Tag Archives: parenting

My Vagina is an Open Book

2015familyday403My friend Cindy Rizzo tagged me in a Facebook post about Blogging for LGBTQ Families Day and so I’m writing this post in her honor. I don’t think this is what I was supposed to write about and I think I’m supposed to tweet about it too but I don’t know how to do that, so this is all I got. For you, Cindy! 

Here is the thing about being a lesbian mom that ‘s different from being a straight mom. People want to know where your kids came from. A lot of people wait until they know you a little better before they ask, others just hem and haw trying to get you to say something, and some blurt it out. My girls happen to look like me, which actually confuses people. Over the years I have told hundreds of people that I inseminated, from closest friends to new bosses, from colleagues to the dentist, from parents of my kids’ friends to the guy who came to fix my stove. I wrote about this a little in a previous blog post, and it continues to happen, even now that my girls are 15 and 19.

There are a million insemination stories, and I tell people a little or a lot, depending on the person and the situation. Sometimes it feels like a way of educating people, sometimes it feels like a rite of passage, sometimes it feels like stand up comedy. But always it is putting yourself out there. It’s letting people in on your orientation, your politics, your struggles, your biology.

The truth is, as soon as you start the journey of insemination, your vagina is out there. It took years for me to get pregnant the first time, starting from home-based methods and moving on to the most scientific and clinical interventions possible. It was the nineties and this was a relatively new way to go. I spent a lot of time charting my temperature, taking fertility drugs, jabbing myself with needles, getting blood drawn, and receiving vaginal ultrasounds. Over the years I have probably had more vaginal ultrasounds than mosquito bites. Countless technicians have brandished the magic wand inside of me, searching for follicles, those little indicators of eggs trying to pop out of ovaries, the promise and hope of conception, children, a family.

Here is perhaps my most vivid memory of the whole process: I am in the exam room after just having a nurse practitioner inject sperm into my uterus with a catheter. My legs are up in the stirrups, a white sheet thin as a Kleenex covers me to just below the knees. A tiny angel pin is clipped to my johnny, a gift from the only other lesbian couple I know who have gone through this. I don’t really believe in angels but I am weary and desperate and willing to try anything. The nurse practitioner is talking to my partner and before I know what is happening she asks her if she wants to see the sperm and they are out the door, off to a microscope in another area of the clinic. My partner, the last one out, leaves the door wide open.

A few other things that happened along the way included 1) a trip to the emergency room after a near death allergic reaction to the dye in a hysteropingogram; 2) encountering a doctor who didn’t think I should inseminate because a child should have a mother and a father and she was convinced I had too much testosterone in me, which was why I was a lesbian and why I couldn’t get pregnant (I wonder what she’s doing these days); and 3) selecting my final donor (I used a number of different donors trying to get pregnant and agonized over their profiles determined to pick the right one) when the nurse told me he was really handsome. Embarrassing, yes, but worth it because I finally got pregnant and later used his reserved “sibling sperm” for my second child.

As for actually parenting as a lesbian mom, well that’s a much bigger story filled with awkward father daughter dances and a strained relationship with my own parents, and a straight mom thinking the donor might be Mel Gibson, and relationships ending and beginning, and most importantly, two amazing children who are just as proud of me as I am of them. A wild and wooly ride but worth every page of the story.

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Put Your Tiny Hand in Mine

Father Knows BestNo fathers for a Father’s Day cookout today – mine is 300 miles away, my spouse’s dad died almost 10 years ago, and in my household, even the dogs are female. It’s a lazy Sunday as a result. Planted some parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme (my yearly tribute to Simon & Garfunkel), watched War Horse on TV, ate random leftovers, read a little, didn’t even shower. In between which I thought about the following:

1) I wonder if my kids wish they had a dad? I’ve asked them about this at times. They always say no. But what are they going to say to me? Yes, you ruined our life. I have to explain the no-dad thing a lot, so I imagine they do too. Recently I brought them to get new glasses. My youngest daughter is incredibly near-sighted and the eye-glasses guy, thinking about nothing more than the thickness of her lenses as she gets older, asked about my eyesight and then asked, how about dad’s? I always try to answer casually, comfortably, like I talk about these things all the time and it’s no big deal. But it’s weird to tell strangers, I used a donor. It’s like telling people you had a boob job or you like to be on top or how much money you make. It feels personal. Most times I say, my partner’s a woman (and then sometime I have to explain further that she’s not a business partner), but in this case the question was in reference to biology, not family structure. Eye-glasses man was cool. He liked the kids. He had a lot of tattoos under that white jacket. He didn’t bat an eyelash.

