Bionic Mamas

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


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Sunday Snapshots

Morning.

No coffee, or rather, no milk, which means no coffee for me, given present esophageal conditions. Sugar and the Bean get dressed, count down the minutes until the local grocery store opens, and return victorious, bless them.

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Sugar and the Bean make pancakes. Banana for me and Sugar, chocolate chip for the Bean, because calories he will eat > calories he will not eat. (He didn’t eat much yesterday and was up repeatedly in the night, until applesauce and milk finally applied at 4:30 in the morning.) He eats a whole one, cut in squares! He asks for another, a dinosaur this time. I do my best with a paring knife.

Dinosaur pancake

He smiles. “No, I don’t want a dinosaur. I want a square instead.”

~ ~ ~

It’s my father’s birthday. He was going to come to the East Coast for a meeting next weekend and spend a day with us, but my mother is too sick to be left alone. It will be easier for us not to have him, as Sugar’s mother is coming that weekend, but I am still disappointed. And envious.

~ ~ ~

I unaccountably find myself crying over some dumb article about baby shower etiquette. Rude to plan one for yourself, they say. Unless someone offers, have everyone over for a cookout to meet the new baby, instead.

Point of order, I don’t want a shower, exactly. We don’t need much stuff. (Another chair. Maybe a few cute things that can belong just to this baby.) I don’t need to be treated like a princess or a well-maintained incubator or whatever. I wanted to be pregnant and I like being pregnant; I don’t think gestating makes me more special than those who aren’t. But it is work, especially while keeping the the Bean alive and my students more or less on track. And given how much of my work feels invisible at all times (see: daily parenting, adjunct professing), I admit a small desire to be noticed, just for a minute.

Sugar thinks we should just invite people over for champagne as a combination un-shower and early birthday party for her, since we are usually traveling for Christmas on her birthday. I seriously doubt any of our friends will actually care about the etiquette of such an event, especially if there is champagne.

I think the real reason the article got to me is that it presupposes a place in a social structure that doesn’t exist in our lives. We don’t have local family. (Well, one aunt I love and never see.) We don’t live near our hometowns or our high school and college friends. We don’t (and I’m not sorry) have a place in the cavalcade of heteronormativity these rules presupposes. I don’t regret the decisions that have led us here, but sometimes feeling different is too close to feeling wrong.

Moreover, I remain envious to an unflattering extent of people who are well enough to host parties two weeks postpartum.

~ ~ ~

The Bean naps today. Not for all that long, but it is sweet watching him fall asleep. For once.

~ ~ ~

In the afternoon, Sugar makes bread. The Bean is appalled.

“Punch down the bread?? That would be terrible!”

Yeah, Sugar. No hitting.

~ ~ ~

I vacuum the bedroom. It’s getting harder to do that sort of thing; I am not what you might call gainly. But it is worth it for the Bean’s praise upon inspection: “This looks beautiful to me!”


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On Discombobulation

The Bean is having another not-nap today.  There is distinctly unrestful thumpery emanating from his room, but so far no crying for me to come.

He’s not ready to give up his nap, that much is clear.  He never napped on Monday and was an emotional wreck for the remainder of the day.  Yesterday we were on the subway to the Bronx Zoo at his usual nap time.  We were with friends he adores, but he spent most of the ride staring, glassy-eyed.  He steadfastly refused each offer of a bottle of milk (his usual at bedtime and nap), although he would normally accept a bottle with no going-to-bed strings attached in a heartbeat.  I thought he might do the usual inconvenient baby trick of falling asleep two minutes before our arrival — last time we did this, he fell hard asleep two minutes before we pulled into an elevator-less station where construction forced us to make a three-stairway transfer — but no. He was full of energy to run (and run away) at the zoo, to find the tigers, to prove I’d been wrong when I told him there were no buffalo or red pandas (apparently he remembered them from his last trip, the better part of a year ago), to continually ask for the cookies I’d told him were a treat for the ride home.

He desperately wanted to see the giraffes, though, but when we headed their way after lunch, he fell asleep in his stroller before we could see them and did not wake up until we were nearly home again.  Whereupon, seeing our friends, he smiled and said, “on a special, special train!” Then he spread his arms in a comic “what gives?” gesture and said with a twinkling eye, “Oh! No cookies?”

