Sunday, June 30, 2019

The Beginning's End

"Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end." -Semisonic

Tomorrow morning the birth center where my children were both welcomed to this world will close.  They will still have appointments there at the clinic, but the actual birth rooms will no longer be used. They have opened a new "Midwifery Center" at the hospital for the midwives where that will focus on low-intervention, physiological birth. They will still allow water births and families will be able to go home after 4 hours, just like they could at the birth center. They have real beds instead of hospital beds, and the requisite family waiting area and kitchenette.  All of the boxes are checked and it should be just the same, only in the hospital. 

But it's not the same.  It looks like a hospital, it feels like a hospital.  It is sterile.

About a decade ago, before we were able to even seriously consider having babies, A was perusing my copy of "Our Bodies, Ourselves" and read about births attended by midwives, home births, and free-standing birth centers. Being raised by a mother who had a home birth and avoided doctors when at all possible, my response to her exciting new knowledge was probably somewhere along the lines of "Yeah, so?"  Her next tidbit was that there was a birth center less than a mile from us.

I remember being more freaked out that she looked this up than excited, we were still years away from being able to start a family.  However, we both established well-woman care there so we could get a feel for it and start meeting the midwives. They were lovely, and we were sure this was the place for us.

Fast forward to 2012, we finally had conceived E and we were nervous and excited to start our prenatal visits and centering classes.  Since we had been foster parents, we had already had a taste of the marginalization same sex couples face as parents, but we weren't prepared for the onslaught that came with being pregnant.  The birth center was our haven.  We knew we would be included and valued.  We knew that our care providers would make an effort to use language that was respectful. When they didn't know they best way to talk about something, they would ask instead of being awkward and uncomfortable or downright insulting. We could have conversations and were empowered to be in control our health instead of just being told what to do. It was refreshing.

When we finally were able to tour the birth rooms, they were each carefully decorated in a different style and we fell in love with the blue room. That September, we welcomed E to the world surrounded by strength and love.


When it was time for A's pregnancy with C, we couldn't wait to get to know our new Centering class and be surrounded by this wonderful community once again.  This time we would regularly have to go back to a birth room to check A's blood pressure, it seemed to get stage fright. Often we would end up in the green beachy room, and decided that would be where C was born.


Since then I have been able to be involved on the community advisory board and my friendship and respect for this amazing group of strong women only grows.  As we learned about the plans to close, I was shown the true depth of spirit they have poured into the birth center.  My own sadness and nostalgia were nothing compared to the fierce protective force they showed as we tried to save it.

The new hospital unit is a welcome addition to the options for birth in Tucson.  But it also marks the end, because with this new door opening, the closed doors in its wake are being glossed over and brushed aside. Not only to the parents who do not want to be in a hospital when to meet their child for the first time, but to those nurses and midwives who searched out the birth center as the model they believed in and would dedicate themselves to. There are many of these women that I now consider my friends. It is for them that I mourn.

This space was made sacred as it bore witness to babies taking their first breaths. To mothers' blood, sweat, and tears.  To growing families. To the midwives and nurses who calmly supported each birth, giving away a little bit of themselves with each long night and beautiful new beginning.

Today marks a different sort of new beginning. I hope that, in time, the new space will have the quiet, heavy feel of a sacred space. A place where time seems to stand still.  Waiting for that next new beginning.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Three

In the quiet darkness, I sit hunched. Good posture isn't my strength.
 
These early hours are mine alone, while everyone slumbers in bed, and my thoughts can tumble over one another without interruption. I am watching the pink streaks of clouds brighten the black of night, just as watercolor seeps across the page. The heater is running and I am pleasantly warm, but the longer I am still, the more acutely I feel the tendrils of cold snaking up my feet and wrapping themselves around my ankles.

Today, I'm daydreaming of that last full day of my pregnancy; that last full day when our bodies were permanently and irrevocably entwined, hurtling towards our impending and certain separation. A time of anticipation and discomfort, of excitement and uncertainty. Except that three years ago, I didn't know it was our last day in this most intimate of relationships.

Tomorrow is your third birthday. I knew I would love you - I already did. I'd loved you since before you were conceived. I'd been waiting for you since I was a very young woman. You see, you were already in my heart long before you lived in my body. But now... to really know you, see you, hold you, kiss you every day...

