23 Weeks to Birth: The Countdown to Baby T. Rex Saga (and a final update from K&W)

Hi

old friends and new!

Since we stopped actively updating QFM, a lot has happened. We continue to get hundreds of hits per month from all over the U.S. and world, so we’ll keep the site up until it stops being relevant or helpful. Since we started on this path, we’ve met more and more queer families making parenting decisions and the procedures themselves are becoming more accessible to folks with limited income. We’ve still got a lot to fight for to make the decision to parent or not to parent accessible to all!

Another thing that happened since we’ve last updated the blog is that KaeLyn blogged through her pregnancy for Autostraddle, where she’s a staff writer. We’ve included the links to that whole series here! Enjoy! We are so grateful for the people we connected with through this blog and the path it sent us on as parents. ❤ K&W

(Countdown to Baby T. Rex Links below the jump)

Continue reading

My Top Five Promises to My Queer Childfree Friends

This post is by K.

Up until recently, I identified as childfree by choice. Even though my life circumstances and my personal decision have shifted, I have a lot of warm feelings and a deep understanding of the joys and principles of being childfree. I still contend that I wouldn’t do this on my own, that my relationship with W and his desire to actively parent, and the strength of our relationship are huge pieces of this decision.

Since I’m in my 30’s and this is the era of baby explosion for my generation, I’ve also watched a lot of my friends become parents and witnessed how their lives have changed. There’s a lot of fluffy mommy pieces on the internets about childfree folks vs. parents and, while it’s sometimes funny, it smacks of blatant sexism. Yeah, we need to build affinity with people like ourselves and absolutely, we all deserve respect, but we are battling this BS patriarchy together, whether that is by opting out of kid-having or raising awesome kids. So here’s my revised version of that top ten list. With a queer angle.


My Top 5 Promises to My Queer Childfree Friends

1) I won’t ever ask why you don’t have kids or when you are going to have them.

For queer people, especially, this is a really loaded assumption. For one, even if we want kids, it is not as easy as hopping into bed for many of us. (Of course, that method does work for some queer folks!) Also, some of us grew up in times or places when having kids as a queer or trans* person just was not a thing you could do. Or we have kids from a previous relationship, before we came out, and they are no longer in our life. Compulsory marriage and kid-having is a thing of the heterosexual world. Let’s not conform to that BS in queer communities.

2) I will continue to include you in my life.

Sure, shared experience is helpful. It’s why community is so important. I will probably make some new friends that have the shared experience of child-raising with me, but I will still need and want my close friends who share other experiences and identities with me. I will still be the person who wants to talk about politics and feminisms and theory, about pop culture and reality TV, about work and life issues. I also don’t want to relegate you to some obsolete pod of non-parent-friends and only do baby stuff with my parent friends. I want you in my life, in every way. In fact, I’m going to need childfree people in my life more than ever that keep it queer and keep it real while navigating the very heteronormative world of “mom-ness.” Please come over and talk about non-baby stuff with me and baby stuff, too.

3) I won’t act like my life is way harder than yours. 

Because that is some ridiculousness. Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s gonna’ be pretty challenging and there will be days I feel like it’s the hardest thing ever, keeping a kid alive and healthy. But that doesn’t mean that you have it easy or that your problems are not just as hard or hard in a different way. This is not a competition. This is not “the struggle is real” Olympics. Let’s support each other through the hard times, like we always have, OK?

4) I promise not to take it personally if you don’t invite me out.

I’m going to have a live human person who needs me 24/7. For a while, this may make it hard to hang like we used to. However, I know this is about my life, not yours. If you choose not to invite me to things (like bars or late-night hangs or last-minute movies) because it’s damn obvious that I won’t be able to come, I will not take offense. I will take it as a sign of respect that you get that my schedule has changed. If you do still invite me, that is really awesome, too. I’m going to assume best intentions all the way around. Let’s both assume best intentions all around.

5) I will still be there for you, even if my life and priorities have shifted.

My kid is going to be my #1, obviously, but that doesn’t mean you’re not my #2 (OK, my #3 if Waffle is still around, which he probably will be). Will I still be able to dash out of the house to bring you coffee? No, probably not. But it is 2015 and there is chat and texting and Skype and a million ways to connect. I may have more strains on my time and energy, but for my closest, bestest friends, I will always have time for you. I’ll make the time. Just be patient with me if I have to go check on a crying infant halfway through our conversation.


