On being a lesbian mother, May, 2011.

I have written about some of this before.  And if you are someone who also talks to me a lot, you have probably heard a lot of this before, so forgive me redundancy.

May is a big month for me.  It’s a huge month emotionally.  Birth and death happened in May and the month has the joy and hope, loss and lost-ness that goes with each.  Until 15 or so years ago May held no marker of significance in my life.  Then in 2001 there was a birth; the birth of my daughter.  And a few years later, a death– my father.  May holds a lot of memory and sweetness and pain welling up day by day, sometimes hour by hour.  Some days I cannot tell whether to laugh or to cry, whether to spend time alone or fill my time with people, whether to reflect silently or to talk and write.  I try to do all of the above.

I always wanted to be a mother– not only as I grew up, but the people in my life who knew me when I was 18, 19 say my plan for motherhood was one of my clearest, earliest, most unwavering decisions.  It was not just that it was something expected of me as a female– though I never discount the role of that conditioning for any woman.  But I really wanted to be a mother; I loved young people (and still do) and I wanted two children.  It took me a very long time to get to parenthood and I am, and will always be, a woman who was never pregnant and who never gave birth.

As lesbian mothers, we don’t so much talk about this– that lesbian oppression, gay oppression has a profound impact on our ability to become parents.  On our chance to plan or in some ways, to even consider, becoming parents.  We like to feel like we are just regular (and we are) but I think for those of us who became parents in the context of being lesbian/queer, we want not to feel  or think deeply about how much it took to get there.  We want it to be true that because we are just regular, life just unfolds without a hitch.

The truth is lesbian oppression entered the picture and significantly slowed my path to becoming a mother.  It completely changed the course of motherhood for me.  There is grief about how hard my own path was.  There is grief that in starting as late as I did, I didn’t have two children. (Though the discussion about adoption of an older child is not entirely over in our household.)

My partner’s decision early in her life (which she says was completely tied to being lesbian) to never have children slowed us down considerably (a decision she says she clearly made and a decision she says she is enormously grateful to have unmade and replaced with a different decision).

In the years after I got involved with my partner I often despaired– about whether I could actually make motherhood happen.  There were worries about how go about either pregnancy or adoption, and the fact that I didn’t get pregnant when I tried for some time– was very hard at the time.

I alone and also we-– and the we I mean is not only my partner but also the remarkable and excellent, good man who would have been the father of a baby had I gotten pregnant– worked our way through the decision to try to get pregnant and then the decision to stop trying.  There is much to be said and written about the man with whom we and to be real– I— tried to get pregnant and about the meaning, mostly unspoken, of that relationship for all of us.  There is a lot to tell about the ways in which he is an extraordinary man and about his love and emotional generosity then and about our love and generosity for and with him.  And about the significance of his love and generosity in our family as it became and is now.    He reads this blog but I am certain he has no idea just how strongly I feel our good family is built on the profound love and friendship/family which he and we built during that time.  He is a relation to us that really has no name at all in our world.  He is a cornerstone of this family.

I am not yet ready to write about the ways we were affected by the lack of enthusiastic family support for our parenting plans.  My sister was a big exception on that; I have no idea whether I’d have had the wherewithal to go ahead had I not had her support.  My mother was supportive in a cautious way. But the pain and the fears we faced were significant.

There were worries and obstacles related to money– and related to our lack of shared health insurance and benefits– some of which are more visible again now –while still unemployed.

And at the very same time as I look at all that, there is deep joy that life unfolded precisely as it did, and that my particular daughter is my daughter.  For that fact I have nothing but praise in the sense of divine praise.

A few weeks after Mother’s day 2001– on May 24, 2001, we got what is known in the adoption world, as “the call”.  A little girl, born May 20th, healthy, already out of the hospital and with a foster-mother, would we be her parents?  Time stopped, slowed, sped up, and everything changed as the last week of May unfolded and we got ready to go meet her.  Everything changed again on June 1, 2001, when we met her and brought her back to our temporary home in an El Paso hotel.  Everything kept changing through our week in the city of her birth–sleeping, waking, looking at and talking to her, offering ourselves, learning how to gather things to take a newborn out with us for a walk, or a meal.  It changed again when we returned home with her and because motherhood is not a static thing, but a real relationship with a real living, changing, thinking, demanding specific person (or two or several) things have been changing ever since.

May became the month in which my long plan for motherhood got underway.  It is the month in which another woman said goodbye to her daughter (or didn’t, but it was still their goodbye– said or not said).  It was the beginning of the life of a new, important (as each baby is important) precious young female.  For me it was a dramatic month of change, different but as profound, I think, as the drama of birth itself.  May was the start of digging in for a long, interesting, demanding piece of work– the work of thinking and cleaning, cooking and driving, planning and playing, laundry, medical care, listening and closeness.

Almost two years later, just three days before my daughter’s second birthday– in May 2003– my father died.  His death has never been easy or acceptable to me.  He was a good man and there was much that was very hard in the relationship and there were things unfinished between us.

In May all of this unfolds inside me against the backdrop of blue sky, brilliant purple grape hyacinth, a cool breeze in the window at night and dark, leafy kale at the farmers’ market on Sundays.  And there is rest of the stuff that keeps me moving forward– mornings and bedtime, a birthday party to plan, work to do, books to read and things to write and lots of laundry.

2 responses to “On being a lesbian mother, May, 2011.

  1. powerful as always. thank you for your heart.

  2. plus the most beautiful month (at least in new england)–lovely writing here. big big heart.

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