Bionic Mamas

you're not losing a vagina, you're gaining a son

Invisibility and Visibility


Sugar here again.  Something sad and something happy:


Bionic sent me this link to insertmetaphor’s post on the problems inherent in trying, as a same-sex-relationship parents, to mix with the mommy/daddy gender divisions that are casually set up everywhere.  I have had the same questions and issues, feeling angry while not hating the actual people in the actual gender appropriate mommy/daddy pigeonholes.  “It’s not them, it’s their paradigm.”  Yep.

In the comments on that thread Halfadozen writes about not wanting to feel invisible during this important life event.  That is what I am struggling with also.  I want to be seen as an important parent with a real parenty job to do, and someone who is undergoing a major life change, not some uncategorizable and therefore sidelined auntie.

I mentioned in my last post that my mother asked me if I was going to ‘have one of my own.’  (And thanks, Twangy, for the righteous indignation.  Yes.)  This kind of question really throws the invisibility cloak right over what’s happening in my life now.  Before the Bean was born, Bionic’s extremely well-meaning mom took me aside and tearfully thanked me for ‘everything that I was doing’ and repeated exclaimed that ‘there should be a word for me.’  She admitted that Bionic had told her that that word was ‘mother’ but, well, ‘you know what I mean.’  I felt like I had actually disappeared.  Poof!

I also make myself disappear on a regular basis.  I do this because I feel like I need to acknowledge that Bionic did something difficult and worthy.  I can easily be mistaken for the Bean’s biological mother, and this in turn makes Bionic seem to disappear.  I end up saying things like ‘well my partner bore the baby’ so that people know what’s going on.  Since the world seems to only have a place for one mom per family and I’m clearly not a dad, it feels like we have to choose which one of us is erased for whatever social moment we are in.

We did have a funny interaction last week.  Funny partly because the people were strangers so I didn’t really care how they felt.  We were in the back patio of a bar drinking a happy-hour beer before the Bean turned all cranky for the evening.  I was wearing the Bean in a carrier.  Two other people were there having their own conversation.  Another woman arrived, looked at us and said ‘oh, you have a baby, I won’t smoke.’  She was standing in the smoking area which was pretty far away from us so Bionic said ‘no, go ahead, it’s OK.’  The couple having their own conversation stopped to listen.  The woman who wanted to smoke looked at Bionic, pointed to me, and said, ‘how does the baby mama feel about that?’  Bionic took umbrage and said, ‘I AM the baby mama.’  Then the woman then looked at me and said, ‘she must just be a really nice person.’  Then I took umbrage and said ‘I’m her WIFE.’  Apparently that’s what you get for trying to be nice about smoking around the baby of lesbians.  Amazed observing couple continued to be amazed.


An online friend of Bionic’s asked how I feel about it when people tell her that the baby looks like her.  Here is the honest truth about this:  I feel happy.

I think, on the surface, this must seem strange.  I remember feeling sad in our pre-sperm-purchase phase that we couldn’t have a baby that would be related to us both, that would look like us both. It’s true that that would be nice.  However, there are two big issues that have contrived to make me feel happy when I hear that the Bean looks like Bionic.

First, we were so worried about the donor and what he looked like that I became somehow convinced that the baby would mainly look like the donor.  I feel really pleased when I see the ways that he looks like Bionic.  He has her skin, her mouth, her ability to raise a single eyebrow.  I love my wife.  I love that my baby looks like my wife.

Second, society at large is invested in keeping us from feeling like a family.  Just to pick some things at random, there is DOMA, for instance, and my parents’ tearful fear (when I was seventeen) that being gay ‘is a lonely life.’  There are restrictions against gay adoption.  There is the fact that my employer will reimburse for any adoptions except for second-parent adoptions.  So a visible reminder that my baby looks like my wife is wonderful.  It’s like a big fuck you to those august institutions telling me I can’t have a family.   I have a family, we even LOOK like a family.

I guess I could see this the opposite way.  I could ask, since I don’t look like those other two people am I a part of this family? But somehow I don’t.  It just makes me happy to see Bionic when I look at his little face.  It’s like, look at that!  We did it right!

sophie 1

13 thoughts on “Invisibility and Visibility

  1. to tell you the truth, I think this is how my male friend felt about his wife’s delivery. She was in labor, at home, for 25 hours, and he was there to support her for every single contraction, in and out of the shower, etc etc. He was totally involved in her giving birth. But he has to stake his claim to that experience every single time anyone brushes him off as ‘just the dad’ and looks shocked that he talk about HER birth experience like he had anything to do with it. He did–it was just a different role. The Bean is gorgeous! And personally, I think it’s a tossup whether I’d rather have a baby that looked like me or my wife. I mean, I’m stuck with how I look–but I chose her at least in part because I think she’s pretty.

    • well, birth is one thing — it’s true that dads are invisible there, too — but when people see a man and a woman out with a baby, i think the assumption is they are both parents. that’s not how our experience has been as two women, and even knowing it would be that way doesn’t mean i don’t feel a little socked in the gut when it happens.

