When My Son Sleeps With Our Wedding Picture…

Last week my son grabbed a wedding picture of my wife and I that has been sitting in a 4×6 black metal frame in our bathroom since we moved in last June. Our bathroom is obnoxiously large so yes there’s room for pictures. He was sitting on the counter while I put on make-up and he leaned back, swiped it, and has literally been walking around with it ever since. He brings it in the car to daycare. I put it in the diaper bag for the day when we get inside. He brings it home, sets it up next to him while he eats dinner at the table. He also sleeps with it every night. As we shut the door and say a quiet good night we can hear him whispering in baby talk to this picture taken on December 17th, 2011 on a bitter cold night in Connecticut during one of the best nights of my life. We both look younger, happy, and full of hope.

My wife wore a feminine black suit with a white silk shirt. I wore my dream come true princess wedding gown.

I’ve written before about kids of lesbian mom’s. There are studies showing there is no long term damage to kids of gay parents, I have friends who are kids of gay parents and gay parents of kids who have all turned out fine. But there is always a doubt in the back of my head because of our hetero-based society and homophobic administration that I am doing my son’s wrong.

But as he babbles peacefully while completely enthralled with an old photo of his two parents, Mama and Mommy, those doubts go out the window. Because instead of his soft doggies and his big blankies he chooses to fall asleep and wake up every morning cradling the images of his lesbian Mom’s. I try and put myself in his head and realize that he doesn’t think of us as “lesbian” Mama or Lesbian Mommy. We are just Mama and Mommy. He doesn’t know he’s missing anything, because he’s not. He is so loved and cherished, and that’s all he knows as he drifts off to sleep hugging a cold metal frame carrying the image of his two smiling Mommy’s.

I proudly identify as a lesbian Mama loudly, because I live in a place where I can and there are so many who live in places that can’t. But to my son, I won’t be his lesbian Mom, I’m just his Mama.

He doesn’t know that even having a wedding in 2011 was groundbreaking and new. He doesn’t know our wedding was not just a wedding but also a political statement as all gay weddings were when it first passed. He doesn’t know the location where we had the wedding had never had a gay wedding, but was completely open to it and had a couple gay waiters request to work that night, unbeknownst to us until they came and shook our hands during the reception. He doesn’t know that night was a night of hope and love and unity and acceptance. He just knows he loves his Mama.



p.s. Yes I wore a tiara. It was my damn wedding and I was a Disney Princess for one day. Through some twist of fate my Prince Charming came with the wrong parts and no horse. Love you babe.

When I made my therapist cry…bullying and my Cat.

When I was in nursing school I went to therapy for the first time. I had recently broken up with a long term boyfriend and was feeling very isolated and depressed. The therapist was at my school, he was clearly very experienced and had been doing individual therapy with college students for decades. I felt very comfortable with him and felt nothing I could say would ruffle him. About three sessions in he asked when in my life I felt true grief.

I didn’t really understand the question, and he rephrased and said “When have you cried? I mean true gut-wrenching cry?” We had been working on the wall that I kept around my emotions, as I was and still am to a degree, able to compartmentalize my emotions. I remember thinking about it and then I said only twice that I could remember. Once when my Grandfather died, and once when my cat died. Then I started to move forward with the conversation thinking this was a dead end. I remember he sorta waved his arms, and was like “Wait, one of the two times you’ve ever cried down to your soul was when you cat died? Tell me more about that.”

So I did. My cat came into our home when my mom was pregnant with me. He slept in my bed every night after I was born until I was seventeen. We put him to sleep on December 23rd, 2002. He was 21.

Through fifth grade when I was bullied for an entire school year by a group of girls he was literally my only friend. He would sit next to me on my bed while I cried every day after school. He was a big cat, bigger than some small dogs, and very intuitive. He would follow me around the neighborhood if I was out playing with other kids. He would wait at the road if I went into a neighbor’s home. He waited at the fence for me to get off the bus every day. He saw me through middle school hell and was there for me when I started dating and growing up in high school. He was a constant in my life for seventeen years. He at times was my only reason for being.

It seems so silly looking back on it. It seems ridiculous that though I was surrounded by a family and eventually some good friends, all it took was chronic bullying in fifth grade to devolve me into a soul who felt totally alone. Kids take this crazy unspoken oath of silence. I couldn’t tell anyone about the bullying. My teacher knew, but didn’t intervene. I never told my parents. I suffered silently and Cookie was the only one I let in. He was also the only one who comforted me. He truly showed me unconditional love. His entire existence seemed devoted to my existence, and it was incredibly powerful. He was there for my first broken heart, he was there for so many happy and also painful times in my life.

When I talk to kids now in my practice who are bullied my heart just aches for them. I know the pain that builds over time as day after day you have to face the same people with the same insults. I know the isolation, the fear, and the feeling that you can’t tell anyone because adults only make things worse.

I explored all those memories with my therapist and I remember the day we had to put Cookie to sleep. He was in pain, he had tumors, and he came and laid on my lap on the couch as I cried because I knew it would be the last time he would lay his big furry head on my knee. He looked so peaceful. I remember he closed his eyes and purred and it was like he was telling me it was going to be okay, that his job was done because I had made it through high school and I had this big future ahead of me already having been accepted to my top choice university.

I held him as our veterinarian gave him the injections. He let out a small meow, and then was gone. He looked peaceful in death and I was glad his suffering was over. I remember telling my therapist about his last meow and I was sobbing at that point, and I looked up and he had tears streaming down his face. I remember I stopped crying because I didn’t think therapists were allowed to cry.