If we are successful in all this, we could have a babe at this time next year. And I imagine it will be absolutely ridiculously more hard than I could ever imagine. I bet it’ll be surprising in a lot of ways. I may fall off the face of the earth for a little while as I figure out how life works with this additional person in it. But I don’t think that means we have to forget about each other. I don’t plan to “close a chapter” on my childfree friends. I don’t plan to graduate into “true womanhood” vis a vis my uterus. Let’s not let the patriarchy tear us down like that, OK?

“Mommy” and Me

This post is by K. I’m getting crushed at work lately. Just totally crushed. Doing awesome activist and progressive work that I’m proud of, but feeling like it’s hard to get back to center. Work/activism is my #1. As we keep moving down this path towards eventually trying to get knocked up (which should start late summer/early fall of this year), I get closer and closer to having to make work-life balance decisions that I’m sort of dreading. One of the reasons I planned to be childfree by choice is that I have created a life where work is my primary goal. Not just work, but work to advance goodness in the world–advocacy and activism. My mom used to say, “KaeLyn is always rooting for the underdog!” because I would try to reform the bad kids in my kindergarten class or help the loner kids that other kids made fun of. Helping others, serving needs greater than my own, is important to me. Up until recently, I didn’t see myself having kids because I didn’t see how that would fit with the other priorities in my life. I barely make time for myself. How could I make time for a kid? If I had to rank how I spend my time it’d be like this:

  1. Work – primary job
  2. W time
  3. Work – second job (seasonal)
  4. Family & Friends
  5. Volunteer work (3 nonprofit boards, mainly)
  6. Self time (tv & netflix, internet, coffee breaks)
  7. Sleep?
  8. Self time (meaningful stuff like creative writing and reading–that I rarely do)

I know I’m going to have to slow down for a bit. Even though W wants to be the daytime parent and will split the work evenly with me, if not slightly more (I proposed a 60/40 split. LOL.), I will have to back off. I am lucky to have a job where bringing a kid to work, on occasion, wouldn’t be a big deal. But right now, I often have an evening meeting every night of the week. And those aren’t social meetings. Those are work and volunteer work meetings. I am going to have to quit at least 1 board. I am going to have to scale back my 2nd job. But I’m unwilling to give it all up. I don’t believe that makes me selfish. I think I’ll be a better parent and role model because of it. I applaud stay-at-home parents and I think they are deeply undervalued in our society.  Personally, I would not be happy in that role. I have a lot of privilege and comfort in my life and I want to use that to make meaningful change, to amplify the voices of those who do not have the kind of safety and privilege I have, to make things a bit better for my future kid and everyone else.

A close friend who I hadn’t seen in a while recently asked me if I was getting more comfortable with the idea of being a mommy (see my previous post on my mommy issues). It’s a hard question for me to answer. I am becoming much more comfortable with the idea of having a kid with W, and the idea of being a parent. Forever. I am getting more and more excited about it every day. In fact, these days, I’m more worried that we won’t be able to conceive than anything else. I am meeting and talking to more queer parents who added kids to their families or are trying to in multiple ways. That is really exciting, too. I am imagining a future with a kid, with W, and it will be super fun. Do I feel like I’m more comfortable with the idea of being a mommy? Ugh. The word “mommy” still sounds heavy to me. Sound like gendered expectations. Sounds like people getting up in my business about pregnancy and parenting decisions that are no one else’s business. Sounds like people assuming things about W and me because we look like a heteronormative couple.