      (although, for the record, we made friends with the people at the bar.)

  2. I loved reading your post. I don’t know how I’ll feel if people go on about the baby looking like Fern, but, like you, I have a slight fear of it really looking like the donor. I’d rather people went on about how the baby looks like my beautiful wife than forever talking about the donor.

    I am about to write a post about my mom – it sounds like she’s stuck in a similar place as yours.

    Thank you for writing about your experiences – I love these posts. I’m nervous and a little insecure about this new role and it’s great to not be alone with that.

  3. Our son looks like the perfect combination of the both of us, so we really don’t get ‘he looks just like …’ comments, BUT it bothers me to no end whenever he does something and Nutella’s parents say ‘We know where THAT comes from…. we know where he gets THAT’ and so on. Really annoying.

  4. Very few strangers get that we are a family when we are out in public. The boys are so small and bald and they just basically look like babies (i.e. not really like me or her) so people just assume the mom is whoever is the one holding, carrying, pushing the stroller etc. Then we get asked who is mom. Then we say “We both are.” Then they smile (or get embarrassed or whatever) and we go on with our lives.
    By the way, I’m equally horrified with both anecdotes about your mothers’ comments. The one from Bionic’s mom reminds me of my grandmother, who is 85, and got on the phone and said to me: “I hear S. is a really big help to you.” Now whenever she changes a diaper (or the like) I tease her about being “such a big help” to me.

  5. Er. Wow. I thought the word for the second parent was… whatever the second parent wanted to be called. Something including the implication of “I was woken up five times last night by my adorable child and he peed on my nose.”

    I am always somehow amazed that people can be so, I don’t know, rigid and insensitive. As in, really, there are people in the world who think a lesbian couple have to fit into mom-and-dad? There are people who think DOMA is a good idea? There are people who actually believe people of color to be inferior? HOW CAN THIS BE??

    I love your adorable baby’s raised eyebrows, too.

  6. this post touches so close to home, i’m having a hard time thinking of a concise comment — i dont want to overrun your comment section, so maybe i’ll just do a post of my own on this topic. thank you for sharing this post with us though, i really enjoyed reading it.

    lol at the ladies on the patio…

  7. in a way i have always liked to see the shock or confusion on peoples faces when they make a comment about who the mom is. with us m had our older son and i had the twins so it is even more confusing for people. recently at church for the baptism of a friends son some older women asked us who mom was and when i said both of us they looked perplexed. i remember when hook was little feeling a bit on the outside (only when around other people) as the non-bio parent but the more time i spent with him i stopped caring because i knew who i was and that was enough. and now that he is older it is great to hear him answer questions from people with things like “i don’t have a dad. i have two moms” or “they are both my moms” as he stares at them with a certain degree of indignation 🙂 i’m sure the bean will get there too!

  8. Oh phew. I feared I had over-stepped with the ranting.

    I am sorry that you are forced out onto the edge of culture, cutting out a path for yourselves, when all you want is to be a family. That must be wearing – I know *I* wouldn’t like it. I really wouldn’t. I can only hope that it becomes easier with time as people cop the unprintable on.

    ps. I think we need a picture of Bean with the raised eyebrow.

  9. It’s saddening that it seems you can’t both be visible simultaneously, but I’m grateful you don’t resent the (usually) well-meaning folk who are just in need of constant consciousness-raising. I wonder if the non-bio feelings of invisibility fade a bit once people are less interested in hearing about the pregnancy and stuff. I suppose it will always be complicated, though.

    Bun Bun looked a lot like our reproductive endocrinologist for a few weeks, which was pretty amusing for us, since with IUI, god only knows whose sperm went in there… It’s awesome you can enjoy the resemblance to Bionic for now, and soon enough he will resemble you, in manner if not in appearance. Probably he already does.

  10. first of all, the bean is such an absolute doll!

    i know dragon can relate to a lot of what you said. she’s really sensitive about this, about her own role as the non-gestational mother and also for me when she’s carrying bunny and people don’t notice me.

    one of dragon’s favorite stories about our time in the hospital is about an elderly korean pediatric nurse (ironically named yung) who came in for a shift while dragon was in the nursery with the bunny. (at the time, i was elsewhere getting a blood transfusion.) the exiting nurse told her dragon was one of bunny’s mothers, but not the birth mother. nurse yung was obviously confused. by the end of her shift, she had changed her tune a bit, telling dragon, “he look like you. i don’t know how, but he look like you.”

    on the other hand, a friend of mine, a lesbian who is the currently pregnant non-gestational mother of their first child recently posted a picture of the bunny on facebook and called him pom’s baby boy. you just never know who’s going to be sensitive and who’s not!

  11. I appreciate your posts so much. I just want to say thank you!

  12. Thanks so much for the great answer to my question. I was hoping that it felt like that. Clearly, Bean is gorgeous and perfect, so any comment on his looks should make his mommies happy.

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