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.

Dear Little Whisp and Thumper,

I’ve never experienced the extreme spectrum of emotions like I have while mommy has carried you around in her tummy, helping you grow. Because of her and you both, I have felt my happiest happy and my scariest scared. You see, parenting, being your parent, your mama, is the most daunting thing I have ever done, or will ever do, in my life.

From the second, I saw you as owl eyes on the screen in the doctor’s office, after she helped mommy, me, and God, make you, I knew that it was up to us to try to make sure you would always, or mostly always, choose goodness in your life. Mommy told me once that I want people to be so good sometimes, that I would always be disappointed in them because it’s hard to be good all the time.

From you, before you have gotten here, and I’ve cuddled you and kissed and hugged you, I want you to know that I don’t expect you to be or choose good all the time and I won’t be disappointed in you when you don’t, but I will love you always. I’ll love you when you choose to be kind and when you’re not, though I hope you always are. I’ll love you when you choose to be gracious and when you’re not, though I hope you choose to give of yourself for the good of others more than you don’t. I’ll love you when you choose to be selfless and when you’re selfish, though I hope you know the profoundness of selfless love in your life.

I hope to be the mama that you deserve. Mommy will be amazing. This I know to the bottom of my soul. I know she will play the best dragon and kiss your scrapes with the most tenderness. I know her words will sooth even the hurtiest of hurts in your life. I’ve learned so much from her already, and you’re not even here yet.

You’re my little whisp and thumper, that wiggle to the music I play you and swish under my ears when I place my head to Mommy’s tummy, and more than anything, I want now to be worthy of the blessing God has given Mommy and me in giving us you.

Mommy and I talked about you for years before you were ready to be ours and we were ready to be yours. We talked about the life we would have and the love we would share. We talked about the things we would teach you and you would teach us. We talked about the home we would build for you and how you would feel not only safe and loved, but free to be whoever, and whatever you wanted to be there. You see, before you were ours and we were yours, we loved you so incredibly much that we made sure we could build that home and give you that love and teach you those things.

I’ve always told Mommy that she was my favorite person. It was something I started saying after she introduced me to what I’m sure will be a recurring film in our home still, “Mary Poppins.” I have three favorite persons now in this incredibly blessed life of mine: Mommy, and my little whisp and my little thumper.

When you finally make your entrance into this world, there is one thing you can know for certain, Mommy and I have loved you since forever because God destined us to be a family long before we knew what our family would look like. Our hearts and homes have grown to receive you and though we want you to keep cooking until you’re ready, we can’t wait for you to get here, so that we can love on you.

Forever your Mama,

Tiffany

Latkes on BOGO

~Aly

As a woman who grew up with a single mom, I am no stranger to searching for the best deal. I spend time looking into sales and comparing prices when online shopping. I’m also eager to take advantage of the BOGO deals at Publix. I never expected, however, to find out I was taking part in the ultimate BOGO-all sales final- deal at the fertility doctor’s office.

“Are there two in there?” That’s what I heard my wife loudly ask during my first pregnant visit with the doctor. My breath caught in my chest. The doctor said “Yep. I told you on the phone that you were very pregnant.” I lifted my head to the side. Clear as day, two amniotic sacs were on my screen.

The doctor congratulated us and gave us the first pictures of our children before leaving the room for me to get dressed. Tiffany gave me the biggest hug and kiss while I stood there in shock. “Twins. Twins. Twins,” echoed in my brain. While I put on my leggings with the “twins” chorus on full blast inside my head, my wife dropped to the floor on her knees, placed her hands in the air, and praised God for the miracles that He gave us.

We walked back out through the empty waiting room, where Tiffany did a jumping dance of joy, as the front desk secretary, Danielle, walked out and giggled at our semi-private moment of celebration.

I felt like I was moving through a fog, like some kind of automaton operating on autopilot. Then, what seemed to be out of nowhere on the drive home, I just started laughing. Whole belly, tears, crazy person laughing. The laughs kept being interrupted with “Oh my God, Tiffany, it’s twins,” before the next cackle would begin. It was like elation was being mixed with disbelief, shock, and joy in some crazy cocktail that I was sipping on.

Suddenly, I stopped, panicked, and looked at Tiffany. “We need to make a budget. What luxuries can we cut? How the hell are we going to afford twins?!” My methodical and wise wife grabbed my hand and said, “Please let us bask in the joy of this for a while first.” So, I exhaled and continued to laugh at the crazy turn of events that we were experiencing. The doctor turned to us during the ultrasound and said, “You were on very low doses of meds. I suspect that you’re much more fertile than we all thought you were. Apparently, you’re very fertile.”

I’ve thought a lot about why my reaction was initially so subdued. They tell you that multiples are more likely when undergoing fertility treatments. I always knew that this was a possibility, but I do not think I ever really believed it would happen. It had taken us so long to get to this point that just having one healthy baby felt like a miracle that was almost out of reach. Two? Never really on my radar.

As I sit here writing this now, I hold my hand to my belly and feel like the greatest adventure is about to happen with our little blueberry sized babies (though Tiffany and I have been lovingly referring to them as our “baby latkes” due to my family’s Jewish heritage and the Jewish heritage of the donor).

Our “baby latkes” have a lot of growing left to do, but the doctor said that currently, they look “perfect.” They’re growing at the textbook rate with good heart beats. Prayers/good vibes sent for their health (and mine while I carry them) during these next several months are always appreciated.

I’m thrilled to be having twins with my wife. I feel like they have been sent to us and that we were destined to be their mamas. God must have a plan for what is to come and I have a suspicion that we have no real idea how drastically our lives are about to change.