Bionic Mamas

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


I held a tiny sleeping bundle and now I’m sappy

Sugar here. I’m writing this post even though we haven’t gotten past the nuchal yet (the appointment is Monday). I feel a bit superstitious about writing anything at all about Bionic’s pregnancy until after we hear those results, but here I am doing it anyway.

Yesterday evening Bionic and I took dinner to our neighbors across the hall who just had a new baby and got their clothes online, find more about it at this site. Our friend answered the door and talked to us for some time with the new little guy sleeping against her chest. Eventually I mentioned that I hadn’t seen him in the flesh before, and she just up and handed him to me. And there he was in my arms contentedly sleeping away, and there I was feeling all mushy. I do not think of myself as a baby person, but holding that tiny baby suddenly made our decision to try to have another one seem so great.

Before last night I was not feeling not-great, but I was feeling apprehensive about sleep deprivation, our lack of space, the inevitable question of money, etc., etc., and nothing about the new possible baby felt real yet. Now it feels real. I am so grateful to our neighbor for jolting me past that hurdle BEFORE the new baby arrives this time.

In other news, I spent last night in a very narrow bed with a toddler and six (six!) very pointy toy trucks. I am hoping one thing this new baby may do is sleep better than the bean, egads.


In Which I Regret Not Being That Mom

Some mundane stuff, because I really have to go to bed:

We took the Bean to the playground this morning, early enough that it was fairly empty; it’s quite bustling on weekday afternoons, and it’s nice to have a bit more of the run of the place. It’s a good-sized one, with play structures for different age groups, swings, handball courts, and any number of donated tricycles, plastic trucks, walkers, play kitchens, and so on. These are the perks of living in a town where no one has the space to store large gifts from the relatives.

After some slide/stairs circuits and a bit of truck work, the Bean settled near a Dora dollhouse and busied himself manipulating some flap or other. Nearby, a slightly (?) older toddler found a sort of plastic ATV to ride, the sort you sit on and push along with your feet.

It transpired that his heart’s desire was to push himself directly at, up to, and nearly over the Bean. As we watched from our trying-not-to-hover distance, he zoomed (relatively speaking) up to the Bean several times in rapid succession. The Bean, startled, would move farther away, and he would herd him some more. This went on for several minutes. When the Bean moved to avoid him, he would swing back again, such that eventually, the Bean was pinned into the corner created by the two sides of the dollhouse and could not leave. The other child backed up a little, adjusted his angle, and once again zoomed up to the Bean, who had started to look pretty panicked.

At this point, Sugar and I swooped in to reassure him, perhaps slightly prematurely. Our arrival did, however, have the useful effect of shaming the child’s father into adjusting his course out of the dollhouse and away from the Bean.

I don’t know, y’all. I think it’s good to let kids have space on the playground to figure things out for themselves, but I’m pretty pissed at the father in this case. He was standing right beside all this, and what with the emptiness of the playground, it’s not as if he was unable to see. I don’t think his kid was necessarily being intentionally aggressive or hostile or anything like that, but the fact is that he was scaring a younger child, and I do think it would have been nice for the father to care about that, though it’s too rare on that playground to find a father who seems to think any kind of intervention is his job, frankly.

In retrospect, I feel a little bad that I didn’t rescue the Bean sooner. He was not happy and clearly lacked the physical and verbal wherewithal to fix the situation. More than unhappy, he looked scared, and I don’t like seeing him scared and trapped. I guess when it comes right down to it, I’m more willing to see him fall down than feel menaced, even if swooping in makes me That Mom.

The Bean tends not to engage in a pushy way with other kids, and of course, kids his age are mostly pushy, so this means a certain amount of hanging back and a certain amount of being run roughshod over. I am not too terribly worried about this, except that I wonder sometimes if I am forcing him into shyness by not putting him in daycare or another setting where he’d be forced to deal with more kids more regularly. On the other hand, if this shyness is just his nature at this age (whether or not that changes), then perhaps I should stand more ready to defend him. He is, at least in my biased view, such a sweet creature, and I hate the thought of his going without protection that his particular self might need more than some others do.

Mostly, though, I feel peeved that the father left me in that position. How hard would it really have been to give a damn?


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.




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.


Red Light, Green Light

I thought it might help to sort out what about IVF I am and am not scared of. Something’s gotta help soon, because I’m sick of waking up at 4:30. (Good news: I found a sliding-scale acupuncture clinic! Gonna call next week, for reals. We’ll deal with what about acupuncture I am and am not afraid of another day….)

What I am scared of:

Big needles. Dr. Baby Factory prefers to use progesterone in oil, but he said he’s okay with coochie bullets. So I don’t need to worry about that one (except for the part of me that’s like “but shouldn’t I use THE VERY BEST THING? WHY DON’T I WANT A BABY???”)

