TNF: Tell me about your family.
Jaime: Arianna and myself were married on November 27th of this year. I have a son with my ex-partner which whom I share joint custody with. Jaidin is 2 ½ and was born with down syndrome. She was the birth mother but I have legally adopted him and I am on his birth certificate. Arianna has taken over the role as stepparent but she doesn’t look at him as her stepchild; they love each other the same.
TNF: How did you meet your Arianna?
Jaime: Not many people know this, but we actually met on Instagram. It happened by accident really. Neither one was out looking for the other, we just happened to fall into the lives of each other. I firmly believe that everything happens for a reason and I couldn’t be more thankful for social media lol.
TNF: Do you feel different from other families?
Jaime: No, we don’t feel different from other families. We aren’t different. We share the same love and bond as any family does. We face discrimination at times but we try not to let it bother us. We get the usual stares but we have become used to it. We figure people are just curious about our family; we are two lesbians with tattoos, raising a child, and the child has down syndrome. That intrigues people; it is not something that you see on a daily basis.
TNF: Where do you live? Is it tough being a gay couple where you live?
Jaime: We live in Chester, Maryland; we are on an Island surrounded by water and super nice people. We thought that moving to a small island, kind of in the middle of nowhere, that we would have issues but everyone has been so nice and accepting.
TNF: What has having a family meant to you?
Jaime: It feels amazing having a family, having something to work harder for, to fight for. We are so happy with our family and cannot wait to add more little ones.
TNF: Have the current changes in marriage laws had any affect on you?
Jaime: The laws have had a positive impact on us because we are now allowed to be married in Maryland. We can live the same way a straight married couple will live. Not to mention, that it makes having kids a lot easier!
Thank you Jaime and Arianna for sharing your story with us. Congratulations on your recent marriage!
Note from the Editor-
This is a continuation of the infertility series that our readers have requested. Dr. Tourgeman will be doing a video series in which he will answer your questions in detail before you even step into a clinic. He will address single parents and couples, whether same sex or heterosexual. Please get involved; ask questions or, if you have been through the process yourself, give feedback. Tell us your story in our comments section.
What Are The Treatment Options For A Female/Female Couple?
By: Tanya Dodd Hise
In the months that followed our wedding, we came home and settled into our favorite new roles: WIVES x 2!
While we were on our trip, we had been highlighted in a national blog because of our nuptials, and featured online along with photos from the wedding. I had also created “our story” on CNN.com’s website, and received quite a bit of positive feedback and supportive comments as well. Consequently, CNN decided to take some of the stories that various couples had written and turn them into one of THEIR pieces. We were chosen among several couples to be featured in their piece about same-sex marriage, and had to participate in a telephone interview with the editor who was running the piece – very exciting stuff! After all of that amazing publicity, around August of 2009, I began corresponding with a woman who was looking for married same-sex couples to feature in a documentary that she was producing and directing. We excitedly emailed back and forth after we learned that we both lived in the Dallas area, and made arrangements to meet at the Pride parade that would take place in September. Before we knew it, we were at Pride hanging out and making plans to travel to Washington, D.C. the following month for the National Equality March. It was a two-phase mission for us: one, to participate in the march and video our experiences for our part in the documentary; and two, to take photos that would later be used somewhere in the documentary.
We left Dallas and first flew to Philadelphia, since I had been unable to get us a decent rate on inbound tickets to D.C. We spent a couple of days in Philly, doing some sightseeing, since neither of us had ever been there. From there we planned to take the train to D.C., since we now had a new love for traveling by train! The trip to D.C. was just as exciting for me as it had been every other time – this is one of my most favorite travel destinations in the world. And for the second time in just a few months, I was traveling there with my wife and looking forward to sharing this significant and historical weekend with her. We arrived on Friday and made our way to our hotel, and then immediately headed to the activities.
