Since Waffle and I started this journey towards gestating a T. Rex, I feel like a lot of the attention has been on me. Medical providers look me in the eye at our appointments. Friends who are moms talk more to me than Waffle about baby stuff. Family on both sides inquire about how I’m doing, want to hear about my experiences. It makes sense. I’m the one going through a million weird physical changes and who has the most pressing health care needs and who spends 50% of my day emptying my bladder and who is writing about my experiences for Autostraddle. Quite frankly, I think Waffle is mostly happy to fly under the radar, but I think he also feels left out sometimes.
In our queer household, the addition of a child and the raising of children isn’t a “mom thing.” Baby-making isn’t even necessarily a “mom thing.” It’s just that I’m the one who’s able to carry. The decision was practical, not about gender roles. Waffle is just as much a part of the baby decisions we have made at every step of our process and he’s actually the one who’s most prepared to gush about baby clothes and toys and stuff. He’s the one who actually read the baby books.
Just as Waffle can’t understand all I’m going through as the gestational carrier, I can’t understand all he’s going through as the non-gestational and non-biological parent. To get a better perspective on Waffle’s experiences as a parent-to-be, I interviewed him about our pregnancy, from his perspective. I hope you enjoy this exclusive peek into my shy-boi-queer-dad’s brain space as we round the corner into IS THIS LABOR?! LAND.
KaeLyn: OK, so I want to talk to you about your experience as the non-gestational, non-biological, non-genetic parent to Remi, which is obviously specific to us in some ways, but also a common experience for queer families that make babies through IUI. So I guess I’d just start with: what does it mean for you to be a non-gestational parent? How do you feel like your relationship to Remi is different than mine, if it is?
Waffle: Well, we both have the same arms. So I’m probably going to have a better relationship with Remi.
KaeLyn: Because you have T. Rex arms?
Waffle: Yes. We’re both the same species.
KaeLyn: What species am I?
Waffle: I’m not sure. Not a T. Rex.
KaeLyn: I could be a T. Rex.
Waffle: No, you’re a triceratops.
KaeLyn: No, triceratops are lesbians. What’re the bisexual dinosaurs?
Waffle: I don’t know, but your big-ass head is a triceratops.
KaeLyn: I do have a triceratops head.
Waffle: Also, you’re stubborn.
Waffle: And you eat a lot of plants. You’re a triceratops.
KaeLyn: I guess I am… OK, moving on, do you ever feel like you get left out of the conversation around babies because I’m the carrier?
Waffle: I guess sometimes, but I’m anti-social so I don’t care.
KaeLyn: It doesn’t bother you that people focus so much on my right now?
Waffle: It is kind of about you right now. You’re pregnant. Remi isn’t here yet. I don’t know. I don’t need other people’s affirmations of my parenting potential.
KaeLyn: Do you feel like people treat you more like a “dad,” in a cisnormative way?
Waffle: Yeah. I don’t know how much that has to do with being [trans] so much as being the non-gestational parent. I think most non-gestational parents are treated like that, even if they are a mom or whatever.
KaeLyn: I know some of my lesbian friends who have kids [through pregnancy] feel like after they had the kids, their partner who was the gestational carrier gets treated like the “mom.” Like everyone wants to talk to their partner about parenting stuff and they feel like, I don’t know, like everything shifted and they get left out of the “mom club” and they become like the “other mom” vs. the “real mom.”
Waffle: Yeah, that’s a thing that happens.
KaeLyn: I just feel like there’s already a very a distinct difference in how people talk to me vs. how people talk to you. Like what kind of advice do you get from people?
Waffle: I don’t really.
KaeLyn: Next topic: I was super surprised that it mattered to me that Remi was Korean and that it mattered that they are biologically related to me. Just as an adoptee, I didn’t think that would be important, but once we decided to do IUI, it really was. And you were cool about that from the beginning.
Waffle: Yeah, it doesn’t matter to me.
KaeLyn: Why not?
Waffle: I’ll love Remi regardless and they’ll hopefully think I’m OK.
KaeLyn: Does it bother you that people will probably assume Remi’s adopted when you are out in public together without me? Or not your child?
Waffle: No, I don’t care what some stranger says.
KaeLyn: What are some of the challenging parts about being a non-gestational parent-to-be?
Waffle: I feel like you’re closer to Remi than I am right now.
KaeLyn: Because I’m physically carrying them?
