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Changing Bodies Mean Shifting Worlds: Lesbian Women and Pregnancy Experiences


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CHANGING BODIES MEAN SHIFTI NG WORLDS: LESBIAN WOMEN AND PREGNANCY EXPERIENCES By MAURA RYAN A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLOR IDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2006

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Copyright 2006 by Maura Ryan

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This document is dedicated to lesbian braver y. Our families, our love relationships, our life stories, and the documentation of our life stories exist because of it.

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iv ACKNOWLEDGMENTS Foremost, I thank my committee members for their expertise and kind encouragement. Dr. Constance Shehan, who offered support and wisdom, and Dr. Kendal Broad, who offered diligent attenti on to detail and countless suggestions for improvement, both invaluably helped me concep tualize and finish this project. They both make me proud to be a feminist sociologist. I am also grateful for my wonderful fam ily and my friends who have become my family. They have all helped me become a better person and they have pushed me to do better work. Finally, I thank the birth mothers who agr eed to participate in this study. Beyond helping me write a thesis, they are helping to change the world by loving themselves and their children. We should all be grateful.

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v TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS.................................................................................................iv ABSTRACT......................................................................................................................v ii CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION AND HIST ORICAL SIGNIFICANCE.........................................1 Introduction................................................................................................................... 1 Historical Significance..................................................................................................2 2 RECENT RESEARCH AND THEORY......................................................................7 Theoretical Contributions: Th e Negotiation of Identity...............................................8 Lesbian Decision-Making in Starting Families............................................................9 The Creation and Maintenance of Lesbian Families..................................................12 Theoretical Sensitivity................................................................................................18 3 RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS..................................................................23 Recruitment.................................................................................................................23 Participants.................................................................................................................24 Interviews...................................................................................................................26 Analysis......................................................................................................................2 8 4 THE NARRATION OF SAMENESS AND DIFFERENCE.....................................29 The Maintenance of Sameness...................................................................................30 The Experience of Difference.....................................................................................36 The Interplay Between Sameness and Difference......................................................41 Sameness and Difference in Miscarriage...................................................................44 Sameness and Difference in Public Treatment...........................................................46 5 THE NEGOTIATION OF BIOLOGY.......................................................................49 The Evaluation of the Sperm Donor...........................................................................49 Pregnancy as Critical in th e Formation of Love Bonds..............................................53 Negotiating the Meaning of Family, Love, and Connectedness.................................56

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vi Investing in Love.................................................................................................56 Creating Love Bonds...........................................................................................58 6 NOT JUST LEGITIMATE FAMILIES, BUT FAMILIES THAT LEGITIMATE...62 How Dominant Forces Create Legitimacy.................................................................63 How Lesbian Communities Measure Legitimacy......................................................68 7 PUBLIC PREGNANCIES..........................................................................................72 Public Accountability.................................................................................................72 Publicly Accountable Decision to Parent............................................................73 Publicly Accountable Education.........................................................................76 Accountable Identities................................................................................................79 Losing Lesbianism...............................................................................................80 Gaining Bonds with Heterosexual Women.........................................................84 8 DISCUSSION.............................................................................................................89 APPENDIX A SEMI-STRUCTURED QUALITATIVE INTERVIEW GUIDE...............................98 B INFORMED CONSENT..........................................................................................100 Informed Consent for Face-to-Face Interviews.................................................100 Informed Consent for Phone Interviews............................................................101 LIST OF REFERENCES.................................................................................................104 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH...........................................................................................109

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vii Abstract of Thesis Presen ted to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts CHANGING BODIES MEAN SHIFTI NG WORLDS: LESBIAN WOMEN AND PREGNANCY EXPERIENCES By Maura Ryan May 2006 Chair: Kendal L. Broad Major Department: Sociology This research examines the social experi ences of pregnancy for lesbian women. It utilizes eighteen in-depth qualitative intervie ws with lesbian birth mothers to investigate their thoughts, concerns, and experiences in thei r families and in their social worlds. This document discusses the ways in which le sbian women who become mothers through pregnancy must make sense of their pregnanc ies in a world that privileges and assumes heterosexual pregnancies and the coping strategies they employ to legitimate their pregnancies and families. This thesis uses a specific lens for viewing lesbian mother hood, one of sameness and difference, where lesbian and gay fam ily researchers are encouraged to design projects that seek to understand how gay and lesbian families simultaneously experience similarity with and difference from heterosexual families.

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1 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION AND HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE Introduction Motherhood is the ultimate embodiment of womanhood; lesbianism is the antithesis of true womanhood. Motherhood is something all women should accomplish; lesbianism is something that is seen as a failure of character. Motherhood through pregnancy is something all women should do; lesbianism is something no woman should do. This is what our social world offers us in understanding the role of mother and the role of the lesbian. While the above list may look rudimentarily dichotomous, there is rarely any complexity in the way that we cu lturally understand the tw o identities. It is rare, for instance, to see cultu ral references to motherhood as being detrimental to women or to see lesbianism celebrated as a fully woman-identified phenomena; such cases are not seen in wider culture, but in the cultura l criticisms written by subgroups of feminists and queer1 people. It is perhaps even rarer in fo lk knowledge to see an overlap of mother and lesbian identities. The lesbian mother is, in our cultural imagination, an absurdity, an oxymoron, an impossibility. Academic cont ributions have articulated the socially constructed dichotomy between mother and lesbian and the paradoxical implication of placing the words next to each other as in, lesbian mother (see DiLapi, 1989; Lewin, 1993; Hequembourg & Farrell, 1999). 1 Throughout the thesis I use the word queer to indicat e people who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender [GLBT].

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2 Lesbians who want to be mothers have an initial project that most women do not have: to convince themselves that it is possible for them to become mothers. While it is assumed that heterosexual women should a nd will mother, which can be damaging in other ways, lesbians must prove to themselv es (and sometimes gate keepers in acquiring children or acquiring sperm) that they are able to mother. This is why, in addition to many other scholars, I am interested in lesbia n mothers. I am specifically interested in lesbian mothers who choose to use their bodie s for pregnancy. Pregnancy offers us a window of understanding into th e world of motherhood; it is the time of transition; it is a time of visible motherhood. This research offers a qualitative study of the pregnancy experiences of eighteen lesbian women. In its offering I hope to make the complex nature of their experiences more understandable and to make the socially constructed nature of pregnancy more approachable for investigation. Historical Significance In 1990 Newsweek made the famous claim th at the United States was in the midst of a “gayby boom,” wherein gay men and lesbians were making the choice to become parents (Salholz, 1990). This was a historic al shift in the way gay parenting occurs because gay men and lesbians had the social cap ital to establish families of their own in combination with the still existing, but ol der model where a once heterosexual parent comes out as gay or lesbian, couples with a member of the same sex and raises his/her children in the context of a same-sex relati onship. Both the women’s movement and gay civil rights movements have probably been influential in increasing the numbers of lesbian parents in the Un ited States (Lewin, 1993).

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3 Although lesbian families are becoming increasingly common and current demographics of the United States tell us that conventionally, intact, two-parent families are making way for alternative family forms (Lewin, 1993; Flaks et al., 1995; Baca Zinn, & Eitzen, 2004), there is a cu ltural reluctance to accept fam ily forms that stray too far from what is considered conventional, espe cially gay and lesbian family formations (Flaks et al., 1995; Shore, 1996; Clarke, 2001) According to Judith Stacey (2003), gay and lesbian families are starting points in understanding nuanced forms of kinship and exist as evidence that there is a publicly unproblematized gap between the ways families are and the way institutional bodi es and legal systems expect th em to be. This gap results in a dangerous legal, social, and political clim ate for gay and lesbian families. As Kristin Joos (2003) points out, “the exis ting legislation does not accura tely represent the needs of LGBT families today. Although there has been progress, there has also been backlash. Laws vary from state to state and county to county. Some courts re present these families fairly while others persist in denying their legitimacy as well as their very existence.” While in the last thirty years there have been great academic strides in incorporating an understanding of gay and lesbian families into a social science understanding of families, we fall short in some major areas. Most existing research on lesbian motherhood, for example, has focused on a feminist analysis of negotiating conflicting identities of lesbian and mother, on the decision-making processes in creating lesbian families, and on the creation and mainte nance of lesbian families. We know very little about how lesbians experience their time of pregnancy and the ways in which their pregnancies exist as times to prepare for loving their children, fo r existing in their families of origin differently, or existing in new (motherhood) communities. All of what

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4 we know about lesbian motherhood must begin in pregnancy: it is the time that lesbians begin to see themselves as mothers; it is the time that we can most clearly see the different treatment in the same experience. Just as lesbian mothering is assumed to be wholly different from heterosexual motheri ng, the heterosexual imagination (if it can imagine or understand lesbian pregnancy at all) treats lesbian pregnancy as wholly different from heterosexual pregnancy. The di fference is that while mothering is a social experience, pregnancy is assumed to be sole ly a biological one. Mothering may or may not be different across sexual orientations or between different indivi duals, but pregnancy is largely the same body pro cess. Through the conception of what differently embodied pregnancies mean and through the public trea tment of those pregnancies, we can see more clearly our skewed views of lesbian mo thering and the socially constructed nature of pregnancy. Historically, we still know very little about lesbian pregnancy and motherhood. Lesbianism, firstly, is a relati vely new social construction, occurring as a social category somewhere in the late nineteenth or early twentieth century (Faderman, 1991; Katz, 1995). Women who are now understood to be le sbians, in the early twentieth century, were educated women who partnered with other educated women in Boston marriages, arrangements that were like conventional marriages except for th eir assumed asexual nature by outsiders; children were not part of these family formations (Faderman, 1991). In Kennedy and Davis’ (1994) work on le sbian bar culture of the 1930’s, 1940’s, and 1950’s, there is some mention of early lesbian pregnancies. Men who wanted to have intercourse with lesbians would enter lesb ian bars and offer to pay to have sex with a masculine, or butch, woman in the bar, b ecause masculinity signifi ed real lesbianism;

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5 due to economic hardships and a lack of ot her money-earning avenues, butch lesbians often found work this way. When they woul d become pregnant they would make up stories that they had large tumors in their stom achs or that they had gained a lot of weight recently; when it was time to give birth they would leave town and return afterwards, never speaking of having been pregnant. It is significant that our first narratives of lesbian pregnancies are ones that exist because of a lack of economic and social options and are carried out in shame. Still other knowledges of le sbian pregnancy exist outside academia in the personal narratives of lesbian pregnancy. A more fam ous example of these narratives is Cherre Moraga’s Waiting in the Wings (1997) in which she offers a diary written during her pregnancy that reveals her changing emotions during the gestation of her now son, Rafael Angel Moraga. In these pages she describes a negotiation of two distinct experiences: the raw phsycial nature of gestati ng a child and how odd it felt, at times, to have a pregnant body as a lesbian woman who was trained to not see herself as a mother. Do to academic inattention to pregnancy experiences there is a current disconnect between the ways in which lesbians in the popular press are navigating their experiences with pregnancy/motherhood and the ways in whic h academia is attempting to understand lesbian motherhood. To understand motherhoo d, we must understand the transition into it. To understand the ways in which lesbians feel they have a viab le cultural space as mothers, we must examine the ways in which pregnancy is imagined, decided upon, treated in the cultural landscape, and the ways in which it is retold as narrative.

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6 To build an academic understanding of le sbian pregnancy experiences that is mindful of the historical and social meaning of the endeavor I asked the simple research question, how do lesbians experience pregnancy? In what follows I offer an investigation into how the eighteen women I interviewed experienced their pregnancies in terms of its relation to th e standard heterosexual model of pregnancy; in their negotiation of the semi-biological nature of their families due to their biological relationship with their children and th eir partners’ non-biological contribution to the family; in the ways that their pregnancies have served as legitimating functions for them as citizens, members of their families of origin, and sometimes, in their lesbian communities; and finally, in the ways in which they become publicly accountable for their pregnancies.

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7 CHAPTER 2 RECENT RESEARCH AND THEORY This chapter offers an overview of the theoretical and empirical contributions on lesbian mothers that have been most prominent in recent years. The overview is separated into three areas: theoretical contributions on the negotiation of identity, decision-making in creating lesbian families, and the maintenance of lesbian families. In each section it will be clear that there is a gap in our knowledge on lesbian mothers and lesbian families: the period of pregnancy experiences for lesbian women. Although we now know a lot about the ways in which lesbia ns strategize to become pregnant and the ways in which they build their families afte r acquiring children, we know very little about how lesbians describe their experiences during pregnancy. Another more subtle gap exists in the cu rrent research on lesbian mothers. This missing part of our body of knowledge is more subtle because it is one of focus rather than empirical contribution. What I mean by th is is that most empirical work on lesbian mothers has chosen to focus on the difference in experience or in the similarity of experience lesbian women have in comparison to normative heterosexual standards. The idea of the lesbian mother necessarily incor porates sameness and difference at once; it is inescapable. For that reason, I am convinced that the researcher s who have produced these studies have been mindful of this inex tricability: if they have chosen to focus on difference it is because they have assumed the inherent similarity of being a mother; if they chosen to focus on similarity it is because they have assumed the constructed difference in being a lesbian and looked to the ways lesbians create sameness despite

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8 their marginality. Still, wit hout a theoretically clear stance that sameness and difference are simultaneous, we are left with a missi ng piece in understandi ng lesbian motherhood. What it is more, in relation to this speci fic study, the simultaneity of sameness and difference can be seen most clearly during the time of pregnancy where lesbian women can experience identical body processes, but be treated much differently and experience their pregnancies much differently than heterosexual women. Theoretical Contributions: Th e Negotiation of Identity Theoretical contributions in the area of lesbian motherhood have incorporated a view of sameness and difference by focusing on the negotiation of conflicting identity categories: mother and lesbian. For lesbians the difference of their sexual orientation must be understood in the context of th eir newly found sameness (in terms of an experience of womanhood) of motherhood. In popular imagination, the idea of the lesb ian mother is imagined as an oxymoron. The separate roles of mother and lesbia n, which are juxtaposed as good women, who reproduce within the natural context of heterosexuality, and failed women, who violate the natural order as necessarily non-procreative beings, are diffi cult to reconcile (Flaks et al., 1995; Lewin, 1995; Hequembourg & Farrell, 1999). Alongside the cultural ideal th at all women must become mothers there exists a motherhood hierarchy composed of women wh o make appropriate mothers and those who make inappropriate mothers, where he terosexual women are the most appropriate and lesbian women are the least appropria te (DiLapi, 1989; Hequembourg & Farrell, 1999). What results, for individual lesbian mo thers, is a combination of their marginal identity, which consists of their lesbianism and a mainstream identity, which consists of their motherhood role (Flaks et al ., 1995; Hequembourg & Farrell, 1999).

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9 The social proscription against lesbian motherhood is based on an ideological system that makes motherhood a primary id entity category for women; women must achieve motherhood to be successful wome n and they cannot be lesbian and be successful (Woolet & Phoenix, 1991; Lewin, 1995). Furthermore, the ideology that parenting situations must include a father has not only left lesbian families suspect and problematized, but discriminated against in te rms of acquiring children (Breways et al., 1997). So, while individual lesbian mothers must work to negotiate their complex social locations, the societal solution for treatment of lesbian mothers has been to marginalize them for their unacceptable type of mothering situations, ignoring the complexity of their multiple categories. With the exception of Hequembourg and Farrell (1999) there has been more theoretical contribution to this lesbian/mother category divide than empirical works that investigates how lesbian mothers actually co pe with it. The theoretical contributions, though, bring up interesting questions as to how these necessary negotiations are carried out within a social setting that dismisses their motherhood because of their lesbianism and more specifically, how these negotiations are accomplished during the transitional moment of pregnancy. Lesbian Decision-Making in Starting Families Much of the literature on decision-making in the creation of lesbian families has come from a standpoint of difference. It would be difficult to construct an empirical work that focused on how lesbians decide wh ich partner will become pregnant, on child attainment through insemination clinics, or on the discriminatory nature of insemination clinics through an assumed le ns of sameness. Understand ably, then, this literature’s focus is on the different experiences lesb ians have in creating their families.