That is a depth of emotion which I could not have known. I am still learning it, and adding new bits all the time.

You are a work of art, child of mine. My greatest collaboration; always unfinished, as it must be.

C, I adore every fiber of your being. You are impossibly charming. Sweet and affectionate, you can win anybody over and melt the iciest of exteriors with your loving personality. Already, before you are three years old, you wield humor as a weapon. Sometimes it's sword, and sometimes it's shield, but always with intention and always with capability and understanding beyond your years. You are intelligent and curious and your little fingers are strong, sure and quick. You're certainly going to be able to use your mind and your hands to create magnificence, in whatever form sets your soul on fire. I feel a sense of empathy and genuine kindness from inside you. You are still very young, and so you are learning, but the ability to feel another's pain or joy is there.

I am interested to observe as you grow, to see if we will be able to discern which of your attributes are formed within your genes and which were formed by being raised in this family. At this point, it's impossible to know why you are already very effective at identifying your feelings and communicating them clearly, but it is amazing to behold. Last week, we took you to your first swim lesson, which you wanted to participate in and were so excited to do, you could barely wait your turn. Until the instructor helped you into the pool with the other children. I don't know if you were offended that you weren't able to decide when you entered the water or if it was because a stranger was holding you, but you were immediately and deeply unhappy. You stayed with her in the pool for the 30 minute lesson, but none of it was fun. For any of us. I came out to wrap you up in your towel when the lesson was over, and between hiccups, you told us, "I'm really really sad, guys! I did not like that!" My heart broke into a thousand shards, but among the pieces, I was amazed that you could tell us what was happening in your mind and your heart.

Tomorrow morning, the Earth will turn her face to the sun. I will watch the sky shift from the vast starry view of the universe to the bright blue of Sol's luminescence. You will open your eyes for the first time as a three year old, and everything will be different. And everything will be the same.

You are so loved, darling boy. Your birth is one of the greatest moments of my life. I feel so lucky that I get to be your mama.

Love always.






Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Tea and cats and homework

Daughter.

The days often pass me by in a blur, their colors melding together like our watercolor paintings. I was about to type that it's challenging to sometimes sit back and really SEE you as you're growing, but that's actually untrue. It's one of the easiest and best parts of my life, slowing down to watch you pass. Some days, I am taken aback by the sudden length of your feet, or the strong muscles in your back that I could swear weren't there just the night before, or the speed with which you innately understand your math homework.

I told a good friend last week that I worry about not teaching you everything I want to. Before you were born, I knew that I would have your entire childhood to impart all my wisdom. I knew so many things before you were born, and the older you become, the less I find I truly know. Today you're a bright, sunny six year old and already I wonder: when you're an adult and someone asks you what your best memory of your childhood is, what will your answer be?

Will I be good enough for you? Do I hug and kiss you as much as I could? Do you know with every fiber of your being how very loved you are? Or will you remember me as being tired, stressed about the state of our kitchen, or asking you to give me 5 more minutes on my sewing project? I just don't know.

I hope you'll remember decorating sugar cookies, creating watercolor paintings, tending seedlings in the garden, the feeling of exaltation when you figured out how to ride your bike without training wheels, the thrill of jumping into the biggest rain puddle you can find, reading together all curled up on the couch, making dinner together. Mostly, I hope you remember the laughter.

It's time to lure you to the table with a cup of hot lemon cake tea (or sometimes Earl Grey, hot - Mom taught you to say it just like Jean-Luc Picard) and get some of your homework done. I fear I'll never be your favorite person at homework time. But you're on my mind. You're always on my mind.

Love always,
Mama

Stealing the rugby ball during a game of touch

Monday, October 15, 2018

Ten Years Later - the story of Us

On that Sunday, there was no indication that it might be a different or particularly important day in my life. It was February 20th, 2005. I can't recall what I'd done that morning or afternoon, other than I had a sense of excitement, of anticipation, because I was going to bravely walk into the indoor sports center, lace up my new roller skates, and step out onto those plastic tiles. I hoped not to look like an idiot. The coach that night had bleached blonde hair with black and pink streaks, heavy black eye makeup, some band t-shirt, and a broken thumb. Her name was eeka (lowercase e, yep), and she wasn't skating. Since it was my very first practice, I was going to require some special attention. The skating coach was actually a referee, a shy white guy everyone called Pablo. I remember his long braided goatee. Pablo was in charge of running the practice, which was populated with experienced skaters, and they were running drills I couldn't even dream of participating in.

