We saw our obstetrician today, and are switching from every two weeks to every week in a visit or two.

The baby is growing well, has a sold heartbeat that sounds more like a heart and less like a wooshwoosh every day. So far, everything looks good for a safe and easy delivery.

I'm delighted with the way the obstetrician treats us like a family, meets each of our eyes when asking if we have any questions, and is going to talk to the folks at the hospital and put a note in our charts to make sure they know how to treat us, too. We've already spoken to one of the charge nurses in labor and delivery and was pleased with her response as well.

In general, our community is hugely supportive, and not just the local polyamorous people. Our monogamous friends are awesome, our families have been tolerant and/or welcoming, mostly the latter. Our shower is coming up soon, and it was so nice to look at how many loving nearest-and-dearest people we have and how we can't invite everyone, and having to decide was hard because what with our families (and with three parents, that's extended) and closest loved ones, it nearly fills any potential guest list.

My rheumatologist asked about it at my last visit, when I said that we had a baby coming soon. "So, tell me more about that," he said with a bemused expression. I explained, told him that our family physician (whom he respects a lot) was approving of and very happy for us. When I began the second iteration of "and we're very happy," I realized that I didn't need to say anything more, I was beaming, and that it was redundant. He was smiling back at me, and I saw that he was happy for us, too.

We have so much to do! Our house is still untidy, my to-do list isn't getting shorter, really. I need to get back in touch with our attorney about adoption. I'm pondering a Costco membership. We're wondering about life insurance. There are little things: I need to vacuum hay and dog hair out of the car and fit the car seat. After the shower, I'm going to do a semi-final (for now) sort on the clothing and wash everything sized for up to six months. One advantage we have is that I don't have to do this all while gestating and working full time.

And there again, I give thanks to our community, who has been and will continue to be helpful in so many ways.

I realized recently that I'm delighted that this baby will be born in March. All of his parents are late-winter or early-spring babies, which around here, means spring. There's so much to love about this time of year. It means we get fresh and local strawberries and asparagus and artichokes in our birthday meals, and that the weather will probably be nice at least one weekend near our birthdays. And it means that there will be California poppies in profusion everywhere we go.

Audrey, Casey, Mary
Originally uploaded by marymactavish
I keep saying I'm going to write something about how grateful I am for community in this blog, and so much else has been happening, so much life.

In the past month we've had one car totally die and one continue to limp along. Casey's gotten a job after having been laid off for awhile. Fortunately, it's on public transit so we'll be okay with one car for a little longer. We're looking at one of our dogs, who's been with us for a decade, getting arthritis. She's athletic and spirited and it's hard to watch, but it's part of life, this growing old thing. So we're pondering whether to medicate her with aspirin now so she can have the liver-stamina for carprofen later, or what. It's a parenting thing.

There was recently a brush rabbit in the front yard which was delightful as we're plop in the middle of a 1940s suburb and I've never seen a brush rabbit in California outside of out in The Wild. But now we can go from saying "we don't take very good care of our yard" to "we are creating wildlife habitat" and it's meaningful.

Tonight's New Year's Eve. It's been awhile since we felt the need to party on New Year's Eve. We borrow dogs and have a dog sleepover. I make trifle. It's quiet. We might fall asleep before midnight (then awaken at midnight when the local fireworks wake the dogs).

So as far as this project goes, this making a baby with two mommies and a daddy, in a home with dogs and dirt (and chickens and occasional brush rabbit, apparently), for what am I grateful?

Here it is:
On facebook recently, there was a discussion in another community, the "Mothering" one I think, and somehow, I ended up mentioning how our family works. Some people freaked out a bit. One asked why Casey and I had even bothered getting married if we're not going to be monogamous.

But a few people congratulated us, and one messaged me backchannel to say that she was part of a local queer-parenting group and that any one or two or three of us parents, and our child, were always welcome there. It was just so friendly and nice and accepting.

My niece, who is older than Audrey, told me that she simply didn't understand polyamory or what we're doing. But family's family, so she'll accept who we are and she's made Audrey one of her own. On her Christmas card to us this year, she included Audrey's name with ours.