At one hotel we attended a “milk & cookies” event, which was geared for families – whatever kind of family you have, they were welcome! From there we planned to head over to the D.C. Convention Center, where later in the evening, President Obama would be the keynote speaker at the Human Rights Campaign’s Annual dinner. We, along with hundreds of others, gathered outside in protest of the president, and his unwillingness to take a stand for marriage equality after many campaign promises to do so. People screamed in protest against his refusal to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, while religious zealots screamed across the street about God hating fags – while I took hundreds of pictures of all of it. Erikka videotaped the happenings, and we had so much fun taking it all in together. It is certainly an adrenaline rush to be right there in the middle of controlled chaos, to have a line of policemen in riot gear separating the screamers from the other screamers. When night fell and the roars started to die down, we walked down near Chinatown and found a restaurant to grab a late dinner before heading back to our hotel. Tomorrow was going to be big, and at that time, we had no idea just how huge.
We woke up bright and early, to crisp October air. Arriving at the other hotel, where many of the march organizers were gathering, we started our day off with a press conference where I snapped many photos of organizers and volunteers as they gave speeches and answered questions. We met a few celebrities, and several times I thought to myself, “How did I end up so lucky to be a part of this amazing event?” We got to go up to the roof of the hotel, where we hung out for a few minutes with Cleve Jones – an equal rights icon who, in another time and place, worked with the late Harvey Milk. I took photos of the gathering crowd below, having no idea that what I thought was just an “okay sized” crowd would, in a very short time, grow to a sea of over 250,000 faces that were all there fighting for the same thing: equality.
As the march kicked off, we skimmed our way through the crowds, snapping photos along the way, and ultimately hoofing it to the Capitol, where the marchers would end up. With a press pass, we were able to get right up on the Capitol lawn, in front of the stage where all of the speakers would be. I took hundreds of photos, tweeted tons of posts on Twitter and gave many status updates on Facebook – I was in awe of the fact that we were there and part of it! I remember at one point, turning around and standing in my chair to take a picture of the crowd as they poured in from the march route and not being able to speak. The sheer magnitude of seeing hundreds of thousands of people – gay, straight, bisexual, transgendered – coming together on the National Mall, was simply mind-blowing and monumental. For hours we sat in the October sun, on a perfect day, and listened to the speeches of amazing people from all walks of life, including Judy Shepherd (mother of Matthew), Lady GaGa, Cleve Jones, David Mixner, and so many more. There were celebrities like Cynthia Nixon and Michelle Clunie, and many, many local activists who are out there every day fighting for all of our equal rights.
Eventually all of the festivities came to an end. The crowds dispersed and the noise died down. We all hoped that the President had been watching. We all hoped that change had been made, that our voices had been heard. Everyone who attended and marched on that October 11, 2009 day were a part of history – the RIGHT side of history. It is a story that I am so proud of, and one that I cannot wait to tell our children…hopefully one day in a world where every American citizen is treated the same.
By: Heather Somaini
I was on a flight to France last Friday and even as you read this, I’m still not home. As our plane headed out over the dark ocean and then turned back, revealing our City of Angels with city lights as far as you can see, I became dreamy and wistful of happy endings like in the movies. They always resolve everything in two hours and everyone is where they’re supposed to be with the right outcomes.
I realize that my happy endings are only valuable if I earn them. Anything that I get too easily must not have been worth much in the first place. Looking back to five and a half years ago, I’m sure I was infinitely frustrated that our process to start our family was not coming easily. I wonder if I would have devalued it if it had happened sooner and easier.
Some people say that we manifest our lives either very far in advance or maybe on a daily basis. Hard work was instilled in me young and it clearly has guided a lot of things in my life. I wish I didn’t take it so seriously and could have manifested an easier go of it. I’m sure Tere would have appreciated it too!
