One of the ways I deal with my anxiety is by picking up new hobbies. I’ve dabbled in various hobbies through the years. I crocheted for a week post Noa’s birth. I started a blog several years ago but it faded after a few months. I bake, but this one causes some serious weight gain. I sew. (This one I’ve stuck with.)
Recently, I picked up the hobby of furniture painting. If you’ve read my blog you know I dove head first into it. I was collecting pieces from all over town. And started a little side business. It is currently consuming our entire garage but I’m not solely to blame. Betsy found a few pieces she wanted to redo.
However, whenever I tell people about my new hobby the first response is, ‘Wow, you’re so lucky to have Betsy supporting you with that.’ In my mind it isn’t ‘luck.’ Why is it that people see having a supportive partner as ‘lucky?’ This isn’t about luck. It’s about picking a partner that allows you to be who you are.
Pre-bab(ies) we have lots of hobbies. And then we become a mother for the first time and it’s easy to get lost in that identity. So much energy is consumed learning to care for that child, we forget who we were before. I remember feeling lost in who I was beyond a mother. Eventually I started getting back into reading, writing and other creative outlets. And I had Betsy there to support me all the way.
But I’ve never felt lucky to have support for a passion/hobby from Betsy. In my mind, it’s what we do in a partnership. We encourage our partners to follow their passion. Sometimes that means packing three cake pans when you’re traveling (right, Chelsea?) Or perhaps it’s editing a blog post. In this case, it’s learning how to rebuild a dresser leg.
When people tell me how lucky I am to have Betsy supporting my passions I’m often tempted to respond with, ‘No, you just chose the wrong partner.’
(A note from Betsy: Jordann crocheted for ONE DAY. Not a week. Don’t let her fool you into thinking she had a weeks worth of commitment on that one.)
Five years ago Betsy and I went on the journey to have children. We decided before we even started that three was our magic number. We weren’t going to ‘see how the first one went.’ We wanted three and we wanted them close in age. And we did. Three in four years, you’d think this next decision would come easy.
As I mentioned in my previous post the picking of a donor is no easy task. At least it wasn’t for us. From day one we wanted the same donor for all our kids. Which required a stock at the local sperm bank. Unless one gets pregnant using fresh sperm, they’re paying for storage at a bank. We were lucky and got pregnant rather easy. We have an excessive number of vials, now stored at the bank. Now the question becomes do we continue to pay for sperm storage for our frozen vials? Three kids, done. The answer should be easy.
But it isn’t, there is a visceral connection to the frozen sperm. My three amazing children were made with it. And yet we’re done having kids. But do I want to make that decision so final? It’s non-reversible. There is no surgery to undo it.
So, do I continue to pay the $400 annual storage fee? Or put the money elsewhere knowing I can’t change my mind? Will it ever be an easy decision? Another small crux in the life of same-sex parents.
One of the first questions anyone asks lesbian parents is about the donor.
“Do you know the donor?”
“Do they all have the same donor?”
“How did you pick a donor?”
“Will they meet the donor?”
I can’t speak for all lesbian moms but I can tell you that, to most, this drives us crazy. People are obsessed with the genes of our children.
For Betsy and I, we share very little about our donor to most people. For a long time, we didn’t even tell people whose eggs we used. Yes, I carried. But the gestational mom isn’t always the genetically related mom.
Picking a donor was a deeply personal and challenging decision. Do we use a known or anonymous? If known, how known? Someone we see often? Someone we know distantly? Or anonymous? Which sperm bank? What traits are important? So many questions to work through.
And the cost. It’s amazing how expensive those little swimmers (that often end up on a sheet) cost! How many vials do we buy? What if we run out after our first kid? Then our kids will have different donors. Does that matter? Do we ask our donor to go back and donate again?
We have a small inner circle of people that know the details of how we got our sperm. Although I’m somewhat open about sharing the information with other gay couples, especially those trying to conceive, I’m much less open with most others, including our immediate family.
Most days it doesn’t cross my mind that Betsy is not genetically related to our children. When you raise a child, any child, the genes become irrelevant. That is until a curious outsider quickly reminds you with an obtrusive question. ‘Remember how one of you isn’t related to your child? Let me ask you a bunch of questions about that?’ Hmmm, how about we don’t.
