Bionic Mamas

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


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Edibile Items

Hi, again.  Sorry for the outburst; things seem to have returned to normal, which means I’m back to being fairly sane as long as I don’t hear about any mythical “sleeping through the night” -type babies.  It’s like when Wile E. Coyote runs off a cliff or Peter walks on water: I’m okay as long as I don’t look down.

ANYWAY.  I thought it might be good (and service-y!) to write a post with some more detailed information about how we do food around here, since Bunny and others seem to have come away with the false notion that I have some idea what I’m doing.  The Bean knows we need to go buy Sugar an anniversary present, so naturally he’s napping like a doped cat — this is not typical, let me just point out — so rather than wait around for a good narrative and structure to come to mind, i’m going to make bullet points while the sun shines.  (…so it goes without saying that I’m continuing this hours later, right?  Right.  With no present purchased.)

Item: The Bean eats at the table three times a day; it was two until recently.  He eats a fair amount, and he definitely does not go down for naps without those meals.  He eats some combination of whatever we’re eating right then (he loves scrambled eggs with cheese and broccoli), whatever leftovers we have in the fridge, and usually something we’ve made just for him.  I try to make sure there’s some protein and some vegetable on offer.

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The Bean and I demonstrate the ice tea spoon technique.

I keep a supply of extra spoons on the table because he likes to take them, and the day I found myself snapping at a seven-month-old for dropping a spoon on the floor is not high on my list of Best Parenting Moments.

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I am going to drop this spoon, and I am going to look good doing it.

Some things the Bean likes to eat:

  • WAFFLES!  OMG, the waffle-love.  We (read: Sugar) make these yeast-risen ones once a week or so and freeze most of them.  A quarter waffle, toasted and cut into three narrow wedges, is a good distraction while we get other food ready.  (If you haven’t tried yeast-risen waffles, YOU HAVE NOT LIVED, waffle-wise.  Bittman drives me crazy for a whole host of reasons (COUGHpretentiousprivilege-blindgrill-obsessedsnobCOUGH), but I’ve got to hand it to him on the overnight waffle recipe.  Except use butter on the waffle iron.)
  • Banana pancakes, which also do pretty well frozen and toasted.  The way the kid puts those away makes me think he’s part locust; he’s one-tenth my weight, and he can eat more of them than I can.  I fear adolescence, I really do.
  • Mashed sweet potatoes.  Boiled, mashed, frozen in ice cube tray, microwaved and served with butter.  Yum.
  • Sweet potato fries.
  • BANANA.  At least one a day.  And here’s where Sugar is a genius: she figured out that instead of peeling the banana and putting it in a bowl, you can cut the banana in half crossways and USE THE PEEL AS A BOWL.  It fits right in your hand, and keeps the banana from drying out in between meals in the unlikely event the Bean doesn’t eat the whole half (?) in one sitting.  This is the kind of thing ninjas would do, if they spent less time jumping out of trees and more time thinking about ways to make housework efficient.

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  • Cheerios.  Cheerios and cheddar bunnies (read: hippie goldfish) are a fabulous stroller/subway bribe.  We also usually throw some on the table at mealtime to distract him from hollering in between bites of other food.  Spoons require transit time, kid.
  • Cheerios and banana combined into a thrilling little amuse-bouche, like so:

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FANCY.

  • Eggplant, particularly in pasta alla norma, but raw and fallen to the floor is also devoured.  Weird kid.
  • Apples.  He likes to scrape his teeth on a raw one, but mostly he eats ones I’ve cooked in water on the stove (or sometimes the oven).  Lately I’ve served them with ricotta cheese in an attempt to get more protein in him.
  • Bolognese sauce.  Big pieces of pasta are fun to pick up and try to eat; the fancy organic pastina with the baby farm laborers on the box is, like all grainy foods, abhorrent.
  • New Orleans-style red beans and rice (only not the rice so much, see above).  This fills my heart with gladness.  Also, anything else with beans.
  • Sardine pasta.  Yeah, I don’t know.
  • Pumpkin muffins.
  • Donuts.

Which brings us to:

Item: I have no problem giving him sugar.  None.  This could be a secret confession except that I really have no problem with it, so it doesn’t feel confess-y. In lieu of a real post, some sub-items on the topic:

  • He loves to drink water with and after food, so I’m not so worried about his teeth.  Neither Sugar nor I have problems with caries (one risk factor for his potentially having problems with cavities), and Sugar, who works on a pediatric dentistry project some of the time, is constantly looking at his teeth.  She brushes them, too.
  • I reject the societal freaking out about the “obesity epidemic.”  I just do.  Obesity exists, yes, but — and I could write a whole, whole lot about this — I don’t think being hyper-controlling is any help.  So help me God, if the Bean ever comes home with a report card that includes BMI, THERE WILL BE BLOOD.
  • I am vehemently, even rabidly, opposed to rules about food.  Habits, okay, but not rules.  In my world, rules about food have been tools for learning to stop listening to my body, which has been the path to lots of sadness and terribly unhealthy behavior.
  • I don’t really hold with the idea that exposure to sugar means you’ll helplessly crave it forever and eat nothing but bon-bons until you expand to fill all available space.  I’m hopelessly grounded in my own experience (as usual), but I grew up in a house with easy access to lots of sugar and yet I have less of a sweet tooth than most people I know.
  • I don’t think lack of exposure means you won’t crave sugar.  Human beings like sweet things.  That’s in our nature, and I don’t think exposure changes that much.  It’s kind of like original sin that way.

