Originally published July 13th, 2012, on The Next Family.
I was up in Ithaca this weekend camping. We went to celebrate E’s first birthday with her Daddy, Papa, family, and friends. To say that I was tickled and honored to be a part of this would be the understatement of the year. At the same time, I was hideously anxious. Here I was -some girl from Ohio, backwards as it may be- meeting fancy family members of my dear friends from Long Island, New York at a birthday party for a gorgeous little girl thrown by her parents – a brilliant scientist and his husband (whose talents rival Martha Stewart). Might as well ask a snail to tea with the Queen Mum, for the mix of emotions I had leading up to the event!
But lo and behold, the day of the party came, and I was surrounded by normal human beings. Not elves from Rivendell. Not fairies from the English countryside. Not angels from the Sistine chapel. Just regular folk, like my husband and me. I’m not sure if that was better or worse than my fears.
Here were people close to my IFs that were congenial, kind, accepting, and totally honest. They were thankful and gracious- not just E’s grandma, but random friends of my IFs were saying thank you for this little girl, and there was no secrecy or shyness or gentle misdirection. E’s family members were referring to me as “birth mom” and “mommy.” They left saying that they want to see us again. We were talking about everyday, normal things from parenting to politics and everything in between. We got along fine, and I didn’t have a panic or heart attack, so I really couldn’t ask for anything more. Maybe snails can pull off high tea all right, after all.
What made this all so exciting for me (besides two boys loving their little girl, and my two boys in the same place and having such a good time) was the utter genuineness.
We all want to normalize non-mainstream families. Families created via surrogacy, gamete donation, IVF, adoption, and other means are just as legitimate, valid, and worthy of protection and respect as families created through plain old-fashioned, well-timed sex (or a drunken night out). I think everyone reading this blog knows that already, but the fact that I have to say this- and I know some people in the world need this reminder- means that we still have work to do.
One in six couples will have some form of fertility issue pop up while trying to conceive, and there are plenty of non-couples (i.e. singles) who also want to be parents, with or without a partner. That means that there’s a large portion of families that needs to hear that they’re perfectly normal.
The best way we do that- in my mind- is to talk about it. No more hushed whispers around why Junior has such dark hair. No more “hiding” in the late stages of pregnancy (yes, I’ve heard of families formed by adoptive and surrogate means that included this line). No more not discussing the issues of what it took to be where we are today. Kids deserve honesty. Parents deserve to be carefree. Families deserve equality, because after all, it isn’t the mechanism of origin that defines a family, but the love that it shares with all its members. We learned this from the LGBTQ community- silence is not an option. Speaking out and being someone that is associated with these things helps everyone to realize their own privilege and prejudice.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I still have a blanket and a journal to finish before I send it off with the sky lanterns (I know, bad birth-mama). At least I got the tool set and denim overalls delivered on time to scare the Long Island family members at Sunday brunch.