Once upon a time, there was a childfree-by-choice woman in her thirties who made the decision to have kids, after all. This was a radical shift in thinking and in life-planning, so she and her spouse set out on a year and a half of talking, writing, and thinking about everything you can possibly overthink about having kids. Here are some things they learned about the process and about themselves and about each other.
1. What is queer parenting, even?
The first thing we did was go out and look for resources for queer parents and families. We found some lesbian parenting books and some gay and lesbian parenting resources. We got some books that had helpful info. But it didn’t feel like they were really written for us so much as for middle-to-upper class white lesbians. Queer parenting, it seemed, was mostly code for two cis gay men or two cis lesbian women. We didn’t find a whole lot for bisexual parents, for trans parents, for queer interracial parents, for gender non-binary parents, etc. etc. So we decided to join the blogosphere to make connections and start processing what this all means. Through that, we found other bloggers writing about their experiences, including poly families, trans moms and dads, gender non-binary parents, lesbian dads, pregnant butches, and young-ish queer people like us.
What is different about queer parenting? So much. It’s about raising kids in a queer-normative environment. It’s about the way that we create family, which has little to do with blood and a lot to do with love — but we know that — our chosen families have always been bound by love. It’s about how you disrupt heteronormativity and the gender binary and how you help your kid navigate all that in the real world. It’s about considering intersectional feminism as a basis for the worldview you present to your kids. It’s about lots of stuff that we won’t even know or understand until we get there. But it’s not in any book we’ve read yet. Queer parents are changing the narrative, pushing the boundaries of “Heather Has Two Mommies” into new territory.
2. How many ways can you consider adoption?
I always thought I’d adopt. I’m an adoptee. I always thought I’d adopt from South Korea, actually, where I was born. Something about having the ability to help another Korean adoptee navigate life in the white-washed U.S. felt really important to me. However, I never thought I’d have kids, so I’d never truly entertained the idea. As it turns out, which is no big surprise, same-sex adoption and single parent adoption is illegal in South Korea, so there’s no way to make that work. OK, but adoption still seemed like the better idea to me. I’ve never wanted to be pregnant and adoption was still more appealing.
As it turns out, adoption decisions aren’t as easy as agreeing that it’s a good idea.
Younger vs. Older Children
I don’t have a strong preference towards infants. In fact, I like older children. However, Waffle really strongly wanted a baby. I couldn’t blame him. He certainly isn’t the only person to imagine a future with a baby in his arms. Sometimes we just want what our hearts want and I get that. Infant adoption, however, means a longer wait time and more competition with other potential adoptive parents.
Adoption Through Fostering
The Fosters is one of our favorite shows. But it also makes pretty clear that adoption through fostering is not always simple. We know some queer folks who are foster parents and have adopted through fostering and it was a lengthy and emotional (and absolutely very worth it) process. Additionally, we aren’t really interested in fostering, personally. It’s hard to imagine not getting super attached to a kid who lives with us and becomes part of our family. So, foster adoption was checked off the list of possibilities.
Surviving a Home Study
It is very possible for same-sex couples to pass adoption screening these days. Especially seemingly non-threatening, dual-income, married couples like us. However, we are a queer couple, not a same-sex couple. Waffle uses different names and pronouns in different contexts, which he is 100% open about. But it would add an additional layer of having to explain ourselves over and over during the very-invasive, mandatory home study. So we could decide to try to pass as lesbians, which neither of us are. Or Waffle could try to pass as a man which is not necessarily how he identifies. Or we could try to find a highly-queer-and-trans-friendly adoption agency. Or we could seek out a knowledgable LGBTQ law attorney. Or we could plan to do Gender 101 to everyone we meet in the adoption process. Or we could crawl into a hole and die.
Closed vs. Open adoption
At the end of the day, it came down to this. One of us is firmly in support of open adoption. One of us is firmly in support of closed adoption. We went around and around and around until we came to terms with the fact that neither one of us was going to change our opinions. We both had very deeply personal reasons for our opinions and neither of us was budging at all. So there it was. Adoption, it turns out, was completely off the table.