Whew!  For a really good time, ask me what I think of reduced fat products.

Item: Turia asked about adding water or breastmilk/formula to food.  Early on, we did that.  We would mill whatever we’d been eating and add enough water that it was easier for the Bean to swallow.  He’d let us know if there wasn’t enough.  These days, we don’t, nor have I used the mill in a few weeks.  We either break foods up a little with the spoon, as with red beans, or cut them up small, as with yesterday’s shrimp curry or this weekend’s pasta norma.

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Not the world’s greatest picture, but you get the idea.

Item: I’m not sure what I think of vitamins.  His doctor — whom we really do love — told us at four months to start giving him trivisol, so we duly brought some and let it sit on his shelf for months.  (THIS I do feel a little confess-y about.)  More recently (read: MUCH more recently), Sugar has been giving him some at bedtime.  I hate that, because he smells like blood when I nurse him and…gross.  Then I did a bunch of research into the history of vitamins, which left me feeling pretty cynical about the whole business of supplements for people who aren’t at real risk of beriberi or pellagra.  On the other hand, I also just read quite a bit of history about lead poisoning, and NO, THANK YOU.  (This matters because low iron can make it easier for your body to absorb lead.  Also because it scuttles my plans to make the Bean earn his keep in a paint factory.)  I think the Bean will get his lead levels checked soon-ish, and I’m glad that’s standard around here.  So expect either smugness or panic on the vitamin front some time after that, I guess.

Item: I just asked Sugar what else I should tell you, and besides reminding me about the Bean’s love/hate relationship with seltzer (drinking it = love; listening to the angry farting of the soda stream machine = hate) and how he has been eating the lemon wedges out of my water glass, she said, “I don’t know.  I don’t feel like we’re really DOING anything.”  And that’s just it: we aren’t.  Three times a day, we put the Bean in his chair and offer him three or four different foods, some of which he eats.  If he finishes them, we offer him more.  Between those meals, he nurses, eats cheerios, and scavenges among whatever waffles and sweet potato fries he’s dropped on the floor.  If I’m eating something and he’s interested, I share it; if I’m trying to put away groceries, I offer him bits of whatever leftovers are in the way.  It’s all pretty low-key.

Early on, I had a brief panic that we are now responsible for offering him a balanced diet, whatever that is.  Ack!  I’m going to break the baby, I just know it!  I’ll forget about taurine* or something and he will WITHER AND DIE.  …but then Sugar pointed out that in fact, we do eat a balanced diet.  Right.  So maybe, just maybe, he will survive.  Humans have been surviving, even without food pyramids and RDA percentages, for quite some time now.  Yes, I know none of that matters because foods are all frankenfoods now and we can’t eat well like our ancestors and all that, but frankly, it’s hard for me to imagine that any of my ancestors who lived prior to the 20th century ate as well as we do, in terms of sufficient calories, variety of fresh food, and access to nutrients.  They didn’t leave the old country because things were perfect over there, you know?  Nor were things so great over here, most of the time.  I keep thinking of this old cajun man in a Calvin Trillin piece about a crawfish-eating contest in Breaux Bridge.  I’m too lazy to find it, but the gist of the story is that this man, who had been the reigning champion for years, had been forced to retire because he’d been put on a limited diet by his doctor.  Trillin asks him if he is sad to sit out the contest, and he says no, that he’s had many years of eating well and that, “there been kings who didn’t eat as well as me.”

Sugar and I do a couple of basic things to ensure that we eat well: we cook almost all of our own food, we mostly buy organic or minimally processed ingredients (when available at a reasonable price, which is where the hippie coop comes in), and we vary what we eat.  It’s taken both of us many years to become confident in our bodies’ ability to balance themselves, but in general, I think we do pretty well.  I’m sure we’ll have periods of panic about what the future Bean is or isn’t eating at a particular moment**, but right up there on my list of top parenting wishes is that we can save him the years of struggle it took us to get here.

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*That’s a little cat-lady joke, for the lesbians in the house.  Where my cat ladies at?  Starhillgirl?

**Really, I’m just terrified that his teenage rebellion will take the form of tedious veganism.  (I did a (very) little of that in my day, but only to support an eating disorder, so it wasn’t the evangelical strain.)


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Blog Carnival: Donor Sperm

This post is part of the Love Makes A Family Blog Carnival.  Check out this week’s other  posts, including the next in line, from, um, Next In Line.  (I did not do that on purpose.  That was my brain, making a funny.)

As I write this, riding the train home after teaching a night class, breasts sore clear up to the collar bone (pumps work better when you bring all the parts), the Bean’s sperm donor feels like a very remote concept, hardly a person at all, and certainly not part of daily life in any real way.  When we started TTC, I thought about him a lot, and when we got the fertilization reports, I felt glad my eggs liked his sperm so much, but now that the Bean is here, well, I admit wondering when he got his first teeth and whether he was an early walker (because The Bean is clearly not taking after my own, politely restrained model of first steps at 18 months), but he doesn’t have much to do with our immediate realities.  Nothing in his profile tells me whether the Bean is crying out of hunger or tiredness or whether he’s just pining for the cats; his interview doesn’t cover what to do with my mixed feelings as my milk ceases to be enough to feed the Bean.  In a theoretical way, I recognize that the Bean wouldn’t be the Bean if we’d chosen Mr. NMEBSI, but that doesn’t make the donor we did choose seem to me like a father.  For me and for Sugar, the donor is only a set of characteristics loosely associated with a product we paid for and have found satisfactory.  If he materialized in our living room, he wouldn’t know our son the way Sugar and I do, no matter how many genes they might share.

