Some good friends of ours were heading out of town last week and we stopped by to wish them well and give them some homemade zucchini bread for the road. We also gave them a handmade card with an ostrich race on the cover because at the moment it seemed to me that an ostrich race was a very good metaphor for life.
These friends, a lesbian couple with a two-year-old daughter, have been something of guides for us in this whole process of making and now caring for a baby. Their situation is similar to ours: they used a known donor via artificial insemination at the same hospital we used. Now they have a baby girl.
Before we even went to the hospital for our first consult, they gave us a run-down of what steps we would probably have to take and also gave us an estimate of the cost. They introduced us to the lawyer who had handled their second-parent adoption, the same lawyer who then handled ours. And after Marta got pregnant they gave us good advice: avoid all those crazy pregnancy books full of a gazillion and one potential complications or medical issues you might just have.
Then yesterday, when we were giving our final hugs before saying goodbye, one of the moms–the nonbiological one, like myself–gave me one last piece of advice, which has been incredibly helpful in a “Who Am I?” sort of way.
We had been talking about our roles as mothers and how, as non-biological mothers, we really do have a distinct position in the family. This is something I noticed from the beginning, but it has become increasingly clear as Nico gets older. When Marta was pregnant, as I wrote awhile back, it was a feeling of being kept out of some secret. So many changes were happening to Marta and all I could do was watch in wonder — and try to help out, of course.
After Nico was born, though, I just assumed I would start taking the role of mother. She is a baby with two moms, after all. And I am one of them. But what I have noticed as we move forward with this whole queer familía is how different my role is from Marta’s. I don’t breastfeed Nico, which is a huge difference.
But I also (and this might sound awful) don’t yet love Nico quite as fiercely as Marta does. I love her, of course. Just watching her get her vaccines the other day made me cry. And I actually, genuinely, look forward to changing her diapers. But there is something primal about the way Marta loves Nico. She carried her around for nine months, after all. Nico responds to the sound of her voice. When she breastfeeds she emits hormones from her head that make Marta feel high. While I’m lucky to get a fart-smile when I change her diaper.
So the advice my friend gave me that helped so much was to read another blog, one called Lesbian Dad. The extremely well written and also well photo-fied blog is the story of one non-biological mother’s life with her partner and their two children. She includes this definition of a lesbian dad:
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.
While not all of this holds true for me (I have never been much of a tomboy or a butch, though I did try for some years), some of it does. And just as claiming the word “lesbian” when I was in high school helped me settle in to the “different” feelings I was having then, learning this neologism “lesbian dad” has almost instantly made this whole experience a little more comprehensible.
Because, though I introduce myself as a mom to the doctor and to strangers who ask Nico’s age and to Facebook friends who comment on photos of her, when it is just Marta and me at home and she is breastfeeding and I am bringing her a bottle of water or cleaning up after the bath or (only sometimes) imagining somewhat wistfully that life I once had where I went out with friends and drank beers until 2 a.m. and talked about nonsense that made so much sense, or–perhaps more pointedly–when Marta hands me Nico and she starts to cry because I don’t have the smell or sounds or touch of the women who gave birth to her, in those times I do feel a wee bit like a dad. A lesbian dad.
If and when I finally have a baby myself, this will likely all change. But for now, I can’t tell you how comforting this one little term is. Or maybe it’s just realizing how many of me there are out there. And that, though we are not all the same, we are experiencing something kindred.
And speaking of parents, here is a shot Marta snapped of me as I was
taking care of Nico finishing a novel the other day. I think there’s some resemblance, no?