One possibility is that he’s ready to switch his nap to the afternoon, which would complicate our lives in some ways and simplify them in others, if only I had the first idea how to facilitate the switch.  But I wonder if there’s something else in play here.  Several times in the past week, he has woken up — or rather, not woken up — with night terrors, long periods of flailing and a kind of screaming I never hear from him in neurologically ordinary moments.  Screeching that would peel paint off the walls, that floods my body with adrenaline, my brain frantic to find who is skinning my baby alive.  That kind of sound.  He’s been like this before, generally after naps — I refuse to believe these are tantrums; he’s so clearly not there — but not in a few months.  Their reappearance makes me wonder if the nap refusal is part of a larger pattern of sleep disturbance, perhaps related to a leap in cognitive/neurological development.

It’s happened before: the last time sleep went deeply to hell (not that it’s ever great around here), Sugar noted that his vocabulary was just exploding.  Growing a brain is a lot of work; big changes are bound to require some disruptive furniture-moving in there.  No wonder he’s a mess.

*    *    *

I wonder if any of my readers are surprised that I’m not posting about the goings-on at the Supreme Court this week.  Naturally, I feel strongly about these cases.  I even have some thoughts about them, imagine that.  I don’t have a good answer, except that I somehow can’t bear to.  Just reading about them for a few minutes at a time leaves me in tears.  Sugar can’t bear to read at all.

I nearly wrote just now that we are hardly on the front lines of these cases, living in a state that recognizes our marriage and having the usual denial about the death-related problems Edie Windsor’s DOMA case centers on.  But the truth is, we are on the front lines here, whether we want to be or not.  By virtue of living our lives in the most truthful way we know how, we are subject to having those lives dissected in, at best, dispassionate terms by powerful strangers in faraway chambers.  Moreover, our lives are subject to discussion by everyone with a mouth or a keyboard, and what isn’t deliberately dehumanizing is too often the kind of devil’s advocate “objectivity” unpacked very well here and here (in terms of feminism, but a very close match).  While nothing about the details of my days this week sounds terribly heroic — nap strikes, zoo trips, endless games of trains — I feel nevertheless buffeted by invisible winds.

Yesterday, my Facebook feed bloomed red.  Huge numbers of my friends, including tons of straight ones (and one who seems to be calling herself straight now, despite an impressive track record to the contrary in her youth, ahem) have replaced their avatars with HRC’s red equal sign logo.  Then came the mutated memes, the equal signs made of wedding rings, card catalog cards, broken matzo squares.  There are Rotko-esque ones, Muppet ones, Lucy/Peppermint Patty ones, and one made of belly-flashing corgis.  Eventually, even I had to get over my profound irritation that HRC, who are admittedly dab hands at branding, is going to be associated in people’s minds with this moment, when it is the ACLU who deserves the praise and the donations.  (Okay, I’m not over it. But it’s no longer my principle feeling.)  It truly is remarkable that, as one friend put it, “for the first time in my life, being gay is cool.”

Like a number of my married gay friends, I changed my profile picture to an image from our wedding.  I found I liked seeing these friends marching along my feed in their fancy dress, cutting cake and exchanging vows, kissing and just grinning at the camera.  There is something visually right, to me, about these pictures being surrounded by the sea of red, the allies sublimating themselves for a moment to those of us who, like it or not, find ourselves on the front lines.

This moment is incredible; if you’d told me, even five years ago, this week would happen as it has, I’d never have believed you.  I can’t believe, as I frequently tell my students, that the conversation has gone from, “Should gays be allowed to teach school/live in settled areas,” to, “Should gays be allowed to marry,” in only the time it’s taken me to get from high school to here.  It doesn’t seem possible, anymore than the strength our elders have shown in carrying us here seems like something I could find in myself.  I see this picture of Edie Windsor* entering the court today, and I see a warrior.  I see this picture and I think of song by Sweet Honey In the Rock: I don’t know how our elders have done it, but I do remember.

