Baby, plan your birth!

A couple of queer expats in Singapore on a quest to make a baby


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Parental Honorifics, or a modest request to honor my gender identity by calling me a nonsense word I made up

Hey all, sorry we’ve been MIA. We’ve both been super busy with travel, baby prep, and trying to get as much work done as possible in our respective careers before there is so much poop everywhere. I won’t promise to fill in the backlog (because I’m writing poems about the pregnancy instead!) except to say that the wee one is healthy, male-bodied, and due June 4.

Actually, the reason I’m writing here today is that I want to share something baby-related in a larger space than a facebook post permits. If you wandered here from facebook, I’m glad you’re reading.

Okay, so this is about what my parental honorific is to be. But I should back up.

If you didn’t know this, I’m genderqueer. What does that mean? It’s a subset of transgender, and it means that a person is not exactly male or female. Maybe somewhere in the middle, or a little of both, or some third thing, or whatever. For me, it means that I don’t self-identify as female or male. Sometimes I joke that my gender is velociraptor. I’m not planning on transitioning from my female body to a male body because that won’t actually line me up right either. Instead, I just kind of dress like a teenage boy but use female pronouns and get on with my life because I don’t really notice my own gender that much.

So, since I don’t identify as female, I also don’t identify as girl, woman, lesbian, butch, wife, etc. But usually, I just let these things slide because I can’t be bothered, and I understand that it’s with love when a friend says, “Hey girl!” and with acceptance when someone in Singapore miraculously calls me my wife’s wife.

Do you see where this is going?

Our child has to call me something. I have to pick that something, and I have to get a reasonable number of people on board to call me that something.

We thought about this for a long time.

We considered variations of Mom, which all felt very wrong. I love moms. I love my mom. I aspire to be as awesome a parent as the many moms I know. But I am not a mom. Our child will not have two moms.

We considered variations of Dad, which felt somehow less wrong, but still not right. I love dads. I love my dad. I probably identify more with stay-at-home-dad culture than anything else, but I’m still not Dad.

We considered Baba, which is the go-to parent name for many butch and genderqueer parents in the US. But it actually means Dad here in Singapore. So that’s not going to work.

We considered culturally appropriating some word for parent in another language. Not only did that feel icky, but I didn’t like any of the choices.

I briefly championed “the AP” or “the aged P,” but my wife says that not everyone likes allusions to minor Dickensian characters when being introduced to their kid’s friend’s parent.

Finally, we picked something completely random. You will laugh. But I hope you will get on board.

Dabo.

It’s not a name, no. It’s a couple of syllables a baby can say. (Da rhymes with ba + bo like in bowtie.) It means “I will give” in Latin. (It also means “bread” in Amharic, and “gold” in Aramaic. For the Trekkies among you, yes, it’s also the Ferengi roulette game.)

Mainly, it feels good. We’ve been using it for a couple of months, and we like it.

For our kid’s teachers, we can be his moms, sure. Teachers have enough to deal with, and I’ll personally be happy if they just remember that we all go together. But for everyone else, we’ll be Mom and Dabo.

There will be some downsides.

He will be the only kid with a Dabo, and if he wants to tell the other kids something else, that’s cool. We’re not trying to make his life more complicated than necessary. (We’re also not going to be in Singapore by the time he starts school, which will help. Maybe. Depending on where in the States we land.)

Not picking one of the recognized Mom/Dad names may also mean that strangers won’t immediately realize I’m his parent. The fact that I often look like a 17-year-old boy may not help. But E is confident that the parental glow will surround me. Perhaps more realistically, we may have to accept that strangers won’t know what’s up right away. But if the people we care about get on the Dabo train, then it doesn’t matter that much what the others do. (Besides, I have around 26 years of experience in having awkward conversations about my gender, my sexual orientation, and what the hell I’m doing in the women’s room.)

Which is why I’m writing this post. To introduce myself, perhaps for the first time (though you may have suspected), as a genderqueer velociraptor who’s going to be a Dabo in a few short months.

I can’t wait.


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Dr. C and the tournament of follicles

On Tuesday, we had our first appointment with our new queer-friendly OB/GYN at Mt. Elizabeth Hospital!

Dr. C is efficient and respectful and doesn’t seem at all bothered that we’re gay. (I don’t think much fazes Dr. C.) When we walked in together and E introduced me as her wife, Dr. C looked at me and asked, “Are you getting pregnant, too?” After I said no, she pretty much lost interest in me, but in a normal I-don’t-have-much-bedside-manner-and-you’re-not-my-concern kind of way that my dad-friends say they’ve also experienced as the non-baby-carrying parents.

Fair enough. As long as I’m allowed to support E when/where she wants my support. I wasn’t sure quite what to do with myself during ultrasound time, though. Dr. C pulled the curtain, so I hung out awkwardly and tried to get a look at the screen.

And creepily took this picture…

IMG_5401Anyway, the result of the appointment was that E’s follicles were still duking it out to see which one is going to be Egg of the Month. We have another appointment Monday to see if a champion has been crowned. If so, and if it’s achieved a certain level of growth, then Dr. C will give E the trigger shot (some kind of hormone cocktail that makes her ovulate according to a predictable schedule) and we’ll be off to Bangkok two days later for an insemination jamboree!

Things are finally coming together!

-H


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Question Box Answers: second parent adoption

Here’s a question I’ve been putting off because we don’t really have a good answer for it:

“How will the legalities be handled with E having the baby and H being E’s spouse? (but not recognized as such everywhere) How does adoption work in such circumstances?”

