I am Shoe

~Tiffany

Who is “Mommy” and who is “Mama”?

One of the things Aly and I have been talking a lot about lately is what the babies will call us. In an effort to understand where some of our community stood on this, we went onto one of our LGBTQ parenting support group sites to see if this was a topic that had been discussed in previous posts. It turns out it was, and it turns out that, yet again, Aly and I were in the minority in what we were inclined to go with and what felt right for us. 

Aly and I have decided to be called, “Mommy”, and “Mama”, respectively. However, we noticed a lot of the responses centered around assigning a “Mommy”-like name to the mother carrying the child and then something entirely different to her partner. We were reading things like the kids calling them by their name or calling them “Mama” but followed by the initial of their first name, while the carrying mother didn’t have that delineation. We were reading comment after comment of families approaching the situation this way, and we thought, “what makes us different?” It was glaring that we were. There were a few responses where couples had a person who identified as non-binary, and so they preferred and went with, perhaps something more similar to “Mama”, “Papa”, and that made more sense to us for that situation, but approaching it in a way that seems to elevate the place of the carrying mother wasn’t even something that had entered our mind, so we tilted our heads in question at that one. Let’s discuss.

This is our perspective: in every way, the babies Aly is growing in her tummy, are just as much mine as hers. She is as much their mother, as I am. That she has been, and will continue to provide nourishment to them well after they are born, in no way means that she holds a higher status than I do. As far as we’re concerned, it was our love, faith, and God that brought these babies into our lives, irrespective of the fact that they won’t be biological or genetic representations of me. They feel so wholly hers and mine, that we forget that a donor even exists. Aly and I often say that we made them together with a little help from our doctor. 

Aly said she felt like she was, “the vessel” to bring our babies into our lives. I imagine, that’s what I would have considered myself as well, had I been the one to carry them because I’ve always felt that our children didn’t need to be a genetic representation of us for them to be ours and meant for us. That Aly is carrying them and that they will have her chin and her lips and her eyes, makes this experience all the more special, but it does not mean that they are any more hers than mine. In other words, I’m their mom, too, in equal measure. Thoughts?

Who is Shoe?

I’ve chosen “Mama” because it feels right to me. It feels like who I am supposed to be to our latkes. However, I know that there will inevitably come a time when they assign to me their own moniker that they’ve created from well-timed and articulated babble. I’m well aware that one day, I could be, “baba,” or, “lala,” or “shoe.” All of which I am okay with because they will be uttered from their cute little baby lips. So, if for a time I am Shoe, so be it.

The Roles We Play

Reading through the comments on that discussion thread got us thinking about the roles we will play in our childrens’ lives and whether there was something we were missing about our thinking or approach, because we weren’t in agreement, and in many instances in addition to this one, we haven’t been in agreement with a lot of the couples who have responded to these threads. We came to the same conclusion we always come to, and probably the one that each of those families came to, we’re doing what feels right for us and our family. The reality is that our kids will likely call us whatever we want them to call us because we will teach them. The more important thing is that the roles we play in their lives will be equal. Different, I’m sure, because Aly has her strengths and I have mine, but, equal. 

The more we get into reading through these parenting blogs and threads, we realize that we’ve already made decisions about how we want to approach this thing we’re doing, raising good humans. We have no idea if the way we will do it will be right. We have no idea if we will be successful. We know immediately when something feels right or doesn’t and in the end, our instinct has usually made up our mind about something before we’ve looked it up to see what popular opinion is, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t malleable if something strikes that we haven’t considered and that feels more right. 

Sometimes, parenting feels like chess. Our babies aren’t here yet and I feel like we’re already moving our pawns in this game of life, avoiding pandemics, setting up strategies to make them face the battalion of people who won’t like them simply for who their parents are, and protecting them the best we can from those who seek to do them harm. It feels like the best decision we made and the scariest one at the same time. Can I get an Amen?

Finding Comfort in Community

~Tiffany

Growing up, as an LGBTQ person, I often felt that there was no one else like me, going through what I was going through, feeling what I was feeling, and living what I was living. And, while every person obviously does have their own lived experience that is unique to them, it was as I grew into an adult and met more people like me, and read of more people like me, that I realized we could find commonalities across all of our experiences. Whether those commonalities existed in our coming out stories, our journeys to self discovery, or the films or books we were exposed to that awakened us to something that made us different, there was always something that connected us. 