Waffle: Yeah. Like for whatever reason, I haven’t been able to feel them kick externally as much. I don’t know if that’s just because they’re not as big as some other babies or because of how they’re positioned or what.
KaeLyn: I can feel them all the time, but it does seem like it’s harder for you to feel it.
Waffle: It is. I couldn’t feel them kick from the outside for a longer time than a lot of other people compared to friends or online or when most people seem to say they can feel them kick. It took a lot longer for me to feel it. I’ve only felt it a couple times.
KaeLyn: That’s not true. At least like a dozen.
Waffle: No. Definitely not.
Waffle: There’s been a lot of times where you’ve been like, “Can you feel it?” and me being like, “No.” It hasn’t been a ton. Definitely not a dozen.
KaeLyn: Really? That’s weird to me. I feel like you’ve felt it kick a lot.
Waffle: No, you’ve felt it kick a lot and I’ve said, “I don’t feel it. Nothing’s happening.”
KaeLyn: Does it make you feel jealous, like left out?
Waffle: Yeah, I guess it does.
KaeLyn: I know you used to say that Remi hated you…
Waffle: The jury’s still out on that one. [laughs]
KaeLyn: …because you couldn’t feel them kick for a long time. It’s funny because when they started kicking, I thought it felt so weird at first. I didn’t really like it so I was kind of negative about it until I got used to it. And meanwhile you wish you could feel it more.
Waffle: That’s been a little bit… I don’t know… sad.
KaeLyn: Yeah. I know you feel similarly about our decision that we both made to try to exclusively do breastfeeding at first.
Waffle: I’m sure I’ll appreciate it when I can sleep. [laughs]
KaeLyn: Ha. I’m open to mixed feeding or bottle feeding, but we both agreed it was best to try breastfeeding first. As you know I’m also super nervous about breastfeeding and that I’m going to be horrible at it and it’s going to be awful and painful.
Waffle: I don’t think there’s anything wrong with kids who aren’t breastfed. I think it’s perfectly fine to not breastfeed even if the reason is you just don’t have time or want to. But I do think… I have heard… it makes it harder if they get attached to a bottle very early to get them to go back to the breast. So I don’t want that to happen either. I’m looking forward to being able to feed them, too. And I can still get up and bring them to you for night feedings.
KaeLyn: It’s funny to feel like I have a closer physical relationship with them, which I agree I do, because I feel like you are more like emotionally bonded with Remi at this point than I am.
Waffle: That’s because we’re the same species.
KaeLyn: You fell in love from the moment we conceived, from the moment we saw that first ultrasound at seven weeks.
Waffle: Of course. You didn’t?
KaeLyn: Uh, I think you know I tried to keep more of an emotional distance for a while. Especially until we knew that it was going to stick. I don’t know if I’ll feel as strongly as you do until I actually meet them in-person. Even then, I don’t know if it will come right away.
Waffle: Yeah, I definitely love them already.
KaeLyn: What do you think is different for queer families or LGBTQ families where only one person is a gestational carrier? As compared to other situations where straight people might be in a similar position, like fertility issues or using a surrogate out of necessity or…?
Waffle: I think it’s more visible is a main difference.
KaeLyn: That’s a good point. I hadn’t thought about that. Like people will often assume that there was fertility treatment or adoption or something when they look at visibly queer couples like us?
Waffle: Yeah, a lot of straight people don’t tell other people if they’re having fertility issues.
KaeLyn: There’s more shame or stigma around it for straight people who can’t conceive.
Waffle: For us, though, people will just assume. The same way they’re maybe going to assume that Remi’s adopted because they won’t look like me. I think that’s the biggest difference, honestly.
KaeLyn: Is that why it doesn’t bother you that people are going to assume Remi is adopted?
Waffle: No, it doesn’t bother me because it doesn’t bother me. I’m never going to have biological children because I’m not willing to carry a child.
KaeLyn: Right, so you never imagined you’d have biological children. Like I didn’t either, but that’s for different reasons, because I’m adopted.
KaeLyn: I mean, there are ways. There’s “two-mom” IVF.
Waffle: Yeah, no, I’m terrified of needles.
Waffle: Like, a lot.
KaeLyn: I know, needles and snakes.
Waffle: Yeah, a snake holding a needle is my worst nightmare.
KaeLyn: I’m going to get a tattoo of a snake holding a needle.