Before roller derby practice, there was men's hockey on the schedule. I remember the building stank of stale sweat and plastic. It echoed with the jeers and laughter of everyone gearing up. Pablo rolled up to me and explained that I was going to be paired with an experienced skater, who would teach me the basics. I rolled, wobbly and uncertain, in my brand new speed skates, over to the corner. Pablo introduced me to a girl wearing a Care Bear shirt (the green bear!) and a jean skirt. She had short hair tucked behind her ears, sparkling brown eyes, and a grin that stretched across her face. Her name was Dirty T. 

I find it infinitely entertaining now, to think about that green Care Bear with a 4-leaf clover displayed proudly on his white tummy - he was the Good Luck bear. Indeed, he brought us more good luck and good fortune than I could imagine. 

T and I were eighteen. The only teenagers in the whole league. That night, she taught me to keep my knees bent, complete a T-stop, and how to fall to one knee then stand back up. But in the 13 years since then... she's taught me much more. That night, I made a new friend. She was generous and kind and quick to laugh and encouraging. She offered to pick me up for Wednesday's practice, since those were held elsewhere and it wasn't easy to find. I gladly took her up on it. She still is generous and kind and quick to laugh and encouraging, and I still need help with directions sometimes, but now I get to call her my wife. 

In May of 2008, she asked me to marry her. I don't remember if I said "yes", but I do remember the tears from both our cheeks mixing when I wrapped my arms around her and kissed her. We were twenty-one. Three months later, we joined our lives and hearts formally, in a small ceremony at the Laguna Hills county clerk's office. We asked the officiant to skip the ring exchange part, so that we could exchange our vows and rings with one another that evening on the beach, as the sun dove toward the waves of the Pacific. We celebrated with champagne and a barbecue in the cooling sand. 

The next morning, we were in a gorgeous little art shop, and the salesperson asked us what we were in town for. "We got married yesterday!" was the enthusiastic reply. It was surreal. The salesperson looked sincerely happy for us. We drove back home that day and celebrated with a huge number of friends and family members that night. 

The early years weren't simple. We loved each other; but it often felt like it was the two of us against the world. We fought hard for acceptance. We looked carefully around and filled our lives with people who could love us for who we were, but that bubble felt small sometimes. In a world where you feel that your love is constantly under attack, it's simple to grab onto each other and hold tight. We're both stubborn, hardheaded fighters and we weren't willing to give up. 

Over the years, our bubble has grown so much. We're accepted by a larger swath of people. I'm thrilled to tell people, "My homosexuality is the least interesting part of my life," and actually be right. Of course there are still challenges, and there will always be bigoted people, but we've got a huge support system and I know that I can face anything with T's hand in mine. We are extremely fortunate. 

Our family has grown in other ways, too. It started with a dog. Then we brought home a cat. Then we fostered some more dogs and cats and upon T's insistence, I grudgingly found them forever homes that weren't our own. I snuck home a rescue horse not too long after we were married (would not recommend) and surprise! She was pregnant. Soon we had a dog, a cat, the rescue mare and her colt, plus my old rodeo gelding. 

A year after the colt was born, we became licensed foster parents and welcomed three children into our lives and hearts. After two years of loving children who would never be ours, we decided we were ready for a child who was ours. In 2012, T carried and birthed our daughter E. My heart burst open with the intensity of my love for both of them, and I found that it knit itself back together even larger than it was before. Now we had a whole other human to fight for. We knew that we had a huge responsibility for this little life, not just the regular child-rearing concerns but I stayed awake nights worrying about her future with two mothers. Again, hand in hand in tiny hand, we stood together. Now we were advocates for a person much more important than ourselves. 

E grew into a magical, hilarious child. She was more than we ever knew we needed. Yet our family didn't feel complete. We knew we wanted two children. In 2016, I carried and birthed our son, C. Once more, I found myself being broken open and overwhelmed with the intensity of love I felt for not only C, but for our family as a whole. We were more than the sum of our parts. Once again, my heart found all its myriad pieces and stuck itself back together, but now with all the old stitches from before and the new embroidery I pieced it together with, it was larger yet again. As I held our newborn son and our three year old daughter and felt T's arms around all of us, I knew my whole world was contained in that embrace. 

