Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2 moms, 4 breasts, 1 baby

On Gail's post about gearing up to lactate again, Lex made a really interesting comment (and thanks to Lex for the clever post title). A somewhat condensed version of her comment:

"I'm quite curious as to what your plan is...for how to balance who nurses the baby when. Being able to nurse our baby is incredibly important to me, but I also want to be careful to not get in the way of the baby's nursing relationship with my wife. And, having been the only one to nurse our three other children...I'm aware of a slight feeling that maybe I should just let this be something that only my wife can do this time. She has said that she wants me to nurse the baby sometimes, but we haven't talked about it a whole lot because it is a somewhat charged topic...

My thought was to do something along the lines of what you all are planning: to try to nurse the baby sometime after the first 3-4 weeks... But I'm worried that we'll get to that point and my wife will not want me to nurse, or it will just seem too complicated and easier to stick with what we've been doing. My wife is planning to go back to work when the baby is 6 months old, and ideally I'd like to be the one to nurse the baby when I'm home alone with the baby, and I know that it will be really important to establish a nursing relationship before 6 months if that's going to happen. It all feels more complicated than I want it to . . . the idea of two moms and four breasts nursing one (very lucky) baby just sounds so easy and perfect, but I'm finding that the reality is much more confusing..."
There are two sets of issues issues here. The first is straight up logistics. The second set of issues though is more sticky, the questions of who should decide if both moms will nurse and how to prioritize and navigate potentially contradictory desires, which are more or less questions of "territory." Those issues are a lot bigger, so in this post, I'll start with our thinking about logistics.

Roughly speaking, it looks like leaves are panning out such that we'll both be home for the summer (I'll get 8 weeks), and then in the fall we'll have a schedule where I'm home two days and Gail is home three (both of us needing to get some work done on those home days). We should be able to maintain something similar through to the next September (probably needing to stretch with a one or two day a week Nanny spring semester) when we'd feel comfortable starting daycare at our neighborhood center where Leigh goes. Leigh will continue at daycare, either on her current three day schedule, or possibly a 5 day schedule starting in September, with whoever is home trying to get her home fairly early so there's some slight hope evenings will go smoothly (Ha!).

The general gist as it is relevant to Lex's comment, is that after eight weeks, during weekdays, only one of us will be with the baby, so that mom will be nursing. Our hope is that by both nursing, we will divide pumping duties, perhaps each only having to pump once or twice on a day away (as opposed to the three or four Gail had to do for Leigh) in order to make sure there is sufficient breastmilk around and maintain each of our supplies at a reasonable level. Gail will plan to be start nursing at maybe four to six weeks in order to be set by the time I'm away more often, but we'll have to play that by ear. One of our main goals for both nursing is that we'll be able to handle nights better than we did with Leigh (overall we handled nights OK, but it's one of the spots we both wish we had a do-over). We'll hope to trade off nights (or partial nights) "on duty" once Gail is up and running, with whoever is "off-duty" pumping ASAP in the morning. Weekends will have to be ad hoc, but hopefully both of us nursing will make them easier, not harder, and allow both of us to have nice chunks of time to spend with Leigh.

All of this is our theoretical "best case scenario." For this scenario to work, we're making the following gigantic assumptions:
1) I have no trouble getting started nursing and establish solid supply quickly (Though if breast growth is any indication, I'm all set. These things are huge!)
2) Inducing works for Gail
3) We're both able to maintain sufficient supply by nursing only half a baby (and pumping, though hopefully not pumping a whole second half-a-baby worth).
4) We have a healthy baby that arrives full term and ready to nurse.

Despite my enthusiasm for this plan (and as you'll recall, I was the one pestering Gail to consider it), Gail reminded me the other day that we do need to tread with caution, because chances are that all will not go perfectly smoothly. We consider this an ideal worth laying the groundwork for, but we are still planning to prioritize my nursing relationship with this baby, as it is likely my only shot at this experience, and it is one I've wanted for a long time. Depending on how things go, this prioritization may end up reducing the amount that Gail contributes. If the med side effects prove intolerable for Gail, or if she develops the problems with plugged ducts that plagued her time nursing Leigh (and caused a nasty abscess. I promise, you don't want the details), than we'll drop it. Her health is more important than this pipe dream. I'll pump more and we'll find other ways to handle nighttime duties. If we have a baby with health challenges, or who arrives early, it's hard to know whether both being prepared to nurse is a plus or a minus, so we'll have to figure that out if we get there. Mostly though, we're heading in with some confidence in our abilities to negotiate complicated logistics and surprising emotions as a team. We also love a challenge, and feeling like we're blazing a new path.

More later on the sticky emotional issues around decisions like this.

Monday, December 29, 2008

It's not a race

Gail and I got into one of our big discussions last week in which Gail was insisting that with two moms in a family (with children arriving via any means), you inevitably end up with some form of competition, whether it is spoken or not. Maybe it's competition around who is most skilled at parenting, who the kid comes to for comfort, who is the "real" mom, or if you are both trying for pregnancy (either at the same time or sequentially) who is more fertile. I was insisting that no, it isn't necessary to have competition, and that somehow we've avoided it for the most part, so if, as she claims it is unavoidable, what gives? Now, you might argue, this whole blog is about comparing the first time to the second time, about thinking our way through how switching uteri has impacted our family structure. But I stand firm that the bulk of this thinking and comparison is not competitive. Rather it reflects our ridiculously strong interest in the structures that underlie human interactions, and probably has something to do with being mathematicians. However, in the fertility arena, I think I'm wrong. Since that conversation, I've noticed that despite my insistence that we don't compete with each other, I do often compare this pregnancy to Gail's with Leigh, often with a competitive tone, and I think this has been going on for a while, without my noticing (and as you might note, I prefer to think I notice everything).

As I was wrestling my cycles into some semblance of order, I often thought (and talked) about how Gail had these beautiful clockwork cycles, and mine were crap (though Gail's weren't perfect either, she had a pretty crappy luteal phase--though that clearly didn't stop her). When I got my second BFN, I said to Gail (out loud) "Well, you won that one" (Leigh was conceived on the second try). When we started telling people about this pregnancy, they often asked how I was feeling, and then followed up asking how Gail felt first trimester with Leigh. My joking response was often "Well, I win the crappy first trimester prize." Sometimes people will ask more general questions about Gail's pregnancy and I'll say something like "Well, she was a pretty sparkly pregnant lady. It's a hard act to follow." I've already started comparing births, when we have ages to go before this birth. I'm already feeling caught between hoping and preparing for a birth that goes more smoothly than Leigh's, and worry that if it does, I will be invalidating what Gail experienced during Leigh's birth.

What's up with that? This pregnancy is what it is and will be what it will be. So no more fertility or pregnancy competition talk from me. I need to work on enjoying what is most likely my one shot at this, and quit measuring it against Gail's experience. The first way to do that is to stop "joking" about winning first trimester prizes.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Start your Engines

Today I start taking the pill. I haven’t taken the pill since I was 17 and still having sex with boys. It makes be nervous for a few reasons. First, I stay away from medications like the plague. I don’t even really like to take Advil. Yet I’m about to take some powerful hormones, and I have a shipment of domperidone on the way from a mysterious internet pharmacy (on my account I have a charge from “SP Media Co,.Ltd.”).

But that’s not what’s really making me nervous. I’m using these drugs to induce lactation. I’m excited at the prospect, but it really brings this baby home to me in a physical way that I wasn’t initially anticipating. I know we are having a baby next summer – Lyn’s puking and expanding belly are enough to remind me of that every day (but I think we are on day five with no puke, hooray). However, for me that baby has still been just an idea, something a very far way off, both physically and in terms of time. I think this is an unanticipated bonus from the decision to induce lactation. I’m now physically involved and thus I can feel more closely involved in the whole process. So I’m nervous, but it’s in a good way.

For those of you who are interested in the process, I’m using the lactation induction protocol developed by Lenore Goldfarb and Jack Newman. This involves getting a prescription for birth control pills from my doctor (covered by insurance, so $10 a month) and buying domperidone from an international pharmacy (it’s not approved in the US) to the tune of $130 for 1000 pills. I’ll be taking the domperidone 4 times a day, so that supply will last me until after the baby comes. I’ll be taking the pill (it's Yasmin, which has more progesterone than the regular Ortho 1/35) every day, so I’m having my last period for some time right now and I should experience “breast changes” (aka “big knockers”) much as a pregnant woman does. Once the baby arrives, I’ll stop taking the pill and start pumping in earnest and taking fenugreek and blessed thistle. I’ll start to actually nurse the new baby after Lyn’s nursing is well-established (perhaps 3-4 weeks after birth, but we’re going to play that by ear). Once my own nursing is well established, I may be able to stop taking domperidone, but I may be on it through the entire time I nurse. As a bonus, it may help with issues I have with gastric motility (and it's going to be awkward to tell the gastroenterologist I'm seeing in early January that I'm taking a motility drug without a prescription).

Monday, December 22, 2008

It's not just me...

I requested several queer pregnancy and parenting books from the library, in anticipation of trying to do a few book reviews around here, and we did a lot of (re)reading over last weekend.