He looked at me and said, “It’s just so profound that your one friend, your one true friend, was a cat. He sounds remarkable.”

And he was. Cookie dying marked the end of my childhood. I graduated high school that Spring, and moved on to college never looking back. I think back and I hate that he died, but I think it was for the best because it would have been incredibly hard for me to go to college knowing he was at home.

When clients tell me about pets I take them very seriously and I never put down anyone’s reason for being whether it be a cat, a snake, a friend they’ve  only talked to online, etc. Everyone in middle school needs a lifeline. I was lucky to have Cookie as mine.

Some years later I was in a shelter in upstate New York looking for a cat. They sat me in a meet and greet room and brought in a few nice looking cats. I wasn’t feeling a connection with any of them. Then the girl brought in this ratty little thing (I learned after three baths she’s white, I thought she was brown) with double eye infections, a ratty tail, and she set her down on the floor. The cat walked over to me and crawled right into my lap and laid her little head on my knee and purred. I told the girl I would take her.

She follows me everywhere, sleeps with me every night, drives me batshit crazy, takes showers with me, and is trying to crawl onto my lap over the laptop as I type this, and I just can’t help but think it’s my Cookie back to life in the form of Rajha. Rajha has seen me date men and then has been here from the start of my relationship with my wife. She was with me through the horrible fertility journey and pregnancy. Now she knows my sons, sort of hates them, but knows them. My sons yell “Rawa Rawa” as they chase her through the house. Pets at their core provide unconditional love. Cookie and Rajha never gave two shits about my sexual orientation. They existed to solely bring love into my life. That is a gift to be treasured and mourned when it is lost.

To those people who have lost a pet, I know your pain. It’s profound, and it’s okay to mourn the loss. To those people who identify your pet as your reason for going on, been there. To those kids out there facing the daily grind of bullies. Hang in there.

Why People Shouldn’t Ask if a Woman Will Get Pregnant Again.

There are many layers to this blog post as I write it. I write it not only as a woman who has struggled with fertility but as a lesbian mom. I also write it as my two darling boys are screaming outside because they don’t want to come inside from playing in the snow. They would honestly let their fingers freeze and fall off. The screaming ambiance makes it easier to write this.

For those of you who haven’t read my previous posts you can look here and here for posts regarding my struggles with fertility, pregnancy, and birthing of twin boys. Suffice it to say it was a long hard journey initially more challenging because we are lesbians made more challenging by underlying endometriosis. Once I got pregnant I puked every day for 36 weeks and two days. That’s right. There was not one day I didn’t puke. I puked at work, I puked at 2 A.M., I’d literally open my eyes in the middle of the night puking already. I puked on almost every single doctor in my OB-GYN practice. I also had horrible insomnia and didn’t sleep for more than 2 hours at a time for the second and third trimester. Pregnancy sucked. I never felt good until three days after they came out. I had pre-eclampsia the day I delivered and spent the first 24 hours on a magnesium drip, still puking with a fresh incision. In the midst of my puke laden pre-eclampsia nightmare I lost vision in my eyes (which I got back), and I had people sticking two newborns on my boobs. So there was that.

It was ultimately successful and worth it in so many ways but when I tell you I was traumatized by my pregnancy I am not lying. The thought of being pregnant again could bring me to tears if I thought about it.

I remember returning to work after an 18 week maternity leave. At that point I had not been at work for four months since having the boys and not at work without being pregnant or undergoing fertility treatments for over a year. I felt like I was returning as a different, calmer, more sleep deprived, happier individual. I was still breastfeeding and had to adjust to pumping multiple times a day and picking up and dropping off at daycare. I remember the first week back one of my co-workers asked me when I’d have “the next one.” My sleep addled brain could not quite comprehend what she was asking. When I politely responded, “Funny,” and tried to move the conversation onto another topic she didn’t let it go. I had to get somewhat defensive and say, “I’m not having another one.” Then I was told how wrong I was and that in a year or two I’d change my mind and have more. As if I couldn’t possibly make judgements about my body and my future in that moment.

It felt very wrong to me for many reasons. First off, I am very private, and I did not feel that was any one’s business. Second, that particular person knew the horrible journey through infertility and pregnancy I endured. To casually suggest I go through that all over again made me want to vomit. Third, once I said a very overt No, I should not have been pushed or pressured or shamed to feel that was the incorrect response.

Since that day multiple people have asked me if I will have another child. Friends, family, strangers, clients, and co-workers have all asked me. When I have emphatically said No I have been told on multiple occasions that I am wrong and will change my mind. I’ve been told by straight women who do not know I’m married to a woman, “That’s what I said after the first, and whoops!” I haven’t quite had the heart to say “Actually I’m a lesbian so I’d need a lot of whoops’ including a man shooting sperm that somehow accidentally lands in my vagina. Then that sperm would need to make it through my endometriosis filled tubes to my potential eggs which by the way required IVF previously to bypass the tubes. That would be one of hell of a whoops.” But I think it. Every time.

If I was married to a man and all it required was a “whoops” then who knows maybe I would get pregnant again? Most likely not intentionally as twins did a number on my body and I hated having a C-section and would not care to repeat the entire experience. But I’m married to a woman. So being pigeonholed by heterosexual women into a female who can’t possibly feel fulfilled with one pregnancy (which by the way yielded two kids) kind of pisses me off.

