I was going to write about our baby shower last Saturday, but I can’t get the words together. It was a beautiful day. People traveled from all over to celebrate with us. I’ve posted some pics below. But I can’t focus on it right now.
Not today. Not this week. Not when I woke up the morning after our shower to the news from Orlando. Not when I started the 31st week of my pregnancy crying over the kitchen sink as I crammed my gestational diabetes breakfast (two multigrain waffles slathered in peanut butter) into my mouth. It wasn’t the pregnancy hormones this time. It was the overwhelming grief and the sudden realization of what it means to be a parent.
I came out on December 3, 2000. I was 17. It was my senior year of high school and I was taking a couple non-matriculated courses at a nearby state college. I wasn’t out to anyone. I knew I was attracted to girls. I’d known since I was in seventh grade, but I hadn’t put words to it yet. For my 100-level American politics course at the local college, I chose the topic of “gay rights” for my term paper. I used this as an excuse to check out every single nonfiction and research book from the campus library that came up under the search term “gay.”
I hoarded the books in my bedroom in a tall stack. My nervous excitement reflected off the glossy covers and radiated back at me. This was something I’d never allowed myself before, to read about gay people, about gay youth, about a community I didn’t yet feel sure I could be a part of.
This was 2000. The internet was not yet what it is today. There was no GSA at my high school. Our pseudo-GSA, a club three of my friends and I started called Respect Club, was barred from having a LGBT history month by the school board because it “might incite riots.” My best guy friend (and ex-boyfriend) got sent home for wearing a dress to school. There were queer teachers at my school (as I found out later), but none of them were out to students.
I laid on the 70’s-brown carpeted floor of my room with my legs kicked up and devoured each book, one by one, cover to cover. I read Am I Blue?: Coming Out from the Silence, a very mid-nineties book featuring original stories by popular young adult authors about growing up gay. I read a thin political science reader simply titled Gay Rights. I can’t tell you who the author was or even what it looked like. What I remember is reading a chapter on hate crimes. I learned about Matthew Sheppard and James Byrd for the first time.
It was while reading this chapter that something in me broke. The tears came fast, landing on the pages of the open book. I couldn’t finish the chapter. I sat up and put my head in my hands and wept.
I wasn’t sure why I was even upset. I wasn’t out. No one knew I had feelings for girls, so I’d never felt discriminated against or in danger for being queer. I didn’t know Matthew Sheppard or James Byrd. I’d been shielded from that kind of violence, growing up in a small, rural, mostly-white town with white parents and light skin. I didn’t know about hate crimes as a contemporary thing — wasn’t this something that happened in the past? A long time ago? It was just a few paragraphs in a book about a political topic for my research paper about something that happened to other people. Not me. Not me. But I couldn’t stop sobbing.
My parents noticed and sat me down in the family room. Their concern was genuine. I’ve always been overly empathetic, but I’ve never been overly emotional. Even as a toddler, I rarely cried. I curled up in a big recliner with my legs tucked under me. Gulping for air between heaving sobs, I told them about my term paper and about hate crimes and about how I couldn’t believe people were so cruel and I blurted out abruptly, “…and it matters to me because I’m bisexual.”
Silence hung in the air for what felt like hours, but was probably minutes. My dad eventually hugged me and said he’d love me no matter what (but he didn’t approve of me bringing girls home). My mom looked down and got up and left the room. She didn’t say anything. She didn’t say anything to me for two days.
My coming out story isn’t the worst coming out story on a scale of “We love you and it’s awesome that you’re bi!” to “I’ll kill you.” My parents never stopped loving me or threatened to stop loving me. I wasn’t disowned or kicked out. My parents are generally socially progressive. They vote on the Democratic line. They’d always been welcoming to my gay friends, before and after I came out. It was still hard for them, especially for my mom. Part of it was shame and stigma and internalized homophobia, but it was their own shame. There was never a point where my mom or dad felt there was something wrong with me.
