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This past mother’s day, Waffle had a conversation with his mom where she asked if he would be celebrating mother’s day or father’s day next year. It’s something we’d been thinking about for a while. There’s a clear and direct answer, but we were stuck on how to present it to family members in the most casual way possible.
Before we got hitched in 2011, Waffle and I had “the chat” with his parents about his gender identity. People know Waffle by different first names (Waffle is his nickname and his actual last name) and call him different pronouns. I sometimes use different pronouns. Waffle is fine with she/her or he/his and doesn’t care too much either way, as long as people are being respectful. Like Leslie Feinberg once expressed, “For me, pronouns are always placed within context.” Waffle’s family mostly uses she/her. My family mostly uses he/him. Coworkers use she and friends use whatever they know Waffle as.
We just didn’t want our family feeling weird or making it weird at our wedding when they heard people using different names and pronouns than they were used to. We wanted people focused on the celebration and the fun and the silly children’s book readings we had picked out for the ceremony, not on Waffle’s gender and/or if they were being bad allies or whatever.
This is one of the readings we used. (We didn’t make this video or use this song, though) Do you see a theme?
I worked with our Unitarian minister to write a pronoun-free ceremony script. The wedding went off perfectly. People were cool. Waffle’s parents didn’t have an issue with it at all, though I think they were and are still kind of confused about how to address Waffle because he identifies as queer and isn’t binary trans.
I was just talking with a friend about how it seems LGBTQIA generations are about ten years apart. Like, because progress and culture has shifted so rapidly for our communities, the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s were really distinct eras of “being LGBT” and the 00’s and 10’s are a whole other world. Waffle and I came of age as activists and queer people on the back-end of the Queer 90’s. There weren’t words like “demiboy” and “demigender” yet and words like “genderqueer” were relatively new and still had a specific political connotation. Singular they/their wasn’t popular yet. Zie/sie/hir/hier were the most widely used gender neutral pronouns (though they never caught on in the mainstream). I think this is why genderqueer or gender non-binary or gender variant have never worked as identities for Waffle. It doesn’t feel authentic to his experience of coming out and finding an identity that fits.
(I can somewhat understand. “Pansexual” was still a pretty new term when I was coming out, which is why I still stick with “bisexual” and “queer.” Pansexual doesn’t mean anything to me in the context of my coming out experience, even if it’s an accurate description of my sexual and romantic attractions.)
Waffle cut his teeth on Leslie Feinberg‘s Stone Butch Blues. If you can be a lesbian or dyke politically, but not be a woman, he’d identify as that, but he feels it’s a little odd to claim “lesbian” if he isn’t comfortable claiming “woman.” So he identifies as a boi in the butch lesbian context of the word, but also as trans and queer. Sometimes when we’re out in the world, strangers perceive us as two lesbian women and he’s mostly OK with that. Sometimes people perceive him as binary trans or binary male and he’s mostly OK with that, too, though neither is correct. To Baby T. Rex, Waffle will be “Dad” and we’ll celebrate father’s day.
Polly Pagenhart, author of Lesbian Dad, defines a lesbian dad as:
les•bi•an dad n, neologism 1. a. A lesbian or genderqueer parent who feels that traditionally female titles (i.e., “mother”) don’t quite fit, and who is willing to appropriate and redefine existing male ones (i.e., “father”): She was a tomboy when she was a kid, so it’s not surprising she’s a lesbian dad as a parent. b. Often a non-biological parent in a lesbian family, and/or one whose role relative to the child in many ways resembles that of fathers.
Some lesbian dads and genderqueer parents come up with another word for “parent” that’s gender-neutral or use a word in another language or from another culture like “baba.” Much like using they/their pronouns and identifying as genderqueer doesn’t feel right to Waffle, using a different word for “dad” doesn’t really work for him either.
Long story short, we always knew Waffle would be “daddy” to Baby T. Rex. The furkids already give him a card on Father’s Day, after all.
At the same time, being visibly queer is important to be us and being misinterpreted as a same-gender couple is only, like, 70% wrong. The difference is that “dad” to us doesn’t mean “will teach kid about power tools” any more than “mom” means “will teach kid how to bake cakes.” I mean, we might do those things, but not because of the gender roles attributed to our monikers. Actually, I hope Waffle teaches them how to bake, or maybe we should relegate that to their grandparents, because it’s neither of our strong suit.
