At Giving Birth with Confidence, we aim to share information for all families to learn about safe and healthy pregnancy, birth and parenting. But recently, we realized that our content had not focused on issues relevant to families other than the birth mother/birth father/baby family model. Today’s post from Anna Deligio, a Lamaze Certified Childbirth educator and labor doula, offers insight into what announcing a pregnancy might be like for individuals and couples with diverse family structures. Look for more posts like this in the months to come.
You’ve waited and planned and prayed for this moment for months, maybe even years. After so much preparation, discernment, failed attempts, and processing conversations with your closest circle of support, you are now holding a positive pregnancy test.
While a positive test is not a wholly positive experience for every woman who holds that two-lined stick in her hand, you are over the moon because this is something you’ve so desperately wanted for so long. You know you still have a long road of uncertain outcomes ahead between holding that test and holding your child, but you know that you’ve crossed into a different realm of the experience. You are – at least for this glorious moment – pregnant.
Who gets to share in this good news with you? If you are partnered, likely your partner is the first person you show the test to – if they weren’t there with you in the bathroom holding your hand during the minutes of waiting for that line to appear. If choosing to parent solo, you are quick to share this news with that inner circle of loved ones who have ridden the bumpy road of conception with you from that first moment you shared, “I think I want to have a baby…”
For many, the next layers of loved ones to share in the good tidings with you are family members. Perhaps you are the first – or only – person in your family’s generation to become pregnant and there are excited grandparents-to-be who have been holding hope with you along this journey to conception. Perhaps you have a long line of siblings and in-laws who have paved the parenting path before you and they are eager to welcome you into the fold, sharing tips and stories of their own pregnancies.
For some of you, though, it is your family-of-choice, rather than your family-of-origin who will be gifted with this special news. Some of you have made the choice not to engage with your family-of-origin – perhaps because of a gross values misalignment, perhaps because they are relationships more toxic than nurturing. Because of that, you have, as an adult, carefully crafted a family-of-choice – mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, and siblings who may not share name, blood, or history that often defines a family-of-origin, but whom love you unconditionally and fill those roles left vacant by the family-of-origin members who are unwilling or unable to do so.
If you are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered, likely you are familiar with the idea of chosen family. Even if your own family loves and accepts you as you are, you have LGBT friends who were either rejected by their families when they came out or have chosen not to engage with their family because, while they have not outright rejected them, their families are not supportive of meeting their partners or engaging in the full spectrum of their lives. Those friends who found themselves without a family-of-origin have gone about the work of finding others who will love them like the relatives they lost.
If you are one of those LGBT community members with no relationship to family-of-origin, your new state of pregnancy brings all of these challenging family dynamics into sharper focus. If you did not choose to sever relations with your family but were exiled because of who you are, do you bridge the chasm to share that they will soon have a new member? If you chose to step away from family because of their inability to truly embrace you, do you step in closer to share the news? Do you want your child to know these people whose values differ so greatly from yours – values that dismiss and denigrate you?
What if it is your partner, not you, who is pregnant? What if you are male and you and your male partner are expecting through a surrogate? Will your family – regardless of your current relationship status with them – recognize the child as a new member of the family or will the lack of biological tie prevent them from embracing your child as kin?
Some of these questions are not unique to the LGBT community. Many people who have become parents through a relationship with someone who already had children find that their family struggles to see their step-children as “true” members of the family worthy of using all the titles that come with each person’s role – grandma, aunt, etc. Many people do not want their children to know their families because they are either toxic or have such different values and so choose not to let their family know about the pregnancy.
For my partner Cathy and I, some of these questions were answered for us before I became pregnant. Both of her parents died before we got together, so it was never a question to tell them or not – although Cathy acknowledges that, while she is sad our child will never know her parents, she is a little relieved that choice was made for her because she can’t be certain that they would have been supportive. Her brothers run the gamut of being excited for us to being seemingly tripped up by the lack of biological tie. My siblings and mother are all extremely excited about this upcoming new family member, but I cannot say with certainty that, if my dad was not dead, he would have been able to reconcile his conservative Catholicism with the family Cathy and I are creating.
As lesbian parents-to-be, we are relatively lucky in this regard. Because of varying levels of support from family, we have crafted a wonderfully supportive family-of-choice that blends nicely with the family-of-origin members who participate in our lives. Our child will have the blessing of many grandparents, many aunts, uncles, and cousins who love and guide them through life. They will be exposed to some shared biology, lots of shared history, and a collection of people who know and love us.
May all children coming into the world be so blessed.
Anna Deligio is a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator and Labor Doula through her business Nourishing Roots, work that is greatly informed by her previous experiences as an MSW working with families in crisis and babies in foster care, a Special Education teacher of high school students with learning and emotional challenges, a marketing writer, and a waitress at a French restaurant. She loves working with pregnant people and their support people during the transformative time that is pregnancy and birth. When not enjoying the company of pregnant people, she enjoys relaxing with her partner Cathy at their home in Salem, OR and preparing for their upcoming birth.