Saturday, September 27, 2014

Just a piece of paper

When I met R, I had never been with a woman, I was previously married, and swore I would never remarry again. When we became serious, I told her I wanted children but still didn't want to be married. After having been divorced, I felt that a marriage license wouldn't protect anything and it was "just a piece of paper." I will admit, looking back, I was still feeling burnt from my previous relationships. We did finally decide to get married and going to D.C. to get our license was one of the most exciting days of my life. That "piece of paper" meant more to me than anything- maybe because so many people told us we couldn't have it or maybe because this time I knew it was for keeps. We celebrated our anniversary this year without any fuss and we still haven't opened our love box and read our letters but I pulled out our license and looked at it for a while-and my heart smiled. It is certainly more than a piece of paper to me.
When we decided to have children, we knew we would have to take some action in order to protect our family. We didn't have a clue how much that would entail. We just happened to be at a rally and met a family lawyer that specialized in ART cases. We worked with her over the past year and finally as of August 19th we are both legally recognized as the parents of our own children. We got co-maternity agreements stating our intent to have children before we conceived.  Now, this sounds ridiculous of course but here's the thing: since we did reciprocal IVF and the state does not recognize our marriage, we were considered an egg donor and surrogate. Which technically means that if god forbid something happened to me, R might not get custody because up until the "adoption" she was not on the birth certificate, and if something were to happen to R, even though I am on the birth certificate, I am not biologically their mom so if her family wanted them, they could get custody over me. Now I know that many of you are thinking that going through all this for hypothetical situations is silly, but as a nurse and a military dependent I can tell you that parental death is very real and it doesn't make an announcement before visiting. It was important to us to be prepared. And even though our families are cool with our situation right now, death, divorce, or whatever, can change people in an instant. It can make people turn on their loved ones no matter how strong the bond was. Also, if by chance I lost my job, the boys would lose their insurance and R wouldn't be able to put them on hers. All of these possibilities left us with a sense of urgency to get our affairs in order. Along with filing for the adoption, we did living wills and health care power of attorneys for each other.
We also had to terminate our sperm donor's pseudo relationship. The case was actually us vs. John Doe because we used an anonymous donor. I'm not sure if they did this because it's protocol, or because from the outside it just looks like a couple doing a closed adoption versus two lesbians adopting their own children. We had visits with a social worker and a guardian ad litem. The visit with the social worker was short and sweet although I felt that she really could've cared less due to the fact that we actually had to pay her a lot of cash for the visit. She was eccentric and talked like Paula Dean ya'll. She walked through our house and made comments about how the boys had nicely shaped heads-and that all african american babies have nicely shaped heads so our babies must be mixed. She then proceeded to talk about her high profile custody case that had been in the national news. We were familiar with it and I was shocked she was a key player in this situation as she was just so, err, um, eccentric. She also shared that she had done IVF and was a foster parent and we had nothing to worry about. With that she flitted out of our lives never to be seen again. Her placement report was clearly from a template and she had left the previous couple's info in it because according to her we were a "lovely Caucasian couple raising their children and practicing Judaism." That couple does sound lovely, but it wasn't us, so we had to wait while our lawyer fixed all our paperwork and filed our court date. The guardian ad litem was also very nice and much more down to earth. Although she was named after a legume....Anyways the court date came and we were informed that we had to have a plan b in case the judge gave off a bad vibe. Plan b was to politely ask for a continuance and hope pray beg for a better judge. So the lawyers went in and talked to them before we came in to get a feel for her. Even through the home visits and all the paperwork and background checks I hadn't been nervous or even mad-until now. Here we were, nine months in with our sweet little boys, and after all we had been through to have them, it struck me that there may be people out there that still don't view us as a family. It also struck me that we could be denied and everything was in vain. That scared me and made me furious at the same time.  I couldn't imagine not being these little boys' mama.  It still chokes me up to think about  it.  Well those fears were quickly put to rest when they came out and said it was a go! We had to both testify about our family and how we conceived. It was indeed awkward. However, the judge was awesome and she thought our family was lovely. (We dressed them up in hopes that their cuteness would distract the judge ha!) It was bittersweet. I was happy we were finally going to be protected by this piece of paper but mad that we even needed it. We haven't gotten the new birth certificates yet but we were already warned that the R's name will be listed under "father". Our legal system has unfortunately not caught up with the times. It will be nice to have their new birth certificates with both our names even if they are just pieces of paper.



5 comments:

  1. YAY!!! Congrats!!!! That must have been really exciting. I just learned about all of this (nice time to figure it out!) because in NY we can put both of our names on the birth certificate but pretty much anyone can contest it, so now we are taking the 2nd parent adoption route (which is beyond ridiculous!). But let's be real...it was those ridiculously cute faces!

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  2. Such a beautiful post. Your boys are adorable! It sucks to have to go through all the legal nonsense but it's actually pretty awesome to be a part of history in the making, isn't it?! Congratulations!

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  3. Your boys are precious and I'm so glad you finally got the protection we all know we need and is unnecessarily fought for! I'm glad you got it though!

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  4. HUGE congratulations on finally being legally recognized! I agree, it’s a hard pill to swallow because LGBT parents shouldn’t have to go through this but it’s also a happy occasion at the same time. With Gracie’s medical bills from her cleft (in the many, many thousands) and all the money we’re pumping into getting me pregnant, there’s been nothing left to put towards my legal adoption of Grace. It honestly doesn’t stress me out right now because we’re legally married and our families are amazing but you said it right – death, divorce, etc. changes people. My new goal is to get everything done before our gal enters Kindergarten, which gives me about 2 more years to save and pay off debt. I may have to come to you when it’s time for some insight and pointers.

    Thanks for sharing this beautiful story with us. Your family is just the cutest! :)

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