Third Trimester/Lamaze/Poetry

*Picture warning. Read at your own risk*

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Friends, I’m totally in the third trimester. This is what I look like now, sans head:

28 weeks

Quite a change from the last picture I posted, no?

Sorry about the crappy picture. Clearly, we suck at photography, and/or the lighting in our bedroom is terrible. Let’s go with the lighting in our bedroom being terrible.

Sometimes I am overjoyed that we are going to meet our sweet girl in a few short months; I’m confident that if person X, who is an absolute moron, can manage then so can we. Sometimes I am filled with abject terror that we are going to meet our sweet girl in a few short months; I’m quite sure that we are going to scar our child for life with our woefully inadequate parenting. Sometimes I’m cheerful and calm as I run my hands over my belly, feeling the baby kick. Sometimes I’m enraged the universe could be so STUPID and UNFAIR to allow me to drop salsa on my sweater (actually, Tammy’s sweater, but these are details). Sometimes I’m sobbing hysterically because Smash got into college on Friday Night Lights, without stopping to question why I am watching a show about high school football when I a) hated high school and b) hate football. But these thoughts don’t occur to me as I wipe salsa smeared sleeves under my runny nose.

Sometimes I get all miracle-of-life-y about how I’m finally pregnant, and other times I feel like a little part of my soul dies every time I think about the one that didn’t make it. (And the whispers come from the tiniest echo of my heart, what if I wanted the first one? What if I cannot love my baby girl as much as I loved the one that I lost?)

Sometimes I revel in the attention that I get – me! Attention for being pregnant after so many months of running away from pregnant women! – and other times I feel like if one more person comments, questions, or offers advice I will absolutely strangle them with my bare hands. Since when did my body become public property?

(Speaking of comments, questions, and advice, as much as people like to offer all that up, unsolicited, including birth horror stories THANKS FOR SHARING, I’m pissed that no one told me about the weird pregnancy stuff. I’m not talking about nausea, backaches, etc. I was expecting that. I’m talking about things like nosebleeds, changes in body hair (increasing and decreasing), and carpel tunnel. Why does nobody talk about this? That’s some bullshit. I demand a refund.)

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We had our first Lamaze class last week, and the second one tonight. We were the only lesbian couple, naturally. The instructor did her best, I guess, to use “partner” instead of “husband” or “dad,” but she mostly used “husband” or “dad.”

There was one incident that got to Tammy in particular, when the class was split up into pregnant women and partner groups. The idea was to go with your group and discuss positives and negatives about being pregnant and the impending delivery and child rearing. The instructor told Tammy to stay with the pregnant women, rather than going with the partners (who were, of course, all men). She told Tammy that she would be more comfortable with the women.

I know she was coming from a good place when she said that, but honestly, as Tammy told me later, she would have felt much better with the partner group, even though she would have been the only woman. The pregnant women group mostly talked about physical ailments of being pregnant, feeling the baby move, concerns/hopes/fears about the delivery, postpartum recovery, etc. Tammy can relate to that, but only as much as the rest of the partners could. Yes, she’s a woman who is the proud owner/operator of a uterus, but that uterus has never been occupied by a fetus, and there are no plans that it ever will be. When the partners came back into the room and we shared lists, Tammy sat there thinking, “yep, I have that fear. Yep, I’m excited about that, too.”

She was kind of pissed off that the teacher viewed her womanhood as more important than her partner status. It took me a while to see it from her point of view, but I get it now. The whole fertility process and now the whole pregnancy was/is SO MUCH about me, me, me. Obviously, there’s a reason for that, but Tammy’s role is vital in this process – and that is not hyperbole. Hats off to all the single moms by choice. You are brave and I am in awe of you. I am in no way, shape, or form strong or brave enough to do this on my own. I would have given up a thousand times before this moment if it weren’t for Tammy.

Anyway, we’re going to either send the instructor an email letting her know she might consider giving female non-gestational partners the option of which group to join, as I’m sure some would prefer to be in the pregnant women group. Others like Tammy, would prefer to be with the partners. Why bother trying to choose for them?

The Lamaze class moments that *I* could have lived without are as follows:

1. Watching the instructor jam a baby doll through a plastic pelvis with more vehement glee than I thought necessary

2. The realization that our large (LARGE) circular name tags were ten centimeters, “which is how big your cervix will be when you’re fully dilated!”

