The Ecstasy of Blue Underpants

September 30, 2010 by  
Filed under Parenting

By: Katherine Ellis

My sister missed my niece’s potty training window; at least, that’s what she suspected. They were too busy; they waited past the pinnacle of Lulu’s potty excitement. She was on the downhill slide, totally over the potty, when my sister decided it was time. By then three year-old Lulu didn’t care, she seemed perfectly happy to have her mother change her diaper forever.

My sister was in the midst of this drama and chattering into my ear over the phone when my daughter, Josie, came home from preschool screeching about underwear and the potty. She was two-and-a-half and demanding boo (blue) underwear. My sister encouraged me to act. Move! Move! Do it now while you can!

The next morning we made a BIG show of going to buy new underwear with all kinds of gaudy, sparkly, animated characters with crowns and wings and oversized ears. And our girl went for it. She was all in. We read her the potty book and I, Josephine’s mother, put her on the potty every 30 minutes (this sentence is hilarious if you’ve read the Potty Book 5,000+ times). It worked. Oh how proud we were!

Josie got a sticker every time she used the toilet and it was going so well. Then… Meh. We lost interest, and by ‘we’ I mean she. She lost interest. It was fun for a while. Then our friends gave us some leftover pull-ups with princesses on them. Oh for pete’s sake. She was over underwear. She carried her new diapers around the house, clutched to her chest. She got out of bed at night to diaper her monkey; she slept with them close to her face. Are you kidding me? Get those potty-killer pants out of my house! We took a little break. We used the princess diapers until they were gone and went back to the generic diapers of our past.

Not much later, she decided to go back to underwear and this went well for a time. One day I brought home some new bar stools with seats made of woven sea grass to test out in our kitchen and soon they were saturated with pee – well, I guess we’re keeping them now. She could use the potty. She just wasn’t interested and didn’t really mind walking around with wet pants. Soon, like so many other things in our two-and-a-half year-old’s life, it became an issue of control. The parents want me to use the potty; therefore, I must not use the potty. Must not.

There was some hand-wringing, some parental resignation. Then: new bribery. She would get a matchbox car for every day she went without an accident. She was crazy about those little cars and, at $.69/car this was a habit I could support. I’d even get one of those big carrying cases if she got enough of them. This worked for a time then… Cookies! Yes, cookies would save us. I know, surely I’m scarring my child forever by using food as a bribe but…desperate times.

Josie’s approaching her third birthday, growing out of the original underpants, and the last few weeks we’ve instituted a new reward. If she has a whole week without an accident we can rent a new movie. Oh the joy! Most of the time Josie does earn the reward, and last I heard my niece had finally hopped onto the potty bandwagon and would not, in fact, be wearing diapers forever.

I’ve heard rumors of other parents who have smoother, more practical, nurturing ways to potty-train –solutions that are child-centric and enhance the connection of parent and child. However, I, Josephine’s mother, have been humbled by parenting in many ways. These days I’m willing to do just about whatever it takes to get through it all, even if that means we have to watch a whole bunch of movies filled with princesses.

For more stories of our adventures visit


Wedding Bells, Part 2

September 6, 2010 by  
Filed under Brandy Black, Family

By: Brandy Black

We got in a fight before our wedding. On the ferry ride over. I can’t remember why. Could it have been the make up? Things were tense. We had been planning a wedding for a year from another state and it was all happening on this overcast day after waiting 2 years for sun.

We parted at the wedding site to go to our separate rooms to get ready and we weren’t speaking –on our wedding day! I was fine at first, chatting with my girls, putting on the amazing gown that I had been dying to step into for months, but I kept wondering how my bride-to-be was doing. Her sister came over to pick up the infamous make up and I asked. I didn’t get the answer I had been hoping for. Susan apparently wasn’t talking much and I knew what that meant and now here I was forbidden to see her before I walked down the aisle to say I DO. I began desperately trying to manipulate seeing her and was told by everyone I asked that everything was fine and I shouldn’t see her before the wedding. The schedule was set for her to get pictures with her family first, then me. I made my way down early hoping to see her but she was done. I took my pictures with the family all the while pre-occupied. I pressed further and explained that I needed to see Susan to give her a present. It worked, somehow someone sent her my way and I pulled her into the dark hall where we later had our first dance as a married pair.