It makes me feel mad because perhaps I would have more perhaps I wouldn’t but don’t presume to know my past and my future just because you had multiple pregnancies. Underneath my initial defensive response is pain and uncertainty. I feel like I’m being scraped a little raw during these exchanges.

I also feel for every other woman who struggled to have one pregnancy because I’ve been there. To poke and prod at those wounds by telling them they should have a second pregnancy, when perhaps they do want more than anything to have that, but they can’t, I find that just plain mean.

There are women who have emergency hysterectomies during their first delivery due to complications with bleeding and so while they may want more than anything to have a second pregnancy they physically can’t. They could be lesbians. Finding sperm can be challenging and expensive and then simple at home inseminations don’t always work, turning into expensive fertility treatments.

Then there are people who are completely fulfilled with one pregnancy, one child (or two), and simply don’t want more kids. Yes we exist. Stop telling me we don’t. It’s annoying.

I’ve never had much of a filter. But I was raised to be polite. I would never ask a woman if she’s wanting anymore children unless it’s professionally related as a health care provider and need to know if she’s planning a pregnancy because that would change the medication choice I make if prescribing for her. I would never pass judgement on someone for wanting or not wanting another pregnancy. It may seem like a casual friendly inquiry, but for many women it’s anything but casual and can bring up many painful emotions.

My advice is to operate on a need to know basis. Do you really need to know if this woman is planning a second pregnancy? If the answer is No, then don’t ask. If the answer is Yes then ask but then stop talking. Let them answer, respect their answer, and move on. And straight people…not everyone is straight. Some women sleep with other women. They can’t get pregnant by accident.

No One Says “I want a two year old.” Now I know why.

Everybody loves babies. Babies are cute, they smell nice, and they don’t move too much. My babies were snuggly and although they didn’t sleep well/ever they were so cuddly and beautiful that it was okay to be completely sleep deprived.

Then they started to grow. Now we have these two monstrous two year olds.

I’ve literally never met someone who has said “I want a two year old.” It’s always, “I want a baby”. But when you get a baby you eventually get a two year old, or in my case, two of them.

Now the wonderful part of having two year olds is they still mostly smell good. In my case they are still cuddle bugs. They say the cutest things like, “Got Mama,” as they squeeze my cheeks together and nuzzle my nose with theirs. They yell “Babe” when they can’t find my wife because they know it will make me laugh when they call her the name I call her. And they say it more like “Bayy” and try to mimic my voice. They are starting to sing songs and they point out the moon and the stars and the sun as if seeing them for the first time making me appreciate the things I take for granted. They also look at me like I am their entire world and I treasure those moments because I know in just a fleeting few years they will push me away when I try to kiss them. They will prefer their friends over me, and I know there will be a time when we cuddle up for the last time and that literally brings me to tears.

But the flip side of the heaven of two year olds is the Hell. The wanting to scream as I say things like “Don’t…bite, hit, lick, pull, follow, yell at, run into, run over, glue, color on, paint….your brother,” “Don’t slam the door,” “Don’t open the door,” “Throw that away,” “Pick that up off the floor,” “If you….do anything ever again….you will go to timeout,” “Don’t dance in front of the fireplace,” “Don’t push him in front of the fireplace,” “Why did we buy a house with a damn fireplace?” “Don’t put your foot in that…” shit.

Then you try and get them to say something and they won’t, then you swear in front of them when you drop a piece of firewood on your toe and of course they say “Shit.” Like perfectly enunciated. And yes I had a broken toe. Then the boys talked about “Mama’s boo boo” for the entire six weeks it took to heal.

Getting them out the door is a total shitshow. My wife says “It’s like herding cats.” And it really is. I’m always talking to them, always asking them to do stuff, and always trying to allow them to grow in their independence but seriously you can’t get your shoe on without my help and we are running late so give me the damn shoe.

They test my patience and my ability to not swear on a minute by minute basis. I go to work in psychiatry and my job is literally easier than my two year old twin boys. They are both so smart and they both totally try and play me. And sometimes it works.

I started to really pay attention to the new mom’s who come see me in my practice. Not just the fresh postpartum mom’s but the toddler Mom’s. For anyone who is a butch lesbian, when you see another butch lesbian there’s usually this head nod of acknowledgement. It always kind of irritates me because my wife gets the head nod and I never do, and I’m like hi over here, I’m also married to a woman but because I have long hair and cleavage I don’t get the recognition…anyway. When I have a client who is a toddler mom, not even twins but maybe a 3 year old and a 1 year old or something like that, and then I tell her I have twin two year olds….we have that moment. That, “Gotchya girl.” Like we are in the battlefield together and we know what it is really like down there in the trenches.

I’ve had Mom’s break down in front of me hysterical because they feel like failures because they yelled at their kids and they get so mad at them sometimes they want to hit them (they don’t hit them) and they look so ashamed and so sad and full of self loathing when they tell me these confessions through tears. That’s usually when I disclose I have two year olds. That I too know the pain of toddlers. That our society lives on Facebook and pretty images that mom’s should be these superheroes who never lose our shit, when in reality it would be weird if toddlers didn’t bring you to the brink of insanity at least once a day.

I reassure my clients (of course after a thorough assessment that they actually are not a danger to others) that actually what they are experiencing is normal. That it certainly doesn’t feel good, and they may need a medication trial, or at the least therapy, but that toddlers push us in ways we couldn’t possibly have imagined. That toddlers can literally make us feel bipolar because we are so in love with them one second and the next we are hauling them off to time-out about to watch an epic tantrum.