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*from the ACLU twitter feed

I admire more than I can say the bravery of the people who have taken the most public steps to bring us here, though I know all of us who have made this issue seem real to our friends and families are helping in small ways, too.  Even though small ways are exhausting in a week like this.  Allies, we are so happy to have you, so proud of you.  I can’t think I’m the only one who feels the strain, though, so I ask one more thing this week.  Please, be gentle.  As in the Bean’s brain, big changes are happening in our worlds.  It’s surely no wonder if some of us are a bit of a mess.


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On The Habits of Breeding Lesbians of South Brooklyn

For all your lesbian ornithological parody needs, click through to this piece I wrote for Rebecca O. Johnson’s erstwhile respectable blog, Urban Ecology.

It goes a little something like this:

1. The South Brooklyn Lesbian: Species or Race?
Much controversy surrounds the taxonomic status of Brooklyn Lesbians: should the Lesbians of North and South Brooklyn, concentrated respectively in Williamsburg/Greenpoint/Bushwick and Park Slope/Prospect Heights/Clinton Hill/Bed-Stuy and adjacent neighborhoods, be considered separate races of a single species, like the Yellow- and Red-shafted Flickers of species Colaptes auratus? Or are they more properly defined as two separate species, like Baltimore and Bullock’s Orioles, once thought types of Northern Oriole?

It is the position of this author that the Northern and Southern Brooklyn Lesbians must properly be separately named species of the genus Sappho. The two display marked distinctions in plumage and diet, with the Northern species preferring H&M ‘80’s nostalgia synthetics and Pabst Blue Ribbon and the Southern natural fibers, Dansko clogs, and whiskey-based cocktails.

More…

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In our natural habitat, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Note: salt water sandals are a common summer plumage variation, always reverting to clogs in the winter months. Think fall and spring warblers.


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On Marriage

Better late than never, eh? Seems apropos, given the subject.

Hi, again, internets. Hope you enjoyed NaBloPoFortnight as much as I did. Following the streak-ending snafu on Tuesday, the Bean got an awful cold and refused to even try to sleep except against one or both of us, which didn’t mean much sleep for us at all. I ate Thursday night’s dinner in the dark of his room, to give you some idea, lying on my right side with him on my right arm, my plate balanced on my left hip, lowering bits of omelet into my mouth like an ancient Roman at a La Leche League banquet. Very conceptual and hip.

Things are somewhat better now: though the Bean still flat out refuses to fall asleep except against us, he can at least be transferred once asleep. In a related story, he has now officially climbed out of his bed. He did wait at least eight months longer than I though he would.

Anyway, here, terribly late, are some disjointed thoughts on marriage for that blog carnival I told you all about. Can’t wait to read the rest of the posts.

Sugar and I were legally married in Connecticut, three years ago last Tuesday. It was Friday the 13th, because that was the date our parents could all come. We wore pretty dresses and rode the commuter rail up to Greenwich with them and two friends: through a funny piece of fate, each of us had a lifetime friend living within a few blocks, despite neither of us having grown up here. Sugar’s friend was the little brother of her childhood best friend, the one they’d made walk out on thin ice in the swamp to test its strength and sacrifice his baseball hat to carry home a deer skull from the woods. Mine was my only true babyhood friend, born six months before me to a friend of my mother’s who later took care of us both. Before I was born, my mother held her on her lap. I kicked and she started crying. She’s been getting me back for it since. A friend from the community garden gave us a box for our rings and the most beautiful bouquets, a mix of store bought flowers and a few miniature roses still blooming in our garden in November.

We went to Greenwich because it was the closest place on the train line with a tolerable attractive court house. I had hoped for nice weather and a wedding under a red leafed tree, but the wind blew the rain hard that day, and we settled for the fluorescent gloom of a conference room lined with disapproving portraits of the Village Selectmen of the mid-1950s. The camera seized up from the humidity and refused to focus.

Same sex marriage wasn’t legal in New York yet, but the Governor had declared the state would grant them reciprocity if they were performed in jurisdiction where they were legal. This shouldn’t have been big news. States routinely recognize each other’s marriages, even marriages (such as between close cousins) that are not legally allowed in every state; there is no such thing as federal marriage law in the US, except for the provisions of the Defense of Marriage Act, including the one specifically giving states the right to refuse to recognize same sex marriages. But under the circumstances it was big news, and it was the best news we thought we were likely to get. We thought we’d better act on the offer before a less friendly governor or a constitutional ban rescinded it.