Waffle: Don’t do it. We’ll get a divorce. I’m not kidding.
KaeLyn: What are your biggest fears about the pregnancy?
KaeLyn: Just “birth”? Can you be more specific? [laughs]
Waffle: It’s terrifying!
KaeLyn: Do you think you’re more scared about it than I am?
Waffle: Probably. Yeah. I get more scared than you about things in general. I have way more anxiety.
KaeLyn: I know. I like telling people we got the doula as much for you as for me, but it’s also totally true.
Waffle: Oh totally, yeah. We did. I will admit that. I don’t know what I’m doing. Babies are unpredictable and terrifying. I think I should probably be more scared of an actual baby and having to take care of it, but I don’t know… maybe that’s just like beyond the immediate fear realm. We haven’t gotten there yet.
KaeLyn: What’s one of your favorite things so far about being a parent to be?
KaeLyn: You’ve been doing a lot of shopping.
Waffle: I stopped shopping for myself, though! Remi’s going to be the best-dressed kid, ever.
KaeLyn: If by best dressed, you mean, “dressed like a dinosaur,” then yes.
Waffle: No, not just that. They’re going to be very fashionable! Have you seen their little knit sneakers?
KaeLyn: Yes, I have. Many pairs.
Waffle: They need lots of colors and lots of choices for their three-month-old feet.
KaeLyn: I feel like you’re a very not cisnormative dad in that way, like you’ve been really engaged in the whole process with doctors appointments and everything and you are definitely more into the buying clothes and decorating the nursery than I’ve been.
Waffle: Oh, the nursery was so fun to decorate.
KaeLyn: Yeah, I thought you were going to say that was your favorite part.
Waffle: That was pretty great, too. I’m going to change my answer.
KaeLyn: It goes along with the shopping.
Waffle: My Etsy history has blown up with dino stuff. I have a whole checkbook category now that’s “baby” because I feel like I should start keeping track.
KaeLyn: Oh my gosh.
Waffle: Though I don’t think I want to know… to actually look at it.
KaeLyn: As a non-gestational parent-to-be, what do you see as your role in our pregnancy?
Waffle: To support you. You’re doing all the work. The least I can do is not be a douchebag.
KaeLyn: Do you feel like you’ve been good at not being a douchbag?
Waffle: Do you feel like I’ve been good at not being a douchebag?
KaeLyn: Most of the time! I think the only time I felt unsupported was when you got upset about me having breastfeeding anxiety. I think my feelings were valid. I think your feelings were valid, too, but…
Waffle: Well, that’s because I was sad.
KaeLyn: Yeah, after you explained it, it made sense to me. Because it’s like a bonding thing you wish you could have in some way, without actually breastfeeding because you don’t want to breastfeed at all. Are you still upset about the breastfeeding thing?
Waffle: No. I get where you’re coming from, too. I always have. It just makes me sad sometimes that I’m not going to be able to have that time with Remi in the beginning. I look forward to being able to feed them, too.
KaeLyn: How has it been supporting me?
Waffle: Not that hard. You’re pretty easy.
KaeLyn: I am pretty easy. You’ve always said that. [laughs] I feel like sometimes there’s like…and I’m sure it’s like this for straight parents, too or even when both parents are biologically related..like one person is still the carrier. I feel like there’s a huge disconnect between my experience and your experience.
Waffle: It’s different. It’s just going to be different regardless.
KaeLyn: There’s thing I can’t understand about your experience and things you definitely can’t understand about mine.
Waffle: Yeah, I agree with that.
KaeLyn: Especially in the beginning, I felt like I was spending more time thinking about the pregnancy. I probably wasn’t, but I just felt that way because I felt, like, the physical burden of being pregnant, if that makes sense?
Waffle: I think you underestimate the amount of time I spend thinking about Remi.
KaeLyn: I think I do, too. Are you looking forward to getting your bed back [because of my huge pregnancy pillow]?
Waffle: It hasn’t been that bad. If we didn’t have a king-sized bed, I imagine it’d be a lot worse.
KaeLyn: I know sometimes you get sad that you can’t get to me because of the pillow.
Waffle: Well, yeah, because you can’t spoon me.
KaeLyn: Yes, it’s hard for a little spoon with a Snoogle between us.
Waffle: Now I just have to little spoon the cat on my own.
KaeLyn: Big spoon the cat. He’s your little spoon.