We're older now. Turning 32 this year. Together, we've weathered storm after storm. Hand in hand in hand in hand, we are a unit. We are a force to be reckoned with. With an army of love behind us and our hands locked together, we will face what comes our way. 

It's not been an easy road. Life will continue to present us with challenges. It can be difficult to maintain a marriage while working and completing grad school and parenting two young children. There may be two children to hold between us, wife, but you are still the cornerstone to my castle. You help me keep my feet on the ground and my speedometer below illegality. 

I know that I can face anything, with your hand in mine. This has been the best ten years of my life. 
Happy Anniversary, darling. 




















































A Bonafide Kid

Daughter of mine;
Today you jumped off the bus and gave me a big hug. Your turquoise shirt has a cheerful cat wearing a floral crown, and your black leggings peppered with gold stars are ripped at the knees. Your feet look impossibly large in their turquoise athletic shoes, pounding down the pavement.
You are all smiles and radiance this fall afternoon. Today we're headed down a few houses to knock on the door of your schoolfriend, to see if she can come out to play. I'm flooded with memories and emotions, remembering my own days of playing in backyards and streets with neighbor kids.
These things feel impossible to me today. You cannot be in first grade. You cannot be scheduling after-school solo neighborhood adventures. When did your legs grow so long? When did the muscles in your back become so strong and sinewy? When did you lose the soft roundness of your babyhood? I swear I was there, and yet... you are still the chubby-legged 9 month old with untamed curls of my heart.
Your friend answers her door. You are so confident; so happy. "Are you ready?!"
"Just one sec!" she replies, before ducking back inside. Your friend has a cat ear headband, and the tips of her dirty blonde hair are dyed pink. She comes back out with a small backpack, and you wave and shout, "Bye Mama!" as you gallop off down the sidewalk to the small neighborhood park at the end of the street.
"Have fun! Be safe! I love you!" I shout after you, but a crisp fall breeze picks my words up and carries them away. You're running and laughing together, shoes slapping the pavement, pink hair and brown curls bouncing. I stand on the sidewalk and watch as you stop at the corner to carefully look both ways to check for cars before bounding across the street.
I am both overjoyed that you have this opportunity, and fearful of what could happen. I relish this chance you have to form a friendship that's all your own - no teachers, no parents to dictate what you choose to do with your time or how you interact.
I swallow my worries deep, shove my hands into my pockets, and turn away to walk home.
You are growing up. I see more and more of your true heart every day. I am in awe of you, young person who I love so overwhelmingly much.
Have fun.
Be safe.
I love you.




Thursday, October 11, 2018

Coming Out, #6,347

Today is National Coming Out Day.  As if coming out is a singular event. I couldn't begin to truly count many times I have come out over the years. I think the last time I came out was to a new coworker about a week ago. There have been times that is has seemed like a daily occurrence in my life. It comes in waves. They may be easy to bear or they may tumble you around, leaving you ragged and confused.

You have to come out to yourself before you can "come out" to anyone else. Then your friends and family. I think this is what people think of when they think of "coming out".  Even this can include so many conversations and so many layers.  So many emotions and expectations and reactions. What about your job? There are still a lot of states that sexual orientation is not a protected class so you can be fired. Even if you can't be, your life can be made difficult.

Then there is a lull... But maybe you change jobs or you move.  Maybe you are getting married and that grandparent you never told because they were of the "we just don't talk about it" mindset may or may not actually know. Maybe you're buying a car or a house and have to navigate loan paperwork (I swear I'm not still bitter about our loan being held up because they were waiting for our husband's credit reports... okay, I guess I am). Maybe you're on a date and the server just can't comprehend that you don't want the check split and that you are sharing dessert.

For me, having children changed everything. When we were foster parents, we discovered just how intrusive and tactless people are when children are involved. Children are public domain. Strangers make up a story in their head and if you correct them on their assumptions, it is offensive. When we had a baby that had a different ethnicity, people would ask me "what" her father was.  When the children looked more like us, it was more plausible to people that we were sisters and each had one kid than us being a family unit.