Like with all of my identities, being a mom is an identity that I get to own–nobody else gets to tell me what it means. Only I can decide that. I need to own it the way I own being bisexual, queer, Korean-American, adopted, a women, a feminist, a vegan, an activist. I can be all those things and also be a mom. I can be a mom without being a “mom.” There is power in that knowledge. I am trying to remember it. I also need to accept that the “mommy stuff” exists. I will be affected by it. People will try to define it for me. And sometimes, maybe I will even play into that stereotype. When I told another close friend, who is also childfree by choice, that W and I had made a decision to plan for a future kid, she jokingly said, “I can’t wait for the first time you get up at a rally or press conference for some progressive issue and say, ‘As a mother…'” I laughed because she is totes right. I am totally going to milk that sh*t when it makes sense to to advance one of my causes. So I’m bracing myself. I’m going to give up some of my work priorities to spend more time as a parent, as a mom. I’m going to make life decisions differently because I’m a mom. Having a kid will affect me in ways that I can’t even begin to imagine now. I know that and I’m thrilled to see what is ahead. Some people (who do not know me at all) will see this as the natural order of things–that I gave in to my maternal instinct, that I changed my mind, or whatever nonsense. I will know that’s not true for me, but I don’t need to feel silenced by other people’s assumptions. I know who I am. W knows who I am. Future kid will know who I am. And that is enough. So yes, I guess I am becoming more comfortable with the idea of being a mommy.

Lesbians are Not Better Parents a.k.a. Put Down that (Racist, Classist) Study Right Now

Every time some new study (like this or this or this) comes out that praises lesbian parents for being the cream of the crop, we look at each other and groan. Inevitably, this study spawns many posts and articles, which then clog up our Facebook walls with self-righteous shares. Don’t get me wrong. Same-gender couples have a reason to want to prove themselves. There’s a lot of hate out there and, especially when it comes to the fight for marriage equality, the issue of same-gender couples not being acceptable or safe parents comes up over and over. The stereotype about predatory LGBTQ pedophiles is still out there, deeply rooted in some parts of the U.S. and world. We have reason to celebrate being declared not only fit to parent, but better at it.

Cue the music:

OK, I get it. But let’s shine a brighter light on those studies. As the researchers themselves will often assert, the study conclusions are more about the lack of difference between same-gender and different-gender parents than anything else. The success of lesbian parents is less about inherently being better people (Of course, we are, but you know…forget that for a second) and more about the kind of lesbian parents who are studied. For the 2010 study that got a lot of attention, the subjects were studied for 25 years. The study originated in 1986. If you were alive back then, think back to 1986. Remember where queer and trans* rights were in 1986. Or, rather, were not. 1986 is the year that the SCOTUS upheld Georgia’s sodomy laws, which banned oral or anal sex between “homosexuals.” It is the year that Surgeon General published the first government publication on AIDS and safer sex practices for gay men. It is the year after Rock Hudson died of AIDS and the year before ACT UP was founded. Yup, that’s 1986.

On top of this, the 2010 study only looked at a sample of parents who used artificial insemination to have kids. OK, now remember all we know about the cost of insemination procedures. Yeah, some of the parents may have used the turkey baster method, but more likely is that they were recruited for the study because they were inseminated by a fertility specialist. And that costs big bucks. It also means the couples were relatively young because they were able to conceive through insemination.

It also didn’t take into account the many same-gender couple who are raising kids from previous relationships, who got pregnant accidentally or on purpose through sex with a partner, or who are single and LGBTQ. Many of the folks I know who are LGBTQ parents have kids from previous relationships or partners–especially those who came out later in life. I only know a handful who conceived through fertility treatment. Those I do know have done so in the last decade or so, as LGBTQ rights have come a long way, as well as reproductive technology.

So who, in 1986, was able to, with their same-gender lesbian partner, have access to artificial insemination? Middle and upper class lesbians, mainly. Most likely, though I haven’t seen this data, they are probably college-educated and mostly white. The author of the study admits that the studied group was not geographically or socially diverse and suggests future studies try to correct this.

Studies like this are important to prove that queer and trans* parents are just as capable of raising kids as heterosexual couples. This info is necessary to combat the stereotype of the superior “traditional family.” However, writing a headline or status update that basically says that same-gender couples are better parents is not really true. Or at least, that hasn’t been proven. It ignores that these studies are looking at a small and very privileged few.

There-is-no-normal

From the awesome Strong Families Movement–Click on image to check them out!

What it may prove may have more implications for reproductive justice than lesbian and gay rights. It may show that families where pregnancies are planned and wanted have more successful parenting outcomes–even more reason we should support and fund the health care people need (contraception, abortion, fertility care, etc) to plan pregnancy. And even more reason we should support parenting options like adoption–especially for same-gender couples who want kids but can’t get pregnant (by choice or by chance). It may prove that talking openly with your kids about self-identity and issues like sexual orientation and gender identity result in better parenthood outcomes. It may prove that relying less on outdated gender stereotypes results in emotionally healthier kids. Of course, we need different studies to prove these things, but if we want to draw sweeping conclusions, these conclusions make more sense than “Hey Conservatives! Gays are better parents than you!

