I’ve never wanted to be pregnant. The thought of essentially carrying an alien inside of me for nine months is the type of thought that could put me right into a padded cell. I truly, truly mean that. I’m not sure if it’s a combination of not feeling feminine enough and that I can’t stand the idea of people touching my stomach or that I’m too selfish to devote my body to something for that long of a time, but something about it weirds me out. I digress. I’m glad we got that out of the way.
I could talk about my clinical aversion to pregnancy all day, but that’s not why I’m here. I’m here to talk about Second Parent Adoption and the mental toll it takes. I suffer from something called “homosexuality.” When two people of the same sex fall in love, they make gay people. I lucked out in my queer journey in finding an incredible wife who accepts every ounce of my bullshit. I also lucked out that my wife really wanted to be pregnant.
While there are lots of ways to have a baby, the easiest way is to have a participant who’s willing to get pregnant. In the Fall of 2018, my wife and I decided to start our journey to become parents. After purchasing about $7,000,000 worth of sperm (exact number not confirmed) and four IUI’s (which wasn’t covered by insurance in any way, shape, or form – thank you, America), we were pregnant. I learned a lot during my wife’s pregnancy: How to link a wireless monitor to my cellphone without crying, what actual fear feels like, and, most importantly, that it would be critically important for me to pursue Second Parent Adoption once my daughter was born (thank you again, America).
For those who are unfamiliar, let me explain: There are some places in our country that don’t view me as my daughter’s legal parent even though I, of course, am. From a legal standpoint, my name is on her birth certificate and I am legally married to my wife who carried her. From an emotional standpoint, she’s my fucking kid. Because same-sex marriage is ubiquitously legal in the United States, people often forget that things become more complicated when kids come into the picture.
Here’s how it works: If we were traveling through a state that didn’t view me as my daughter’s legal parent and something happened to either my wife or daughter, I wouldn’t have decision-making power as it would pertain to my daughter. Meaning, if my wife were incapacitated for whatever reason, I wouldn’t be able to make medical decisions for my own kid. If my wife, god forbid, passed away, my daughter would be placed with my in-laws (who would give her right back to me…so, you know, suck on that).
This is something that’s on the periphery of society that’s most often met with thoughts and prayers ::shudder:: and not too much actual help. A lot of “Oh my gosh! That’s terrible!” “Poor thing – that’s not fair” and, my favorite, “I’m here for you.” Even my friends who are lawyers have essentially no knowledge of the ins and outs of where these legal lines begin and end. It’s infuriating. There is currently only one way and one way only to combat these worst-case scenarios: Enter, the Second Parent Adoption process.
Second Parent Adoption is exactly what it sounds like, I’m the second parent in the equation and I’m adopting my own kid. You know, there’s really no greater kick in the balls than signing paperwork to take legal ownership over the person you would die for in a heartbeat. To have my position as a mom questioned has taken a part of my spirit that I doubt I’ll ever get back. It’s an indescribably bad feeling that I’ve attempted to put into words on social media a few times. It’s never gone well because social media is a notoriously kind place.
Recently, I got into an argument with a very well-educated straight woman who told me that she couldn’t understand what the big deal was and that all stepparents have to legally adopt their spouses’ kids. It literally knocked the wind out when I read that. This bitch, who I never met, viewed me as a stepparent. Now, there’s nothing wrong with being a stepparent. In fact, it’s beautiful and all parents who fully take on their spouses’ children should have parades thrown in their honor.
That’s not what I am, though. Not even close.
Stepparents come into the picture at one of many train stops, I’ve been on this ride since it left the station. I was there for every injection, every checkup. I cried with my wife when we thought she had a blighted ovum and I cried even harder when we saw my sweet little girl’s wild heartbeat. I stood at the end of the hospital bed and held my wife’s leg before seeing the tiniest glimpse of my baby’s beautiful hair. I held my daughter first and bonded skin-to-skin. I live in a perpetual state of worry over potential bullies in school saying anything remotely mean to my baby and envision myself screaming at the kid (not the parent, the kid…watch out world, you’ve got a mature parent on your hands), I watch my daughter’s chest go up and down at night just to make sure she’s sleeping as soundly as she deserves to be.
I am not a stepparent. I am a mommy; I am Lillie’s mommy.
The Second Parents Adoption process is clinical and yucky. We’re currently in a place where we’re awaiting a court date at which I’m not even important enough to appear. Paperwork is filed, no update. It’s been months. About once a week I send the same email “Hey There! Hope all is well! Just checking in to see if there’s an update on the court date.” The response is also always the same “Still waiting on a court date.”
Prior to this holding pattern, I had to get a full physical exam, pay all of the filing fees and obtain a slew of misplaced documents that no human being should ever have to keep track of. Our lawyer is a nice enough woman who doesn’t understand the emotional magnitude of the process. To her, we are just another filed case that’s she’s waiting to close out in her books. It’s almost better that way for me, honestly. To have another person with an opinion jump on this train would be too much to handle. Let her do her job and I’ll keep on doing mine. This process has made me question my validity as a parent and as a human. Learning that my role as a parent is viewed as completely optional by our legal system is a bag of emotions that I’ll be lugging around for the rest of my life.
I’m not writing this to bring the party down – I’m generally an upper, not a downer. I’m writing it because I’m not the only one. Our system is broken in a way that can only be fixed by people sharing their experiences with sideways laws and putting a huge magnifying glass on ways in which we, as a society, can fix it. There are 1 million – 9 million (actual googled statistic…we should probably work on closing the gap between those two numbers, yeah?) children being raised by a queer parent in the United States.
I’m no mathematician, but that sounds like a lot of people who might be in the same boat. Let’s tie our boats together and storm the fucking bastille. In the meantime, I’ll keep sending my weekly email, pummeling imaginary bullies, and fighting with people on the internet.
Jess is the creator and host of the growingly popular web series, Shit Moms Won’t Say. She is a born and raised New Yorker and she lives with her wife, Katie, and daughter, Lillie. Tune into Shit Moms Won’t Say every Monday night at 8 PM EST.