MamaBlogger365: Mommy Queerest by Kimberly Dark
Surprises and Decisions
Unplanned pregnancy is not so common among lesbians – and it doesn’t happen so much for gay men either. The thing is, sex and sexual orientation are two different things – as the growing numbers of heterosexual religious and conservative political leaders caught having gay sex in America’s public restrooms can attest. My son’s father and I were both basically queer – and we were best friends who sometimes had sex with each other.
As you know from reading this column, I’m pleased as punch with this situation and so is my son’s father. We love each other quite a bit and neither of us regrets the road we set out on when we chose to become lovers those many years ago. We’ve long since moved on with other same-sex partnerships, and our commitment to each other, and our son, has never changed. He recently posted a picture of our then two-year-old son on Facebook with the caption “The reason why I am who I am is because of Caleb! I’m a better man because of you, my son…”
Our son’s now twenty-two – off to graduate school and we both feel re-empty-nested after spending more time with him this summer than we’ve had the chance to in recent years.
Some surprises are great; he’s the best luck we’ve ever had and I wish the same success to anyone out there who’s missed a period and is thinking, “Oh, holy shit. What now?” I know that not everyone will rise to the occasion and at the same time, I think it’s good that some of us were pushed by fate into doing something that would’ve been much harder later on. I see friends in their forties now struggling to get pregnant, have children. And of course, I know others, like myself, who were surprised into parenthood at a much more average childbearing age. (The average age of first birth in American nowadays is 25. In 1990, when my son was born, I was just about average, nearing my 23d birthday.)
Parenting helps us to grow up ourselves. While I’m a more experienced person now, I’d still be learning parenting anew if it were just happening for the first time. I’d still be confronting myself in unimaginable ways. This is why mothers (and any single-parent caregivers) need support and why women must control their own reproduction. That is, if we want to increase the numbers of happy, well-parented people in the world. Sure, in past times — and now, where birth control is not accessible — women have to take the surprises as they come. Some are even thrust into parenthood without their full participation as coercion and other types of rape are still more prevalent in the world than most care to admit. And in those circumstances, women sometimes lose their lives to shame, addiction and depression, or they join others in neglecting the children they’ve been given. Some surprise children become cherished people and only the pregnant woman knows – is this a moment when I can step up and make something of this opportunity? Do I have enough support and fortitude?
Not quite a year before my pregnancy, I remember a friend calling to tell me she was pregnant. Immediately I suggested abortion. I know, that’s not the most supportive thing to say, but she was deeply addicted to crystal methamphetamine. She’d had two abortions already and I shudder to think what might’ve happened if she’d carried those children to term. She needed help to get her life together and she wasn’t finding it. And this time, she said, something was different, and no, she would keep the child.
One of the things that was different was that the father of her children – her long-time partner – had decided that he would take his role as father more seriously. And also, she was finding strength in herself, as she spent time away from her family of origin, that she hadn’t felt before. She used that surprise pregnancy as an opportunity to change her life and she stopped taking drugs that day. She grew up and took on her own life, for the sake of her child. She learned to parent herself along with that baby. Only she knew that it was time to say yes to that baby – her first of three healthy people whom she’s helped enter the world.
My son was a tremendous bit of luck, and I knew I’d rise to the occasion, though it was a tough pregnancy – both physically and emotionally. I never considered abortion; for me, it would never have been the right choice. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing and helping a few other kids on my way through life too. Perhaps I’ll parent again someday, though not through my own body. Only I know when the right moment will be – and that’s part circumstance, part intuition, and part politics.
What I do know is that we have healthier communities when we look on every child as a happy surprise – one that causes all of us to grow up a bit more, step forward with support when needed and offer love, not shame. And that includes enacting and maintaining public policies that let women decide when they will become parents. Always. Regardless of the circumstances of the child’s conception or birth. We need to enact and maintain policies that encourage family and community responsibility for every child’s well being, regardless of a person’s life practices or beliefs.
After all, for people who have sex, pregnancy is sometimes a surprise. And what an amazing opportunity that surprise can be. Public policies are never a surprise, though we could stand to be more conscious about what we create and allow. Just like in parenting, every moment is a chance for correction, celebration, steadiness and reparation. Now is the time to commit to the sovereignty of women’s bodies in every political choice we make.
Kimberly Dark is a writer, performer and sociology professor. While she is still telling stories of his childhood, her favorite son is now a graduate student at University of Chicago, having fascinating adventures of his own. Learn more at www.kimberlydark.com.
MamaBlogger365 is a blogging project coordinated on behalf of the Museum of Motherhood, now open in New York City! Exhibits, events, a Meet the Expert series, playgroups, arts programs and more – visit MOMmuseum.org for hours and info.