Hopefully actual reviews will follow, but what I wanted to write today is that I am so absolutely honored and delighted to have a wife who gets just as riled up as I do, perhaps even more so (smoke coming out of her ears, eyes bugging out, talking louder and louder and louder) when she reads a paragraph like this, in which the author, a lesbian mom who birthed her daughter, is justifying why she will not permit her partner a second parent adoption:
"After all, I am still the baby's mother. She sprang from me; she is of me and my body...I asked her to come, and kept trying till she did...While my partner has a big influence on Frances, she is not "of" her. Frances did not grow in her belly, did not share her body. She did not push out of her cooch. She did not suckle at her breast. She was created by me, nurtered by me, and is of me. This is not something that can be denied. And if I ever want to move across the world and take the baby with me, I don't want anyone telling me I can't. Ever."
Excerpted from "Beyond the White Picket Fence" by Rachel Pepper, from the collection "Home Fronts: Controversies in Non-traditional Parenting" edited by Jess Wells

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Some things don't change

First of all: wow people. The comments on the switcheroo post are amazing. We haven't been doing this long, but it is wonderful to already have such thoughtful and clever readers. Gail and I had several discussions about the smart things you said, and have now started to refer to our (ongoing) debate over when/if to pass on our remaining vials as our "lesbian vasectomy" (thanks Lex!).

Amy wrote on the switcheroo thread that "#2 is certainly as important but won't define us the way the first did. With the first, we became moms." And you know, that's true for me too, even though I'm probably coming at it from a different direction than Amy. When I'm out there in blog land, or poring over queer parenting books (usually grumbling at their inadequacy), I am absolutely elated when I find a non-bio-mom writing (of any flavor, aspiring, TTC, expecting or parenting. Lately, I've been loving liberation theory, Olive at Insert Metaphor , J's posts at Two Hot Mamas, strawberry at 1 in Vermillion). I seek out the writing by folks who are thinking hard about, and maybe struggling with, how to build a place in their families as a lesbian NGP. There's nothing like a desperate post from an expecting or new NGP saying how she feels left out to get me going, writing about 3 books worth of comments. It doesn't take much to get those feelings flooding back, and the internet assvice exploding in unmanageable and inappropriate quantities. This is still true. Even now. Even though here I am pregnant. Even though I should be all over the pregnancy blogs and wanting to describe the intimate details of my nausea to any and all comers (which I suppose I do, but it's just not as exciting as a really good non-bio-mom thread).

When we started down this road for our second, at some point very early on, when I was just coming to grips with the fact that this might be hard, that my body might not be the kind where you just plunk a little sperm in there and you're good to go, I remember saying to Gail in a rather exasperated tone "I just want to do this regularly...I just want to get pregnant...and have people gush over my belly and talk to me about nausea and birth and nursing and all of it without always having to explain...I just want to have a kid like normal." And I am enjoying getting a chance to experience this, to share this with many mothers the world over. But a huge part of my identity as a parent was built as I walked the road to parenting Leigh, as I fought off the demons, real and imagined, internal, external, that could have kept me from truly mothering her. I don't think I'm ever going to lose that, and while I'm enjoying this whole pregnancy thing, and am perhaps unrealistically looking forward to birth, it somehow seems tame by comparison. I'll probably always bond with dads at the playground, especially dads who are home taking care of nursing babies (I gabbed about this with our neighbor just the other day on my way home from work, a father of 2-month twins who he'll be home with alone soon). I'll probably always bristle when hippie mommy groups go on and on about how there is absolutely nothing that can bond you with your baby as closely as nursing. I think I'll always fancy myself a bit of a revolutionary, even though I'm doing it "regular" this time.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Hmm...maybe I'm not the poster child...

I had an appointment with acupuncturist Li last week to work on these last vestiges of morning sickness (thankfully, it's intermittent, and I do have my energy back, so really, mostly I'm better).

She said something about how long I'd been coming to see her, and I mentioned that I remembered way back at my first visit, when she regaled me with miracle stories. I said "Now maybe now you can tell people about me!" and she said " took FOREVER!" I guess it wasn't just me that thought it was taking a while to get my cycles into shape. Maybe I'm not the poster child I thought I was.

I take this to imply that most people should get fixed up much faster than I did, so to anyone who found my acupuncture story horrifying due to it's length, perhaps I was an outlier.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The disappearing switcheroo

Gail and I often think about the different dynamics of TTC #1 vs. TTC #2. I wrote before about how somehow TTC this time had much more of a taint of selfishness, that somehow, when it is perfectly clear that I can fully love and parent a child whom I didn't birth, and yet feel dead set to carry our second come hell or high water, it lays bare the fact that the reasons I want this are kind of selfish. I suppose selfish is harsh, but as Gail says slightly more diplomatically, they are at least very personal, and are kind of self-centered. But here's the thing, Gail's desire for pregnancy was ALSO selfish, or personal, or kind of self-centered, but we didn't know it back then because we were both so excited to become parents together. It was the act of "switching up" for number 2 that exposed this, and I don't think we would have noticed if Gail had carried again. In that case, it would have just been more of the same, and if anything, she would have gotten extra points for being self-sacrificing and willing to put her body through the work of carrying again.

When I read all the stories of lesbian two-mom families, families that take so much work and love to build, I can't help but notice patterns that I'm not sure that we as a community really notice as a whole. One that I've noticed is that in families that may originally plan to "take turns," a planned second pregnancy often fails to materialize, or does, but it's a repeat for the mom who already gave birth. There are so many possible reasons for this, not least of which is the extreme cost, in money, time, emotional energy, and hard work it takes for us to get pregnant. But there are other factors, too, and they are impossible to see when making those early decisions about who will "go first."

In our case, Gail, who was just as insistent on a second kid as me, definitely started dragging her feet on TTC #2 after Leigh was born. We had originally thought to try for something like two-year spacing (as if you have very much control over such things) and she quickly started lobbying that we wait longer. There were all sorts of issues. Money, job and school transitions, the stress of TTC, and sure those were all factors, but the nasty jealous part of me was still thinking, "Sure, you can wait. You already gave birth; for all you care we could never have another." During the conversations over those months I demanded all different kinds of proof that she was on board for number two, some of them perhaps unreasonable, but I think my fear that she might bail on our plan was actually NOT unreasonable. It definitely happens. We had a different set of motivations, and mine were much stronger, whereas heading into number one, we were both 100% on the same boat.

Now it turned out that my body decided for us that we needed to wait. And to Gail's credit, she was the one who fussed at me to start charting when Leigh was only about six months old. I thought snarky things like, " don't even want another one anyway, why should I wake up every day to take my damn temperature?" and really, that response was just masking my own desire not to face up to how bad my cycles really were. Once I charted for a while, and faced facts, it was important to me to give acupuncture a real chance before heading in for drugs; I was now on Gail's preferred schedule, but for my own reasons.

I'm not sure where I'm going with this, but maybe I'm saying that in a family where both moms plan to give birth, the one who goes first really does have a lot of power over how things progress (and this is assuming the best of legal circumstances). By the time you get to planning for number two, the mom who carried number one has proven fertility. At every slight bump in the TTC road, you both wonder, would this be easier if we just went back to the way we did it before? You also already have a child, a child whose needs you must prioritize. Money is tighter and you know how much childcare costs. Maybe you would have gone all the way to IVF in a heartbeat the first time, but the second time it seems too drastic, and too expensive considering you already have a child to support. And there are the donor issues that come up so often when trying for another kid. If you only have x vials, are you willing to risk them on unproven fertility? Will you move back to your original set-up if you run out, to ensure that your kids will have some genetic link? There's also the inevitable discomfort with taking on a new role, even if not for parenting, certainly during pregnancy. If things are working like they are, and you've finally negotiated your respective places in your family, perhaps in deference to or defiance of biology, it can be hard to face the prospect of finding your way down a new parenting path.

I know every family faces this stuff differently, and that only a small subset of two-mom families even contain two women that both want to give birth, and also manage to avoid the fertility nightmares that can make such a plan impossible. But I think the fact remains (albeit based unscientifically on broad generalizations from our own experience and meta-analysis of way too much blog reading), that once one mom has birthed a first child, she's probably more likely to birth a second, even if that wasn't originally in the plans. We felt many of these pressures, and we really had all of the cards stacked in our favor. I guess I may really mean stacked in my favor, since I'm writing about my own chances to achieve this pregnancy I wanted so much. I had ample donor supply, a relatively idyllic legal situation, enough money to keep trying, and a partner who shared my commitment to having another kid and wasn't chomping at the bit to get pregnant again herself. And even with all of that, we could have easily ended up with Gail pregnant again, despite our intentions at the outset. I am grateful that we got here....and will be even more grateful when I stop puking in the morning. (hello Universe! I'm pushing 15 weeks! Isn't this supposed to stop?)

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The story of your birth

We usually tell Leigh a story before she goes to bed. Often the stories involve Baba (grandma) and Baba kitty (grandma's cat) and usually a lion and a giraffe who have to go potty before their naps. But one of her favorites is the story of how she was born, which I thought would be interesting after the discussion about divulging who is the birthing mother on yesterday's post. FYI, I am "Ima" and Lyn is "Mama."
Before you were born, you lived in Ima's belly. We were very excited to meet you, and we were waiting for you to come out for a long time. Finally, it was time for you to be born. You were working really hard and Ima was working really hard, and then Ima gave a big push and you came out. Mama caught you in her arms and held you. Mama and Ima wrapped you up in blankets so that you wouldn't be cold, and then we thought you looked a little scared so we sang you a song, the same song we sing you every night before bed [we then generally launch into our bedtime song (here's an elaborate version of the same song) and it's off to bed].
Leigh will bring up this story from time to time or ask about the time she lived in my belly, but she doesn't seem to think it's a big deal. I'll be interested to see what happens when she figures out that Lyn has a baby in her belly. We haven't talked to her about it directly, but she's clearly picking things up because she told us the other night that she was going to have a baby and her sister was going to get it for her!