Let’s start with this map, courtesy of wikipedia:

Screenshot 2014-08-28 01.04.47

 

Just before moving to Singapore, E and I lived in Michigan. We’re registered to vote in Michigan and have drivers licenses for Michigan. (For our non-American readers, Michigan is the one that looks like a mitten or, on this map, the red one in the north.) In theory, we could change our state since we don’t really live there anyway, but that’s complicated and usually involves demonstrating that we’ve set up a residence in our new state. Hard to do when, again, we don’t really live there. Realistically, we’re probably stuck with Michigan as our state until we move back to the US and take up residence elsewhere. (This isn’t strictly relevant to today’s topic, but for future reference, we were legally married in Illinois. Michigan does not recognize our marriage.)

So what does this map mean for us?

Assuming the situation is static (but hoping it’s not – c’mon SCOTUS!), it’s actually not clear what would happen in our situation. Michigan does not permit same-sex couples to adopt a child together, but there is no explicit prohibition on one partner adopting a child born to the other partner. Wikipedia calls this “stepparent adoption,” but it’s more commonly known as “second parent adoption,” even though these are technically different: stepparent adoption is for married couples, while second parent adoption is for a couple that isn’t married. But because some states are a little stingy with the marriage rights, a lot of co-parenting couples aren’t legally married, so second parent adoption is the more general term for everyone in that situation. (“Stepparent” also seems kind of misleading to me. I’m not adopting a child that E had as part of a previous relationship. I’m going to be there right from the start, as much a co-parent as E.)

Anyway, at present, Nessel & Kessel Law (no joke, that’s their name), the same firm that was part of Michigan’s DeBoer v. Snyder case back in March, is looking for same-sex Michigan couples who are legally married somewhere to file petitions for second parent adoptions to get the ball rolling on this issue.

As expats living in Asia, we’re obviously not ideal candidates, so we’re basically just waiting to see what happens, either with a Supreme Court ruling or a Michigan ruling. We’re confident that I’ll eventually be able to adopt our child, but it may be a little while.

In the meantime, we’re going to have some legal documents drawn up including a co-parenting agreement and a custody agreement. That way, everyone’s protected even if something bad happened to E or to our relationship. It’s not very romantic, and it’s definitely less joyful than signing my name to the birth certificate, but for the moment, it’s the closest we can have to an adoption.

I will leave you with the advice E was given last year by her former ob-gyn in Ann Arbor, MI: “Make sure you don’t put your girlfriend’s name on any legal paperwork. That way, if you break up, she won’t have any claim to your child.” Classy.

Send us more questions through our anonymous question box.

-H

 


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Question Box Answers: eggs, brought to you by the letter E

Easy question today from our Anonymous Question Box: “Whose egg gets fertilized?”

Answer: E’s egg.

Why? Because she’s the one carrying the baby.

It is possible to fertilize my egg (either in a lab or inside my person – the latter is generally more successful, and involves me being inseminated and temporarily pregnant) and then move the party to E’s body, IVF-style. Sort of like some kinds of gestational surrogacy.

But that’s expensive and complicated and mainly just unnecessary. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this enough, but I think E is just the bee’s knees. Having a kid with her genes sounds awesome! Sorry, Darwin, but I don’t actually care whether our baby has my genes or not. We make our families, in large part, by who we choose to love.

-H


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Question Box Answers: so many uteri, so little time

Anonymous question box” brings us a question!

“Being in a relationship where multiple individuals are biologically capable (?) of bearing children, how was the subject of who should bear a child decided?”

This comes up quite a bit, and it’s exciting to live in a time when we have SO MANY child-bearing options. One of us could carry, both of us could carry, neither of us could carry.  We could use our genetics or someone else’s genetics.  One person directed us to latest developments using three people’s genetic material to create one human.  The science is almost there but the legality/practicality side of things is yet to be sorted, and we don’t want to bank on our fertility at age 80, once it’s marketable.  Besides, our lives are interesting enough without being part of a science-fiction movie.   As it is, did you know that if one parent carries the other could still breastfeed? Our bodies are awesome.

The answer we came to, collaboratively, is me.

Short answer:  Way back in the day, when deciding whether we had a shot as a couple, we had very-important discussions about whether we wanted to have children (as you do). H said yes; I said yes.  H said there was no way a human would be coming out of her person, but that she’d leave it to me to decide between adoption or getting pregnant.  Fair enough.  I also liked the idea of adopting, but I have long thought that making a tiny human would be an interesting experiment I’d like to try at least once. I am biologically equipped to generate ears! That’s crazy. Let’s do it. End of discussion. Oddly, it’s one of the easier decisions we made – picking out an apartment involved more deliberation.

[I leave it to H to describe why she has zero desire to make a tiny human inside her – in short, feeling quite genderqueer makes the idea of being pregnant rather unappealing. Also she’s very protective of her bits. Am I allowed to say that?]

We’ve been surprised that a lot of folks had thought it would go the other way – H would carry and I would marvel and buy milkshakes.  As far as we know, either uterus would suffice, and I have a job that provides us with lots of dollars, while H has a job that provides us with few dollars.  Most cost-benefit analyses would suggest that it’s more efficient, more fair, more reasonable for H to carry.

I’m not entirely sure about that argument – having children at all isn’t particularly efficient.  Besides, H has signed up to do more than her fair share of childcare – including staying home with the wee one for at least its first year of life. The bottom line is that when you’re dealing with something you could describe as “creating the miracle of life” or, alternatively, “harboring a giant parasite in your womb,” personal preference matters A LOT.

So we got lucky, it was easy to pick.  I raised my hand!

-E