Wednesday, March 27, 2013

#loveislove

It's "Wordless Wednesday," but I can't be wordless about this.

Unless you've been living under a rock, you know that the Supreme Court has heard arguments over the last two days regarding the legality of gay marriage. Yesterday's hearing was about Proposition 8 in California, while today's was focused on the Defense of Marriage Act.

I find it a little strange that, in 2013, we are still having to argue for fundamental rights in this country. In fact, I find it strange that we have human rights issues, period. We live in a nation that was founded on the separation of church and state and the belief that all men were created equal, but we don't treat each other this way. We've persecuted others for the color of their skin, their sexuality, their gender . . . counting our differences rather than taking note of how we're similar. This is what we do, as a society. We judge others who are unlike us and we determine whether those individuals are worthy of the same rights we have.

One of the central issues in the gay marriage debate turned to the relationship between procreation and marriage. (If you haven't seen it yet, check out Mel's post and this article on how infertility came up in several of yesterday's remarks.) Two men or two women raising a child together. In the harsh words of Justice Scalia:

"If you redefine marriage to include same-sex couples, you must -- you must permit adoption by same-sex couples, and there's -there's considerable disagreement among -- among sociologists as to what the consequences of raising a child in a -- in a single-sex family, whether that is harmful to the child or not. Some states do not -- do not permit adoption by same-sex couples for that reason."

We have many gay and lesbian friends. However, we met two of our closest friends through our adoption social worker. They were married about a week before we were - in Canada, because they are unable to marry here. Like many couples, gay or straight, they wanted to be parents. They were lucky enough to find some amazing resources here in Florida who helped them navigate the adoption process and who brought them to their son.

Their son is 18 months old now. He is a healthy, happy little boy with TWO loving, amazing parents. They were two of our biggest cheerleaders and supporters through our adoption process. Since K was born, we've leaned on them often for parenting advice, as well.

I don't view them any differently than any other married couple with kids that we know. Except in those moments when they tell us crazy stories about people's remarks or the paperwork they needed to go through to do the basic things that most of us take for granted. Imagine trying to explain to a social security worker that you are BOTH the parents of your child. Or a hospital worker that it doesn't matter who you put down under "mother's name" or "father's name" because you just both need to be on the paperwork as PARENTS.

Both of them have great senses of humor about all of it, and we've laughed with them about some of the things they've gone through as two men parenting in a state where gay marriage isn't recognized and where adoption by gay couples isn't technically "legal." But deep down, it's not funny. I mean, we know we're equal. We share loves of sushi, beer, travel, and Disney. We get together and bitch about work or politics. We talk about poop and daycare germs and watch our kids grow together. But the government looks at their family and then looks at ours, and they say we aren't equal. So many members of our society do the same. How is that right? How is that embracing the values our nation was founded upon?

It's not.

I've been thinking of them and all of our friends who identify as LGBT these last two days. I've teared up reading some of the wonderful things people have posted on social media in support of the LGBT community. And I've been trying to stay hopeful. I don't know how SCOTUS will rule on Prop 8 or on DOMA. It will be a long three months of waiting. But I know what I want them to rule. I know I want them to do right by our friends - all of them. I know I want them to honor our nation's past and set the precedent for the future.

One where we are all recognized as equal . . . not one where we just pretend we are.

Monday, March 25, 2013

making memories

My great aunt Claire passed away early last week. She was the last living member of her generation on my mom's side of the family.

I miss my grandparents a lot, and think of them often - maybe more so now that I wish they were here to see K. Deaths like these in my family remind me of how long they've been gone. My grandparents passed away before I graduated college. My mom's parents didn't even live to see any one of my cousins or me get married. I always look at other people's wedding and baby photos, and I envy that their grandparents are alive to be a part of these wonderful occasions.

I wish K had some of the same experiences I had growing up with my grandparents, like going to the Jersey shore. My Pop-Pop would take me into the ocean - past the waves. It's here where I became a strong swimmer. My Mom-Mom and I would collect shells. I still have a glass jar full of them on my dresser.

At their house, my Mom-Mom and I would play the piano together. Last year, when the iPad mini came out, this commercial made me tear up every time because my Mom-Mom and I would play Heart & Soul together. My Pop-Pop would play the clarinet. Or he would turn on some music, and we would dance together in the living room - my feet on his, because I was too small and uncoordinated to keep up.

I remember always cutting through the dining room on the way to and from their kitchen, most likely to fetch someone a beer from the fridge, just so I could steal one of the Andes mints that Mom-Mom kept out for Pop-Pop. I swear, I ate hundreds of those things as a child.

Playing in my grandparents' basement with my cousins. Making pasta. Watching Phillies and Eagles games in the living room. Going for walks around the neighborhood, my Pop-Pop with his golf club in hand. Listening to stories about the Coast Guard, Sinbad, and the War. K will never get to make these same memories with them.

She'll make new ones with her grandparents. Maybe she'll make some of the same ones, or similar ones. I don't know, but I look forward to that. I look forward to reliving some of those moments with her and with my parents and Joey's. And while she's running around on the beach with her grandparents, I'll think of the times I had with mine - and hope that, wherever they are, they're watching.