If you remember, I thought Tere and I had agreed that she would try 4 times to get pregnant and if it wasn’t working, we would move on to me. Well, we had already tried 3 times when we miscarried so she only had one more try left. We discussed expanding to 6. I was willing. Tere, of course, had always planned on 6 so this wasn’t really a discussion as much as it was her helping me see her point of view on the whole thing.
We took the month of December off as Dr. C suggested and sat on the sidelines and watched everyone around us actively engaged in the game. Tere didn’t want to waste any more time and was itching to get back on the field.
We met with Dr. S to decide what to do next. He highly recommended moving to IVF entirely because of Tere’s age but we just weren’t there yet. We felt that if she got pregnant on Clomid, she had a good chance again on it or some other fertility drug. Dr. S was clearly frustrated at our hesitancy but agreed to start Tere on injectable fertility drugs.
On January 9th we started again. This time we had lots of vials in the refrigerator and lots of needles in the bathroom. Tere’s pretty afraid of needles so I gave her every injection. She even came home early from a corporate retreat so I could handle it for her. It’s very off-putting to poke your beloved with a sharp needle, repeatedly day after day. I hate causing others pain and although she said it was fine, it didn’t feel quite right.
As time passed and the drugs became more complicated -requiring mixing and different gauges of needles, I became quite proud of my new skill set. I felt a little like a mad scientist with all of my vials and needles and other mad scientist items neatly laid out on the counter in our master bathroom. I know what you’re wondering and the answer is YES, of course everything was lined up and organized by color or size or something!
By the end of January, we knew that Tere was not pregnant. We tried again. By mid-February she was again not pregnant. Dr. S changed fertility drugs and we started again.
Tere had one try left.
By: Heather Somaini
We returned to Los Angeles from our Thanksgiving in New York City and started into the holiday season. Tere and I both remember working a lot. We wanted to move on, move forward, to forget. Of course you never actually forget but we had hope. Tere recently just reminded me that she has never forgotten the due date of that baby – June 29, 2006 – and every year she spends a little time on that day remembering the baby that didn’t make it. I think the amount of time is less each year and maybe one day she will forget.
We had a strange split Christmas that year in Los Angeles and Tennessee. I’m not sure why. I think we shifted our Christmas celebration towards the end of December to let my brother spend Christmas day with his in-laws. Since Tere and I and my parents were essentially alone for the holiday, we convinced my Mom and Dad to come to LA and spend December 25th with us. Our friends Julie and Amy and Amy’s parents were in town so we invited them over to celebrate too.
Christmas dinner was great, lots of fun with great friends. But that night after everyone had left and my parents had gone to bed, Tere and I were finishing up some dishes and the cracks in our current situation started to show. Tere was super disappointed in my choice of a Christmas gift for her – socks. I’m not sure why it was socks and I’m sure there were other gifts. But Tere saw it as my complete disregard for her. I had hurt her at a time when she needed to know I was thinking about her most. I didn’t have any really great excuses although I’m sure I was busy trying to bury my head in the sand. I’m sure work was taxing and negotiating with my family for our holiday took its toll. But when it really came down to it, I failed her. She was devastated and convinced that I didn’t love her. It was hard to hear and even harder to resolve. But somehow we made it through.
My parents flew home a day or so later and we met them in Tennessee with my brother and his family. My parents were part way through building their retirement home. We all stayed at their rental house about a mile away. We went to see the progress of the framing of their house on the lake. It was pretty amazing and is still one of my favorite places to go and sit and watch the water go by.
My sister-in-law was pregnant with my nephew that Christmas. She was the first of many of our friends who got pregnant while we struggled. It was frustrating and doubts started to creep in. We started to wonder if we had done something wrong or if we were being punished. We were terribly difficult on ourselves.
I look back at that Christmas as the last one when we were truly alone – just us. Lots of things can change in a year. It was the last Christmas of easy decisions and I have a feeling Tere would be happy with socks now – ok well maybe super expensive cashmere socks!