Waffle: Oh yeah, now I have to big spoon the cat on my own. I used to be the middle of the sandwich. Now my back’s lonely.
KaeLyn: You’re an open face sandwich now.
Waffle: I know and I hate it.
KaeLyn: So here’s another question, I never imagined being pregnant, so a lot of this is really new and weird to me, but you always imagined having kids. Has it been what you thought it would be?
Waffle: I totally stopped imagining [having kids] when we got together. You put the squash on that real quick.
KaeLyn: Yeah. I appreciate that you respected that about me and didn’t try to change my mind. What was it like when I brought up being open to having a kid?
Waffle: I believe I refused to talk to you for a day and then I cried.
KaeLyn: You didn’t refuse to talk to me. You just acted really weird.
Waffle: I think I walked away from you. I didn’t know how serious you were being. I thought you’d change your mind or that you hadn’t really thought it through. I didn’t want to get my hopes up.
KaeLyn: Why do you think it took us so long to get from the “open to” conversation to actually trying to get pregnant?
Waffle: I don’t know. Maybe we weren’t ready.
KaeLyn: I don’t know if I was.
Waffle: I imagine you needed some time to get your head around it once we figured out what we were doing.
KaeLyn: I feel like you needed to process it less than me. Is that fair?
Waffle: I don’t know. Maybe I didn’t need to process it as much, but I… this is going to sound shitty… but I think I needed time to trust you. That you were really ready to do this.
KaeLyn: No, that’s not shitty. It’s honest.
Waffle: I had to trust you weren’t going to change your mind.
KaeLyn: What’s your advice for other non-gestational queer parents-to-be? What would you tell someone else if they wanted to know what to prepare for?
Waffle: Don’t prepare too much because it’s nothing like what you think. There’s a lot of things that’re surprising. I think luckily we didn’t, but I think a lot of people go in with a lot of expectations around babymaking.
Waffle: They’re all lies.
KaeLyn: Like that it’s going to be intimate or something?
Waffle: Yeah, especially that. It’s very clinical. Just prepare yourself for lots of and lots of letdown. [IUI] worked on the third time for us and that’s pretty good.
KaeLyn: Yeah, that’s average [for IUI].
Waffle: Average is good. I strive for average.
KaeLyn: I could tell you felt left out during fertility treatment, even though you were always physically right there with me and holding my hand and stuff.
Waffle: I was trying to be there as much as possible, but I felt like I wasn’t doing anything helpful. I still feel like that. I’m trying to support you, but you’re doing all the work. I still feel like I’m not doing anything a lot of the time.
KaeLyn: Do you think that’s why you focus on the nursery and stuff?
Waffle: Maybe. Maybe I just have a shopping problem, too.
KaeLyn: [laughs] What are you most excited about?
Waffle: Holding little Remi and looking at their face for hours. I want to look at their sleepy, little, dumb baby face for hours. I already love them so effin’ much.
KaeLyn: I know. You love their fetus pictures.
Waffle: Well yeah, they’re the cutest fetus ever. Did you see the one of their brain? They’re smarter than the average fetus.
KaeLyn: You’re putting a lot of expectations on Remi.
Waffle: They’re not expectations, just facts.
KaeLyn: What do you think about when you think about having a baby?
Waffle: Not. Sleeping.
8 Random Baby-Making Feelings I’m Currently Over-Processing
1. Hard Femme and Boi-on-the-Go Diaper Bags
We made a packing list for our respective diaper bags this past weekend. We were going to share one diaper bag originally (the messenger style one). Then we realized that working opposite work schedules and having opposite baby-watching duties, it probably made sense for us to each have our own. Plus, I plan to also use mine as my purse so I don’t have to carry a million bags. One of our friends got me this very trendy and roomy diaper bag as a shower gift. I love the gold accents. It’s perfect!
2. Fun New Game: Are These Contractions or Is This Labor?
The Braxton Hicks contractions started in full force this past week. I think I may have been having painless ones before, when my stomach got really hard for a few seconds every once in a while. Now they feel more like menstrual cramps and last a little longer and happen more often. It’s a reminder that labor is just around the corner. Eek!
They’re definitely just practice contractions because they’re irregular and don’t increase in intensity or come significantly closer together. It’s really unbelievable that by the time the next installment of this column comes around (39 weeks), I could have a baby. Or I could still be pregnant until week 41 or later. Baby T. Rex is coming soon! I just wish we knew when!