Monday, March 18, 2013

no means no

"They found those kids guilty in Steubenville," Joey said to me yesterday, as we were sorting through clean clothes in our bedroom.

"Good," I replied as I rolled K's tiny pairs of socks together and began to fold her freshly-laundered onesies.

As I continued to put away clean laundry, I stared at my daughter who was giggling and rolling around on the comforter - occasionally picking up a clean item of clothing and throwing it across the bed.

My mind flashed back to a moment ten years ago. I was 17 years old and drunk, locked in the bedroom of a friend's house with a male acquaintance, who was also drunk.

Yes, he said.

NO, I emphasized. I fought, pushing his arms off of me, his beer breath nearly inducing vomit.

I yelled no louder the second time, and heard a loud bang on the door. I shoved his arms aside once more and managed to give myself enough cushion this time to get away from his grasp and make it to the door, unlocking it. Several more friends stood on the other side, male and female.

"What the fuck, man," one of them said to him. "I could hear her saying no."

I know how lucky I am. I also know how stupid I was. I shouldn't have allowed myself to get drunk and lose control with people I didn't necessarily trust. It didn't matter, though. It still doesn't. Even if I wasn't coherent enough to say no, or fight my way to the door, or lucky enough to have friends who cared, I wasn't a willing participant.

It's easy for people to say that the girl in the Steubenville case shouldn't have had that much to drink. Or that she shouldn't have put herself into a position where something bad could have happened. It's all easy for people to say this because we're adults. We've lived more of our lives than she has. We understand how the world works, and what a dangerous and scary place it can be.

I think back to that night ten years ago, and I know how she feels. We all do. We know what it's like to be young and innocent. To think, "Those bad things I see on the news can't happen to me." To think that people will have your back or respect your wishes when they clearly won't. To drink too much to impress your friends or the guy you like. To feel good about yourself because the guy who likes you is interested in you, and surely it's not because he thinks he can have sex with you.

What happened to me ten years ago has happened to many of us. What happened to the girl in Steubenville is the worst outcome - the hellish ending to those nightmare stories that many of us want to forget.

I look at my daughter as I sort piles of her tiny clothes, and I know I will tell her this story one day. I will force myself to repeat the events of that night if it means instilling just a tiny bit of awareness in her.

What I don't know is that if other parents will have similar talks with their children. I don't know if other parents will teach their children about respect and boundaries, or about how no means no. I don't know if I will be raising a teenage daughter in a society that still blames the victim for her choices rather than persecutes the attacker for his.

I've pushed that night so far into the back of my mind, because it's not something that's easy to think about. It's scary. It's embarrassing, even though it shouldn't be. I shouldn't have gotten drunk, but it doesn't matter: he shouldn't have pushed the limits. He shouldn't have forced himself on me. He shouldn't have kept trying after I'd made it clear that I wasn't interested. I know now that it wasn't my fault. I wonder if he knows that.

And I wonder if the young men in Steubenville understand that now, too.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

baby steps

This is a baby-related post. Please feel free to skip if you are not comfortable reading.

I feel like every time I turn around, another month goes by and I'm writing another update post on K. Soon, she won't be a baby anymore.

For so long, I wanted this tiny little baby to hold in my arms. And don't get me wrong, the tiny stage was adorable. I still get emotional looking at premie clothes. I think to myself, "I can't believe she was ever this small." But I love the stage we are in right now. Her personality develops more each day, and it's fun to interact with her and watch her grow. Her laugh is contagious, and I can't wait to see what new thing she does next.

And, with each day that passes, I see myself healing a little more. I'm making a conscious effort with this, to move forward. I don't want to forget my journey, but I want to make sure my focus is on what I have instead of my journey to get what I have. I think this is most of the reason behind why I can't see us going through infertility treatments or even the adoption process again. I simply don't want K to suffer for it.

Both processes took so much away from me. Infertility wore me down physically, mentally, and emotionally. I was a bruised and battered version of myself when we started down the path toward adoption. We were ready to throw in the towel when we got the call. I can't imagine going through the motions all over again, this time with a daughter to care for. It doesn't seem fair to her. I promised her birth mother, and her, all of me. If we started toward baby #2, I don't know if I could still be that "whole" person for her. It's been hard enough as is these last 8 months to heal my wounds and be a mom at the same time.

I admire people who can go through it all over again. I admire those who jump back into treatments or adoption, facing their fears and (in so many cases) conquering them. Maybe I'm a coward for not being able to face these fears. Maybe I'm playing it safe for saying, "No more."

But, for me, I'd rather play it safe than not and have my heart broken again. I endured so much pain, and I don't know that I could put myself through more. I can honestly say that I'm now at a place where I am happy. Life still likes to throw me curve balls - dealing with issues like sickness and daycare changes. But I'd rather have all of these bumps in the road with K than without her.

My healing is well underway.

Friday, March 8, 2013

8 months

If you missed my last post, please check it out and consider giving your thoughts about Advocacy Day. Your input is important to ensuring that we make this day the best it can possibly be.

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This is a baby-related post. Please feel free to skip if you are not comfortable reading.

