There are some fundamental things about motherhood that just don’t change. You will change umpteen nappies, and as a result you will get baby poop and other bodily liquids over most of your limbs at one point or another. Generally speaking however you obtain a child (no, not theft, I’m talking adoption, fertility treatment or in a plethora of other ways) it’s come from the same place – a womb. There will be a time – if you have a newborn or very young baby – where you don’t sleep, you will feel like the walking dead and you won’t know who you are; one day you will find you self sat on the sofa in yesterday’s underwear, bloodshot eyes with bags the size of houses, unbrushed teeth that still look clean because you can’t remember the last time you ate, smeared with poop, a few bubbles of sick down one arm, and some crusty snot thrown in for good measure. That happens. To everyone who’s a parent believe me. There’s other things, like the fact that once your a parent there really is no going back – particularly for those that have carried and birthed a child, once you have that baby your life will never be the same again. It takes time to go back to feeling like yourself, but that self is very much a different self. Whoever you were before you had a child is gone, held captive by your long forgotten and never to return youth. Whoever you were is most definitely not returning. But that’s ok. This new you is a better you anyway!
Thats the stuff that’s the same. Seems like everything, right? Wrong. The differences are invariably cultural. Its always cultural. It’s those little things that make our lives that bit harder. The worst bit, is it starts before your child’s even born.
Take your antenatal classes – a class full of straight couples. Where does the non birth mother sit? For the sake of this and any ongoing blogs I post (and my word count!) the non birth mother will be referred to as ‘mama’ and birth mother (mum). Where should the mama sit? It’s not really with the mums – they are all discussing the trials and tribulations of pregnancy and their fears of labour. But it’s also not really with the dads who are more concerned with discussing where the closest dominoes pizza place is to the hospital.
Throughout pregnancy I felt sorry for my wife – she would tell people she’s having a child and within about three seconds a haze of confusion would melt over their face as their eyes would unsubtly drop to her stomach and back to her face a few times. It’s still not ‘normal’ enough for people to just accept that two women can have a baby.
Even after pregnancy and labour it continues – but the problem is – the differences are between your friends and you. I am sure that to a certain extent straight couples who have kids young experience similar things. The friends who begin to slip away because they ‘just don’t get it’. They are incapable of compromising or being understanding to the fact that organising a night out is the equivalent to party planning for the royals. It takes serious time and effort, you can’t just go out at the drop of a hat. And, lets be honest, most of the time you don’t want too either, not because you’re a bore, but because if you do go out – the consequences will reach further than just a saturday morning hangover. You’re going to be tired long into thursday – especially when your child decides to start teething again – at that very moment you went out and let your hair down – commence a week or two of exhaustion. That bit – is probably the same.
But for the LGBT circle, the current generation of young’uns (17-35) we seem to be taking life in the slow lane. The majority of people who are having children in this gayby boom are 35 plus in the LGBT world – obviously I’m not saying everyone, there are also pockets of exceptions – but in my world – most if not all the LGBT parents I have met are 35 plus – in fact thats kind of mimicked with the hetero-parents I’ve met too. The difference this makes is – most of my friends are still in the culture of being concerned with where the next night out is coming from and who’s round is next. most still live at home with mum and dad, and few have careers sorted or any kind of concept of where they want to be when they grow up. Indeed any kind of mention of commitment and you got yourself a full on epi pen needing allergic reaction. Why is our generation of young LGBT so frightened of commitment? few if any of my friends have had relationships longer than a couple of years. It makes me feel like a freakshow – not only am I LGBT and therefore in a minority group as it is – but I’m a minority within a minority – a young LGBT person with a child, who actually had the child in a lesbian relationship and whats more, gave birth.
Other major differences include the ‘questioning’ when you come across a straight couple with a newborn – usual questions include: Oh how adorable – how much did they weigh? How was the birth? Do they sleep?
Now – we tend to get one or two of those normal questions and then you get hit with the- ‘I’m going to look really awkward and shift from foot to foot because I know what I’m about to ask is rude, but I’m going to do it anyway!’ – face and then the barrage of “oh so, er, how did you do it then?” most of the time I feel like responding with an equally stupid answer “do what? get my hair styled this way?, do what look this good on no sleep?” etc etc. Other stupid questions include “do you know the donor?” “are you both called mum”
Seriously, next time a straight couple asks me how I ‘did it’ I’m going to ask them how they got pregnant too, see how they like them apples!
I’m ranting – but I have a point, we face regular interrogations from joe public, and even from our parents. My own dad commented that he wasn’t really sure how it would ‘be’ raising a male child with two mums. “Where’s the balance” I remember him saying. He ate his own words though when he visited because he then said “I don’t think I’ve met a happier child.”
There are probably a million other differences I could name, but my rant just ran out of steam! For any of you LGBT mummies out there – anyone else able to add irritations to the list?