I get it. When it’s not a one plus one equation we want to know more. We’re curious humans. But your simple question doesn’t come with a simple answer. And it potentially invokes a myriad of feelings to the one you’re asking. These decisions don’t come easy. Next time, before you start your ‘Can I just ask you something, it’s fine if you don’t want to answer…’ question, perhaps you should go with, ‘You have a beautiful family’ instead.
“To have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in heath, to love and to cherish, till death do us part.”
Where in here does it say anything about supporting your partners most recent crazy hobby?! Nowhere. And yet, here I am. Inspecting, haggling over, purchasing, storing, and painting furniture. You see, Jordann started a new hobby: blogging. Oh wait, that was her first new hobby. Then she started a new new hobby: furniture refinishing.
Two dressers, two coffee tables, four end tables (usefulness to be determined), one big ass dresser to be repurposed as something else to hold a lot of crap, one rocking chair, one “accent chair” (whatever the hell that is), two entryway tables, and one dining room table with four accompanying chairs. The furniture aisle at Target? NO!!! The contents of my garage/living room/basement. All to be refinished and/or painted. She even calls the right side of our garage “the shop”. AKA: storage unit.
I’m sorry. I’m failing to see where I signed up for this. Maybe it falls into the “for worse” category? Or maybe “in sickness.” I can tell you one thing, it’s about to fit into the “death do us part” line real quick. Look, the stuff she’s (we’ve) actually finished looks great. But the amount of furniture that keeps showing up far exceeds the amount of furniture being sold. It’s like our house has become the island of misfit furniture. But alas, what else is this woman going to do with all of free time?
I started blogging several months ago in an attempt to share my mental health story, thoughts on parenting, and being a two mom family. And then it dwindled. I struggled to post blogs that weren’t funny enough, or thoughtful enough. I obsess (ha) over each sentence and paragraph.
I slept in until 10AM today. Not because I’m bored, rather, I had/have two kids with extremely high fevers awake in the middle of the night. And a baby that still has an early morning feed. I’m tired. Cal hit four months and stopped sleeping, so did we. He would wake up every one to two hours for a nosh. My brain was fuzzy most days. Plus work, laundry, mothering, wife-ing, it’s a lot. Writing just wasn’t happening. The ideas were there, just not coming out. I thought I was tired with my first. That was like a late night college cram session tired. This was an anxiety before bed tired because I knew how little sleep I would get.
Three is hard. Specifically, when they are all crying simultaneously for NO.GOOD.REASON. Then I take a deep breath, practice some mindfulness and gently deal with each one’s feelings. Oh wait, no I don’t. I take an anti-anxiety and put the T.V. on. I only have one tool in my box when I’ve had four hours of interrupted sleep. Meds.
But we’re turning a corner. Cal is sleeping better. Noa seems to tolerate Atticus slightly more each day. And Atticus, well, is Atticus. Hopefully, the words will come. Not just in thought but for others to read.
One of the most common questions people ask me is if I am done having kids (as if three kids in four years isn’t enough.) The simple answer is yes. Although the reason behind the answer is less simple.
I had a rough start to motherhood. But Cal is a dream baby and I have looked at Betsy and said, “maybe one more.”
Although I would (almost) be open to having more kids, I don’t think I could handle it mentally, emotionally, or financially. Having kids in a same sex relationship isn’t easy. There is no “trying” or “not trying” whenever we feel like it. It takes money and planning. Our world revolved around it, literally. Waiting for ovulation. Picking up tanks of sperm. Being in proximity to a provider that could perform the procedure on the ideal day. Two weeks of waiting to test if it worked. Let downs when it didn’t. Thousands of dollars a month spent on sperm, and ultrasounds and blood work. One cc of sperm, or about the size of a kidney bean, costs $400-$1000. And that’s one attempt.
There is no trying while on vacation. Or “not putting any thought into it.” Or “if it happens, it happens.” Or “there is always next month.” Those sayings don’t exist in our world. ‘Next month’ means another cost the size of a mortgage payment. And missed work for doctors appointments.
When I got pregnant with Cal, there was a deep sense of relief knowing he was my last. I was ready to move on from constantly obsessing about being pregnant, about worrying if the baby was healthy, about childbirth, and the dread of the postpartum body. I was done planning my month around sperm pickups and IUIs.