In 2009, we’d been together for 12 years. It was a little strange that we weren’t married in some sense already. We’d certainly shown any number of other kinds of commitment, including beginning to try to conceive a child together. But we don’t have a faith in common and didn’t especially feel like making our own ceremony, unmoored from a religious or legal framework. It’s a fine thing to do, but it’s not our thing.

So up to Greenwich we went. Our friends met us in at Grand Central, and we got everyone on the train. I spent the ride up sewing a button back on my good coat. We piled into cabs and found our conference room and submitted the paperwork afterwards. We looked at some regrettable art in the hallway. The train ride back to the city was pack with commuters, so some of us stood and the others sat alone. We all had a nice dinner at a Korean restaurant in Park Slope. I got a positive on my ovulation predictor pee stick, but despite the potential romantic story, we did not do an insemination that month. Our parents went home.

I didn’t really expect any of it to change our lives much. It seemed like the thing to do, something we ought to take advantage of, if only to insist to the world that we meant the things we had always said about our relationship to one another. Our parents seemed happy about it, although they would probably have been happier if they hadn’t all been sharing the same vacation rental apartment. But really, we’d been together for 12 years, and this wasn’t a big party with lots of family and friends and all that. This was just for the sake of form.

When it comes to practical matters, the ways our particular marriage — as opposed to just the act of living in a place where gay relationships are generally accepted and sometimes celebrated — has improved our lives is a fairly short list. For the first year, the New York State Revenue Service couldn’t figure out what to do about our taxes, but now that marriage equality is the law here, we save some money by filing jointly. Because of the Defense of Marriage Act, there are a whole host of marriage benefits we cannot have, including the right to file joint federal tax returns. Because we are legally married, Sugar’s employer gives her some money to partially offset the imputed income penalty we pay for her to have me on her health insurance, a form of taxes straight couples do not pay. The money doesn’t make up for the whole penalty, but it’s a nice gesture.

The surprising thing, then, was in fact how very different being married does feel from being “married,” as we were for many years. The difference hard to pinpoint or explain, but it is profound. Immediately, I felt more confident in my right to have my relationship respected, more settled in the world, in some fundamental way more real. Alex Ross has recently written a very fine essay for the New Yorker on the history of gay rights advocacy, one that describes with a more dramatic scope of time what I try to explain to discouraged college students now: how incredible the changes feel, how rapid this can seem sometimes, even for someone who is simultaneously impatient for greater change (the end of DOMA, a federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act). He says about his own marriage,

When you get married, your relationship is taken more seriously by those around you; when you are also gay, the sense of public affirmation goes strikingly deep. Friends reacted as if we had done something vaguely heroic. I realized, as with coming out, that personal gestures ripple outwards into politics.

On election day, couples in three more states were given the right to find out for themselves how it feels to go from talking about my “partner” and “girlfriend” to saying, with the sense of pride and absolute authority that only the law can give someone like me, this is my wife. Congratulations. I hope it feels as good for you as it does for me.

Forty-one states to go.


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Tricycles and Gender

Sugar here. I haven’t written here in a while, but I’m thinking I’m going to try to get back to it, so here is a post:

I was on the playground with the Bean the other day, engaged in my usual playground activity, eavesdropping. This playground has a lot of donated, semi-broken toys, many of them plastic cars, rolling benches shaped like cars, and tricycles. The Bean was busy sitting on cars. He can do this for a very long time, just trying out what it feels like to have his butt on each vehicle, so I had a lot of time to sit and notice what else was happening near by.

A couple of feet to the right of the Bean was a mom trying to take a picture of her son, who was maybe three years old. He was rolling along on a pink and purple tricycle with silver streamers on the handles.

“Oh your daddy’s gonna love seeing you on that pink bike!” she said. She didn’t tell the kid to get off the bike, and she clearly didn’t think it was that big a deal, but there was still humorous disapproval in her voice.

What the hell? I thought. This woman, in addition to caring for a toddler, apparently also has to worry about the reaction of her husband to any, ANY, non-normative gender behavior in her son, including the sin of just thinking that an available tricycle is awesome and not shunning it because it is pink. Are men really this fragile?

