Official

My stomach began to flutter as we pulled into the parking lot.

“Why am I nervous?”

My wife looked at me and gave a knowing smile. “Because you’ve never been the subject of a court proceeding before.”

We were early, so my wife gave Baby a quick nursing session before we went inside. It was my turn to nurse her, but I was worried that I would run into a client and create an awkward situation. As a lawyer in a small town sitting in a courthouse parking lot, the odds of that were great.

“There she is!” The security guard’s booming voice greeted us warmly as we entered the building. “And you brought the little one!”

Ever since Baby arrived, court staff always gave me grief any time I showed up without her. “I can’t bring her to my hearings,” I would tell them, to which they would respond, “Excuses, excuses.” Everyone loved Baby.

“Why are you three here today?” They asked my wife and me.

“I’m here to adopt my own daughter,” I replied.

We had been preparing for this day for months. As a lawyer, I understood the importance of protecting my legal rights to my daughter, and her legal rights to me. I knew that my name on her birth certificate was not enough. I had read horror stories of families ripped apart and of the less traumatic but no less frustrating denial of dependent health insurance coverage. As a mother, I was frustrated that we had to jump through these hoops that heterosexual couples did not. My wife and I had planned for Baby, we worked together to choose a donor, to draft a contract and have it reviewed by another attorney, to conduct at-home inseminations, to carry a fetus for nine months, and to birth this tiny miracle. Baby was born into my arms, my name appeared on her birth certificate. I nurse Baby with my own body. I have her face memorized. Her smile brightens my day. She is my world. And yet, there I was – pleading with a judge to legitimize my role as her mother.

Vermont law demands a lot of same-sex couples who wish to solidify their families through second parent adoptions. Tasks include:

  1. Filing an extensive petition to adopt which includes but is not limited to financial statements, disclosures about extended family, a description of the length of time the petitioner has resided with the child and “how the petitioner obtained physical custody of the child including the date when placement happened and the petitioner’s relationship to the person or agency that placed the child with them” which, for many petitioners, is all of the child’s life;
  2. Filing a copy of the child’s birth certificate;
  3. Preparing and filing a notarized relinquishment by the sperm donor and waiver of counsel;
  4. Preparing and filing a notarized consent by the child’s biological parent;
  5. Filing copies of marriage and/or divorce certificates;
  6. Conducting a preplacement evaluation (home study) by a court-appointed qualified evaluator who may charge the petitioner a reasonable fee and preparing an extensive report containing detailed information;
  7. Background information about the social and health history of the child, history of any physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, school records, a social and health history of the child’s parents and extended family including but not limited to genetic history, hereditary conditions, racial, ethnic, and religious backgrounds, educational or vocational achievements, and learning disabilities; and
  8. A criminal record check of the petitioner, including an FBI national criminal history record check accompanied by a set of the petitioner’s fingerprints and a fee.

Thankfully, our local judge allows couples to forego the most invasive part of the process, the home study, so long as the couple provides the judge with ample recommendation letters. However, even that process is degrading and cumbersome.

We shuffled into a small side room near Courtroom 1. I tried not to draw attention, but colleagues who spotted us in the hall ran over to express their congratulations as well as their outrage. As one friend put it, “I’m glad we live in a time where this is possible, but I am sorry we live in a time where this is necessary.”

The judge didn’t seem to think it was necessary. He acted annoyed that we had taken up his time with, as he sees it, a superfluous procedure. We sat awkwardly as he carried on a one-sided conversation about how he’s seen an influx of second parent adoption petitions since Trump was elected president. No kidding, I thought.

“I only had one issue with your application,” the judge stated. “You sent me thirty recommendation letters from all over the world. I would have liked to see some more local people attest to your fitness to be a parent.”

I was appalled. Does he know how humiliating this procedure is? Does he have any idea what it’s like to have to ask someone’s permission to be a mother? Does he know how unfair it feels to have to adopt your own very planned-for baby when hetero couples get to be automatic parents after a one night stand? Clearly, he does not. I took a deep breath and forced out an apologetic smile.

The judge pushed over a few papers for us to sign. He signed his part, and then said he had to run.

Well that was anticlimactic, I thought as we walked back out into the hallway. Anticlimactic at best, uncomfortable and maddening at worst.

“Hey,” my wife said, trying to be encouraging. “This is your day. Let’s make it special.”

“Yeah,” I said. I smiled back at her. “Let’s go take some pictures.” We went back in the small room where our family was finalized and we celebrated. We celebrated legal recognition and legal protection. We celebrated Baby and we celebrated each other.

As we left, I realized that the judge forgot a crucial form, and sent my wife back in to sign it with the clerk. Ugh. I should run for Probate Judge, I thought. I would at least have the sense to fulfill the statutory requirements and to honor the families going through these types of proceedings.

