Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Queer Parenting in a Straight World

Has anyone ever asked you to justify your family?

Why did you chose to create the family that you have, why or why not it includes children, parents, friends, siblings, aunts, uncles and whatever blood relatives you want to throw into the mix. Why or why not does it include pets, other people's children, or your plants?

When your family falls outside of the perceived norm, you are constantly asked to justify it's existance, to prove that your family is "worthy" of existance. Our society has put families into two different categories: Those who are "worthy" and those who are "not worthy". "Worthy" families have income, two parents, a place to live, food on the table, be over the age of 20, etc etc etc. Not worthy are families where one or both parents have a visible disability, poverty (think of the Black welfare mothers), low education, young (or over 40), etc.

Nevermind that poverty is a completely fabricated existance by our society. There is no earthly reason WHY a good chunk of the people inhabiting our country live below the poverty line, when we are an incredibly wealthy country. A woman I was once friends with was struggling to complete her degree and care for her pre-schooler. She was a young single mom and dad had fucked off ages ago and never paid child support. She is an excellent parent, but the government would have rather put her child in foster care than provided her with daycare. Our views of what is "right" and "wrong" deeply affect political leaning. Because of some bullshit bias, we don't even have ENOUGH daycare, let alone affordable daycare ($1000/month per child is mind boggling). The message is loud and clear: If you can't afford daycare, wtf are you doing with a baby?

A couple of times, in explaining myself, I've had people ask point blank "well why can't you adopt, there are lots of children in the world without families". This is true, but the underlying message is "you're not worthy of being a biological parent, and because your children require extra effort, why wouldn't you divert those energies and financial resources into adopting a child".

While I generally agree with this idea (and wrestle with it constantly), it's entirely unfair to make a claim on my uterus when you are not me. It's *my* body and only *I* get to decide what to do with it (J has a strong opinion and is invested in the health and well being of my body, but it's ultimately my decision). If I didn't have an overwhelming urge to push a watermelon out of my vajay-jay, I would definitely agree that adoption would be a much more sensible alternative (after all, I rather like my pelvic floor, and the idea of committing to 40+ years of daily kegel exercises is not particularly enticing). However, my body is ridiculous in it's determination to grow and produce another human being, for whom I am then responsible for it's care while my body weeps for it's saggy boobs, loss of bum and the wasteland that was my pelvic floor.

So, how does Queer Parenting differ from Straight Parenting?

Umm.... I'm not sure, any ideas?

No, that's not true, I have some ideas. All queer parents, or potential parents I have ever met, have incredible insight into themselves, the workings of society, injustice, bigotry, ignorance and the importance of humility, acceptance (and not just tolerance), diversity and our collective conscious. I'm sure there are queer parents out there who are total assholes and raise their children to be little shits, but I have yet to meet them.

Queer parents absolutely, unequivocally and desperately WANT to be parents, it is very much a chosen profession. It is not a societal expectation (unlike straight couples, who are made to feel shitty if they choose not to have children), an accident or what have you. Because there is more time and effort put into becoming a parent when you are queer, you really have to sit down and figure your shit out before you even start to flip through a sperm catalogue or adoption list.

Parents who have to go through fertility treatment fall into the category with the "Chosen Parent" category, as that is hell unto itself.

I should add that about half of my straight friends with kids planned their pregnancies, and the other half discovered that the pee stick had a big, fat PLUS sign on it one morning. All are fantastic parents, all want to be parents (since we thankfully live in a country with legal and safe abortions, and a healthy adoption process). It's still intentional parenting, and no different than us.

Apologies for rambling, it's hard to condense 10 years of this into a series of blog posts!!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Nifty blog post

I found a really great post about a bunch of issues I'm going to ramble about in another blog post (that is currently half written). It's incredibly succinct, and wonderfully written!!

Queer Parent 101

The blog itself is pretty cool for parents who choose to actively question their parenting values and beliefs! :) It's not a gay parent oriented blog, it just had one article in it.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Never a "perfect" time.

Something J and I have been wrestling with is when is a good time to start trying to have a baby. At 29 and 26 respectively, we are constantly told "there's no rush". Is there? I think there is.

For the first thing, my parents are in their early 60's. My mother has just booked her retirement date. It's something I *hate* thinking about, but my parents are getting older. I want them to have an opportunity to know and play with their grandchildren, to be actively involved in their lives in a way I never had with my own grandparents.

The second thing, we have *no* idea how long it may take us. Since we are hoping to use fresh-never-frozen sperm, the process of getting pregnant should go more quickly. After age 30, a woman's ease of conceiving begins to dimish. I'm not ready to play with that fire. If all goes well, I will be a parent before I am 30, which has been my goal since the tender age of 16.

The third thing, I've been waiting to become a parent since I was 16. The day I turned 24 was the day it was perfectly acceptable to begin having children (at least in my mind). 23 and below was too young. I don't *WANT* to wait until I'm 30. I've worked my tush off to get my life to a point where I can have kids and afford them.

We have the luxury of no accidental pregnancies (which is an absolute blessing until you want to get pregnant), so this means that we can get our shit together before our kid comes. Right?

