There were a few things in Part 1 about Stella’s family that I didn’t reveal. Mishi carried Stella. Shortly before Stella was diagnosed, Aimee was pregnant. Like many Lesbian couples that decide to start a family, the used a sperm donor. Aimee used the same sperm donor Mishi used. For a little background here’s part of a lecture by Carrie Levesque, UNCG:
When some lesbians learn of these costs, they often begin to consider other routes to motherhood, especially since they are less likely to be reimbursed by their health insurance for infertility treatments (since they are often not infertile- they just lack access to sperm!).
The increase in the use of reproductive and conceptive technologies also impacts the cultural climate in which lesbians seek to become parents. By dissociating issues relating to fertility and the family from sexual intercourse and moving them to a lab or doctor’s office, conceptive technologies and surrogacy practices have shattered the historical unity between being genetically, gestationally and socially a mother. Conceptive technologies have changed the very definitions and understanding of motherhood and of family relationships.
You may recall from part 1 I mentioned Stella was planned and saved for, you see, Lesbian moms don’t end up with a surprise plus sign on a pregnancy test. By the very nature of it, motherhood for lesbians (gays as well, but I am focusing on women) is INTENTIONAL.
Morega elaborates on the delicate dance that results in a child for a lesbian mom, In her chapter titled, “Lesbians don’t make babies with our lovers”
We make babies with strangers in one-night stands or on the doctor’s insemination table, with friends I a friendly f**k or a loveless mason jar, with enemies who at the time were husbands or boyfriends, or with ex-husbands whom our children call papi and whom we may still consider family. We cannot make babies with one another. Our blood doesn’t mix into the creation of a third entity with an equal split of DNA. Sure we can co-adopt, we can co-parent, we can be comrades, but mami and papi we ain’t (15).
Hopes and dreams are not unique to one group, for Lesbian moms they too imagine their children. Say names out loud try and picture what the sweet little face may look like. Just like every other mom. Even after Mishi and Aimee birthed 1 child each, the fact remained, would they have more children? Mishi struggled with guilt. Apparently mommy guilt is a special, paralyzing type.
Fear: I am afraid to get pregnant again in case it’s my fault
Aimee and I already talked about how we want to try to have another baby someday. I want to be able to get pregnant again and feel the miracle of having another being growing inside of me, but I’m afraid because I feel like it’s my fault Stella has this horrible cancer. It’s my body that created her, my DNA that screwed up and made these cells grow out of control, creating this tumour that’s swallowing my daughter up. I’m scared that if I have another baby something bad might happen to it too.
Mishi addresses the fact that people automatically shift their mind to “what are you going to do?” in regards to their new baby boy, carried by Aimee, and named Sam by his beautiful sister because she so-loved the story-book series of Stella & Sam, will he be an only child?
Even if not everyone vocalizes it, I know people want to know if Aimee and I plan on having another child. There is an overall feeling that having another baby will somehow help us heal from losing Stella, that it will “replace” her in some way. But the truth is, we could have 15 children, children who look just like Stella and act just like her, and they still wouldn’t be Stella. You can’t replace a child that you lost and you can’t cancel out the agonizing grief of the death of one child with the birth of another. No one is more aware of this than us.
I found some irony in this after reviewing some of the feminist points of view in American Motherhood, I wrote a short Essay in response to an excerpt written by lesbian mom Cherrie Moraga’s called Waiting in the Wings.
I’ll repost it here:
I think most Lesbians go through a period of establishing their identity, some chose the more “Butch” approach, and others are so-called lipstick lesbians, and of course there are probably many more closeted or questioning women out there. Regardless of how they identify themselves, I think the main thing is they are trying to establish their sexuality in relation to their identity as a person, without really considering what does a lesbian mean to their gender.
Moraga says, “As a child and a tomboy, I never fantasized about having kids. No more than most little boys do, dreaming about a brood of five sons—enough to make up a basketball team (19). So obviously she is expressing her inner self as a male personality. She further described her prospects of being a mother, “I simply assumed that since I would never be married to a man, I would never have children (19)”
Then she drops the bombshell, “This may sound strange, a statement of the blatantly obvious, but buried deep inside me regardless of the empirical evidence to the contrary, I had maintained the rigid conviction that lesbians (that is, those of us on the more side of the spectrum) weren’t really women. We were women-lovers, a kind of third sex, and most definitely not men” (20). In establishing herself as a lesbian Moraga lost her focus and realization that despite her sexual orientation that she was still physically, biologically, genetically ,she was a woman, fully as capable of birthing a child as her obviously revered “real women”.
It was after Moraga described the pain and loss of a child that one of these “real women” ripped from her arms, because according to the courts, according to a society, she had no ties to this child, nothing to make Joel hers. In her selfless love of this child, her own heart breaking, she must let him go. But in these moments that she reconciles in her mind the love for the child, she then discovers she is woman enough, to be a mother to a child of her own. The painful parting brought her to a realization that despite her desires, despite what anyone else said, she was worthy of this gift of being a woman, worthy of birthing a child of her own. Joel helped her become a woman, woman-enough to become one of what is said is the very best part of being woman, being the woman called simply, “mom”.
Morega isn’t safe, simply because a child is yours legally doesn’t mean you can keep it. Bad things happen in this world. Children get cancer, hit by cars, die in fiery crashes, and in third world countries: Beat to death, starved to death, orphaned. It really is too horrible to think about , but the fact remains: nothing alive is truly yours, like Morega’s desire for mothering, death too can be “Waiting in the wings’.
Kids L-R Stella’s cousin Javier, and her baby brother, who they doubted she would live to see, Sam.