Monday, December 8, 2008

The inevitable awkward questions

Gail's post got me thinking about how we handle the inevitable somewhat awkward conversations that come up due to our family structure. As she wrote, we've both noticed they come up much more now that we're back in pregnancy (and later, little baby) land. I noticed some time ago that we had developed some mix of official and unofficial guidelines:

1) Before Leigh's arrival we decided that divulging who gave birth to her was not forbidden. I understand why some families choose this route, but we feel strongly that Leigh should not have to feel secretive about her family structure, and so we need to model that for her (though see comment 4 on how we handle donor questions, which is different).

2) That said, when discussing such matters, we are careful in our language. We do not say that Gail is Leigh's "bio-mom"--rather we might say that Gail nursed Leigh, or that Gail gave birth to Leigh, so that her genetic link (and fallout from that link) is not also presented as representing her motherhood of Leigh. Her motherhood of Leigh is based on the same stuff mine is, the day in and day out love and hands on parenting. Along the same lines, I don't refer to myself in casual conversation as Leigh's "non-bio-mom." I'm just a mom (or Mama as the case may be). That said, in conversation with peer parents around the nitty gritty issues that come up around buidling our family this way, I will refer to myself as a non-bio-mom or and "NGP" (non-gestational-parent, my dad coined that one)--but only with people who understand our family structure.

3) In response to subtle prying on first meetings, say someone new at the playground, or a new work colleague, I usually don't divulge information on how we formed our family, either regarding our donor, or who carried Leigh. I understand people are curious, but you need to wait until at least a second meeting. We want people to see both of us parenting before we give information that might lead you to decide one of us is the "real" mom. My least favorite type of prying is resemblance talk. Seriously. I hate it when Gail and I show up somewhere with Leigh, and someone pointedly makes a comment about her hair or eye color (brown and brown) and then says she looks just like me (red and blue), pointedly staring at me for clarifying information, while Gail is standing right there (with her brown hair and brown eyes--yes, this really happens). It really drives me crazy and I make special note of who does such things and vow never to give them any tidbit of information ever. However, if I'm out with Leigh alone, and someone casually says she looks like me, I secretly glow and take it as a compliment.

4) We do not provide any details on donor information (other than we went with frozen). Not which bank. No tidbits from the profile. Nothing about appearance. We feel very strongly that that information belongs to our kid(s) and they should decide who should know and how to handle the information as they grow. It belongs to them, not us. And if anyone asks, that is what we tell them. I know other families handle this differently, meeting up with donor siblings early for example, and sharing all information freely from infancy, and I can see the attraction there. But for us, it feels a little wrong to have a whole slew of people knowing potentially sensitive information about Leigh that she doesn't even understand yet. Note, this does not contradict number 1, because we don't feel that Leigh should have to be secretive about her donor information. But we don't want to decide for her who and what people outside of our family will know. If another queer couple or single mom working towards TTC asks us how we made decisions around donor selection, we will definitely talk to them about it, and will probably give them more info (e.g. the thinking we did on ID release vs. not), but that is only for folks trying to work their way through the same decisions.

I'm sure there are more unofficial or official guidelines that I'm not really thinking of right now. Most of this stuff we just make up as we go along really. And we have no idea yet how this will shift as Leigh grows and understands more about her family. But for now, it works. I'd love to hear other folks thoughts on those inevitable awkward questions.

Friday, December 5, 2008

An old scar

We just had Lyn's midwife appointment and got to hear the heartbeat again! We're happy and relieved. We are also starting to get over the monster cold from hell, which is a relief. I'm still coughing my head off, but my fever is gone and I don't feel quite so crappy. Lyn is still coughing and puking, but the puking is down to once or twice a day and she is starting to seem almost perky. She's taking a much-needed day off and buying some maternity clothes.

We recently started to tell more people about the pregnancy. Overall, it’s pretty fun. As the non-pregnant one, I’ve noticed a few things. When I tell people, “Lyn and I are going to have another baby,” they immediately ask who is pregnant, or sometimes I just tell them by following that sentence with, “Lyn is pregnant!” This isn’t really surprising or troubling because of course people want to know who is pregnant. People say all of the appropriate congratulatory things. That’s gratifying. But it’s not as much fun as when I got to tell people I was pregnant. It’s almost as good – but not quite.

Sometimes people want to know if we are using the same donor. This is interesting. I totally understand the curiosity, but it makes me a little uncomfortable. With Leigh the issues of donor and genetic relationships have mostly gone away (for now) so I’m not used to talking about it. There’s still the occasionally resemblance talk, however. I look like Leigh, and when people comment on that I wish that they’d realize they’re also making an oblique comment that Leigh doesn’t look like Lyn. For her part, Lyn does occasionally get a comment that she looks like Leigh as well. We’ve decided that in all cases the proper response is, “Thank you,” and leave it at that.
So I’m not used to talking to people about donor issues anymore and it feels somewhat intrusive. I haven’t gotten the question phrased as, “Will the new baby and your current child be half-siblings?” but Lyn got that question at the doctor today. We’ve decided on a good response to that one: “We were able to use the same donor, but of course they are full siblings.”
I’ve also been thinking about how badly that innocent question, “Did you use the same donor?” would hurt if we weren’t able to use the same donor. Using the same donor was important to us. We felt as though each member of our family having a genetic link to one other member (me to Leigh, Leigh and Lyn to this new child) would knit our entire family together genetically and solidify our connections as a family. Of course, that’s not really a rational way of looking at things. We obviously believe that deep connections are possible without any genetic link. It can be painful to admit that a genetic connection is important at all, but it clearly is because so many of us work hard to try for the same donor for a second child.

I understand that the idea of two women having a baby together is really interesting. I’m certainly curious when I meet other lesbian couples having children. But in addition to being interesting conversation fodder, the details about how we acquire our children are very personal parts of our family. Like many other married couples, we would really love to be able to combine our genetic material to make a child, but we cannot. We’ve made peace with that, we love our daughter absolutely to pieces, and we are ready to open our hearts to a new person in six-and-a-half short months. We’ve worked on our issues around who’s the “real mom,” and I can honestly say that don’t have any at this point. But there’s still this little spot that chafes. It’s the place where we decided to create our first child together through one of us giving birth. It’s that place where one of us is connected genetically and one of us is not. It’s that place where Leigh looks more like one of her moms than the other (despite her dimples). This isn’t some kind of deep wound – we feel bonded as a family and know that each of us is essential. It’s more like having a scar that still hurts a little when you rub it. When you tell me how much my daughter looks like me, or when you ask if we used the same donor, then I’m reminded of that old pain. Those may be innocent, well-intended questions, but you are poking around in the sensitive guts of my family.

Monday, December 1, 2008

cough * cough * cough

Sorry for the radio silence around here. We're kind of hanging on by a thread and any moderately interesting writing has fallen by the wayside, thanks to my continued puking and a solid round of viral bronchitis for all three of us. We're on week 3 of nonstop coughing. Fortunately Leigh has been sleeping OK through it, but we grown-ups haven't. Alas, our supply parental patience also seems to have disappeared just as Leigh has started to really get the hang of the two-year-old thing. I promise, we'll be back once we have an ounce or two of energy.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Optional Reading

The river only seems to flow backwards.

I nestle in the callused hand of the earth. I am new life pushing through the soil's crust. I spread my roots downward to vestiges of water, reaching for my Creator. If I am cut back I will emerge in a new place; send a soft, green bud to look again.

I am the fair, pink blossom in search of a bee, seeking to prolong my life against all odds, against the certainty of my death. I have endless flowers for You in my growing center, in the stems and shoots my soul puts out in all directions. Some day my tired leaves will nourish You. Watch out for me; send the red-winged blackbird to bring me home

Meditation on Psalm 91, part III
Janet Berkenfield, 1991

I never ever read the inspirational poems that other people post. I just can't do it. I guess I overdid it on the poetry in high school. I swore I'd never post anything inspirational. But apparently that isn't stopping me.

I first noticed this piece in our Chavurah's (think very small synagogue, with no rabbi, filled with hippies) home grown prayer book during the TWW for what was ultimately this pregnancy. I was in that place where you are hoping, yet trying so hard not to hope.

This poem gave me a sense that we could keep going. That cycle was very long and didn't look good. My egg was really old (day 27) and at several points it had looked like we'd have to skip the cycle. Surely it was just more wasted vials. But after I read this, I really believed that if someone was in there, they were trying their absolute best to persevere, and that if they didn't make it, or had never even had a chance, they would come back again. Somehow it hit the right mix of pessimism and hope, not in opposition to each other, but as part of the same whole. As I read it now, as we are trying to find a way as a family through was is turning out to be a rather difficult first trimester, ultimately looking forward to birth, it keeps turning over new meanings.

So I offer it here, in case anyone actually reads inspirational things. Maybe it will hit the right blend of pessimism and hope for someone else.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Acupuncture poster child, Part II

(See some of the backstory in Part I)

My first cycle with acupuncturist Li was excruciating. It was extremely long, and when I started bleeding at work on the first day of my period, the pain was so extreme I nearly passed out. My new boss (I had only been on the job about a month, fabulous first impression, no?) nearly called an ambulance but I managed to convince her not to, and instead she kindly gave me a ride home since a bike ride was clearly impossible. The period lasted longer than usual, and was heavier than usual. I was miserable. Li was thrilled.

