“How’s Mom?” Which One?

Ugh. So it finally happened. We’ve both gotten comments since I’ve been pregnant that we expected but weren’t looking forward to. I’ve heard “Will your husband be joining you?” Dory has gotten “So did the guy have sex with your wife?” and all the “it isn’t really your child, though, right?” I was hoping society was kind of past these in our area of New England but it is confirmed we are in for a lifetime of this.

It has pretty much rolled off our backs so far. We’ve laughed them off and rolled our eyes in sympathy for each other. I feel protective over Dory’s status as a mom and she interacts with dozens of patients every day so she definitely hears more of it than I do. Being a non-pregnant mother-to-be is a whole struggle I’ve never been through (yet).

My safe haven has been my midwives and ultrasound techs at Yale-New Haven. I trusted they would be inclusive and they are. Most places aren’t going to be super-homophobic and throw you out, but a lot of places will get their language inadvertently wrong or make it awkward by over-talking-up how fine they are with the gays because their aunt’s friend has a girlfriend. At Yale-New Haven they were just normal. Normal, normal, normal about it and I loved it. They effortlessly said donor instead of dad every time. Every time! What a beautiful relief.

Then we toured the birthing center at the hospital. We fully expected to be 100% safe there. I love all of their philosophies on birthing and babies. And there’s a freaking tub! The nurse leading the tour was one of those people who doesn’t get it but thinks she does. It was just one nurse, but that’s all it took to shatter our confidence. The tour guide referred to “dads” and “the men” the whole time, even after we asked her to used gender-neutral language, even though two other pregnant women were there without men (one with her mom and one alone). It isn’t fun to be that jerk who speaks up on political correctness in a group. I hate wading into that, but it was driving us crazy.

It became all we could focus on. We left feeling angry. Really angry. I wrote the center a message complaining. (They replied in 24 hours taking it very seriously and it was all resolved. We’re still happy with Yale-New Haven after how they dealt with it.)

A lot of people don’t get why using inclusive language is important. Why not say moms and dads in a situation where that applies most of the time and it’s easy to figure out if you’re a non-male partner you go with in the dad group for what she’s talking about? It is hard to explain why something so little matters so much. And I totally get that this nurse and so many others don’t mean to offend at all and aren’t trying to be exclusive when they use language that’s natural to them.

So to my aunt who made this comment on Facebook in reply to my wife’s venting post, here’s what I wrote back. (For context, she’s Jewish.)

I wasn’t there to see and hear the tone but you do get that you are in the minority, right? For most people they are more used to thinking about hetero couples and it is hard to change/be aware. I don’t know if it is quite analogous but if people wish you Merry Christmas and you are Jewish or don’t believe in Jesus are you going to get angry or just let it go. They certainly are not trying to be mean or insensitive just in their own maybe limited experience. Yes educate but no reason to get so upset IMHO.


Yeah, there is some comparison to saying Merry Christmas to a Jew which isn’t the end of the world. We get comments all the time that are just annoying. People ask about my husband, things like that. We take a moment to roll our eyes to each other that night but don’t post angrily about it or call friends to process our feelings about it. It is still the kind of thing that isn’t right for people to assume because minorities shouldn’t be treated like that and people shouldn’t assume and only make the world comfortable for the majority. Those little comments add up to a constant reminder that you’re not the one society is set up for. Anyway, in this case at the hospital it was different because it is such an important life moment instead of a passing assumption. It matters a lot to us that the right language be used during the birth and that Dory is respected as a mom. It’s the kind of thing our friends who have had negative experiences with hospital staff during their birth remember forever, sometimes as the main thing about the birth experience. I think you can agree that your being a mother is more important to you than Hannukah. Also, it is not just about lesbian couples. There are single women, widowed women, women pregnant by rape, etc that choosing language about dads would be upsetting. It is so, so easy to switch to say “birthing support person” or “partner” for a tour. Why not do it? For the many people in the minority whose babies don’t have dads it makes a huge difference in deciding if this is a safe space where we’ll be respected or not. And for anything regarding our baby it matters that much more.


There’s more I could have said there and more I could say here, but honestly, I am so worn out from explaining this over and over I just don’t have another time in me.


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