Weight & Length: We don't have her next official weight and length check until 9 months. However, K has been sick so much this month that she hasn't gained a single ounce - at least not according to her last doctor's appointment on Wednesday. (She's had an ear infection in both ears since late January.) We have one final dose of antibiotics via shot today. If her ears have not improved since they last saw her on Wednesday, she will need tubes. :(

Sleeping: Sleep isn't happening much because of the ear infections. On the days where the infection hasn't been bad, she'll sleep through the night - about 10 hours straight. But on the bad nights? Even co-sleeping doesn't calm her down. Poor girl is tired almost all the time. So are mom and dad!

Eating: She's still averaging about 4 ounces each bottle and around 20 to 22 ounces a day. She's eating more solids with each passing week. Right now she takes about 8 tablespoons of oatmeal a day, plus at least one pouch of fruits and veggies (sometimes two pouches, depending on her mood). We are going to start finger foods this weekend.

Diapers: We are still using cloth diapers at home, but daycare will only do disposable. So we are using Huggies Natural Care there, and she's still in a size 2. However, we are switching daycares next week due to some issues with her current school. The new school does accomodate cloth diapers, and I am very excited about this.

Clothing: She is wearing some 6-month and some 6-9 month. I'm hoping the finger foods and solving the ear infections will help her put on some pounds and get her bumped up to the 9 month size.

Personality: Despite being sick for almost the entire month, her personality remains the same: happy as could be. She has taken up our love for music. We don't allow her to watch TV (in fact, it's almost never on when she's awake), but we play music all the time. She loves everything from The Beatles to The Foo Fighters. And she dances! She will bounce up and down while one of us stands her up, and she will do it until she can't hold herself up anymore. It's hilarious. I see dance classes in her future.

Milestones & Firsts: Between 7 and 8 months, K had her first Groundhog Day, watched her first Super Bowl, had her first hospital visit (boo), got her first two teeth in (the bottom front teeth), and celebrated her first Valentine's Day. She's also scooting every which way now but forward. Her favorite way to "move" at the moment is round and round in circles. I predicted a while back that she would crawl by 9 months and walk by 1 year. We're about to find out if I'm right.

Monday, March 4, 2013

my own

Over the weekend, the "TODAY Moms" page on Facebook started a discussion based on this article about Giuliana Rancic's comments regarding placing marriage first and children second. I thought it was an interesting question, so I began following it closely. It wasn't long before someone made a comment related to the fact that Giuliana did not carry her child:

i love my husband, who is NOT my kids father. I will always love him, but my kids will always be my first and foremost. I think the situations can differ based on the family dynamic. blended family vs. traditional, etc. I know people who adopt children will disagree with me, but I think there's something to be said for physically carrying your own biological child in your own body and giving birth to it that also changes the dynamic. I know Giuliana and Bill's child IS their biological child, but she didn't carry it. I know, people are gonna hate over this comment, but it makes a difference in my opinion.

It shouldn't surprise me anymore when people make comments like this regarding surrogacy and adoption, and yet it does. I will never stop being shocked by the difference that people perceive exists between carrying a child and birthing one.

I haven't been a parent for long - just over 8 months. I didn't have much notice before my daughter "arrived" in my life, either. I don't pretend to be an expert on this subject. Yet, I have never felt there is or should be this divide between carrying a child and birthing one. Because, to me, my child is "my own."

She doesn't share my DNA. She doesn't look like me. She doesn't share my fair skin, blue eyes, and red hair. We have different eyes, different smiles, different hair. We are not made of the same material. But I am the woman who holds her when she cries. I am the woman who feeds her when she's hungry. I am the woman who changes her diapers. I am the woman who provides for her, who clothes her and keeps a roof over her head. I am the woman who protects her and looks out for her safety. I am the woman who dries her tears.

I will be there when she walks for the first time (I hope). I will be there on her first day of school, to kiss her scraped knee when she falls off of her bike for the first time. I will be there when she gets her ears pierced. I will be there when she has her first crush, when that first crush breaks her heart. I will drop her off for her first sleepover - and worry about her the entire time. I will teach her to drive (or maybe Joey will). I will take her to visit colleges. I will cheer her on as she walks across the stage at her high school graduation. I will be there if/when she gets married and if/when she has children - regardless of the way she chooses to become a mother.

How is this any different from what any other mother does?

I can cook dinner fairly well. Does that mean I should be a chef? No. I can change a tire on a car. Does that mean I should be a mechanic? Definitely not. Anyone can grow a baby. This isn't some magic superpower. It doesn't somehow make you a different mother or a better mother than those of us who became parents in a different way.

No, I don't have the stretch marks or the scars of carrying her for 8 months. Someone else bears those scars. I didn't have 8 months of feeling her move inside my belly. She didn't have 8 months of hearing my heart beat. Biologically, my daughter is someone else's. Her birth mother is, and forever will be, her first mother - and she will always be welcome in our lives. However, this doesn't make ME less of a parent. Or a different parent. I am my daughter's mother, and she is my child. Her not sharing my genes doesn't change my family's dynamic. It doesn't make me any more or less willing to put her needs before anyone else's needs.

She is "my own." Regardless of how society views it.