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10 This literature often begins with the assumption that lesbians do not establish families in order to assimilate into a hetero sexual society that prioritizes child rearing (Schneider, 1997). On the contrary, lesbia n families undermine the heterosexual model of families that dominates our social understanding of the entity and for this reason should be considered quite radica l (Dalton & Beilby, 2000; Dunne, 2000). Unlike established dominant patterns of ch ild attainment, there is no one model for gay and lesbian families. While the hetero sexual model may not be strictly followed by heterosexuals (evidenced by cohabiting coupl es who raise children or by the increasing number of single parent home s), there is no model for gay and lesbian families. As Hayden (1995) points out, lesbian women, in creating families, may do the following: partner with another woman to raise children who were c onceived in a heterosexual partnership, adopt children, fo ster children, or decide to reproduce children through the impregnation of one or both of the lesbian part ners; there is no one model in which that lesbian parents find their way to motherhood. Often, she notes, in deciding to have a child in the context of a lesbian relationship, pregnancy is an attract ive option because of difficulties in the legal adoption of children by lesbians and the legal precedence assumed in biological connection, wh ich, through pregnancy, one mother will have. This is especially true in the state of Florida, one of the few states that specifically bans gay adoption. Ellen Lewin (1993) tells us th at although children have b een raised in the context of lesbian relationships for decades now, it is becoming much more common because of the women’s movement, the more visible gay rights movement, and reproductive technologies.

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11 However, reproductive technologies, while helpful for lesbian women, were not established to help them form families and often exclude them. Because of the socially constructed importance placed on a father’s ro le in childhood development, many clinics that perform invitro fertilizati on discriminate against lesbians in their practices (Breways et al., 1997). Lewin (1993) notes too that the available technology of artificial insemination is often complicated by a phys ician’s unwillingness to cooperate due to value systems that are prejudiced against lesbians and lesbian families. When the technology is available, it is often inaccessible. Murphy (2001) argues that lesbian discrimination occurs in th e refusal to diagnosis physician-assisted insemination as medically necessary (and theref ore covered by insurance) to lesbians. She argues that while there is no medical dysfunction, as there might be with heterosexuals who seek artificial insemi nation technologies, the assistance of impregnation is medically necessary for lesb ians and lesbian coupl es. Ignoring this medical necessity means that the cost of insemination becomes prohibitive and the nonimpregnated partner is not automatically s een as the second parent (as they are in heterosexual situations). The journey to motherhood through repr oductive technology, once the obstacles have been navigated, reveals a dynamic proce ss in which the co-parents of the future child make strategic decisions that concer n choices of the characteristics of the donor (Chabot & Ames, 2004). While this lens of difference is possibly more useful than a focus on sameness in understanding the ways in which lesbians experience motherhood, it ignores the possible similarities found in motherhood experiences. I am interested, for example, in the ways

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12 in which similarity is experienced in prepar ing for loving a future child, the ways in which partners are incorporated into th e pregnancy experience, and in the public receiving a pregnant woman, though difference must be present in all of these experiences as well. Although difference is a key component in understanding lesbian motherhood and pregnancy decisions, similarity must be a simultaneous component of our understanding. The Creation and Maintenance of Lesbian Families Unlike the empirical work on decision-making in creating lesbian families that generally has a lens of difference, the literature on the maintenance of lesbian families takes an either/or approach where either a work focuses on the different ways in which lesbians do family or it focuses on the ways in which lesbians strive to create legitimacy, or sameness, in the comparison with other family forms. I discuss important contributions from both foci below. The difference approach in discussing le sbian family forms has been used in empirical studies that seek to understand how the nature of lesbian parent households disrupts normative assumptions surrounding th e workings of gender in families, specifically in delegated work and child ca re responsibilities or it has focused on the alternative ways members of lesbian families define, imagine, and constitute their families. While sameness is probably assumed in these studies, it is not specifically noted in them. Again, this focus on diffe rence leaves us with an incomplete understanding of lesbian families. It has been argued extensivel y that the very arrangemen t of two women as primary parent undermines the gendered foundations on which the model for American families rests [see Hayden, 1995 for a disc ussion]. While the mere ex istence of a two mother

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13 household disrupts the gendered assumptions of parenthood and household maintenance, much work is conducted by lesbian mothers to change the gendered meaning of work in the home. Dalton & Beilby (2000 ) point out, for instance, that even though there is often an existence of two parents in lesbian family forms, they cannot rely on the gendered meanings of the two parent model, mother and father. Instead, according to Dunne (2000), lesbian families work to define the cate gories of duties in their homes apart from mother and father roles. A specific work on the gendered nature of lesbian family work is useful here. Maureen Sullivan’s (1996) work illustrates the ways in which lesbian families perform this definitional work. By finding a balance between economic support from outside paid labor and an equitable division of internal household labor, lesbian families strive to create a fair division of labor necessary to household functioning. While lesbian mothers experi ence social, legal, and economic sanctions because of their sexual orientation (Shore, 1996), lesbia n families have developed various coping mechanisms to maintain their families in a society that does not recognize them (Patterson, 2000; Oswald, 2002; Hequembour g, 2004; Swainson & Tasker, 2005). Some of the maintenance work in lesbian families relies on GLBT community bonds, or fictive kin networks, where non-biol ogically related co mmunity members are thought of as actual kin members (Weston, 1997; Carrington, 2004). In other words, gay and lesbian people have found di fferent ways to do family wh en conventional ways to do it have been closed to them. This way of establishing non-biologica lly related people as close members of the family has been an in strumental tactic in establishing the non-

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14 biological mother, for instance, as a primary family member without outside social or legal recognition of her. Similarly, it has been argued that lesbian families may not problematize their differences, but insist on ope ning definitions of family to accommodate them. Swainson and Takser (2005) conducted a study with lesb ian family members asking them to draw a genogram, or a family tree. Instead of tryi ng to fit their existi ng family forms into dominant models (represented by the sta ndard genogram) participants redrew the diagram, adding lines, circles and other symbols to make space for the way their families looked to them. This data was used as eviden ce to argue that lesbia n families reconstitute family formations. Along the same lines, lesbian families have been found to create new language and symbols that legitimize, support, and affirm th eir family structures. According to Oswald (2002), members of gay and lesbian families take part in what she calls intentionality, or behavior that seeks to legitimize their fam ily forms, and redefinition, which uses newly formed linguistic structures to challenge dominant paradigms and include their family members. There has also been great focus on the ways in which lesbian families compare to dominant, or heterosexual families, and the ways in which lesbian mothers are quite comparable to heterosexual mothers. The focus on similar positions as mothers and the strategies lesbians use to act similarly to heterosexual families is documented in several important empirical works. In their focus on similarity they assume that difference is necessarily present, but wit hout articulating it, the window of overlap between sameness and difference is lost in their works.

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15 In her groundbreaking work on lesbian moth ers, Ellen Lewin (1993) researched a group of lesbian mothers and single heterose xual mothers finding important theoretical similarities between the two groups. She ar gued that without the presence of a male wage earner or the protection th at comes from a male partner in a romantic relationship, lesbian mothers and heterosexual single mothers were in similar positions in the motherhood hierarchy in terms of economic and legal stability. She further argues that when social acceptance of motherhood is taken ou t of consideration (as it is with lesbian mothers and single heterosexual mothers), we ca n begin to investigate the real intentions of motherhood. With her lesbia n mothers, she found that whil e most of her participants had children who were born into previously heteronormative relations hips, the raising of their children with another woman nece ssarily meant a commitment to finding new models of family life. Those new models of family life have been researched extensiv ely in the discussion of lesbian parenthood. Dalton and Beilby (2000 ) found that without the legal sanction of marriage available to lesbian couples, co-p arenting replaces ma rriage as a sign of commitment to the relationship. Once a coupl e has children (where one partner is the biological mother) both partie s work to establish the non-bi ological mother as a full parent through equal time with babies and th e equitable divisions of work in caring for babies through to equal pare nting experiences with teen agers. Likewise, Maureen Sullivan (2001) found that the establishment of the non-biological mother, what she calls the Modern Other Mother, or MOM, as a nother primary caretaker takes place in the context of both parties’ desi re to construct a two-parent family based on social, rather than biological, mothering and actual practic es that establish the MOM as such.

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16 In addition to thinking of members of their family as full family members in the absence of biological ties, lesbian families ha ve also been active in creating strategic tactics that normalize their family forms. These may take the form of lesbian couple commitment ceremonies or the second parent adoption of a non-bi ologically related child. While these may be understood as measures to preserve some semblance of legal protection for their families, they can also be understood to be stra tegies that establish lesbian families as more like dominant (legitimate) families (Hequembourg, 2004). The literature on the maintenance of lesbian families, whether its focus is on similarity or difference, misses a key aspect in the discussion on c onstructing the lesbian family: the period of pregnancy experiences. If we are discussing lesbians who create families (and not women with children who come out as lesbian and create families), it is during pregnancy that a lesbian woman would begin to understand the ways in which her lesbianism marks her as a different kind of mo ther. It is during pr egnancy that she would have to learn how she is bei ng interpreted as a mother by st rangers, how to interact in public settings as a mother, and how to negotia te the difficult terrain of doctor’s offices, baby stores, and Lamaze classes. As I have said earlier, we have made strong academic contributions to the understanding of lesbian moth erhood identities, practices in becoming mothers, and maintaining family formations. While we have a vast and growing understanding of pregnancy decision-making and lesbian fam ily forms, we are left without much knowledge on how lesbian women experience their time during pregnancy. We know how women decide to become pregnant and how they maintain families while raising

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17 children, but we currently do not know how lesbians transition form planning motherhood into doing motherhood, the pe riod marked by being pregnant. Looking more generally to writings on pre gnancy, there have b een recent feminist works in the popular press discussing the ways in which the societal concept of what a mother should be shapes a future mother ’s concept of herself, her sexuality, her mothering abilities, and her con cept of her former self across lines of sexual orientation; pregnancy, they point out, is the period that initiates these feeli ngs (Gore, 1998; Gore, 2000; Crittenden, 2001; Bright, 2003). While according to Bailey (2001) there has been a feminist inattention to theorizing pregnanc y in the academic world due to our essential understanding of the process, several empiri cal works exist discussing the psychological negotiations women initiate during pregnanc y. Early works, for instance, looked at pregnancy as an emotional and psychologica l task both in the wo man’s new conception of her family and in her new conception of herself that was brought on by the transitional period of pregnancy where a woman is taken from non-mother to mother and, as a result, forces her to occupy a new soci al role [for an overview of early heterosexual pregnancy literature see Valentine, 1982]. There has b een an ongoing academic investigation into the ways in which heterosexual pregnant women struggle to understand themselves as people who embody both aspects of the binary between subject and object found in rational western thinking by being subjects who holds objec ts, or others, in their subjective bodies [for a discussion on the trajecto ry of this debate a nd an analysis of an empirical study on heterosexual pregnant women’s negotiation of it see Houvouras, 2004]. In addition, Bailey (2001) has found that the social context in which pregnancy occurs and the ways in which pregnancy is thought to make women feel more womanly

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18 results in individual women actua lly feeling more womanly. In other words, because of their social worlds, their gender becomes embodied by their pregnancies. Just as a focus on pregnancy in heterose xual women’s experiences has offered us an understanding of the ways in which wome n are understood as social actors, paying attention to the specificity of lesbian pregnancy offers key insights into the ways lesbian motherhood is understood in our society, the wa ys that lesbian mothers make sense of their pregnancies and their families in a social context that ignores their existence, and the ways that identical processes (such as pregnancy) can be cons tructed by dominant discourse as different (as in lesbian pregnancies) and dese rving of different treatment. In asking lesbian women to tell me the st ory of their pregnanc ies and then asking subsequent questions focused on their interact ions with partners, family members, and the public, I offer, in some cases, agreem ent with existing research on how lesbian women conceptualize their families and, at other times, I offer expanded knowledge on the area of family conceptualization, love, the understanding of di fference, and shifting nature of primary identity categories. Th roughout my findings I offer an understanding of sameness and difference at the same time. The difference in treatment during the same biological process of pregnancy provides knowledge on the nature of lesbian motherhood and lesbian life experiences, but also provides sociological understand ing of the socially constructed nature of pregnancy, the ways in which we make meaning through an understanding of ourselves and others, and th e simultaneous malleabili ty and stability of families of origin and families of choice. Theoretical Sensitivity Consistent with the tenets of grounde d theory methodology, no single theoretical framework has been applied to the data befo re its own theoretical contributions were

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19 established. The theoretical fr ameworks of symbolic interact ionism, feminist theory, and queer theory inform and guide this research. These theoreti cal perspectives are used to provide a backdrop of understanding for th e ways in which lesbian women understand their pregnancies in their worl d, how they create meaning of family, of their pregnancy experiences, and of the ways in which the pub lic interacts with them. What I mean by this is that I am particularly concerne d with the practice of meaning-making on an interactional and social level. In addition, it is particularly impor tant to recognize the ways in which meaning-making happens within the institutional contexts of family, medicine, and the legal system, where their pa renting desires and e xperiences are denied, questioned, fraught with suspicion or dismi ssed and where heterosexuality, heterosexual parenting, and bio-medical definitio ns of family are privileged. Symbolic Interaction reflects the idea that people are constantly interpreting their social world through social interaction with other people (Mead, 1934; Blumer, 1969). Through the need to grasp an understanding of the social world, our sense of symbols and language meaning is heightened; human beings, in this way, are distinct from other forms of life because of our unique ability to communicate through shared meaning (Mead, 1934; Blumer, 1969; Stryker, 1980). It is particularly important in symbolic interactionism that while institutional for ces may shape an actor’s motivations and/or understanding of his/her motivations, they cannot make the actor act (Blumer, 1969). Symbolic Interactionism, as a perspective that assumes that social situations are built on a dynamic interpretation process provides an or ientation for investigating the ways in which lesbian women make meaning of their pre gnancies in different so cial settings: with

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20 their partners; with their families of origin; at the grocery store; in their doctor’s offices; buying baby clothes; at a party with lesbian friends; or when walking down the street. I am guided, here, too by Goffman’s (1974) concept of primary frames where members of a given society share overarch ing frameworks to make sense of their interactions, but where, he point s out, “there is an incomple te sharing of these cognitive resources” (Goffman, 1974: 27). While we may have a shared cultural sense of what pregnancy means (that a woman gestates a fe tus for around nine months) and the ways in which we should treat a pregnant woman (mak ing sure that she doe s not lift anything heavy), dominant ideologies surrounding pre gnancy allow people to make assumptions about pregnant women’s lived situations and influence the ways in which other people will treat her. If, for example, our shared knowledge of pregnancy is that it happens in the context of legal marriage, a stranger is likely to treat a visibly pregnant woman as if she is legally married whether or not she act ually is married. This is particularly important in lesbian women’s meaning-maki ng of pregnancy because, we could say, the primary framework for understanding the social relations hip leading to pr egnancy is that it happens in the context of a married, heterosexual relations hip. The incomplete sharing of cognitive resources in our society, then, means that lesbian women have a different concept of the possibilities in pregnanc y and then must constantly understand and negotiate the safest actions they can take to secure their families and their sense of selves. However, I am conscious of structural forces too. If structural forces cannot make an actor act, they can intensel y shape their action or thwart their action. To incorporate a lens that is sensitive to the ways hierarch ical power shapes the lives of individuals, I employ the frameworks of feminist theory and queer theory.

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21 According to Joan Alway (1995), feminist theory centers on describing women’s lives, experiences, and subordina tion; its goal is to uncover the ways in which women’s experiences have been overlooked in the wa y our world is understood and to make the lived experiences of women’s lives better. Di stinct from the practice of using gender as a variable and from the misunderst ood concept that feminist theory only reflects the social movement of feminists, feminist theory seek s to make gender a theoretical focal point in our dissection of the social wo rld (Stacey & Thorne, 1985). More specifically, in the area of motherhood, I take a feminist dissection of the identity and follow Woolet and Phoneix’s (1991) argument that motherhood is a primary identity category for women and its achie vement means success; women who do not achieve motherhood in the socially proscribed way face severe social sanctions. In addition, I am informed by DiLapi’s (1989) de scription of the moth erhood hierarchy in which heterosexual women are deemed the mo st appropriate mother s and lesbian women are deemed the least appropriate. Similar to the project of feminist theory, queer theory seeks to establish ways of uncovering the overlooked experiences of queer people’s lives, while centering sexuality as an academic discussion and problematiz ing our taken for granted knowings of sexuality, heterosexuality, and queerness (Stein & Plummer, 1994) This project, as one that seeks to center the lives of lesbian moth ers and in so doing problematizes our current construction of mothers as solely heterosexual, fulfills these goals. Finally, I am guided by a particular theore tical perspective in my understanding of kinship and love. First, I am influenced by Gubrium and Holstein’s (1990) work on family that posits that it is a “descriptive practice,” shaped thr ough various interpretive

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22 processes; created separately from the me mbers who create what we call a family, the family, as we know, is an accomplishment of created meaning. Also, the way that this work views the kinship ties amongst gay and lesbian families is highly influenced by Kath Weston’s (1997) perspective that gay men and lesbians rely on fictive kin networks, or families of choice, to create family bonds. While her perspective does not include parent-partner-child relationshi ps, her focus on friendships as family networks is helpful in conceiving how gay men and lesbians build family formations that are not (solely) based on biological kinships. In the same way, Jaqui Gabb’s (2001) idea that who we love is socially constructed and that because of the sexual and soci al marginalization of lesbian women they may construct their love relationships outside of those socially constructed love prescriptions. With these theoretical backgrounds in mind, I argue that family formations and love relationships are consciously created and maintained by lesbian parents and that thes e love relationships are pr oduced, thoroughly investigated, and experienced during pregnancy.