My mom would say, “I know it’s my problem. You just have to give me time to accept it.” This, of course, did not make me feel better, but it was honest. Even when we were fighting, when we were screaming at each other, my parents never had an open hatred of LGBT people. They just didn’t want me to be one or date one.
It never made sense to me. I never understood how they could feel that way, how they could love and hug my gay friends, how they could be supportive of gay rights, but not their bisexual daughter, until this week.
When you are trying to conceive, from the moment you are successful, you start building a wall of protection around your future child. You start making different choices in your own life. I radically changed my diet when I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes in the first trimester. I started exercising daily, after 33 years of saying I didn’t have the time. I cut down on caffeine and omitted alcohol completely. I didn’t go to A-Camp this year because I was concerned about how the altitude would affect my third trimester body. I worried through every test and ultrasound that something was going to go wrong. I changed the way I sleep and re-prioritized my after-work commitments to give my body time to fuel and rest. I want to give Baby T. Rex the best possible shot.
I stood over the kitchen sink crying on Monday, still struck with grief over the tragedy that unfolded in Orlando on Saturday night. All of a sudden, I understood my mother. I understood her struggle with accepting me after I came out for the first time. When my mom finally broke the silent treatment two days after my dramatic coming out tears, she said, “I didn’t want this for you. It isn’t what I imagined your life would be like.” She asked how I would get a job, how I would find a boy to love me.
I felt so offended by that, that she thought I couldn’t be loveable or loved or happy just because I’m bisexual. That she thought I could just choose to love straight cis men only and didn’t respect my whole sexuality. I felt betrayed. My parents never pushed my sister and me to get married or find a boyfriend. They raised us to be strong and smart and independent. I was angry she’d already imagined some heteronormative future for me, one in which I’d be married to a man with grandchildren on the way. I wanted so much more than that; I thought they wanted more than that for me. I realize now that it wasn’t about that.
I grew up in the queer 90’s and came out in 2000. My mom lived through the 70’s and 80’s. She saw LGBT people terrorized and bullied, denied dignity and basic legal protections. She saw a whole generation of our community die or become traumatized by HIV/AIDS. She saw how people treated LGBT people in the 70’s and 80’s. She saw Matthew Sheppard’s murder and trial play out on the nightly news. She didn’t want that for me. She wanted to protect me. She didn’t want to imagine a future where I was struggling, where I was sick, where my life was in danger, where I wouldn’t be able to live to my potential because of who I am.
She was a white woman in America with a light-skinned daughter. She didn’t have to worry about me being killed growing up and she didn’t have to worry about it herself growing up. She had fears like every parent does. I know she worried about raising a Korean kid in a white neighborhood and school district. She worried about me walking home from the bus on our busy street without sidewalks. She worried about me every day. But she never had to fear for my life like she did when I came out.
It was December 3, 2000, and my mom and I saw the world differently. I saw homophobia, yes, but I also saw hope. I saw queer people radicalizing and marching in the streets. I saw getting out of my small, conservative hometown and going far away for college where I could come out in a blaze of rainbows. I saw a future of falling in love and kissing girls and being 100% myself. I was privileged and I felt safe. I was sure I’d be OK.
My mom saw danger everywhere. She saw people who’d want to hurt me. She saw homophobia, hate crimes, disease, secrecy, and shame. Yes, these ideas came out of systematic homophobia and negative media portrayals of bisexual and gay people and were obviously wrong. It’s the context she had, though, as a white, straight, cis woman at a time when there was no Glee or It Gets Better Project. She was worried, like only a parent can be. She wanted to give me my best possible shot.
I understand now, how that feels, to want to protect your child no matter what. Above all that is rational, to want to cloak them in your love and shield them from an unforgiving and cruel world. I see now that my mother’s negative reaction to my coming out was about love, above all else.
It took us years and years to become close again. It’s still hard sometimes when old wounds are opened, but it’s mostly good, great even. We’ll probably never come all the way back to where we were before I was her “queer bisexual daughter.” We’ll always tiptoe around that hard part of our relationship in an otherwise supportive and loving family history.