And yes, every time some well-meaning person asks, “Have you considered adoption?” or “Why don’t you just adopt?” I want to slap them in the face. Not only because I’m an adoptee and like WTF, but also because we have thought about it a lot more than anyone who has asked me this question.
3. Who will carry this potential human?
Easy. Me. Waffle has zero interest and I respect that. I mean, really, neither of us has much interest, but I’m the only one with the capacity, really. So in a move that was as close to my worst nightmare as I’ve ever gotten, I decided it’d be me. I’m not afraid of pregnancy or of how my body will change or of popping out a baby. I am nervous about how the world will treat me, as a pregnant woman, as a mom in the most traditional heteronormative sense of the word. As a femme feminist, I know that people are going to start reading me as straight more often if I’m knocked up and that I’m going to have to deal with people seeing my body before my brain in a weird, patriarchal way. But this was the best way, so onward!
4. Where will we get the sperm from?
Neither of us is interested in a known donor. I actually think having a friend donate the sperm is very sweet and I love big, extended families. But for us, we know we want an anonymous donor. I’d like to have an open donor, though, which means that the future kid would have the option of looking up their donor’s name and biological heritage when they turn 18 and that the donor is open to being contacted at least once at that time. As an adoptee without any biological records, I know that it can mean an awful lot to have that door open, even just to get a complete health history. But also to have access to who you are, fully, and what your heritage and history is. My parents are my parents and my family is my family, but I do wish I knew something — anything — about my birth history and biological heritage.
Oh, and I decided pretty early on that I wanted Korean sperm, if possible. I’d like to share an ethnicity with my kid and I’d like to be there for them as a Korean-American. Waffle has no issue with this. Sharing biological material isn’t important to him and, for us, it isn’t what makes a family bond.
5. Midwife? Doula? Doctor? Hospital? Home birth?
We’re still figuring this out. As of yet, we don’t have strong opinions either way. Maybe we will once I actually get knocked up, but we are checking out some midwifery practitioners to get a feel for what we might want.
6. How far are we willing to go with fertility treatments?
We’re going to start with IUI (intrauterine insemination), the least invasive and costly procedure. We’re going to do it at a fertility center. Neither of us feels very romantic about it and we’re perfectly satisfied to have a medical professional deliver the package, if you will.
Hormones or no?
In the beginning, I was staunchly against taking hormonal stimulants. But now that we know what path we are on and how much it will probably cost and have talked to a lot of folks who have done IUI in their 30’s, I’m feeling more open to it. Taking Clomid (a commonly prescribed hormonal stimulant) slightly increases your chance of twins from about 2-3% to 8%, which I’m not super pleased about. But it also increases your chances of conceiving, at all, so…
The jury is still out on whether we’d be up for a more lengthy and costly procedure like IVF. Waffle thinks it’s my body and I have the final say. We are both kind of…not sure if we would be willing to go there. I think we’ll have a clearer view if it becomes challenging to conceive through IUI. Until then, we’re putting all our (my?) eggs in the IUI basket.
7. What about gender?
We have a lot of thoughts about gender, obvs.
What’s in a name?
As most folks do, we started thinking about names right away because it’s a fun thing to do. We agreed that we wanted our future kid to have a gender neutral name. We don’t plan to raise them genderless, because we plan on sending them to public school and they will be out in the world and watching TV and we can’t imagine being very good at creating a gender-free household. However, we want to raise them with a very open and critical view of gender and we want them to be able to decide how to express gender and how to identify. If their gender is different than what they are assigned at birth, we want to give them a name that doesn’t make coming out more difficult.
Also, gender neutral names are amazing! As we started going through gender neutral names, we agreed on very few. We also realized that we felt differently about names based on whether they were for someone assigned male at birth or assigned female at birth. Like Spencer is a cool girl’s name, but not a cool boy’s name. GODDAMMIT GET OUT OF MY HEAD GENDER BINARY. Anyway, we finally got down to a few names we like that are really gender neutral. And I think our number one choice right now is “Remy” or “Remi” for a child of any gender.