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23 CHAPTER 3 RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS This work, as stated earlier, offers an analysis of qualitati ve data, 18 in-depth interviews, with lesbian birth mothers who were asked to describe their experiences during pregnancy. This chapter is written in four sections: the pro cess of recruitment for interviews; a description of participants; background on th e creation of the in-depth interview; and guide for understandi ng the analysis of the interviews. Recruitment Analysis for this paper relies on audiotap ed, in-depth interviews with 18 lesbian women who are currently pregnant or w ho have been pregnant (and brought the pregnancy to term) within the last ten years. Participants were recruited and interviewed through multiple methods and in different cities during 2005. Initially my research was localized in the North Central Florida area, specifically in the college town where I currently do graduate work. I quickly found myself in a crisis of recruitment, as I only solicited one inte rview. While I was in contact with many lesbian mothers in this area, very few of them have gone through pr egnancy in the last ten years. I then changed my data collecti on approach to include tape-recorded, in-depth phone interviews and made in itial contacts with friends of my acquaintances and colleagues who knew I was beginning this re search. From these initial contacts I employed snowball sampling techniques to reach more mothers. I also e-mailed relevant listserves and organizations e xplaining my research, including a Florida-based play group for children of gays and lesbians, whic h garnered ten phone interviews. Other

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24 respondents participated in phone interviews from their homes in the following places: Seattle, WA; San Francisco, CA; Vancouve r, Canada; New Hampshire; Virginia; Maryland; and Santa Cruz, CA. Participants The lesbian birth mothers interviewed were all in their late 30’s to mid 40’s. All of the mothers identified as white; one identified her ethnicity as Puerto Rican. Three of the White women interviewed were in inter-racial relationships during th eir pregnancies (two with African American women and one with a Latina woman). The white woman with a Latina partner and one of the women with an African American partner chose a sperm donor who was Latino/African American, resp ectively, in order to produce bi-racial children. While I neither formally asked participants to classify themselves in a particular social class category, nor aske d for numerical representations of their household incomes, the jobs that my participants performed marked them as middle class and (in some cases) upper middle class. Some of the professi ons represented included nurse, architect, university instructor, account ant, police officer, guidance counselor, manager/business owner, and stay-at-home mother. An unfortunate aspect of my research is that it relies on the experiences of white, fairly affluent, wo men. From the 2000 census, we know that, in the United States, forty-four percent of La tina same-sex couples are raising children under the age of eighteen (Cia nciotto, 2005) and that Black female same-sex households are raising children around the same rates as Black heterosexual households (61 vs. 69%) and at about twice the rate of white lesb ian households (Dang & Frazer, 2004). Those women are not represented here (with the ex ception of my one part icipant who identifies culturally and ethnically as Puerto Rican, but r acially, as White). This may be a limit of

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25 the study in focusing on pregnancy because many lesbian mothers of color in the United States are mothering through adoption and by fostering (Sears et. al, 2005). An alternative explanation of this drawback in my research may be that as White middleclass researcher, I had access to other Wh ite middle-class women. Still, deciding to become pregnant and acquiring children th rough an anonymous donor from a sperm bank is an experience characterized by White affl uence. Each experience with family, analyzed below, should thus be taken as my pa rticipants specific relationship with society not only in terms of their lesbianism, but also their whiteness and mi ddle-class status(es). While I do not speak to the ways in which th eir race and class privileges have shaped their experiences in my analysis, the reader should acknowledge that these statuses are necessarily present in the formation and understanding of their experiences with motherhood and pregnancy. While my participants’ intentions toward and experiences with becoming pregnant may have varied slightly, the majority of them, 14, acquired sperm (or in one case, an embryo) for the purposes of insemination, from a sperm bank. Two of the birth mothers became pregnant using a known donor’s sperm, with whom they do not currently share a parenting relationship and one of the birth mothers (although identifying as a lesbian at the time) became pregnant (to her surprise and eventual joy) during an ongoing sexual relationship she was participating in with a ma le partner. One birth mother I interviewed, though acquiring sperm from a sperm bank, is serv ing as a surrogate for another couple. She has two children of her ow n (conceived in a heterosexual relationship), gave birth to twins two years ago as a surroga te for a gay male couple (while identifying as a lesbian)

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26 and was pregnant with twins, when I spoke with her, acting again as a surrogate for a heterosexual couple. All of the women interviewed identified as lesbians at the conception of their pregnancies and at the time of interview. While their identification with the category lesbian should be considered the most impor tant, it is also important to note that I operationalize the term to mean anyone who solely partners with women and/or calls themselves lesbian; the presence or absence of sexual contact with men, in this way, is unimportant. Interviews Semi-structured interviews were conducted with the 18 lesbian mothers and lasted 45-100 minutes. My initial interview took pl ace in the birth moth er’s home while her current partner and child played in anothe r room. All subsequent interviews were conducted over the telephone with me in my ho me and the participants in theirs. While there are drawbacks to phone interviews, in that the researcher cannot measure facial reactions and other non-verbal communications, the ease with which a participant may be able to answer interview question because do to the comfort of being in her home (possibly with her partner sitting next to her) should not be under-estimated. Before beginning each interview I asked each interviewee what they would like to know about me and/or the study in which th ey were participating. Many women would ask me if I was lesbian/gay, if I was a mother, or if I intended to become pregnant; one of the White women who has an African Ameri can partner asked me if I was White. Sensing that this may be important to even participants who did not ask, and in alignment with my feminist researcher sensibilities that tell me to put myself into my research, I would answer these questions even if the participant had none. In other words, if a

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27 participant told me that she ha d no questions, I would tell her, I’m a lesbian, I am not currently a mother and I have never been preg nant, but I do intend to mother in the future If she only asked if I was a mother, I would answer that question and then say, I’m a lesbian and I have never been pregnant, but intend to become a mother in the future and so on. Interestingly, th is often provided me with a dditional information; after answering a question from her perspective, an interviewee often gave me advice that I may take into account in my own life. My participants were offered open-ended questions that focused on their thoughts, feelings, and experiences with motherhood and pregnancy. The focus of the interviews was on their experience with pregnancy as a bodily journey and as a transitional period into motherhood. Integral in this were their perceptions of their pub lic interaction with strangers, co-workers, health care professi onals, and their privat e interactions with partners, chosen family networks, friends, and their families of origin. Initially I planned to focus interviews on the topic of body image during pregnancy, but the participants found nothing relevant to discuss in their bodily experiences during pregnancy. They felt beautiful even though thei r feet swelled; it was, according to them, uncomplicated. Following Gubrium and Holste in’s active intervie w approach (1995) I recognized that the interview was a co-construc tion and that my participants had an equal opportunity to shape our conve rsation; building my project on Strauss and Corbin’s (1998) grounded theory, I recognized that I had to follow the themes that emerged, paying closer attention to areas my participan ts found most important in their experiences of pregnancy. The result is that my findings have little to do with the bodily experience

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28 of pregnancy. Instead, they illustrate th e social and public e xperiences of being a pregnant lesbian. Analysis Following the audio-taped interviews, I took interview notes on the way certain stories were told, possible connections w ith previous interviews, and possible new theoretical promises. Each interview was pe rsonally transcribed by me and then read several times to establish themes of the interviews. More specifically, the ini tial textual material was analyzed with grounded theory methodology for qualitative data analysis (Strau ss & Corbin, 1998). As similar situations and experiences surfaced in initial interviews, they were coded and given tentative labels during the open phase of the coding process. I used core, or central, categories to understand the properties in multiple interviews. In finalizing the coding process, I used Gl aser and Strauss’ (1967) approach to the constant comparative method of analyzing data in order to create a se t of general themes that can be used as a theoretical basis to understand a given phenomena; it is not concerned with generalizability to larger populations. Instead, I offer, here, a small window to understanding the social worl d of pregnancies for lesbian women.

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29 CHAPTER 4 THE NARRATION OF SAMENESS AND DIFFERENCE Stacey and Biblarz (2001) argue that soci al scientists who study gay and lesbian parents have constructed a na rrative of normalcy, designing th eir research questions to measure the similarity that exists between ga y/lesbian parents and he terosexual parents. I argue that it is not only so cial scientists, but the pare nts themselves, who work to construct a narrative of normalcy. The pa rents are active in weaving the tale of normalcy for the same reason invested social scientists might be: similarity proves legitimacy and difference allows for suspicion. Lesbian mothers know that differences in their parenting expectations or experiences are translated as evidence to the claim that they are less worthy and less effective parents. Even when my partic ipants provided stories of difference they adamantly characterized their entire pregna ncies as no different than a heterosexual woman’s experience. Below I discuss the similarity in e xperience and the sameness narrative and contrast it with the ne xt section on different experiences of pregnancy. While it is necessary in an effort toward cohesion to se parate narratives of sameness and experiences of difference, it is largel y counter-productive to do so because the more accurate portrayal is one of sameness and difference at the same time. Th is is so true, in fact, that difference is often admitted in the sameness narrative and sameness is often hinted at in the different experiences section. The next se ction highlights how these come to exist in one place as I discuss the interplay between sameness and difference. I then offer two

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30 example sections as evidentiary site s where sameness and difference happen concurrently: miscarriage and the positive treatment of pregnant women in public. These should be understood as thematic illustrations of lesbian pregnancies where there is a constant interweaving between similarities a nd differences with the standard narrative of pregnancy. The Maintenance of Sameness For the lesbian parents I interviewed, pr egnancy felt, as they say over and over again, natural. As Sandy says, “It has felt real ly natural as soon as I got pregnant – like this is what I’m supposed to do.” While some opponents of same-sex child rearing might raise the claim that their role as parents is unnatural or that beco ming pregnant through means other than intercourse is unnatural my respondents made the claim that the pregnancy itself felt natural fo r them. They do not reject the idea that they get pregnant differently than most people assume women will become pregnant. For instance, Rhonda says, “There’s definitely [a difference in lesbians getting pregnant] because you’re dealing with science more than you’re deali ng with nature.” When I would ask about how lesbian pregnancies are different than heterosexual women’s pregnancies I was told that the pregnancies are not di fferent – getting pregnant a nd parenting may be different, but the experience of pregnancy is the same as a heterosexual woman’s. Cassandra told me: All along the whole process [of ge tting pregnant], I knew in my mind that once I was pregnant and had conceived and all of that, to me it would be no different than a straight woman being pregnant. I felt like once I had that process done and over with, everything is cool and I can live my life and go on with my pregnancy and the whole gay issue would not be an issue. Carol makes a similar point:

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31 I think personally, I think…okay, y eah…the very beginning – yeah, it’s different. You know, you get inseminated as opposed to, you know, vaginally or whatever. I mean like th e heterosexual way. But then after you’re pregnant it’s just the same, it’s exactly the same as a heterosexual. I mean your whole body process and everyt hing is the same. It’s just the being inseminated that w ould be different. But then, women have to go through that in heterosexual couples You know, a lot of heterosexual women go through infertility, so you know. Although Carol acknowledges that many le sbians become pregnant through different means than most heterosexual women, as through artificial insemination, she maintains that the course of pregnancy is no different. Impor tantly, she points out that many heterosexual women resort to artificial insemination because of infertility, finding similarity with heterosexual women through the different experience of insemination. Respondents discuss similarity in response to a society that construc ts the lesbian body as physically different than a natural woman’s body. In mainstream discourse, lesbian bodies are deviant women’s bodies; they are constructed as women who eschew needs thought to be biological, like heterosexual desire and maternal instinct. Donna and I have a conversation below: R: There’s a lot of heterosexua l women that do not have that maternal instinct, but just because you’re a lesbian doesn’t mean that you don’t have that maternal instinct. I: Do you think that most people think that lesbians don’t have a maternal instinct? R: I think they think that, yes. I: Why do you think they think that? R: Ignorance. They think of us as a different breed, like we’re not human. While Donna has come to the personal understanding that her sexual orientation has not discounted her desire to mother, she has had to contend with the societal notion

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32 that lesbianism is the antith esis of motherhood and pregnancy. In her articulation of the reasoning behind this imagined antithesis she states that they think of lesbian women as a different breed, pointing out th at dominant ideology constructs lesbianism not just as discounting one’s ability to mother, but one’s ma ternal instinct. It is not just lesbian women who are different, but lesbian bodies th at are seen as incomplete and lacking female bodies. So while the steps taken to get pregnant are in fact different than conventional assumptions of how heterosexua l women become pregnant, the desire to mother and the way lesbian bodies function duri ng pregnancy are spoken of as the same. In large measure, when my participants told me, pregnancy is the same I understood them to mean, my body functions the same way Lesbian bodies do function the same way heterosexual bodies function during pregnanc y. If we keep in mind that there are no lesbian bodies or heterosexual bodies, just bodi es that carry out behaviors to which we attach cultural meaning (like sexual orientat ion), it makes sense that we also attach meaning to sexual behaviors of pregnant bodies. While there may be no observable difference between lesbian pregnancies and heterosexual pregnancies in physicality or intention, the cultural and socio-political m eaning placed on lesbian parents means that we assume that lesbian pregnancies are diffe rent. Bodies are the same, treatment of bodies is different. Lesbians must make se nse of their pregnancie s in terms of their experiences and their understanding of how society frames their experiences: they understand that their body pro cesses are the same during pr egnancy because they have felt their bodies grow while developing a fetu s; they understand that lesbian decisions to parent are treated differently and that for th at reason public treatment of pregnant women is only constructed with he terosexual women in mind.

