Living On A Prayer

bananacat

I’m about twenty weeks pregnant this week, which means a few things:

1. According to Baby Center (and many other thrilling pregnancy websites) this is the week our baby has jumped in size from “Heirloom Tomato” (because apparently they think the “heirloom” part in there just means “large”) to “Banana.” The fruit measurements are supposed to make it easier to visualize and imagine the fetus, but I just find them confusing and weird. They know that fruit sizes can be wildly variable, right? Also why does the baby keep dramatically changing shape? Ok be honest, y’all just sent someone to the produce section with a list of measurements and they picked random things that corresponded that day, didn’t they?

2. Twenty weeks is halfway to forty! Therefore I am constantly singing this Bon Jovi song I don’t even actually like in my head.

3. I’ve been experiencing some mild (or, ok, not so mild) panic regarding things I’d like to have done before birthing this child.

4. I’m feeling a lot better than I was in the first trimester, and am considerably more functional. But but but. I’m still not as functional or as capable as I, frankly, expected I would be for the entire pregnancy. As the second trimester ticks away, I’m more and more frustrated and resentful that I can’t get the things done that I’d like to. Which I’m sure sounds like perfectly normal “oh I wish I could do more” type talk, and maybe in some ways it is. But we aren’t talking about “jeepers I wish I could clean the house top to bottom” here, we’re talking more like “sometimes I can go down to the kitchen to get my own snack, but sometimes I still have to ask for help.” Bending over still makes me nauseous. Overexerting myself still makes me throw up. I’m working again, but only one day a week, and that is, frankly, still very trying. And people keep reminding me that the third trimester will be even harder and so I’d really like to be able to do a couple loads of laundry here and there. I’m also typically the kind of person who likes to do a lot of from-scratch cooking, and we have a beautiful kitchen, and damn it I want to use it.

5. I am definitely, very much, showing. The other day me and the missus went out for brunch, and apparently someone she knew asked about the pregnancy while I was in the bathroom, using the phrase “well I thought so, but I wasn’t sure and I didn’t want to assume.” When this was relayed to me I just laughed and laughed and laughed. Lady, you were sure. Thanks for trying to be nice, though.

6. The creature kicks, wiggles, and last night had the hiccups for at least ten minutes.

7. I’m basically strictly in “maternity” clothes at this point. A loose fitting dress that I thought would work for all/most of the pregnancy, at least for around the house, while it fits fine in the belly, has basically run out of room in the boobs-area.

8. We had another midwife appointment the other day, and it basically confirmed that we adore our midwife. Not only did she spent forever listening to my anxieties and fears, and confirm that everything is looking good (growth on track, heartbeat strong and awesome, etc) but she complimented me on my symmetrical stretch marks. I am a beautiful pregnant flower, or something.

9. I’m getting really really excited about getting to meet this new human I am growing in a few months! What will they be like?!?!? Well, like a newborn baby, probably, but still.

10. I have to go lay down again.

Reflections – “Making” Babies, The Work of Gestation

For days now, I’ve had this one quote from Free Willy running through my head (just stick with me here a minute):

Randolph: 300 years ago, my people only had to spend one day a week gathering food, and everybody ate like kings.
Jesse: So what’d they do the rest of the time?
Randolph: Told stories, made music, made carvings. Made babies.
Jesse: Sounds good to me.

When I saw this movie I was probably 8 years old, and I remember this part distinctly. Partly because I was sort of fascinated with native cultures in an unnuanced and problematic way, and partly because this quote was totally thrilling because, you guys, they were talking about SEX!

I’ve been thinking about this cultural assumption, the way that we use language when discussing procreation. We mostly think like I did when I was 8 years old – people make babies by having sex. If we allow space for queer baby-making, we maybe expand the definition of “making babies” to include conception outside of heterosexual sex. We include things like artificial insemination, then. Oh hey, there’s a Tig Notaro joke about that!

So actually, I wrote about the first assumption, that we all know how babies are made and that it’s by heterosexual intercourse, way back in my first (not very good) post for this blog!
But I still kind of accepted that when we say “make a baby” we are talking about the moment of conception. And besides that having some pesky implications in the matter of choice and abortion rights (and oh boy, we are going to talk about that stuff, just not today, ok?) I’ve been slowly coming to the realization that this idea is unfair to those of us doing the work of gestation.

The work of gestation, how come nobody talks about that?

The thing is, we describe gestation in fairly passive terms. You are pregnant. It is not something you do.

But that’s absolute bullshit.

To get a baby at the end of nine long months requires much, much more, than sperm meeting egg to form a zygote. It requires a real physical body to do real physical work. And that body is a person. And that person is working. Whether that person is an excited new mother, a transman working towards becoming a father, a gestational surrogate, a scared teenager who’s decided to give the child up for adoption, or any other identity, that person is working.

We, as a society, have a history of trying to find ways to define work seen as “feminine” as anything other than work. I know this. As a feminist I think about it a lot. And yet this one, this one is really under my skin right now.

Because I am working my ass off over here.

I am making a baby every day.

We do not consider a plant grown simply because we have a seed in our hand. We do not consider a house built because the contractor has the plans and some of the materials. We consider those things the start of the work.

