Yesterday, Audrey and I went to the Oakland Museum of California's famous white elephant sale preview to look for a china hutch.
Casey gave me a big curio cabinet years ago, when I was looking for a place to store the precious random pieces of my grandmother's china that I inherited. Her sets went to people who put dibs on them (at her request) before she died, I just didn't feel like going through her stuff and claiming it, so one day she took me through her house and asked me to choose. I picked out a few precious things -- the high chair and rocking chair her grandfather had built, a few other little things, then she gave me her old cast iron camping set (I'm the only person I know with a cast iron waffle iron that can go over fire embers or on a wood stove), and some of her favorite random pieces of china, tea cups collected when she visited England, her depression glass. I love it all, and a lot of it's usable, and a lot of it needs to be visible as it's beautiful.
And what I really wanted for them wasn't a display cabinet but a china cabinet, something I could store things in like a cupboard but pull them out for use now and then, and as Owen's gotten older and speedier, Audrey was getting nervous about the glass in the bottom half of the curio cabinet. So we hit the white elephant sale and very quickly found a lovely mid-century (but not valuable antique, so very reasonably priced) china hutch with glass above and drawers below, and a matching sideboard/buffet thing with drawers, where we'll put our router, printer, and related office supplies where Owen can't pull them down. ("I was wondering why we'd gone offline," said Casey, the first time Owen pulled the router down.)
While we were there, we found other wonderful things, a baby backpack for hiking, a mesh ring-sling, an the most fabulous toy, which is illustrated in the video above. When we set it down in front of Owen and dropped a ball in the top, he practically shivered with delight, and played with it all afternoon and evening yesterday. It's beautifully built, sturdy, fabulous, and cost three bucks. I love the white elephant sale.
But what I was really going to say was:
1) This is our first big furniture purchase as a household. This is ours, all of us, and that feels really awesome. Having Owen was a commitment, but somehow, buying furniture feels like a big statement, too, even if we're not trying to make one. It basically says, "Look, we're happy, we're doing this." We are very family. I love that, it just makes my heart sing. Emotionally, I feel more centered and solid and family than ever in my life.
and also 2) Owen was there for three hours, and was so tired near the end. Regardless, when I wandered around the outside of the warehouse where the sale was held, with him in the backpack Audrey had picked up, someone remarked, "Your baby looks very happy there," and so he was, watching the coots and the kayak in the estuary and looking at people. And even inside in the sling earlier, though he got a bit warm and uncomfy and fussy in the crowd, he was congenial most of the time, and we wandered around stealing souls of people who thought he was cute.
As Audrey and I were finally leaving, finally, after going back inside to look for board books, we ran into a woman who said, "Oh what a sweet baby, hang on a second," and she called over another woman. "Michelle! Come here! See the baby!" And as they chatted with us, and realized that we were both Owen's parents (assuming, I assume, we are "a couple"), they let us know that they had raised one of their ex-partner's children, and he was a delight, and so on -- they were together as a couple and happy to talk to another pair of lesbian parents, I'm assuming. And we didn't correct them, because the point was that we were both Owen's parents, and we are. And they were sweet, and he smiled sweetly at them, and all was joyful.
And in the end, we got the hutch and sideboard, the ball toy, a mailbox shape sorter like I had as a child, a ball, several board books about puppies and cars, a baby backpack, mesh sling, a safety thing for Owen for when I get a scooter again or when we fly, all for a few hundred dollars total, and we figure we made out like bandits.
Testing the backpack alongside the Oakland estuary.
Owen thinks it's awesome.
Yesterday, Audrey and I went to the Oakland Museum of California's famous white elephant sale preview to look for a china hutch.
After Audrey tried to settle him by nursing, it didn't take long to become obvious that he was very gassy and uncomfortable.
That meant desperate measures, so Casey danced him around on his shoulders, as Audrey followed with the laptop, playing "Donkey Riding."
There's not much Owen likes better than dancing on his Daddy's shoulders, and he was smiling, but still a bit uncomfortable. Casey handed him off to me, and he was still fussy and gassy, so I sat with him, loved him, rocked him, rubbed his back and tummy, and finally, half an hour of rocking and lullabies and considerable farting later, he fell asleep.