Maybe someday, but not that day. That day, we left the courthouse and decided to explore. We went to Providence and ate a delicious vegan meal at a restaurant called The Grange. We put Baby in her stroller for the first time and checked out Brown University. Maybe you’ll go here someday, we dreamed.

Night descended and we returned to our car for the long drive home. I looked in the rearview mirror to catch Baby’s reflection as she slept soundly in her car seat.

It’s you and me kid, and today it’s official.

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Months One, Two, and Three

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The days immediately following the birth were intense. I was manic, high from the adrenaline rush of the birth, from precious little sleep, and from never seeming to be able to find time to eat. My wife was recovering from a tear and she had been given strict instructions from our midwives to rest. I ran around cleaning the house. Wiping counters, scrubbing dishes, sweeping floors. I couldn’t help myself. In between tasks, I would snuggle Baby, sing and dance with her to Bob Dylan (“How does it FEEEEEEL”), stare at her sweet face, and bring my wife food, water, and tea.

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Our friends put together a meal train, each bringing us food every few days. We enjoyed homemade spring rolls, chili, kale salad, ratatouille, sweet potato tacos, and hot falafel. We felt so cared for; so loved.

 

I will never forget the first time we put Baby to my breast. Baby had been alive less than 24 hours when my wife asked, “Do you want to nurse her?” I was overjoyed. After nearly seven weeks of pumping every three hours, this was my reward. I held Baby to me and smiled as I watched her shake her head around and grunt while sniffing out the nipple. Then she latched – heaven! This is what I was meant to do.

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My wife and I took turns nursing Baby. We had my wife do most of the nursing at first – we wanted Baby to get the colostrum and we wanted to make sure my wife established a good milk supply. As the days progressed, I nursed her more and more. It felt like magic.

With each passing day, we learned more about Baby. First lesson: she hates being swaddled. Okay. Lesson two: she loves bath time. Wonderful!

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We took her outside and showed her the backyard. We took her on walks through the neighborhood. We took her to our local farm to pick up veggies and learned that two goats shared her birthday. We took her to watch the sunset at a nearby lake.

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My wife’s parents came to visit Labor Day week. They were thrilled to meet their first grandchild. Baby enjoyed having two new bodies on which to sleep, and we enjoyed spending time with my wife’s parents. We strolled through our hometown and checked out the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art.

 

We began cloth diapering when Baby was around three weeks old. I thought it would be difficult, but it turns out that for us it is just as easy as using paper. Once we switched, Baby no longer got diaper rashes. We also felt good about reducing the amount of trash we produced for the landfill. Today, we’re doing a combination of cloth diapers and Elimination Communication, working hard to pay attention to Baby’s cues and respond accordingly.

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We celebrated Baby’s one month birthday in Maine, hiking Acadia National Park. I carried her the entire time. I have always loved hiking, but it was even more special to be able to hike through gorgeous terrain while simultaneously hugging my daughter.

 

During the second month, Baby began to smile and respond to our voices, which was just precious. We would call her name and her face would light up with joy. Baby’s eyes became brighter; we loved engaging with her.

However, while our second month with Baby included more sweetness, it also brought more challenges. I returned to work, which was outrageously difficult. I cried hard for several days. I had always thought of myself as a person who liked to work; who would want to work over staying home with a child. The pull of Baby changed that, and walking away from Baby each morning feels like someone is stabbing my heart.

My wife’s face remains paralyzed. We haven’t seen any improvement since it first happened. By this time, we’ve seen a variety of doctors and a naturopath. She was being treated for Lyme, even though we had already had three negative Lyme tests. Eventually, a new diagnosis appeared: Ramsay Hunt Syndrome (RHS). A complication of a Shingles reactivation, RHS facial paralysis can be permanent. We made an appointment with a neurologist who confirmed that my wife’s facial paralysis was severe – she may never regain function of her face. We are devastated.

To make matters worse, my wife’s breastmilk supply began to dwindle. It may have been due to stress or due to allowing me to feed Baby too much. We decided to make a breastfeeding schedule and my wife decided to add pumping into her daily routine. Now a month into these changes, I am happy to report that they are working.

Shortly before Baby’s two-month birthday, Baby’s cousin was born. My wife’s brother and sister-in-law had a little girl. And all that jealousy that I had previously harbored disappeared. I was instantly in love with my new niece.

We celebrated Baby’s second month in San Francisco. We flew out west for my brother’s wedding, and Baby did great on the plane. My brother and his wife were thrilled at the opportunity to meet Baby, and took to her right away. My parents, who also live out west, were able to meet Baby, too. Of course, everyone adored her – how can you not?