“How are you? Are you OK?”

She was quiet at first and than we grabbed hands and looked at one another and all of it disappeared. At that moment the wedding was no longer about guests or flowers or make up or rules, it was about us, my best friend, my wife to be, standing before me, more beautiful than ever before. I cried. She bowed her head and looked up with her big brown eyes as if to say “There you are.” We kissed. I later found out when reviewing pictures that the photographer was there, snapping the whole scene. We didn’t even notice her. I could have escaped to the getaway boat right then and there; it was all that I needed…that moment.

A voice came from the distance: “Susan, it’s time! You have to go to the other side; the string quartet is playing. Come on.”

We ignored it. Susan grabbed my hand and led me to a small window where we watched all of our stunning guests – from LA, Chicago, Seattle, New York, Colorado, Boston –they were all there for us.


One Special Mom

June 10, 2010 by  
Filed under Parenting

By: Caren Gillespie

When The Next Family approached me to write an article about a special mother, my first thought was, “how do I choose just one?”  I know some pretty phenomenal moms, but here is one who really stands out.

Krista is a full-time working mother of three children: Mercer, (almost) 7, Haley, 4, and Kemper, 1.  When I say “full time”, I’m not talking about your typical 9-5 day.  Krista, who works in sales, is basically on call all hours of the day. She is not the type of person to do anything half-assed -especially mothering…

With all the work she has to do, one might think she’d have no time to be so present in her children’s day-to-day lives.  I, being a stay at home mom, have more time than Krista has, but I cannot imagine being able to participate in all my children’s daily activities in the way she does. She is a room mother, a coach, on the preschool board, and attends all school events.  She admits that being so involved allows her to have a bit more control of the environment of her son, who has a peanut allergy so severe that he must always carry an Epi-Pen. She is determined to not only make the school district a nut-free environment, she just might take on the world at some point….this is just how she rolls.  All the while, she is determined that her son not feel abnormal about his allergy and he takes it in stride.

I am in awe when I watch all she can juggle.  She runs her house in a coach-like manner with a “go get ‘em!” mentality and a soft mommy edge.  It works for her family, and their “dance” is inspiring to watch.  She could not have more generous, thoughtful, loving children.  You watch them and you know for sure they know they are Number One in her life.  She does get sad if she has missed out on anything with her children, and you can tell she has mom guilt with some of her choices (I tell her it comes with the territory).  But one thing you won’t hear from her is complaining.  Sure, she gets down or needs to vent, but most of that consists of her trying to figure out a solution for whatever is bugging her or what she could do differently in the future.  It’s inspiring really….

I recently sat down over some wine and appetizers to see if I could find out her secret.

Did you always know you wanted a big family?

Yes, I grew up in a big sports family and when one of us was away it didnt feel like the house was empty because at least two of us were home.  It was like our own internal community, which is what I want for my children.

How do you balance your family and working life?

Thats a great questionIts an answer I hope I will learn someday.  Do you know you have balance when you do?  I guess I just try to maintain acceptance and try and let go of some of the tactical things.  I basically keep two identities: my work and my home.

What is your biggest challenge with maintaining some balance?

Sometimes I wish I had more time in the day and sometimes I wish the day were over.  I try and make sure each day includes one-on-one time with each of the kids.

Describe your relationship with your husband.

I feel so blessed to have Steve; we have been best friends for 15 years.  I know he is always there for me.Hes my family!

Describe a good day.

A good day consists of no morning appointments so I can walk my kids to school, my work done early so I can play with the kids before dinner and time with each kid.  I want them to be tired because we had so much fun that day.