Sometimes I worry about how our kid is going to explain us to adults they will encounter outside our home (like teachers). On paper we’ll appear to be a lesbian couple. However, our kid will know us as “mom” and “dad.” Explaining these concepts to a kid is something I look forward to. It won’t be too hard. Kids have a much easier time with gender fluidity than adults do. (In some ways, our 7-year-old niece understands Waffle’s gender the most out of everyone in either of our families. She calls Waffle “Aunt” and also uses he/his pronouns, which his family thinks is funny, but is actually fairly accurate.)
I think Remi will be on board without any problem. What I wonder about is how to prepare Remi for going to school and discussing our family with cis adults and authority figures who think Remi has “two mommies” and who are generally ignorant about trans identities. I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. Any advice, non-binary parents out there?
For now, I’ve just got to get this darn Baby T. Rex safely out into this beautiful, gross, dangerous, brilliant, terrible, incredible, wild world.
10 Random Baby-Making Feelings I’m Currently Over-Processing
1. Water, Water Everywhere and I’m Gonna’ Sip Up Every Drop
I think I’ve mentioned before how ridiculously thirsty I am. (Yes, you can interpret that any way you want.) I was settling in to do some lengthy work last Sunday afternoon and had to take a picture of my hydration station. Yes, I drank, drunk, drink-ed all of that in one sitting (with bathroom breaks).
I wish I could say it’s having a positive impact on my skin, but honestly I have no idea what my skin is doing right now. All the dermal things I have that typically flare up are flaring up real extra and I have an unusual excess of skin tabs (sexy!) and I started getting a super fun rash under my arm last week. Also, the physical exhaustion is coming back as I get closer to the third tri. So when people tell me I’m glowing, I kind of feel like they’re full of shit. I am, however, very, very, very hydrated. By the end of the day, I feel like a filled-up water balloon and my belly looks like one, too.
2. Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah (Hello Heteronormativity)
I know I just got done telling you that Waffle is going to be a Daddy Dino to Baby T. Rex, but I have to say that it’s a little weird that the hospital we are using only has forms that have “mother” and “father” as options. Same-gender marriage has been legal in NYS since 2012 and is now legal everywhere. This is a fairly large metropolitan hospital, so I’m just surprised.
One of the biggest reasons we went with getting me knocked up is that Waffle can simply sign the birth certificate as the second parent. It’s one of the legal benefits of marriage. Waffle has zero interest in changing his legal gender markers or his legal name, so it’s going to be kind of awkward for a multitude of reasons when we turn in our paperwork with his stuff under “father.” Waffle doesn’t like to draw a lot of attention to himself and doesn’t feel particularly passionate about coming out to my medical providers, so we’ve been flying under the radar as assumed-lesbians at our medical provider appointments.
For all these reasons, we prefer gender neutral language on paperwork, when possible. I called the hospital to find out if there was another less-gendered version of the form, like one that just says “parent” and “parent” or something, but there isn’t. So it is what it is. Our midwives marked Waffle as my “spouse” and made a note to call him by his last name in their files, so that’s cool, at least. If all goes according to plan, the midwives will deliver the baby.
Side Note: I briefly considered having a homebirth to avoid dealing with this kind of awkwardness (and because it can be a really cool and empowering experience), but ultimately we both feel more comfortable at a medical facility. It’s a really personal choice and I respect people who choose homebirth as well as those who don’t. I’ve heard about good and difficult experiences with both. With it being our first pregnancy and having access to relatively LGBT-inclusive care providers nearby, we decided to go with our gut instinct, even if it means I don’t get to labor in one of those cool inflatable birth pools for the living room.
3. Reader’s Choice: Dino Decals
We need your opinion on dino decals for the nursery. Which one of these sets do you like best? Tell me in the comments, please. Big decisions.
4. What (Weird) Dreams May Come
Many people experience vivid dreams while pregnant. I typically remember my dreams once or twice a week. Lately, I’ve been remembering my dreams pretty much every night. I started writing down the really funny or strange ones:
- I was at work at McDonalds (which I actually worked at for, like, 5 years-ish in real life) and I was stationed in the grill. If you don’t know this already, McD now has an all-day breakfast menu. It’s real legit. Anyway, I was in the grill and I was making “round eggs,” which are the ones that go on Egg McMuffins. I just kept making eggs and making eggs and filling up trays with eggs until I’d made far too many eggs and my manager was like, “OMG KAELYN! Stop making eggs!” I don’t know what this has to do with anything, but it seems somewhat related to getting knocked up, I think.
- I was drafted into wartime service (who we were at war with was unclear) under the Trump administration and I was scheming plans to go AWOL. This dream was terrifying for a multitude of reasons.
- Some exceptionally vivid sex dreams and that’s all you need to know, except that they frequently end with me being unable to climax and feeling hella frustated in my dream and also in real life when I wake up.