Aly and I always talk about that when we meet someone new in our community or we hear about or read someone’s story and we catch similarities to ours. It makes us feel connected to something bigger. It brings us comfort and a feeling that we weren’t really alone.

As soon-to-be new parents, we’re in a whole new community and the stories we read and films we watch do the same thing for us. We watched, “Father of the Bride II” yesterday and so much of it resonated with us. I found myself connecting deeply with the character of George Banks, and some of you that know me well, might laugh and really understand that. Not the “let me dye my hair and join a gym because I’m worried my youth is behind me” part of him, but the self-doubting, protector, who just wants everything to be okay part. 

We’re not supposed to take comfort from films because they’re inherently deceptive. They’re constructed and edited to present the best version of themselves by the time they get to us, but I did. I got comfort, and I feel no shame for it because I feel like for a new parent, you need to take it where you can get it. 

I was having a conversation with friend a few months ago, soon after Aly and I found out we were pregnant, where she was recalling leaving the hospital with her little girl. She said, “I looked over at my husband once we were all strapped in and I looked in the back seat and suddenly realized that we were parents and there was a baby in the back seat that was ours. Fully ours. Our responsibility. No nurses or doctors would be at home to help us. So, I turned to my husband and said, ‘are they really just going to let us take her? I mean, they know we haven’t done this before, right?’”

At the time, I laughed and in passing, thought, “I’m sure every new parent feels that way.”

It turns out, that’s true, at least for us, and we haven’t even delivered them yet.

Still, thinking about this conversation makes me chuckle and feel like everything will be okay, because we’re not alone and other people have done it before us. People just as naive and just as unsure and just as prepared/unprepared as we will be, have done this before. 

It’s no secret that Aly and I, in addition to talking about everything, read anything we can get our hands on that might help us, so that’s what we’ve done since the beginning, and when I say beginning, I mean, before we even found out we were pregnant. We were trying, as best we could, to prepare ourselves for everything, knowing very well that it was impossible. When we found out we were having twins, we joined twin parenting groups and lesbian parenting groups on social media, we’ve been following families that look like ours, and we’ve reach out to those resources when there was a question we just didn’t know how to answer. Things like, “how do other families in the LGBTQ community celebrate Mother’s day?” It turns out we’re in the minority in the way that feels right for us, but understanding how others approach things we’ve never considered, allows us to consider things we, perhaps, otherwise wouldn’t have. I hate to say it, but, “we read, and we know things.” 

Our families laugh at us when we talk about this because they think that, we think, we can find answers to raising children in books, blogs, research articles, and social media, when really it’s that we can learn from people who have done this before, perhaps differently from how they did it, that makes more sense for us. So, perhaps, what they call naiveté, we can probably call reverse-engineering parenting research.

The Weight of the World While We Wait

~Tiffany

The world is in chaos, but then I guess it always has been. There has always been child hunger juxtaposing extreme wealth and despots ruling over the oppressed. There has always been fighting and opposition and causes and evolution of thought. There has always been a history of all of these things that we perpetually repeat in so many different iterations. They manifest themselves when those with power speak for those without or those without speak for themselves. I don’t mean for this to be a political post, and it certainly isn’t, but I had a conversation with Aly last night about the weight of this world and how much heavier it seems with our babies on the way. Not just because we’re bringing them into this inflection point in our world’s story, but also because it will be our job to teach them how to behave in it. How to be a good person. How to be inclusive, and anti-racist, and generous, and open-minded, and open-hearted, and all of the things that are required to embrace and not break under the weight of the moment we’re in now. 

It feels daunting. It was daunting 7 months ago when we found out that we were pregnant, when Coronavirus wasn’t even a reality on our local streets in the middle of all of these movements that are gaining traction during a time where, in the absence of the distraction of our “normal”, we have nothing to do but to focus on them. Valid movements that need voices and require everyone to take responsibility for the role they play in them. 

My point is this, the news and media feels like it’s rushing against us as crested waves on a shore where we’re fighting to stay standing enough to see the next one coming in order to brace ourselves. 

I asked Aly yesterday if she thought our parents faced the same questions and pressure we’re feeling in this time when they were bringing children into the world? We’re both daughters of single mothers and with that, I’m sure there were questions and challenges that Aly and I aren’t facing, but as I said before, there has always been chaos in this world, so my question was more about whether they felt the weight of their moments, their climates? It feels inescapable to me, but I wonder if that’s a generational, cultural thing that we developed by virtue of being more aware and more involved as millennials. 