What do you do for yourself?

Not Enough!  I just know that when the kids are laughing its  good for my soul.  I do get to sleep in sometimes and am finding more time with my friends, but for the most part I am still trying to figure it out.

What is your 5-year plan?

Part of why I work now is so when my kids are preteen and teenagers I wont have to work as hard and can spend more time with them.

In a perfect world, how would your life look?

I would vacation every day and just watch my kids having a blast.  We would have no monetary responsibility.

What advice would you give someone else contemplating a large family while working full time?

Find what works for you, everyone is different but make sure you laugh every day.

I feel privileged to know Krista. Even with her every day demands she always tells me “are you kidding? I always have time for you.” She truly inspires me to be a more positive mother and to appreciate the time I get to spend with my own children.  She does it all so gracefully but she will be the first to admit it is not easy. It takes work, but it’s all worth it to her!


Enviro-Mentally Exhausted

April 28, 2010 by  
Filed under Eco

By: Caren Gillespie

If you met me in person, you might think I’m pretty eco friendly. Compared to many people in this country, I am! I’m a former Dead-head, long haired, yuppie hippie who started caring about what was happening to the earth from early on. I was very into Earth Day in the 90s. I planted trees, rode my bike everywhere, hiked the mountains and basically did what I could with what education I had and what resources were offered at the time. Flash forward to the new millennium and here in Seattle, you would think Earth day is every day. Here, “eco” has come a long way. Armed with my grocery totes, I fall right in with other Seattleites who gravitate to the “organic products” available to us everywhere. But I think we still have a long way to go.

we have access to so many things in this country that “help” save the earth but, in its abundance, it begs the question “does it really help?”

Consumer Reports recently did a study and found that a large percentage of Americans stopped buying eco-friendly products because they were too expensive and they didn’t feel they worked well. It’s amazing in a world with iPads and robotic surgeries, we cannot make a product that works better on cleaning my dishes than me spit washing them. In a nutshell (organic of course) here are my gripes about our uber-green movement:

Warning: Going green means actually turning green!

Light bulbs: I walk into my living room in the evening and notice a green glow….”Honey, why does it look different in here?” He replies sheepishly “Oh, I didn’t think you’d notice. I put in those CFL light bulbs.” Yes, I noticed! How do you not notice when your house has a hue of green? He put them in the bathroom too; this is where I get ready to face the world every morning! Yes, I know there are CFLs with different light ratings, but we’ve tried them all it seems and none come close to the warmth of the incandescent. Again, can’t we invent an energy efficient light bulb that reflects light the same as a standard? It’s a light bulb!
Laundry detergent: in our house the “whites” load is now anything but white. Look at an eco-friendly person in white closely enough, and you’ll see they aren’t wearing white but a shade of greenish-grey that all the “eco” detergents seem to leave.
Liquid Hand Soap: Great, they are sulfate free, but did you know that if you pour a whole bottle of oil down your drain, it will clog? If you read the ingredients of the Eco-liquid hand soaps you will see they are made up of mostly oil! It’s my theory but I have some clogged drains to prove it. Did you know that being green is chic now? Tell me you haven’t bought a hand soap or household cleaner simply because you liked its label. I have.
Organic produce:
If you are an organic produce buyer like me, you are also damned.

It’s not enough to buy organic, because if you do buy those organic grapes from Chile, your carbon footprint has increased because of the fossil fuels used to transport them to the U.S.!

So now some people think it is better to buy local conventional (non-organic) produce than to buy imported organic produce. I get it, we don’t want to use the Earth’s resources but we also don’t want to poison our children, so we deny them grapes and bananas and most other things because here, in Seattle, we have apples….apples people!

Grocery shopping on the whole gets a bit out of hand here in Seattle. It’s a brave soul who forgets their reusable bags at a grocery store—we actually came real close to passing a law banning anything else!