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I want this poem framed on our baby’s nursery wall. It’s kind of cliché now, as it’s become pretty popular but I don’t care. My sister read it at our wedding, and I get goosebumps every time I hear it. I would copy/paste it here, but WordPress eats the formatting and I can’t do that to ol’ e.e.

Be well, friends. “this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart”

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A Light in the Dark

A year ago this month we lost our first pregnancy.

This is a strange time of year for me, because of it. I was thinking the other day about how I really need to rake the leaves in the backyard and then I remembered, Oh! I was raking leaves the day before I started to bleed.

I had known it was coming – my hCG had dropped to 7 at my Thursday morning blood draw and the nurse told me it was a matter of days, if not hours. I took that Friday off from work and did chores all day, desperate for something to do, desperate for something to break through the heavy numbness that had washed over my body, and then sickly horrified when the next day something did.

That Friday when I got back from the grocery store, I headed out back and slowly, carefully raked the rotting yellow leaves into piles. As I raked, my thoughts skittered around in sharp jerks. I thought about those monks that created meticulous sand gardens only to destroy them. This thought was both strangely comforting and vaguely irritating. I thought about ladies in Victorian novels that were always dying of a broken heart. Previously this had seemed like a slightly pathetic yet amusing literary technique, and my know-it-all 10 year old self was smugly sure this wasn’t an actual, medical possibility. Now I questioned that former certainty. I thought about death. Would it hurt to die? Probably, I thought with detachment, it depended on how you died, but I wondered if your body reached a certain point and no longer felt anything? I hoped my baby wasn’t feeling anything. I hoped my baby was already dead, and my body was able to comfort it before it left, in the only home it ever knew. I wondered if a miscarriage would hurt, even one this early. I wondered if there would be anything to see. Would “it” come out resembling anything? Or would it just look like a period? It was awfully small, I thought, doubtfully.

Interspersed between these thoughts I was chanting over and over to myself. With each stroke of the rake I thought, “I’m sorry, baby. Mommy loves you. Mama loves you. I hope you’re not in pain. We’re so sorry. We couldn’t keep you. We couldn’t save you. I’m so sorry. I hope you’re not in pain. I love you. I’m sorry.”

I didn’t cry at all that day. I’d cried so much in the days preceding it that my body felt like a dried up and brittle husk. Each gust of the November wind threatened to shatter me into a thousand pieces.

I woke up early Saturday morning and thought for a brief moment that I was dying. The pain in my abdomen was strange and intense, but the pain in my chest gripped me so hard I could barely breathe. There was a howling in my head that seemed to echo around and around in my body.

I woke Tammy up at 5 and asked her to draw me a bath. My brain was only working in short bursts, and I could only seem to think one step at a time. All my brain could do was signal to my body to get somewhere warm, and float. So I did. The pain was coming in waves and I thought, how curious! I’m in the water, and the pain is like waves! My thoughts were stopped short by the realization of what those waves were. I lay there in the rapidly cooling water and thought, dully, “this is it.” I wasn’t bleeding yet, but I knew.

The howling and the waves of pain intensified as I stood up out of the now cold bath, and the first trickle of bright red blood ran down my leg. I watched it hit the tiled bathroom floor and said softly, “goodbye, sweet baby.”

Then I went back to bed.

Whole and Half Adoption: My Thoughts

I read all of your comments on my last post with great interest. Thank you, very much, for your insight and compassion into a contentious topic.

I wanted to first clear up what I consider to be poor writing on my part, for which I apologize. I was trying to be all vague and mysterious about where we live and it ended up coming across as just…muddled. Tammy will be listed on our child’s birth certificate as her other parent, and we will be given a temporary custody order until the adoption is processed, some six months after the birth. If we were never planning to go anywhere for the rest of our child’s life, this would be enough, legally, to ensure that both of us would be treated as our daughter’s legal parents. However, because there are many places in the United States that would not automatically assign Tammy parental rights (if not outright ban them), we have to go through with the adoption to protect our family in those states.

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Please note that everything that follows is a collection of my personal opinions, colored by interactions and discussions with friends and family members. I am not adopted myself, so I do not have first hand experience. If I offend anyone with what I say, please know that it is not my intent to do so, and be kind to me in explaining why you feel as you do.

Adoption is not a black and white issue for me. I, personally, do not like it when people (many Catholic and Evangelical groups, for instance) paint it as The Solution to an unwanted pregnancy (as opposed to abortion). I also do not think it is fair to say it’s always a Bad Thing, like my friend, and some in the adoption rights community say it is. It’s like life: complicated, and with trade offs (life is complicated you say? How shocking).