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33 Still, some women maintained that their social experi ences, not just experiences with their bodies, during pregnancy were the same as heterosexual women’s. Anna, who gave birth to two children when she identified as heterosexual, is currently a surrogate and pregnant with twins. She said: I don’t think [there’s any difference] for me personally. Of course, it’s a little more explaining you have to do when you go to the doctor’s office and the OB until they get to know who you are and for those lesbians involved in artificial insemination. I haven’t found any professionals who have taken it any di fferent than any other client or patient of theirs. As far as the “g eneral public” and family and friends, what I have found, personally, is that it confuses them because when they first find out that you’re pre gnant they look at you like, how did that happen? You’re a lesbian! Just completely floored and then the next train of thought is she just went and slept with a man so she could have a baby of her own and then it’s a process of educating people, re ally. I personally have not found anything any different than I did before I came to the realization of my sexualit y, with my children and being pregnant [now]. I have not found anything any different. Notice how this lesbian mother compares her first two pregnancies (while she identified as heterosexual) to her last two pregnancies (while she has identified as a lesbian): people fail to understand how sh e could become pregnant; they ask her questions; she has to educate people about her pregnancy. Still, she categorizes her lesbian pregnancies as no different than he r pregnancies experienced as a heterosexual woman. To illustrate similarity in treatment, my pa rticipants often told me that their health care professionals treated them well. In fact it should be noted that no one in my study was treated badly by health ca re professionals. It should be noted also, though, that we should expect health care prof essionals to treat people well. The fact that my respondents wondered if they would be treated well, asked for recommendations for friendly practitioners, and interviewed their health care professionals to make sure they would

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34 treat their partners as parents should stand as evidence that they understand how pregnant lesbians are treated differently. Anna, w ho says that people fail to understand how lesbians can become pregnant and admits that she is often in a position to educate people, still says that she finds nothing different about her pregnancy. While Anna understands that no one wonders how heterosexual wome n can possibly become pregnant or asks heterosexual women to educate them about th eir pregnancies, she sees no difference in her pregnancy role because she expects this di fferent treatment. If differential treatment is played out, not in the form of discrimi nation, but in the form of benign and innocent questioning, it is expected and discounted as insignificant. Furthermore, questions about how one became pregnant and how same-sex households parent are not seen as differential treatment; they are seen as opportunities to dispel myths about lesbian families. If the way to end homophobia is to prove how similar lesbians are to heterosexual people, then focusing on how c onventional their pregnancies can be is a specific strategy. Many respondents used these events as times to educate people about how similar they are to heterosexual househol ds; weaving the tale of normalcy for an audience who may someday allo w their children to play w ith children who have samesex parents or vote for more le sbian inclusive family policy. Some participants were appalled by how I implied that lesbian pregnancies are different with my question a bout whether or not they are different. For my respondents most concerned with maintaining the descriptio ns of similarity, thei r defensiveness rested on a common theme: the non-salience of their lesbian identities. For example, Cassandra told me: No, [being pregnant was never at odds with me being a lesbian] because I’m one of those people who – I guess I identify as a lesbian, but

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35 it’s not like…some people wear it as a badge. Some people are like, hey, this is what I am and me, I’m like, I’m human first or I’m woman first or whatever you want to say. To me, it was just like, [being a lesbian] is a part of me, but it’s not such an iden tifying part of me that it was somehow threatened by me being pregnant. Blanche feels similarly: I think part of the reason why I’m thinking about some of the questions as far as the identity of it [is because] I think that we view ourselves so much as people, no so much as the label. There’s a friend of mine who really put that in perspectiv e for me. He’s straight, he’s married to a woman, obviously because he’s st raight and his wife used to work with a girl who had a female partner and I remember asking him a long time ago if this woman had ever admitted to his wife that she was gay because they knew she was and he said, Why does it matter? He said, I don’t go around telling people I’m straight So, I guess it’s like I know that’s what I am, but I don’t go around thinking of myself as any different than anybody else. While sexual orientation may not matter to Cassandra and Blanche, it does matter to other people. Beyond Blanche’s interpreta tion of her own lesbianism or her friend’s heterosexuality, they have different opportuni ties to discuss their sexual orientations, even if neither of them vocalize their identifi cations to other people. Blanche, who works on the police force, for instance, may be highly ostracized and risk th e security of her job for discussing her lesbianism brother who w ill not speak to her and parents who are in marginal communication with her because of her lesbianism. These events, though, did not lead them to characterize their pregnancy experiences as different. Admitting difference, in these cases, would be admitti ng defeat because they would have allowed other people to prove them to be different. while her heterosexual friend’s discussion of his sexuality would be heard w ithout negative retribution. Sti ll, what is important, here, is that the way in which Cassandra and Blanch e have chosen to interpret the meaning of their lesbianism, as a non-issue, has lent itsel f to the characterization of their pregnancies

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36 as no different than heterosexual women’s pre gnancies. Still, they can and do recognize difference. For example, Cassandra, living in Tokyo when she and her partner started trying to get her pregnant, was worried that she would not be ab le to find a physician willing to work with her. Blanche, who grew up Southern Baptist, has a Baptist preacher Sameness narratives, or narratives of normalcy, exist for multiple reasons. They may exist to discount unfounded differences, like the myth that lesbians do not want to be mothers or are unable to become pregnant or they may exist to confront homophobic assumptions about lesbian cultural differen ce, like the idea that lesbians parent differently. They may exist, more simply, because people see their lives that way. In some cases it is not just that narratives of normalcy are created, but that the interpretation of lived experiences is shaped to fit in congruence with an ideal of normalcy. The Experience of Difference It was rare to find what I would call a di fference narrative, where difference rather than sameness was embraced as the characteri zation of a lesbian woman’s pregnancy. In fact, only Michelle, who identified as a lesb ian, but was having a sexual relationship with a man who got her pregnant and stayed with her during the ge station of her child, reveled in the ways in which lesbians do pregnancy differently. While difference narratives are not present, the communi cation of different experiences is prevalent. It is simplistic to state that the only difference in lesbian pregnancy is getting pregnant. Different planning and different procedures are often central to the beginning of lesbian pregnancies. Beyond the assume d difference in conception, though, there is difference in treatment, and therefore expe rience, throughout lesbian pregnancies. In deciding to become pregnant, lesbians do not have the same opportunities to become parents. Structurally, there are lim its on the ways in which lesbians can parent

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37 existing in bans on adoption, difficulty in adopt ion if not specific prohibition, and bans on insemination or fertility treatments. Cultura lly, lesbians are limited in thinking about motherhood by a cultural attitude th at constructs lesbian mother s as an impossibility. For instance, Blanche tells her story: Well, I can tell you that originally I ba ttled with…I grew up in a Southern Baptist Church so I battled with bein g gay and being a Christian and if it was even possible to be both. Ever si nce I was little I always wanted to have children. I always wanted to be a mom, but in my battle (as far as if it was possible to be a Christian and be gay) I was like, I cannot bring kids into this world, into this environment. It was really when I met my partner. She was trying to get pregnant before we got together. In talking to her I started realizing that who I am is who I am and that should not keep me from having children. Even after overcoming the idea that lesbians cannot mother, there remain choices in how to acquire children. If we are discussing the sole avenue of pregnancy, because there are often two partners in the relationship who have decided on children, there remains a decision on who will be the one to carry the child. In most situations, my participants told me that the decision of who would carry was based on natural decisions that did not warrant discussion: the birth parent had a more flexible work schedule; th e non-biological mother had multiple sclerosis or a history of di fficult pregnancies; the birth parent always wanted to be pregnant; the non-biological moth er never imagined herself pregnant. Still, in some situations the woman who both partne rs assumed would be the natural choice for pregnancy was unable to become pregnant and the other, “less natu ral decision,” had to become pregnant. In heterosexual relations hips when a woman ca nnot become pregnant the couple is infertile. If her male partner’ s sperm can be used with a surrogate egg and gestated in a surrogate mother, there may be some emotional work the couple has to complete because the female partner would watch her male partner pass on his genetic

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38 material, in much the same way she wants to, but cannot. Still, there would be no competition in the ability to be successful female-bodied people because she and her partner would have different bodies and diffe rent gendered expectations to fulfill those bodily capabilities. When Dot’s partner could not get pregnant, she started treatment and successfully became pregnant. She describes what that was like: Um, yeah, we did [have discussions about it]. Not a whole lot of them. I’m kind of a talker and she’ s really not one. It wasn ’t really so much that I was [pregnant], as much as the fact that she couldn’t [be pregnant]. She was very very hurt by that. Emotionally it was a very very hard time. I’ve seen other couples who’ve gone th rough that and there was a real resentment when the other partner got pregnant. We didn’t really go through that at all. I th ink it was more just kind of a sadness. She was just very sad that she couldn’t get pregna nt and that made me a little less effervescent about being pr egnant. I kind of put th e brakes on a little bit and didn’t quite get as enthusiastic as I would have because I didn’t want to feel like I was gloating or something… Because the infertility scenario we are a ll familiar with is the heterosexual model, lesbian couples experience it differently not just because they are two women and they have multiple opportunities to become pregnant but because no script exists for how to deal with one partner’s loss and one part ner’s gain, when both refer to pregnancy opportunities. Beyond the choice of who will become pregnant lesbians have to decide on how to acquire a sperm donation and how to ensure that they will remain the primary parents of the child. When insemination begins, as Rhonda points out, many lesbians do not know how fertile they are or how long they will ha ve to try to get pregnant because without partnering with men, they often have no pregna ncy scares and no prior pregnancies. In terms of insemination, lesbians have to choos e a setting for the insemination. Susan, for instance, was upset that her pa rtner did not want to have a romantic insemination in their

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39 home. For her, because the conception of a future child is supposed to be made in a moment of loving interaction, having a simila r romantic interaction with her partner and then utilizing sperm to impregnate her made sense. On the contrary, Lydia explains the conclusion she and her partner came to in decidi ng to inseminate in a clinic, “There was something technical going on and let’s not try to make it some fluf fy private thing at home. You know, let’s make it the most eff ective way.” This debate, while resting on nothing more than personal pref erence in setting, is actually telling in the way that difference is interpreted and experienced. Susan, wanting to have a romantic insemination in her home, was attempting to use a heterosexual model of intimacy and reproduction in her insemination while Lydi a was recognizing the fundamental and acceptable difference in her pregnancy. In Lydia’s case, she recognized that being inseminated at home would not mean that the couple was producing the child; being inseminated in a clinic, therefore, was an acceptable display of difference because it was more effective. My findings outlined above are consistent with Chabot and Ames (2004) data that argues that lesbian mothers do not just beco me pregnant, but make strategic decisions with informed ramifications in their getting inseminated. In the case of my research, I argue that these steps are ta ken with the conscious acknowledgement of difference in mind, where difference must be interpreted and then shaped into experience that mirrors convention or displayed as acceptably variant. Still, it is not only in pr egnancy decisions that lesb ians are faced with the experience of difference. Once they are pr egnant, especially when they are visibly pregnant or in arenas where their pregnant bodies are of primary importance (such as a

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40 doctor’s office or a Lamaze class), the way ot her people treat them it based on a model of pregnancy that is not theirs. Because lesb ian pregnancy is not the standard model for pregnancy, difference, based on sexual orie ntation and family organization based on sexual difference, is intangibly felt, even when non-verbalized. For instance, Nancy describes feeling different in hospital settings: …there was the one time when I went into the hospital for pre-term labor there was one nurse in particular that I don’t think was comfortable with it and she seemed very nervous and she seemed very rushed to get us out of there. Um, that was the only time – I really don’t think she was real comfortable with the idea. I also ki nd of picked up on that when we did out tour of the hospital before I de livered and there were all of these straight couples there; we were the only two women there and I could tell people were look at us sort of like, what are those two doing? In Nancy’s statement, the difference she feels that she experiences is based on nonverbal communications and ranges from disa pproval to a possibly sincere inability to conceptualize two women as future parents. It is integral to unders tanding the process of different treatment that not all treatment of difference is accomp lished with negative judgments in its intentions. For example, Teresa told me that she and her partner attended a Lamaze class together where all of the other partners of the birth mothers were men. While Teresa felt that all of the cla ss members were accepting of their lesbianism, she recognized that the male partners of the birth mothers struggled with how they should treat Teresa’s partner – a partner of a birth mother (like them), but a woman (not like them). Their end decision was to treat he r like one of the guys, like a future father, instead of a future mother. Even wher e well-meaning individuals have inclusive intentions, then, the lack of an existing framework for parents who do not fit a heteronormative model means that they must highlight difference in treatment or ignore

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41 obvious difference (like being a lesbian co-par ent instead of a father) and treat with forced sameness. For lesbian mothers, each step toward b ecoming parents is fraught with difference because their existence as parents necessar ily functions outside of the established heterosexual model for parenting and reproductio n. Each step in becoming pregnant and experiencing pregnancy is also interprete d as different by their surrounding audience and difference in treatment (whether intenti on is negative or benign) is unavoidable. The Interplay Between Sameness and Difference While there was a dearth of differen ce narratives, and a common theme of sameness throughout my interviews, the wa y sameness was discussed was with an understood notion that difference was, in some ways, unavoidable. Again, sameness of body process and difference in social expe rience was stressed as ways in which pregnancy is the same, but mothering experi ences are different. More complicated still was the introduced notion that some social as pects of pregnancy are at once the same and different. For example, Teresa and I have a conversation below: R: I feel like it can be [different], but I don’t feel like it really has to be. I think a lot of it depends on where you live, who your partner is, who your friends are, where you work – all that ki nd of stuff. If everybody is really open around you, I don’t think it really ends up being that much different…I mean, it’s like if people aren’t accepting of you as a lesbian, I think it can be really hard. I thi nk you could feel alienated. I know one thing is that when you’re pregnant yo u talk about it all the time and if you’re alienated by your work people or if you’re closeted and they don’t know, I mean, I don’t know how you’d do it – it wouldn’t be so exciting. I: In what ways is it the same? R: You’re pregnant and you’re going to have this baby and it’s thrilling and I think we all feel (w ell, obviously not all of us, but most women that want to get pregnant and get pregnant) I think they all feel that excitement, all the same fears and all the same ex citement – in that way I think it’s

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42 very very similar. You go through a ll the same stages and all the same fear – is the baby going to be okay? All of that. Teresa, in becoming a mother, has experienced similarities in the motherhood/pregnancy experience that center around excitement about one’s future child and fears about how their health will be after the bi rth. Through all of those similarities, though, there exist other possible differences in treatment by others (families of origin, coworkers, neighbors, community members), as if your expected mothering experiences will be different. Difference, though, does not have to be experienced negatively. Sandy told me: I think [pregnancy] is very similar. My feelings about my body, I think are similar to how many other women – heterosexual and gay – would feel being pregnant. I mean, we’re going through the same thing. Before being pregnant, though, I wasn’t as ca ught up in…I mean, I feel like I’m so – I was okay gaining the weight during pregnancy. I think that might be a little different. I did feel big, but I didn’t freak out that I was getting bigger, that I was gaining weight. Similarity in body changes, for Sandy, did not result in what she would identify as similarity in reaction to t hose changes. Because she was never fixated on expressing perfectly feminine expectations of beauty (like thinness), Sandy reveals that she had a much easier time with the body commitment of gaining weight during pregnancy. In what she attributes to her lesbianism or iden tification with a lesbian community that has a larger spectrum in beauty acceptance than dominant ideologies, her different feelings about her pregnant body helped her function as a pregnant woman. Difference, then, may be benign or even helpful for lesbian pregnant women. In recognizing the similarity and differ ences in their experiences, the lesbian mothers I interviewed recognized that sa meness and difference happens amongst all women. Pregnancy, for example, is different for all women; the similarity of pregnancy,

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43 in some ways, exists in its difference. Still, there is recognition th at different sets of social expectations for heterosexual wo men and lesbian women create different expectations in pregnancy and experiences throughout pregnanc y. Because of the differences amongst women, though, my participants pointed out that differences in the desire to reproduce children ex ist across sexual orientations. For example, Anna says: R: [To be cut out for pregnancy] I thi nk that [a woman] has to want to be pregnant. I think that’s a big part of it. Number two, I think – I don’t know how to describe this without sounding really mean. I: That’s okay. R: There are some women who are okay with children, but they think that the whole process is gross, getting to th at point. I think you have to be of the whole mentality that, you know, this is a gift, this is a miracle, to be able to [have] an understanding of the whole process. Some women…that’s just not their thi ng, that’s just not their bag. Defying the cultural maxim that heterosexual women are the most apt to be pregnant and care for children, Anna identifi es understanding the process of pregnancy and having the desire to be pr egnant as characteristics that define women who are more suited for pregnancy and these things are se parate from sexual orientation. Similarly, Noelle said, “I guess I do n’t feel that [lesbianism and pregna ncy] has to do with the other. I can be pregnant, lesbian or not, and I can be a lesbian, pregnant or not.” Acknowledging that similarity can exist across sexual orientation (in the desire to have children) and that difference can exist across those lines (in the desire to have children and the desire not to), my participants we re identifying a problem with the logic that conflates sexuality and what they refer to as, ma ternal instinct. My participants used this knowledge to personally confront the idea that pregnancy and lesbianism are different and mutually exclusive categories by embodying both characteristics and disallowing one

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44 identity to take full salience over the other. Josie, for example, told me, “I was always a dyke with a baby in my belly.” In lesbian pregnancy experiences, same ness and difference exist simultaneously where there is a shared experience with bodi ly functions and motherhood intentions with heterosexual mothers and an understanding of difference that comes from lesbian community ideologies and the (potential or actual) treatment they receive from heterosexuals during their pregnancies. Still more interplay in the arena of sameness and difference occurs in the conscious attention to how sexuality difference is translated into a confusion of lesbianism with anti-mother hood feelings. By work ing to postulate the idea that pregnant women can be heterose xual or lesbian and lesbian women can be pregnant or not, lesbian mo thers must individually bri ng two seemingly disparate categories together, resulting in a new fram ework, that one can be both at once. Sameness and Difference in Miscarriage In the body experience of miscarriage, it is commonly understood that there are emotional and psychological responses to it. When the natural occu rrence of miscarriage happens (or is feared to happen), then, there are social responses to it. While at varying levels, each woman I interviewed feared miscarriage at some point during her pregnancy. In some ways, wh en conjecturing how they might have felt if a miscarriage did occur, or reflecti ng on their own miscarriages, my lesbian participants were able to understand how any pregnant woma n feel in this scenario. Teresa said: Having been pregnant, I don’ t think [it is different], but thinking about it before [I was pregnant] I would of thought, yes, just because of the mentality like, you’re straight, you can just get pregnant, but it really isn’t about that. When I was pregnant I didn’t feel that way. I would feel horrible for anyone that happene d to – straight or lesbian.