What I am not scared of:

Small needles. I’m a tiny bit weirded out by the thought of the follistim injections, but not in an unmanagable way. I used to watch my dad give himself allergy shots. I think this is one of those times that being a doctors’ kid helps — I don’t have the feeling that medical care is something that doesn’t happen at home, and I’m basically into science experiments. And if it gets that bad, I have a friend with a medical degree who’s already offered to give me the shots. (And if that doesn’t work out, I can always have her 2.5 year old daughter do it. That kid gives me “medicine” with my bbt thermometer every time she’s over, which is often. She has a great bedside manner — comforting but very firm.)

– That follistim and friends will make my ovaries hurt unbearably, given that Cysty Lefty hurts an awful lot of the time as it is. Oh well. I suppose childbearing is a weird goal if I’m interested in avoiding discomfort, huh?

Two-week follicular phase. That sounds like a big improvement over my usual twenty-odd days. I can do anything for two weeks, right?

Egg retrieval. That’s normal, right? How could I not be scared of giant needles in my vagina, right? And how the hell are they going to get around my big-ass cysts? (According to my dream life, I am also afraid of crazy infections that enlarge the lining surrounding my heart. Awake, I am afraid that the Terrible Metaphor part of my mind is taking over. IVF leads to heartache? Real original, brain. MFA in Writing = money well spent.)

IVs. Dr. Baby Factory said he’d want to do my ER with anesthesia — and he thought I’d object! Ha! I’m a big wimp and am all for being knocked out. So I’m telling myself that all I will have to do on ER day is show up and get an IV. Everything that comes afterward…well, I’ll be down for the count. (I hope. Last time I had twilight anesthesia — when I had my wisdom teeth out — I woke up in the middle. On the bright side, I was still too blissed out to be bothered. I remember lying there thinking, “Oh, that crunching sound must mean they’re having to break my tooth to get it out. La la la!”)

Not having any eggs/embryos. Dr. Baby Factory doesn’t think the no-egg thing is likely (since I had a bunch of follicles on the last scan), but really, I suppose there’s only one way to find out.


Single Embryo Transfer. Dr. BF thinks this is a great idea for me, given my age and all the rest (like my fear of twins). He thinks it lowers my odds only a little bit, and since my insurance is paying….
But then again, my insurance company wouldn’t be the ones climbing back into the stirrups, not to mention dealing with the emotional fallout not getting pregnant. Okay, it turns out I am a little afraid of this. But I am more afraid of twins in our New York apartment and our loosey-goosey financial situation.

Believing this is a sure thing; losing my mind if it doesn’t work, even if only on the first try.

Never having a child. Always being the-adult-kids-love, with none of my own to sometimes love and sometimes loathe me. Again, only one way to find out.



I hate blog posts apologizing for not posting, so this won’t be one.

Nor do I have a proper post in me now.

But there are a couple of things I think you should know:

1. It’s CD1. Yeah.

Not sure what the next course of action will be, but at the very least we will probably switch donors, since we need to order more anyway. More on that later.

Also, I need to do my taxes so that we can see if we can even afford to order more.

2. Mrs. Spock made me cry. Practically everything’s been making me cry lately, so that’s not much of an accomplishment per se, but she made my cry in a good way. She sent me the …I’m looking for a word, and all I’m coming up with is “bestest”… BESTEST! sock-gram package! It arrived when I was really at the very bottom of feeling crappy about everything, and it was just the very thing. Pictures to come.

3. A toddler I hang out with has been read somewhere — I think in a Moomintroll book, but hers are in Danish, and I can only read the third-rate, adulterated Danish we call “English” — about creatures cheering one another up by kissing sad creatures on the nose. She has become a dutiful practitioner of this technique, which is predictably sloppy and surprisingly effective.


Lovely Day


Happy Valentine’s and Year of the Tiger and, of course, Mardi Gras! Laissez les bon temps rouler!

Sugar and I had quiet plans for Valentine’s — I made her the stamp above, she gave me cute underpants with a hedgehog from my favorite store in Brooklyn and picked up fixins for a nice dinner for two — but while I was furiously carving and Sugar was waiting for the chocolate cake layers to cool, the phone rang. It was The Dane, the wife/mother portion of our favorite neighborhood trio, asking if we’d consider coming over to help them eat the duck she was roasting.

(What kind of a question is that? Isn’t a question supposed to have more than one possible response?)

We did consider, briefly, staying home alone, eating lamb chops and being generally Valentine’s-y. But only briefly. Because why turn down an opportunity to spend time with people you love just because Hallmark says so?

