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Becoming a parent in changing times

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On Election Day in 2004, Liesl and I were in Michigan, where I was completing a Clinical Pastoral Education residency. A state constitutional amendment barring equal marriage was on the ballot. As I remember it, we went to bed that night without knowing the results, and woke the next morning to the news that two-thirds of Michigan voters thought Liesl and I were second class citizens.

I went to work that day, knowing it was highly likely that my three resident colleagues had voted for the amendment. I could barely look at them. As I sat at my desk and sobbed, they tried to be kind. But how could I accept comfort from them?

With my supervisor’s permission, I didn’t see patients that day, and instead focused on reading and paperwork. How could I visit patients, knowing the percentages? How could I pray for their well-being, knowing how two-thirds of them felt about me?

What a difference almost nine years makes.

Liesl and I worried about how people would react to the news that I was pregnant, but almost without exception, everyone we’ve told has been absolutely thrilled for us. And not just my liberal, mostly-UU friends. With each genuine “congratulations,” that clenched-tight part of me that dates back to 2004 relaxes just a bit more.

In fact, just this past week, I corrected the pronouns the cashier at Babies R Us used to refer to Liesl. Her response? “Oh, even better!” I kid you not.

A few months ago, when we began our search for a doula, I contacted one whose website made her sound like a good match for us, and asked her directly how she felt about same-sex couples. After a bit of prevarication (“I keep my personal beliefs separate”), she admitted that she doesn’t agree with “our choice.” But even then, she went through the list of local doulas, highlighting those who she thought would be a better match for us.

We narrowed that list down to three, and arranged for in-person interviews. Two were my age or older, and one was slightly younger than Liesl. When we asked them about how they felt about us being gay, the two older doulas said, “Love is love,” and the younger one said, “My best friend is gay.”

monitoringSince I am of advanced maternal age, I began “antenatal fetal surveillance” at 34 weeks. On Wednesdays, I go to the OB’s office for a non-stress test (monitoring the baby’s heartbeat), and on Saturdays I go to Providence Hospital for a biophysical profile (a non-stress test plus an ultrasound).

A side benefit of going to Providence every week is that I’ve met many of the nurses I’ll see when labor starts. Whenever I meet a new medical provider, I’m always on alert, evaluating how safe it is to be “out.” I watch for all those little facial twitches, those variations in tone—and in the five weeks I’ve gone to Prov, I’ve seen nothing but genuine happiness in their faces and voices, even when I explicitly out myself.

In many ways, this week’s Supreme Court rulings on marriage equality were less of a surprise than a confirmation. Times are changing, and it feels good.

To use a Michigan metaphor, I feel like a Detroit Lions fan—used to having my team lose, year after year, and then suddenly, one year the team is good, and we’re actually winning. There’s a sense of joyful disbelief, as it takes a while for the changed circumstances to feel real.

When the Supreme Court rulings were announced, I posted this Facebook status: “Our daughter is the focus of my joy this morning.”

That’s the heart of it for me now. It’s less about how I feel, and more about how our daughter will feel about how her parents are treated. In the past nine years, change has come gradually. This past week was a big step forward.

And I am so very grateful.


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