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45 The emotional response to losing that speci fic opportunity to mother was often seen as difficult for all women. Possibly becau se of their newly found understanding of heterosexual women through an experience th at is thought to be in their domain (pregnancy) they have gained an understand ing that heterosexual women’s experiences are more complex than they are often understood to be. Still others said that miscarriage did not depend on sexual orientat ion, but on the personality char acteristics of the specific woman to which it happened. Some women need time to mourn and some women move on with their lives and try to become pregnant again; the response ha s little to do with sexual orientation. In discussing individual emotional respons es to miscarriage, it was understood that all pregnant women would feel a great loss; th e fear of miscarriage or the experience of it was a traumatic experience that bridges wo men across sexual orientations. When we talk, though, of how lesbian wome n expect they would have been treated by other people if they experienced a miscarriage, we see more talk of difference. Sandy says: R: I really obsessed during both of the pregnancies about having a miscarriage. I was very afraid of that. I: Did you feel like it would have different for you as a lesbian? R: Yes because I felt like I wouldn’t get as much support. I was afraid of that and I was afraid of emotionally how I would handle it because of other people’s emotions of not being supportive. Similarly, Dot told me: I know for a fact that there are many people who love me dearly – who I work with, who I know socially, who would have said, well, maybe it was meant to be and they would have meant that because this is not the natural way. I know absolutely that there’s people who would have. I just don’t think straight women – straight women sometimes hear, it was meant to be but the implication is not, because you’re gay.

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46 So, in the personal emotional and psychol ogical response to miscarriage, lesbian women expect to experience loss in the same way they expect heterosexual women to, but in external social sup port networks heterosexual women are understood to have greater emotional resources. Pregnancy a nd potential loss of it are bodily occurrences, but the social understandings of pregnancies and miscarri ages determine how lesbian women will be cared for if they experience them It is unimportant whether or not their families, coworkers and friends would have given them adequate support because in presuming that they would receive differential support, they are citing a critical aspect of their pregnancy experiences apart from the poten tial of miscarriage: they are interpreted as less worthy of attention than heterosexual women’s pregnancies. Sameness and Difference in Public Treatment Like worrying about miscarriage, we expect that pregnant women will have chairs given up for them, packages carried for them, and doors opened for them when they are in public situations. All of the women I in terviewed identified being treated with more kindness and concern in public situations than when they are not pregnant. Carol illustrates a common point: People are really nice to you when you’re pregnant. They are. They open doors. They see your belly and they’re awwww you know. Some people even come up and touch you. I work – I’m an ultrasound tech, which means I have accounts all over [the stat e]. I have a machine that goes in my van so I’m at ten different doctor’s offices all week long and so I see a lot of different nurses, and they w ould come up, rub my belly, some would even talk to him. It was just neat Everyone’s just…everyone’s just a lot nicer to you. Recognizing that once the baby was presen t they would not be the ones receiving attention, the women I interviewed adored receiving preferential tr eatment while they were pregnant. Dot says:

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47 It made me feel special. I kind of saw it like I was giving blood. From the very beginning of the pregnancy, I sa w it as a service that I was doing for this baby so when [people in public] would [act kindly] I would see it as them acknowledging, hey, you’re doing something special here. No one who interviewed with me felt that strangers read them as lesbians while they were pregnant. For this reason, being in a public situation with strangers, their lesbianism was probably not pronouncing them as visibly different from other pregnant women. Treatment in public situations, from strangers, was consistent with how my participants assume heterosexual pregnant women are treated in public. The way that positive treatment is interpreted by the pregnant lesbian, though, can be very different. For example, some women told me they had the experience of being read as a lesbian before they were pregnant and not while they were pregnant. Bei ng read as a lesbian by strangers does not often lend it self to friendly treatment. So, while special treatment during pregnancy may be extraordinary for he terosexual women, it is especially different from the ostracism previously experienced by some lesbian women. Noelle expands on this point: I’m a really touchy feely kind of pers on and to be honest once I came out I stopped being so touchy feely. I kept remembering my high school days – you know, there are always rumors – so and so’s a lesbian and so and so’s not. Everyone’s response was always, well, I don’t care if she’s a lesbian as long as she doesn’t touch me or as long as she doesn’t try and do anything with me and that really has stuck with me. Once I came out I totally became afraid to touch people, to touch them or stand too close to them because someone’s going to think I’m coming on to them and hate me. For me, that’s a r eally great thing about being pregnant because people…so many people find it irresistible They just have to touch you. So many people just touch you. Suddenly touching is okay again. Although treatment of pregnant lesbians in public can be identica l to the treatment of pregnant heterosexual women, the way the positive treatment is interpreted by the pregnant lesbian can have di fferent effects based on her pe rsonal experiences with the

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48 treatment of her lesbianism. In other words, positive tr eatment can feel even more positive. This chapter has illustrated the complex interplay between sameness and difference in lesbian pregnancy experiences. This way of thinking about lesbian pregnancy, in its focus on the simultaneous nature of sameness and difference, is a lens that is used in the proceeding analysis chapters.

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49 CHAPTER 5 THE NEGOTIATION OF BIOLOGY When lesbian women become mothers, they do not do so as individual entities. Rather, their mothering identities are cons tructed through various negotiations with others. Whether it is through conversations wi th their intimate partners or through the struggles with agencies, lawyers, and ot her legal bodies, lesbian women’s mothering identities are characterized by a socially co nstructed and complex process. Specifically, getting pregnant requires the assistance of a man to act as sperm donor. Accordingly, a necessary feature of lesbian women’s procreative identity is how it becomes intertwined with the real or imagined identity of the child’s sperm donor and eventually his simultaneous presence and absence in their family. Lesbian women who will become birth moth ers exist in families that are unique in their semi-biologically related nature, where th ey will be related to their future children and their partners will not be. To help cope with the marginalization that nonbiologically related families feel, precautions to lessen this anticipated marginalization are taken before and during pregnancy in the evaluation of the sperm donor, the ways that pregnancy is used as a critical time to prepare for loving the future child. The Evaluation of the Sperm Donor The standard narrative of pregnancy is that one enters into it with the sole goal of acquiring a child, which remains, even after subsequent goals are established, the most important. So, while the lesbian birth mother s I interviewed decided to become pregnant to, as Roslyn says, “have a full life,” and experience the joys of motherhood, they were

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50 also interested in being ab le to choose characteristics of the sperm donor that would influence the presence of the con ceived child in their families. While co-parenting between lesbian c ouples and the sperm donor used for insemination (usually a gay male friend) do appear to be common, none of the birth mothers I interviewed were ever interest ed in, or currently involved in, such relationships. On the contrary, part of th e evaluation of the sperm donor rested on the lesbian couples’ secure unde rstanding that he would not want to co-parent or later demand parental rights to the couples’ childr en. This led the gr eat majority of my participants to acquire sper m through a sperm bank, where the identities of the sperm donor and the purchaser of the sperm are kept confidential. Rhonda explains: We looked at a lot of different wa ys; we looked at known donors. We actually interviewed a friend and we we re very close to going that way until [my partner and I] looke d at each other and said, Oh, absolutely not! And switched over completely to going to a clinic. Josie, who was thinking about becoming pregnant with the sperm donation of her gay male friend and roommate, explains why she changed her mind: You know, there was the Florida case [in 1998] that was happening right around that time where the lesbian mom – she had a partner and the father came in – the two of them had been raising the kid and they took the kid away from the mom and gave it to the father and he was actually a convicted criminal. There was all so rts of national attention happening around adoption and I thought, I’m just not gonna do this. That’s also the reason I went with the bank because Jimmy [her friend and roommate] wanted to be the biological father, he wanted to be Uncle Jimmy. The deal was the first kid would be mine and the second time, however we did it, and it was going to be artificial insemination, the second kid would be his, but I recognized the co mplications there. I knew that both of us would be loving parents, but I knew that ha ving either kid would trap me because he would want to be wherever I was.

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51 Even in the case of trusted friends, maki ng the choice to become pregnant through a known donor means that one’s full custody ri ghts to their children may be challenged, or that, in the very least, their parenting and life decisions will have to be made with another party (besides th eir partner) in mind. After it was established that the sperm donor would not be playing a role in the lives of the lesbian families, what often became important were characteristics that matched the non-biological mother, or in some cases the biological mother (in terms of race, ethnicity, religious background, educational background, and hobbies) and characteristics they felt would make for a we ll-fitting match in their families. In talking about why she and her partner chose the par ticular known donor they did, Isabelle simply says, “He is a very sweet and gentle man. He had very very sparkl y eyes; his color was very similar to mine. It was his personality and his eyes.” Cassa ndra, talking about a donor chosen from a sperm bank, tells a more complete story of her and her partner’s choice: We tried to find somebody who physically or emotionally or psychologically or what have you, rese mbled my partner as much as we could. So the first thing we looked at was physical characteristics like hair color, eye color, complexion, things lik e that. If possible, even the ethnic background – she has some English and It alian – we tried to find that kind of thing. Then as we narrowed it down to physical characteristics that looked good, we would then go throu gh the profiles or answers that donors would give on their questionnai res to see how they think. We eventually chose the donor because of all of those characteristics put together. We just liked something that he said about what he was interested in and how he described hi mself, what he thought of himself. We thought, boy, that sounds like that could be your brother! The sperm donor, then, is often conceived of as someone who, as a kind of stand-in for the second mother and influenc ing factor in the formation of the child they will raise, must fit well in the existing family structure. Lesbian mothers-to-be make these

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52 decisions, equipped with only the one to two page profiles where men, alongside demographics about race, education, and me dical histories, write their responses to questions like, Why are you doing this [donating sperm]? What is your relationship with your family like? Where do you see yourself in ten years? Using this simple tool, the succinct profile, the lesbian women I intervie wed entered into the responsibility of choosing a donor as partners; it was necessar y, in most cases, that they agree on the choice. In the employment of a third party’s sperm, agreed upon by both partners (if partners are involved), there is a paradox in how the donor is simultaneously welcomed and distanced. Josie describes their first atte mpts at insemination as using, “that guy and I can’t remember his number now because he means nothing to me – and he didn’t work.” After trying for some time, to the poi nt where her partner was threatening to only go through one more insemination, she needed to order a donor qui ckly because she started ovulating at work. While she di d not know which specimen was used to inseminate her until after the procedure, sh e told the bank to send, “Mr. whatever his name…5126 or Mr. yada, yada, I don’t remember.” At the same time, she tells this story about thoroughly readings his pr ofile when she got the chance: I read his profile and he’s only half Czech and I remember I’m sitting in the office and I scream, “Hey, Honey?” – this is a classic line in our house – “Did you know the kid’s Italian?” She had picked somebody with an Italian mom! And we spent th e next nine months going places and we’d always see this redhead next to this dark-haired kid and I always made fun (because [the donor] was Italia n) that there was “Coulda Be and Would Be” and would be didn’t look like anybody, but coulda be looked like me. The sperm donor is simultaneously impor tant and unimportant, necessary and unnecessary, present and absent. While he is important because he must have the desired

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53 characteristics, necessary because of his role in the insemination process, and present in the future characteristic s of a child (like the legacy of be ing Italian), he must be thought of as unimportant, unnecessary, an d absent to maintain the inte grity of the lesbian family. Reducing the importance of the donor’s cont ribution (while recognizing the lasting influences of it in characteristics of future ch ildren) should be seen as a way to cope with the limiting heteronormative structures that leave room for only two parents who are named as biological mother and biological fath er. The biological “father” (the donor), here, must become an imaginary helper to make way for two parents who are named biological mother and non-biol ogical mother. It is a st rategy that lesbians have employed, utilizing technology a nd capitalism, to legitimize their family forms. Pregnancy as Critical in the Formation of Love Bonds Pregnancy is often noted as a time when a birth mother begins to feel a special bond with her future child. For the birth moth ers I interviewed, pregnancy served as both a time where one begins loving their child (without ever having met them or knowing their personalities) and a proce ss that initiates a bond that will always be present. Lydia says this about her dreams about children during her pregnancy: [My dreams] were really sweet, like this – holding a new baby and it was a boy or things like that. Oh, and I had one [gender] neutral dream. Like, I had just given birth in the water or something. Anyway, I was in water and I was holding my baby and the baby from the waist down was in the water so you couldn’t tell [the sex of the child] and I just remember thinking how much I loved this little baby. Lydia, without knowing her child and wit hout knowing whether her child would be a boy or a girl, had already established a l ove relationship that she feels would endure regardless of circumstances like biological sex. Rhonda describes a similar bond that happened between her and her daughter during pregnancy:

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54 It’s an experience. I remember vivi dly the birth and I remember having her in me and remember when she liked music and the way she would kick and the times of the day that sh e would be more active. I remember literally delivering her and feeling her shoulders pass, and things like that. It was an amazing experience. These stories are standard narratives of pregnancy: women unconditionally love their children beginning in pregnancy; no one can bond with a child the way their birth mother can because of the gestation period; love (if not life) begins at conception. In the standard narrative, though, there waits a biolog ical father on the othe r end of pregnancy: a father, who is responsible fo r half of the genetic material of the child, nurtures the woman through her pregnancy and assumes his role as an unquestioned and necessary part of the family. In lesbian families, the standard narrative must be slightly redesigned to include the second (non-biological) mother who is, by cultural definition, a questioned and unnecessary part of the family. In lesbia n families, pregnancy is a time to establish that the non-biological mother (and not the sp erm donor) is the second parent. For this reason, the birth mother’s pregnancy is a time for the non-biological mo ther to establish a love bond with her future child. To do this the non-biological mo ther incorporated herself into a role that is usually seen as the biological father’s role, by going to doctor’s appointments, caring for the pregnant woma n, and noting the changes in her partner’s body. Cassandra talks about her partner’s relationship to her pregnancy: We did the whole picture thing. We c onsciously tried to take a picture of me once a month. She would take a pi cture of me front view, then side view. I think as I got bigger and as it got more noticeable she got pulled into the whole wonder of it. We did do things like – we got this little home ultrasound thing – it’s this ch eap microphone version where you put it up to your belly and listen to the heartbeat. W would do that, she was into that. She would talk to him. Sh e was definitely there. She was very into what was happening to me.

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55 Pregnancy becomes a time, not only for the birth mother to bond with the child, but also to work on proving the legitimacy of thei r family form. Birth mothers are also active agents in this project. Ways of incorporat ing partners ranged from logistical issues of interviewing health care professi onals to make sure that their partners would be treated as parents to training themselves to come out to strangers when they were asked about the fathers of their children. Comi ng out as lesbian, if not practiced much before pregnancy, is an issue with which my participants st ruggled. Because being pregnant means that many more strangers will refer to you as he terosexual (in innocuous statements like, Your husband must be so happy! ), lesbian mothers have to decide when to ignore heterosexist assumptions and when to correct them. Corr ecting strangers is uncomfortable, I am told, but not coming out makes them feel complicit in ignoring lesbian family possibilities. As a single woman, allowing strangers to assume th at one is heterosexual may make one feel individually invisible. Bei ng pregnant and allowing that to occur, though, means that their partnerships and their families are not being recognized. To have healthy children, my participants recognized, they needed to be sure they did not portray their lesbianism as something for which they should feel sham e. In order to come out naturally and regularly when their children were present, ma ny used pregnancy as a time to begin that process. Pregnancy, in these ways, is used as both a way in which non-biological mothers can intimately experience the growth of their future child and a tran sitional time period in which maintaining the visibility and acknowle dgement of their families is practiced for when their children are born.