No one wants two year olds. Because two year olds start to make shit real. They start to be little people who make us feel in ways we never imagined we would or could.

I’m not a perfect Mom. I lose my shit. I swear. I listen to Eminem in the car when I just can’t take one more round of Let it Go. But even if I never said I wanted a two year old I’m so glad I have them. I am completely head over heels for my boys. They are making me a better person. They make me more aware of my anger and cues for when I am getting worked up. They make me practice patience. So much patience I could choke on it. They make me stop and look at the moon. They make me say “I’m sorry” and give big hugs when I freak out and I know I’m wrong because it was my fault for running late not theirs. They’ve made me better at time management. They’ve made me figure out how to communicate differently because going head on was not working and just hurting us all. They make me learn how to set age appropriate boundaries and consequences and follow through on them.

I thought having newborns made me love in a new way, little did I know what toddlerhood had in store for me. They exploit all my vulnerabilities without intention. They see books and movies with Dad’s and being married to a woman I wonder what they are thinking about. Are they already starting to wonder about not having a Dad? Does it even enter their heads?

No one asks for toddlers, and I certainly wouldn’t wish two of them on anyone. But on the flip side they are making me a better woman and honestly a better psychiatric provider. I am so much more empathetic to mom’s of toddlers. I get it. I give them space to feel like a bad mom and reinforce to them that they actually are not bad mom’s. They are just human trying to navigate this incredible journey of parenthood.

I’ll end with this. Our kids are always watching us, learning from us, becoming us. I will never be sorry or regret hugging them too much or cuddling too much. I will never regret the time I spend with them now and the bonds we are forging together. Toddlers have the ability to make you face and embrace love, anger, frustration, patience, and every other good and bad part of yourself. Enjoy the journey because it is all too short.

Signs and Guns and my sons.

You ever see that movie Signs with Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix? I always thought of it like the story of an individual family during the movie Independence Day. Independence Day shows the big picture and the people in charge. Signs shows the struggle of one family to survive the invasion. I always feel that after a mass shooting the media is Independence Day and what is not shown are the individual struggles of every survivor.

I remember at the time of Sandy Hook I worked on an inpatient psychiatric unit in a hospital. I remember the day of the mass shooting texting my former co-workers at the children’s hospital. The worst part of that day was hearing from my friends that they were fine, that there were no survivors, so there were no hospital visits by injured children. They all died.

The months after Sandy Hook saw a decline in state psychiatric beds, a decline in state psychiatric funding, and gun legislation crafted by legislators who unfortunately know nothing about mental health.

This is a law that came out of Sandy Hook. Any one who signs in “voluntarily” for a psychiatric inpatient admission in the state of Connecticut has to give up their gun permit for a certain amount of time if they have one, and cannot apply for a pistol permit should they desire to for a certain period of time. Any person who is committed “involuntarily” as in “committed on a physicians emergency certificate” is not placed on this database and is able to apply for a pistol permit without an issue. Now those of us that work in mental health know, that people who are committed involuntarily are often more a risk to society than those who are voluntarily seeking the help. We also know how this puts up a barrier for suicidal firemen and policemen who would otherwise seek psychiatric care voluntarily. When this legislation was passed we had some meetings  to discuss it and there was not one among us who felt this law made any sense. It also was not made clear who would actually enforce it.

So that backwards piece of legislation came out of the state government that had bore witness to the death of children. Babies.

Adam Lanza’s guns were his mothers. She had no contact with mental health. So it would not have prevented Sandy Hook in any way shape or form.

When I worked inpatient psychiatry I did a project about mass shooters. I studied 28 mass shootings perpetrated in schools in the United States. I can tell you they all had one thing in common- easy and open access to guns. From what I could find they also all had at least one contact with mental health care. In one interview it is near impossible to get a teenager to open up to you. I know from experience. It takes time. It also takes a teenager who is scared of the thoughts they are having to disclose them.

Depending on mental health care providers to identify any potential mass shooter is not realistic. Often these kids do not stick in treatment, and the APA put out a statement that basically said, We suck at predicting violence.

The other common vein I found among the ones I reviewed was that they all had spoken of committing a mass shooting at school or on social media at one point before the shooting.

The conclusions I drew from my research was to limit people’s access to guns and for teachers and students to report every time they hear or see a threat of a mass shooting. I can tell you from experience mental health providers have very little power in these situations. Meaning we have no ability to report a vague threat or an instinct that we feel someone is a danger to others. Unless a specific target is identified we cannot tell any one anything. Our mental healthcare system is set up to be reactive not preventative. And every time we do an assessment we are saying in that moment the person is not a danger to self or others. We are not saying they will never be a danger to self or others.

The frequency of mass shootings and the violence our children face and the ineptitude of our legislators to pass anything of substance terrifies me.

In the year 2018 we have a president who is rolling back every advance we have made socially and environmentally. We have children still dying. Senators and members of the GOP also being shot. And I find myself googling “bulletproof vests for children” and guess what they exist. They even have bulletproof inserts for children’s backpacks. I feel like I’m being punk’d I feel like lifetimes should see progress yet all mine has seen are declines.