2) My dad believed my mother did all the parenting. He wasn’t around a lot. He never even changed a diaper. Occasionally he was called in for serious discipline or for a ride to Carvels for soft ice cream. He worked all the overtime he could get, and even worked on holidays. My father was the provider. He paid for everything with cash. He scoured the grocery flyers for sales and did the shopping. He turned off the lights and turned down the heat and made you eat everything on your plate and paid every bill on time and watched how much water you put in the tea kettle so you didn’t waste electricity heating what you wouldn’t use.  My friends in high school were afraid of him. He was a growler, a yeller, a where-are-you-going-who-are-you-going-wither. Yet under his cranky, grumpy, worry-wart ways, my father had a sense of humor. We’ve all inherited it to some degree, and found comfort in it during trying times. And in this way, he parented us more than he knows.

3) Sometimes when my father worked downtown he would bring us caramel corn from a specialty shop on Clinton Avenue. It came in a red and white striped box and was sweet, salty,  buttery, crunchy and usually still warm. It would stick to my teeth and be gone in 10 minutes but it was the best treat ever because it made me feel special and happy and remembered. To this day caramel corn is the way to my heart.

I feel ok that my kids don’t have a dad because I try and give them a lot of caramel corn moments. And they have a step-mom and plenty of adults who love them.  And there are some good men in my life and that’s what I want for my kids. So Happy Father’s Day to all you dads out there or all you dad wannabes or folks with dads or memories of dads. Here’s to all your  dad or no-dad stories. Be sure to tell one today – even if it’s to yourself.

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Blue Plate Special

Today is Pi day. I don’t know if that means anything to you but here’s what it means if you have a 6th grader:

Last night you were in Michael’s buying a $3 t-shirt along with $20 worth of fabric markers to make a Pi shirt that will  be worn for one day and one day only, spending the rest of its life in a crumpled ball at the back of a dresser drawer.

This morning you were in Stop & Shop the second they opened the door to buy an actual pie. Your hair was wet because you just got out of the shower. No make up or jewelry but you did switch your slippers for shoes before you left the house. The place was empty except for one extraordinarily put-together woman in a suit and heels who smiled at you like you were The Help. There were only 3 pies left because every other parent was there last night buying pies. You wind up with a lemon crunch pie that little old ladies eat.

Your 6th grader thinks you have Alzheimer’s because you can’t remember the number for Pi, or really why Pi matters enough to devote an entire day to it. You never even bake pies, because they really aren’t as easy as the saying goes. You would probably eat a piece of lemon crunch pie though, because at this point the nursing home looks pretty good. Three hots and a cot. Bingo games and sing-alongs. Maybe a bus trip to the mall.

Who the heck started Pi Day? Certainly there was no such thing when I was a kid. Math was boring, like it’s supposed to be. But heck, it’s a brave new world. Maybe we should celebrate Pi Day in the workplace as well. Or have Pi Day parties a la Martha Stewart. Bring back Quiche. Make Pi crafts (I have a lot of fabric pens). Surely there must be a Pi Day cocktail you could serve in a beaker. I can hear the college frat chants now, Pi-T, Pi-T. This would work well in Boston or Rhode Island where the r’s already get dropped.

I guess I would be more willing to embrace Pi Day if there was a literary equivalent for us reading/writing geeks. But what would we celebrate? National i before e day? Surely we can do better than that.

Any ideas?

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Necessity is a Mother

Yes, necessity is the mother of invention. Like when my trash-loving beagle figured out that she could take her favorite purple flower-shaped pillow (here’s a glam shot from a previous post), and put it on the foot pedal of the garbage can so that the top would remain open for her to scour all day while we were out. So now I have to close that door before I leave the house or hide the pillow or both, just to be on the safe side.

But sometimes necessity is also the mother of prevention. Like when I tell my kids a story about some other kid who had a drug problem because I really don’t want them to have a drug problem and I don’t think it will be especially effective to just keep telling them don’t do drugs. Sometimes I lay it on thick, about the girl I knew in high school that drank so much vodka she went into an alcohol coma and came out three weeks later with the mind of a 7-year-old. I’m pretty sure they see right through this.

Necessity is definitely the mother of suspension. When things get so bad you have to just stop what you’re doing and stare out the window or lay down or give up sugar or leave town. Immediately. Because surely your head will explode or your knees will give out or your heart will shatter into a million pieces if things keep going along the way they are.

Occasionally, necessity is the mother of redemption. When words are spoken that should not have been and they are floating out there. And no matter how many apologies or fits of denial or excuses they leave a mark. They imprint you. You hear them over and over in your head, you feel them under your skin and thick in your blood. And then finally, you have to just forgive, let that person off the hook. You have to, as they say, move on. For that person’s sake, yes, but mostly for your own.

And sometimes necessity is simply the mother of convention. Brush your teeth, get 8 hours of sleep, be nice, do your homework, say please and thank you. Get a few good habits under your belt to balance all the bad ones you’re sure to pick up later. We all need a little cement in the foundation.

I think the Stones got it wrong. You can’t always get what you need, even at the Chelsea drug store. Thus the birthing of all sorts of complex behaviors and strategies.

But it makes for good literature, does it not?

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