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56 Negotiating the Meaning of Fa mily, Love, and Connectedness We live in a socially constructed world that privileges biological relatedness and blood-ties. Adoptive families are viewed as second-best and infertile couples are urged to seek treatment so that they can have the opportunity to conceive a child who is a part of their sacred genetic union. No matter how much they desi re so, lesbians do not have the option of having a child that is biologica lly related to both part ners; and thus, their situation illuminates how individuals nego tiate bonds with children who are not genetically related to one or both of them. By focusing on how love and connectedness is negotiated in lesbian headed families, it is not my intention to indicate that heterosexually-based families have love and ga y families have to create it. All families invest in and create love, but because lesbians have to go to different (or through distinct and often more formal) lengths to attain their families, the constructed nature of their love relationships are highlighted in a more clear fashion. Investing in Love In 1998, Josie knew she wanted to raise a child. An acquaintance of hers became pregnant with a child she neither wanted to abort nor raise. Not knowing the identity of the man who got her pregnant during a casual encounter, Josie’s pregnant friend solely agreed to let her adopt the future child. Mu ch later in the pregnancy, Josie’s pregnant friend had a chance encounter wi th the biological father a nd told him she was pregnant with his child. He was willing to relinquish hi s genetic rights to the child, but his parents were not. On the grounds that the child shoul d not go to someone like Josie, based on her sexual orientation, she had a failed adoption which propelled her to become pregnant herself. Although Josie is the only birth mo ther I interviewed who had a failed adoption, the possibility of legal difficulties and the eventual loss of child custody were cited by

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57 other participants as the foremost reason in th e decision to produce a biological child. If the child is some part of one of us, it is reasoned, it will be more difficult to take the child from us. The love investment in adoption is ofte n seen as foolish by same-sex couples. Why, they ask, would they inve st in children who are diffi cult to acquire and may be taken away in any undetermined moment in time? Unlike adoption, where the lesbian couples I interviewed could not conceive of feeling comfortable at any time during the proceedings or in the raising of children, th ere is a time during pregnancy where one must fully prepare to be raising the child growi ng inside them. Biological children, then, are seen as a more secure investment. Still, mi scarriage remains an ominous threat to their established bond with th eir children. Pregnancy investme nt in love happens, one would assume, for all pregnant women, but the c oncerns that lesbia ns have surrounding miscarriage are unique because of the work they must do to become pregnant. The potential or experience of lesbian miscarriag e, like all miscarriages, are described in terrifying terms. Dot, who gave birth ove r five years ago, still regularly checks her underwear for blood to make sure she is not mi scarrying. Still, there is a combination of trauma and calm-headed plans for future pregnancies in the miscarriage scares experienced by my participan ts. Cassandra explains: The time period between when it started happening and when we got to the hospital and he examined me…there was probably a span of about an hour or maybe a little more than that before he saw me and in that time we were both very concerned, but not completely like Oh, My God, I’ve lost it! I just thought, Did I lose it? You know, and the prospect of if I had – I knew it wasn’t going to be the end of the world. It had only been nine weeks; I got pregnant the first time; I was very lucky to get that. I thought to myself, ok, if this isn’t going to wo rk this time, I’m going to try again. It was an extreme – I can’t – it was just complete joy and shock when he examined me and did the ultrasound and said there it is, it’s fine, the heart

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58 is beating, everything is fine I was in shock. I was preparing myself for the worst. Even in actual miscarriage experiences of my participants, I was told they decided, (in both cases, during their next ovulation) to try to get pr egnant again. Without the normative association of the fetus with a love relationship, pregnancy is seen solely as a vehicle by which one may acquire children. So, while the prospect or experience of miscarriage is terrifying, pregnancy is seen as a process. The process, though, may include financial considerations and/or em otional difficulties depending on one’s socio economic status and one’s abilit y to easily become pregnant. Another investment, made solely by the non-biological mother, is made based on the hope that her relationship w ith the birth mother will not dissolve, or if it does, that their relationship will remain cordial enough fo r visitation of children to remain possible. Because fusing ovum is nearly unattainable and implanting a partner’s egg in another woman’s uterus is often cost prohibitive, th e mother who did not car ry the child is often left without legal recourse if the birth mother forbids visita tion. The investment in love based on the biological route of pregnancy is only sound, in te rms of legal privileges, if one is the biological mother. Creating Love Bonds As previously noted, when the choice is available, many lesbian mothers-to-be focus on sameness as a key attribute of the sperm donor. By sameness, I mean, that the donor is preferably very similar to either the birth mother or the nonbiological mother in the characteristics of race, et hnicity, hair color, eye color, complexion, and other physical characteristics. While it was far more comm on for birth mothers to choose a sperm donor who resembled their partners, some mothers chose donors who looked like them. Carol,

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59 for instance, made the choice to use a Wh ite sperm donor even though she was going to be raising the child with an African Ameri can woman. While she had finalized the donor decision before meeting her partner, she was de finite in using a donor who resembled her. She says: I want when he’s going through school, you know, I want…I don’t know. I might be selfish I guess. But I just wanted him to l ook like me to say, Oh, yeah, he looks like you, you know? Like I wanted someone to know that he is mine. Roslyn, who chose to use a Jewish sperm donor so her child would be half-Jewish, describes why that was a difficult choice to make: Well, it was a tough decision because I wanted the donor to be similar to me so I could make sure that wh en the baby came out it looked like me, not like look like a total st ranger’s child. So, but this was a joint effort and you certainly make a lot of compromises in relationships and I just really wanted to honor and respect [my partner] and really bring her into the fold of the whole experience as much as possible. The compromise Roslyn describes, while not described in such terms by other participants, occurred often. Susan, a Wh ite woman who had an African American partner says, “We’re together, we’re a biracial couple, doesn’t it make sense for the child to be more a representation of us than just of me?” Whether the desired characteristics of the sperm donor lie in the sameness of the birt h mother or the non-biological mother, the guiding reason is the same: to make the appe arance of genetic family possible. Birth mothers who chose donors like them want ot her people to recognize their children as byproducts of them (ignoring that another pa rty was involved); birth mothers who chose donors like their partners want other people to recognize their children as a combination of both partners (and maybe make the origin of the child, in terms of which one carried him/her, undetectable). For instance, Lydi a says that although she knows there is no

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60 biological tie to both her and he r partner, they could create the appearance of it. She says, “We’re a family and if we have the chance to increase our chances of our kid looking like both partners, of c ourse we would do that.” Rho nda similarly says that the decision to make their child characteristically similar to her and he r partner might make them “a little bit more of a close famil y.” The donor’s presence, in terms of characteristics, influences not just the way lesbian mothers love their children, but how they are actually able to produce love in their families. None of my participants discussed the feeling that they would not be able to love a child that was different from themselves or their partners and it should be remembered that it is highly common for lesbians to raise children w ho do not look like them. It is key, here, though, that the lesbian birth mothers I interviewed sought out sameness in creating their families to foster love relationships with their childre n to undermine the illegitimacy of lesbian families. In other words, if the leading mainstream logic is that families must look similar to be taken as families (because children are products of the two heterosexual people involved in creating the child), lesb ian mothers may internalize this assumption and strive to achieve families that look gene tically linked. If being in a love relationship is creating a third party (a child) who is a combination of both partners, it makes sense that a White lesbian mother-to-be in part nership with an African American lesbian mother-to-be, like Susan, would choose to us e the donation of an African American man. Love means bonding through the creation of a child and many lesbians now have the technological and financial means to artificially create this bond. The appearance of being genetically linke d, though, does not just serve to make lesbian partners feel bonded to each other. It is described as a coping mechanism to deal

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61 with the mainstream assumptions of family, where it was believed that if their families looked biologically connected, they would receive less retrib ution for being artificially created. Sameness, because it is a ruling crit erion for family, serves to legitimize lesbian families even though they are different. Lesbian birth mothers must negotiate th e terrain of biologi cal connectedness in ways that families who are all biologically connected do not. While some heterosexual stepfamilies or heterosexual families that begin with anonymous donor insemination may face the same issues of semi-biological relatedness, it does not characterize the experience of heterosexual families the way that it does lesbian families, where it is nearly impossible to incorpor ate both women’s genetic materi al into the creation of a third entity. What is more, because of the shared knowledge that this is an impossibility lesbian families are recognized as not wholly biologically related (a nd therefore seem as illegitimate) whereas heterosexual stepfamilies are not readily accessed this way by the public. So, while lesbian birt h mothers face the same issues in preparing for a love relationship with their future child, they must al so create strategies that will ensure that their love will be taken seriously by other peop le, the most salient of which has been to create families that look biologically related.

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62 CHAPTER 6 NOT JUST LEGITIMATE FAMILIES, BUT FAMILIES THAT LEGITIMATE In the last chapter I discussed the strate gies lesbian mothers employ to create and maintain the legitimacy of their families in a society that is not conducive to the recognition of non-heteronormative family forms. It is missing the entire story, though, to imply that all of the legitimacy work is one-sided, that is individuals trying to create legitimacy of their families in society. It is true the other way as well, where the existence of a family, consisting of two partners and child(ren), grants legitimacy to the individuals as functioning me mbers of society and as lesbian women in the GLBT community. The legitimating function of their families, then, is doubly so in the way that it grants this condition to them as citizens and as lesbians. Here, I investigate how dominant ideas about how families should work have both influenced how lesbian families are achieved by lesbians and received by imagined publics and/or specific families of origin. Similarly, I look at how lesbian legitimacy functions in the context of pr oducing children while identifyi ng as lesbian; I argue that the achievement of personal, familial, and sexual legitimacy does not occur accidentally and is maintained dutifully through strategic na rration of family experi ence and intention. It is key to remember that while the le gitimacy of personhood or sexual orientation is granted based on the existence of child(ren), this discussion is located in the specific arrangement where one partner is the birth mother to the pa rtners’ child(ren). Working within the biomedical model of family that is dominant in our society, it reasons that many families of origin feel more connected to a child that they conceive of as being

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63 blood-related to them (in cases where family members are related to the birth mother). However, for family members related to the non-biological mother, it is still a key difference in their imagined connection to th e child that the non-bi ological mother was present in the decision-making process to have the child. Instead of taking on the responsibility of another wo man’s child, the non-biological mother was integral to creating the responsib ility. As mother as she could be, the lack of biological relation is forgiven because they could not conceive th e child together, but could and did conceive of the child together. While adoptive or fostering lesbian families may experience similar effects from their child rearing, this specifi c argument rests on mothering experiences where one person is th e birth parent. How Dominant Forces Create Legitimacy In living lesbian lives and creating lesbian families, many lesbians feel unrestricted by the conventions established for having chil dren. The outcast status of the lesbian, paired with the assumption that she will not be a mother, has the unintentional result of freeing lesbians from the usual constraints of the parental process. Michelle explains: As lesbians, we have the ability to reconceptualize ways of doing things that straight society takes for grante d so we don’t necessarily have to be married to have kids. So, that’s the really great thing about getting pregnant and being a lesbian – you don’t have to marry the guy who knocked you up, you don’t have to move in with the girlfriend you’re not living with. You can figure out different ways to do stuff. Still, many of the women I interviewed used the dominant model in taking steps to have children (substituting a lesbian relationship for a heterosexual one) and used dominant definitions of family to make sense of themselves and their family situations. A common sentiment is illustrated by Dot ta lking about how she decided to become a birth mother, “We had been together for about eight years and together we were ready to

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64 go into the next step and introduce a child in to the relationship.” The next step Dot references in not just the next step that she and her partner made, but the next step, a step that is key in creating a real family: two people (conventionally thought of as two heterosexual people, but in this case, two lesb ian people) meet, they fall in love, they commit to one another (through marriage, but fa iling that commitment, a number of years that signifies commitment) and they produ ce a child. Children create family; two partners do not constitute a family. With rare exception, the presen ce of a partner was discussed as central in deci ding to become pregnant. Ca ssandra expands on this idea: To me a huge part of it was that I have a partner who is in this with me a hundred percent and to me, I wouldn’t ha ve even attempted this if I were single or not had a partner who was fu lly committed to it. I know that some lesbian couples go through this where the one who is going to get pregnant and have the child is not th e parent. To me, that never would have worked. I need that full, ok, we are the parents of this child and we’re a family To me, that’s an important aspect of it. While Cassandra is careful to point out that these are her values in saying that her statements are true for her, they stem from a larger social context in which certain characteristics constitute good and bad familie s. In the politicized discourse that surrounds this social context, lesbian-headed families are often characterized as bad families alongside single-parent families and step families. Although I do not argue that my participants consciously include a partner as to be taken more seriously as parents, I am suggesting that the mothers I interviewe d saw their lesbianism as the only slight difference from family norms and that in thei r imagining of lesbian families, they exist just as other families do. I also argue that wh en lesbian partners have a child they gain legitimacy, in part, because they do so in th e context of a committed relationship. It is important, then, that the moth ers do not just talk of thei r specific partners, but they

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65 imagine that partners must be present. Fo r example, I have a conversation with Lydia below: I: If you could talk to a lesbian who was going to get pregnant, what would you tell her to be prepared for? [Emphasis added] R: This roller coaster – prepare! Be aware that it’s going to take time, and it might cost more than you’re exp ecting, if you’re making any purchases. Remember how much you love your partner and keep in mind what the final goal is because one day you’re go ing to get there. [Emphasis added] Like the necessity of a partner being present when a child is produced, it is imagined, as it is in heterosexual relationships that partners become a family when children enter into it. Roslyn tells me why she wa nted to be a birth parent: I just wanted to lead a full life and that’s a major experience in life. I didn’t want to go through life a nd not experience pregnancy, birth, motherhood, child rearing. I didn’t want to grow old alone – not to say that your partner’s not th ere, but your child is a whole other dimension. I didn’t want to have regrets in my old age. Similarly, Noelle explains why she a nd her partner thought that her current pregnancy might unify their family (the two pa rents, Noelle’s nine year old son and her partner’s eight year old daughter): We’re all involved. We’re all emotiona lly invested; we’re all present and feel we have a claim to this baby. It ’s not just one person’s or just one family’s. We all understand that he belongs to all of us. That’s what we’re hoping for. Unlike developing strategies to ensure that future families will be seen as legitimate, such as choosing a donor that represents the non-biological mother in appearance and personality, Ro slyn and Noelle describe ta king steps toward creating families to ensure legitimacy for people who already exist. Roslyn wants to add a higher dimension to her life experiences, insuring that she will not regret her missed opportunity to parent, but if parenting were not a domi nant expectation for women (or people, more

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66 generally), she would have no concept that not parenting would lead to an unfulfilled life. Likewise, Noelle and her partne r, Marina, wanted to have a child that the existing stepfamily conceived of together. In this way, th ey would become a family at a definite time (the birth of Noelle and Marina ’s child) instead of being in arrangement where they feel that they are noncommittally living in the same quarters. The societal regulation of families is composed of the definitions of family that we have access to, the influence those definitions have on our beliefs about our own lives, and the implicit steps inherent in dominant models to create families. Both of these shape the ways in which lesbian women choose to become mothers and, once achi eved, add to their legitimacy as social actors. Legitimacy, though, is neither determined by an individual’s assessment of how well she has measured up to the societal measuring stick, nor is it an abstract label placed on certain acts. When I discuss legitimacy I mean the intangible feeling that comes with approval, but I also mean to suggest that there are real benefits to being seen as legitimate. In that regard, legitimacy is a highly interpretative act and the interpretation of one’s legitimacy rests in th e hands of individual actors, of ten heterosexual friends or coworkers and members of families of origin. For instance, Sandy explains why the thought of a miscarriage during her current second pregnancy was not as terrifying as it was during her first: The first pregnancy, it would have been different than with this one. With the first pregnancy I was more worried about [not getting social support], but with this pregnancy because we already have a family established I think we’d have more support because we’ve proven that we can do it.