Even more troubling than making the sweeping conclusion is what it means when you create a higher standard of parenting for LGBTQI parents. Based on a standard set by very privileged LGB couples. The pressure to be perfect LGBTQI people and couples is already out there–the pressure to be normal, to have healthy relationships, to not make us look bad to the public or each other. But the reality is that our communities experience intimate partner violence at about the same rate as heterosexual couples. You can bet that child abuse, unfortunately, does happen in households with one or more LGBTQI parents. Let’s not sugarcoat the truth in the quest to be seen as valid and capable parents. Let’s not forget that there are many LGBTQI parents who live in poverty, who have children from previous relationships or partners, or who are single parents. Let’s not forget that class and race play a part in how we frame same-sex parenting…and how we make invisible members of our own community.

Try Not to Be Weird

This post is by K.

Sitting in the driveway in my car, early autumn, W in the passenger seat, engine off:

Me: “I think [having kids] is going to be a super interesting project. Like, probably the most interesting project I ever take on.”

W: “Uh, K…you can’t call kids a ‘project.’ It’s weird.”

Me: “But it is going to be a cool project. I mean, really. Because, you know…I’m not necessarily excited about having a kid. I mean, about actually HAVING a kid. That part sounds kind of horrible. I’m interested in, like, how we would raise a kid together and being openly queer parents and how to raise a kid through a feminist lens without being ridiculous and supporting you in being a primary parent as a dad in a mommy-centric world. So it will be an interesting project–a really interesting project.”

W: “OK. I get that, but if you say it that way to other people, you’d better be prepared.  They’re  going to look at you funny if you talk about kids like a ‘project’.”

Me: “Yeah, I know. People are going to want me to say, ‘OMG, I can’t wait to be pregnant!’ or, ‘I’ve always dreamed of having a baby!’ or,  ‘I’ve always wanted to be a mommy!’ But none of that is true for me. I’m not going to lie.”

W: “Well, you don’t have to lie. Just…try not to be weird.”

When we first made this decision, W wasn’t sure how to react. He tiptoed around me for a couple weeks until I finally asked him why he was being strange. He said he was waiting for me to back out; that he couldn’t believe I would ever, ever be OK with this; that it was more than he imagined was possible; and that he didn’t want to get hurt when I changed my mind back.

As W says frequently, he “knew what [he] was getting into” when we started almost a decade ago, as did I. We were great friends, but poorly fitted in terms of long-term relationship potential. Continue reading

No More Hating Yourself: Body Love, Self-love, and Parenting Decisions

This post is by K.

People, let’s be frank. We all have complicated relationships with our bodies. Oh, yeah, we do. This couldn’t be more true for W and me. We have both struggled with body image for…most of our lives. We are both fat people. We both have been fat for most of our lives, except for little periods of time when we dieted heavily or were really stressed out and unhealthy. I can only imagine I’ll have even more feelings about my body after pregnancy (assuming our plans go off as we hope).

(EDIT: I have personally gone back and forth between what is considered “average size” and plus size, but I have felt  fat my whole life and I’ve been “overweight” compared to the little doctors’ charts my whole life. It is only recently that I’ve claimed fat as a positive and affirming identity, but I’ve benefited from average size privilege in the past, even if I had crappy self-esteem. There are people that have suffered much harsher and crueler fatphobia than me and I totally get that.)

manatee-001

Fat Positive Manatee, best Tumblr in the world.

As an adult, I have made it my goal to love my bod the way it is, to really love myself, not in spite of my size, but inclusive of my size. I have stopped saying things like, “Oh, I’m so fat,” or “Dude, I really need to lose 10 pounds,” to myself. I’ve stopped saying things like, “Wow, have you lost weight?” and “You’re so skinny!” to other people. I tell myself that I look fabulous. I look at my body with and without clothes on and think positive things about myself. I buy clothes that look and feel great. When something doesn’t fit my body, I blame the garment, not my body. I accept that my body is changing as I get older and I try to beat those negative messages out of my head when they pop up. They do pop up. Of course they do. I’ve spent a quarter of a century learning the negative messages, crying over bathing suit shopping, telling myself that I’d be more attractive/desirable/healthy if I was  #   pounds lighter. And I’ve just spent the past few years unlearning it all.