Here is another example of this phenomenon. A colleague of mine has a son, who at the time of this story was four. She described to me the difficulty she had when she took him to buy pencils at the grocery store. He really, really wanted a particular packet of pencils, but they were Dora the Explorer brand and were purple (purple!) with glitter in the paint. She knew her husband would be very upset if he saw their son with those pencils. Unsurprisingly, the four year old didn’t think much of this argument. Now, I’m having a kind of emotional day here, but this story kind of makes me want to cry. JUST BUY THE FOUR YEAR OLD THE PURPLE PENCILS. Also, maybe leave your husband. Ok, maybe that’s a bit extreme, but COME ON.

One thing that is interesting to me about stories like this one (and I don’t have just one of these, I swear some woman or other tells me something like this at least once a month) is that they are always told in a sort of resigned and conspiratorial way, the subtext of which being, “I don’t really think this matters, but you know how men are. Too bad we are stuck propping up their masculinity and norming the hell out of our kids all the time, but it has to be.” My answer to this, if anyone ever said this out loud to me, which by the way they never will because they are so deeply embedded in their fun-house version of reality to be able to tease out the subtext of anything, would be, “You are not stuck doing that. You are choosing to do that. And your choice is based on things you think are important and real, but which are in fact trivial.” Fixed gender identity? Nope, not real. Your husband withering into a melted pile of horror-movie yuck when he sees his son wearing a pink garment? Probably not going to happen. What will the neighbors think? Sorry, but the neighbors aren’t really paying much attention.

So, Ok, I’m probably not the best person to play the resigned-and-conspiratorial card with. For one thing, I don’t have a husband. I’m not all, poor men and their egos! Being a feminine looking gay woman with a toddler gives me this bizarre window into straight-world thinking. Other moms forget that a) I don’t have a similar story about my husband not helping with whatever, and b) I do have a very different perspective on the necessity of shaping myself or my son according to societal expectations.

Here is a simple question I wish these moms would ask themselves: why is what my (not even present in the situation) husband thinks more important than what a) I think and b) my kid wants to do? Why is my husband worth protecting, and what am I protecting him from? Or, to be more charitable, why do I believe what I am saying/doing helps my child?

I suspect that the answer to this last question would be that all this norming helps the child learn how to not be teased, to learn (right now, at age 3!) to live in a world that expects and enforces cisgender behavior. I reject this. This is just wrong. It’s wrong on the small and immediate scale, in that purple pencils and pink bikes don’t really say anything about the gender of a 3 year old, so you are just making a big sad confusing deal out of nothing. It’s also wrong on the large and eventual scale, in that every time you label an activity or preference as ‘wrong,’ i.e. gender-nonconforming, you are teaching your child that he lives in a hostile world that judges him on the basis of how closely he can conform to a nonsensical ideal.

I find conversations with many straight moms (And I guess I should be clear here that at our local playground this means pretty, young, white, straight, married women with money – so basically people who’ve yet slam up against the ugly side of societal expectations or bias – just wait, ladies) so frustrating because it is clear that they don’t see their ideas about gender as ideas. Rather, those ideas are just part of the fabric of the reality that surrounds us, invisible and immutable. So there’s no conversation to be had. But there is. There is so much of a conversation that should be had about this, and people need to be having it before they raise another generation of sad people who are uncomfortable in their own skins.

BUY THE PURPLE PENCILS FOR GOD’S SAKE.

trike


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Barely Legal

The deed is finally done!  We had our second-parent adoption court date yesterday, and BAM, we are now a legal family in all fifty states and the good ol’ D of C.  Feels mighty good, I tell you what.
Between Sugar having to run home from the subway station to fetch her ID, my brilliant decision to take a different train downtown (forgetting how infrequently it comes and not knowing the elevators were broken at the downtown station), said train’s passing us without stopping after we waited for one hundred years, torrential rain, and all the joys of going through security with a stroller, a toddler, and all the accoutrements both collect, we thought we would be so late that they’d tell us we were out of luck, but somehow we weren’t quite that late after all.  The elevators were confusing, but the nice man at the desk where we had to leave our camera gave us directions and congratulated us; when we got upstairs, there were toys in the waiting room and the court clerk went down and retrieved our camera.  Thanks to her, we have this winning picture of me with half-popped collar — I am tough, but sensitive — and blinking with our lawyer:

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The Bean is chewing on a wooden block from the adoption office, a block likely encrusted in the spit of hundreds of fellow Brooklyn babies. Ah, tradition.