The very next cycle, my temps started to move up a bit, I ovulated, and the next period wasn't nearly as bad. She moved me through several rounds of herbs meant to do various things I didn't comprehend (what does "tonify blood" mean?). In the year or so that I was with Li before the cycle that worked, I only missed ovulation on one cycle. As my cycles regularized (about 32-36 days), my mucus improved, and it became possible (though not necessarily easy) to identify ovulation with signs and a vast collection of OPKs, I started to have hope my body really could do this. Gail and I decided to still get basic labs with an RE (which we had not done for Gail), which I did in March 08. The RE gave me the all clear, despite being fairly dubious as to why my hormone levels were fine after I had described my history (and asking for Li's contact info for her other patients). I told Li we were ready to try. After all, we'd given her far more than the three cycles she had originally asked for, and she said, I kid you not, "You don't try this time. You will have a miscarriage." After much badgering I managed to get out of her that she wanted my post-ovulation temps higher, consistently above 98, and was concerned I did not have adequate progesterone yet. I put it off one more cycle but I had been waiting so long. You can only push a girl so far, and I don't know many women who would wait through nearly a year of acupuncture before trying at all. I decided my body might not be perfect, but I had semi-reliable fertility signs and did ovulate regularly now. We decided that if I could identify ovulation, we would try. Li reluctantly agreed, but wanted me to use progesterone cream on that first try.

At that point, Li and I had gotten into a bit of a battle of the wills. I felt so dependent on her. She had done for me something I thought was impossible and I was deeply indebted to her. But on the other hand, plenty of straight women had even worse cycles and got pregnant just fine. I knew that if I never tried, I really would never get pregnant. As I moved slowly through 3 cycles of trying, interrupted by break cycles due to travel and one anovulatory cycle, she gradually seemed to approve more and more of each try, and I felt a little less like I was fighting her tooth and nail. But on the cycle that worked, she still thought maybe we shouldn't try because I'd been sick and recently traveled, even though she said my hormones were great. But we did it anyway, because I finally actually got that OPK smiley face, and it was our last shot at the three year spacing I so coveted. Obviously, I'm so glad that we did. I can't believe that starting where I did a year and a half ago, I ended up getting pregnant without meds, on the 4th cycle trying. Now when I see Li, she's practically busting at the seams with pride, though at my visit to try to fix this constant nausea last week, her first words were "Why you carry that heavy bag!? Don't ride your bike! Walk slowly!!" I hadn't seen her in over a month, and it felt kind of like when you come home from college, and your mom starts to nag you right away. You know it's out of love and concern, but you're still annoyed.

So there you have it. I probably had no business getting pregnant without meds, with frozen sperm. If I were someone else, If I were older, had a different history or didn't have such deep concerns about the medical system and its inherent undisclosed risks, maybe it wouldn't have been worth the time, work and money (at least $3600 total for acupuncture alone). I certainly don't begrudge those who head to the RE right out of the gate, and if we'd gone on for several more unmedicated cycles unsuccessfully, we would have been there, too, and grateful for the help. But I am so glad that we gave my body this chance. Along the way, Li fixed longstanding problems with headaches and evened me out a bit emotionally, somehow helping me gain a reserve of calm I thought was only possible for folks with less fiery temperaments. Is acupuncture a cure all? Probably not. It has yet to fix my morning sickness, and I could really do without that. Is it potentially powerful if you can give it time to work? In my case at least, with a skilled practitioner, yes. But even I got impatient, and I was bound and determined to give it a full shot, so I'm sure that means it isn't for everyone. If you're in the thick of trying, it is excruciating to give up one cycle, let alone 3, or 6. I'm happy to provide a referral (if you still want one after I described all that nagging) to other Eastern MA folks. I swear by Li, even though she sometimes kind of drives me crazy.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Acupuncture poster child, Part I

I've gotten a several questions lately about my acupuncture treatment, so I thought I'd post them in case other folks are looking for information. I'm kind of an acupuncture poster child, and I don't mean to imply, in that way that anecdotal evidence does, that acupuncture will work for everyone else just as well. But what happened was absolutely true for me and my body, albeit in an n=1 sort of way.

I started tracking my menstrual cycles in Jan 07 in anticipation of starting to try as early as August 07. It quickly became apparent my cycles were not as they should be. This shouldn't have come as a surprise. I already knew that I bled inconsistently and, when I was younger, sometimes so heavily that I had to stay home from work or school. I had excruciatingly painful periods, the kind of pain that ibuprofen couldn't touch and that sometimes made work impossible. In the past I had been on prescription drugs known to cause PCOS and hormonal/menstrual problems (not that I was told of these risks when they were prescribed, and not that my doctors ever inquired about how these drugs were impacting my cycles). But the drugs had been out of my system for a while, and I was much healthier than in the past, so I still felt surprised my cycles weren't behaving. I had been in some measure of denial about what a long road it might be to get this particular body pregnant, and seeing my crappy cycles, laid out in black and white, on Gail's homemade spreadsheet, was crushing.

My temps were so low we had to make a new custom chart, often in the mid-96's, and only rarely out of the low 97's, even when I got that coveted biphasic ovulation chart. My cycles ran between about 19 and 40 days, and luteal phases, when they happened, could be as short as 8 days. I could identify biphasic patterns suggestive of ovulation in about a third of my cycles, if that, and even on those cycles, OPKs did not seem to predict ovulation. I had no meaningful quantity of cervical mucus, and my uterus was positioned such that feeling my cervix, either for mucus or position/softness was impossible. Absolutely nothing was lining up and I started to ask around about REs, bitter that I was probably going to have to start the process at the doctors office with lots of drugs, instead of on our own, as we had conceived Leigh.

But I decided that since we weren't yet actively ready to try, and since I felt so seriously about only seeing an RE if I really needed the help, I would first give acupuncture a solid go. Acupuncture had helped to regulate my cycles in the past, had fixed Gail's short luteal phase in only 2-3 cycles, and started Gail's labor when she went 10 days overdue. I started in Spring of 07 with the practitioner who had fixed Gail's cycle, and though I think her work helped to regulate me a bit, she didn't seem to understand my problems. She kept giving me herbs to take pre- and post-ovulation when it wasn't at all clear or predictable when I ovulated, and never seemed to take meaningful diagnostic information (either asking questions, or doing those usual chinese medicine things like taking my pulse or looking at my tongue). I felt like I couldn't get any information out of her. After a few cycles with her, I switched to the practitioner, named Li, who had started Gail's labor and I had heard from a friend would tell me exactly what she thought, for good or ill.

When I walked into my first appointment with Li, she exclaimed over how horribly red my face was (I had just biked to the appointment...sheesh!). She asked me if I was quick to anger (umm....kind of) and seemed concerned with the color of my hair ("too red!"). She had lots of concerns over how much water seemed to be retained in my (relatively slim) abdomen and kept putting my finger on my belly after she had placed the needles, saying, "See? Feel that? It is so wet." I couldn't feel a thing. She looked at my charts, and muttered things about needing to "clean me out" and made me swear that I wouldn't try for at least three cycles. She peppered the conversation with barely intelligible tales of women with horrible problems she had fixed. All of this was made even more surreal by the fact that the appointment took place in her office that had recently suffered a fire started in the restaurant next door, and thus had no electricity, no plumbing and no heat. But I heard she was a miracle worker. And I needed a miracle...

To be continued in Part II

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

One of the reasons why

If I had written before this worked, about my personal reasons for wanting so badly to be pregnant (other than the obvious reason that Gail and I wanted another child), my reasons would have had a lot to do with pregnancy being a way to reconnect with my body, and as a way to have evidence that my body worked, after years of neglect and mistreatment. I've implied before, that I've not been treated kindly at the hands of western medical care. In particular, by agreeing to care that I did, for nearly a decade, for a condition it turned out I didn't even have, I exposed my body to extremely dangerous drugs that damaged my overall health and may have also damaged my reproductive health. I worked extremely hard for many years to extract myself from that system of "care" in a way that protected my body from further harm. Once I was free, I was so angry at myself for having been sucked in, for being so naive and accepting, for just believing what I was told without understanding the deep risks to which I was exposing my body. Honestly, I have yet to completely forgive myself, and still have healing to do. But some piece of that healing, and some piece of why I did not want to go on fertility meds unless absolutely necessary, was wanting to have some sort of evidence that my body was healed, even if my heart wasn't. I hoped that maybe pregnancy and birth would be a way to reconnect with my body, a way to redevelop a trust that I had long ago betrayed.

Somehow this seems so over-dramatic and perhaps ill-advised when it is written out, especially since so much can go so wrong during pregnancy and birth, that it's probably best to avoid putting too much pressure on the proceedings. But lesbians have to work so hard to get knocked up anyway, there's no way many of us head into this with reasonable expectations.

But here I am now, feeling crappy in the first trimester. I'm so thrilled that we have an actual baby in here, the kind with a heartbeat, but I'm still finding the experience itself challenging, and I'm trying to see if even now, I can find a way to use even the crappy parts as a way to reconnect. So far, I'm trying to listen to my body, to sleep because it says it needs to, to feed it. I'm trying not to be angry that I feel this way, and remember that so far it seems I'm doing a pretty good job growing our kid. Maybe for now, that's enough. I'm getting the feeling that as far as paths of reconciliation go, I may have picked a rocky one. Maybe I should have just stuck with the yoga.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Body snatchers

At our first official midwife prenatal visit today (as opposed to our earlier consult in which we mostly talked logistics), after being totally prepped that it was unlikely at 9 1/2 weeks, we...drumroll please...heard the heartbeat over the doppler (just barely, underneath the very loud whooshing of a placenta). Holy **** people. Someone is in there!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

I couldn't be happier, but ...