I opened a new chamber of forgiveness in my heart when I realized that my mother has only ever loved me and wanted the best for me. It’s why she could accept other gay people, but struggled so much with my coming out. She never feared or hated gay people. She was fearful for me.
Watching the news roll in on the shooting at Pulse nightclub, I couldn’t help but think of our future child, of Remi. Reading texts between Eddie Justice and his mom moments before he was killed broke me. How can I bring a child into this awful world? How can I guarantee they will make it through?
As I saw white queer friends and allies post about the shooting, incidentally white-washing the whole thing with #WeAreOrlando hashtags, I wondered, how will I make sure I raise a child who is safe in this world? I want my child to be safe. But also, how will I raise them to understand the privilege that comes with being safe in this world? How will I teach them intersectionality, to stand up for their brothers and sisters and fellow humans who don’t have the luxury of safety? How, how, how?
I was talking with some queer and trans college friends from out of town after our baby shower last weekend, before news of the shooting hit. We were reminiscing about college nights of drunken debauchery and bad decision-making in our early twenties. One of my friends is also pregnant and has a kid at home, as well. I wondered aloud, “How do we keep our kids from making the same mistakes we made?” We agreed: we can’t. Even with the best, most supportive upbringing, once our kids are adults, we can’t keep them safe. We can’t stop them from binge drinking or experimenting with drugs or going home with an attractive stranger. We can’t prevent them getting raped at a party or being murdered in a mass shooting. There is nothing we can do but try to give them their best possible shot and hope they make it out OK.
I cried over my morning multigrain waffles because I could finally understand why my mom said and did those things that hurt me so much, that made me feel unwanted and small when she pushed me away after I came out.
I cried because it turns out I am able to have all those things my mom thought I never would: a house, a loving spouse, a legal marriage, a career, and yes, even a child.
I cried because I was also able to do the things I envisioned for my life: be an activist, major in creative writing and women’s studies, get paid to do work that affirms my intersectional core beliefs, find a partner who loves me for exactly who I am. I was right. Things got better. I went to college three hours away from home and came out in a blaze of rainbows. I went to the gay bars and marched in the streets. Laws changed and public opinion shifted. I have the joy and luxury of living openly and proudly in every area of my life.
I cried because not everyone has had the happy experience with coming out that I have. Not everyone has been OK. Not everyone has lived. I cried because Latinx and Black people and trans people don’t necessarily get to walk with the confidence I do in the world, that 17-year-old me did as I approached adulthood, sure that I would survive.
I cried for the Latinx and Black victims of the Orlando shooting, who were dancing and loving on a night they could be together and free and safe. They should have been safe. I cried for the grieving parents and partners and families of the victims, who had to wait hours to find out if they were alive.
I am pregnant with my own child now and I want everything that is good in the world for them. I want them to live boldly and be who they are. I also want, more than anything, for them to be safe. We live in a time where Black and brown parents worry about their kids being safe every day. We live in a time when Muslim parents worry about their kids being safe. We live in a time when parents of trans youth worry about their kids being safe. We still live in a time when we have to worry about our queer and trans friends and loved ones being safe, in general. We live in a time when Latinx and Black queer and trans people are fearful for their lives in ways the rest of us can’t begin to know or understand.
I see now, now that I’m carrying this little future human around with me every day, that my mom only ever loved me, even if she didn’t know how to show me that love when I first came out. It doesn’t make the way she reacted less hurtful. I doesn’t erase the times when I felt isolated from my family, when Waffle had to hold me as I raged or cried because I didn’t feel comfortable going home for the holidays. I forgave my parents a long time ago. Today, I am finally able to understand them, too.
Parenting is a lifetime of worrying about someone else and coming to terms with the fact that you can’t control everything while trying really hard to control everything. You can’t guarantee their safety. You can only support them and hug them and give them the best foundation for happiness and success.
