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.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Mattress Dancing

Before the boys were born, I was adamant that we would not let the babies in the bed. We bought them cribs and I wanted to use them. I wanted one space in the house that was just for me and the wifey. Well, 9 months in and I can tell you that I failed at this pretty quickly. We are officially a co sleeping family. I have the boys 4 nights out of the week by myself while R works. I also have to get up and go to work myself after these long restless nights. The boys still do not sleep through the night-we get about 6-8 hours but they ultimately end up in the bed. R loves it and if I am not here I am sure she just bypasses the cribs altogether. It's not that I don't love their cuddles and their sweet little hands on my face, I just miss holding my wife too. We barely have time for each other as it is and the last thing on my mind is doin a little mattress dancin' with two babies in the mix. Aaagghhh but I digress.

Since we have two extra bodies in the bed we needed a bigger one. Granted, they are little, but they turn into olympic gymnasts at night. I often wake up to foot in the face. Our bed was on its last thread and we decided to upgrade to a king. Mattress shopping made me incredibly nervous. I was dreading it. Mainly because I knew two women shopping for a mattress would elicit questions like "where are your husbands?" or "that's nice of your friend to help you shop". I shit you not, we have encountered comments like these while ring shopping and car shopping. Soooo needless to say I was not super enthusiastic to yet again have to explain why we, two women, were looking for a mattress together. We went to several stores and finally settled on one.The saleswoman was odd but pleasant and didn't bat a lash at us as a couple. Honestly, I think she was more grossed out by our kids. She kept looking at them like Angelica Houston in the movie "Witches". (remember that movie?!)   Anyways, we found a mattress and were on our way. 

Fast forward to 3 months later, we dislike, hate, loathe our new bed. It is too soft and after laying in it, our bodies leave dents that cause the babies to roll into us. R's back is killing her and I have a chronic crick in my neck. Luckily, the store offers a money back guarantee and we went back. Well, the odd saleswoman was replaced by another woman who didn't have her shoes on and was walking around in her socks. That shoulda been our first clue...
We told her we bought a mattress and we hated it. She went to the computer and asked for a phone number. We both took turns talking to her and finally she said "whose mattress is this?'' We both said "ours". She looked up at us and then at our babies and you could tell it did not click. She then asked "how old are your babies?" I said 9 months and then she said "both of them?" ( We get the whole "are they twins?" thing a lot) I said yes and then she said oh which one is yours? I think R could see me getting annoyed and she quickly piped in "They are our twins and we are married to each other!" That shoulda been enough but sadly it just opened the flood gates: "Oh! so you adopted them?" "I carried them and we used her eggs". Apparently my eye rolls and dramatic jaw drop didn't phase her.   She was amazed, "that's so cool!" but her ignorant thirst was not quenched and she pressed on: "Do you know who the dad is? They look really dark." O. M. effing. G. are you kidding lady??? I wanted so badly to pick up the shoe she wasn't wearing and slap her in the face.

Part of me wanted to educate her and share our story and the other part of me wanted to storm out. My family is not "cool" or "neat". If we had been a man and woman she wouldn't have asked any of those questions. Not because she already knew where their babies came from but because it's personal and inappropriate. I felt like she honestly thought we HAD to share our story with her. We somehow owe it to her and society to explain ourselves and our existence. If we didn't, then we were just more angry lesbians jaded by the world. Needless to say, the rest of the visit did not go well because I was stewing on the inside and we left without getting a new mattress.
What would you have said? Would you have smiled and answered politely or would you have jumped on a mattress and shown her how babies are made?