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67 In Sandy’s mind, social support would be ex tended not based on the occurrence of a miscarriage when trying to acquire their first child, but only in the context of a miscarriage when they already have a child. Social support would not be extended to a lesbian couple, but it might be extended to a (lesbian) family, a family who Sandy admits has to prove itself as worthy of such support. Many of my respondents told me that they had wonderful families whom they felt supported by during their pregnancies. For women who did not have such support networks, their childre n re-introduced them to a more cordial and affection-based interaction with their biological fa milies. For instance, Susan says: My father, when he found out I was pregnant, didn’t talk to me for my entire pregnancy and almost until Paris [my son] was a year old. He was not happy about me being pregnant, but he has, though, since come around and met Paris. He had a stroke and was in the hospital. My mother was out of town so he called me so I ended up going down there to take him something so he met Paris then and he was 11 months old. But once you meet the grandkid! Grandpa loves the boy! Nancy describes a similar experience: [Her family is] very against, you know, a lot of our lifes tyle, and a lot of choices that they perceive we ha ve made and honestly, the getting pregnant is what brought us all a lot closer. It forced them to confront that this is our family and this is who we are. It has actually brought my partner closer to her parent s and her sister and then all of us as a unit, now that they kind of understand, you know us and our relationship and our family. We thought that it would go one way or the other – they were either all going to walk away or they were going to accept us and they did. When Susan’s father learned of her pre gnancy, he disapproved because she was in the stage of creating a lesbian family, something with wh ich he disagreed strongly. Like Sandy’s expectation that she w ould have only received soci al support for a miscarriage during her second pregnancy, Susan’s father could disassociate her pregnancy from his future grandchild and a future lesbian fam ily. When Susan was pregnant she was doing

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68 something deviant by becoming a mother ev en though she was a lesbian; meeting her son, Paris, at eleven months old, he could s ee her as a mother and ignore her lesbianism. Her son, in other words, made her father see her as a legitimate family member because she was the mother of his grandchild. What Nancy describes is perhaps even more telling of how having children creates a recognition of the lesbian pa rtnerships and the lesbian family. Having a child (or meeting a grandchild), then, is a way in which lesbians are granted legitimacy as social actors (because th ey are fulfilling the ro le of parent) and as daughters in their families of origin (because they are, in some sense, carrying on the biologies/traditions of their biological families). How Lesbian Communities Measure Legitimacy Lesbian communities do not have the same power over its members as the dominant discourse does. While the sanctions they can produce may re sult in a feeling of ostracism, they do not greatly affect the life chances of its members the way that larger social structures might. On a micro interac tional level, though, there are interpretations of correct and incorrect lesbia n behavior and consequent priv ileges and sanctions that act in accordance with those standards. In terms of having children, many responde nts felt that their lesbian community interpreted their decision to parent as “r ole model behavior.” Having a child in the context of a committed relationship helped to dispel the societal myth that same-sex relationships are uncommitted and unfulfilling; becoming parents helped dispel the myth that lesbian women are not maternal beings They became women to look up to because they became women who are more socially repu table and less associated with norms of lesbianism; they became good lesbians. Roslyn expands on this idea:

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69 [You become a role model because] for one thing, at that point, you have a steady long term relationship and now you’re very obvious with a huge belly so that sort of escalates you a l ittle bit. I think people, definitely lesbians, just really really admire their mothers and respect their mothers and you know, for one of your buddies to become a mother it’s like oh, my god, you’re not just my buddy anymore, you’re a mother like my mother was a mother to me and that is, that is huge, I think especially for lesbians. As Roslyn points out, there are aspects of lesbian motherhood th at are embraced by lesbian communities: being associated with a committed relationship and taking on the respected role of a mother. At the same time, some aspects of lesbian motherhood cast suspicion on the pregnant woman because some lesbians wonder if she had sex with men to become pregnant. If they did have interc ourse to become pregnant, which three of my participants did (two of them with the sole intention of beco ming pregnant), they felt that they had to disguise how they became pr egnant when talking to the public, but specifically in talking to other lesbians. Noelle and I have a conversation below: R: We actually chose to have sexual intercourse. Um. We it’s kind of funny to be talking about it because we don’t normally talk about it. We normally tell people that we did it artificially, but we felt that we waited so long and we know that the chances are higher that way and we just really wanted it…We didn’t want to take any chances, and we pulled out all the stops, and we just went for it. I: So, why do you tell people you went about it through artificial means? R: Because you get a lot of raised ey ebrows and disapproving looks in any community, but I’ve found that in th e lesbian community they question you and [to some extent] in the heterosexual community they question you. I’ve gotten a lot of, well, you can’t really call yourself a lesbian if you had sex with a man I’ve dealt with that a lot. That’s why we just choose not to tell peopl e, we don’t have to. To maintain her community’s idea of her as a legitimate lesbian, Noelle and her partner find it easier to tell people that she was arti ficially inseminated. For the two women who had intercourse with the intention of becomi ng pregnant, their reasons were not based in

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70 desire. Noelle cites the reasons stated above and also told me that she and her partner “never had the kind of money, I guess you coul d say, to go down to a local sperm bank or a clinic and do it that way.” Donna explained to me she app lied for invitro fertilization, but clinics in her area and su rrounding areas turned her away because of her status as a “single woman.” Still, they perceived that the act of intercou rse would make other lesbians deem them as less authentic lesbians Donna, who considered herself single at the time of her impregnation, also told people she was artificially inseminated: I was inseminated – and I just left it at that. I didn’t let them ask any questions and in my mind it was kind of an insemination because there was no emotional attachment there. It was the deed and that was it. He got his clothes and he left, there wasn ’t a cigarette or anything. I was concerned. I didn’t tell my best friends until Robert [her son] was 5 years old. I flat out lied to a couple of people…I didn’t think they would think it was very good. Now I’m okay with it because I, I guess because of the way I’m raising Robert, because we are a lesbian family or a lesbian couple raising a child, now I’m more open about it. In partnering with a woman has also become Robert’s mother, Donna feels more open in disclosing that she had intercourse to become pregnant. Importantly, Donna never felt that it was unlesbianlike behavior to have intercours e with a man. It is only in what she feels are other lesbians’ demarcations of appropriate lesbia n behavior that she either lied or disclosed how she became pr egnant. Now, even though she had intercourse with a man, she feels that she will be found an authentic lesbian becau se she is raising her son in a lesbian family. So, while lesbian communities’ differen tiation between good and bad lesbian behavior may not be as severe in shaping be havior as societal fo rces are, the potential benefits are real (in feeling like an esteemed member of the community) and the potential sanctions are real (in having to lie about your sexual history to your friends). Although

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71 lesbian communities have no institutional power, their established norms for correct behavior do shape the way lives are lived and/or discussed in a social context. Because ascendancy into full adulthood is achieved after having children, all women are treated as more legitimate social actors once they become mothers. For lesbians, though, this newly acquired legitimacy may be felt more strongly because of their dismissal as full citizens through in stitutionalized homophobia and because their families of origin have understood them to be women who will remain childless. Also unlike heterosexual women, lesbian pregnant wo men have the potential to be seen as more legitimate by their families of origin, by larger dominant forces, and by lesbian communities.

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72 CHAPTER 7 PUBLIC PREGNANCIES Pregnancies, often thought to be privat e familial experiences, are different for lesbian women in the way that they beco me public endeavors. Pregnancy, more generally across sexual orientations, has some public component to it. Women who are visibly pregnant receive primary treatment in seating and door opening, we touch their bellies, we want to know when their baby is due, and whether they are having a girl or a boy. The public nature of pregnancy, though, when compounded with a woman’s lesbianism, makes her publicly accountable to discourse about her pregnancy and internally accountable to respond to the ways in which her newly vi sible identity as a mother changes her opportunities for member ship in two different groups: lesbian communities and mother/heterosexual communities. Public Accountability Even if we have not been pregnant, we can imagine the ways in which pregnant women’s bodies and decisions are held accountabl e to dominant discourses that tell them how to be pregnant women: they should eat well; they should not drink alcohol; they should not smoke cigarettes; th ey should not stand too long; they should not lift heavy objects; they should not ingest or inject drugs; they should not in their third trimester, work full time for pay, ride a bike, or fly on an airplane. Each of these, while personal decisions that might affect th e health of the mother and th e future child, are made public in the ways that non-pregnant families memb ers, friends, coworkers and strangers feel they can advise pregnant women on how to conduct themselves.

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73 While pregnant lesbians are responsible fo r all of these public concerns, they are also held publicly accountable in their decisi ons to mother and answering questions about how their pregnancies are possible. Publicly Accountable Decision to Parent Judgment for one’s sexual orientation can often be made more vitriolic when one decides to become pregnant. Children, w ho are sometimes understood to be a public concern, complicate the issue of lesbianism because the public assumes lesbianism will be indoctrinated into their social ization processes. Anna says: There are a lot of people who say, I don’t have an issue with you being a lesbian, I have an issue with you being a lesbian with children You have to be able to cope with that and overcome that because everyone has the right to have children. While anyone with this point of view clearly has a pr oblem with lesbianism, the more pronounced problem is that the deviance of lesbianism is bei ng spread to future generations, meaning that at some point in the future there could be more lesbian/gay people or more heterosexual people who think of gay and lesbian lives as acceptable. A common theme was understanding the trials involved in the steps to get pregnant and the negative responses people would have to their pregnancies, but because of their desire to get pregnant, moving forward because as Nancy says, “it was meant to be.” Sandy dealt with this conf lict in a similar way: I know that both me and my partner are kind and generous and easy going people and I knew that we would be r eally good parents so I just set all those worries aside and said we’re going to do this We both said, we’re just going to make this work. Putting fears aside and con tinuing forward in the jour ney to become a parent because it is meant to be or because one believes that sh e will make a good parent is responsive to a culture that ei ther ignores their possible exis tence as parents or frowns

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74 upon their existence as such. Still, others ta lked about becoming pare nts in a fashion that was unmoved by their lesbianism. Either they had always wanted to become parents and had to find the right time in their lives (as many heterosexuals do) or they never thought about children until, as Cassandra notes, a spon taneous wanting to be pregnant occurred. In these cases, though, where the women I in terviewed always wanted children or spontaneously decided to have children, their lesbianism may still have been a factor in the timing of their pregnancies. For instan ce, a majority of the women I interviewed were in their late thirties or early forties when they began trying to get pregnant. This may be a caused by what Beth Schneider (1984) re fers to as lesbians being work oriented, where because of the absence of a male earner, lesbians must face the dangerous navigation of the paid work force to establis h their careers and ensu re their livelihoods. The women I interviewed wanted children at some undetermined future or never imagined children in their lives until their late thirties/early forties, in large measure, because they had to work for pay and because they were not working under the expectation of heterosexual womanhood that prescribes women to be mothers before anything else. Because of the public perception that lesb ian pregnancy is an impossibility or because lesbians are not subject to the dominan t ideology that forces them to think about becoming mothers before they are ready, lesbians must identify a reason that they should mother (that they would make good parents) or they spontaneously decide to become pregnant without friends and family pressuring them to do so. Even when lesbians personally believe that they will eventually mo ther and find nothing inconsistent with the

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75 idea of mothering and their le sbianism, other people make their understanding of that inconsistency known to them. For example, Lydia told me: No, no [I never had to rethink having kids when I came out as a lesbian]. My mom was like, but I thought you would have kids (when I came out to her as a lesbian) and in my own mind, I was like, what? I always always thought I was going to be a lesbian a nd a mother. I never thought that coming out as a lesbian could discount or remove some other part of me. While other people’s conception that being a lesbian meant that one would not be a mother did not affect the way Lydia envisi oned her own life course it does affect many lesbian’s lives. For them, some event in thei r lives often has to ha ppen to make lesbian parenting possible for themselves and possible in its legitimacy for the public. Josie’s explains when she began to thi nk having children was possible: A parent wasn’t anything I ever t hought about until after I turned 30. Growing up where I did, growing up gay, I didn’t have any positive role models and then I went to UMASS, Amherst and I finally met people who wore dresses and who were professiona ls and they weren’t these bar room dykes. There wasn’t a lot of alcohol and there wasn’t a lot of abuse. So, I went from 18 to 24 – six years – not knowing how to be me and just assumed that I would be single and I would do things my way which is the way I’d grown up doing things. Similarly, Blanche explains how she began to think that her bei ng a lesbian mother was possible: Probably the biggest influence on me was a guy. He was probably 21 at the time. He was raised by his mother and her female partner and he has a dad because his mom and dad were marri ed at one point, but he was really involved in his church and he had been in the milita ry as a reserve or in some branch of the military. But anyway, I realized that if he turned out to be such a great guy being raised by two women I was like, ok, then, maybe it will be alright. It really changed my opinion dramatically because I realized that I can have great kids being in this lifestyle. For Josie, finding other women like her, who were goal-oriented, middle-class women (and who are more acceptable to st raight society than the bar dykes she

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76 references) allowed her to disassociate actu al lesbian possibilities from the negative connotation people have of lesb ians. This newly formulated idea of what lesbians are like lead her to the understanding that if lesbians can be like everyone else in dress and career behavior, then they can mother as well. In a similar fashion, Blanche decided that she could be a lesbian mother because th e children she would pr oduce had the potential to be functioning adults who contribute to aspects of society highl y valued by dominant groups: masculine men who contribute to law enforcement, the military and religious communities. Although dominant ideology has tried its be st to dissuade lesbian parenting by promoting the concept that only heterose xual women make acceptable mothers, the women’s movement(s) and gay civil rights move ment(s) have brought us to a point in our cultural landscape where lesbians are becoming mothers. Still, in becoming mothers, it seems most acceptable to parent in a way that heterosexuals parent, in having the same lifestyle (except for sexuality) and in having the same hopes for future children. In this way, while their sexuality may not keep them fr om being parents, they are still held to public accountability in the ways they prove th emselves (to be like heterosexuals as much as possible) and in the ways they want to produce acceptable children. Publicly Accountable Education In becoming pregnant, there is a constant in terpretation of what ot her people think of one’s pregnancy. In interaction with strangers the lesbians I interviewed had a continual flow of internal questions like, do they think I’m straight? Do they know that I’m a lesbian? Do they know that my partner and I are together? What do they think of my pregnancy? Do they think I had sex with a man to get pregnant? Gathering what they know about how heterosexual people think about lesbian parent hood (from having the

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77 same access to dominant discourse that heterosexuals have and from drawing on a life history of treatment for their lesbianism) th e mothers I talked to were able to give themselves anticipated answers to those quest ions. While the interpretative process was not explained as formally as it is above, my participants were aware of wondering what strangers thought of them and, in many cases, they were sure they knew. For example, Sandy told me: Well, I just sort of felt like I wa s…like, oh, you shouldn’t. I don’t know. I kind of [had] this feeling like, I’m getting away with something, I’m pregnant and I shouldn’t be; I wonder if anyone knows I’m a lesbian. I would have these thoughts when I would go out and interact with strangers. People probably thought th is traditional woman…people would comment, oh, your husband must be excited that kind of thing. So, it was kind of a weird feeling. This [pre gnancy] I’m much more comfortable with things and being pregnant. The first pregnancy was a different experience. I felt almost like an imposter. It was Sandy’s lived experien ce of being a lesbian and her understanding that other people assume she was heterosexual because of her pregnancy that made her feel like an imposter. In her mind, other people, not her, believe that only heterosexual women can be pregnant and that her mas querading as the woman they thought her to be made her feel fraudulent. When women are aw are that they are taken as lesbians, there is a similar interpretative prac tice that happens, wondering what the other person thinks and responding in turn. Josie, an out professo r on a small New England college campus tells a story: I had told one of my classes [I was pregnant] because we physically had to move when [I] got pregnant. I was teaching in a room that was the chemistry lab, we’re a small campus. We need[ed] to move out of there because I couldn’t be exposed to the chemicals and they all wanted to know why we needed to move. They’re all looking at me and I had been green a couple of days in a row, and I said, I’m pregnant The next day I had this kid who worked security, who I had never seen before, say, Hey Sullivan, I heard you’re pregnant; we were talking about ya at the pub It

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78 was one of these, what were the frat boys talking about me at the pub? And then it went down the frat boy fant asy – two lesbians and this really bad dialogue that I assumed they had, th at I knew they didn’t and it was all my stuff, but I kind of had this awkwar d feeling for a little – all of about a minute and a half – but, you know, there were those kind of instances of [asking myself], what kind of a guy’s fantasy is playing out here? While Josie utilized a larg er discourse surrounding wh at she believes men think about lesbian sexuality involving men to make sense of how the man working security believed she became pregnant, many women do not have to rely on this kind of communication. Oftentimes, other people make specific comments about the discrepancy they see in lesbian pregnancy. Noelle illust rates this point, “If I say that I’m a lesbian and I’m pregnant immediately the response is, you can’t be a lesbi an if you’re pregnant. Why don’t you say you’re bisexual? ” Two points are critical in Noelle’s experience. First, other women who have not had strange rs verbalize this position are probably right in their assumption that they are taken for heterosexual becaus e they are pregnant or if they are known to be lesbian, they are thought to be secretly bise xual because of their visibly pregnant bodies. Second, beyond what the public believes about a pregnant lesbian woman, because of her position in the sex, gender, and sexuality hierarchy, strangers are allowed to voi ce their confusion to her th rough prodding questioning about her identity and experiences. Another exampl e of this is Susan’s experience at a work function: I was not out at my job. Probably 4 people at my job knew the whole story beginning to end and the rest of the people did not so there was a lot of speculation about exactly [how I got pregnant]. My supervisor chose the job shower to bring up what she thought I had told her, that [I got pregnant] through a donor sperm bank. I had not told her that, but she assumed that. So, she brought it up in the middle of the shower like, well, what was that experience like? A nd did you get to pick off the pages and did you get to pick eye color? I was very upset because I felt that was inappropriate. I thought that she should have addressed me, not in front of

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79 people (there were several people I really don’t work with who I see maybe once every couple of weeks). I thought this was none of their business and I didn’t share [information on how I got pregnant] with [my boss]. I thought this was very inappr opriate and I brought that up to her. To combat the invasive ques tions that lesbian mothers r eceive from public encounters, they often devise a strategy of becoming educators. For instance, Rhonda says: Sometimes it’s interesting because you get to educate people that way. When they assume that I have a hus band because they see a ring and a kid they assume I’m straight and I say, no, two mom house and it takes them a minute to let that sink into their he ads, what a two mom house is. What does that mean? Like oh, ok, oh, woah! And then they get it – they have to figure out how you get two moms, step -parents or what it is. So, it’s kind of funny to see the process play out on their faces when they try to place it together. Similarly, Josie remarked, “I’m an educator so I believe that it’s okay to ask. I would talk to them about how we picked donor s, how we did the insemination. From an educational role, I was able to dist ance myself sort of personally.” In having lives that differ from expected norms of mothers, le sbian pregnant lives are on display and open to questioning. Because the questions will inevitably come through implication or direct queries, the le sbian mothers I interviewed actively became what they call, educators. In answering ques tions or speaking in answer to anticipated questions, they help to demystify the experiences of lesbian families and they preserve their dignity. Being an educat or, after all, is a role one can take on, but having answers about your life and your decisions demanded of you is a demeaning invasion of privacy. Accountable Identities Pregnancy, as a time that tr ansitions women into mother hood, is also a time where old community ties are tested and new community bonds are established. Specifically, the ways in which lesbianism was previously experienced changes and a new association with heterosexual women through the bond of pr egnancy and future motherhood is felt.