Will we find out the assigned sex?
No. I mean, I’m not pregnant yet so maybe we’ll change our minds once I am, but I doubt it. We both feel like it’s better not to know. We won’t be swayed by our gender binary-loving lizard brains if we don’t know. Also, it will force our well-meaning family and friends to not put our future human in a gender box before they are born, either.
Gender neutral baby room themes
Ranked by preference:
8. When will we share the news?
Honestly, I’d be down to shout it from the rooftops immediately. But Waffle doesn’t want the heartache of dealing with everyone knowing if the pregnancy doesn’t “stick.” And I get that. I also want to be able to talk about it if we do have a miscarriage, because I don’t want to be alone in that. But I know I have an ample support network if that happens. And I respect where Waffle is coming from. So we are planning to do the typical no-telling-until-the-second-trimester thing.
9. Whose last name will future human have?
There is a reason we didn’t hyphenate our names when we got married and that’s because our hyphenated name sounds ridiculous. We fought a little about this one because I felt like if the kid came from my bod, they should have my name. Waffle felt like I would have a strongly recognized legal bond with the kid because of being the birth mother, so they should have Waffle’s name. Valid argument. Also, if we are successful with this whole Korean sperm donor thing, the kid will not look like Waffle at all. So they are getting Waffle’s last name, in the interest of making parent-teacher conferences less confusing. However, they are getting my Korean birth last name as one of their middle names. Lee is my second middle name and it will be future kid’s middle name, too.
10. How will I share cultural heritage with this future human?
As a KAD (Korean adoptee) whose parents and spouse are white, I feel I have a responsibility to this future person who will share some of my DNA and who will be at least half-Korean and hopefully 100% Korean like me. I want to share my family’s cultural heritage — my mom’s homemade butter cream frosting and my dad’s authentic Italian red sauce and our family traditions. I want to share Waffle’s family traditions, as well.
I also want to give future human a taste of their Korean ancestry — no, more than a taste. I want them to know the Korean side of their heritage, too. The challenge is, I’m still learning about Korean history and culture. For example, I want to celebrate toljabee, a Korean choosing ceremony on a child’s first birthday where various items are put in front of the baby representing wealth, long life, scholarly pursuits, etc and the object the baby picks up foretells their future. I was 18 before I had any Korean food. I want them to at least know what traditional foods are, even if they prefer McDonald’s over kimchee. And if possible, I want to send them to Korea school so they can learn the language. I’d like to learn my people’s language, too.
I feel like taking almost two years to really think this all through and to conceive of a financial plan to make it happen in the way that we want it to, was worth it. I mean, I’m not going to lie. Since we started on this and I fully realized that some people can just rub up together and make babies for free, I’ve been a little resentful. But I also know we are so privileged and lucky to be able to afford to do this in the way we want to and that many queer and trans folks don’t have the options we have. So we’re taking a deep breath. And we’re ready. In fact, this is the closest to a biological clock situation I’ve ever been in. I am ready to go now. I’m prepared. Let’s do it.
12. What if it doesn’t work out?
There is great risk in putting all these words on the internet before we even know if this is going to work. What is it doesn’t? What if we just can’t get pregnant, for whatever reason? What if we have to make an abortion decision? What if we have a miscarriage? Honestly, we don’t know. We know it feels right to be honest and that there are so few queer narratives out there in the world around pregnancy and parenting. And we know that writing these words down has helped us so much to process, to connect with other people in our real life and online who are also trying (or tried and gave up) and we feel so much better about these decisions now. We feel less alone. We feel like we have more queer resources and support networks. We don’t regret it. And if it doesn’t work out, well, I feel confident we can support each other through it and we’ll take it from there. And have a lot more expendable income in the future, for sure.
How about you baby-wanting or baby-making or child-having folks? What questions surprised you or challenged you along the way?