Little Baby T. Rex, whatever and whoever you become, Waffle and I are always going to be here for you. We’ll always support you and believe in you. We’ll try to teach you to love and to approach others with empathy and to stand up for what’s right. We’ll probably mess up sometimes. We’ll say or do the wrong thing. We’ll hurt you without meaning to. But we’ll do our best and we’ll try to give you our best. We can’t promise to shield you from harm, but we’ll damn well try.
9 Random Baby-Making Feelings I’m Currently Over-Processing
1. Showered with Love
Our friend and my mom threw us a baby shower last weekend and it was grand. Admittedly, I’ve always felt a little weird about showers. We didn’t have one for our wedding. We didn’t even have a gift registry for our wedding. Waffle and I like to do things on our own. We feel hella awkward about being the center of attention in gift-giving or party situations. We like buying gifts for others and going to their parties and showers. We’ve just always felt weird about letting people throw one for us. However, my friend asked if she could do this for us and, quite frankly, babies are something new for us. We did want to celebrate with family and friends and let’s face it, we need to get a lot of stuff together to prepare for a Baby T. Rex.
It was a really lovely day and our friends and family turned out and there were dinos everywhere and I was overwhelmed with gratitude. It stands in stark contrast to 24 hours later, when I read the headline about Orlando from my bed. This weekend was a strange one. So much joy and hugging and acceptance of our queer love with friends who traveled thousands of miles, family friends I hadn’t seen in years, our whole family showing up and celebrating with us. My mom made a million adorable crafty things and worked with my friend to organize games and dino decorations and a ton of food.
There were gifts of feminist onesies, queer and feminist children’s books, colorful toys, and gender-neutral clothes (lots of dinos!). The next morning, I woke up to a reminder of what can still happen in this world, that hate and racism and violence are still out there.
I am choosing to hold all things up simultaneously. I am immensely sad about Orlando. There’s been a heaviness weighing down on me this whole week, a deep sadness I can’t shake. I am also feeling deeply embraced by my loved ones and that is pulling me through. I’m grateful for my friends and my family. I feel so blessed that Remi is going to be born into a community of deep, unconditional love.
2. Things I’ve Googled This Week:
- “when should we install car seat”
- “baby sign language dinosaur”
- “baby sign language guinea pig”
- “baby sign language R”
- “what to pack for hospital labor”
- “rent vs. buy breast pump”
- “peanut butter chocolate shake low carb”
- “is pregnancy brain real?”
3. Let Your Fingers Do The Talking
Ever since I saw a friend’s not-yet-speaking baby use sign language to tell me a story about seeing a truck, I have been totally into the idea of learning and using baby sign with any future kid. The baby’s story went like this. The baby looked out window, pointed towards the road with her finger, made the sign for “truck” and said, “Wooo!” “Yes,” her mom said, “We saw a truck yesterday!” It was adorable. I was hooked.
Baby sign is a version of American Sign Language (ASL) designed specifically for hearing babies. Many of the signs are the same or similar to ASL. Children of deaf parents typically pick up sign language from an early age and start communicating from an earlier age than hearing children of hearing parents. Hearing babies typically start signing sometime after six months.
The goal isn’t to teach the babies ASL as a language. In fact, hearing babies often forget the signs once they start speaking, most likely because the parents also start defaulting to speaking. The signs are also slightly modified for small hands, so it isn’t true ASL. It’s just a way to give babies the tools to communicate at an earlier age.
Waffle and I are, unfortunately, not fluent in ASL. We both know a couple signs like “thank you” and “sorry,” but not enough to carry on a conversation. We’re learning some baby signs that we can use with Baby T. Rex. We’re starting with “mommy,” “daddy,” “milk,” and “cat.” We’ll add other signs based on what Remi shows interest in. I’ve heard from other parents that the sign for “all done” is very helpful to ward off diaper-changing fussiness.
4. I Thinx I Can?
According to the sponsored ads on Facebook with weird pictures of vaginal-looking food and skinny women strewn haphazardly on modern furniture, Thinx period panties are something I should be into. I am currently not menstruating, possibly the best pregnancy perk, so I haven’t made the switch from Diva Cup to Thinx yet. I’m hearing rave reviews of these magical million-dollar undies from friends who have invested.
