No Accounting For Taste

As Jaybird acquires more personality, he’s increasingly opinionated, which I like to say he gets from me. He screams loudly if, say, we take away an object of his affection. Like the nail file, which he grabs, noms, and then gags on. Or a plastic bag, or cup of coffee, or the cat’s tail. “No” is entering our collective vocabulary and I have visions of a toddler-chasing, tantrum-soothing future. This stage is fun, too, as he’s more and more interactive and playful, giggling, curious, affectionate. He’s starting to reach his arms up when he wants to be held (or get a better vantage point) and he’s also starting to show preference for people. Stranger anxiety enters the picture if he’s tired. He’ll lean out of another’s arms towards one of us, which is cute and I’ll admit makes me puff up with pride. Though he often shows preference for Uno, especially at night – I’m talking wailing and lunging towards her. It seems he lights up most when he sees her face. And I’m jealous! I tell myself not to be ridiculous, as does Uno, but … hence this post.

Right now we’re visiting her family; it was a last-minute blitz of a trip, because her grandmother is turning a very old age and all concerned wanted her to spend quality time with J. We’re under her parents’ roof, therefore, where J is the star of the show. And because there’s a baby in the picture, there’s extra scrutiny on us. That whole gay thing, you know? J is the first and only male child of this generation in Uno’s proud Southern Baptist family. Everyone is very polite to me, don’t get me wrong. And her parents are more open; in fact, we get along pretty well, despite having fairly different values. But I feel like some extra appendage: that Nice Friend of Uno’s who’s really very good with the baby, now isn’t she? Perhaps I’m being too sensitive. It’s funny when it’s what people don’t acknowledge that stings more than what they actually say.

Anyway, being here, for me, puts a spotlight on J’s preferences. I want nothing more than for him to reach for me in front of great-grandma. Then I think, gah, my child is not a pawn. Worst is that I’m overly aware of a six month-old’s every little smile or seeming sign of disinterest, and I feel sad when he’s not comforted by me, or what have you. Uno and I have often talked about how focusing on my parental insecurities only highlights them and does none of us any favors. I wish I could just turn them off. Sometimes I do. But the stakes feel higher when we’re around extended family. I’m extra aware of their genetic connection to him and my lack of one; they take “four generations” photos and talk often about resemblance, etc. The latter always makes the donor a kind of elephant in the room, to boot, and while I’m happy to bring him up with friends (as in they say, “his hair is so light,” and I say, “well, the donor had light hair in his baby pic”), I would never do it around Uno’s relatives.

There is so much to say on this subject; I need to reflect more. But it feels good to vent briefly. I look forward to returning to the north!

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9 thoughts on “No Accounting For Taste

  1. I get what you’re saying. And I’ll add that Judah’s preferences will most likely waver constantly once he’s a little older. But right now, yeah, that can be hard, especially if you feel her family is judging you or invalidating just how much of a parent you are to him. Maybe you can speak with Uno about taking over one or two activities with him…having her step to the side, so they can see how capable and involved you are? I think it’s just as important that they see that as it is for you to feel comfortable in your role.

  2. That sounds rough.

    Have you been reading the Adventures of Jen and Tiff lately? They’re going through a similar thing and Jen has blogged about some of the things she is doing now to help Tiff feel closer to their son.

    I’m not saying Uno and Jen are the same, but this seems to be a common thing. (And, tbh, I’m worried about how it may affect us.)

    1. Pom, thanks for pointing me to J & T’s blog – I hopped right over there as soon as I read this. I’m always happy to jump in the conversation about this stuff, even if it’s tough. I will say – being a non-bio mom affects me often, but it’s fairly rare that it upsets me or sends me into a negative space in our family. 90% of the time, it’s just our reality, and we like it that way.

  3. You’ve got to keep posting! For me 😉 I enjoy your blog so much and with our boys being the same age, I am always eager to read what you have to say. Keep up the good work! Friendly nudge…. 🙂

    This does sound rough and I totally agree with Strawberry. Talking with Uno about this so that you can carve out some time with Judah particularly when visiting family might be really helpful. Maybe something like you are in charge of baths or nighttime routine.

