Forthcoming anthology to explore new territory
If you're a parent, you know how tough it can be to juggle the competing demands of your well-meaning, but baby-obsessed relatives during the early weeks and months—to say nothing of all the conflicting advice.
Just imagine how much more difficult it is to navigate that new parent territory if there is a third person involved in your child's conception—someone who brings with them their own motley crew of extended family members and all the emotional baggage those relatives bring along for the ride.
Conceiving with the help of a friend isn't something that's written about very often, but that doesn't mean it's not happening in the bedrooms of the nation (and pretty much anywhere else you can imagine). A number of parents (both single parents and couples; heterosexual and lesbian) are choosing this decidedly do-it-yourself approach to conception as an alternative to high-tech baby-making methods that can be invasive and/or expensive.
So where do parents whose definition of "family tree" falls outside the mainstream turn for advice on baby-making and beyond? Right now, to a handful of paragraphs or chapters in existing books. But that's going to change very soon.
Author and academic Chloë Brushwood Rose and writer and editor Susan Goldberg are teaming up to produce an anthology of stories for Insomniac Press (Dyke Moms, Donor Dads, and Reconceiving the Queer Family: An Anthology). The book will help at least part of this audience anticipate and navigate the complex web of family relationships that result if mom and mom get a little help from a friend who doesn't choose to exit stage left when baby arrives on the scene—and whose mother is panicking about when or if she'll have a chance to see "her" grandchild.
"The target group is not only lesbian moms but also the men who donate sperm to them, their children (existing and ensuing), as well as the other people who end up -- intentionally or not -- invested in the situation," Goldberg explains.
"There are boundary issues brought up that have to be talked about," Brushwood Rose adds. "Is the donor okay with being a good friend but not 'dad'? Are you okay with people in his family having access to your kid? It can feel really scary, trying to negotiate this risk, to account for every possibility up-front. People get very worried. But opening up doesn't have to be a bad thing."
Brushwood Rose has found that, for her family, honesty has proven to be the best policy. When she's out in public with the friend who helped her and her partner to conceive their daughter, she doesn't want to feel like she has to perpetuate any misconceptions that they might have that the three of them are mom, dad, and child. "What has always been important to me is that we be able to tell the truth about my daughter's life. I don't want to have to be less than honest just to make other people more comfortable."
What makes it difficult to explain the relationships in any non-traditional family is what Goldberg describes as "the failure of language." It's a challenge that Brushwood Rose, Goldberg, and the various contributors to their anthology will be grappling with during the months ahead.
If you or someone you know has a story to tell that would fit into this anthology, Brushwood Rose and Goldberg would love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org.