Encouraging biological family members to stay together is much more complicated than just providing free prenatal care, as some “crisis pregnancy centers” imply. (Gentle hint STRONG SUGGESTION: do not EVER go to a crisis pregnancy center. They are con artists.) You cannot have a discussion about adoption without discussing sex education for children and teens, education in general, access to contraception and abortion, the roles of religion and culture, social services to support lower socio-economic status women and children, social stigmas of welfare queens and teen moms, “anchor babies”, the role of biological fathers, cycles of poverty, the foster care industry, the for profit adoption industry, international adoption, parental rights, pregnant women’s rights, the “personhood” movement, and on and on. All of these things are, in my opinion, intrinsically linked. But phew! Who has time to discuss all that? And what legislation could possibly address all these things in a meaningful way?

In a perfect world, there would be no unwanted babies, and there would be no families who wanted babies but couldn’t have them. Obviously, this is not a perfect world (again, it’s truly shocking). I think we should do what we can to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies, and assist in achieving pregnancy for those that desire it, but we have to acknowledge that there will never be a perfect balance.

So what to do about those babies that, for whatever reason, are being placed for adoption? If a family member is willing to take them, I think they should be given first dibs. If a family member is not readily available, I do not believe they should be coerced into taking in a child they cannot adequately care for.

If no family member is available or appropriate, then I think a child should be placed for adoption to the greater community, in whatever form the birth mother (and father, if applicable) are comfortable with: open, semi-open, closed, etc.

Ideally, a child will have access to a basic medical history of both sides of his or her family (obviously, this is not always possible or practical). I do not think that adoption records should be destroyed, unless the birth mother specifically requests, after a certain period of time, that they be. If an adopted child wants to have contact upon reaching adulthood with their biological family, a court appointed independent third party should be assigned as a liaison to coordinate that contact, i.e. contacting the birth parents and asking their consent to provide the offspring with their name(s) and contact information. If the birth parent(s) do not want to provide contact, then the process stops there.

That may seem harsh to children desperately searching for information about their genetic history. I do not, however, believe that we are entitled, as a human right, to extensive genetic information. I also do not believe that once a child is born, their right to know trump the right to privacy of the person who gestated them.

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As far as my own child goes, we did a lot of thinking, obviously, about the role of biology, nature/nurture, the role of fathers, gambling with genetics, and fate before we settled on our donors. All three of our donors were chosen from a pool of willing to be known (WTBK) men, rather than the totally anonymous men.

We do have basic medical information about the donor, as well as some family medical history. We have a short recording of his voice, and pictures of him as a baby, a child, and an adult. We have the option of signing up with the donor sibling registry (DSR) to find other children created in part by the same donor.

We chose not to go with an anonymous donor because we do feel that genetics and biology are important, but to what degree we do not know. And we don’t know how important our child will view them. As the lovely blogger over at Bionic Mamas says:

“The biggest reason we chose a willing-to-be-known donor is that we wanted to be able to say to the Bean that even before he was a bean, we were thinking of him as his own person, whose thoughts and desires might well be different from our own.”

Isn’t that fabulous? You should go read the whole post. Also follow the blog.

Do I resent the fact that Tammy and I cannot combine our genes to create a child? Yes. Selfishly, deep down in my reptilian heart, I’m damn angry that we cannot have a child that is created out of our deep love for each other. I’m angry that our child will not look like both of us. I’m angry that all of the little quirks that combine to make Tammy the lovable, exasperating, funny, and gloriously wonderful human being she is will not be reflected in our child.

I also resent the fact that some people (again, like my friend in the adoption rights community) will consider the donor our daughter’s father. Parenting is so much more than providing DNA. It’s more than giving birth. And I resent the hell out of the idea that there are some people who will always consider a one time DNA donation a permanent admittance card to the parenting club.

But I cannot afford to go too far down that road my friends, because that way bitterness lies.

And a child is more than the sum of their genetic parts. Genes do absolutely play an important role, but how can that role be quantified against all the daily mundane slog and earth shattering crisis that make up a life lived?

In the end, our child will be her own person. She may turn out different from how she would have if she were raised by a biological mother and a father. But we make millions of conscious and unconscious choices in our lifetime that change who we are and who we could become. There are also things that we have no control over that influence the sum of our parts.

Ultimately, Tammy and I are just one of them, for better or for worse.