We have teamwork down.
Recently I found out that a relative I'm not very close to officially "disapproves of" our "lifestyle."
Argh, I hate that word, "lifestyle." It doesn't work for sexual orientation, it doesn't work for polyamory -- at least, not as we live it.
Our lifestyle involves dancing a little boy around until he can fart a little. It involves making sure well-baby appointments are scheduled so that at least two parents can go, because we're all interested. Usually, three of us go. It involves laundry and walking the dog and figuring out which furniture needs child safety and earthquake safety retention straps. It involves going to bed at night exhausted and waking up delighted to share the dawn with one of the most confident, joyful children I've ever known.
So for whichever folks out there disapprove of our lifestyle? this is what you're disapproving of. And I don't need your kind of approval.
So much love this year .... on the 24th, we visited Owen's "Nina," Casey's mother, where one end of the extended family was gathered for dinner and presents: Pat ("Nina"), her partner Gil, Casey's sister Lori, her husband Michael, and the blended family of cousins, Ben, Chandra, and Aidan. Ben and Chandra were raised in Michael's Jewish household when they were younger, so Pat made a hannukiyah for the mantel with lovey votives, and we had a Hannukah evening as well. Owen slept through most of it, but arrived to get some presents before Casey, Audrey, and I left for home with him again. Christmas morning, Pat and Gil came down to our house with Chandra and Ben, and Audrey's parents Michelle and Walter came up to us, and we served brunch for them, all living grandparents together. (My own parents are both dead.) Later we even attempted to contact Owen's great-grandmother (his "GrandMia") on Skype, but that didn't work well today, technology was being a bear. We'll do that later this week, though.
Then in the evening, our good friends Kimberly and Aidon showed up with a ginger-pear tarte tatin for us!
It's been so lovely this week, we have so much family love. I am sad for the people in polyamorous or other "alternative" families who have to stay closeted or otherwise hide what they have, when it's rare and lovely, who have to make sure their parents don't try to wrest custody of the children from them, who must not let coworkers know of their joy, who live in communities where their kids can't bring friends home because their families are weird or sinful. We are lucky, and we don't take this support, community, and love for granted.
Owen in a grandmother-sandwich
~~~The rest of our first Christmas with Owen~~~
As we meandered around the block a few days ago, I noticed that one of the houses had a nicely* redone front planting area much like I'd wanted to do our own, with deep reddish brown chrysanthemums (which I adore), and uncarved pumpkins out. I complimented the woman in the yard on the new look, she was pleased, and came down to say hi. She's new to the neighborhood and has a baby just a tad older than Owen. We talked a long while about a few things, but mostly, as new moms do, the babies. We decided to start going on walks together. Random elements of the conversation turned into me telling her about our family structure. (I don't wave a flag about it, but if someone asks whether the baby's eye color comes from my family, I tell them about how Owen has two mommies and a daddy, and though I'm his stay-at-home mommy I'm not his biological mommy, and leave details to the question process that almost inevitably follows.)
She was puzzled, briefly interested, glad for Owen that however it is we do things, he's obviously a loved and happy baby, and then on we went with other topics,
This is my favorite response ever. And it made me feel really happy about being around this woman as another mom, and having Owen spend time side by side with her kid as they grow, it means I don't have to feel like we're hiding.
I made the decision, years and years ago, not to lie and not to hide about things about me that other people might not be pleased about. It's meant I've lost touch with some people in my past who would not be okay with who I am now, and it's meant not getting close to some people in my present, but it's exhausting and spirit-killing for me to live a lie, to live hiding from people's opinions.
Picture posted on the basis of omgcute, not relevance
I think we're decent people, good parents, and Owen's clearly a happy baby. We're privileged and know we're lucky to have family members, specifically all of Owen's grandparents, whom we can trust not to cause trouble about it (and some "alternative" families have had real difficulties with that), and we trust each other. In fact, Owen's grandparents really seem to like our family, if not love it, and they certainly love him.
I feel for those of you who do, for one reason or another, have to stay relatively closeted as poly (or other alternative) families. I hope that changes for you soon. What effect does being closeted have on your life now, and what would have to change for it to get better?