- I spontaneously gave birth to a fully-formed baby at 26 weeks. It was a medical miracle! Or, at least, no one thought it was that concerning other than that I didn’t know I was going into labor at first. Then, my milk came in all weird and gross and I was trying to play it cool like I knew what I was doing with breastfeeding, but I was really panicking because it was the wrong consistency and color and I kept pumping and it just kept getting worse. I think I may have breastfeeding anxiety. I mean, I definitely do.
5. Rounding Third
Can you believe I’m just about in my third trimester? Maybe you can, because you only just learned I’m carrying a smol human in my body. But it feels like a big thing to me, like, we’ve been doing this for so long and we’re almost to the finish line! Also, oh holy mother of pearl, we’re almost to the finish line!
People keep asking me if I’m nervous about giving birth and it’s hard to answer. I’m not particularly nervous right now. I mean, human beings have been giving birth since we came to exist on the planet. It’s definitely doable. I feel like it’ll be fine, whatever happens. I’ll be ok. I’ll recover. I’ll figure it out. But I’m sure I’m going to be a little freaked once I actually start going into labor. That seems like a normal reaction to going into labor for the first time in your life and also to the possibility of having a very painful experience like, you know, your privates exploding. I doubt I’ll be feeling all casual about it, like, no worries, just making life with my body real chill like.
However, I wouldn’t say I’m stressing about it right now at this very moment in time.
I’m fairly close to that day, though. There’s about 20 million things I want to get done before my due date, before I’m in it with Baby T. Rex for life, ride or die. It’s weird how when you’re waiting for something, it feels like the waiting is forever, until it gets close and then it feels like you’re recklessly hurtling towards it.
Like when you’re going on a big trip and you can’t wait. You’re counting down the days. But then it’s hours before you leave and you still haven’t packed anything and you’re cramming all your shit in a bag, hoping you didn’t forget anything important as you rush out the door (to catch your flight to A-Camp). Or maybe that’s just me…
Either way, it’s going to be T. Rex time before we know it! Most days I’m not overthinking it, just doing my day-to-day and going down my to-do list and looking towards the next couple weeks ahead. Normal life. Then I have these brief moments of semi-panic and I remember that we did this thing for real and, like, what goes in must come out, if ya’ know what I mean. There’s no turning back now! This brand spankin’ new human being is going to come into the world real soon and it’s going to change everything.
Sometimes when I’m in that headspace, I turn to Waffle and randomly exclaim, “This is happening!” I should probably stop doing that as we get closer to, like, the possibility of me going into actual labor.
6. Things I’ve Googled In the Past Week:
- “armpit rash pregnant”
- “fetus kicked the cat”
- “gestational diabetes injera”
- “tea tree oil safe pregnancy”
- “first time breastfeeding tips”
- “best breast pump”
- “nipple piercings breastfeeding”
- “Korean children’s books”
- “nursing bra best for big boobs”
7. Cats in the Snoogle and the Silver Spoon
Jeter has taken up residence in my Snoogle. What, you ask, is the Snoogle? It’s an outrageously expensive (for a glorified body pillow) and also life-changing pregnancy pillow that is the sole reason I can sleep soundly at night. I’ve been a stomach sleeper my whole life and fairly early in my mid-first trimester, I needed to start sleeping on my side. It was extremely hard for me to retrain my brain to fall asleep on my side and stay that way all night. Also, I was waking up with a sore back and hips. I tried adding more pillows. I tried hugging a pillow all night. I tried gently lifting my stomach onto an extra pillow. I tried creating a fortress of pillows all around me. Nothing worked. Enter the Snoogle.
It’s basically a body pillow, but in a weird elongated C-shape kind of like an open paper clip. You curl up in the thing or straddle it or hug it or use it to support your back or marry it. All I know is it works. It’s very bad for my romantic life, because it creates a literal impenetrable barrier down the middle of the bed. If Waffle wants to cuddle, he has to spoon the Snoogle to get to me. If I want to cuddle, I have to launch myself over the thing to get to him. But the Snoogle is fabulous for getting a good night of rest. For me and for my cat, who thinks we got the Snoogle especially for him to curl up and snooze in. He’s such an entitled little asshole. Like he doesn’t already own every other sleeping surface in the house…
8. Baby Wearing, Not Something a Wealthy White Pediatrician Invented
I want to wear my baby. My mom used to wear my sister in a metal-framed back carrier. My sister’s adoption paperwork said (in rough English translation from Korean) that she “likes to be a backpack.” One of my earliest memories is playing in the backyard with my family on a sunny day, my mom doing yardwork with my little sister strapped onto her back.