My wife is kind of an NGP ("non-gestational parent") master. Really, she’s quite good at being a non-bio mom. She’s like those professional ice skaters that make it look completely effortless. Sure, I remember back in those days when I was pregnant with Leigh and we had many conversations that included expressions of frustration and tears (from one or both of us). I learned a lot from watching Lyn as an NGP. One of the biggest things that I learned is that non-bio moms can and should be a central part of their families. In some families (especially some heterosexual families, but in some lesbian families as well), the bio mom and kids together form the inner core of the family with the non-bio mom (or father in the case of traditional families) in a satellite orbit. When I was pregnant with Leigh, Lyn and I had a vision of a family that had room for two moms at the core. After Leigh was born, we went about making that vision a reality.

So when it came time to do my own stint as non-bio mom, I went into the task with some confidence. I understood what this would be like – after all I’d really been through the whole thing with Lyn. And I had the advantage of already being a mom and thus feeling very confident that I would never feel like an outsider in my own family.

But there is one thing that I forgot about. Pregnancy. How could I forget about pregnancy? Pregnancy is the ultimate two-person party to which no crashers are allowed. I suddenly find myself in a wobbly orbit around a planet that I thought didn’t exist.

Have I mentioned what a happy pregnant woman I used to be? OK, I’m sure I wasn’t happy the first trimester, but I blocked that memory out. Once the second trimester rolled around I spent the next six months looking and acting like the fat cat that ate the canary. Luckily I had a very enthusiastic and supportive wife who put up with my strutting and preening, who struggled and worried as we worked through structuring our developing family, but who never tried to push me out of that limelight of pregnancy.

Honestly, I don’t want to be pregnant again. At least not very much. At least not the bad parts. I really don’t want to feel sick and exhausted, to pee 200 times a night, and to have hips that never stop aching. But it sure is nice to have everyone worrying about you and treating you with special kindness because you contain a miraculous secret. It sure is nice to have everyone smiling at you and standing up to give you their seat on the bus. It sure is nice that somebody new is growing inside of you and that to that somebody new you are the whole universe.
Now Lyn is taking a turn at being the whole universe to a little one that’s about the size of a grape right now. And I’m really excited that I’m going to be a mom again in eight months. But I hadn’t quite realized that I would be in a strictly supportive role for those eight months. I know, I know, that was probably obvious to all of you. I had just gotten so used to sharing all of the aspects of parenting, I forgot that this one really can’t be shared. I guess in this case, the sharing already happened, and is on a longer time scale. And of course I’m involved in the ways I can be (midwife appointments, planning, etc), but none of that will bring me truly out of orbit and into the core. I guess I have to wait for that.

Monday, November 3, 2008

A personal plea

I Recently sent this note to a few members of my loving but quite conservative extended family. We'll See. To those of you in CA, we're cheering you on (and did send cash).


Dear Family--

I have debated extensively whether or not to send a note to my loved ones in California. I generally try to steer well clear of political discussions with family, but this one hits too close to home. After the warm welcome you extended when we visited in June, I want to think
that you will already be remembering me and my small family as you get to Proposition 8 on your ballot, but I know that the issue of same-sex marriage is a difficult one, for many reasons, so I would like to remind you what a difference it would make for you to vote No on Prop 8.

Gail and I have been blessed to have the protection of state marriage rights in Massachusetts. Because we are legally married, I had parental rights as one of Leigh's moms as soon as she was born, even though Gail gave birth. We still had to complete an expensive second parent
adoption, as well as additional legal papers (like powers of attorney, and healthcare proxys) to protect us when we travel, but it was such a reassurance to know that we didn't have to worry about the legal integrity of our family at the same time we were struggling to adjust to life with our newborn over two years ago, and to know that families like mine are now treated fairly as a matter of routine by the legal system in our home state.

Marriages like ours have been legal in Massachusetts for over 4 years now. Despite the dire predictions, life has gone on completely as normal, only now families like mine are treated with respect and acceptance. Many of our legal and administrative nightmares have gone out the window, as we can now simply and easily explain our relationship to our employers, our friends, our family...and even the government workers at the social security office. It is difficult to express what a profound sense of relief it is not to have to fight to protect our family at every step of the way. We still face many legal hurdles, particularly at the Federal level, but state marriage rights have provided our family with much needed stability and recognition.

I have heard, even all the way out here on the East Coast, campaigning saying that marriages like mine must be banned in order to protect California children. I ask you to remember that the children who will be truly effected by Proposition 8 are those like my own daughter, Leigh, children who will have a much more stable and secure family if their parents retain their right to marry.

I know this is a difficult issue. I know this is a huge shift for us culturally. I've seen and understand what a profound task it was for my parents to grow to accept and embrace my family. I deeply understand the combined sense of conviction and protection that might lead you to cast a vote that would hurt families like mine. But I ask you to remember, your marriages will remain solid and your children will remain safe if you vote NO on 8; the only real effect will be to make thousands of families headed by loving same-sex couples, families that already exist, legally safe and secure.

Respectfully and with love,


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Meet the midwife

Last Friday we had our first consult with our probable home-birth midwife. She was the "second" midwife at Leigh's birth, and provided a much needed calming influence during that rather arduous journey. Leigh's birth story merits it's own post (or two or three), but the very simplified story is that after planning for a home birth, two solid nights of beautiful but grueling labor for Gail at home, we transferred to the back-up hospital and Leigh was able to make her appearance with intervention but without surgery. It was both astounding and frightening. This particular midwife had a great way of supporting me as I was supporting Gail. She was supporting Gail also of course, but her presence was what kept me hanging on and able to be present for Gail during that long second night of labor. I'm not always a particularly easy person to support, and am extremely sensitive to the moods and emotions of other folks, for good or ill, so we consider this a pretty good indication that I might actually listen and respond to her during a labor, and that she would calm me down instead of ratcheting me up.

The consult contained both good news and bad news.

Good news:
1) She'd be thrilled to work with us.

2) We can afford her.

3) She has office hours close by our home (important, since we don't drive).

4) We'll probably get some insurance coverage (never guaranteed with a home birth, but probable and she's had some success with my insurer).

Bad news:

1) She has plans to be out of town (on the OTHER coast) for 2-3 days just after the due date. We're thinking we may try to meet the probable back-up midwife to make sure we feel comfortable with her. The back-up midwife will also probably be our "second" midwife at the birth if preferred midwife is in town, so we'll be meeting her anyway, and we know she and our midwife have compatible styles. But we do still need to think on it.

2) The medical back-up situation for local home birth midwives has seriously gone south since Leigh's birth. For Leigh, we were able to have all labs done at a local hospital/birth center, and to transfer directly into labor and delivery where they knew our situation and had access to our records. It was overall fairly smooth, the hospital treated us well, and we were able to receive hospital midwife care as opposed to whatever random OB was on call (which is what happens if you transfer through an emergency room without a pre-existing back up relationship). Things have changed dramatically though in the last few years, and at the moment, the only practice willing to provide official back-up is over an hours drive south, which is obviously too far for an emergency transfer (but isn't too far for going way post-date, say, and needing a ultrasound, or induction). This practice has something like a 7% C-section rate, so it would be worth the (rental car) drive, particularly if we end up needing induction. Otherwise, for labs or a last minute emergency transfer (like we had with Leigh), we need to cobble things together. I'll be consulting with an OB who I've heard is sometimes supportive of home birth at the most probable emergency transfer hospital. If she was willing to do some labs and minimal OB care, at least the hospital would have my records. If that fails, I may go through my family doc for labs (who is affiliated with a different hospital) and either have labs transferred or just hand carry them if we transfer. In any case, any emergency transfer will be through an emergency room to whichever OB is on call, but that seems to just be the lay of the land these days. I hadn't realized how spoiled we were last time.

There is also a "big meeting" with one of the most wonderful miwife-supportive OBs in the area who is apparently lobbying her hospital to be able to provide back-up in November, so maybe the situation will change. Who knows. We have close midwife friends, and have been peripheral to this world for long enough to pick up that back-up situations change, based on all kinds of things you can't predict. Even with this less than ideal situation, I'd still feel safer starting at home (for both me, the baby, Gail and Leigh for that matter) than setting foot initially in any hospital or birth center, given our state's 33.3% C-section rate, not to mention my (admittedly slightly unreasonable) discomfort with medical situations.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Looking up?

OK, folks. We may have something resembling progress around here. I felt semi-human Mon. night (I'm trying not to worry about that) and did almost an adult's quantity of work. Leigh was in a fabulous mood. We got dinner on the the table early (actually, into the sukkah), and all of the chores were polished off by 8:00pm. Gail got time for guilt-free high-holiday-work-catch-up since the house was in tip-top shape (well, as tip-top as it gets, including a clean-ish kitchen with no dishes) while I rested. We also made some good plans on how to survive, many inspired by you fine internet friends (LOVE the long and thoughtful comments on Gail's post! ).

We are instituting the following practical life alterations. Some may be temporary. Some hopefully not:

1) We are ditching cloth diapers for now. Practically, this is only one prefold & doubler per night, and maybe one from nap on days we're home, since Leigh uses the potty during the day, but that's one less gross load of laundry every week and a half. We'll take it.

2) We are switching to paper towels. Right now we wash rags. Again, one less load of laundry per week. Check.

3) Paper plates on Shabbat. We tend to avoid dishes on Shabbat (I can't speak for how this works halachically, but I sure count dishes as work) and face a huge sinkful on Saturday night (with no dishwasher). Paper plates on Friday night and Saturday for now.

4) Weekly take-out and movie night (movie courtesy of the local library). This week this will happen on Thursday, in recognition of my birthday, but the usual day will be probably be Wednesday.

