their “otherness.” I suddenly began to feel like an other, too.
Then my partner decided she wanted to home birth. I thought this was just wonderful, and we decided to learn more about it. We watched a documentary titled The Business of Being Born. The documentary was great (if not similarly outdated), but it triggered something in me. There was so much focus on the birthing mother — how she needed to do release certain chemicals and engage in a natural process in order to properly bond with her child. I watched strong women breathing and heaving and birthing tiny humans. I watched the male partners of these women bumbling about. And I thought, if the biological contributors to these babies barely have a part in all of this, then what is my part?
I guess I feel lost. Past the excitement of early pregnancy but not yet a parent. The first snow has long since come and gone, and yet we’re so far away from watching the flowers bloom.
That’s where I am — caught in the mud between winter and spring. I know it will get better soon enough, but for now I’m just stuck, riding out the ruts.