Legislation that is meaningless is Independence Day. Me purchasing bulletproof vests for my sons to wear to kindergarten is Signs. Footage of news anchors in tears as they report another mass shooting of children is Independence Day. Me hugging my kids and kissing them and walking out with tears in my eyes every day that I leave them at daycare worrying that this will be the last time I see them alive is Signs.

To all the people out there trying to figure out to survive each day with your children. You are not alone.





Remembering the dark days of IVF

For those of you who don’t know what Clomid is it’s a hormone. It makes eggs grow on women’s ovaries and provides a more favorable chance of pregnancy with IUI’s.

Clomid threw me into a deep depression. It was not only the third failed IUI attempt but I am very sensitive to hormones so down I went. I entered December feeling God awful. I saw my therapist who I hadn’t seen for over a year and I remember just sobbing. He was taken aback because that isn’t me. He told me to see a psychiatrist, he was worried I was actually deeply depressed and needed anti-depressants. I saw a psychiatrist. He told me I was moderate to severely depressed and needed an anti-depressant. He also talked about health care professionals not taking care of themselves, and that I may need an IOP or something. I was working on an inpatient psychiatric unit at the time, and there was no way I was going to an IOP with patients of mine.

I took one dose of Lexapro and felt even worse. It threw me into a fog for a day, and I was like Fuck this. I booked a cruise for my thirtieth birthday which was in January, and met with our fertility doctor. We decided we would proceed with IVF starting in February after my cruise.

I went on the cruise with two of my best friends. One of whom was actually working on the cruise ship. Yes we went for free. Yes knowing an officer on a cruise ship is freaking amazing. The head Chef made me grilled lobster on my birthday and sent a cake to our cabin and a bottle of very good champagne. I jumped off a pier into the Gulf of Mexico on my birthday. I drank a lot of tequila and a lot of champagne and thought I was going to die the following day. I didn’t though.

I came home refreshed. I forced myself to go the gym every day before, during, and after the cruise. I kicked myself out of my depression and put on my game face for IVF. I needed it. IVF kicked my ass.

And it all started in February that year. 2015. Started with shots. So many shots. I was allergic to the first one- and my conversation with my fertility doctor went like this, “So the Lupron gives me hives, and is extremely painful to inject.” I showed him the hives. They were big, red, and painful. He looked at them. “Okay, so we really need you to take this though. So just maybe take Benadryl or something.” I had to inject the Lupron into my hive laden body for three full weeks. After the first week I added some growth hormone which was wicked expensive and I treated like liquid gold. After that we added another one. I don’t even remember now. I just know at one point it was three shots a day, two pills, continuous hives, bruises, and hormonal craziness.

The Progesterone was an intramuscular injection- it was really thick and kind of a lot of liquid, and could only be injected into my butt. I was on that daily for a full three months and I stopped it early because my butt could not take it anymore. It got to the point where I cried every day when it was given to me. Not full on sobs, but tears coming out of my eyes.

This is an aside- I administer Vivitrol as a psychiatric nurse practitioner. It’s usually to young guys who are drug addicts to prevent relapse. It’s a big needle, thick, only can go into the butt, and is once a month. They all bitch about it, they all say I have no idea how much it hurts, and many of them have literal panic attacks and insist on laying down to have it injected and literally whine the whole time. In my head every single time I’m like, “Dude. You don’t even know.”

I literally have tears in my eyes typing this because I remember so much pain during that time period and so much hope but so much fear. I remember feeling so fortunate but also so scared working in a hospital. I had to let people in on my secret. They knew I was gone a lot in the mornings (at appointments), one resident walked in on a nurse giving me my injections one day when it got to the point that I couldn’t self inject anymore. He was super awkward but super nice but I also felt the need to explain I wasn’t getting shot up with anything illegal. People knew. They were all supportive and friendly, but it was still scary.

As a society we don’t encourage women, especially lesbians, to talk about their fertility journey. Because of fear. Fear of discrimination, fear of miscarriage, fear of so many things. This time of year for the last two years has been hard but also empowering because I remember the fear, the pain, but then I see my two sons and I’m like fuck yeah. I made you both.

My last digression and comment to this blabber is after the pain and after the hives went away and the bruises on my belly and butt went away I was seven weeks pregnant. I started bleeding. I thought I was having a miscarriage. We already knew it was twins. We went for an ultrasound on a Sunday morning with my fertility doctor. He turned the camera toward me, and I saw them there, two little beating hearts. He showed us the big dark thing on the right side of them both- there was a large blood clot. He told me almost under his breath, “One wouldn’t have been enough, the blood clot is so big, it would have taken one out, you needed two.”

One year before I saw a psychic. She did a medium reading. She told me my Grandpa kept saying, “One’s not enough.” She literally said that phrase about ten times. So when we had to decide if “One egg will be enough or if you want to do two…” I immediately said two. We had to do two. Then, at seven weeks, I knew why.

I don’t regret the pain. I don’t regret the depression. I certainly don’t regret having two. I remember that ultrasound vividly because it was like all the pain and all the shit from the last year came full circle. Came back to a chance meeting with a psychic that changed the course of my life.

To anyone going through their own infertility journey- stay strong. Go on a cruise. See a psychic. Put on your game face. It’s not easy and it’s the opposite of feeling good. But that moment when it all comes together in the end is worth it.

Co-sleeping, Vaccines, Circumcision, Formula…and every other Mom Shame.

Back in those glorious pre-baby days I thought I knew a lot about kids. I worked as a pediatric nurse. I was asked parenting advice almost daily in my job. I listened to other nurses I worked with who were moms and I learned and I gave the best advice I could at the time.