**5) Gail will only do what she can do, as opposed to doing everything and feeling put upon. This way, I know what is left to do when a fit of energy strikes (as it did on Mon), and she doesn't turn resentful and b**chy. If stuff isn't done, it will help us figure out what our new normal is and we'll pare down. Same goes for emotional support. She will not prioritize physical work over emotional support (as inspired by Strawberry's comment that dishes can wait if cuddling is called for).

6) I will try to accept support as it is offered, and try not to get weird and resentful about needing it. I'm not always so good at asking for and getting help. This will be easier if I know Gail isn't pushing herself farther than is reasonable.

**7) I will take care of myself when I need to and not shuffle slowly, poorly and somewhat resentfully through chores because I feel guilty if what I need to do is lay down. In addition to being more efficient, this will save Gail the trouble of getting aggravated and having to fuss at me 50 times to rest if I need to rest.

8) We will both endeavor to identify the least physically draining jobs for me to be in charge of, even if they have traditionally been Gail's turf (family photo maintenance comes to mind).

You'll note that many of our alterations are bad for the environment. To alleviate this guilt, I appeal to the fact that we don't own a car, which is probably a bigger deal than a few paper plates and disposable diapers. A bigger concern to us frugal types is that some of these alterations cost money. (Confession: our real motivation to do cloth diapers was to save money, same goes for not having a car, same goes for washing our own rags. We enjoy feeling environmentally smug, but really, we're just cheapskates.) To alleviate this guilt, I appeal to the fact that we are no longer buying sperm and paying for IUIs. Really, thanks all for the inspiration and wisdom from the front lines.


** Numbers 5 & 7 can simply be restated "We will both endeavor to cut out the passive aggressive bullsh*t."

Inducing Lactation

This had been a really difficult post for me to sit down and write. Every time I start, I feel as though I am opening a can of worms, and it’s a can of really tangled up worms, so I can’t even take them out one and a time. But just today I think I’ve clarified things in my own mind so I’m going to try.

First, I have to say something about my complicated relationship with nursing. As Lyn said, I had a very large breast abscess when Leigh was two months old. I don’t want to say much about it because everything I try to say is horrifying and it’s really unlikely to happen to any of you, so I don’t just want to tell war stories. If you really want to know more, feel free to email me. I will also say that while I enjoyed many aspects of nursing and I’m glad that I did it, I did not absolutely love it. I was perfectly happy when Leigh stopped nursing at 14 months and I got to reclaim my body as my own.

I think nursing can be a very positive experience, both for a baby and a nursing mother, but I also think that nursing can put a huge burden on a nursing mother and exclude and sideline a non-nursing partner. Bottle-feeding, whether the bottle contains breast milk or formula, can give non-lactating parent an opportunity to feed and bond with a baby, and it can give a lactating mother a much needed break from the constant demands of a nursing infant.

Several months ago, when Lyn first brought up the idea that I might induce lactation, I gave her one of those looks that say, “You have GOT to be kidding me.” I have no desire to have cracked and bleeding nipples, to be stuck in a chair for hours with a boppy around my waist, to expose myself to the possibility of another abscess, or to get pinched and bitten by a surprisingly strong infant. Frankly, I was looking forward to having a breastfed baby without doing the breastfeeding myself. But I promised Lyn I would think about it, so I of course avoided thinking or talking about it.

But one day I asked Lyn to tell me why she wanted me to consider it, and her answer sent my thoughts in unexpected directions. There might be some good reasons for me to nurse after all. I asked myself if there was anything that I regretted about nursing Leigh. I came up with just three things:
  • I would have been more careful about my nipples before my milk came in. I got the advice to nurse as often as Leigh wanted, and that was constantly during her first week. As I remember it, she never slept, only nursed. I wish I had been a little more balanced and not gotten such injured nipples at the outset.
  • I wish I had advocated for myself better during the breast abscess. I knew that something wasn’t right, and if I could do it over again I would have insisted on seeing a breast specialist.
  • I wish that Lyn would have given Leigh more bottles, and in particular I would have pushed to do an occasional formula bottle. I wanted more breaks from the constant demands of feeding, especially at night, and wish I had gotten that need met rather than playing the martyr. (You should note for the record that Lyn gave our daughter lots and lots of breast milk bottles, most of them while I was at work, but she did sometimes do night bottles as well.)
But wait! Stop the presses!! What did I just say in that last part there? I just said that I wish that Lyn and I could have done more sharing of feeding duties. From there I’m afraid that I’m lead to the inescapable conclusion that I wish Lyn would have induced lactation. And then if I’m saying that, it seems like I should step up to the plate and try to induce lactation myself.

So, Lyn, I would seem that I’m taking you up on your suggestion. I’m going to brave the plugged ducts and cracked nipples and take another crack at cow duties. Now, to be clear, I’m considering myself to be an understudy here, not the lead actress. You patiently waited your turn to be the milky maiden and I’ve patiently waited my turn to change every poopy diaper and bring mountains of food to your boppy throne. But I’ll do my preparations (stay tuned for a post about the protocol coming to a blog near you) and once you and the little pumpkin seed get into the swing of things, I’ll see if I can pinch hit when you aren’t around or when you need to get some sleep.

Monday, October 20, 2008

I need advice

The first trimester + high holidays and sukkot + hitting midterm time = I’m drowning. I feel as though I shouldn’t complain both because I don’t feel sick and dog tired myself and because I don’t want to make Lyn feel bad because she does feel sick and tired. But don’t worry; I’m going to complain anyway. I really am happy to take care of Lyn – after all she’s going through the first trimester for both of us and I’m glad I'm not the one puking. But I now have more chores to do, a messier house, and a spouse who just isn’t much fun. Lyn's symptoms seem to vacillate between total exhaustion with nausea and the kind of crabby weepiness I generally associate with the worst day of PMS.

So we’re trying to lower standards (I thought they were already pretty low, but I think I’m about to discover I was wrong) and to remember that this too shall pass. By which I don’t mean that Lyn is suddenly going to be back to her old self (that won’t probably happen for a while since these symptoms will be replaced with other ones), or that suddenly there will be fewer chores to do (nope, in eight months or so there’s going to be a lot more), but rather than we’ll all adjust to the new normal, and someday we’ll look back on the old normal and say “We didn’t know how good we had it back then!”

So, I’m asking for your advice. I want to be supportive, care for my wife and daughter, and not burn myself out. To those of you who have done it before or are doing it now (especially but not exclusively from those of you who have handled a toddler plus a pregnancy):
  1. How do you cut back on the volume of work that needs to happen around the house? Do you have shortcuts, hire help, or just organize things better?
  2. How do you handle your own personal stress and fatigue as a non-pregnant parent/spouse/mother?
  3. How do you not turn into a jerk that takes care of everything, but uses passive aggression to subtly punish your partner for not being more capable?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


I had a secret (or not so secret) hope that maybe I'd get to dodge the bullet on feeling crappy the first trimester. I'm not sure what I was basing that hope on...perhaps my general good health, and dilligent use of acupuncture. But here we are, 6 weeks on the dot, and it looks like I'm heading down hill.

I've started just taking the elevator...even if it is just one floor..and find myself feeling personally offended by the existence of stairs.

I was talking with my boss in the hall this morning about something very compelling and scientific, surely, nodding at all the right times, and even saying a reasonably intelligent thing once or twice...but I was really thinking "I really just need to sit down for a second or I think I might puke." (though I have yet to actually puke, knock wood)

Our usual evening chore routine, which really doesn't take long (maybe an hour?), feels like a marathon. Gail is picking up some of my slack, but I hate leaving slack. And yeah, I did TONS of chores when she was pregnant, but we didn't have a toddler then...there were many fewer chores and we operated with a much larger margin of error between standard operations and "the-house-is-a-complete-wreck-nothing-is-getting-done-I'm-going-
completely-insane." One strategy right now is to save the "sitting down" jobs for me, but there are only so many of those.

I know we'll find our stride, and I know I'll feel better eventually...but six more weeks of this (or worse?) feels a bit daunting....

(with the caveat that I am still beyond thrilled to have exactly this problem...and I suppose feeling crappy is somewhat reassuring)

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Why I want Gail to induce lactation

It feels a little jinxy to write about this (when will writing about this pregnancy like it is real not feel jinxy?), but it's the sort of thing we actually need to make a decision about in the not too distant future (end of first trimester or so), and was a major topic of conversation at our house the last few days, so I'm throwing caution to the wind.

Nursing is such a huge subject, perhaps even more so in a two-mom family. It is certainly a major topic in two-mom-blog-land and came up as a sore spot in tons of the essays in the Aizley other mother anthology (not least in the essay by Aizley's then-partner Faith Solloway). With Leigh, we had all of the requisite conversations, angst, work and satisfaction associated with nursing, and all in all, it went well. Leigh was a champion nurser. Gail had pretty good supply. Leigh nursed until about 14 months when it was clear both she and Gail were ready to be done. I didn't struggle too much with those third wheel feelings that not nursing can inspire in mom #2 (I think largely because I spent so much time caring for Leigh).

I remember in our conversations before Leigh's birth, discussing the possibility of having me induce lactation, and ultimately deciding that no, it wouldn't be worth the effort. Back then I was still taking some medication that I was weaning off of, and I would have had to push the timeline for weaning faster than would have been prudent. We also felt like there would be enough work to go around and it might not be the best use of parental energy. In retrospect, those were perfectly good reasons not to induce, but there was also something deeper holding me back. In our own relationship parlance we refer to it as "you know, that thing about stealing the baby," which for us, conjures up a whole slew of heavily discussed and interesting issues, and somehow feels difficult to sum up in a little--or not so little--blog post, but I'll try.