It’s not easy to embrace size acceptance, fat-positivity, body love, whatever you want to call it. We don’t see much body diversity in the media. We see a LOT of negative messages about our bodies all over the place. For those of us who identify as women and/or who were female assigned at birth, we know this experience well. We probably saw women in our life model this self-loathing behavior. For those who grew up as teen girls, we internalized this message hard. By the time we were hitting puberty, we knew to be ashamed of and angry at our bodies, to be jealous of stereotypically hot girls, to always be on a diet, to hate ourselves.

For those who who did not identify strongly as feminine or who were gender non-conforming or just didn’t feel comfortable for whatever reason, this body hate was likely even more intense and confusing. And the reaction may have been to hide under baggy clothes, to be jealous of other kids who were able to better fit into gender norms, to always be obsessing about covering up our bodies, to hate ourselves.

For those who identify as male and/or  were male assigned at birth, you picked up on this vibe, too. For those who grew up as teen boys, you learned pretty quick what a “real man” looked like and acted like. Body image issues disproportionately affect young women, but they affect men, too. Especially queer, bi, or gay men. According to a 2007 International Journal of Eating Disorders study, more than 15% of gay and bi men at some time suffered anorexia,  bulimia or binge-eating disorder, or at least certain symptoms of those disorders, compared with less than 5% of heterosexual men.

So regardless of gender, many people can relate to this feeling of self-loathing, of actively hating your body.

Of course, now that we can look back on our youth with clearer vision, we realize that everyone hated themselves, including the stereotypical  hot guys and girls, the popular ones. This stuff runs deep and it is toxic.

These are the reasons I never wanted to have a kid. I don’t want to expose a lovely innocent little kid to this world that is so full of negative messages and bad stuff. There’s so much bad stuff out there. I’d rather spend my time fighting it.

According to a 2011 national study, the median age of onset for eating disorder diagnoses is 12- to 13-years old. The majority  of adolescents with eating disorders express significant impairment (inability to cope) and a higher risk of suicide. By age 6, girls start to express concerns about their own weight or shape. 40-60% of elementary school girls, ages 6-12, are concerned about their weight or about becoming too fat.

Need more proof? Here’s some stats from the National Eating Disorders Association. Be aware that eating disorders have been on the rise every decade since the 1950’s, so some of these older statistics are possibly even higher today.

  • 42% of 1st-3rd grade girls want to be thinner (1991).
  • In elementary school fewer than 25% of girls diet regularly. Yet those who do know what dieting involves and can talk about calorie restriction and food choices for weight loss fairly effectively (2011; 2009).
  • 81% of 10 year olds are afraid of being fat (1991).
  • 46% of 9-11 year-olds are “sometimes” or “very often” on diets, and 82% of their families are “sometimes” or “very often” on diets (1992).
  • Over one-half of teenage girls and nearly one-third of teenage boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting, and taking laxatives (2005).

What can parents and/or caregivers do to combat that?! To balance it out? I don’t know. I don’t have the answers! Part of the reason I never saw myself with kids is that I want a better world for a future kid. Even though I’ve decided to become a parent, I still feel deeply that we need to do better.

I will continue to fight for better and more diverse representation of bodies in the media, for better info about the link between weight and health (which is greatly exaggerated), and for more inclusivity everywhere. But it won’t be enough. There will still be magazines and t.v. and peers and THE REST OF THE WORLD to tell my future kid that they are not pretty enough or good enough.

I know one thing I can do. It is simple, but it’s kind of really really really hard, too. I do not want my future kid to hear negative messages about fat, size, bodies, in our house. I want to model positive attitudes towards bodies, especially as a fat person. Future kid will get plenty of negative messages from everywhere else in the world. I can’t do much, but I can give them another perspective, genuine positive reinforcement, and maybe a little emotional armor. So that means I won’t complain about my pant size or weight in front of my kid (or ever). I will compliment myself and my partner as much as I compliment my kid. I will wear things that make me feel great. I will speak positively about other people’s bodies and looks. I won’t comment on other people’s weight. I will encourage healthy habits, but I won’t focus on diet or weight. I won’t starve myself or deny myself dessert and I won’t talk about “good food” and “bad food.” I will probably mess this up sometimes. It’s easy to say now, but may be harder to do than I think with a real, live kid in front of me and a post-pregnancy body. But I’m really going to try. And I’m going to keep practicing being kind and loving to myself in the meantime.