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We spent some time at my parents’ house, where my sister and her boys also got to know Baby. My nephews are 9 and 7 years old, and they adored Baby! I thought for sure the novelty would wear off, but it did not. They would get up early with Baby each morning and coo to her as she rolled around on a blanket. The 9-year-old would rock Baby gently in a swing and sing her songs. Baby even went swimming in my parents’ pool!

 

Baby accompanied the boys to their Fall Festival, where she rocked her pumpkin outfit from Nana as well as her California shades.

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Today Baby is twelve weeks old and officially out of her fourth trimester. In a way, that seems appropriate. I feel as though I have known her my entire life. In another sense, time has flown by. Baby grows and changes with each passing day and somehow, in spite of all logic and reasoning, I love her more every minute.

 

 

 

 

 

Birth.

I woke up to the sound of my wife’s voice. Groaning. Moaning. Repeatedly catching her breath.

“You okay?” I asked. “Do you think this is it?”

“I’m not sure,” she replied.

It made sense that it would be labor. My wife was two days past her due date. Still, we were both intensely aware of the fact that most expectant parents with first-time pregnancies think they’re in labor before they actually are. We weren’t going to be those people, we told ourselves.

But the pain continued. My wife described it differently than she did the Braxton Hicks. Lower. More intense; more consistent. I sent my boss an email telling her I would not be working that day. “We think my wife’s in labor. . . .” I sent our midwives a text.

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A week prior I had built a birthing tub and set it up in our living room. I hooked up the hose to the sink and began to fill it. I was trying not to get my hopes up, but I was excited. My wife grabbed a yoga mat, spread it on the floor of our living room, and got on her hands and knees. “Ohhh,” she groaned, arching and bowing her back.

I ran around the house, trying to make everything perfect. I hung the rainbow lights my wife loved above the birthing tub. I fed the dogs. I let out the cats. I brought her breakfast, coffee, water. Lots of water. Tea. I got my Birth Partner book and propped it open to the chapter marked “Labor.” I checked the water temperature.

“Is the tub ready?” my wife asked. I looked at the water. It wasn’t even a third of the way full. I looked back at my wife and shook my head. I felt the hose—cold. Damn our little water heater, I thought. I turned off the water to wait for it to reheat. My wife reached over and ran her fingers across what little water filled the bottom of the tank. She stripped down and got in.

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I texted the midwives, who told me that my wife could labor in that state for quite a while. Days, even. Really? I thought. They said she/we should eat. They said that while the tub’s relaxing for her, I really should try to get her on a walk if she wanted to “get things going.” I looked over at my wife, her face scrunched in agony. I wished myself luck as I asked if she wanted to go for a walk. She looked at me like I was nuts and said, “No way.” Eventually we did get her to walk around the yard, but that was about as good as I could get it. I never could get either one of us to eat.

For the next several hours she was in and out of the tub. I was running water over her. Rubbing her shoulders. Rubbing her back. Asking questions and getting snapped at (my fault). Watching helplessly as she suffered. Hearing her desperate cry of “help me” and not knowing what to do.

Early afternoon, it sounded like my wife was in pain every second. Maybe I should time the contractions, I thought. I got a chart I had printed and asked my wife to tell me when the contractions were starting and when they were stopping. “They don’t stop,” she said. “They just get slightly less intense.” I opened the stopwatch feature on my phone and recorded the times as best I could. They were really close together.

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I sent the midwives a text with all the information about her contractions: duration, interval, observations, notes. They asked if we wanted them to come over. Just as I was about to respond that we were fine, my wife’s water broke. “We’re coming.”

“Ahhhhhhh!” my wife shouted. The pain was increasing, and my ability to be useful was decreasing. I tried to think of everything I could do to make my wife more comfortable. Music. My wife loves music. She has her phone hooked up to a special Bluetooth speaker and creates all sorts of playlists. However, she’s always the one who puts the music on in our house, and I had no idea how to work her devices. I picked up her phone and tried to figure it out. I pressed a button that looked like a music note and then I pressed play. Mariah Carey blasted through the speaker. I cringed. I looked at the playlist – something about “liked” or popular songs. I had no idea how to change it. Apparently this baby would be born into a 90’s dance party. Oh, well!

My wife was on the floor when Midwife 1 arrived. She took her blood pressure. She took her pulse. She listened to the baby’s heartbeat. Strong. I stroked my wife’s back while the midwife placed various items around our house, pausing every so often to ask me where certain things were. As she distributed her belongings, she swayed to Mazzy Star. She boogied a little to N*Sync. She jammed to Phish. I shook my head at the ridiculous hodgepodge playlist. “Sorry!”

Midwife 2 arrived. Together the three of us helped my wife to the bathroom. She labored backwards on the toilet for what seemed like hours. The midwives stopped her every so often to listen to baby’s heartbeat. You could hear the heartbeat echoing off my wife’s pelvic bones. The baby’s descending.