I realize, though, that someday he may seem very important, indeed, because the odds are good that the Bean isn’t going to believe he is the product of parthenogenesis.  (My pesky father will probably tell him about Y chromosomes, for one thing.)  We will tell the Bean that his donor is his donor, but ultimately, we don’t know who he will decide his donor is to him.  The biggest reason we chose a willing-to-be-known donor is that we wanted to be able to say to the Bean that even before he was a bean, we were thinking of him as his own person, whose thoughts and desires might well be different from our own.  We can’t know whether his donor will want to meet him (or whether the Bean will be interested in contact), whether he’ll actually not be the thoughtful man he seemed in his interview, whether he’ll even be alive.  We just wanted to be able to say that we did the best we could.

This all sounded very good to me, very well-reasoned and mature and considerate, until I was actually pregnant, when donor concerns suddenly seemed a little more real.  And then the Bean was born.  “He has your nose,” Dr. Russian announced, while Sugar cradled him.  “Really?” I said, craning to see across the room.  Later, I looked up the donor’s baby picture.  The Bean looks a lot like me, but he does not have my nose.  Nor my ears.  I looked at the picture and I looked at the Bean: it’s not just my genes in there.

I feel that we did do the best we could — for a variety of reasons, a known donor was not a good choice for us — and it’s possible that some of my concern is a product of internalized homophobia, a lingering belief that my gayness makes me an unfit parent.  (I reject such ideas with my conscious mind, but you know how minds can be.)  And yet, I can’t help worrying that the Bean won’t feel the same.

Donor Unknown, a documentary about the experiences of a group of donor-concieved teenagers who find each other on the Donor Sibling Registry and subsequently meet their (originally anonymous, from before the days of willing-to-be-known donors) donor after he reads about them in the New York Times, both fanned and allayed my fears.  It’s a wonderful film, and I highly recommend it.

(Okay, I’m home now and it’s late, so this part has to be quick.)

The donor in the movie is a fascinating character.  He is what you call a free spirit.  I was pleased to see what a kindhearted man he was, not at all someone who was only into donating for the money.  He seemed to feel a real spiritual connection to the idea of sperm donation, which had a beauty to it.  On the other hand…he’s weird.  He lives in a camper in a parking lot by the ocean.  But he’s so nice!  He recognized himself in the Times article and voluntarily reached out to these kids!   My reactions to this aspect of the film were a classic Aww!/ACK! conflict.  He loves animals.  Aww….  He rescues pigeons!  Ack!

Then I realized something important: the kids aren’t weird at all.  They are, you might say, all right.  They seem smart, kind, and sane.  With the exception of the one whose parents lied to her about being donor conceived, they seem happy and well-adjusted.  (If you ever needed a reason not to lie, imagine finding out that your daughter had talked to a NYT reporter about her donor siblings only when your voicemail filled up with friends calling about the article.  Heh.  Guess she got her own back, surprise-wise.)  Many of them talked about traits they imagined they might have inherited from their donor, but none of them seemed, upon meeting him, to find that his eccentricities challenged their sense of themselves.

The most important idea I took away from the movie is that the donor belongs to the kids, not the parents.  One of the moms of a boy in the movie talks about how she wants to go with him, to see him meet his donor, who she’s been curious about since before he was born.  The boy ably deflects her; he goes on his own and meets up with other donor sibs (and the camera crew) for the meeting.  Watching from the outside, it was so obvious that was the right choice, but I think I would have the same desires his mother did.  Besides pure curiosity, it’s hard to imagine relinquishing control over that moment.

Yet at the same time, the thought of relinquishing some control over that relationship is a relief.  It’s nice to think that Sugar and I aren’t messing everything up by not already being on the DSR, seeking out donor sibs and planning playdates.  We may yet join, but having watched this movie, I feel easier with the idea of letting that be his decision, donor siblings his discovery.  As long as we are honest with our children, then as with many parenting decisions, I think there is more than one right way to do this.


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Invisibility and Visibility

Sugar here again.  Something sad and something happy:

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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.

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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!

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Something Lousy, Something Sweet

Hello, darlings. Part Five is coming along. This week, I hope.

I am thinking of you, all the same. In the interests of keeping you from thinking your RSS feeds have just up and died, here are two quick things for you:

1. Turns out that “exclusive breast-feeding keeps your period away” stuff is just one more thing on the list of things that aren’t really true, at least not for me. Four months, almost to the day: that’s what I got for sticking with it through the early crap and the later horrors. And lochia for six of those weeks, if we’re counting. (Yes, of course there are other benefits to breastfeeding, but frankly, that one was high on the list for me.) Sigh. It’s light, but I seem to have new ways to have cramps. Neat.

1a. This explains the lying-on-the-floor-weeping-about-being-fat that dominated last week.

