by Dana Rudolph
I'm very pleased to be joining the many voices here on the AFA Blog. I've been a parent for nearly eight years now, and have been writing about being a lesbian mom for almost six of those, ever since I launched my blog, Mombian, in 2005. My Mombian newspaper column followed in 2007.
My writing is motivated by my own experience, but tends not to be a diary-type chronicle of my rather boring home life--no one really wants to hear how I do my laundry or play Wii with my son. Instead, my writing covers a blend of parenting, politics, and diversions for LGBT families and those hoping to start one. I offer parenting tips, book reviews, suggested family activities, and political commentary, all viewed through the lens of an LGBT parent.
Since this is my first post here, however, I'm going to break with routine in order to share a little of my background as a parent, and explain why I have a soft spot for organizations such as the AFA.
My spouse Helen and I had our child through in vitro fertilization by using my egg, her uterus, and anonymous donor sperm. Although most lesbian couples don't do the egg donation from one partner to another, it felt like the right way for us. Since I was a few years younger, and Helen was willing to carry, we used my eggs.
We went to a fertility clinic in New Jersey, where we lived then, and which assured us they had worked with same-sex couples before. In fact, they coincidentally started a support group for lesbian couples shortly after we began our treatments. It took us two cycles, two grocery bags' worth of fertility drugs, and several months of injections for each of us. Definitely one of those relationship-building experiences. (Double the hormones, double the fun!)
At the time, however, based on New Jersey law, I would have had no parental rights when the child was born—except that we successfully petitioned the state to grant them to me through a pre-birth order of parentage. I was thus a legal parent from the moment of our son’s birth. This had a practical side—there was no lag time between birth and adoption, so if I was hit by a truck, he was guaranteed my Social Security benefits. It also had an emotional one—I would have been surly about needing to go through the process of home studies and such in order to adopt my own genetic son.
Some states, particularly those that now recognize marriages, civil unions, or domestic partnerships of same-sex couples, will also now put both partners’ names on a birth certificate from the start, without needing an adoption or court order—but most LGBT legal organizations suggest getting one of them anyway, for better federal protection and when traveling outside those states. Each state is different, though, and laws can change, so always check with an attorney if you're a same-sex couple planning to have a child. (Note also that some employers will cover adoption expenses, but not expenses for parentage orders.)
In the end, however, how we had our child was less important than how we're raising him. So far, so good, as far as I can tell--although we have yet to hit the teen years. He's now in second grade, loves Legos and Star Wars, and is the joy of our lives.
Our everyday life is just that--everyday and not so different from that of our neighbors here outside of Boston where we now live. At the same time, we struggle to find representations of same-sex headed families in the media, face a number of financial inequities because our relationship is not recognized in many places, and never travel out of state without copies of our son's birth certificate and parentage order, lest anyone question we're both his parents.
In my biweekly posts here, as in my daily ones at Mombian, I'll be sharing resources and tips for LGBT families, along with commentary on politics and media as they affect our lives. I hope some of you, LGBT and not, will share your own thoughts in the comments. All of us on this journey to and through parenthood are more alike than not--but by reflecting on both our similarities and differences, we come to better understand each other and ourselves. In the end, it is our children who benefit.