I got to meet Audrey's grandmother, finally, a week ago. Audrey's grandmother is precious to her, and vice versa. We wanted to reassure her that we are considering Audrey in all things in this project, that Audrey's rights and needs will be protected. Indeed, to the extent possible (which is really not at all legally, but which we want to try anyway), all grandparental needs will be at least considered, and observed to the extent we can. So now I feel like we've got the family blessings to the extent I really wanted them.

I want our child to grow up not in spite of family but in a large part because of it. Our family is special. Our families are special. If we are not constantly defending ourselves and our relationship choices and our family configuration, that leaves so much more time and energy to share our strengths and gifts and love. It leaves a lot less to recover from later, and much more to be grateful for.

I hope that, twenty years from now, we (including our child) can look back, realize the challenge we took on in creating this nuclear family, and realize that we have succeeded in a large part because of the love and support of our extended families of biology and adoption, and because of the broader community we've chosen.

I'm grateful beyond measure for all the love and support and encouragement you've given us so far. Thank you.

(11:37:13 AM) me: my niece's kid is a bit over 2, she was about to get rid of the baby stuff she's saved
(11:37:18 AM) me: she's now saving it all for us
(11:37:54 AM) Martin: :D
(11:38:14 AM) Martin: you'll have no problem assembling a village to raise your kid :)
(11:39:17 AM) me: :D
(11:39:48 AM) me: I'm going to get some plastic boxes and start collecting stuff in an organized way as I get it - pacifiers/bottles, diapers and accessories, clothing, etc.
(11:39:59 AM) me: then eventually, wash the clothing and divide it into sizes
(11:40:02 AM) me: I have 6 months ;)
(11:40:12 AM) Martin: (:
(11:40:25 AM) Martin: plastic boxes are wonderful things :)
(11:40:52 AM) me: I'm cleaning my room and closet later today so that the storage on top of my closet that now has boxes I haven't unpacked since we moved in can become baby stuff in boxes.
(11:41:42 AM) me: going to put a basic ikea organizing thing -- translucent front drawers -- under my desk, which will become the changing/dressing area for the baby, though we won't have a specific changing table, going to use pads that we can use anywhere.
(11:42:25 AM) me: little bassinet on the other side of the bed - should hold us until june, when I'll need an actual crib, then casey and I might swap bedrooms, move computer stuff to the living room, I can share the big bedroom with the kid.
(11:43:04 AM) me: and that'll be around when audrey (probably) moves out - if she decides to stay longer, we'll work things out, e.g. use the living room for more. Wow, lots to do.
(11:43:11 AM) me: better start errands ;)
Gays forging creative paths to parenthood / Couples turn to co-parenting to build and raise families
September 06, 2004|By Rona Marech, Chronicle Staff Writer

Denny Smith just knew.

It was something about how Marie Wadman and Julie Ginsburg held themselves. It was the way they spoke, the way they looked. He spotted them at a meeting and felt absolutely sure -- instantaneously -- they were The Ones.

Five years later, Smith, who is gay, and the women, a lesbian couple, are raising two children together. Lucy, who's 3 and loves pink and hates wearing shoes, and Callum, a boisterous 1-year-old, live with their moms in a cheerful Victorian in Oakland. Smith, the biological father of both children, lives a few blocks away and takes the kids two days a week -- "daddy days."

All three consider themselves full parents and together they make decisions about schedules, holidays, doctors, religion, education and visits from six grandparents.

"I really loved them right away and I still love them," Smith said of his instant attraction to the moms, which he likened to cruising in a straight bar. "We have a great, great situation."

As the stigma against gay parenting erodes and more people take the baby plunge, the number of gay men and lesbians joining forces to co-parent is growing.

Though these kinds of creative families have existed for years, the increase is being driven by online resources, the enthusiastic example of co- parents and a greater willingness on the part of gays and lesbians to look beyond the nuclear family as a model.

The common denominator is that mothers and fathers are both involved in child-rearing, but the families come in various combinations of singles and couples and share parenting in a rainbow of ways.

"It's increasing by the week," said Stephanie Brill, an author of two gay parenting books and founder of an East Bay midwifery center.

Brill consults with families before preconception about everything from fertility to parenting agreements. When she went into business 12 years ago, prospective co-parents sought her help roughly once a month. Last week alone, she spoke with six sets of co-parents -- four from the Bay Area and two from other parts of the country.

"Ten years ago such family arrangements were very rare, largely because parenting by lesbians or gay men was really just starting to be a very serious and widely practiced option," said Kate Kendell, executive director of the legal organization National Center for Lesbian Rights.