1b. This also explains The Bean’s adding feedings for the last week. At this point, it seems like I scarcely have any milk at all. He nurses all the time, but doesn’t get anything after the first couple of minutes. Weeping ensues, and he’s not too happy, either. Add “unhappy baby + hormonal disaster mother” to “human female pelvis vs. human newborn skull circumference” in your dossier of anti-Intelligent Design arguments.

2. Happy talk! A friend pointed me in the direction of the consummately cute butches + babies. You should check it out and submit your pictures. I sent in this one of the 6-day-old Bean with BFF’s partner. It’s already hard to believe how little he was.

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Blogging for LGBT Families Day: A Thanksgiving

The Bean is three months old today. He is sweet and smiley and miraculous. There isn’t a way to say he’s the light of our lives that doesn’t make me gag a bit, and yet it’s true. He wiggles an eyebrow and I am transformed from the grumpy dragon of morning to a cooing fool; he makes Sugar smile even when she’s barely slept, which let me tell you, is right up there with lead into gold. I could go on, but some of you might need to keep your lunches down.


Dreaming of Carrots and World Domination

In honor of Blogging for LGBT Families Day, I want to thank all of you who do blog about your LGBT families and your steps towards building them. We are happier, more confident, and, dare I say, better parents because of you.

It didn’t take a lesbian mom to provide the key to solving our napping problems (though in fact, it was one who did so), and I don’t mean to slight the many non-LGBT folks whose blogs I read. But there is something irreplaceable and maybe even healing about seeing the queer part of our lives (and of the lives we aspire to) reflected onscreen. Queer parents don’t get talked about much in mainstream media, beyond an occasional “look at the talking goat” sort of piece at pains to point out how normal and non-threatening some pair is, never forgetting that part of being non-threatening is never showing any anger at the forces that threaten our families. (And lookie what happens if you run one of those on Mothers’ Day.)

So quickly, before the Bean wakes up, thank you to those blogs I found when I first hit up Professor Google to figure out how this whole lesbo-mom thing could work (especially Lesbian Dad, One of His Moms, First Time, Second Time); to those whose authors were saddling up in the stirrups and shooting up sperm when we were; to those who came later, who let me feel like I know things worth sharing. Thank you for making your lives visible, so that ours feels less invisible.

The Bean thanks you, too.

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Well, Sort Of

Bunny asked to hear more about how breastfeeding was going well, but sadly, I guess it only sort of is.

From the perspective of my little world at home, it is going well. The Bean has gotten better at latching, my right nipple no longer feels (and looks) sandpapered, I have gotten well enough myself that I can nurse sitting up without passing out (the nurse at the hospital told me this was because the oxytocin — which, paging Dr. Freud, I continually write as oxycontin — was filling me with “feelings of well-being.” I thought it was my crappy hematocrit and low blood pressure, but I do not have a medical degree.) and we’ve figured out a lying down method that works for all participants. The Bean nurses on a somewhat intense schedule but takes long-ish breaks at night, so we’re even getting far more sleep than we have any right to. Now that my nips are no longer so scabby, I’m even enjoying it at times.

…and then we go to the pediatrician. The Bean, you see, is rather wee. Not compared to pre-termers, by any means, but still a bit small. He was born at 6 lbs 1.5 oz, having decided that he had met the terms of my “over 6, under 9” chanting and, at exactly 38 weeks, my full-term request. By the time we were at the pediatrician on day 3, his weight had dropped to 5 lbs 5 oz. Perfectly normal, which didn’t stop me from bawling uncontrollably in the exam room. My milk wasn’t in, and while colostrum is said to be just chock full of magical stuff, that stuff ain’t calories. The pediatrician, for whom we will have to find a nickname shortly, mentioned something vague about supplementation and lactation consultants, but wasn’t too worried, as long as we agreed to come into the office every day until he regained his birth weight. Stay in bed, she said, and nurse him every hour or two. He refused to eat that often, but my milk came booming in that afternoon, and the next day, he weighed 5lbs 7 oz. Success! Keep doing what you’re doing, she said. The following day, 5 lbs 8 oz. Come in on Monday, she said. I bet he’ll be back at birth weight already.

Or not. After a weekend of furious nursing, better latching, more diapers, and so forth, he had held steady at 5 lbs 8 oz. Come back Wednesday, she said, and why don’t we time the appointment so you can go to the lactation consultant group session afterwards? Two more days of furious nursing; 5/8 again. I cried all over the LC, who was not at all dippy and who, despite her wig and frum dress, later laughed when I said that given my choice of partner, I wasn’t worried about using breastfeeding as birth control. She evaluated his latch and showed Sugar exercises to improve it. I nearly passed out in the group session, in a combined assault of low blood pressure and what proved to be the violent chills of a fever that lasted the rest of the day. I also nearly died of my jealousy of the other woman there, so hale and hearty with her 8lb baby, especially once I found out she had given birth after me. Why was I shaking so hard I was afraid I’d drop the Bean while she was sitting there looking only a little tired?

Back home, we practiced those exercises and nursed even more. Surely, there was a little more of a double-chin, a bit more flesh under those arm creases. Nope: 5/8 again today. And so the Bean came to have his first mouthful of formula and I came to call the doctor’s preferred LC and subsequently to break out the pump rather earlier than I had hoped. And I hate it already, for the record.