The Bean was an amazing sport about the whole thing, especially considering it was very much nap time. A lot of cookies were involved. Special thanks to the guys working security, who stood next to huge signs prohibiting food or drink in the court house, x-rayed our huge bag of Bean food, and only asked if the steel water bottles had hot liquid.

Afterwards, the Bean napped in his stroller while we walked to and through this phenomenal new park; when he woke up, we visited a playground and had a magnificent feast at Superfine, thanks to a sweet friend (and stupendous non-bio mom) who is a chef there.  After a postprandial return to the waterfront, we climbed back into Brooklyn Heights (that name is no joke, y’all) and rode the subway home, exhausted and happy.

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A Very Good Mother

Hello, internets. Apparently my iPad got peckish and ate the post that was almost done. I’d say it was a pity except it wasn’t much good, so perhaps it is in fact a blessing. Anyway, hello.

My hand is still bandaged but much less terrifying, lest you feared I’d met a gangrenous, Game-of-Thrones-ish end.

The Bean is splendid and only driving me slightly insane on these hot, mostly house-bound days; he more than makes up for it with his new love of the alphabet. I’m not claiming he knows what a letter is or anything, but he is quite smitten with the list itself and now babbles bits of it. He has this sly, preening look he gets when he knows he’s about to do something clever; the other day at breakfast, he looked at my side-long under a raised eyebrow and remarked significantly, as if making a witty observation,

H I J.

In short, he can play me like a violin.

Meanwhile, here is your Friday Feel Good, thanks to Mombian:

This month is the 40th anniversary of PFLAG, Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, which is the kind of organization I can’t even really read about without getting a bit teary. I’m just going to quote two of their six strategies goals, while I collect myself:

Create a world in which our young people may grow up and be educated with freedom from fear of violence, bullying and other forms of discrimination, regardless of their real or perceived gender identity or sexual orientation or that of their families.

And

Create a society in which all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons may enjoy, in every aspect of their lives, full civil and legal equality and may participate fully in all the rights, privileges and obligations of full citizenship in this country

Until today, when Mombian posted about it, I’d never thought about how PFLAG’s founding; it was just there, helping people like me and my family, and maybe still more blessed, helping parents who maybe aren’t quite sure what to think when their children come out to them, giving them a place to be afraid and unsure what to think and still love their kids.

It turns out the whole thing started with one hell of a rockstar-mom, Jeanne Manford, who stood up for her gay son after she saw him on the TV news, injured at a protest while the police did nothing to help. She wrote a letter to the newspaper, saying something both perfectly natural and, in 1972, not quite three years after Stonewall, revolutionary:

I have a homosexual son and I love him.

She marched in that year’s NYC pride parade, carrying a sign reading, “Parents of Gays: Unite in support of our children.” And they did.

Thank you, Jeanne Manford. Thank you, all you parents of us LGBT folk who just keep on loving us. We know it’s not always easy. I hope that in those moments when loving the Bean requires courage, I can live up to your example.

(reading about Jeanne Manford today keeps making me think of the brave — both in her life and in her willingness to show her vulnerability when writing about it — author of the blog Transparenthood. Check her out.)


25 Comments

Big Phat Photo Post

Hello, dears.  There have been some requests for photos, and I am, big surprise, a sucker for requests like that.  So here are a whole lot of ’em.

Update since I started “writing” this post: we have survived our home study.  The social worker was really very nice — not at all like the horrid psychologist from the last parental-fitness screening — and was from North Carolina, which does help.  She wasn’t nosy about the house or anything like that, and she framed her personal questions as a way to build a document the Bean would one day read, which was much more welcome than thinking of it as proving ourselves to an authority.  (If any of you in Brooklyn decide to hire someone, I’d recommend her.)  Once she’s written her report and the lawyer has submitted it to the court (within the week), the only thing left is for us to get a court date.  Phew.

March 2012  — 12 months old

For his actual birthday, I made a pound cake in a tiny loaf pan, cut it into three layers, and frosted accordingly.  I cut a “G” (his first initial) and what was supposed to be a “1” out of parchment paper, put them on the frosting, dusted with powdered sugar, and peeled them up, like a delicious, delicious batik.