So we packed up the cake and carried it over. And we had the most wonderful feast of duck braised in beer, roasted sweet potatoes and onion, red cabbage with clove, and apple stuffing particular to The Dane’s home island. We played with Mr. Potatohead smashed playdoh between our hands. The Aussie Super Geek convinced us that we ought to be building thorium-reactor power plants, though he clearly remains scandalized by my hatred of efficient light bulbs. The Charming Toddler invented a perfect game for Valentine’s, which consisted of her gathering her bucket and “going out” behind the chair, then “coming home” to tell us what she saw (“Ice!”) and be greeted with exuberant hugs. Over and over, and it never got old.

For dessert, we at Sugar’s fudge-y, nearly black chocolate cake, piled with whipped cream (as things tend to be, when The Dane is serving). And just like love, there was plenty for everyone, once we’d decided to share it.

/sappy part

We did get a time alone at the park before dinner, when The Dane suggested we take their sled on our walk. Normally I don’t post pictures of us on the blog, but what the heck?

First, Sugar (right, foreground, by the bench):


And Bionic (by the lamppost):


You’d know us anywhere, right?


I’m doing it right!

I just went to Minnesota to see an art exhibit and also to see some friends and family. One member of my family there is three years old. I hadn’t seen her since Christmas. Suddenly she’s not a cute, tiny, shy thing. Now she’s a cute, tiny drill sergeant.

She discovered early in the visit that I would do things that she told me to do. I found myself stretching out on my stomach on the floor and flailing my arms (Swim! Swim!) and then standing up and sitting down a lot of times. (Now you’re all dry! Stand up! Stand up!) She had small fleece blanket that was alternatively a sprinkler (or maybe a tsunami machine?) and a hair dryer. Sometimes I was supposed to hold the blanket, push invisible buttons, and then pretend the blanket was doing . . . . something.

While this was exhausting, I found it very reassuring. I remember games like this. I had an invisible mouse that lived in an invisible, knitted, spherical house. I was the maniacal director of endless games of ‘Harriet Tubman and the Spaceships’. (Um, all I can say about that one is that rapid travel through time and space would have made Harriet Tubman’s job a lot easier in my six year old opinion.)

Also reassuring was the fact that my tiny cousin didn’t stare at me in confusion or give up on me when I pushed the wrong invisible button or sprayed the fleece blanket instead of waving it or whatever. She just shouted no! no! over there! over there! As long as she had my attention, everything was A OK.

Apparently I can still play pretending games and not be lame. Cool.


Happy Baby

Our friends have a very charming baby. She’s about two years old now, and she’s smart and cute and all that, but the thing that really amazes me about her is how freaking happy she is all the time. How does she do that, and where can I get some? Or at least, where can I learn how to bring up a kid like that?

Cause I got depression and I really, really don’t want to pass it on.

I had extensive depression lessons as a kid. For example, when I was about four and my mom’s rheumatoid arthritis flared up, I remember standing next to her chair and talking to her while she stared straight ahead and didn’t answer me. When I was a little older she found a dent in a tea strainer that sent her off weeping. And about once a day for my whole life my dad took some perfectly normal occurrence to mean that the world was coming to the end of its inevitable downward spiral. It was a barrel of laughs around our house, for sure.

I learned it, and I don’t want to teach it. Yikes.

So I’ll act happy, right? I’ll espouse concepts like ‘the world is great’, ‘people are basically good’, and ‘everything is going to turn out just fine.’ This seems like a solid plan until I remember myself as a cynical, irritable seven year old who was having none of it.

Like the time fifth grade some nimrod at my elementary school hired an inspirational speaker to come inspire us. Our class was marched down to the all-purpose-room to hear an old dude with stick-out ears chant ‘life is good, good, good!’ at us. Even at the time I wondered how much he got paid for that, and could we have our taxes back? Then in seventh grade we all had to take a course called ‘Quest’ aimed at making us love one another through planning our social and financial futures in unsupervised ‘cooperative’ groups. At the end of the quarter, when we were allowed to give feedback on the experience, I stood up and announced that the entire class had been unmitigated hooey.

wait, are pep rallies required?

What to do? Right now I only have a growing version of what one of my college students called ‘the anti-list’ (everything he wasn’t going to do for his final project, including mediate the artistic process with his mind). So far I’ve got:

  • not say that child’s behavior x will result in eventual doom
  • not say (or imply) that child is unattractive
  • not send insomniac child back to room with instructions to ‘work on your breathing’ (sorry mr. buddhist, but save that for the grown ups)
  • not insist that every single thing the child thinks is wrong is due to lack of sleep
  • not to announce that the world is becoming uninhabitable for environmental/economic/aesthetic reasons
  • not have inexplicable crying jags

I sent Mr. Artistic Process back to write me a new project proposal after reading his anti-list. Now if only I could come up with my own . . .