Part of what’s so frustrating is that when we’re all at home, everything seems fine. He eats what seems like a zillion times a day, he pees and poops enough to keep the diaper companies happy, and so on. And then, every two days, we go in for what feels a very aptly named exam and find that we still aren’t passing. We go home, study some more, work still harder, and think this time we might pass, but we don’t. And we don’t even know we’re not going to pass until we’re there. (I know some of you are seeing the parallel to follicle checks, right? And conception in general — only this time I’m responsible for two bodies that, between them, aren’t doing it right.)

Speaking of my body, that’s another thing that’s well, sort of. I’m doing better than I was — I’m sitting up to type this, for instance, and today’s attempt to take the subway to the pediatrician was successful (Wednesday I had to take a car home) — but walking up the ramp to our subway station still left me light-headed. The OB nurse says I just need to drink gatorade. I’m a little tired of the OB nurse, frankly. Luckily, Sugar has been feeding me plenty of beef, which is, I think, a bit more to the point.

The silver lining of my being so wiped out is that I haven’t so far experienced any of the sense of possessiveness of the baby that other bio-moms have reported. I’m so glad when Sugar can take him from me, because I need the rest and he’s with his mom. I was overwhelmed with jealousy the first time we took the subway together, I admit. He was strapped to her chest, and people kept gasping over how tiny and cute he is, while I limped along ten feet behind like some troll aunt. That was no fun. Likewise when we went to the taco place around the corner for lunch last weekend and, as they left to go on to the botanic gardens and I began to lurch homeward on my still-unhinged hips, the pair of cops who’d just cooed over the baby saw my swollen belly and said, “You’re next!” It did sting to be still so wrecked from labor and be invisible. (This interaction occurred more than once that day, and when I’d say I’d given birth to him, the follow-up was always, “You had a c-section?” Apparently vaginal birth is supposed to leave a person nimble and sprightly. I’ll note that if there’s a next time.) But none of that has made me feel possessive, per se, just ready to be healthier, so we can all three walk together.

As your reward for reading this far, here is a picture of my favorite bit of the Bean’s hair, the hurricane cowlick on his forehead. I imagine it will fall out, but I hope it will take its time:


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Tales from the Front

Hi, folks.

So much has been going on, and I haven’t managed to tell you any of it. Mea culpa. Today’s update post comes to you from the couch, where I am staring over the horizon of an empty ice cream container and into space (such as it is in an NYC apartment), worn out from a 12-hour weep-fest. (We’ll get to that, but please don’t worry — everyone is healthy if not happy.)

Here are some updates and stories for you, in this so helpful style I have shamelessly plagiarized from our* May:

Item: Christmas, New Years, and the Great Middle Western Odyssey in general went fairly well. We met the famous TA, as sweet as they say, and her happy mother. I threw caution to the wind and ate my annual bratwurst at the Christkindlmarket. We went swimming at Sugar’s mother’s health club; after looking forward for months to the experience of grace and support I keep hearing about in re: gravid paddling, my attempts to avoid further rib injury lead to a kind of aquatic lumbering down the lane with a kickboard, a foam noodle under my ribs, and a foundering midsection intermittently covered by an old exercise top with shot elastic. Sadly, the ribs got angry anyway, possibly because of the indignity of being seen with me.

Swimming, 28 weeks
All the Grace of a Foundering Tugboat

I steered clear of Sugar’s dumbest cousin on Christmas Day — though I still managed to hear her dumb husband (whose last name is a synonym for “detumesces,” which gives me great delight, even if detumesce isn’t a real word, which it probably isn’t) threaten to spank their child for…oh, I forget. Something dumb that all 10 (10!) kids in the house that day were doing, like being loud. So no stories for any of us there.

To celebrate arriving at my parents’ house, I got a rip-roaring cold. After a day of utterly failing to breathe, accidentally overdosing on my inhaler, and subsequently freaking out about killing/brain-injuring the Bean, I was saved by Sugar’s suggestion that codeine is a fine anti-tussive. My parents’ house could easily be mistaken for a well-stocked pharmacy, and codeine not only stopped the coughing but also made me stop wheezing/turning blue. Mama made Dada listen to my lungs with the chimney of an oil lamp, since he had left his stethoscope at the office. I tried to teach Mama to cut and paste, so she’ll stop sending me emails with instructions on how to google something she’s found (“put X in. now go to the 4th result. in the corner, there’s a drawing of a fish. under that, there are some words you can click on….”) and instead caused a fight over dinner. We (98% Sugar) made a play-quilt. I was given (not “gifted,” dammit) replacements for the water bottle and good gloves I’ve recently lost on my commute; I promptly lost my best wool shawl on the trip home.

Item: We returned home to a house empty of food and full of cats very pleased with the success of their efforts to drive away our vacationing guests (the Baking Dane’s in-laws) by pooping all over their and our belongings. I walk the mile to the grocery store (over mostly-cleared sidewalks), discovering on the way that all that lying around in the midwest while steadily increasing in size has left me woefully out of shape for our car-less life. When I arrive at the hippie coop, I have a stupid exchange with the pregnant idiot working the front desk (this is the kind of coop where you work a shift to secure your right to Waldorf-educated kohlrabi) over her refusal to ask those working with her to rearrange the heavy carts (used to walk home shoppers who live closer than I do) so that those of us who schlep our own organic flax milk can hang our granny carts on the appointed hooks. Another woman sweetly takes my cart from me and says she’ll fix it. While I am recovering myself (read: weeping in the corner by the signs about how evil Coca-cola is), Pregnant Idiot calls over to tell me it’s done. I say thank you and think humiliated thoughts. On the way home, I get stuck in a pile of slush in the middle of a busy street at rush hour, oncoming traffic surging at me. Good times.

