Bionic Mamas

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


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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.

ediearrives

*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 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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In Which I Belatedly Realize The Value of Calendars

Hell’s Bells. Why didn’t this post last night? So much for posting every day. Curses. (xoxo from a bus through Staten Island.)

It has been brought to my attention that today is our anniversary.

Specifically, it is the anniversary of our legal marriage, the one in Connecticut in 2009, when we carried these flowers and I accidentally skipped my shift at the food coop. That anniversary.

It has been further brought to my attention that the third anniversary is the “Get Off The Internet And Pay Some Attention To Your Wife” anniversary.

With that in mind, I have dug out the last of the frozen cake from our other wedding and am signing off.

I plan to write about marriage in general later this week, for this fine blog carnival. I hope to read some of your posts on the subject, too.


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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.


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Reports of My DOOM Greatly Exaggerated

Good things happened today:

I took another look at those stretch marks. They haven’t disappeared, but they aren’t as bad as I’d remembered, either. As no one has ever thought my stomach was my best feature, perhaps I can Build A Bridge And Get Over It.

Following another 45 minutes listening to the same “song” on hold (I like synth glockenspiel and rhythmic static as much as the next lass, but I do wonder how much my tax bill would have to rise in order for buy them more than a 4-minute loop), today’s phone agent says, no, my insurance isn’t canceled, everything is as it should be, why would you think otherwise? I guess yesterday’s report to the contrary was just a stress test of my cardiac function.

Cervix check was not super-fun but not really that bad either. And did you catch the use of the singular there? Dr. Skinny only checked one. I tried to figure out if she knew there were two without actually accusing her of not reading my chart. She said the Bean is pushing mostly on one — as in my fondest hopes, as that is the way it needs to go for a vaginal birth to work. I’m a little skeptical that she could tell without checking both (they are *very* close together, unless pregnancy has changed the geography of my ute a great deal), but not nearly doubtful enough to have insisted she dive back in. It did hurt a bit, and I spotted quite a lot afterwards and am still a bit crampy (though that is likely partly because of wandering aimlessly through our mostly-useless Target while on hold), but on the whole it was much better than I’d feared.

Dr. Skinny says I am 1 cm dilated and 50% effaced. I know that can last for weeks, but I feel hopeful that my body is doing things on its own. I figure if 1 cm took 37 weeks, I should only be pregnant for another six and a half years.

The fruit stand lady on my way to acupuncture let me choose my own banana. That never happens. This is totally a pregnancy perk, as was the lady at the post office being nice to me. (Note: this was not my local post office, where I’ve had an employee threaten me physically; this is in a much nicer neighborhood. If it had been my post office, I would just assume I had slipped into a coma or was otherwise living in a dream world.)

The White House seems to have located their collective gonads. (Just as the legislative branch loses its mind — Keiko has done such a fine job on this one; you should just read her post. I do not have her knack for explaining why this matters without insulting or enraging those who disagree with me.)

Finally, I have decided that I am having my own glass of wine tonight, dang it. Down with quests for perfection, up with rationality. Aside: I don’t really mind not drinking per se, but I find it enraging to know that no number of studies showing that doing so is okay this late in the game will ever change the medical recommendation that the preggos OMG STOP KILLING UR BAYBEES WITH TEH DRINKKIN. ’cause if you give those ladies an inch…well, it’s just Exhibit Z in Women Cannot Be Trusted With Their Bodies (see above). Whither science, I’d like to know.

Thank you for your hand-holding and other comments on yesterday’s post. Much food for thought. As soon as I locate my brain, I will have to get on thinking about it all more.


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Perfect Moments

Hey, y’all. Chez Bionique = still reeling. Happy, befuddled, occasionally panicking…never a dull moment, as they say.

Symptom watch includes mild (but not so mild that I wouldn’t take an Advil under other circumstances) cramping, some fatigue, and — I’m going to count this — the biggest MFing cold sores I have had in easily 15 years. As in, where did the left side of my upper lip go? Yuck. Dr. Baby Factory says no taking anything, even L-Lysine. (Confession: I took some before I asked. I guess I’ll not take any more. Probably.) Your miracle cures welcome.

I don’t think I’ve ever managed to participate in Weeble’s Perfect Moment Mondays, but Sunday had a couple of moments that bear recording, I think.

Here is Sugar, under the triumphal arch near our place:

A Piano At The Plaza

Piano courtesy of Play Me, I’m Yours

My father is a pianist. He played Beethoven, Chopin, Mozart, Bach every night of my childhood. Some of my favorite baby pictures are with him at the keyboard, in a carrier on his back or pounding the keys beside him like a real hambone. He put neon green stickers on the ends of an octave’s worth of keys to teach me their names; I don’t remember ever not knowing. For reasons related to the crippling shyness that characterized my early childhood, I never took lessons, so while I can play a little, not much, really. (Let’s not go any further down that road, lest the crying start.)

Even when we were first “dating” (misnomer for typically lesbian reasons), I was comforted to think that Sugar’s ability to play represented a kind of redemption on that count, that there would, after all, be someone to play for our children.

Which brings me to this:

RIMG1199

Yes, I surely did go out and by the pricey kind only when I already knew what it would say. What of it?