Thursday, April 30, 2009

"Is this your first child?"

This isn't an easy question to answer. In a medical situation, the relevant answer is "Yes" since they need to know I've never been pregnant before, but I refuse not to claim my first daughter, and if I don't mention her, I miss out on all of the great bonding conversation over how cute and infuriating 2 1/2-year-olds are, or maybe some unsolicited advice on preparing the big sister (I actually like unsolicited advice of that sort, I'm kind of weird that way). So usually I say something like "This is my first pregnancy but our second child." If I feel like coming out, I'll clarify that "my wife gave birth to our first." If I don't, I'll leave it at that, and let whoever is asking puzzle out the situation. That all works great if I'm alone. But the last two days, as we've interacted more with the hospital and Gail has been with me, it's not working as well.

Prior to this whole liver thing, Gail was coming to all midwife appts but I was handling the OB appts on my own, since we considered them secondary. She hadn't actually even been to the hospital until our appointment on Monday. Our plan is now for her to come to pretty much everything, since she needs to get really comfortable at the hospital ASAP and it would be good for the various staff/nurses/OBs to see her around. We certainly have plenty of appointments so she should catch up quickly.

We've now had two slightly disturbing incidents where I was asked if this was my first child (once by the PA who does the initial BP check, and today by the very nice nurse who did the non-stress-test that the baby passed quickly with flying colors). I gave my standard answer and indicated that Gail had given birth to our first daughter. In both interactions, the person inquiring immediately turned to Gail and asked her how old the first is (one may have even said "how old is your daughter" to Gail, but I'm not certain), even though they had previously been talking directly to me. The first time, we thought maybe this was just a one-off thing. But the second time, we realized it is probably a pattern, at least in an institutional setting where you have lots of interactions with lots of people who don't necessarily know you very well (this was never an issue with our midwife, but she already knew us, so that makes sense).

In both cases, we did our standard thing where Gail tried to quickly punt questions back my direction, but it was kind of tricky and didn't go all that smoothly (we got in this habit when Leigh was a baby and we had the rule that "whoever isn't holding the baby answers the questions." It was a great trick to make sure we were perceived as a family). This automatic assumption that Gail would answer about Leigh, presumably since she had birthed Leigh almost three years ago, rankled both of us, and Gail proposed that she simply not answering at all next time. It will make for an awkward silence, but might get the point accross. I think we'll try that. Since we're at appointments about this baby, and she's the "note-taker" and "researcher" (she's reading up on all of this, not me) she is automatically doing great public parental interaction re: baby two, so I think we'll be covered on that front.

I also think that, particularly at the NST today, when we were booking about a million monitoring appointments, and quickly talking back and forth in shorthand about what to do for childcare for the various appointment times (certain days necessitate sending Leigh to a neighbor, some times necessitate a grandma daycare pick-up, it gets a little complicated), it probably became very clear that we are both parents to both kids. It is those kinds of interactions that help to break down some of the assumptions that rub us the wrong way, but it is interesting to be reminded, precisely because we are now interacting with so many people who don't know us as a family already, that the assumptions really are there.


Anonymous said...

I really like your rule about who ever is not holding the baby answers the questions. I am going to talk to H about that... you would think think that when you say it is OUR second people would pay attention, espically since it is very clear that you are both actively parenting your second already. People make so many assumptions.

Anonymous said...

I often feel like I should be taking notes when I read your posts because you have such good ideas about operating as a two mom family in this world. I love the rule about the non-baby-carrying partner answering the questions. Once we're pregnant, I might just have to corner you and Gail on the streets of Boston and get you to tell us as much of your parenting philosophy as possible!

It sounds like a good, though slightly uncomfortable, plan for Gail not to answer. Good luck!

giggleblue said...

between "the father" questions and the whole biological mother situation, i can see how doctor's appointments can get stressful. it's weird that so many people make so many assumptions about other people's families. perhaps they may even think that you two weren't together when your daughter was born, so they are passing questions to the bio mother.

i will say that we have tried out the mom who is not holding the baby answer the questions dynamic. it's still a little shaky for us, but i think it's a good approach.

i'm continuously floored at the lack of awareness that comes from society in general but particularly the medical community. they need some serious sensitivity training!! i hope that you start seeing more and more nurses who can become familiar with your family before you deliver. we were lucky for the hospital i had the baby at to be so welcoming considering i had never paid them a visit in my life! hopefully this time will help them to clear things up and get out of their narrow minded viewpoints.

Lex said...

Lena has been getting this question a lot, and always feels as though she stumbles through her response. Sometimes she just says, "no, it's my fourth," which always makes ME smile, since it's just such a shocking thing for most people to hear. I always want to tell people that I'm expecting my fourth baby, especially when I get my daily "you have your hand's full!" comment. If only they knew about the invisible baby I'm expecting in 8 weeks!

That is a great idea to have the not-holding-the-baby mom answer the questions. Come to think of it, I've completely forgotten about all those questions that come from nosy strangers when you've got a new baby. I think it's probably because I'm NOT getting them now as a NOT-PREGNANT person. Lena, of course, gets questions from strangers everywhere she goes.

I'm sorry that you're having to spend so much of the final weeks of your pregnancy at doctor's appointments, but it sounds like the situation is in good hands.

KraftyKay said...

Thank you so much for this blog. I get so much out of your insightful posts and they always give me something to think about. My partner and I are expecting our first child in about a month and I've been infuriated at the way people direct all baby questions towards me (the pregnant one). I love your rule about answering the questions and I've told my partner to expect to answer all questions for now, since I'm currently the one holding the baby!

Emily said...

I know this is an old post, but I'm just reading it now... I like the not-holding-the-baby deal, and perhaps we'll try it! As for the other, I actually wonder if it was perhaps their way of *acknowledging* Gail -- esp since you'd said she'd carried the first. I imagine that in mom-dad families, the dad gets asked next to nothing, if at all... ;) -- Emily from IVP