I certainly recall having some of my own thoughts about parenting though. Including being sort of judgmental about co-sleeping families, very judgmental about families who were anti-vaccines, and having zero opinion about breastfeeding other than I didn’t need to see it happening as frequently as I did working in pediatrics.

I joined a few mom groups on Facebook after I had the boys. I had a lot of time sitting on the couch or bed with two babies breastfeeding and then sleeping on me. I spent a lot of time on my phone. They also didn’t sleep, ever, other than on us, so I was looking for some magical answer online for this horrible period of time with no sleep and aching nipples. What I found were sometimes caustic and judgmental mom’s/women who would literally tear each other down for asking a simple question about whether they should co-sleep or which formula to use or when to give baby cereal or should I do a delayed vaccination schedule…etc. I quickly exited these horrible spaces. I have to say the only group where I didn’t get disgusted by drama was a lesbian mom’s group that I am still a member of.

Somewhere in my sleep deprived brain I thought, women have been doing this Mom thing with less than my wife and I have for centuries. We got this.

That’s not to say I didn’t want support. I did. But I got it from my friends and family who were not going to judge our decisions. And sure enough we have two healthy and happy two years who could give two flying fucks about when we started them on cereals and if it was rice or oatmeal.

So here’s what I learned.

Co-sleeping- didn’t work for us. Works for some people. If we had one baby it may have worked. But two was too many. They also LOVED to nurse. If my boobs were around they wanted to be on them. Being in my own bed was sometimes the only break I got from nursing in those first eighteen weeks. I’ve had some clients over time ask me abashedly about their child usually between ages 5-10 who is still co-sleeping. They can barely make eye contact as they wait for me to pass judgement. I ask three questions- Are you sleeping? Is your kid sleeping? Is it affecting your marriage? If the answers are yes, yes, and no, then I smile and say carry on. Then they worry that their kid is too old to be co-sleeping, and I’ve come to reply “Do you hear of any twenty year olds who still co-sleep?” They usually laugh. “No you don’t. Look it’s your bed, if you’re ready to make the transition the start working toward it. If not, just do what’s best for your family.” They all visibly relax. Who am I to tell someone how to be attached to their kid? Who are we as a society to tell a family how to create warmth and an emotionally secure attachment between parent and child?

Next topic. Vaccines. I’m not going to get into a debate on here. Your body, your decisions. I’m going to talk about one vaccine in particular. Tdap. Also known as Tetanus, Diphtheria, and Pertussis. Most of the vaccinations sound like something foreign and distant because we haven’t seen them in my generation. Perhaps chickenpox will be like that for my kids (because of the vaccine for it…). But I’ve seen pertussis up close and personal and it’s not pretty. I’ve never seen measles, mumps, rubella, (probably because of the vaccine) I have seen patients with hepatitis and meningitis and pertussis. All three of these illnesses are ones that I would literally do anything to have my child avoid.

Here’s the story- I worked in the pediatric emergency department for roughly 6-7 years. In that time I took care of maybe 5 babies under the age of 12 weeks who ended up with a positive pertussis. One died. Now that’s not a lot. But I can tell you I wouldn’t want to be the mom of that one. Because the illness and the death is horrendous.

The coughing, the tiring out, the skin color, the suffering. It’s a horrible illness to witness. I have memories of caring for babies with it for only 3-5 hours who were then admitted. I can’t imagine being parent to a child with pertussis and watching them suffer for days, and potentially die. I got a TdAP shot when I was pregnant, even though I was up to date on it, and I did not let anyone in my home while the boys were under 12 weeks if they had not been vaccinated. Yes I was that crazy mom. But it’s because I literally saw a baby die from it. The risk is very real to me and I would never wish it on anyone. So yes, live and let live, and if you don’t “believe” in vaccines fine, whatever. But know the vaccinations are protecting us from real and deadly illnesses- well I’ll vouch for the Tdap vaccine at the very least. My last side note about this is that most private colleges will not admit kids without a full vaccination history. I went to Yale for my masters and they said either provide proof or don’t come. So eventually, if your kid wants to go to a private college, they may end up needing them down the road anyway because with a private university there is no religious waiver.

Circumcision- ugh. So tough. Permanently altering a child’s body. Again this is a personal decision and one we made based off my wife’s and my background in healthcare and bad cases we had witnessed. That’s all I’m going to say about it because I don’t feel strongly one way or the other.

Formula- it’s not going to kill your baby if you can’t breastfeed. Let go of the mom shame and the mom guilt and if you don’t want to breastfeed or you just can’t physically do it, just give them formula. Seriously. I did breastfeed twins for a year and honestly my first year would have been much happier and less stressful if I hadn’t.

These are all hot button issues. I feel very strongly since becoming a mom that I DO NOT have the “right” answers. But I have the answers that worked for my family which may not work for other families. I think my biggest issue would be with anti-vaxxer’s if they haven’t given their kid the Tdap. But otherwise do what’s right for you. Don’t let anyone shame you into a decision that doesn’t feel right for you. Struggling with these decisions is not a bad thing, it means you care about your kids and you want to do what’s best. I would suggest all Mom’s just keep your mouths shut about your decisions in these areas because if you say what you are going to do you are going to hear about a hundred differences of opinions and some of them will be shaming and judgmental. That shouldn’t be the way but it is right now. Instead seek out your own tribe of non-judgmental women. They exist, I promise, but you may not find them on Facebook. Go to Mom support groups in your community, don’t isolate yourself, and know that being a Mom is hard but if you are reading this and remembering or experiencing the struggle of difficult life or medical decisions for your child then you are doing the right thing. Decisions for our children shouldn’t be made lightly or without serious thought. But once made, they also shouldn’t be shamed by others for not being the decisions they would have made.