You feel the tension mount as the bagger utters those dreaded words almost spitefully and unforgivingly loud “PAPER OR PLASTIC MA’AM?”

Well at that point, you might as well have set a forest fire in the mountains. It is unrelenting scorn you will feel in this city, not an ounce of forgiveness. Let’s be honest. We’ve all been on both sides of this. With all this pressure, it’s no wonder that Amazon Fresh is so popular these days. No one watches you buy non-organic Cheetos and high fructose corn syrup-y soda. It’s all private; like that “Playboy” magazine that comes cleverly wrapped in brown paper so your mailman and neighbors won’t know your significant other likes a good “article” now and then.

Are you rolling your eyes now, thinking I am “that” mom who just doesn’t get it? Yes I get it, but succumb to it all? No way. I used to walk into a grocery store and have this unexplainable anxiety as I would shop. I had to let that go. I want my kids to enjoy food, not worry about it so much. I don’t want them to feel that anxiety in the school lunchroom as their friends envy the lunch they brought. “Hey! How come you got chips? The tuna came from a can, not fresh caught.” Honestly, I do teach my children what healthy food to put into their bodies and respect how it makes their bodies feel. They are happy with one small scoop of ice cream and consider that a treat instead of the gargantuan sizes restaurants serve these days. They know the difference, but they also know they have the freedom to make choices. I feel I also have that right. So yes, I will bring my reusable bags a ‘plenty to my local grocery store, farmers’ market and even Target and occasionally I will forget them. I have a compost bin on my kitchen counter with rotting food (which just seems like an oxymoron for a healthy environment, but it helps our Seattle parks), but an eggshell might find its way down my drain. I buy healthy food for my family and make most of our meals at home. I even bought part of a cow from a sustainable and organic local farm last year. Yes, I have my limits and am very conscious of my “footprint”, but to keep up with the eco trends that riddle our city, well, I don’t have that kind of time or money. It comes down to what works for your family and not necessarily the easiest route but one that doesn’t deter from more important things in life. Choose your battles, be mindful of your actions and consequences and don’t worry so much, it’s a good example for everyone.


Steele Money from the GOP

March 30, 2010 by  
Filed under Entertainment

By: Tom Butts

So, I’ve read the news today, about the fact that Michael Steele (head of the Republican Party) had expenses paid by the GOP at a “titty” bar in West Hollywood. First off, I’m still trying to get past “titty” bar in West Hollywood…
Anyway, I love the satire that Huffington Post listed:
In what appears to be a reversal of a long-standing GOP position, RNC chair Michael Steele said today that he considered same-sex unions “incredibly hot, especially when the girls are getting it on in a glass case.”
Man, that sums it up! Seriously…it just figures – wide stance, bondage “titty” bars and infidelity. Sure Democrats do it too, but we don’t run our campaigns on it, right?
Traditional American values…really?
I actually can’t spend any more time writing on this subject. I just found out Ricky Martin is gay, in his new book titled “No Shit”.
Gossip Girl


Tour Truants

March 1, 2010 by  
Filed under Adoptive Families

By: Jillian Lauren


We had a few days off before the Seattle show, so we decided to try to get away from it all and rent a house out on Bainbridge Island.

Here is what I learned:

1. Bainbridge Island is quaint and lovely and has a charming indie bookstore.
2. It is wonderful to sleep with the sound of waves breaking right outside your bedroom window.
3. There is no such thing as “getting away from it all” when you have an eighteen-month-old in tow.

I believe I expressed this sentiment in a less articulate way last night. It went something like the following (imagine this punctuated with desperate sobs): I am NOT going ANYWHERE EVER AGAIN. When we get home, I am staying there FOREVER.

What happened to your circus gal, your Gypsy pal? She was felled by a migraine and a wee lad. All I can say is that he’s small but he’s cunning.