During the pregnancy, I often felt like I was clinging to Gail, trying to get in on her spotlight and glow, to get a teeny bit of that pregnancy aura and attention by proximity. I worried (as if you guys can't tell by now I'm a worrywart) that people would think I was too enthusiastic, that I was getting too possessive of her baby, trying too hard to claim a child that wasn't really mine...and actually...there are signs I wasn't completely making that up. There was that friend who thought I shouldn't take leave, the midwife with whom I literally "got in trouble" for getting over-zealous about birth preparations (ask Gail, it's true). There were the frequent subtle and not-so-subtle references in queer parenting books that I've mentioned before. But that worry about other people were thinking actually exposed the worry I had in my own heart, that I was stealing Gail's baby, that I had no business claiming this child as my own.

Mostly, we worked through this stuff, and once we had the kid and figured out how our family does things, that worry faded fast. Now we are just Leigh's moms. It isn't complicated. But that decision not to induce was made before we knew how our family would work, and was in part influenced by that nagging worry that I was stealing Leigh. If I had prepared to nurse her, that just seemed to cross a line. It seemed like I would be too obviously honing in on Gail's turf.

But now we know that isn't a good reason. We know what it is like to be two moms, and we know what it is like to nurse. In fact, having two nursing moms in the house could be a total bonus (easier to trade off night feeding, it would relieve the pumping pressure, faster bonding for Gail, fewer bottles to wash). Back when I was deciding not to induce, I had very territorial feelings about what was then only a very hypothetical second pregancy (by me). When I thought about whether or not I would want Gail to nurse a child that I birthed, I had a visceral reaction of "HELL NO." It wasn't pretty. It was something like, "Well, if I can't nurse this one there is no way you are going to nurse the second one" and it came from that same ugly place of worry about stealing Leigh. I find now that we're here, barely into this next pregnancy, that instead I really want Gail to induce. I want to share both that work and that satisfaction with her, and I don't want her to feel like I did, that somehow she shouldn't.

All of that said, when all is said and done, she gets to choose. She has some pretty valid reasons not to want to. She had a horrible breast abscess that would encompass several posts in and of itself. She is rightfully scared of a repeat (so am I for that matter. It was really really bad). It is a lot of work when we already have a toddler to care for. And in some sense, she's already done her time. She enjoyed nursing Leigh, and did a bang up job, but she wasn't one of those for whom nursing is the be all and end all, so she may not be itching for a repeat.

I'll let Gail walk you through her end of the thinking about this, and she's been the one doing the legwork on figuring out what it would actually entail, but for my part, I just want to make it extra super clear, that if you decide not to induce Gail, don't let it be because you think you shouldn't. For my part, I would love it if you did.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

What we did right without knowing it Part III: Our Names

(See also Part I and Part II)

When I was pregnant with Leigh, Lyn and I had many many many conversations about how we would structure our family. Naturally, the ever-popular subject of names came up. In a family with two moms, who gets called what? Do you both go with "Mommy?" Does one person get the Mom/Mommy moniker and the other person get a made-up name? In establishing our names, we both wanted to take names that meant "Mom."

In the end, we decided that I would be "Ima," which means "Mother" in Hebrew, and that Lyn would be "Mama." One reason that made sense at the time was that I was Jewish and Lyn was not (she has since converted). We also liked that neither of us was "Mommy" which, to us, felt like it more strongly implied "one."

We started to use our names with Leigh very early, and often felt silly doing so. "Mama" was pretty easy for her to say, but it took her a long time to get "Ima" down. She said "Ahh-ma" instead of "Ima" for what seemed like forever (it was frustrating at the time, but of course now it seems sweet). Now she uses our names, sometimes saying "my Mama" or "my Ima," and sometimes saying "ImaMama" or "MamaIma" as a generic term.

In hindsight, I realize that we didn't really know what we were doing when we picked names. "Ima" isn't a name for mom that everyone readily recognizes, and I when I chose that name, I didn't think about the fact that it wouldn't instantly peg me as a mother. When I am out with Leigh and she calls me "Ima," I wonder if the people around us think I am an aunt or a nanny, especially if we are alone together and talking about how Mama woke her up this morning or how she misses Mama. We have to make sure that her daycare and other care providers know that Leigh calls me "Ima" so that they'll recognize and respond when Leigh says it. Daycare is actually pretty good overall, but it still does happen that someone will say "Leigh, your Mama is here," when really, it's her Ima that has arrived.

So you may be thinking, Why does this fit into "What we did right without knowing it?" Isn't this something they did wrong without knowing it? It's true that I did not anticipate the consequences of having a non-standard name, and that sometimes it makes me feel uncomfortable. The good consequence is that I am shouldering some of the burdens that come along with creating a non-standard family structure.

In many lesbian families, it's the non-bio-mom who takes the more non-standard name, but in our family, the non-bio-mom has a very easily recognizable name -- Lyn's name declares her relationship to our daughter to anyone who hears Leigh holler "Mama!" Her name helps to establish societal and community support for the relationship. Because Lyn and Leigh don't have a biological bond, that relationship might be fragile, either because Lyn and Leigh don't have a strong tie (which they do, so no problems there) or because people outside of our family don't recognize the relationship. Having a standard name helps to shore up this support from outside the family.

That tells us why it's important that Lyn (as a non-bio-mom) took on an instantly-identifiable parental name. But was it really a good thing that I didn't? We could have both gone with "Mama" (and then we likely would have become "Mama Lyn" and "Mama Gail" eventually). I think it has been good for all of us that I sometimes experience the world as a "second" or "non-standard" mom. Whenever I talk about nursing or pregnancy or childbirth, I'm effectively declaring that Leigh is mine. It's easy to lose sight of what I might call "bio-mom privilege." My relationship to Leigh was never in question. Lyn on the other hand has often felt questioned. She and Leigh are different enough in appearance that people wonder if she's Leigh's mother, whereas Leigh and I look like we are genetically related. Before Leigh was born, it was clear to anyone and everyone that I was becoming a mother, while people that Lyn worked with regularly forgot that she was becoming a mother. It has been very useful for me to be able to feel a little bit of the insecurity that can come with being a non-bio mom. It's not an internal insecurity -- within our family unit we all feel very secure and comfortable. But people outside of our family have to learn how to treat us all as a family unit, and I've been glad to have some experience of what it's like to worry that others don't see me as a real mom.

Of course, now the tables are turned and we're on our way toward having baby number two. I'm going to be a non-bio-mom with a non-standard name, and I don't think that's really a great place to be in. However, I am very comfortable in my role as mother, and our community, from family to friends to acquaintances to childcare providers, is used to seeing us as a family unit, and used to perceiving me as a mother. I think we ran a much bigger risk of our choice of names negatively influencing our roles and confidence the first time through.

Monday, October 6, 2008

But surely I still need the help...

I went to see my acupuncturist last Tuesday. She was excited and encouraging, but when it was time to go, and we had our usual chat about when I should see her again, she said she didn't need to see me unless I felt really awful, and that she doesn't like to use needles after the first couple months. I can come back at the end (if I get there) for help with positioning or starting labor, but more or less, she's done with me.

What? No acupuncture? You mean I'm just on my own? But acupuncture is my magic bullet...

I used to kind of wonder about the folks who went in for tons and tons of monitoring. I mean, I got it for IVF or heavily monitored cycles or folks who had suffered miscarriage, but I didn't understand for folks who had gotten by with relatively low intervention. We didn't do any blood tests or early ultrasounds at all with Leigh, and it seemed strange to me. But now I get it. My acupuncturist was serving to provide that illusion of control, that belief that I had a secret tool that would make everything go OK. I always knew when my next appointment was, and believed she could fix anything (and OK, so maybe that isn't entirely rational). For other folks, that person is the RE. So let this be my official eating of words. To anyone who confused me with your loads of ultrasound pics and 50 betas, I get it now. I really do.

That said, I'm still not going to the doctor. Though we are starting to wonder how soon is too soon to call the midwife...

(And still, so far, all is well, knock wood. 5 weeks today. By which I mean 3 full weeks from my temp spike, not 5 weeks from my period)

Friday, October 3, 2008

What we did right without knowing it, Part II (aka Accidental Economic Advantages)

Along with putting the slightly more communicative of us on the less traveled parenting path (i.e. me as the non-bio-mom, see Part I), another thing we did right without knowing it, was to have the mom with the most economic power bear the child.

In a straight family in which mom gives birth, mom is pulled towards primary care-taking due to both economic pressures and biological pressures (and a whole lot of socialization). Women still make less money in general than men, and women tend to marry men who will be "good providers." Thus, even if a straight couple heads into parenting with ideals of sharing parenting equally (and there are studies that show many modern parents often intend just this), countering both an economic gradient that values a men's work more, and a biological gradient in which women understandably take on the work of pregnancy and nursing, and thus become experts in baby care early on, most straight families fall into a traditional division of labor (Lisa Belkin's NYtimes Magazine article on Shared Parenting sums up some of this nicely).

In our case, the biological pressures pushed Gail towards care-taking, but the economic pressures pushed me towards care-taking. I was still in grad school, but was through courses and on research support. I needed to write my thesis, but that can be pretty amazingly flexible, and no one really cares if you need to add a year to grad school anyway in my corner of academics, so it made economic sense for me to bear a lot of the care-taking burden once Gail headed back to work, to her nice, real job with benefits. As a result, I got LOTS of time with Leigh. We seriously bonded. Really fast. Because I was with her a lot. I quickly caught up to Gail's slight head start due to pregnancy and nursing (and to be clear, I was "behind" while Gail was home. I hadn't realized how much I was deferring to her until she wasn't in the house anymore during the day, which is not to say it wasn't wonderful that we were all home together for a time). It would have taken much longer to get to a point where we were both competent caretakers, who really felt like parents, without my having that extended one-on-one time. Not impossible, mind you. Just not as fast, and not as likely. That counterbalancing of "gradients" (economic and biological) pulling towards care-taking, ended up pulling us exactly to the middle. We are able to truly share Leigh's care, and love doing it. Now we wouldn't have it any other way, but I'm not sure that would have happened if I had headed back to work immediately after the birth, or if I hadn't stood up for my own role as Leigh's mom, and requested leave time and flexibility in working arrangement from my advisor.