By: Brandy Black
10 years ago I spent many torturous months getting the courage up to tell my parents that I was a lesbian. I tossed and turned at night thinking about how I was going to tell them. In my struggles I also learned that I was terrified of what I had become, not because I didn’t want to be gay, but because I was letting go of all of that I learned my future to be. I was letting go of that big white wedding and those 2 children that I had prepared myself for- by taking child development classes in high school and working at daycares all the while talking about how I would parent, what I learned, what I hoped to teach my children one day. I lay in bed thinking it was all gone because I had become someone that no one prepared me to be. I had no handbook for life after falling in love with a woman. At one point I actually convinced myself that maybe I should turn a cheek to the love of my life and follow through with the dreams that I knew so well. But after much thought, love prevailed and I flew to Seattle to face the truth with my parents.
I sat by the stream in their backyard sobbing and barely able to utter the words out of my mouth while my mom and dad lovingly waited. With one last ounce of breath I unveiled it all; I was raw and aching inside but I told them that I had fallen in love with a woman. When I did this, when I laid it all on the line, prepared for the demise, the big argument, the possibility of being disowned as I had seen with other friends that had blazed this trail, my mother took off her glasses and asked me… if I was homophobic. I put myself through hell and she accuses me of being homophobic. She then explained in great detail that I should not rob myself of all that I have wanted because of one glitch in this silly game of life, that fear was the only thing standing in my way from having it all.
After coming home from that trip I was empowered and promptly informed Susan that I wanted to have a wedding and kids and if she wasn’t on board she should let me know now.
2 years later, I married Susan (not legally) but I did wear the white princess wedding dress that I had always imagined. And one year after that we began picking anonymous donors in preparation for my pregnancy with our child. It was as if someone swung open the doors of possibility. We were giddy flipping through pages of stats on various men trying to find the perfect match for our family. Don’t get me wrong, this was an awkward process that was oftentimes clinical and far from romantic but underneath it all we were creating a family that we had never fathomed we could. I, being the type A girl that I am, wanted it NOW! I couldn’t wait to see that plus sign on a stick. Month after month we went to the doctor hoping that this was the one. Two and a half years later, we were done; it had been determined that I had unexplained infertility. Susan, who never had the urge to physically carry a child, made the ultimate sacrifice for our family and attempted pregnancy and that didn’t even work. This was devastating, given that the process we had been using for many months was literally as close to an exact science recipe to getting pregnant as you could ask for.
We had given up. We didn’t want to, but it seemed as though the universe was telling us something. I went through moments of wondering if I was deserving of having a child, if this was some sort of a sign, if I had become a lesbian for a reason. I didn’t want to think this way but I couldn’t help it after all that we had been through. As a final ditch effort, we gave it one last try.
14 days later we were given the results that I, out of some miracle, was pregnant. I sobbed the entire 45-minute drive home. I sobbed for all for those shameful undeserving moments I had, I sobbed for all that the process had put my wife and I through and I sobbed out of gratitude that we finally were able to bring a little human being into the world to be a part of our family.
As my belly grew through the summer, fall and winter months I read book after book searching diligently for tips on how to be a mom. I realized I had no idea what I was getting us into and Susan, with her relaxed, breezy, fly-by-the-seat-of-your pants mentality, wasn’t helping my neurotic, pregnant state of mind. I sat up at night briefing Susan on tabbed pages and highlighted notes about sleep schedules, nursing, vaccinations, you name it.