I think the highlight of our island excursion was actually the ferry ride over. Bainbridge Island is about 35 minutes from downtown Seattle by ferry. It was T’s first time on a boat and it was so great to watch him screaming with delight and running headlong into the crazy wind. Here he is posing as the new Adam for the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.


n-between bouts of panic and dread, I did take a moment or two to enjoy the clean sea air, the lush evergreens all around and the views of snow-covered Mt. Ranier from the beach outside our pad.


We also went to visit a little Norweigian-themed town called Poulsbo- kind of the Pacific Northwest’s equivalent to our Solvang. It was cute and touristy and had lots of viking dolls and lingonberry jam. I dubbed it “Little Ikea.” Here is the window of the town pirate store. Every town should have one.


And for those of you who saw the Vanity Fair blog I wrote from Japan, you’ll appreciate that I was somehow hypnotized into buying yet another faux-fur Doctor Zhivago hat. That one was grey and this one is off-white and brown, so they’re apples and oranges, really. Plus, it was made by a local artist and was called a muffette or a muffalette or something, so I had to buy it.

I have no pictures of it, since its purchase preceded a rather unpleasant exchange. Why don’t men understand that an LA girl simply can’t have enough faux-fur cossack hats?


Olympics- "Don't Ask, Don't Tell

February 16, 2010 by  
Filed under Entertainment

By: Tom Butts

2010 Olympics

It’s interesting, the other day I was watching an expose on Olympic athletes.  They do the typical biography, “from a small town in Nebraska…”  As they bring the athlete to their current status and sport we see their family and children and their home life, that is, unless they’re gay.

“Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” is a relic from the 90′s which we are hoping to do away with in the coming year.  I believe the attitude still exists in coverage of the Olympics, even in Vancouver, Canada (a country where gay marriage has been legal for years).  For some reason, social causes like gay rights are not as readily taken up by the Olympic movement. It’s too thorny.

There are no publicly gay athletes at the Winter Olympics that we know of (Johnny Weir is another subject).  I have heard rumors that a dozen gay Olympians will come out in Vancouver. Don’t hold your breath — there’s a better chance that Ann Coulter and Glenn Beck will win pairs skating.



[photo credit: Flickr- US Consulate General Vancouver]


Nice Day For A White Wedding?

February 10, 2010 by  
Filed under Entertainment

By: Tom Butts


It’s unfortunate, but airlines aren’t the only thing affected by a big snow storm.  The so called “Snow Storm of the Century” could also delay Congress weighing in on DC’s decision to make gay marriage legal.  How do these two topics even relate you ask??

Well, by law Congress has 30 legislative days to review all laws signed by the DC Mayor (Adrian Fenty – in case you’re thinking it’s still “cracked-out” Mayor Marion Berry).  If the Capitol shuts down, so does the clock that counts down the 30 days.

What this means is that gay marriage may not become law until mid-March.  Fortunately, even with all the talk about the devastating defeat the Democrats had in the Senate in Massachusetts, we still have 59 votes and a much larger margin in the House.  Gay marriage hasn’t been legal or recognized in the 233 years we’ve been a country, so what’s another week or two…right?!


To Doula or Not To Doula

February 2, 2010 by  
Filed under Parenting

To Doula

By: Heidi Biddle

to doula belly

I have been blessed with three babies.  Well, I say “babies”, but they are nearly 17, 14, and 9.  I remember each one of their births like it was yesterday. Without saying I was naive, when it came to the births of my children, I thought I had it all planned out.

For my first birth, I wrote out a birth plan and looked forward to going through this with my support people.  I assumed the doctor would not only explain everything to us, but would also assist me through my whole labor and birth, all the while talking to me in a soothing voice, and urging me to go on. I thought the nurses would be there to support me and help me through this wonderful time. I knew that I wanted my husband, my sister, and my mom in the room when I had my baby-they would help me, too.  My birth plan was simple: “no drugs unless I am in pain and ask for some.” I prepared myself and my husband for what was surely going to be the most beautiful, sweet, peaceful, and incredible birth ever.