Baby carriers have come a long way since then and have really picked up popularity in America since the introduction of “attachment parenting” by pediatrician and bestselling author, Dr. William Sears. Babywearing is a key component of attachment parenting theory and is said to be beneficial for forming a parent-child bond, promoting infant health, facilitating breastfeeding, reducing infant distress, etc. etc. etc. There are now babywearing mom groups and play dates and a plethora of carriers at different (mostly expensive) price points. Babywearing has practical benefits for parents, too, freeing up both hands to do chores and allowing more mobility without having to cart a carrier or stroller around all the time. These are all valid benefits of babywearing and part of the reason I’m interested, but I get really frustrated seeing image after image of babywearing as a modern white mommy thing.
One thing that Dr. Sears’ followers don’t often acknowledge is that babywearing isn’t a new idea or even a Western idea. Carrying a baby using a sling or wrap or carrier has been practiced all over the world long before it became popular in industrialized countries. It isn’t a cool new thing for hipster parents and eco moms and feminist dads. Women of color have been doing it for centuries.
In Korea, babies are traditionally been worn by the mother on the back in a podaegi (포대기). The baby is worn on the mother’s back so the mother and child’s hearts are in alignment and the baby can hear the mother’s heartbeat. I absolutely love that! I plan to wear my baby in the front (which is also common in modern-day Korea), but I love the idea that babywearing is part of my cultural tradition and not just something a white pediatrician invented to sell books in the 90’s. I plan to use a baby wrap, which seems like a good choice for my round belly and big chest and is similar in style to a podaegi.
The idea of wrapping your baby goes back to women of color and particularly indigenous cultures. Japanese women used to carry their babies wrapped in their obi sashes. Brown and black women across cultures and continents have been wearing their babies in cloth wraps for a long time. While it’s ultimately good that there is respect for a traditional and natural way of carrying and bonding with a baby, especially one often used by poor women, the “industry” of parenting has white-washed the concept of babywearing. Wraps and carriers are super expensive and marketed primarily to middle-class moms. If any acknowledgement is given to the cultures that babywearing comes from, it’s in the “ethnic” naming of techniques like “African-style babywearing.” Google it. Count how many pictures are of white moms v. brown moms.
I’m admittedly planning on getting one of those expensive baby carriers and fancy wraps. I believe babywearing really is beneficial for parents and for babies (though I’m not a devotee of attachment parenting). I just wish it wasn’t yet another thing that’s been whitewashed and commercialized in the “mommy industrial complex.” (Is that a real thing? I just made it up tongue-in-cheek, but I feel like it’s a real thing.)
9. A Moment of Appreciation for Pregnant Peoples with Kids and Single Parents
A good number of people I know are pregnant right now, too, and most of them are on their second or third kiddo. I just want to say that it’s incredible watching them do their thing. Just being pregnant is a lot to deal with on top of, you know, life. Doing it while also raising an additional small person is awe-inspiring. I have the luxury of taking a nap after work if I feel like it. They probably do not, particularly if they don’t have another parent or caregiver around to share the work of child-rearing. Maybe it seems easier the second or third time because you know what’s up, but having all this stuff happening to your body and being tired and stressed and being responsible for a little kid on top of it just seems like a lot. Big kudos, second-time parents and single parents!
10. Queer Mom and Dad Dino’s Last Babymoon
As you read this, we are on our way back from our last road trip to NYC for several months. We’ll be pretty firmly rooted closer to home for the rest of this pregnancy and, I imagine, several months after Baby T. Rex arrives. As I’ve mentioned before, Waffle and I went kind of out of control over the past two years indulging in grown-up experiences and (cheapskate, but fun) travel and lots and lots of things that will be less-accessible after we have a little one in tow.
Of course, we plan to keep doing things as a couple even after we have a wee T. Rex and there are lots of babysitting offers from family members, but I imagine things may shift for us once we have a kid. Once they’re old enough to travel with us, we may want to bring them on our little mini-vacations. We may be more inclined to save up to take them to cool kid-friendly places. I don’t know for sure, but I have a feeling our priorities will be different. Also, we’ll have a lot less discretionary income for these kinds of things.
So we’re living it up for one last weekend: seeing friends and shows (American Psycho on Broadway is one of them!); taking in a long, scenic drive from our home in Upstate NY to NYC; and partying it up (sober-style) one last time before it’s Dino Time!
It feels a little sad, like we’re saying goodbye to one era of our life as a couple and as individuals, but also like we are coming out on the other side a little more ready for the next chapter to begin. I think it’s going to be the best chapter yet!