Religious Freedom in an Emergency Department

I worked as a staff nurse in a pediatric emergency department from the time I graduated nursing school through when I received my master’s degree in nursing, in total between 6-7 years. I started at age twenty-two.

I enjoyed being twenty-two. I lived in a left wing land with Obama soon to be entering office and even though I attended school in very conservative upstate New York I never really internalized the level of conservatism that abounds in most of the country. I was working in an inner city hospital in the Northeast happily back in my liberal bubble.

The Emergency department was a hodgepodge of characters. Attendings, residents, nurses, techs, EMTs, police, security, administration, social workers, psychiatrists, surgeons, pharmacists…you name it and we had them at some point working in the emergency department. At that age and in that geographical area I basically assumed every one was pro-choice, pro-LGBT rights, and pro-healthcare for all.

I was wrong.

One day I was taking care of a patient who was raped. She was young (children’s hospital being under 18), and scared, and traumatized. The physician spoke to her mom and her about all the options available to her. Rape kit, medications, etc. One of the options was the morning after pill which prevents pregnancy from occurring. The mom and the patient wanted to discuss it and they agreed to certain things but initially did not want the morning after pill. No one pushed it, as that’s not our role.

Later, after all the tests and interviews and near time for discharge the mom approached me and said they decided she would take the morning after pill. I said sure, and went to the desk where the physicians were sitting. The Attending and the resident were sitting next to each other making my life easier. I told them the patient changed her mind and wanted the morning after pill.

The Attending looked awkward and said, “Okay, but I can’t order it,” and he looked at the resident, and she looked awkward and said, “Yeah I can’t order it either,” I stared at both of them like they had two heads and genuinely asked, “Is there something wrong with your computers?” They both shook their heads and avoided eye contact with me. I stood there staring at both of them and said, “Well some one has to order it because this kid was raped and she doesn’t want to get pregnant. So what’s the freaking problem?”

It still had not penetrated my head that they couldn’t order it because their religious beliefs prevented them from ordering it. I literally was still thinking there was a technical issue and for some reason the system was not allowing them to order it. I know it sounds so stupid, but I was young and naive and hopelessly liberal.

Another Attending overheard our exchange and likely heard my statement, and saw me standing there with my hands on my hips glaring at the computers and the doctors, and quietly said, “I’ll do it.”

That’s when I got it.

I remember walking away silently to the medication room. Later I was with the Attending who ordered it and I asked what would have happened if it was night shift and they were the only two doctors in the ED? He told me they would have ordered it. But I wasn’t so sure. I’m still not. I’m thinking if it was night shift and they were the only ones in the ED I’d be trekking up to the ICU and finding one of their Attendings to place the freaking order.

This happened eleven years ago. I still remember it vividly. For many reasons.

For starters I never envisioned patient care being affected by some one’s religious beliefs. I remember we had a travel nurse from North Carolina. She told me they don’t even offer it to rape victims where she worked down south. I thought that was shitty. Still do.

If birth control is against your religious belief I would hope that murder, rape, pedophilia, burglary, tax evasion, etc. are also against your religious beliefs. Do physicians regularly screen their patients for committing tax fraud? Because let’s be real, everyone in America who owns a business probably has kept cash for themselves and not reported it as income. Do you not treat them because they are stealing and committing tax evasion? Do you not treat men who’ve committed rape when they arrive in the ED for a heart attack? Do you not treat the man who arrives in the ED after having a heart attack while he is screwing a prostitute who also arrives with him, but quickly exits when she hears the wife is on the way (Yes that’s happened)? Why is it that you can pick and choose what religious beliefs you follow at work and which you don’t?

You shouldn’t, hence why religious beliefs should not affect the delivery of healthcare.

Here’s one that will totally trip you up- would you refuse to treat a pregnant transgender man who wants to have the baby? What about all that pro-life chatter? Or does pro-life mean you’re only going to treat the lives that matter to you? 

The Health and Human Services Department recently formed a committee to explore religious freedom within healthcare. Per LamdaLegal article the aim of the committee is to protect from consequences health care providers who refuse services to patients due to religious beliefs. It makes me sick that in the United States we have one of the highest Maternal mortality rates in the Western world, but no we aren’t going to form a committee to save women’s lives during childbirth.

In 2009 a study out of Harvard wrote that about 45,000 deaths in one year were attributed to people not having health insurance. But we are focused on decreasing access to care instead of increasing it. Psychiatric hospitals are losing funding, states are shutting down facilities, families with severely autistic individuals have no long term plans for placement. The United States has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the Western world. But we can’t focus on that. Our current administration is instead focusing on restricting care.

But I digress. My patient got her medication preventing pregnancy. Thanks to an Attending who was not conflicted about ordering it.

My heart aches for the number of people within the LGBT community, who if this committee actually makes progress, will hesitate to receive healthcare services because they are fearful of being refused services.

Religious freedom is a beautiful component to American society and the foundation on which our country was built. But religious beliefs do not belong in healthcare delivery. Science, education, and clinical experience should be the basis of medical decision making.