Item: We begin birth classes with the lesbian CNM and her somewhat dippy co-teacher, who keeps saying “dilatition.” We are pleased at the first meeting to see that we know one of the 7 couples there: an extremely chipper lesbian and her partner, who has a very charming lack of filter between her brain and her facial expressions. I enjoy watching my own horror reflected on her gaping face all evening.

The class begins with introductions. We are all (partners/husbands/friends, too) to say our names, when the baby is due, etc., and tell a story about our birth knowledge/experience — a birth we’ve been to, the story of our own, what have you. When the talking beanbag (not kidding) comes to us, Sugar goes first.

SUGAR: “Hi, I’m Sugar and this is my wife, Bionic. Our baby is due in March and we’re delivering at Kips Bay Mega-Hospital. The story of my birth is that my mother gave birth in 45 minutes and is still mad that all she got for dinner was a ham sandwich.”

DIPPY: “Wow! That’s amazing! How lucky!”

SUGAR: “Yeah. Too bad I’m not related genetically to our child.”

DIPPY: “But you’re related to your mother!”

BIONIC: Yes, but not to our baby.

DIPPY: “But your hips! You’ll have her genes! This is great!”

BIONIC: “BUT SHE’S NOT PREGNANT.”

[Awkward pause, in which DIPPY flusters about how she couldn’t really see us where we were sitting. Lesbian Teacher looks long-suffering.]

BIONIC: “Hi, I’m Bionic. My mother did not give birth in 45 minutes.”

I then proceed to talk about my (not un-traumatic) birth, touching briefly on a few major anxieties. I do not cry, but I don’t look calm either. Before I have collected myself, The door opens and the late couple walks in. If you’ve already guessed that the late couple was Pregnant Idiot and her identical twit of a husband, full marks.

Watch this space for further reports on the Happy Couple, who remind one nauseatingly of high school. Highlight of the first night came during one of the activity portions, when we were all draped on one another practicing slow-dancing to loosen back, etc. Sugar is admirably taller than I am, so my face was nicely snuggled against her chest, my eyes closed. I hear a *SMACK* on the Happy ass next to me, followed by “THAT’S a BOOTY!” Gorge rises.

Item: I begin to worry more seriously about this whole birth thing. I spend much of birth class freaking out (internally — at least I think I didn’t look as horrified as the Other Pregnant Lesbian, since the Lesbian Teacher never stopped what she was saying to ask me, “Do you have a question? Or is that just the face?”). It’s all very well learning about what the cervix does, what the birth canal will do, and so on, but while I don’t really wish to share the idiosyncrasies of my lady bits with the class as a whole — Lesbian Teacher knows already — it’s frustrating that no one has a clue what my body might or might not decide to do when the moment arrives. I have found 3 anecdotal reports of cervices like mine: one reassuring, one cautionary, one horrifying. (There’s much more out there on UD, but officially, single utes with double-doors do not exist, as we contravene the prevailing theories of fetal genital development.) I’m increasingly despairing that a vaginal birth will even be possible, which makes this all seem like something for other people. I know there are good reasons for us to take the class anyway, but it’s still a bit hard to sit there and look like I believe this stuff will apply to me.

Item: Dr. Robot has quit the practice and returned to Canada, according to Dr. Sympathetic Noises (But No Answers To Your Questions), whom I saw last week. I was quite nauseated and asked Dr. Noises whether it could have to do with the Zantac I’ve been taking for reflux, given that it seemed to have coincided. No, she said sympathetically. Later, I asked Dr. Google, who reported nausea as the most common side effect. Back to pepcid, and it’s a more acidic but less queasy life for me. Nice work, Dr. Noises. Thanks also for refusing to answer my questions about your practice’s labor policies until week 36.

Item: We finally have our belated hospital tour, led by a horrible, scolding bitch. We chose this hospital largely because of how uncommonly NICE every staff member we’ve encountered, orderlies on up, have been over the course of several radiology jaunts, Sugar’s surgery, and my BFF’s terrifying 27-week bleeding incident while visiting us a few years ago. So we weren’t expecting one of those bitter, angry people who loudly pretends to be cheerful while referring to all non-pregnant parties as “Dad,” kvetching endlessly about why her department deserves more space than another, and generally yelling at anyone who asked a question. I also liked the part where — apropos of nothing except a quiet moan from one of the rooms — she snapped at us, “labor is PAINFUL!” Part of my reason for going on the tour at all was to see the space at a time when I wasn’t feeling actively upset. FAIL. I was calmer when in the company of my bleeding friend.