Wrong. We'd never have them because we'd always be working towards getting our shit together. Don't have the right job, enough money in the bank, the right house, the right stuff, enough time, etc. Things will never be perfect.

Both of our parents had us later in their life. My mom was 37 when I was born. I *cannot* imagine waiting another 11 years to have my first child, it actually makes me nauseated to think about it. J's mom was also 37.

So, we start looking at when is an acceptable time, a work-able time. When is it financial feasible for us to have a child and not go bankrupt at the cost of pre-school. We're at this point now. J is re-examining her academic priorities and weighing them heavily against the consequences of waiting to have a baby. I will delay my master's until our kids are older and J has finished her undergrad.

In short, different families have different priorities. Some families never have the choice, as many dear friends have had happen. They make it work.

We're done waiting. We're ready *now*. It's time to start putting one foot in front of the other. We're ready to be up all night, deal with puke (although that will be my job), sick kids, sibling rivalry, and the ups and downs that come with being a parent.

Definition of Family

Everyone has an idea of what "family" means. There is the traditional, ultra conservative view of family as a mom, a dad, 2.5 children living in a house in suburbia. There is the totally radical view of family as a group of people who have chosen to define themselves as family.

During my nursing undergrad, we were given the definition of "Family is whatever the patient/client says it is". I liked it immediately. It puts the emphasis on self-identification and repeals the outdated ideas that family is purely biological. It also encompasses all the possible definitions of family, including friends, parents, foster parents, step parents, aunts, uncles, siblings, pets, partners, wives, husbands, children, roommates, whether they live near, far or somewhere in between, whether they are intimate or estranged, married or not, divorced, absolutely everything.

I had a patient turn down life saving treatment because she couldn't find anyone to look after her cat.

Some queer and trans people have been rejected by their biological families, which is very sad and heartbreaking. Crazy fundamentalist nutjobs have had such an influence on how a family is "supposed to look" and "supposed to behave", that the fear of hell causes people to turn their family members away. This is changing, thankfully, as the definition of family continues to widen and expand.

Family is of core importance to me. Coming out at 16, realizing that I still wanted to become a parent, being OK with never getting legally married, accepting the possibility of becoming a single parent if I needed to, have all deeply and permanently shaped the way I define my family. Pre-coming out, I had an exceptionally common expectation that I would grow up, meet a nice man, get married and have children. Coming out and realizing that I did not in fact WANT to marry a man was revolutionary.

It still took 2 years to convince my mom that I still wanted to have children, that I wanted her to be a grandmother, that realizing I was queer had nothing to do with my sexual orientation.

I have a deeply held belief that it takes a village to raise a child. I am actively involved in Girl Guides of Canada as part of that belief. The more experiences a child has with a rainbow of people, the more they are exposed to, creates for better, more well rounded human beings. That being said, I am a self-protective crab who tries to mother anyone who gets in my way. It will be a struggle to allow my kids to have experiences I don't necessarily agree with or life. I will need my ever supportive wife at my side poking me, reminding me that it IS OK to not necessarily like everything my children will do, but that it's important for them to experience a broad spectrum of things.

We are helping to shape human beings, not create little clones of ourselves. Parenting is not about relieving our missed experiences, as much as I would like my kids to do better in school than I did.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Welcome Post

After doing some poking around on the internet, I couldn't find a single, half decent blog written by queer identified woman (women) trying to create a family... I wanted some kind of validation that I wasn't going crazy, and I can't find it.

Sure, there are lots of blogs out there by future mommas, but so far, nadda on the homoparent.

Thus, the blog is born. I like blogging. I've been blogging since I was 18 years old. At 26, I have 8 years of spilling my feelings into the vastness of the internet.

I also like babies. I have wanted to be a mom for as long as I can remember. I used to lie to my friends and random strangers that I had a baby sister at home. My younger brother did not appreciate such sentiment.

The purpose of this blog is to document the journey towards marriage, life, making a baby and parenting. I expect the blog to grow as our experience grows!

So, who are we?

Me: 26, Cancer. Work in a Neonatal ICU as an RN. Come from a middle-class family. I like to be outside, to work in the garden, to spend time with friends and drink excessive amounts of tea.

J: 29, Pisces. Chef, business student. Comes from a middle-class family. Likes to be outside, spend time with friends and family, children's books, purses and movies.

S (name changed!): Donor. Mid-late twenties, extremely tall. Free spirit and wanderer, warm and caring. He is the manager for the local chain of an international corporation.

We have 2 cats, Tasi and Mustang.

We are trying to create a family using a known donor, a longtime friend of mine. For many years we have joked about it. It got serious over a facebook post, and when he was down on a visit, we had lunch and discussed it seriously. I adore him, he is such a wonderful person, warm, caring and interested. I will go into further of why we want a known donor versus identity release or anonymous sperm in a later post.

The rest of our family includes both sets of parents, a sibling, and dear friends (who will be Aunties and Uncles). Everything is a choice, including our family. The people who remain in it, biological or otherwise, are chosen. We have surrounded ourselves with people who love us, support us and are impatiently awaiting our first child. Our hope by doing this, is to build a network of support and love, because I truly believe it takes a village to raise a child.