Hi blog world. I’m hijacking mamaintrovert to go on a little rant. Your normal programming regarding motherhood and anxiety will resume shortly.
As you may have gathered, Jordann and I do a lot of projects. She has a lot of ideas. And I have a lot of patience. After moving in October, her idea list went a little crazy. So began the process of personalizing every square inch of our new home. But here’s the thing: I’m not one of those partners that is given a Pinterest picture and then agrees to go build said project. No. I make her help. Which leads me to my rant. I do NOT build all of this crap by myself. Stop giving me credit for it!
Exhibit A: Atticus’ wainscoting.
Why, yes. This was a Pinterest find. Thanks Pinterest. This project took us weeks. A lot of late night cutting and measuring and trying to find ways for the kids to help. Okay, Jordann did less miter saw cutting on this particular project because she was carrying life. But she rocked the jig saw and hammered in just as many nails as I did. And man, does that woman know how to wield a caulk gun. And yet, every time someone comes over and sees the amazing work WE did they look me square in the eyes and say, “Wow Betsy! Good job! It looks amazing!” Every. Single. Person. Then I get to say, “Actually, Jordann did just as much work on this as I did. She deserves just as much credit.”
Exhibit B: Chicken Run
Yes, I love the chickens. We all know how much I love the chickens. If you are unsure of my love for those little peckers, refer to blog post #3. However, the chicken run was not my idea. Again, thanks Pinterest. Jordann comes to me and says, “I think we should build a 12 foot long chicken run.” (Side note: If Jordann approaches you and starts a sentence with ‘I think’ turn around and walk away. No good can come from it. I think we should stripe the walls. I think we should build a chicken run. I think we should sew Halloween costumes this year. Just run. I digress.) To which I say, “Knock yourself out babe. You know where the hammer is.” Upon completion of chicken condominium, Every. Single. Person looks at me and says (can you guess?) “Wow Betsy! Good job! It looks amazing!” No people. You see the picture of Jordann painting? You know how much painting I did? Zero percent. I’m not great at math, but I’m pretty sure that’s not a lot. You know how many of those boards I measured and cut with our miter saw? Zero. I handed her boards and played lovely assistant. I built the walls, she did the roof. I stapled the front of half of the chicken wire. She did the back half. She rocked that pneumatic stapled gun just as well as I did. “Actually, Jordann did just as much work on this as I did.” Rinse and repeat.
Yes. My hair is short. Yes. I like power tools. Yes. I shop in the men’s department. But does that mean that I am the only one in this house capable of building something? NO! People, I am way too lazy to do this shit on my own. PLEASE stop giving me all the credit for all of the projects. If it wasn’t for Jordann (and bloody Pinterest!) our walls would be white and our chickens would still be potential hawk food. Can someone please explain to me why we are still stuck in gender roles when there’s only one gender in the house?! Seriously, next time a project is completed in our house (which on average is every other day) turn to Jordann and say, “Wow Jordann! Great job! It looks amazing!” And then she’ll probably say, “Thanks. Betsy didn’t do shit.”
Over the summer Betsy and I took the kids to one of those play water parks. We also invited some friends who are expecting their first child soon. Now, I don’t normally bring toys to these places because there’s nothing worse than twenty toddlers that don’t understand sharing attempting to share. It’s meltdown station. But this park is different, it has a cool waterfall that can keep Atticus entertained for days. So, we made the terrible mistake of bringing a few boats to let the kids float them off the waterfall. The kids took the boats out to the waterfall and were happily playing. Meanwhile, another child began playing with one of the toy boats. Noa saw this and decided it was not okay. She promptly removed the toy from the child and returned it to our blanket. We explained to Noa the importance of sharing and told her to give the boat back to the kid because she wasn’t using it. Yeah, I know, she doesn’t give a shit.
We resumed chatting with our friends and I expressed my anxiety over them having a child. I think I actually told them, “I’m kind of nervous about you having kids because I’m afraid I’m going to judge you.”
Let me explain, I wouldn’t consider myself a super judge-y mom. I don’t care how you had your baby: epidural, no epidural, C-section. You want to breastfeed until your kid is five? Go for it. Banning sugar for the first 10 years? Cool. Only dressing your kid in white onesies for the first year? I might suggest a jacket in the winter.