Then, I went into labor. I had an epidural at 3 cm. (as early as you can), but it didn’t work.  I felt it all, including the vacuum that was used to get him out.  My beautiful, perfect, cone-headed baby.

With my second, I got to the hospital at 8 cm. Then she just fell out! There was no doctor, no nurse – just my husband (who was freaking out and saying “is this supposed to be happening?”). Papers flying, husband holding baby in with his hand, my mom looking for help, and my sister -my poor sister -her jaw was on the floor and she looked as if she’d seen a ghost. Where were my support people?

By my third time around, I found a new doctor. I explained that I was a natural at this, and I knew how I wanted it. I wanted no drugs. My babies came fast!  My husband was going to catch this one, he was going to cut the cord, and I would have a mirror so I could watch my baby be born. I wanted my precious baby placed immediately on my chest – skin to skin – and I wanted to breastfeed right away. Period. I reminded my doctor of my plan at every single visit; this is how it was going to be. I explained that my husband was my coach, and we wanted to labor alone. It was going to be beautiful (in hindsight, I was my own doula!).  I wanted NO intervention.

At 43 weeks pregnant (yes, that’s right, world’s longest pregnancy), I had to be induced. The doctor was afraid my baby would be 10 pounds. I cried all the way to the hospital…I didn’t want to be induced! I knew my baby would come when he was ready. I didn’t understand why they wanted me to get him out if he wasn’t ready. So what if he was 10 pounds?  I was sure my body could do it! I sulked all the way through the pitocin drip. I labored away with no pain meds. I was offered drugs frequently, and turned them down every time.  I owed this to my baby. I was 9 cm. dilated and ready to push when my doctor came in and recommended an epidural; he thought it would slow things down a bit and give me some energy for pushing (it turned out he was delivering twins right next door, and they were coming fast). I rolled over to my side, ready to do what he asked, because he recommended it.  Before they had time to administer anything, out came my baby’s head!  The doctor ran back into the room, caught my baby, cut the cord himself, handed him to a nurse to clean him up, dumped my placenta, then left to deliver the twins next door.

My husband missed the whole thing. My husband – who couldn’t wait to catch our baby -missed the whole thing. I missed the whole thing. There was no mirror, no control, no husband cutting the cord, no respect, no birth plan, no empathy, no baby placed skin-to-skin on my chest, and most of all, no 10 pound baby.  He was 7 lbs, 6 oz.

I can’t help but wonder how different these births -especially my third -would have been if I’d had someone knowledgeable in my corner who understood both the medical lingo and the process of labor and birth, someone who knew exactly what I wanted and would help me to achieve that.  Someone not emotionally tied to me, who would have stood up for me -my very own advocate. I vowed immediately after my third and final birth that I was going to do something about that.

When I meet with clients, they are usually only entertaining the thought of a doula.  They mostly want to know why they should hire another person to assist them when they already have a support person – whether it’s a spouse, a friend or a partner.  Furthermore, most couples believe that the doctor (whom they have grown extremely close to), midwife, and nurses will be in the room, by their side, supporting them through their entire labor and explaining everything as it is going on.  Experience has shown me that this is not always the case.  Next to the partner, a doula is the only person looking out for the mother’s best interests 100% of the time.  Whether it is a precipitous (very fast ) labor, or a 70-hour labor, a doula is there the entire time to help the mother achieve the birth experience she wants to have. While the nurses (and I have seen many good ones) do offer support, their primary job is to chart, document, and monitor both mom and baby at all times.

I help my clients come up with a birthing plan.  The parents outline their perfect birth and together we address the “what-ifs” (“should you end up having a C-section, let’s make the environment as pleasant as we can”).  Most people don’t think about these things on their own.  A doula also helps to remind the parents of the birth plan. When the unforeseen happens, or if chaos arises, the doula is an advocate -the ONLY advocate –for the parents. At a time when women are the most vulnerable, usually in pain, and the oxytocin (often called the “trust drug”) levels are high, a woman will typically do whatEVER the healthcare providers say is best, which can often veer away (sometimes unnecessarily) from the original plan.