As a result of this experience, one of our biggest pieces of advice (should anyone ask...and sometimes they do...) to both queer and straight parents who want to truly share parenting is for the non-birthing parent to take a SOLO parental leave, even if it means a financial sacrifice, and even if it is frowned upon at work. Many companies have paternity or parental leave policies that are simply never used by dads or other non-birthing parents. For a two-mom family, where the legal situation is more precarious, if you are in a state with second-parent-adoption, non-bio-mom is entitled to FMLA leave (though probably unpaid). Even if you aren't in that position, some employers will be reasonable if you ask. My advisor was under no obligation to support me financially for a parental leave, since I wasn't technically an employee, FMLA didn't apply and my institution didn't have any parental leave policies on the books for grad students, but she did. She wouldn't have offered though. I had to ask.

Should this hopeful June addition stick around (we're a week out from the positive test, and so far so good), we plan to do something similar on this round, with Gail taking on more of the infant care duties after I head back to work after leave, but this time we'll do it on purpose instead of accidentally.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Weekend Update

Thanks to all for the well wishes for us relative newcomers to lesbian parent blog-land. Sorry for the radio silence over the weekend. We don't do computers on shabbat and Sunday often gets away from us. There has been no appearance of AF (my usual day to start would have been Saturday). We succumbed to two more tests (Sat and Sun) and they are getting darker. (We don't remember using so many with Leigh. I think that's because we were apart for about 4 days just after the positive, and couldn't egg each other on). I quit temping, at Gail's "suggestion" (it came with a very stern look that makes suggestion seem like an understatement. I know she's right. We killed ourselves over every tiny temp fluctuation with Leigh, until our midwife made the rather obvious suggestion that we chuck the thermometer).

On symptom watch we have: (1) general queasiness, particularly in the subway, (2) fatigue (but not yet the bone-crushing sort I've heard about), (3) strangely bigger/heavy boobs, and freakily sensitive nipples.

Gail needs a symptom watch too, as she has been perhaps more tired than I am, and both of us are dumb as posts, walking around bumping into things. She keeps saying "I shouldn't feel like're the one with the hormones" to which I say pish posh. I was a mess when we found out about Leigh. A really happy mess. So fall apart as much as you need to, but let's try not to both completely de-convolve at exactly the same time. I think we both feel like the whole world should quit moving for just a second while we figure out what is going on. That's not really possible with a toddler on board.

I've been back and forth about whether or not to head in for a beta (I'm 14 dpo today). On principle, I would prefer not to. In general, if things seem fine, Gail and I do better with less information. We had virtually no prenatal testing with Leigh, not even an ultrasound. When Leigh was a baby, we told our pediatrician not to give us any info about Leigh's height/weight percentiles or developmental schedule unless she was worried. We just didn't want to think about it unless we needed to, don't want to constantly compare her to other kids, and figure the worry is better spent when there is an actual problem. Yes, I know we're kind of freaks, but it is how we work best. I called the clinic this morning, and they don't seem to want a blood test, so for now we're skipping it.

We're already having to do some thinking about who/how/when to tell (other than, you know, the whole internet and the couple friends in-the-know). There are several people that we are going to need to tell basically ASAP about this, even though it might be better to wait. My family is planning a huge get-together far away just before the due date (assuming this sticks) that my sisters are already shopping for plane tickets for. So for logistical reasons, my family needs to know, in case we can either change time or location of get-together to make it workable for us. My work places me near some potentially hazardous chemicals, depending on how we structure experiments, so I need to have a talk with my bosses sooner than later for health reasons. Especially since we're in the initial stages of planning some work right now and can plan it to be much safer if I speak up now. Ugh. I sort of can't even think about it, though for now it's a nice problem to have.

This turned into a rather scattered post, but we are a bit befuddled here, and are likely to remain so for a bit (or indefinitely?). Ah, so befuddled, that I forgot to say "shana tova" to other folks who celebrate Rosh Hashanah. May you have a sweet new year. We have much to be thankful for and look forward to here at first time second time.

Friday, September 26, 2008


This morning we got up at 5:45 so that Lyn could pee in a cup. It's only 10 dpo 11 dpo (see comments), but Lyn has to turn in FSA forms today, and we wanted to know if we should put in more money for IUIs. Lyn peed and dipped, and 3 or 4 minutes later asked me if I would look. "Tell me right away, though," she said. I walked cautiously over to the dresser, and things looked pretty negative from far away, but you never know. So I peered in close. Were my eyes deceiving me? I had to pause for a minute because you don't want to say something like this and have to take it back a moment later. Now, you've all seen negative pregnancy tests and they are quite rudely white and blank where you hope a line will be. You can stare and stare, but you can't even pretend there's a line. This one instead had a pale purple shadow of a line. "It's really light," I said, "but that's a line."

I brought the stick over to Lyn and we goggled at it. Then Lyn said, "Well, this is good because no matter what happens at least we know that I can get an egg fertilized." So I replied, "Do you know what this line means? It means you are pregnant. With a baby." So we decided to pull out the "free" digital pregnancy test that came with the I-can't-believe-they-cost-that-much digital OPKs. Lyn remarked that it probably wouldn't show positive, because it's probably less sensitive (see, I told you she was pessimistic!). Our first baby was crying from her crib for Mama, so I went and got her up while Lyn played with her pee some more.

A minute or so later a yelp from Lyn told me that we had another positive. We're having a baby! If the little blastocyst (actually now officially an embryo, but we've taken to affectionately calling it "B") sticks around, we'll have another June arrival.

I finally convinced Leigh to let me pick her up and I carried her into the other room to look at the positive test. "What's that?" Leigh asked. "That," I said, "is a test that shows that Ima and Mama are really happy today."

Thursday, September 25, 2008

What we did right without knowing it: Part I

I don't want to sound too whiny about not "going first" as they say, because truly, Gail bearing our first child ended up being by far the best choice for our family, but not necessarily for the reason that prompted us to make that decision in the first place.

Our motivating decisions around "birthing order" were 100% age determined. Gail has 6 1/2 years on me, and the clock was ticking. I wasn't yet out of my 20's when we started planning in earnest, so I had a little more time.

Soon after we started down this road, I realized I hadn't really understood what I'd signed on for. This was by no means the way I had ever expected to become a mother, and the feelings that I had during the pregnancy kind of blindsided me. It was way harder than I expected. I felt invisible and unnecessary. The constant comments by our SMBC lesbian friend who was pregnant at the same time that clearly implied I was peripheral, kind of a perk for Gail, but by no means an essential member of our family, really got under my skin (to be clear, I'm all for SMBC, and many of those comments were probably not ill intentioned, but they still stung). I had deep fears about how I would come to mother this child, how I would be seen by the world, how I would be seen by our families, how I would be seen by our child. Gail walked around to constant accolades and questions about due date (which of course, got annoying for her eventually), but when I told anyone I was "expecting", the best I got were blank stares, confused congratulations, and a quick change of topic. I had to constantly remind people that, no, I couldn't take on anymore projects because my BABY WAS DUE ANY DAY. They couldn't quite process it. After all, wouldn't Gail be taking care of the baby? Why couldn't I take on just this one more thing? After all, I wasn't pregnant. A close friend actually told me I shouldn't take any leave, since wasn't I more like a dad anyway? (to which I say, no, I'm not a dad, and also dads should also be supported to take leave). Ah, but there I go getting whiny again which was not my point.

Though actually, it kind of is my point. Gail is just a bit more likely than me to keep complicated feelings to herself (which is not to say she can't "process" with the best of them, quality lesbian that she is). Alas, the same would never be said of me. Not in a million years. One of the things that we did right without knowing it was having me, the one who is more likely to speak up if something feels strange or unexpected, walk the road less traveled. Pregnancy and birth are really hard, but they are common. Most women become mothers that way, so there are stories, there is support. There really isn't much out there for us non-bio-moms, and what is out there, isn't too encouraging (thank god I found chicory during the pregnancy). We needed me to notice what was strange and complicated about this path, and to point out the ways that it our family isn't like all of the others. Gail, bless her, totally met me on this. She didn't take my worries and over-analysis as any kind of threat. She didn't let my occasional black mood take away from the joy she experienced while pregnant (she sure was a sparkly and peppy pregnant lady, I tell you. She walked 3-4 miles in the pride parade, a couple days before Leigh was due, in the rain, smiling & laughing. Amazing.). Instead, Gail realized I was noticing real stuff, and jumped right in. As a result, by the time Leigh actually arrived, we had worked through a lot of our buried beliefs about motherhood, and decided they didn't really reflect what our family was going to be. We anticipated some spots where we might hit rough patches, and had a lot of practice talking about how this was going. It ended up being so much smoother once Leigh arrived than either of us expected, precisely because we had worked through so much, and thought of a few good strategies ahead of time. That wouldn't have happened so smoothly if I wasn't so...well...let's say vocal...and perceptive. (It's kind of like how we don't say that Leigh is "bossy," instead, she has "leadership skills")

Parts II & III to come: Accidental Economic Advantages & Accidental Implications of Naming