I walked out to the kitchen to find Midwife 2 knitting. I offered our guest bed if she needed a rest or if this continued on for a while. She looked at me and chuckled. “Your wife is pushing,” she said. “You’re having this baby very soon!”

Throughout the whole evening, my mind and emotions had been vacillating between focus and fog. In one moment, I was sharp. In another, I was lost. But throughout the entire experience there was one emotion that remained constant: excitement. This was really happening. We were having a baby.

My wife continued to labor on the toilet. Eventually, Midwife 1 looked at me with urgency in her eyes. She whispered, “This baby is coming now. We need to move your wife.” We coaxed and prompted, but were met with resistance. Finally, we got my wife off of the toilet and onto a low to the ground, crescent-shaped birthing stool.

“You can see the head,” Midwife 1 said. She held the flashlight as I looked in. There it was! A little brown swirl of hair. My heart skipped a beat and a huge smile spread across my face.

“Do you want to see it? Do you want to feel?” I asked my wife, but she was so lost in her pain that she couldn’t do it. All she could do was push. I positioned myself between my wife’s legs as INOJ’s Let Me Love You Down pulsed through the speakers in all its teenage glory.

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She pushed once, and a head began to emerge. “This hurts like hell!” she screamed.

Second push, and the head was out. There was a pause between the contractions. I cradled the head in my hands, the first person to ever touch this little being outside of my wife. My daughter. This is my daughter.

Third push, and a little body slithered out of my wife and into my arms. The umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck and body, and the midwives and I twisted and turned her around until she was untangled. We heard her sputter and then we heard her cry. It was the most beautiful sound I had ever heard. I lifted her tiny body up to my wife’s chest as she cried, “My baby, my baby, my baby. Oh, sweetheart.” I wrapped my arms around my wife and began to sob. I was overwhelmed with love and admiration.

Blood poured down between my wife’s legs. The baby had pulled part of the placenta off the uterine wall when she came out. The midwives ran about, attending to all my wife’s needs. They gave her a shot of Pitocin to contract the uterus, the first drug my wife received throughout this whole process. They gave her herbs. It felt like a movie where my wife, my baby and I were in focus as the rest of the world moved around us in a hurried blur.

We moved over to the couch where my wife continued to cradle our child. We stared into our daughter’s little face as my wife birthed the placenta. “Oh, you’re perfect,” I repeated. My eloquence long lost to overwhelming emotion, I showered my daughter and my wife in short statements of adoration. I reached out my finger, which was quickly grasped by the tiniest hand I had ever seen. I thought my heart would burst out of my chest right then and there.

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The midwives took care of everything as my wife and I held each other and snuggled our baby. We could not stop staring at her, touching her, kissing her wet new skin, telling her how loved she was. I pulled myself away long enough to cut the umbilical cord. The midwives stepped away to cook us food, clean our house, and eventually help us up to bed. After several hours of snuggling in our bed-nest, Midwife 1 performed the new baby exam. 8 pounds, 6 ounces. 22 inches long. Born at home at 7:38 PM.

Perfect.

 

Paralyzed

52311054767__8C9EBC3F-2533-4B0C-9184-CDA4B5E55399“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.

 

Inducing Lactation: It’s Working.

Breast Pump
As I’ve written about previously, I’m currently in the process of inducing lactation. I’m following the accelerated Newman-Goldfarb method, and I’m excited to announce that it is working!

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.

Early Pumping Schedule

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!

Frozen Milk 7.12.17

You and Me

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
one evening
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
at peace,

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.”

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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
than books
could plan)
the stupidest teacher will almost guess
(with a run
skip
around we go yes)
there’s nothing as something as one

one hasn’t a why or because or although
(and buds know better
than books
don’t grow)
one’s anything old being everything new
(with a what
which
around we come who)
one’s everyanything so

so world is a leaf so a tree is a bough
(and birds sing sweeter
than books
tell how)
so here is away and so your is a my
(with a down
up
around again fly)
forever was never till now

now i love you and you love me
(and books are shuter
than books
can be)
and deep in the high that does nothing but fall
(with a shout
each
around we go all)
there’s somebody calling who’s we

we’re anything brighter than even the sun
(we’re everything greater
than books
might mean)
we’re everyanything more than believe
(with a spin
leap
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.

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Simple Joys: A Vermont-Style Baby Celebration

IMG_9279We 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!

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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!

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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.

Planned Parenthood

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.

“Yeah.”

“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?”

“The pills.”

“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?”

“None.”

“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?”

“No.”

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.

 

Midwives and Home Births and Co-Nursing, Oh My!

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.

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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.

What?

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!