I explain to the partners that one of the many benefits of having a doula is it allows them to do their job –to love and support the mother.  Partners (men in particular) do not realize how hard it is to see the mother in pain;  they want to fix it, take the pain away. With a doula, the partner can focus solely on the mother and be reassured that everything else is being handled.  I remind the support person to eat, drink, and take care of themselves, which is the only way they will be able to take care of a laboring mom.

My most important job as a doula is to remind parents that this is their birth journey. You will never get a do-over on the birth of your baby. Doulas do not speak for the parents – doulas explain the parents’ options as well as the actions of the doctors, midwives, or nurses. We remind the parents to ask all the questions….what are the benefits? What are the risks?  My favorite question to remind my clients to ask: “What happens if I just do nothing?”

Those who know me know that I am very passionate about what I do.  I feel very strongly about women and the healthy function of our bodies.  We were meant to birth.  And I have no regrets about the way I birthed my babies.  The only regret I have is not educating myself about pregnancy, labor, and childbirth. If I could have ten more babies, I would, and I would have a doula every time.   Now, as a doula myself, I am the liaison between parents and their perfect birth. You dream the dream, and I help make it come true.
More on Heidi Biddle at Your Birth Journey


Not To Doula

By: Ernessa Carter

not to doula belly

Here’s the thing about being a woman who knows she wants an epidural, taking pre-natal yoga classes in Silver Lake: You’re the only one.

So here’s me having to listen to a zen-ruining running monologue from every single prenatal yoga teacher about how certain exercises could help you through the worst of the birthing pain and prevent epidurals. And how yoga helped you to really BE in the experience of giving birth, even though I saw no reason at all to really BE one with the pain, just because that’s how my ancestors did it. At a few points I wanted to ask the prenatal yoga instructor to just shut up, so that I could get my stretch on in peace, but that wouldn’t have been very yogi of me, would it?

After class was even worse. I wanted to make friends. I didn’t know any other moms in Silver Lake, and this seemed like a great place to strike up friendships with like-minded people — only they weren’t like-minded. In fact, it was hard for me to join the conversation when it so often went like this:

“How are your doula interviews going?”

“Great! I found this really wonderful woman named so-and-so, but she doesn’t know if she’s going to have my due date open yet.”

“Oh, I’ve heard great stuff about so-and-so. Doesn’t she use a tub?”

“Yes, and she also chants out these primal rhythms…”

“Oh, she sounds nice. Mine does massage, but she doesn’t chant.”

Okay, obviously I can’t join this conversation, because just the idea of a stranger in the room giving me gentle encouragement while I’m in tons of pain makes me want to rip her head off.

Also, deep down inside, I’m just too nice. I would feel bad about snapping at someone who wasn’t married or related to me. Even if they were getting paid to get snapped at.

But most of all, I didn’t want a doula because there was absolutely nothing a doula could do that my husband couldn’t. Also, my husband wouldn’t insist that I do breathing exercises when I didn’t want to. My husband would rub my back just like a doula would — even better: he wouldn’t rub my back, because I don’t like to be touched when I’m in pain. See, he already knows that, whereas a doula doesn’t. No matter how nice she is, she would try to help me when I didn’t want to be helped and push me when I didn’t want to be pushed. And quite frankly, that’s my husband’s job. He already sorta said he would do everything a doula would in his vows, and I wanted him to make good on his promise.

He did everything right. He retreated when he was supposed to and though we had attended birthing classes, unlike my first charge nurse, he didn’t try to force me to do the stupid breathing exercises, when I told him I didn’t want to.  He didn’t question my need to blog through my contractions, but he did forcibly take the iPhone away after my epidural, so that I could get some sleep. He didn’t sleep, though. And he was by my side as soon as I woke up. He held my hand and changed the TV station and fed me ice chips and promised me Fig Newtons as soon as I was done with the labor. “You’re doing so well, honey” he answered, when I told him “I can’t! I can’t!” And then he cried when our daughter Betty finally came bursting into this world. Now would a doula have done that?