I just don’t think you can tell a kid that they are beautiful just the way they are, then go on to say how much you hate your thighs and think that they aren’t going to pick up on it. I picked up on it as a kid. Future kid will, too. It’s not enough to say the rights things to our kid. We have to say the right things to ourselves, too, or this cycle of self-hate and body-shame will never change.

Privilege Check: The Right to Parent and Queer Communities

This post is by K.

W and I are both 100% in support of reproductive rights and health. I worked at Planned Parenthood for half  a decade. During my time there, I got into reproductive justice. I got in deep. I learned a lot from others in the movements. I also spent a lot of time helping others, especially those deeply rooted in pro-choice activism, to “get” what repro justice is. Pro-choice and repro justice aren’t synonyms. Here’s a definition of reproductive justice from SisterSong:

The reproductive justice framework – the right to have children, not have children, and to parent the children we have in safe and healthy environments — is based on the human right to make personal decisions about one’s life, and the obligation of government and society to ensure that the conditions are suitable for implementing one’s decisions is important for women of color.

It represents a shift for women advocating for control of their bodies, from a narrower focus on legal access and individual choice (the focus of mainstream organizations) to a broader analysis of racial, economic, cultural, and structural constraints on our power.

Reproductive Justice addresses the social reality of inequality, specifically, the inequality of opportunities that we have to control our reproductive destiny. Our options for making choices have to be safe, affordable and accessible, three minimal cornerstones of government support for all individual life decisions.

Repro justice takes the conversation beyond birth control, abortion, and sex ed and makes us ask questions like:

  • How do class and race play a role in reproductive rights work?
  • How are trans* and gender non-conforming people accessing sexual and reproductive health care?
  • How do the issues of education, literacy, and language access play into sexual and reproductive health outcomes?
  • What are the points of connection between taking care of the environment and taking care of our bodies?
  • How can we repair tensions between the disability rights communities and the pro-choice/repro justice communities?

I could write a whole post about any of those topics. There are lots of questions to raise. The question I want to address is this one: Who has the right to parent?

We can go on for days about the right now to be a parent, the right to make a personal abortion decision. We don’t talk as much about the flip side. What about the right to be a parent? Is there such a thing? Many would emphatically say, “Yes. Of course. Everyone should have that right.” But let’s get real. We don’t all have access to that right. And if you add some other factors in, you may start to feel more unsure. Continue reading

I really don’t want to be a mommy blogger. Even a queer one.

This post is by K.

I always thought if I started a blog, it’d be about sexual justice. Or rape culture. Or sex-positive sexuality. Or feminist rants. When I’ve dabbled in guest blogging, it’s been on those issues. I never ever, ever though it would be about parenting. In fact, the thought still kind of makes me throw up in my mouth a little. Not because I’m not excited about being a parent, but because I have worked SO HARD to be seen as more than the stereotypes of my gender.

Children assigned female at birth are generally socially conditioned to care about things like weddings and babies and home-making. And pink. All things pink. Even those of us that don’t follow the social script know that we are supposed to. My parents never pushed that girly stuff on me, but I got the message anyway through TV, peers, and subtle social cues.

I remember my older cousin asking me once, when I was a pre-teen, what I imagined my wedding would be like. I had never really thought about it before. So I made up a scenario that sounded fun. My supposed “dream wedding” included a waterfall, silk bohemian skirts, black tank tops, and flip-flops. It sounded more like a trip to a fancy hotel pool than a wedding. Looking back, there was some truth in my made-up story. I did end up having a very casual, affordable, and unique wedding that involved flip-flops and non-traditional apparel. Sadly, there were no water features.

Fancy wedding stuff never appealed to me. Being someone’s wife never appealed to me. Being someone’s mom never appealed to me. When I was little, I couldn’t articulate why I wasn’t into these things. I just wasn’t.

Continue reading