LGBTQ in the Days of #45

The FBI published data last year that hate crimes were on the rise. According to their report entitled, 2016 Hate Crime Statistics, there were roughly 1400 hate crimes directed toward the LGBTQ community defined as crimes perpetrated due to sexual orientation or gender identification. Now in the grand scheme of our population 1400 may not sound like a lot. But those are 1400 individuals who were attacked and/or assaulted and/or murdered due to their sexual orientation or gender identification. That is 1400 too many.

That is also a 5% increase from 2015.

When this was published in 2017 the rate of murder of transgender individuals was already increased from the previous year.

I believe the actual number of hate crimes is higher, but many are not reported.

I personally don’t think it’s a coincidence that there is an increase in hate crimes toward the LGBT community after we elected officials who are openly anti-LGBT.

In my clinical practice I’ve heard many individual’s stories of discrimination and being victim to assaults due to sexual orientation or gender identification. I’ve heard from clients and in my own personal life that they have been spit on, punched, thrown against walls, jeered, followed, etc. I’ve yet to meet some one who has reported any of these experiences to the authorities.

I’ve met people who have come away with black eyes and broken bones or dislocated joints, and they have not reported these crimes. I’ve actually never met someone who has pressed charges. This is why I think this is a gross underestimation of actual hate crimes.

The saddest stories are those where the perpetrator is a family member who reacts with violence when their child comes out to them. I have spoken to individuals who have walked away with broken bones after coming out to their parents.

This happens in the United States. Not just in the South. But also in the Northeast. It happens in towns and homes right next door to you.

I’ve been questioned by transgender clients in the past year about what my medical record will say and who it could be released to. They have said they live in fear of our new administration and they don’t want to be put on a list somewhere by the government.

I thought it was cool when my medical record system added gender identification as an option. But to my clients it is a vulnerability.

The Queer community feels unsafe. I see and hear it daily.

Nothing will change this uncertainty and fear unless we vote. Vote in the 2018 elections. Vote in the 2020 elections.

Don’t turn a blind eye to the hatred fostered by this administration. It is real, we are feeling it, and it hurts.

Holding Hands with my Wife

Before I dated my wife I dated men. I went on dates in public places with men including places like the beach and the movies. At all of these places I engaged in public displays of affection otherwise known as PDA. This could be as simple as holding hands or as much as kissing, or cuddling. I never thought twice about it.

I have been with my wife for ten years. A full decade. In that time I can probably count on both hands the number of times I’ve held hands in public or engaged in any type of PDA.

I am by nature private and am not one to be extremely affectionate in public. But being married to a woman has made me even more cautious.

Recently a friend who I hadn’t spoken to in awhile messaged me on facebook and told me how much they were enjoying my blog and how much they really had no idea what my wife and I went through to be together. That’s not the first heterosexual friend to tell me that since I started this blog. Many have told me they had not idea that I didn’t dance at their wedding because it was a heterosexual wedding full of heterosexual people, or that they didn’t know about the decisions we made when selling our home in terms of our family pictures, or about the decision to be an “out” provider. That’s basically the point of my writing. Heterosexual individuals including some of my dearest friends and beloved family members, take for granted the hetero-normative culture we live in.

I vividly remember my wife and my first date. It was at a restaurant. I felt like we had a big neon red sign flashing over our table, “Lesbian Date Here” and I was terrified. I had witnessed too much discrimination with my friends and sister who were gay to be relaxed. I waited for someone to peg us as being on a date and start making comments.

We didn’t go on another date for a long time. I mean, we went out places, but I kept it very neutral in public. I still do to some degree.

In a decade we’ve been on countless dates to the movies, the beach, vineyards, hikes, etc. As I’m sure any couple who has been together a decade can attest to, we’ve spent a lot of time together privately and in public spaces. I can say that unless we were in a gay bar though, we were not holding hands, we were not putting our arms around one another, we were not pecking on the cheek if she dropped me off a coffee at work, or any other hundreds of reasons why we interact on a daily basis in public.

Not all lesbian couples are this way. Many don’t give a shit and more power to them. I personally am generally hyperaware of other people and I just don’t want to deal with discrimination. If we are with another lesbian couple we are more likely to feel comfortable holding hands, and definitely if we are in a gay space.

Something that has brought this to the forefront for me lately is our sons. We are a very affectionate family in general. Our sons are all over us and we are all over them. Since we had them and since we started venturing out in public with toddler twins I’ve realized that I still care about facing discrimination as a result of PDA, but I also don’t want my sons to see me acting differently than they are used to. They’ve sort of turned our world upside down in every possible way.

I’m not going to turn into a PDA slut, and the point of me writing this is not to be some major transformative moment for me. It is to bring awareness to my hetero-audience.

You take for granted your freedoms.

If you know a lesbian couple who has been together a long time you should take stock of what you’ve witnessed in terms of PDA and recognize if there’s a general lack of PDA that it’s not because they are not or do not want to be affectionate.

It’s because they don’t feel safe being affectionate. 

Straight people have privilege to be natural all the time. If you want to reach out and touch your spouse’s hand as they walk by you in a crowded room, out of reflex, you can. I have been with my wife for ten years. I have literally held her hand in public less than ten times. If I really sit here and think about that it brings tears to my eyes. Next time you hold someone you love in public think about the freedom that gives you the opportunity to do so and don’t take it for granted.