First I made a tiny cluster of cells, and then I grew that bigger and bigger. Eventually I began to make proto-organs, and arm and leg buds, and I made an entire placenta to help nurture and support this new thing I was making. Now I’ve made fingers and toes, and bladder and heart, and even tiny eyebrows. And still I am working, working, working. My child needs me to do this work so that they can grow strong enough to one day make themself with less of my direct assistance (though, you can bet your ass I’ll still be working then).

And this is work. And this work shows. For three months I was so sick that I could hardly function. I found myself utterly exhausted even though all I had done on the outside was lay in bed and read a book. I was exhausted because I was working. And even as the sickness has eased (somewhat, it isn’t gone), still, I continue to work. I struggle through the insomnia, I find ways to cope with my ever expanding uterus, with my total loss of my normal center of gravity. I deal with the insomnia and the heartburn and the nosebleeds and the itchy boobs and the tiredness and comes on suddenly and unexpectedly. All of this is work.

Maybe instead of considering “making a baby” a magical moment that happens on a cellular level, and the subsequent nine months of pregnancy mere passive incubation, we should start honoring gestating people for the hard work they are doing. Maybe we should start acknowledging that we don’t live in Brave New World and absolutely none of our babies grow in bottles (although I’d point out that even in Huxley’s imagined future, there were people caring for those fetuses, and everyone accepted that those people were, ahem, working). And yes there are political implications for how we treat pregnant people (poorly) in this country, but maybe we should just start by acknowledging that they exist and that they are, you know, actually doing something.

From now on, I am not pregnant (adjective), I am gestating (verb).

Love, Marriage, Baby Carriage, and the Assumption of Normalcy

I don’t know if y’all know this, but I’m kind of a weirdo. I was easily identifiable as the “weird one” in my family a very long time before I realized I was queer. I’ve never been great at fitting into categories, even within the queer community, and when I leave my nice queer bubble and visit the world of mainstream society, it becomes painfully obvious that I never made much sense there.

I’m queer, I’m poly, I’m some kind of wishy-washy pagan who sometimes attends a Buddhist temple. I cut my own hair when I get bored, and sometimes when I’m drunk (though I admittedly haven’t been drunk in quite some time). I’m fat and I’m ok with that. I don’t own a car. I like to go to punk shows for fun. I gave all of my cats middle names. I buzz off all my hair once a year as a celebration of spring coming back, and yet I tend to identify ever so slightly more with femme than I do with butch. I’ve chosen to live in a collective housing situation with my wife and two of our closest friends, where we close our house meetings by meowing in unison. A house in the suburbs is basically my worst nightmare.

When I met and fell in love with Chelsea, my wife, I was overjoyed to have found someone just as strange as I was. In fact, I’d say at least in some ways, she pushes me to be more of myself when it might be easier to try to conform to societal expectations.

And yet, I’ve noticed that with the baby on the way, a few people seem to expect that we will somehow, uh, normal up. Maybe, just maybe, our lives will end up looking like this:

lesbian-parents

I don’t want to go on a whole long rant about queer assimilation here (ok, yes I do, but I’m stopping myself, you’re welcome) but the times, they are a-changin’. Once upon a time, to have any kind of queer identity was to place oneself firmly outside of the mainstream. But today we see gay parents on sitcoms (notice I said gay, not queer) just trying to live their normal lives. I’m not going to get all romantic about the days of even greater oppression, that’s not what I’m getting at at all. And you know what? For gay folks who actually want to be just like everybody else except for that gay thing, I’m sure finally being able to be seen as gay and normal both at the same time* is wonderful.

I can see how, in our current climate, with the “marriage equality” movement** making strides in many parts of the country, with “Same Love,” with Ellen and Portia, it might be easy to take a look at the recent milestones of my life and think “first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in a, well hell, this looks pretty normal to me!”

My life fits into a goddamn nursery rhyme!

And yet, I’m still sick of hearing things like:

“I don’t really see what the difference is!”
“You’re just like everyone else, so what if you’re two women!”

As though these things are supposed to be a comfort to me, as though they are a show of support.

Because, there is a difference. There are many differences. And our differences matter. Just as my big queer wedding did not turn my egalitarian, poly, queer as hell relationship into a possessive, controlling, monogamous marriage complete with clear gender roles, becoming a mama will not make me get either a mini van or a respectable haircut. My wife will still put out zines. We’ll still be the “weird ones” at family gatherings. But it’s actually much more than that. Our radical politics, our staunch intersectional feminism, our less-than-conventional relationship histories, these things inform the way that we do marriage, and you can bet that they are going to inform the way that we do parenting.

Our kid is not going to grow up behind a white picket fence. Our kid is going to grow up in a house where meowing is considered a valid form of expressing oneself, where gender is something you do, and where personal freedom is honored and respected (even for children) with an emphasis on community accountability and how our actions effect others. That stuff matters.

And with that, here is a picture of a unicorn onesie we purchased for our child. No, we still don’t know the sex of the fetus. Yes, they are going to wear this even if they have a penis.
unicorn

*Just watch to the end of the clip. You’ll get it.
**I put “marriage equality” is scare quotes because equality cannot be achieved by slightly widening an exclusionary group. Advocates of “marriage equality” do not propose actual equality for all people, they instead propose extending privileges only to those who fit within a certain set of norms. For a more thorough explanation of my thoughts on the subject, check out this extremely long winded post on my older blog.