3. Four Adorable Gifts for Remi That Made Us Absolutely Giddy
This is just a teeny-tiny sample of the amazing, funny, cute, ridiculous, awesome, and thoughtful gifts friends and family have given us. There’s no way we could give props to every single amazing and generous gift for Remi. This kid is already so spoiled and loved!
4. Things I’ve Googled in the Past Week:
- korean newborn [image search]
- how long can false labor last
- gestational diabetes early or late birth
- what do contractions feel like
- questions for doula
- best newborn toys
- first time pregnancy carrying low
- braxton hicks or baby moving
5. Function Over Fashion: Building My (Hard Femme) Nursing Wardrobe
I’ve tried not to buy a ton of maternity clothes because they’re fairly expensive and also because I already have plenty of non-maternity clothes that work well enough over my baby belly. I’ve been living in stretchy dresses all summer.
I’m planning to breastfeed, though, and I felt I needed some nursing basics for when I have to leave my house, at least until I get more comfortable breastfeeding in public and/or because other people are awkward about people with boobs in public. I picked up some really basic tanks and tops on sale from Motherhood Maternity.
I also wanted some functional and comfortable nursing bras, particularly one to pack in my hospital bag. My nursing bras aren’t even a little cute, but they’re damn comfy. I’ve been wearing them every day already just because they’re so soft and wide and generous. They don’t really support me the same way my regular underwire bras do (big boob problems). They also don’t completely smush me the way a sports bra does. It’s more like a slightly saggy uniboob situation and I’m feeling just fine about it. Comfort is my number one goal at this point.
If you’re wondering how nursing bras are different than regular bras, they either pull to the side or have clip-down cups that flip down for nursing. (I know that sounds like it could be sexy, but it’s very not.)
6. The Library is Open: Waffle’s Latest Obsession, Inspired By My Mom
My mom is a retired first grade teacher and she started buying us children’s books with corresponding stuffed animals. Waffle became enamored with the concept and went on a spree of finding books and stuffed animals for Remi’s library. Here’s where we’re at so far between my mom and Waffle’s finds:
7. The Privilege of Parenting
I’m seeing more and more of my queer community opting in to having kids and it’s great. I’m still hyper-aware that it’s a privilege to be able to make parenting decisions. There is no affirmative right to parent, though there should be. When I was working as a community organizer in the reproductive justice field, I became really passionate about the right to parent. We talk so often about the right not to parent, the rights of people to make their own decisions about abortion, birth control, etc. As we should. Those rights are being constantly threatened and they are vitally important.
We are much less comfortable, even in reproductive rights activism, with the idea of people having an affirmative right to parent. We get squirmish about the right of teen moms and parents to choose to parent, about incarcerated women and people’s rights to parent, about the rights of pregnant people who are recovering from addiction to parent, about poor people as parents. As we think about and talk about the rights of LGBTQ people to parent, we can’t forget that so-called “traditional family values” impact not just our rights, but those of many people who are considered “unfit” or “undesirable” as parents simply for being who they are or because of their life circumstances. It’s all related.
Adoption costs and fertility treatments are still not covered for many queer and/or trans people who want to parent. Surrogacy is still unprotected by law in many states. DIY insemination is still not protected by law in many states. It’s still just something that’s outside of many people’s financial means. Class, race, and economic discrimination still play a huge part in who is allowed to pursue parenting decisions in addition to sexual orientation and gender discrimination.
This column is often glib and cutesy and I don’t mean to be a downer, but as more and more of our LGBTQ communities move towards growing our families with children, I really believe we have to stay vigilant. We can’t let this become another way that queers get drawn into the mainstream heteronormative narrative. Being queer married and queer family-making still feels like a semi-radical act to me and I want it to stay that way, in large part by holding up the intersectional values that come with making and sustaining a queer family.
8. Tiny Stomach, Tiny Appetite
Baby T. Rex is literally crushing my organs, including my stomach. I imagine this is what gastric bypass feels like (though, like, probably not). For the last couple weeks, I’ve rarely been interested in food, which is super unusual. I’m lucky I’m still on the diabetes diet or I’d probably forget to eat at all. I get full so quickly. Whenever Waffle asks me what I want to eat, I groan. Nothing sounds very good. Except pickles. I can still eat pickles any time of day.