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The Bean helped.

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I had to work that night, so Sugar and I had his family celebration at lunch.

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For his birthday party, my dad managed to come for a day — he lives far away, but he had a meeting in Boston.  He gave the Bean some piano pointers.  (My dad plays very well, but even he doesn’t have a piano in his bedroom.)

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His party cake, a variation on on Swedish princess cake, as directed by the Dane.  Mine turned out very awkward looking and very fantastic tasting.  Or maybe everyone just thought so because of the French 75s.  Either way.

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He had a great time, especially when hanging out with the Danelette.

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April 2012 — 13 months old

Petting grape hyacinths at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.  They’re so bouncy.

Petting The Grape Hyacinths

Flying!

Flying!

Poster for the action movie he’s planning with two friends.

The Boys -- Action Movie Poster

Spring Break!  Rode the train all the way to Charlottesville, to visit the magical starhillgirl.  Plenty of time to practice with chopsticks.  (NB, travelers: the sushi place in Penn Station is a hidden gem.  And the ladies there love it if you come in with a baby on your back, “just how we do it in Korea!”)

Chopstick Practice

He met his first chickens…

Fowl Contemplation

…was stalked by cats…

Being Stalked By Trip

…did some cat stalking himself…

Walk This Way

…sorted starhillgirl’s rocks and rubble…

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…and checked them for freshness.

Tasty

He enjoys his work.

Oh Hai

He damn near climbed his first tree — immediately after this was taken, he started pulling up, and it was all I could do not to lose him.

Holy Smokes!  I'm In A Tree!

He gave and got some quality snuggling.

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He petted cats!  In trees!

Petting Cats...In Trees!

The Bean refused to pose among the dogwoods, but Trip here knows how to be a good Southern baby.

Trip Knows How To Be A Southern Baby

It is a good friend who will share her danish while you wait for the train home.

It is a good friend who will share her danish while you wait for the train

Easter!  We hunted eggs at the playground…

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…and in the bathtub.

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Stacking blocks became the new thing.  He’s looking smug here because he has stacked them on an unstable surface.

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Had his first attempt at a big-kid swing.  I suspect he will like those more than the baby kind, but they are sadly hard to find in this town.

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May 2012 — 14 months

“Welcome to the Pajamatime Piano Bar, where it’s always time for pajamas.”

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Hanging out with the cats.  Orson (shown here) is getting less wary.

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Trying miso soup at our Mothers’ Day brunch at the japanese restaurant.

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…and it’s a hit.

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We went to reunion.

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The Bean and Sugar vogued around campus.

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Brace yourself for schmaltz: it’s a family portrait on the site of our first kiss.

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Back in the city, we have been exploring outdoor art…

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…and attending birthday parties.  The Bean tries really hard not to make a mess…

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…but sometimes it’s hard.  (I don’t usually get into pictures of my kid with food on his face.  Probably my mind is going.)

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Hanging out at the community garden.  Where did I get a blond child?

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Home Study Eve (Blogging for LGBT Families Day 2012)

Internets, I have heard your request for Bean photos, and I am helpless to resist them. I have such a 50-megaton photo-dump post in the works, your interblag tubes will be clogged for a week. (This is why I don’t do photo-dump posts: zero self-control.) It will be up this weekend, maybe even before our home study on Saturday, because the social worker said not to clean and hell, we are certainly paying her enough to ignore a few dust-bunnies. Plus, she doesn’t get paid until the adoption goes through, which isn’t a conflict of interest At All.

But today is, besides the Bean’s fifteen-month birthday, Mombian’s Blogging for LGBT Families Day. It’s a bit of a fluke that I remembered in time, but I did, so I thought I should scribble something out.

…okay, it’s been all day.  I meant to write about North Carolina — my home state and the most recent to pass an anti-marriage equality amendment to its constitution — but that hasn’t happened.  So…have this.  (Hope you like parenthetical comments.)

Tomorrow is our second-parent adoption home study, wherein a social worker to whom we will pay an enormous amount of money will come to our house and decide if we are fit to parent the child we have been parenting for the past 15 months.