So it was a conscious decision that if we were going to have a family, we needed to be out.  O. U. T. We never wanted our children to feel like our family structure was something to be ashamed of. We couldn't continue to "pass." As it turns out, pregnancy gave us a lot of opportunities to practice. My [least] favorite comment: "Oh, you're having a girl? Is your husband disappointed?" Wait... what?

Since then we have had to navigate mom & baby groups, soccer classes, day care, school, swim lessons, pediatricians, and a million other situations where we are not the norm. Even the grocery store cashier-
"She must get her curls from her daddy!"
"Actually, she doesn't have a daddy."
"That's okay, Jesus can be her daddy."
um, no.

This is a legacy that we will pass on to our children. Regardless of changing public opinions, it is hard to be seen as "different." E is already faced with the decision of whether or not to correct classmates when they assume she has a father, whether to take one her mothers or a uncle or grandfather to "daddy" events at school.  We haven't labeled it for her, but these are her first "coming out" stories as the child of lesbians.

So to our allies on this National Coming Out Day, remember that coming out is not a one time shot. Sometimes it is easy and sometimes it is not.  It can be a beautiful, liberating experience, but it can also have catastrophic repercussions. And sometimes, after years and years, it can just be a chore.



Thursday, February 22, 2018

Magic in the little things

I think all parents believe there are things about our children that we'll never forget, but if there's anything I've learned this far, it's that the magical little moments slip away without even leaving a void. I think that's part of why I cherish photographs and videos and kid quotes and blog posts so very much. I hate the idea of forgetting, although I know it's happening.

Today, the littles were playing outside in the yard. C came to the door, shouting about poop. 

"You want me to help you clean up the dog poop, bud?" I asked. 

"Yeah! Yeah! POOOOOP, Mama!" came the enthusiastic reply. 

Laughing, I hauled myself outside. 

My sweet, hilarious little 2 year old loves pointing out dog poop. It used to be our daily ritual, until I broke my leg 4 weeks ago. Now it happens... considerably less often. 

But out he ran into the grass, ready for me to bring the rake and bucket. Who knew that I'd ever find cleaning up dog waste adorable? 

"Righ' dere, Mama! Poop dere!" He exclaimed, running up to the first poop pile he found with determined elbows and marching knees, then shuffling his feet up as close to the poop as he could get, all while pointing emphatically. I noticed his shoes were on the wrong feet and smiled to myself. 

After I raked up the first couple, he wove all around the far end of the yard, poop-hunting. 

"Poooooop, are you?!" He hasn't learned to say 'where' yet. It's fantastic. "Ah HAH! Dere you are! Righ' dere, Mama! Yeah!" 

He has such an earnest little face, this one. So sweet and so utterly unapologetic about his interests, even if one of them is picking up poop. Turning his face up to mine, he shrugs his little shoulders and lifts his hands into the air. "All done, Mama? No more poop?" 

"I think we got it all, love. Thank you for your help!" 

"Welcome!" I hear faintly on the breeze he leaves behind, as he's already running onto the patio to remind me where the bucket and rake belong. 

I wish I could keep the sound of his darling toddler voice and funny words in my mind, but I know they'll fade. One day, all I'll have is this blog. 

Future self: Today is just another day. A day in a long line of days during which I know all the following: My children are inescapably amazing. They are unerringly bright. But they're also challenging, as children are meant to be. Sometimes I get beyond my own ability to be reasonable, so how could I expect them to manage better than myself? Today is just another day. Work. Kids. Housework. Dinner. Bed. Rinse, repeat. Looking at my days that way doesn't tell the true story, though. 

The magic is in the little things. In E's amazed discovery of a new nasturtium bud; in C's complete devotion to keeping the yard clear of dog poop. In E's pride over having helped sew her own Belle apron and wearing it over a blue dress so she looks just like Belle. In C's happiness over climbing out of the car by himself and touching the garage door remote to close it. In eating warm homemade banana bread fresh from the oven. In the joy my ridiculous children have when they learn we're to have grilled cheese and tomato soup for dinner - again. 

So I beg the universe again. Please let me keep this. Please let their places in my heart and mind live forever. 

Let me keep the magic.