The actual L&D facilities are nice, though it’s a bit annoying that the much-vaunted TV/DVD/CD players are only allowed to be used with headphones — bit of a reach from the bed. Post-partum, like everywhere in the city, is another matter. The rooms are clean and tiny. There are four, un-reservable private rooms that cost a fortune; the semi-private rooms are exactly big enough for bed-chair-crib, bed-chair-crib. There’s no nursery anymore — theoretically great; actually somewhat terrifying — so they allow partners to sleep over…in the hard chairs, which do not recline. It’s not at all clear to me how I’ll get through this (especially with no nursery to give me a break) if I send Sugar home to sleep, but it’s plenty obvious that she won’t get any sleep in that wretched chair. Mostly, that horrid woman made me afraid the PP nurses will be like her. As far as I can tell, she’s a lactation consultant. So help me, if she comes near my nipples, I will not be responsible for my actions. And I do think it would be nice to wait until we’re home before beginning the Bean’s profanity lessons.

It all seems so trivial when I write it, but the aftermath of the tour has had me up weeping since 4:30 this morning. Okay, it’s possible hormones are playing a role here. The basic issues, as I see them: terrible fear of being left alone; much greater comfort taking care of people than being taken care of (read: vulnerable); fear that I won’t be able to take care of the Bean and Sugar and that no one will be taking care of me in that strange place.

Item: Sugar had to talk to the Stupid Cow at HR today, who deliberately refuses to understand that our relationship (our legally recognized, accorded benefits by the employer relationship) exists and tells Sugar she’s single all the time. But that is Sugar’s story to tell.

Item: I wish there were some useful guidelines on alcohol and pregnancy, short of ZOMG POISON. I know plenty of people drink in the third trimester; so far I haven’t, beyond pilfered sips of Sugar’s wine now and then. But boy, I could use a drink tonight.

*Brits: I have no idea if the “our ____” usage has some meaning that’s inappropriate to this situation; I just love how it sounds. I am a dumb ‘merican. Feel free to attempt to (gently) correct my heathen ways.


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What’ll It Be?

Over the past few weeks, we’ve taken a crucial step in practicing belief that the lump in my belly will one day be a Real Live Baby TM: we’ve told lots and lots of people. We’ve told the friends we hang out with but don’t make the “we’d want you to know about a miscarriage anyway” list (GULP). We’ve told my boss I can’t teach in the spring (financial GULP). We’ve even told Facebook (high-school-frenemy GULP).

By and large, this has been great. Most people have said something nice, and no one’s been rude — one of the great things about being loudly gay is that the suckier-type people don’t want to be friends with you anyway. Excitement has come from unexpected quarters: Sugar was suddenly hugged by a moderately nerdy male colleague running for the train yesterday, and the father of our favorite toddler, who was luke-warm at best on the topic of reproduction prior to the arrival of his daughter, checks in on my health nearly as solicitously as my mother does.

Nearly everyone we tell in person immediately asks, “Do you know what you’re having?” which sounds like something a diner waitress would say.

I have an impulse to answer, “BLT, fries, and a coke, please; no mayo on the BLT,” but that would be unhelpful. Instead, I tell them, “I’m hoping for a puppy, but it’s looking more and more like a baby.”*

Partly Mostly, I answer that way because I’m a congenital smart-ass, and I’d hate for my friends to think pregnancy has changed me (though apparently they expect it to — a shockingly large number of them have not laughed, but rather stared at me as if I’ve lost my mind). Partly, though, it troubles me that even now, at whatever fruit-metaphor size it is this week, the bean is already supposed to be defined primarily by its sex.

Now I know, I know. I know it’s just small talk, that no one is saying our baby can’t wear a tutu while operating a steam shovel or be the butchest kid on the synchronized swimming team. I get it. It’s meant to be nice, a way of thinking of the baby as a real person. But though I’m pretty darn gender-conforming in lots of ways, I’m still not nuts about the whole business of tying personhood to sex.

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Our anatomy scan is a week from today, and we haven’t decided yet whether to find out the sex. Sweet Sonographer has promised she will not let me find out if I don’t want to know, even through I’m on deck for lots of extra scans to look out for IUGR. So that means the decision really is up to us.

On the one hand, knowing would make it a little easier to buy/beg for clothes. It is remarkable how much is either pink or blue. I don’t hold with the whole pink/blue thing — both of those colors are a little blah — but it sure is a lot of what’s out there. And even though I grew up in the South, where pink is a normal color for men’s shirts and even though I know that pink was the baby boy color in the nineteenth century (apparently because of its association with powerful red) and even though my dad does look very smart in a pink oxford, I’m not so sure I want people to think we’re those lesbians, if you know what I mean.

And yet…. I have a strong feeling that once we know one way or the other, the follow-up to those diner-esque questions will be non-stop advice based on stereotypes or anecdotes of babies of whatever sex. Which sounds annoying. (Yes, we can use “Pregnant Women Are Smug”**-style evasion, but I don’t think I could really keep that up. Sugar could.) Whether to circumcise isn’t going to be a tough decision for us, and nothing else seems like something we really need to decide right away. We like the green IKEA crib. We can pick two names, as our parents did for us.

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Yesterday (when I started writing this, for what it’s worth), was National Coming Out Day. I don’t remember to think about it every year, but it is a day I hold fond. In college, it was the day of my favorite party, after which everyone would stream out all over campus armed with sidewalk chalk. In the morning (and, with lucky lack of rain, well through fall break, when prospective students and parents often tour, heh), every sidewalk and pathway would be covered in explosions of support and affection, everything from “I love my gay roommate” and “I love my parents (even though they’re straight)” to triumphant labia and, when Sugar was around at least, the sweetest love poems. It was late on the night of that party, my first year, that I first (tentatively, awkwardly) came out to a friend. These days, when it is so easy to forget how hard that was, it’s a good reminder that there are plenty of people, especially teens, who need us to be loudly, gladly out, who need the reassurance that full, happy lives are not only possible but actually easier when we tell the truth about ourselves.