*by my standards, which means there was some digging and some sticking flowers and seeds in and some raking over, nothing fancy
Picture posted on the basis of omgcute, not relevance
Owen was born six months ago today, by calendar month, and of course, that's now a bit more than 24 weeks.
Except for size, he's mostly right on schedule, and given his genetic background (Casey's big-boned and somehow, at the same time, lanky; Audrey's not petite) Owen's size is unsurprising. Currently he's in the 90-95th percentile for height and creeping up fast on weight and weight-to-height. His head size is off the chart but healthy, “It could just be a growth spurt," says the doctor. At any rate, he's in anywhere from 9month to 2T clothing depending on whether the shirt has neck buttons, crotch snaps, or is in a brand that tends to run small. I'm loving 2T, he is a wiggler these days, so those are easy for me to put him in.
Owen babbles like a babbling fiend, and can say “Obama" now and then, but of course, he fits “da" and “geh" and “bagabah" and blowing raspberries all in exactly the same context – but then, so do I.
His smiles still light up a room, and do so often. We say he has a little jar with which he collects souls, and when someone notices him in public and he beams at them, and you can see them melt a little, the jar goes “ka-ching" and he collects a soul. Yesterday, he collected the souls of two rather burly firefighters at the supermarket, and I caught them making goochie noises from the next lane over.
He's also more easily frustrated than ever before. He seems to set goals high for himself, and though he can flip over and get most places fast on his belly, he wants to move, to crawl, to walk, right now. Like many babies his age, he likes to have his hands held for support as he slowly walks around the room. Mostly we let him do things along the lines of Magda Gerber's theories, just in that we think it's fine for him to be frustrated and figure things out or be patient while we're nearby so he's safe and feels supported, and sometimes he even does and is, but we also just have fun with him trying out the walking around. I don't think any single development theory has all the answers.
He's clearly happy and thriving and we're not worried.
We've moved to a new home (that post is coming in a couple of days) and he's got his own room now, and has just started sleeping all night there, or nearly all night, waking up now and then for a feed or a diaper.
He adores DJ, and he is her puppy. She's mostly patient with him, and we're teaching him to pet gently, but of course, at his fine motor stage, sometimes a fur-grab is all he can do, and she'll just get up and move away – her teaching method is probably at least as good as ours. Sadly, we're almost down to one dog – Sadie died last month, and Zoe's cancer will take her very soon, but for Owen, DJ has been the go-to dog anyhow. I hope that she lives long enough for him to remember her, as they've really got something going already.
Our new place is a block from a wonderful park with wonderful playgrounds, and it's got baby bucket swings that he loves. I sit on the ground in front of him and push gently, and he squeals … until he sees something, anything, more interesting, children playing, geese squabbling, it doesn't matter. Everything is interesting. He's not done swinging, he just wants to stop to focus. He also enjoys just lying or sitting (he can sit upright for very long periods but can't get to sitting himself just yet) and watching the kids in the playground. He seems to be studying them.
He is eating some solids now: a little cereal, also blueberries, strawberries, bananas, mango, grapes, watermelon, canteloupe. We feed him squished stuff off our fingers, or sometimes a spoon, but mostly through mesh feeders. He starts kicking when he sees the mesh feeder arriving, he is a huge fan of food.
All in all, he's so much fun, and also exhausting, frustrating, and fun. I love his naps, and I love seeing his smile when he awakens.
I so very love being part of this family, the people who love Owen together, the people who get along. We take care of each other, our extended families take care of us too. I feel rich.
With the dogs being sick and dying, and the big move to this new place, and my RA flaring up big time, I've been a bit overwhelmed for even thinking about blogging, but I've got a few posts queued in my brain. Mostly, I want to write about moving to our new place, having it become a basic suburban house-with-baby, fitting into the new (lovely, friendly, but somewhat old-school familywise) neighborhood, and feeling like family; and I want to write about how I've had to modify my attachment parenting expectations (which were already modified for realism on my part) to suit both a multiple-parent household and my chronic pain escalation. As usual, sometimes your questions or interests help guide how I write, so if you're wondering anything specific about either of those, or anything else, please ask: I'll answer what and how I can.