(Page 2 of 4)

Initially, she said, "I think many of us modeled a more traditional family structure. Over time ... many parents have exercised different options that give them and their child a wider network of support."

Co-parents can conceive at home at no cost -- with technology no more sophisticated than a syringe or a large eyedropper -- which opens the door to people who can't afford adoption, surrogacy or other high-tech fertility options, Brill said. "And more and more men are stepping up to the plate," she said. "This is where we're going to see the change."

Smith met the lesbian mothers of his dreams at a co-parenting matchmaking group in San Francisco called Prospective Queer Parents. Since the group was founded in 1991, about 15 sets of co-parents have found each other at the monthly meetings.

Smith usually has his "daddy days" on Wednesdays and Saturdays. One recent morning, he rang the doorbell at Wadman and Ginsburg's house. Callum jumped into his arms. Smith kissed him over and over.

"Little man, you look cute today," he said.

(Page 3 of 4)

"I'm adopted and I always thought it would be important to have knowledge of your biological family," Ginsburg said. "Parenting isn't what I expected, so co-parenting isn't either. Both are more intense than I expected. I think I have a warmer feeling and more of a sense that Denny is a part of our family than I might have conceptualized."

It doesn't evolve so smoothly for everyone. Making important decisions when three or four people are involved can be tricky and tedious. But before parents get to that stage, they must undergo the often excruciating hunt for the right partner with whom to forge this lifelong bond.

Prospective parents typically find each other through friends, newspaper advertisements, meetings or online listings. Many describe years of fruitless searching, near-misses and mishaps such as miscarriages or infertility.

John Maimone, a 37-year-old San Franciscan, eventually gave up. He had a thrilling "courtship" with one woman, but she dropped him when they got around to talking about specifics. Many women are fixed on having the lion's share of responsibility, Maimone said, and that's not what he wants. Now he's looking to adopt through surrogacy.

Daniel Owens, who has a 3- and 6-year-old with a lesbian couple, said that after his partner died of AIDS in 1994, he asked himself hard questions about what he wanted to do with his life. "I wanted something pulling me into the future," he said.

When he met the children's future moms, it was an all-out "love fest," he said. They moved ahead quickly -- in retrospect, too quickly -- and didn't put anything down on paper until after conception.

They finally did sign an agreement, but only after lawyers got involved.

They're all satisfied with their arrangement now, Owens said, but it was an agonizing process because he felt then that he wasn't getting what he wanted. "It was a very painful, painful time and it was not good for the pregnant mother," he said.

Legally, co-parenting arrangements occupy confusing in-between ground. Traditionally, contracts between adults can't create or negate parenthood, said Deborah Wald, an attorney who specializes in nontraditional families.

Ten years ago, co-parenting contracts -- which can spell out everything from religion to baby announcements -- weren't considered legally binding. But surrogacy has thrown case law into question, and Wald now advises clients to take the contracts seriously.

(Page 4 of 4)

In general, the law hasn't caught up with how families are being made in the 21st century, Wald said. "The biggest hurdle to these types of nontraditional families is that the courts are pretty stuck on the number two, " she said.

Some California judges have granted third-party adoptions, which extend parenting rights to a third person. But most judges don't look kindly on them, arguing that they don't want to set up a child for a three-way custody battle, Wald said.

The domestic partner bill that goes into effect in California in January only muddies the legal waters. Under the new law, children born into a domestic partnership will be treated the same as a child of a marriage. But it's unlikely that will clear the way for legal three-parent families, Wald said.

In light of the legal uncertainties, good communication and honesty -- the same elements that make for successful marriages -- are critical, co- parents said.

"We certainly have a lot of trust and faith in each other," Ginsburg said. "We know the kids are safe. We feel he's caring well for them and he feels we're caring well for them."

When acquaintances learn of their family's arrangement, the reaction often amounts to, "Huh?" she said.

But "then they think about it and in a way, it makes a lot of sense," Ginsburg said. "It's an extended family that we're creating."

If their other extended families were thrown for a loop, they have long since gotten over it.

"I really credit my parents for hanging in there with new ideas," Smith said. "When we all got over the strangeness, they realized what a wonderful thing it is. They have two more grandchildren and I get to be a dad."

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