On the bright side, she seems nice, but really.  What is the point of all this?  If the state decides Sugar is not fit to adopt, the Bean will still be my child and will continue to live with us.  That’s extremely unlikely to happen: not only is Sugar pretty obviously the superior parent in the relationship, but second-parent adoptions are all-but automatic in our area, the all-but referring to the huge chunk of change we will probably-but-no-promises get back from the IRS as an adoption tax credit.  (Nice of you fellow tax payers to kick in for these costs, but really, I think the lawyers will find a way to scrape by without the subsidy.  I tend to think the adoption agencies would, too, but that’s a soapbox for a different day.)   Since we all know this is essentially pro forma, it pretty much amounts to a tax on being gay.  Kind of like that $450 we had to pay to be offended by the psychologist at the Baby Factory, back in the day.

It’s important, I think, to note that this is not about genetics: if I had conceived using anonymous donor sperm but were married to a man, his legal parentage would be automatic in every state.  Husbands are presumed to be the fathers of their offspring, even if said offspring have the postman’s ears, because these laws are at their core about the inheritance of one trait only: property.

I know what I’m supposed to say right now is how grateful I am that we live in a state that not only allows second parent adoption by same-sex partners but one where they routinely go through without comment.  (Unlike in NC, where once again, some crazy divorcing lesbian ruined it for everyone.  People, can we all agree that once someone does something like this to our community, that person — even if hot — gets no sex again ever?  Call it Operation Lysistrata.)  In a limited way, I am grateful, or at least I am aware of how much worse things could be. I don’t mean to sound to those living in states with awful laws like a spoiled brat, but neither do I feel inclined to do a lot of sucking up to the powers that be just for being allowed the basic piece of human dignity that is having my child’s relationship with his parents recognized by the law.

Before I got involved in this TTC and parenting lark, I had some sympathy for the “people should be screened to be parents” kind of argument that springs up in conversation, usually about some abysmal behavior on the subway or, less forgiveably, in the context of parents in poverty.  I didn’t exactly agree, you understand, but there was something appealing about the idea of a test, because, I realize now, I was so blindly comfortable in my race and class privilege that I never dreamed such a test would be given to me.  Even if it were, it was obvious I would pass (see: race, class, education), and tests you know you’ll pass are kind of fun, amirite?

No, as it turns out, they aren’t fun.  They are enraging.  Moreover, sometimes the standards get changed even after you took the test (see: NC second-parent adoptions revoked in wake of nasty case mentioned above).  Being informed or reminded that an external authority has control of — or even and opinion about — your right to reproduce and/or parent is galling and frightening and in no way conducive to good parenting.  Even knowing that no one is the least bit interested in taking our child away from us, I feel under surveillance, nervous of any perceived misstep.

We in the privileged quarters tend to talk more freedom from reproduction, via birth control, abortion, etc., than freedom to reproduce.  Yet, as a wise friend of mine once remarked to me, the eugenic impulse is strong in American thought; tiptoe out of the world of the white, the middle-class and above, the able-bodied, the straight, the sane, and it’s right there, not just disapproval, but policy, ranging from the kind of nuisance barriers I’m complaining about here to real bodily control, sterilization, confiscation of children, and so on.  (Do you think, as I did, that forced sterilizations of, for instance, welfare mothers was a thing of the past?  Read this.)

I don’t mean to draw false equivalencies.  However bad my attitude about tomorrow’s hoop-jumping, I am not so self-involved as all that.  Being gay in this time and place has its inconveniences, but being white and educated and middle-class sure does help out.  (So does not looking different — when my white, middle-class, educated aunt and uncle brought their baby daughter to the ER, was it the cut she’d gotten on the shower door track that triggered the suspicions of abuse and the subsequent nightmare of temporary custody loss, or might it be possible that their Muslim dress had something to do with at least the severity of and contempt behind the official reaction?)  But it is true that having our right to parent scrutinized has made me think differently about the right to reproduce, which is about as basic a biological drive as you can name, and how — and for whom — that right is limited.  (Overpopulation exists, but our system isn’t China’s, seeking to control absolute numbers.  We are quite proud of that, of not telling rich, white, healthy people how many children to have.)  I expected to learn things from motherhood, but I didn’t expect this would be one of the lessons.