22 March 2013

What I Talk to My Sons About When We Talk About Love

Next week is a big week for the United States Supreme Court.  On Tuesday they will hear oral arguments regarding California's proposition 8, followed by oral arguments involving a challenge to DOMA.  I understand the Supreme Court should not be in the game of setting public policy.  But where public policy is Constitutionally invalid, they should not sit idly by and hide behind the political process.  I worry about the country my kids will inherit.

And this blog is about my kids.  My kids, like all kids, love to play dress-up.  And when they play dress-up, one of my sons likes to wear the most sparkly, fru-fru, taffeta-based, dress-up clothes available in a given box.  Recently, at a family gathering a relative (a relative I know to be an evolved, progressive person) made a comment about this preference along the lines of "so, he's already reaching for that rainbow?"  The relative then quickly backtracked and apologized, asking if they'd offended me by insinuating my son was gay.  I was horrified by the comment.  Not because of what the person might have been saying about my son, but because of the attitudes they apparently thought I possessed.  My boys are young--5, 3 and an infant.  Frankly, I think they are far too young to have formed a "sexual identity" or to have fully determined how they will integrate whatever gender roles to which they have been exposed.  I don't deny that people are born gay or straight, but I think all such major personality traits are part nature and part nurture, and I think we over-sexualize children when we try to figure out such things long before they will be dating.  That being said, Toddling Mom and I try not to pigeon-hole them.  And the models we provide, well, I have a lot more experience putting on makeup than my wife (she hates it, I feel no need to explain my own history with cosmetics here), we split domestic duties in a pretty modern fashion, and, the boys know that she has a law degree and went to work "just like Daddy" and switched careers to become a SAHM.  I like to watch sports and yell at them, while my wife thinks they are all too tame (she always complains when a quarterback slides, and don't get her started about the victory formation). Anyway, we try not to box them in (I did crush my three-year-old when I explained he won't ever "have a baby in his tummy" but I don't think he believed me when I said boys can't nurse babies).

My only hope for them is that one day, each of my boys will find love, that they will find someone to share their life with like I have found in my wife.  I hope they will be married, and I hope they will have a family.  I get the zero-population-growth argument, but c'mon? My kid's kids?  They're worth it.  All of this feels unlikely enough that limiting their options doesn't seem fair.  On The West Wing, one of my favorite shows, one of my favorite quotes is when the President says, about the governments role in the gay marriage debate, "We shouldn't be defining love, and we certainly shouldn't be ill-defining it."  I don't want my boys to grow up in a world where we institutionalize bigotry.  I love that the first President they are likely to remember is the first black President.  I hope they never remember a world where people weren't allowed to marry or raise children because they loved the wrong person.  I find it disconcerting that someone might read this and believe I am mistreating my children, but I hope that is changing.  I hope the world will become less polarized  as they grow up.  So to the conservative Justices, I say, follow your party's credo: lets shrink the role of the federal government, and reverse the trend of over-regulation.  Get out of my bedroom.

18 March 2013

Real Men Catch Babies

Before I married Sarah, I pictured myself as growing up to be something of a "sixties dad."  Y'know, when the kids were born, I would be sitting in the waiting room, drinking a martini and smoking a cigar waiting for the news.  Apparently I also pictured my children being born at the Signature Club in Chicago.  The point is, I was a conservative hospital dad in my head.  Nothing crunchy about me.  I used to say that I was against recycling because it made American products weaker.  (I was really just lazy).  Sarah helped to slowly transform me, but I never, ever, never NEVER IN A MILLION YEARS would have believed it if you told me I would deliver my third child.  But Campbell made his entrance on December 26, 2012 at 12:20 a.m. with no one in the room but me and my wife.

Lets me be clear--we didn't plan it that way.  Sarah has a midwife cousin, and always wanted a home birth.  I was totally disinterested.  And for our first two children, it just didn't make sense financially.  We had good insurance coverage, and the hospital births were practically free, while a home birth might have been covered but certainly would have involved a lot more acrimony to get the bills paid.  And then Coop was rushed directly to the NICU after his birth with meconium blocking his airways.  If anything reinforces an irrational belief that the hospital is the only safe place to have a baby, it's having your first born rushed out of the room with blue skin while no one gives you clear answers about his prognosis.  It is actually very reassuring to have the machine that goes "bing!" nearby when your fragile son is struggling for air and you are wading into the uncertainty of parenthood for the first time.  So I always thought that the home birth discussion ended in that delivery room where they saved my suffocating son.

But other things that happened that night left a nagging feeling that something was wrong.  It really was hard to get answers about Cooper's prognosis.  And before he was born we weren't being presented with options regarding my wife's care, we were barely being told what happened after doctors and nurses made decisions.  And the birth plan that my wife and I actually debated while she prepared it (really!) was read by, I'm pretty sure, no one but me and my wife.  We kept telling people about it and they looked at us agape as if to say "oh, honey... that's so cute!" Sarah was unable to see Cooper most of the time he was in the NICU.  I had to sleep on chairs if I wanted to stay with Sarah.  

Then when Dexter was born, it felt even more unnatural.  Like Sarah wasn't even part of the process.  It was surreal when the doctor asked to leave the room for an hour to perform someone's c-section when it was clear Sarah would deliver at any moment.  Dexter's was an uneventful birth, but was still a bad hospital experience.  At least with Dexter I has a chair that folded out into a bed.  Sort of an industrial futon.

After Dexter was born, I saw The Business of Being Born. And we moved to a new house within 10 minutes of a hospital, a house which was coincidentally nearer that midwife cousin.  And we changed health insurance to a private policy that made the difference between home birth and hospital birth negligible (that is expensive either way).  And we saw Sarah's cousin at a lot of family events in a row.  So, long story short, home birth was back in play and Sarah talked me into it.  

Her contractions started in earnest on Christmas Eve.  They stayed regular, but far apart for almost two whole days.  And then things accelerated, rapidly, Christmas night.  Sarah's complete birth story can be found here: My Husband (Unexpectedly) Delivered My Son.  The contractions went from 7 minutes apart to "he's here!" so fast that he beat the midwife to my house.  And me, Mr. I-don't-want-to-see-that caught my son as he came into this world in the middle of my bed where we all slept later that night.  It was amazing.  No sleeping in chairs.  No doctors walking toward my wife with syringes while we stopped them asking "what the hell is that?"  Just Sarah screaming into the cell phone connected to her cousin, the midwife, en route to the house while I begged her to tell me what to do and she talked us both down.

Sarah bought me a "catch present."  A sonic screwdriver Wii controller, and a t-shirt that reads "Real Men Catch Babies."