As a very honest friend once said, ‘I was the best parent, until I had kids.’
And I was. I was going to be the mom that had a newborn that ‘slept through the night.’ The one year old that had never experienced ‘screen time.’ The toddler that didn’t scream over broken cheese. Oh yeah, and then I woke up and realized parenting is hard. Like, sleep deprived, postpartum anxiety, who told me this was a good idea, hard. And the things we are judging other moms about have little influence over the character of their children.
I love being a mom. I know every parent loves their kids, but not every parent loves parenting. But I genuinely like my kids. They’re funny and sweet and typically super rad to be around. I had three in four years that should say enough.
They are formula fed, sugar eating, TV watching, co-sleeping kids.
But I intervene when my kid won’t share. I show up daily to teach them how to be good humans. I read with them and we talk about our feelings. We do ‘family hugs.’ They help us build chicken coops. We go on nature walks and treasure hunts. These are the things that have an influence on the character of my children. (Side note, although it probably doesn’t effect your children, you’re a shitty parent if you won’t change your kids shitty diaper. Your partner dislikes it equally as much as you. It’s the first red flag you’re going to suck at parenting. End rant.)
Back to my concern about my friends having kids. Kids add a whole new dynamic to a friendship. We all have our beliefs and parenting approaches. And not liking someone’s kid can break a friendship. It’s like the friend that marries someone that you don’t really like but they’re happy so you try to support it. Five years later the friendship has fizzled away. Now imagine that felling with someone’s child. If you don’t like your kids being around their kids, it probably won’t last.
Every time one of our close friends announce they are expecting, I think to myself, please don’t be the righteous parent. Just be the parent that intervenes when your kid is being a brat, that doesn’t expect someone else to do the parenting. Show up and your kids will be fine.
Recently, a fellow blogger wrote a post about how to feel better about your body post-baby. I agree with her, wearing clothes that fit make a huge difference. And yet, I just can’t get myself there.
Let’s go back. Growing up I was never skinny. I had large breasts and was overweight. Although, this never interfered with my confidence. I never lacked self esteem. I never deprived myself of food in an attempt to be “skinny.” Rather the opposite, I was quite confident in myself. After meeting Betsy, and after many years of neck and back pain, I decided to have breast reduction surgery. It was the best decision I ever made. Not only for my back but I felt like I was finally in MY body. I had been working out prior to surgery and not long after recovery I was 35 pounds lighter. I loved my size and worked hard to maintain a healthy weight.
When I got pregnant with Noa I was not overly concerned about the weight gain. I wasn’t going to binge during pregnancy because I knew how difficult it would be to lose the weight. So I ate like I did pre-pregnancy (except the daily chocolate milkshakes) and was fine. After Noa was born I lost 24 of the 28 pounds within the first two weeks. This was probably due to my severe postpartum OCD or it’s just easier to lose the weight after the first kid.
Nine short months into my motherhood journey I got pregnant with Atticus. I was slightly over my pre- Noa weight but still unconcerned. Atticus was born and again the weight came off rather easily. I was back to within 10 pounds of my pre-Noa weight within the first couple months.
And then came pregnancy number three. More weight gain and a higher starting point. By the time Cal was born I weighed more than I ever had. I was obsessed with every pound I gained past my heaviest weight. And although I have lost half of the weight I gained with him I cannot get past my daily anxiety of being this size.
I was once this size and didn’t care. I looked in the mirror and thought, “damn you look good.” Until I was within normal weight. Now I feel uncomfortable in my own skin. “You birthed a human” can only get you so far. Not only that, I birthed THREE! humans in three and a half years. And still no change in how I see my body. Yeah, it’s strong, and grows babies, and beautifully birthed all three but those self-validations are still not enough to get me over my morning hump of anxiety-ridden outfit picking.
I want to add here that I don’t let Noa (or any of my kids) see how I feel. When I get on the scale and they are around we talk all about how strong our bodies are and all the cool things we can do with them. Noa sees me loving my body, even if it’s only on the outside.