    Take care of yourself!

  4. I totally understand. Thanks so much for venting here. I’ve been writing lately about that ol’ resemblance talk and how it really gets to me, even though I try not to let it. After a couple of different irksome comments and conversations, we decided together to try a new approach with family. It really helped when my partner said something to her family about biology/genetics not being something that we placed a lot of importance on. That we’re a family and our son has two parents, and so on. It took my partner doing that with her family though, making that a priority, because I couldn’t with hers. I needed her to be extra sensitive for me. And it’s a difficult position for her to be in, but it’s important, and she has to be willing to be committed to continuing with that, seeing things from my perspective, seeing what can be hurtful and speaking up for me. That, AND I try not to be hurt by everything people say regarding genetics or biology.

    I hope it gets easier. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  5. Krista is my partner and directed me to your site some time ago. I wanted to comment on this post, too, even though you’ve kind of moved on in your newer post. These issues around family are really hard. I’ve had to have difficult conversations with both of my parents. At our shower, my dad said, “Well, I’m the only biological grandfather then.” Krista thought to say, “We’re not placing that much importance on biology,” but I was paralyzed. I couldn’t think of what to say, even though I knew that the comment didn’t feel okay to me. I had to follow up with him a week later and say that the comment bothered me, and his response was that he wasn’t trying to be insensitive. And I know that’s true, but we have to continually call my parents out. And the best I can do is just tell them that I’m going to keep doing it. So when my dad visited again this week asking questions about “the father” I just said, “donor” and he was like, “Oh yeah, right, I’ll get this terminology right at some point.” A lot of people may accuse the NGP as being sensitive, and Krista has certainly dealt with that, and it takes A LOT for the bio mom to understand how you guys might feel. It took me a long time, and Krista’s constant pointing out of things, for us to get on the same page. When I was pregnant I wanted to keep believing (and therefore I kept saying) that people were just innocent and naive and that hurtful comments were always unintentional and therefore we shouldn’t get upset and we should just move on. But it’s not that easy because this is our family. And even if people are innocently and naively saying things that are dismissive to Krista and of her role as my son’s mom, it’s imperative that I stand up—especially to my own parents. So it’s been a major learning curve, and it’s been uncomfortable at times. But the good news is that now there have been enough things that I can be more gentle and just sort of steer my parents by continuing to be clear with them. I’m not sure that they are particularly grateful for my insistence, but I know that I’m not (and more importantly Krista is not) being dismissed and that our situation is being seen and valued for what it is. I hope you do continue to post more on this topic, as you’ve said, because I would think this is a place where a lot of lesbian couples who have children struggle. It’s so easy to just go with the flow as the bio mom b/c you have biology on your side. I never realized how much Krista would have to continue to assert herself—over and over again—as the NGP, and I’ve felt like we’ve been able to overcome more together once I finally got it and got on board.

    1. Brooke, thanks so much for your thoughts on this – I’ve been rolling them around for some time, along with the other comments. It’s so helpful just to have “mirroring,” you know, to know that other couples experience this stuff and navigate these hurdles. I move on and don’t move on – i.e. feel better, feel worried, in some kind of loop. We have a unique situation in that we live with my family now, so baby J’s non-bio family is the one he’s closer to. I prepped my mom with a booklet from the Donor Conception Network, “Telling and Talking,” which was v. helpful. I like their literature over there, mostly. It’s been great to be open with her, and friends, about how we want to talk about the donor, how we want to think about and value our family structure, and so on. With Uno’s family, those conversations just haven’t happened, for many reasons (family culture, distance, etc). Anyway, my rambling response. Thanks for the nudge about posting more r.e. these NGP issues. I compose posts constantly in my mind, but am sometimes deterred by the ever-changing nature of the inner dialogue (and the external one, too, with Uno).

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