onsdag 30 mars 2011

Lesbian vs Hetero families

My wife has blogged yet again;

I've been thinking about the difference of lesbian and hetero families lately.

Wifey and I have quite the set up for our pregnancy. We just happen to live in the same neighbourhood as the only lesbian maternity care in Sweden. We just happen to be able to chose a lesbian midwife. We happen to be able to enroll in a lesbian parenting group and a Rainbow project at the hospital where we will birth. No one will ask if wifey is my sister when we show up to birth our baby (like they did when we were at the ER last year). Still with all these Rainbow projects here and there, I've found it hard for people to call her my Wife. Even when I make a point of saying; "yes you mean my WIFE wifey?" when the staff says; "your PARTNER wifey", people still go back to calling her PARTNER 2 sentences later.
Hello, we have joined the 21 st century and have geneder neutral marriages now, please keep up people! Really, how hard can it be?

Something else that bothers me is the constant use of the word PARTNER as a replacement for the word DAD.
I mean, yes, wifey is my partner, just as the straight folks husbands/boyfriends are their partners.

But wifey will not "become my partner" when Baby is born. Wifey is a female parent to our child. Female parents are called MOTHERS, not partners.
Still you are referred to as "mother and father" or "mother and PARTNER" in lectures, books and conversations with hospital staff. E.g. "the father/partner can cut the umbilical cord".
On the new-born pictures (in the hospital with the Rainbow project) it says, Mother:name, Father:name. Or Mother:name, Partner:name.

How difficult can it be? If it is so terribly cognitive challenging and confusing to talk about 2 mothers; use some defining term then; bio-mother, birth-mother, the other-mother.
But please, don't use language to constantly belittle and strip wifey of her role as a mother to our child.

I tried to bring this up in Rainbow parenting group, but didn't get much response. One of the other lesbian mothers said, with a tired voice; "well, atleast you are referred to as a partner now a days".

I found I get a much stronger response from people in heterosexual relationships when I bring up things like this. (Or perhaps it's just that I have such excellent friends and co-workers that get my point? )
I mean, what straight person would imagine ADOPTING your own child? Or being referred to as a PARTNER to the mother instead of a parent, since you didn't give birth to your child?

I think this outside impact of more or less ignoring the parenting role of the non-birth mom makes the dynamics in a lesbian family a bit different.

We talked to our midwife about this. How many of the lesbian families she meets are treated by others. The couples who take turns in having a child where the pregnant mother gets to hear; "Oh, how wonderful for you to finally become a Mother". While the woman in question have a 4 yr old at home (that her spouse gave birth to)and has been a mother for years.

Or the constant fear within the relationship that the non-bio mom will feel left out.

I thought of how much wifey and I have shared through this process. Every step. I don't think it's only the "lesbian urge to merge".
I think it's a protective strategy that straight people don't have to bother with. If wifey could have gotten me pregnant and the child was biologically hers, she would have an entirely different claim on the child and parenting role.
As it is now, she won't be a legal parent to our child until the social services allows her to adopt Baby.

It is not lack of trust that makes wifey say with a small voice; "promise to never take Baby from me", when we are half asleep at night.

It is lack of legal rights and and lack of validation from society at large and from individuals we meet, that she is and always will be the Mother of Baby.

It creeps in and gets to you.

It makes us both sensitive. I makes us attentive. It made wifey feel left out when I ran down to our midwife to get a quick blood-test for my iron levels and didn't have time to call her first.
It made it impossible to take a pregnancy test on your own, as custom in heteroville (at least according to the movies). I had wifey read the test. It was better for my nerves anyway, so I'm not complaining. It was just totally out of the question that I would take a pregnancy test on my own and later tell her the results.

At first I was so sensitive to wifey feeling left out I didn't know how to tell her that skin to skin contact with the newborn for the 1st hr makes breastfeeding more successful according to research.
I told her in some half-hysterical way, she got scared she would not be allowed to hold her own child and we had quite the argument over it.

I think we've grown so much during this process.

We are no longer one of the couples afraid of the birth mom breastfeeding and the other mother not being able to bond with the baby because of it. I think wifey will have plenty of bonding time with baby even if she's not the one nursing. We have no need to split everything 50/50 so no one will feel left out.

I am sure we will not fight over who will get to change the next stinky diaper after a while.

Lesbian families have the highest divorce rate of all couples. When it was brought up in parenting group it was from an individual perspective; that women expect more of eachother; more understanding, more support, more comittment than women in straight relationships expect from their male partners.
Yes, that might be one way to look at it.

But from what I understand having a baby is hard on any relationship; and a lot of straight couples also part ways during the toddler years.
And for a lesbian family add the stress of;
* Even becoming pregnant in the first place, chosing a donor, the planning, waiting, financial stress, fertility tests, perhaps hormone treatments, etc, etc, etc
* Not being recognized as parents by society or in day-to-day interaction with the world
* The stress of going through an entire adoption process once the baby has arrived.

I mean, really, no matter what we expect of each other, that is a bit much for any one to deal with. Add the working full time (for atleast one of the mothers), being sleep deprived and handle a new tiny being entirely dependent on you for it's survival.

So what do we have when we have; no legal rights, no understanding, no support, structural discrimination from this society we live in, contribute to and pay taxes to?
We have our triangle of love. Wifey, Baby and I. Connected as One.
Love makes a Family.

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