When our daughter Sophia was born, all that we studied slowly drifted away and we became two moms navigating our way through the perfectly natural process of parenting. It was as if our daughter was guiding us along. We worried what she would call us, how she would know, who would be mom and who would be mommy and one day Sophia said “Mama. Mama” and pointed to me. I am mama! Susan became mom and that was that. Sophia knows her parents’ names with no mistake. We read her a book just last month and there was a family of 3 skunks and Sophia pointed to the one with the bow on its head and said “mama” and she pointed to the one without a bow and said “mom”. It’s that simple. I know in years to come we will face challenging questions but the once-dreaded worries of discussions with our daughter and the general public about our family have become welcomed conversations that expand our world and are received with great love. Although we do find ourselves “coming out” again and again to the lady at the market and the man in the Starbucks when Sophia explains with great excitement that I am mama and Susan is mom and we are a family, it’s easier than I thought it would be. She takes a hatred that lingers in dark places and turns it into sweet, pure innocent love. When the pleasant older man at the Easter party tells me how beautiful my daughter is and five minutes later asks why Sophia called that woman over there mom, I can only smile and take the same approach that I have learned from my 2 year old and proudly say she has 2 moms.
Through the process of motherhood I began to think about the definition of family and whom I learned it from and how it came to be that I once thought that family could only be a mom and a dad, a husband and a wife. By random chance I followed my heart and fell in love with a Juliet, not a Romeo. My definition of family changed in a flash. I started wondering how many others had families that were different from their childhood pictures. Single parents that never intended to get divorced, families that have adopted because they couldn’t get pregnant, or couples that have chosen to go the non-traditional route, so to speak. I started researching these “families” and realized that 60% of our society makes up those families. So the way I see it, we are in the norm. With this I was inspired to create The Next Family; it is a place for people to share their stories and celebrate their differences. As I sit pouring through interviews with single moms who are inspiring all mothers everywhere, and the 2 dad family in Malibu who are about to send their little girl off to college, and the Phillips family in Arkansas whose 10-year-old refused to stand up for the pledge of allegiance until same sex marriage is legal, I learn everyday. I learn that what I’m doing is only a tiny part of this huge amazing world of people that spread love and inspire others beyond anything I could have imagined. I am lucky to have fallen into the most wonderful job ever- discovering people’s hearts and sharing them with others. It is a constant reminder to me how special my family is and a much needed support system that touches me everyday. My daughter and my wife and The Next Family community at large bring a love that I could have never dreamt for in my wildest childhood dreams.
*I recently read this at a Show called Spark at The Powerhouse Theatre in Santa Monica, I thought I’d share.
I have lifted myself up from my crippling emotional state enough to brush the past off and move on to the next phase. Our doctor has determined that there is a distinct possibility that I am not able to bear children unless with another’s eggs. Remember that fortune I got? So he has suggested that we move forward with my wife’s eggs in my body. Not a half bad idea! As a matter of fact, this was the original concept when my wife and I first started discussing having children. We quickly dismissed the idea as it was way too expensive. Now, it all makes sense. I feel strangely better, like this was the place we needed to get to in order to have a child.
After having a 4-hour dinner with a good friend of ours she recommended that we go to a healer to release some of the pain that we have been holding onto through this process. Being the cynic that I am, I resisted, but my partner, unbeknownst to me, made the appointment. We went…and I mocked quietly as we visualized our spines twisting further each time we pulled our hands slowly from the front of the room to the back like human protractors about to snap in half. We created visualization timelines and jumped back and forth on the mental highway forgiving the past and making space for the future. I saw my 2-year-old daughter in grey speckles fading in and out raising her tiny hands to me but I could not hear her words. I wanted so badly for the pictures to be clear but my stubborn mind kept resisting so I couldn’t allow myself to submerge in the vision that our healer was extending. It was as if I were in a bad dream from which I couldn’t wake. I found myself wanting to hold on to the pain to protect myself for the future. This is my shield that I have built for 2 years, how dare you strip that from my cold bloody hands and ask me to stand naked and ready to be robbed again? Though she did, simple as that, request the obvious task- let it all go.
We left and I was sore inside and raw outside and I was confused as to what the hell happened in there. We got in our individual cars (we had met- each coming from work) and drove away. My phone rang a few minutes later and my wife asked how I felt and it was then that I realized that I had let go.
[photo credit: Flickr member Shenghung Lin]