I watched him over at the scale, giving Betty soothing words as she screamed about getting weighed. And though I did most of the heavy lifting, I knew he was just as happy as I to finally meet her. That’s when I realized something for the first time in nine months: It was his pregnancy, too. And his support during my labor had created a bond that would never be undone. Be it Death or Divorce or Disaster, we would always have these hours holding us together, a forever memory. And I’m so happy I didn’t let a doula cheat me out of that.

Ernessa T. Carter is the author of the novel, 32 CANDLES, which will be released by HarperCollins/Amistad on June 22, 2010. Pre-order your copy on Amazon here.

More on Ernessa Carter at Fierce and Nerdy


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Why Gay People Should Marry

January 27, 2010 by  
Filed under Brandy Black, Family, Same Sex Parent

By: Brandy Black

I’m reading “Lesbian and Gay Parents and their Children” by Abbie Goldberg and it got me thinking about my passion for gay marriage.  I will occasionally get into this debate with gay friends who don’t understand why it was so important for me to marry Susan.

Before we got married (or had a “commitment ceremony” as some prefer to call it) I didn’t even realize what it would mean to me. Frankly, my mother talked me into it right after I “came out” to her.

The days leading up to my coming out were torturous. I was prepared for the absolute worst-case scenario.  I expected my parents to be angry and hurt and quite possibly disown me.  I made myself sick night after night worrying about telling them the truth.  In my case it was the dishonesty that was the worst of it all, because once I actually told my parents that I was in love with a woman, all of the baggage and pain I had been carrying around suddenly dissipated.

In that conversation with my mom -me weeping and my mother accusing me of being homophobic as she couldn’t understand why I was the one so upset -she asked me if Susan and I were going to get married and have kids.  It had never occurred to me that this might be an option; this was 10 years ago when conversations about gay marriage were barely stirring in the media.   She then went on to explain the importance of committing to each other in front of friends and family.  “It’s not just for you but for the people around you who don’t understand the blurry lines of gay relationships. It’s a way to tell everyone that you are pledging to one another for the long haul.”

I had thought about it a lot, what it would mean to “marry” Susan.  In my eyes we’d be renegades, naughty girls doing what we shouldn’t (even though it felt so right).  But my talk with my mother disarmed me, made me realize we weren’t rebels; we were following our hearts and allowing ourselves the life that we deserved.  Now that I had “permission” from two of the people closest to me to feel proud of my relationship, I wanted a wedding more than ever.

Once we had the ceremony in front of 80 of our closest friends and family -when it wasn’t legal- life was different.  Something changed after we made those vows to each other.  We opened up and let the other in, partners with a flood of trust and love for one another.  I can’t explain the meaning of it all but she shifted from my girlfriend to my life, I mean wife.

Now having gone through all that a wedding encompasses -a shower, ceremony, registering, and a honeymoon- it was more than worth it.  The constant validation from all of the people in our lives meant everything.  Support came gushing our way in the form of eloquent speeches, notes in the guest book, tears from our friends’ eyes as Susan and I walked towards each other through the sea of people. Susan stood beautifully before me in all her glory, my best friend becoming my wife.  It changed my life, which was the point.

In her book, Goldberg writes:

Qualitative research by Alderson (2004) provides evidence of some of the perceived effects of civil marriage among lesbians and gay men.  Alderson interviewed married lesbians and gay men in Canada and found that, for many participants, getting married created an added sense of security that was deeply felt and greatly appreciated.  Consistent with the findings of Solomon et al. (2005), Alderson also found that many participants felt that marriage brought greater depth and completion to their relationships, cementing them in both financial and emotional ways.  They also understood their marriage as symbolizing monogamy and as providing recognition for them as a family.

This was true for me.


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