I’m wondering if they would be a good alternative to postpartum maxi pads. I hate pads for a variety of reasons, sweat and feeling like I’m wearing a diaper being the most prominent ones. I tried to find a review or story of someone using them for this purpose, but the mommy blogs have failed me. Anyone heard of this? If you’ve tried Thinx, do you “thinx” it’d work? I don’t have any experience with how much they hold or how dry they keep you or how well they stay up on fat bodies with big bellies, but I’m really curious. Also, I hear there are discount codes? Can anyone hook a mama up?
5. Gestational Diabetes Fast Food Test Kitchen Scorecard:
- Meal: Chipotle Salad with Rice, Beans, & Chicken: A-
- Snack: Dairy Queen Small Dish of Vanilla: A-
- Meal: Papa John’s Thin Crust Pizza with Extra Cheese: B+
- Snack: McDonald’s Four-Piece McNugget with Hot Mustard Sauce: A+
- Meal: Moe’s Southwest Burrito Bowl with Beans, Chicken, & a Side of Queso & Chips: A+
- Snack: Sonic Small Mozzarella Sticks with Marinara Sauce: D
- Meal: Subway Whole Wheat 6″ BLT Sub with Side of Apple Slices: B+
6. The Dino Nest is Ready for a Hatchling
All credit goes to Waffle for the décor choices and curation of the very, very, very adorable nursery. I didn’t really do anything, other than give directions about where to stick the decals (during which we very narrowly managed to not start an epic fight). Some friends and family stopped by after the shower for the Jurassic Park tour. My mom gifted us with a beautiful hand sewn dinosaur quilt that looks perfect with the bright room colors.
The nest is almost ready for a dino!
7. Remi Lee Waffle By Any Other Name
We’ve received zero negative or snarky feedback on our name choice, which is amazing, kind of a miracle. In fact, we learned recently that Waffle’s Uncle’s family has a lot Remy’s in it. They’re French-Canadian. Remy is a French boy’s name, but we just like the way it sounds, honestly. It’s also the main character’s name in the Disney film Ratatouille, which is one of my favorite kid’s movies. Also, Waffle and I both love rats and have cared for five of them over the course of our relationship. And it’s the name of Gambit from Marvel’s X-Men, which is… cool, I guess.
When it came to picking a name, we knew we wanted a gender neutral one. So we started a list of gender neutral names. We couldn’t agree on most of them. I liked Skylar, but Waffle didn’t. We both liked Peyton, but then it started showing up on lists of popular baby names.
We also needed a name that sounded good with “Lee” as the middle name, because I really wanted “Lee” to be the middle name. I was willing to concede on the last name, since Waffle was so cool about using a Korean sperm donor and the kid would look more like me. But I wanted my Korean family name in there, too.
There’s no cool story about how or why we got to “Remi” as our favorite name. It sounds good with “Lee.” We both like it. We decided to spell it with an “i” instead of a “y” to differentiate from the French spelling. That’s really it. Pragmatic, as always, we are…
8. KaeLyn & Waffle’s List of Shit to Get Done Before Baby Arrives:
- Hire someone to fix the ceiling in the mud room that the squirrels epically destroyed;
- Submit preadmission paperwork to the maternity center;
- Find a pediatrician who loves vaccines and is also LGBT-competent;
- Set up the car seats in the cars sometime around Week 35-ish;
- Clean out the crap room a.k.a. sleeping porch off the baby’s room;
- Move as much baby furniture and stuff into place as possible so as to not totally freak out that cat;
- Find and hire a labor doula;
- Inventory and figure out what baby gear we still need to buy;
- Reorganize the bathroom and linen closet to prepare for the influx of baby crap; and
- Spend one last weekend sleeping in and doing nothing.
9. Twos and Threes and Fours of Onesies
Waffle has moved away from the baby booties and on to whimsical onesies. I feel like we should buy stock in Etsy. Here’s the first batch he ordered:
I feel like this is just the tip of the iceberg…