Facing Our Fears as Queer Parents

Halloween is almost here, a celebration of all things scary. That means, of course, that we should be celebrating queer parenting, too, which brings with it no end of scary moments. Here are some I have had, along with a few thoughts on facing our fears.

Waiting for our pregnancy results. My spouse Helen and I wanted to start our family through reciprocal in vitro fertilization (RIVF), using my eggs and her womb, with anonymous donor sperm. This began with lots of (scary) injections we each had to give ourselves, Helen to prepare her womb and me to release multiple eggs. Even though we used my (younger) eggs, we were scared that we would not have any success before our insurance coverage ran out. The first cycle of RIVF didn’t work, making the second even scarier—but our fears were assuaged when Helen got pregnant.

The process of confirming my legal parentage. Even though I was our son’s genetic parent, I would not be a legal parent under the laws of New Jersey, where we lived at the time. We could have waited until after our son’s birth and done a confirmatory (second-parent) adoption, but I didn’t like the idea of having to adopt my own genetic child. We instead found a lawyer with expertise in LGBTQ family law who helped us petition the state for a pre-birth parentage order, recognizing me as a legal parent from the moment of our son’s birth. No other same-sex couple in the state had gotten such a pre-birth order when we started this process, which definitely scared us. Just before our one court visit, however, a couple in another county received one. That didn’t set an official precedent for ours, but was a good sign, and indeed we got our parentage order, too.

Our son’s birth. Helen had the world’s most boring pregnancy — no morning sickness, no odd cravings — until the last three minutes, when she started feeling weird and our son’s heart rate dropped. I suddenly worried that I’d lose both of them. The doctor decided to do an emergency C-section, and our quiet birthing suite at the hospital became a scene out of “ER.” Medical staff rushed in to transfer Helen to a gurney and take her to the operating room. Someone tossed me a pair of scrubs that I threw on as she was being wheeled down the hall. I ran after her and made it just in time for our son’s birth. Both were well, but it had been the scariest few minutes of my life.

Dropping him off on his first day of preschool and every year after that. Our son was excited about going to school, so there weren’t tears at the door, but I knew that in addition to friendships and learning, he would also be exposed to some of the not-so-good things that can happen in a classroom, including social snubs, outright bullying, and the common cold. He would encounter a range of experiences and opinions that would helpfully broaden his world, but sometimes challenge what we had taught him. As new parents, we usually control most aspects of our children’s environment; as parents with children in school or daycare, we do not. We simply have to trust that we have prepared them well enough to make their own assessments and stick with their own values. We must also encourage them to communicate with us so that we can talk through any difficulties. Fears can sometimes best be overcome together.

The first time he drove on the road. Aaaaaah! Enough said. He’s a fine driver now, but that first venture outside of the parking lot raised my heart rate.

Dropping him off at college. Had we done enough to prepare him? Was there some vital piece of advice we had forgotten to convey? Would he find his way without us there? Would we be able to step back and not call or text every day? Would he do his laundry? Answer: So far, yes.

These are hardly the only fears that parents face. I have pangs of fear every time I hear about another school shooting, a child diagnosed with a serious illness, or a fatal random traffic accident. My heart jolts when I hear news of queer parents fighting for legal parentage. I worry when another anti-LGBTQ bill moves through a state legislature. Then there is the litany of lesser but more everyday fears we may experience: Will our children do well in school (by whatever measures — social, emotional, and academic — matter to us)? Will our children’s new relationships be healthy? Will they find the resilience to face failure and keep trying? Will they find their place in the world? 

The fears can be overwhelming. If we cower from them, however, we remain at their mercy, even of the ones that never become reality. If we ignore them completely, on the other hand, we risk being unprepared for the ones that do happen. Finding that balance can be tricky — and there will always be some fears that come to pass that we can never anticipate. Yet worrying too much diverts energy that would be better spent preparing our children and families for what we can control and for simply enjoying time with our loved ones.

Scary moments will always exist — but so will our strength to face them. Happy Halloween!

Dana Rudolph is the founder and publisher of Mombian (mombian.com), a GLAAD Media Award-winning blog and resource directory, with a searchable database of 800+ LGBTQ family books, media, and more.

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