Monday, February 20, 2012

Sometimes, I forget.

Our birth center offers Centering Classes, which I've written about before and we're excited to participate in.  However, the Centering Classes offer a limited amount of birthing advice so we are seeking additional birth classes.  The Bradley method is a popular natural birth class, one we've heard good things about.  We set to find Bradley instructors here in town, and found several.  It should be mentioned that the Bradley method is referred to as "the Husband-coached birth", which doesn't bother us, but T was concerned about me consistently being referred to as a 'husband' or a 'dad'.  We discussed what to do and settled on emailing all the instructors to politely ask if it would be possible for them to use the terms 'coach' or 'partner' or anything more gender neutral. I guess I didn't really think it would be too much to ask.  Below is the text from the emails I sent to the first four or five instructors:

Hi (instructor name),

I have looked over your website and we are interested in taking your classes.  I am emailing you tonight to ask you what may perhaps be an unusual request.  
My female partner is twelve weeks pregnant.  We have heard very good things about Bradley, hence our interest.  As well, we were referred to your classes by a friend.  My question is, are you willing to substitute the term "partner" for husband/boyfriend during the classes we take?  I understand that this may take a significant effort on your part as I'm sure you are accustomed to using the same terminology in all your classes.  I want to make it clear we aren't trying to make trouble, or make statements of any kind. 
If you are unable or unwilling to change the terminology, we would appreciate knowing that ahead of time so we can find a different class.  We understand and respect that you can offer classes however you please, but if I am consistently going to be referred to as a husband or boyfriend, this simply isn't the right fit for us in our search for a birth class.  
I appreciate your time. 
A. McGill  

Today, the email icon on my phone pinged.  I had a new message.  It was a response to my email.  The full email is below. 

Bradley Method® classes are definitely the best childbirth education classes I have seen (which is why I teach them). The information taught in the classes is thorough and effective. Dr Bradley originally titled his classes Husband-Coached Childbirth. I do not use the term boyfriend in my teaching even when there are boyfriend coaches in the class. I use the terms coach, husband, and dad. With the majority of coaches being husbands and dads, it seems unreasonable to never use those words in instructing them.
While I would not intentionally offend anyone participating in my classes, the focus of Bradley Method® classes is preparing our students for pregnancy, labor, birth, and parenting. If I agreed to try to always use the term partner, the focus it would require might jeopardize the content of my classes - something I am not willing to compromise.
If this would offend you, the group setting of my classes might not be the best fit. In order to accommodate your terminology request, we could do a private class with just you and your partner. That cost would be $1500. If you would like to do that, I would be willing to accommodate your request, provided our schedules allow a mutually available class time.
The ideal time for you to begin the 12-week series would be in May or June. Best wishes in your search and for the pregnancy and birth of this beautiful baby.
One last thought to share with you: My standard for parenting is refusing to compromise your child's best interest. What is in your child's best interest is also in your best interest. What appears to be in your best interest may not be in your child's best interest, and, therefore, is not in your best interest either. There are many parents who do not live by that standard, but I think the healthiest children (adults) are reared with that standard.
(instructor name)

First, I was surprised, and then immediately felt hurt.  Obviously in our initial email I'd acknowledged the possibility that someone would be unwilling to use different terminology... but this response just caught me off guard.  Logically, I know there isn't anything outwardly or blatantly rude in her response.  From outside my body, I can see how easy it should be to simply accept that this is not the instructor for us and move on.  Easy peasy.  

Inside my body though, I'm a twisted mass of anger and pain and sadness.  

T and I are incredibly fortunate.  We're surrounded by this wonderful and lovely insular group of family and friends and I don't feel as if we're an unusual couple or that the family we'll have is going to be anything but normal.  But sometimes, I forget that the world isn't always like that.  People exist who think we're freaks, who hate us just for loving each other, who are disgusted at the idea of us being parents.  

Truly, it isn't this woman or her response or her obvious disagreement with how we choose to live and have a family that bothers me.  It's sheer sadness that wounds me tonight; the sharp realization that she truly doesn't want us in her classes, she disagrees with acknowledging non-traditional families, and she doesn't think we should be having this baby.  This is really how she feels.  And she isn't the only one.  

It likely seems that I'm blowing the whole thing out of proportion.  I probably am.  But my feelings are honest and raw and sometimes pain has to be felt.  

We've been so protected and surrounded by supportive people, that I forget what it feels like to have people look at us from afar and judge our life together to be inferior and even perverted.  There are bound to be instances coming our way that are going to hurt me, hurt us, and likely hurt our children.  I hate that.  

But other peoples' lack of understanding and acceptance of my family is never going to be enough to stop me.  Could be that someday, some of them might even change their minds.  

Oh, and in case you're wondering, we have received several responses from instructors who are enthusiastic about having us in their classes and are more than happy to use gender neutral terminology.  For these instructors, we are eternally grateful.  As well, we are forever thankful for all of you, our friends and family.  Thank you for helping us feel safe and loved, always.  


  1. My kneejerk response to this woman was also hurt and offended - and included lots of curse words - and I'm not even part of a lesbian couple. Even if she slipped a few times and called you a "husband" I'm sure you'd be thankful for her making the effort of not using that term as much as possible.. and really, how much effort is required?? As you said, she is clearly uninterested in expanding her horizons and that is simply sad.

    I really admire you girls because it takes an uncommon courage to not only make the choice to have an unorthodox family, but also to put yourselves out there and NOT hide or allow yourself to be a "dad". I'm proud that you are paving the way for so many others - the world is starting to crack open but it takes a lot of guts to push it further! Lots of love to you, keep pushing.

    1. Oh Louise. You are a godsend. Thank you for your anger on our behalf, it feels alarmingly good to have other people think this woman is inappropriate.

      Mostly, I don't know that we feel courageous on a daily basis. It's just life, and it's what we want for ourselves, and every so often I get this overwhelming protective rage and feel the urge to stab ignorant people through the neck. Luckily, I have the ability to control myself enough to NOT commit murder.

      Thanks again. Love you right back.

  2. Reading this, it's the unnecessary need to comment on your lifestyle at the end that I can imagine is maddening. If she had just said that she wasn't willing to accommodate, that's one thing but to imply there's anything not normal about your relationship is awful.

    I personally think same sex couples start off with such a better mindset to raise their children than a lot (obviously not all) of heterosexual couples because you had to jump through so many more hoops to get to the point you're at. Even before this child is born you've devoted so much time and energy into make sure he/she is raised in the best family you can make for him/her. That is in the child's best interest.

    1. Hi Clare!
      I totally agree with you, this woman could easily have said she was simply unable to change her terminology and that would have been fine with us. After all, the point of emailing the instructors was to weed out precisely this situation.
      Her vaguely written and confusingly circular point at the end of her message still somewhat baffles me. It's very unclear exactly what she is trying to say, but I know that my interpretation of it was that she was being negative about my family. Of course, I don't know if that is true.
      Thank you so much for your support, and for keeping up with us! We have a lot of love and gratefulness for people in our corner.