I keep starting this post, then get stuck:
What comes first, that you smile now? That you can’t stand to have a wet or poopy diaper, so go through piles every day, because every tiny dribble must be removed post haste? Do I say that you’ve begun actually snuggling when you lie against our chests, or that your initial peaceful baby demeanor has become somewhat more typical of infants, with occasional painful gas that keeps us all up at night? I have no idea.
The first month was a blur of naps (ours and yours) and learning to live life one-handed with a baby in the other arm, of throwing away ideas (we’re not co-sleeping, right? and we won’t let him get in the habit of using car rides to sleep, right? those are gone now) and picking up new habits and comfort with having an infant for a roommate.
DJ loves you so much. She cuddles near you and you don't mind her kisses.
Your great-grandmother, who signs her books to you “love, Grandmia” -- Mia is her grandma-name -- is just squealing over the thought that she will get to hold you soon and look into your blue eyes.
You were welcomed, a month ago, into such a family of love, biological and beyond. Your cousins and aunts and uncles are everywhere and eager to watch you grow and learn, as are we. Every day I see something a little new -- you’re less fussy about putting on shirts with long sleeves, you are tracking faces as the people you’re used to move around the room, you can lie for 20 minutes and watch clouds move across the sky. I am never bored with you. I’m sure that one day, I will be bored in the short term -- and I’ll insist we go to the library or dog park for entertainment -- but I can’t imagine being bored in the long term. You are too interesting.
As a three-parent household, we are really learning to function. I tend to do laundry, Audrey of course does the baby-feeding and pumping and storing of milk for later, and a lot of cleaning. Your dad is back to bringing home funds for the roof over our heads, and the health insurance, and he changes at least half of your diapers when he's home, and he’s the one who takes you from one of us -- Audrey, usually, as I tend to do the going-to-bed stuff -- at sunrise, and loves you while Audrey and I grab another hour of sleep.
We’re still figuring out the Mom-name thing, and I’m not quite sure we need to, yet. I only find it hard at times like this one, when I’m explaining how Audrey tends to be the one who’s with you in the pre-dawn hours while I’m with you at bedtime and into the small-wee hours, and how do I explain that? We say, “I’m going to bring you to Mommy now,” and it could be either of us, and you know -- but how do I word that for others? “Mama-Audrey” and “Mama-Mary,” or whatever, just sounds wrong to me. I guess I’m Mary and Mom, and Mama, and Mommy, and Audrey’s those things but not Mary, she’s Audrey. I think it will work itself out.
Having you here, and living together, and being all-three parents for you is leading to a lot of new discussions about The Future, and I’m not exactly sure, still, what form our current hopes will take, what plans will develop, but they’re all exciting, not scary. I love the idea of building a family with and around you that is nothing like I ever expected for my life.
So: You are just a bit more than a month old -- four weeks last Monday, a month on the 21st, and five weeks tomorrow. You smile and have a little half laugh that is sometimes a chuckle in your sleep. Your dreams are fascinating, with pouty-faces and smiles and open eyes that roll back to show the whites. You love staring at your dad’s face. You don’t mind when DJ kisses you. You eat too much and throw too much of it up unless you’re fed small amounts relatively often, but oh you do NOT like to be taken off the breast when you’re still hungry. You don’t like to lie down and sleep by yourself. You can be *put* down, and the moment you first half-waken, you’re done -- cribs are for losers. You fall asleep easily in the car. You hate being wet or poopy but you really hate diaper changes, so frequently throughout the day, we have to make you really angry and change your diaper.
That is you. And as tired as I am, I don’t resent you for a moment. You are a huge change in my life, and a shining light, and I hope our continued life together is as delightful as the beginning.
So it's going well. I really, really like that baby. Audrey's family has really warmed to the whole thing and are now decidedly Family, and come up to see him a lot. Owen's grandfather adores him. The dogs love him. We love him. He's actually an awesome baby, starting to stare at us a LOT and get a little more interactive, grab our fingers, etc. We're still waiting on the social smile.
He's seriously a pooper.
