As cliché as it sounds, I remember like it was yesterday. I was making the trek from the teacher parking lot to my school building with multiple bags draped over my shoulder and keys in my hand. I had just dropped my oldest daughter off at daycare and was visibly showing in my pregnancy with our second child. Though it was 6:45 in the morning, I was already thinking about everything that I needed to get done during the day and what I needed to do after school. I was in my own world of planning and preparing when my train of thought was interrupted by one of my colleagues who was holding the door for me.
“So, like, how did you do it?” she said.
“How did I do what?” I replied in utter confusion.
“How did you get pregnant?” she retorted, like I should have known what she was referencing all along.
While gathering my thoughts, I laughed aloud. I assumed she was asking this question because she had found out that I was/am a lesbian. After all, surely she didn’t ask all women this same question — or maybe she does, who knows. After a few awkward moments of silence, I finally replied: “I used a doctor.” A smile came across her face (thank goodness), and she replied, “I knew that. I meant did you use in vitro and how did you ever choose a donor? Or did you use someone you know?” Though I was entirely overwhelmed by her litany of questions, especially so early in the morning, I made the decision to answer them… each one of them.
I explained that we didn’t have to use in vitro; we were able to use IUI instead (it’s much cheaper). I explained our donor search, which, thankfully, was done entirely online, and the process we went through to ensure that both of our children would be conceived using the same donor. I explained that we have childhood pictures and an extensive medical history of our donor, and I explained roughly the amount of money that we had spent. By the time I had finished, I think she was as overwhelmed as much as I had been at the start of the conversation. We bid each other adieu and went about our day.
As I walked away headed to my classroom, I was shocked by my own ability to convey the most private details of my family to an almost complete stranger, especially when a week earlier I had been mortified when the cashier at Wal-Mart asked my daughter what her “daddy” was doing while we shopped, and my daughter put her hands on her hips and replied, “I don’t have a daddy. I have two mommies.” After accepting the cashier’s apologies, I quickly glanced around to see if any other customers had heard my daughter’s sassy declaration of her two-mommy family. I was relieved to see that no one had heard.
It wasn’t until later that night as I was trying to fall asleep that I was overcome with a new sense of embarrassment…an embarrassment for perhaps seeing my own family as something less than the “normal” family. As I recalled this episode at Wal-Mart, I became even more proud of myself for having completely overwhelmed this inquisitive woman with details about my family.
Though I now laugh almost hysterically about that particular conversation, I can say, without a doubt, that I found my voice as a lesbian and as a mom that day. That day I had a choice: to refuse to answer her questions and leave her in the dark about the beginnings of our two mom family and leave her feeling ashamed for having asked such personal questions to an almost complete stranger, or to educate her, after all, she asked, and hope that she would eventually come to accept my family as a “family” equal to her own. After all, our families aren’t that much different.
Though our children were conceived in a different manner, we both still have them. We both raise(d) our children in strong marriages. We both struggle(d) to pay for childcare, despite having two full-time working parents. We both worry about our children getting the best education possible. We both cling to our colleagues at work for quick, healthy recipes and advice on handling the grading load. We both struggle to balance schedules with our spouses so that everything gets taken care of — and so no one gets left stranded at school or at the airport. We both have a family dog and a small garden with tomatoes. And, ironically or coincidentally, we both arrived at that same door, on the same day, at the same time…and she had the guts to ask personal questions, and I had the guts to answer them — each and every one them.
I am no longer afraid of these questions. In fact, I embrace them. Every time I get to answer questions like these, I am reaffirming, if only to myself even, that my family is “normal” and real. That my family is strong, and that I do have a voice as a lesbian-mom.