Aly said that she didn’t feel the weight of the world on her shoulders growing up, and looking back, I don’t think I did either, but that seems more a factor of lack of exposure, so it brings me back to the question of if this is overwhelming for adults to digest, how can we, as parents make it digestible for our children in a way for them to understanding and learn from us and our failures? Is anyone else daunted by this, all-too-important task? Is this just a new parent thing? Is it just that we’re in a state of hyper-awareness, given our current quarantine climate?

Aly calmed me down last night when it felt like it was getting too heavy. She said, “we’re not going to give them a perfect life. Thats impossible. But, we’ll give them a good one.” She said we’d teach them the things that make them good humans in age-appropriate ways and make sure that they learn the things that it took us too long too learn, much sooner than we did. They will be loved above all and where I am weak, she will be strong and vice versa. In other words, she took some of the load from my shoulders and placed it on her own like the incredible wife and mother she already is. 

The closer the delivery date gets, the more daunting the whole we’re bringing two humans over which we will have sole responsibility gets. Incidentally, the closer it gets, the more I seem to love them. All three of them, my wife included. 

Dear Benny and Bella…

Dear Benny and Bella,

I have been your mommy for 25 weeks, but I’ve waited for you for so much longer than that. As a child, I dreamt about being a mommy one day, as I practiced by caring for my own dolls. I changed their clothes and pushed them around in child-height strollers. As a teenager, my heart ached when my doctor told me that having a baby wouldn’t be impossible, but would be challenging for me, based on my diagnosis. I carried it around with me along with my teenage angst. As a young adult, I waited for the timing to be right. I waited for me to do some growing up, but I never stopped thinking about what it would mean to be your mom. As an adult, I fought for you. We, your mama and I, fought for you. We fought to eat a healthy diet, pushed past the exhaustion on the elliptical, researched to find the right fertility specialist, and searched for months to find the right donor to ensure that we could give you your best chance.

We continue to fight for you now, during a pandemic. We waited and waited for the right time to bring you into our life. We wanted you to have the least amount of struggle. We knew what it was like to have financial struggle and only one parent at home. We worked on our relationship during bumps and even during the highs, through communication and workbooks, so that we could be the solid foundation for you at home. We made strategic financial choices to give you every opportunity. But no amount of planning can still make the right time, clearly, as we never wanted to bring you into this world during a pandemic. We have such little control, if any, in all things in our life.

We fight to keep you safe during this challenging time. We have stayed at home for months, without leaving for anything but a doctor’s appointment, which even then meant a mask was donned. We haven’t eaten out a single time in fear that there could be some way that we could infect me or you with this virus. I worry about the kind of life you’ll have with the changes we are experiencing in this world. I don’t know what kind of life will be normal soon, but I hope you know that mama and I will try our best to fill it with happiness, love, and nourishment for your body and soul.

I sit in your room a lot. I sit in there and just experience your imaginary presence. Many people can tell you that Disney is my happy place, but right now during this pandemic, it’s your nursery. I see you laying in your cribs. I see a tired mama rocking you. I feel your positive energy there before you’ve even taken your first breath. You often bring me out of my thoughts while I’m in there, with a sudden kick to a random organ, but I think you’re just making your presence known again. Keeping me grounded.

I used to want to be a mom for me. I thought that this would fulfill my life. Now, I realize that I’m not a mom for me. I’m a mom for you. The shift has already happened. I’m living every second to be the mother you need.

I am someone who has prided myself on my accomplishments. I’ve always done well in school, college, adulting, and my career. I haven’t held you in my arms yet, but I know that you are my greatest accomplishment. Nothing your mama and I will ever do, will ever bring us more joy or pride than being your parents. I feel it with every beat of my heart. I see it with every toothy grin on your mama’s face when she has just a glimpse of you on a face-time screen or has the privilege to feel your wiggles.

We don’t have everything figured out. We will try our best to figure out how to care for you both physically and emotionally. I don’t know if we can give you everything you will ever want, but I promise you that every day you will know the immeasurable amount of our love. Our babies. Our favorite little beings.

We cannot wait to kiss you and love you forever.

Love always,

Mommy