We lost our favorite chicken last week because our favorite dog is a predator :/
I used to feel almost chronically like I was a burden and not pulling my weight around here. That's totally gone away, I now feel like I provide a solid service ;)
I'm trying to think, "I have a life that is not about Owen," but right now that doesn't matter. And I'm not sure how much I do. Seriously, I spend a huge amount of my life caring for a tiny boy, and it's a lot of work, and it's frustrating, and right now, it feels like it's exactly where I should be.
I think my next post is going to be about figuring about balance with three parents, but we haven't figured it out, it's just happened. But when I get another minute, not to write at all, but to write coherently, I'll write about that.
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.
He has a name, and though some of you know it, we'll keep it offline until he's born. (And we have a name for in case the doctor was wrong about his boyness.)
We are spending the holidays in the continual process of blending families. I get to meet Audrey's grandma at some point over this period, and Audrey is coming up to my inlaws for Christmas, and maybe Casey's mom will get to meet Audrey's grandma.
The only shower that is definitely planned feels like it's coming up fast just because this is such a busy time of year. It's not so much "we do this, then that, then N more weeks" as "this then that then whoa we're right on the doorstep."
And we are so not ready. I need to block the hole where the mice are getting in, and clean out the cupboards, declutter them, and refill them. I need to get more sleep so I'm ready. I'm not panicking at all, it just seems like this is my last available moment to get anything done.
I have a blog post in mind about the goodness people have shown us, like the complete stranger in a parenting group on facebook who proactively let me know that our entire family would be welcome at her queer-parents playgroup locally (though we're an alternative family, at least one of us is astonishingly straight), and the family members who have gone out of their way to let us know that they don't see family as a DNA thing, and that they consider both the baby and Audrey as family.
It seems like I might want to take some of the time I have left before the baby comes for useful blogging. *Adds that to the to-do list.*
I'm Mary, middle-aged, happy. Casey is my husband. We raise rescued dogs and a few chickens on a tiny bit of property in the San Francisco bay area. Audrey is Casey's other partner. Casey and I have never had a monogamous relationship in the decade and a half we've been together, and that works very well for us. He and Audrey are very close, and I'm delighted with how happy they make each other.
A couple of years ago, the three of us got talking about family-making. It's now a time in which we are all at the same time ready and able to have a family, only I can't conceive, and Audrey isn't ready to be a primary parent. I'm ready to be a primary parent, and Audrey can conceive -- and did, last summer. So now we have a baby on the way, due in March. We are all three parents, but I'm going to be the one with the child-raising experience, the willingness, and the time to do most of the direct caregiving.
Please feel free to cruise through my past posts -- there aren't too many -- and ask any questions you like. I'll answer whatever I can as well as I can. (If I feel like they're too personal I might be vague or let you know what I can't answer, and I go out of my way to respect Audrey and Casey's personal boundaries here, so what's not TMI for Mary usually might be TMI here. They also have the password to this account and might either write something themselves one day, or simply answer your questions here, or you might not get an answer.)
If you're one of the readers I don't already know well or personally, feel free to introduce yourself, perhaps telling us what your interest in our family is, or tell us where you know me (or one of us) from elsewhere, or even just say hi.
If you do not have a dreamwidth account, feel free to use OpenID. And though some people comment on the livejournal feed and I don't mind, I would prefer that people also paste those comments into comments here, so I am notified about them.
He was sleeping just like that during the ultrasound, and required some tickling to get him to move to see his genitals, or even to get good angles on his other organs. On the other hand, he keeps Audrey awake at night. He seems to be nocturnal.
Beginning later today, I am going to try to make the unlocked posts in this blog more of a "gestating a family with three-parent alternative-poly-stuff" contents in the public posts, along with the basic public baby stuff I've shared, while using the locked posts more for stuff I'd share with friends/family reading this -- so if I know you well enough for those, you'll need to get a dreamwidth account (I can give you access numbers if I have them, or you can pay the tiny amount of money dreamwidth needs) to see those. I might mirror some of them in my own livejournal as well.
This is because I've actually received some requests to write about our experience with this! If dreamwidth proves to be the wrong platform for it, I'll move it to wordpress or blogger, but I love my little "family values" moniker so much, and am not likely to get that elsewhere.