But even though being out is important and often a pleasure (see note about lack of sucky friends, for instance, plus the fact that, in my case, it means being able to marry Sugar), coming out is mostly scary. It’s scary because it requires you to tell everyone in your life that you are not, in fact, the sum of the expectations and assumptions of your sex; you are yourself. It’s amazing how difficult it can be to remind people of something that shouldn’t be so hard to remember.

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As you may have gathered from my earlier post, the bean has gotten big and strong enough that we can feel it now. And I mean “we.” This has been so far an unusually physically non-mutual pregnancy — not only didn’t all those years of, erm, “trying on our own” work, not only didn’t we do this at home with the baster, but Sugar wasn’t even allowed in the room for the transfer. It’s therefore even more magical that the first time I felt something I couldn’t explain away as anything other than its beanship, Sugar was holding her hand on my belly and she felt it, too. The strongest movements don’t feel to me like “flutters” or whatever else the book says. They feel like throbbing, like very strong blood. Like another heart, held in my belly.

For now, I like just feeling the bean move on its own, reminding me that it is its own person, even inside me. I’m not sure I’m ready to cover it up with all my expectations and fears about boys or girls. When*** it’s out in the world, I will no doubt learn soon enough that it isn’t every boy or every girl or even primarily a boy or a girl, just itself. While it’s inside, not knowing seems to help.


*On balance, I’m glad it’s not a pony. Those hooves intimidate the hoohas rather a bit.

** You HAVE seen “Pregnant Women Are Smug,” right? On the off chance you haven’t, go watch it now. I command you.

***Knock wood, knock wood.


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Your Questions…ANSWERED

Hey, internet. How’s it?

Things are chugging along, chez Bionique. I’m astonished (and a little frightened) to report that I am already feeling occasional soreness in my ovaries. This is getting worse before it’s getting better, I know. Oh, well. This is the perfect time in my year to be incapacitated. I’m in between teaching gigs — I’ll start summer school in July — so I am more or less able to just lie down and whine. Which I plan to.

I’ve been devouring blogs about IVF lately (surprise), and I keep finding myself reading really old entries and then being annoyed that the author hasn’t talked about something or other I’d like to hear. But I’m just as bad, I’m sure — I’m lousy at keeping track of what I’ve said here and what I’ve only obsessed about quietly to myself (read: “yapped Sugar’s ear off in re:”).

So. Anything you’d like to know? I’ll start off with a couple questions that have come up in comments lately and update this post to address questions in the comments.

Kristen asked at some point what we were up to in early August, i.e., are we going to BlogHer. Happily/sadly no, we are not…because we’re getting hitched again! Or at any rate, we’re having a big party. We are extremely behind in planning same, but the room has been rented, so we’re doing it. When we got married in November, we only had our parents and two friends with us, because we thought we’d have a party 1) in decent weather and 2) when we had more time to plan it properly. (We almost didn’t even have our parents there, but our two friends — who have each known one of us our whole lives or close to it — pointed out that our parents would kill us.) So no BlogHer. I am a bit jealous of all y’all who will be there getting to meet each other and all that, but, well, my wife is pretty damn awesome.

Pomegranate asked what manner of IVF cycle this is — lupron, antagonist, etc. It’s a basic, stripped-down, no fancy-stuff antagonist cycle. We’ll do Gonal-F for a bit, then Gonal-F plus Ganirelix, which will keep my eggs from busting out before their time. Then HCG trigger, egg retrieval, progesterone, and transfer, hopefully on day 5.

I don’t know all that much about what determines the cycle type they try first, except that I’m thinking it’s partly to do with my endometriosis. I gather we endo gals can be not-so-great responders, so maybe that’s why no lupron? In case it quiets things down too much?

So far, I’m glad it’s this kind of cycle, because I have limited stores of patience, and this one is quick.

So. What else you wanna know?


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Helping

So last night Baby had to do her first injection for IVF using a little needle attached to a pen that goes into the flesh around the navel. After a couple of hours of waiting for the on-call doc to call back and explain what to do when the pen dosages don’t match up with the dosage instructions (wtf Gonal-F?) it was time to do the deed. Baby swabbed her stomach with antiseptic and then stood there poised. And stood there.

“I can do that, if you want.” I said after a few moments.

“Maybe that would be a good idea.”

She handed me the pen, told me the procedure, and looked away. So I squeezed a pinch of her stomach and stuck in the needle and depressed the pen. This felt a little creepy. But it was also kind of awesome. This was the first time I felt like I was actually doing something to help this pregnancy thing along. Yay! I helped!

During previous cycles I mainly stood around like a third wheel while the doctor stuck his hand up Baby’s hoo-ha and shot in yet some other guy’s stuff. It’s disorienting to feel like an unnecessary body guard during the possible moment of conception of your own kid. So I’m surprised but pleased to find that moving on to what is a more difficult, physically taxing, and ‘medical’ attempt to knock Baby up has at least one positive result – involving me in the process. Hopefully it will also work. Fingers crossed . . . .