And Betsy, oh how I love this woman. Three kids later and she loves me more everyday. She’s always validating my concerns and strongly encouraging of my gym attendance and healthy eating. The stretch marks and new shape don’t even cross her mind. You’re probably thinking, ‘Yes they do, she just doesn’t say anything’ but trust me, sleep and chicken safety are about the only things she thinks about when not attending to children.
Society tells us that we need to be skinny, while simultaneously encouraging us to rebel against that message. That we should love our postpartum body with the stretch marks and extra skin because ‘you grew a human and created life.’
Which brings me to another point, it’s not just the weight. It’s that your body is a whole new shape. Even if you get back down to your pre-baby weight the shape just isn’t the same. It’s not the old you, it’s a whole new you. And it’s really hard to accept a new you when you can’t anticipate it.
And I have three kids. I don’t have the disposable income to remake a wardrobe. Or the emotional capacity to go shopping for one. For now, I’ll stick with the daily anxiety about what to wear (they make a pill for that.)
If you’re one of the many women in the postpartum phase and you’re not loving your body, you’re not alone. Even with a partner that thinks you’re the sexiest person alive, even with frequent self validation about the miraculous thing you just accomplished, even if you workout daily and eat healthily (or maybe not) accepting this new body is hard.
I’d like to offer some powerful words of wisdom like telling you that those women you see on Facebook are probably also struggling. Or the ones that lose the weight right away are rare and most of us don’t. Or you’re going to end up loving your new body. But I’m not sure any of those are true. What is true is that there is at least one other momma who also isn’t so sure how to accept this new body of hers, despite its amazingness.
Coming out is a tough thing. There is often a lot of build up, thousands of scenarios made up in your head and hopefully a giant much ado about nothing. There is the big coming out to friends and family and lots of little ones to follow. I didn’t realize this in the beginning. When I got married, others just assumed it was to a man, and I let them.
Until I had kids. Now I come out daily. I’ll be in Costco and tell Noa to go find ‘Mama.’ Some nearby individual will politely interject, ‘Oh, you’re not her mom?’
‘Yes, I’m her mom. But she is lucky enough to have two.’
Noa will then explain that she has a ‘Mama’ and a ‘Mommy.’ Duh.
Or someone will ask, ‘Who did they get such blue eyes from?’ Clearly noticing I don’t have blue eyes. ‘My wife.’
There was another incident on an elevator once where a woman said, ‘Wow, she looks so much like both of you, which I know isn’t possible.’ Cue awkward silence and a quick elevator escape.
And then there was the time Betsy spent 10 minutes with the Century Link salesman and he finally said, “Is your husband here?” Because she’s just a wife.
Until now the kids haven’t known any different. We have several lesbian friends, one with kids, and we change most stories to read “Mama and a Mommy”. In Noa’s world, most people have two moms. Except her cousins.
Noa started preschool today. And we are the only two mom family in the school. The token same sex couple, doing our part to bring diversity to the school. When I introduce myself to other parents and say, ‘Noa is my daughter that’s her other mom, Betsy’ I hold my breath for the response.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not worried about my ability to raise healthy kids in a same sex family. Science tells us these kids do the same, if not better than heterosexual families. She has two moms in a healthy, loving home. But I do suddenly feel a strong need to expose her to more same sex families. For her to make friends with other kids with two moms or two dads. Just because she doesn’t have any classmates with same sex parents, she’s not alone.
I have my theory on why kids from same sex parents do, the same if not better than heterosexual’s kids. One, they’re wanted. Which isn’t to say heterosexual couple’s kids aren’t wanted. But you don’t hear about the gay men on the corner having an ‘oops’ baby. These rascals are one hundred percent planned out and wanted.
But more importantly, we don’t follow heteronormative roles. Betsy cooks and cleans. I manage the money. We both work and stay home. We build shit, like wainscoting and a chicken coop. Because gender roles are so outdated.
And yet I worry about her being in preschool. About making friends and telling them she has two moms. I’m sure it will be harder for me than it is for her. I mean she currently thinks that wearing underwear is what makes someone a girl and wearing diapers makes you a boy. In her world it is.
Eventually she’s going to realize her books actually say ‘mommy’ and ‘daddy.’ That having two moms isn’t the standard, although it is super cool. I hope that Betsy and I can teach her that when asked about her dad she isn’t afraid to tell them about her two moms.