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80 In these ways, other lesbians and lesbian co mmunities hold pregnant lesbians accountable for their changing sense of solidarity with other communities and heterosexual women become more accepting because of their changed identification with a motherhood identity. Losing Lesbianism Not only do we have an idea that mother s are heterosexual and lesbians are not mothers, there is also a culturally held belief that some wome n look like mothers and others look like lesbians. For instance, Dot to ld me that instead of looking like a lesbian, she now looks like somebody’s mother: I: Did you ever feel like you l ooked like somebody’s mom before you gave birth? R: No. I: Ok. Did… R: No, wait. I’m sorry. Yes, I did because I actually have a child who is seven that we adopted and so, yeah, but I didn’t feel like I looked like somebody’s mother before I was pregna nt. No, I didn’t. [Emphasis mine] While Dot felt the need to correct herself because she had the experience of being a mother before she became a birth mother, th e presence of her adopted son did not make her feel like she looked like a mother. It was her pregnant body and the ramifications of her pregnant body (wider hips and larger breast s) that makes her now feel like she looks like a mother. In this context, it is impor tant that she does not describe looking like a lesbian mother; she describes looking like somebody’s mother, an ordinary mother, a heterosexual mother. Similarly, Blanche told me that it would have been difficult for people to read her as a lesbian because, as she says, “I think that I just automatically took on that mom look.”

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81 Losing the ability to be read as a lesbia n, by other lesbians, does not just happen because one changes her physical appear ance by having longer hair or dressing differently. Often it is the presence of a pregnant stomach, or after pregnancy, the presence of children that makes lesbian mothers less visible as lesbians. Rhonda explains: I try not to look like a soccer mom a ll the time, but it’s kinda hard. Actually that’s probably the biggest th ing that my friends and I talk about is how we have lost a lot of our lesb ian identity. You really, on the street, can’t even tell that we’re lesbians ’cause we just look like moms…We drive mini vans and have kids and un less we’re all together no one assume that we’re any kind of a different family. Josie agrees that since her pregnancy, she has been understood to be a mother, not a lesbian in public situations. Now she notices a difference between when she is alone and when her children accompany her: [I’m not perceived as a lesbian] when I’m with my children, but when I’m walking up the street – I was going to the post office the other day and this woman looked up and she was just like, Oh, hi Oh, hi and it was just like gaydar was going off everywhere. I go through one of those Sam’s clubs with the kids and I’ll see another le sbian couple walking around and they don’t even see me. I am invisible as the day is long and it’s only when Toni [my partner] shows up or when the kids call to one of us because they’re both talking now, they’ll turn around and I’ll get reassessed. While it was a pronounced problem for some women that heterosexual strangers understood them to be straight, resulting in st atement’s like Dot’s that she wanted to wear a button everyday that said “Don’t assume I’ m straight,” a more troubling problem was that lesbians failed to read them as lesbians. Lydia explains further: I used to have much shorter hair. I used to dress much more androgynously and I think it was easier years ago for peopl e to identify me as a lesbian. Now, though, my hair is a little bit longer. I usually have a toddler with me. I have a ring on my finger. When I’m walking around I can pick out lesbians, but they don’t see me as a lesbian. I feel like – I just feel a little left out.

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82 While not being read as lesbian by heterose xuals may be unsettling if one was read by them before pregnancy, it was described as more challenging to be ignored by lesbians. Other lesbians are more tuned into the subtleties of lesbian interaction so it may be that few heterosexual ever read my part icipants as lesbians. More importantly, though, lesbians provide a familiar context in unknown social situations; recognition of lesbianism from lesbian strangers acts as portable community membership and aides feelings of alienation inflicte d by dominant heterosexual soci ety. Josie illustrates this common theme: I would call it an in-group experience You’ll often see this when you see a small number of students of colo r on campus and they see each other. They nod, and they know they have a shared experience, but they don’t talk to each other, they’re not necess arily friends. Everyone assumes they know each other, they just know they exist and it’s an ever so slight method of communication. When I didn’t have kids, consequently I didn’t have the curves, I could walk through any community and somebody would seek me out with eye contact or I would seek them out with eye contact – we would acknowledge each other and it was a good feeling. Changes in being able to identify with ot her lesbians do not just happen because of missed opportunities for friendship with lesb ian strangers or fleeting moments of recognition with them; often current friendships with lesbians are ch allenged because of the transition into motherhood. While many of my participants had supportive lesbian friends or lesbian friends who all plan to b ecome pregnant, there we re instances of losing lesbian friends because they did not want to take part in motherhood. Isabelle recalls, “We would go over to play poker once a month and it would be – you could just tell they only wanted to hear a litt le bit of what was going on and that enough for them.” Similarly, Roslyn says, “You had to see subtle signs that you knew that they weren’t so much going to be your friend anymore once you crossed over into your new life of

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83 motherhood.” Because of the dichotomy enfo rced between mother (heterosexual) and lesbian (non-mother), many lesbian communitie s have been built on the assumption that women in them will not become mothers. In some communities, where lesbian parenting is more common, this situation is very different. Teresa told me: Like in Santa Cruz [California] there are so many pregnant lesbians and so many little kids it was like it was exciti ng for everyone else. It was like – you’re the next one. Pretty accepti ng and kind of like the new club in town, being the lesbian parent. However, this is not the general case. For the majority of the women I interviewed, their communities assumed that mother hood was not part of a lesbian life and consequently subtly worked to disassociate the new lesbian parents from their circle of friends. To maintain lesbian connections, ma ny of my participants were active in gay parents’ organizations or spent time with other lesbian parents, rather than being active in the larger gay community or spending tim e with gay people who are not parents. Michelle explains why this may be the case: I think that lesbians who are moms are more boring. I mean you end up being interested in thin gs like you’re children’s poo or good preschools in the area – these become matters of pressing concern as opposed to oh, let’s get dressed up in exciting outfits and go and have random sex or whatever. That’s just my personal opinion. Once you have a kid, you tend to hang out with other parents and even wh en they’re queer you end up talking about being parents rather than bein g queer because it’s more pressing. Because lesbian identity is such a socially agreed upon category, experienced by being read as a member of the group, having a place in the community and being friends with its members, the ostracism that th e transition into motherhood creates can be difficult to reconcile with one’s felt lesb ian identity. Importantly, though, while the membership is strained it is maintained while another membership with people who are mothers is established.

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84 Gaining Bonds with Heterosexual Women Another aspect of being read as hete rosexual is that in heterosexuals not recognizing you as a lesbian, you do not receive negative treatment reserved for lesbians and you do receive the privileg es that occur from assumed heterosexuality. Josie explains: I keep thinking, wow, this is a ne w process in the coming out model – coming to terms with being a mommy and what gives me an enormous amount of heterosexual privilege. You know, it gives me a lot of privilege. I can go to the library and people accept me because I’m a mommy, but when I go to the library [without my children] people look at me differently. Do I think through the privilege part of it? Yes. Michelle, who got pregnant through a se xual relationship she was having with a man while identifying as a lesbian, continued to date the biological father of her child through her pregnancy. They were often togeth er in public. She describes her new sense of privilege this way: You know, one has a great craving for s ecurity – one really wants to be taken care of when one is pregnant in my experience. When I first thought about it, before it became a r eality, [I thought] it will be really terrible to walk down the street wi th the father and have people say, oh, what a cute heterosexual couple In fact, the worst part was that it wasn’t horrible. I really enjoyed it. It was like sinking into a warm bath. People assumed that we were this lovely yo ung couple. People would say to him, oh, your wife One time he got out of a ticket. He got pulled over and he said, wife’s pregnant and she wants pie and he was like oh, ok We never thought of getting married, it was ju st something we put toward our advantage…He sort of enjoyed that little routine. I enjoyed it too. It was sick, but I enjoyed it. In being taken as heterosexual and expe riencing social (while not legal or institutional) heterosexual privilege, the lesbian mothers I interviewed were able to experience the feelings of full citizenship heterosexual women experience. In other

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85 words, when they experienced privilege they also came into a more complete understanding of what it means to be treated badly as a lesb ian. Still, at other times, when people knew that they were lesbians, they were welcomed into communities as mothers, despite their sexual orientations. Because of their newly salient role as futu re mothers, during their time as pregnant women, they found community in public rec ognition of other pregnant women. Similar to the once fleeting recognitions felt with other lesbians in public spaces, the lesbian mothers I interviewed became connected to wo men who shared their bodily state. The connection was referred to as an immediate bond or an instant friendship or as Blanche points out, “It’s kind of like people who ride motorcycles, they all wave to people as they’re going down the road – you just kind of ha ve this thing in comm on. It’s almost a nonverbal communication that goe s on.” Several women referre d to this felt connection as a secret society of the pre gnant, as Miche lle does here: You know, I’m walking down the street and thinking, I’m making a baby, what are you doing? I was just in this wild state…I don’t know if I felt like I had any wisdom – th at’s not it…but it was like this secret society. I would look at other pregnant women and wonder, how do you feel about this? I never said anything to them and they never said anything to me so it was like this weird secret society of the pregnant. Sometimes more than eye contact, a nod, or even a wave, pregnant strangers would stop and talk to each other. Some of my par ticipants took part in spontaneous discussions on due dates, the possibility of a girl or a boy, how each was feeling, and sore parts of their bodies with the pregnant strangers. Isabelle e xplains why this might be: There is a special bond because you ’re both experiencing the same changes in your body and you know, sometime people around you don’t want to talk about every ache and pain and twinge that you’re feeling. So, it’s kind of nice to have somebody el se that’s going through the same thing.

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86 Some women felt that their welcomed presen se in the pregnant society was fragile because of their lesbianism. For example, Carol and I have a conversation below: R: You notice more pregnant women bi g time. I have never noticed so many pregnant women as when I was pr egnant. You just are really ware of it more. I: Did you ever talk to pregnant women in public? R: Oh, yeah. We’re like how far along are you? You know? How far along are you? You know, you have this bond in common. I: When you would talk to them di d you ever bring up that you were a lesbian, did that ever come up or not? R: No, no no no no. Only if I knew they were gay too. I: If you didn’t know they were ga y, for what reasons wouldn’t you bring it up? R: The same reasons why I wouldn’t bring it up not pregnant. You know, I mean you just don’t bring up being gay, period. Much less when you’re pregnant. For the majority of my participants, though, their lesbianism did not affect their felt group membership with mothers and other pregna nt women. It is significant that the few women who felt the way Carol does never broug ht up their lesbianism before or during pregnancy. Other women who describe themselv es as being read as lesbian because of their pre-pregnancy visual recogni zability or their constant ve rbal outing of themselves as lesbians, felt that they were welcomed without attention to their sexual orientation. Ellen Lewin (1993) found that the salience of a motherhood identity was so strong that it superseded the difference of sexual orientati on. This is true, he re, but I add another dimension to Lewin’s argument: it is not ju st that lesbian mothers prioritize their

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87 mothering identities over their lesbian ident ities, but that other people, specifically heterosexual women, treat lesbian mothers as mothers first. Teresa explains: I think that probably the coolest thin g about being pregnant and having a baby is that you’re welcomed into th e mom club and it’s almost like that surpasses everything else. Whether you’re a lesbian or you’re whatever color you are or whatever – it’s almost like that’s the number one club and once you get into that club not that much else matters. We talked a lot about it when I was pregnant because we were like oh, my god, this is so weird, you know? It’s great, but it ’s almost like, nobody cares anymore that you’re a lesbian? You’re a mother first and that was a cool experience. Josie feels similarly: The shift for me was being welcomed into the straight community differently. [With] all of the straig ht women who knew that I was gay, we used to talk at a distance, [but wh en I became pregnant] our conversation shifted; it was about having shared co mmunity on a different level. They used to come up to me and rub my body (some of them it was ok and some people I was like, what ar e you doing touch me? You don’t know me), but it was about having a baby in me. It wasn’t about my identity or my sexual orientation or that you had a husband and I had a wife. It was about there’s a baby and we’ve all had this and isn’t this great? During the transition into motherhood felt by pregnant women, a shift occurs in the identification they feel with other women. Their group membership and felt connections to other individuals goes from being strictly with other lesb ian women to being with other lesbian women and mothers (even if they are heterosexual mothers). As Lydia says, “It’s like I was joining a new club – like I was in the lesbian club and now I was in the pregnant lady club.” It is important that in joining their new club they maintain membership in lesbian communities, however altered. The shift in group identification occurs th rough a complex intermingling of the new responsibilities lesbian women take on in mo thering, their new sense of themselves as

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88 mothers in conjunction with thei r sense of themselves as lesb ians, and a transformation in the way heterosexual mothers treat them in public spaces. Because of the politicized nature of lesb ianism and lesbian families, lesbian women are initially made accountable to the public fo r their decision to become parents; once pregnant it is assumed that they can be quest ioned about the logistic s of their pregnancies and family formations. A fascinating featur e of this external acc ountability is that it exists alongside an internal accountability wh ere a shift in the salience of identity can move from their being lesbians to their being mothers. While this is consistent with previous findings (Lewin, 1993) it is significant, here, that the lesbian birth mothers I interviewed did not describe this as a measure of their own personal feelings about community membership. Instead, they desc ribed heterosexual women as viewing them as mothers (despite their sexual orientat ion) and therefore deserving of motherhood membership.

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89 CHAPTER 8 DISCUSSION These finding should be understood against a backdrop of lesbian life in this historical moment. While I do not mean to in fer that generalizability is possible from the window of understanding I have offered, the institutionalized nature of homophobia and the discriminatory exclusion of lesbian fa milies in social and legal recognition, means that it is possible for many lesbian families to find their stories in these pages. While I hope I have provided important in sight into the social experiences of pregnancy for lesbian women, more research is needed in the area. Specifically, there is more research needed on the ways in which lesbians of color become mothers, experience pregnancy, and envision lesbian families. As most research exists, we have a vast knowledge on white middle-class experiences w ith lesbian motherhood and very little on the motherhood experiences of lesbians of co lor. My narrowly focused data on lesbian pregnancy adds to this inconsistency between the real world and academic illustrations of it. Lesbian families of color exist despite a homophobic and white supremacist culture that works to ensure that they will not; our academic inattention to their survival skills borders on negligence. Additi onally, we need research on th e pregnancy experiences of the non-biological mother and how she negotia tes her relationship with the child, the birth mother, and her position in the family. For most of the birth mothers I interviewed, their partners acted as equal catalysts in d eciding to get pregnant and as primary sources of affection and understanding dur ing their pregnancies. To build a more holistic picture of the ways in which lesbian families understa nd pregnancy in their family’s negotiation

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90 of biology and navigation of public treatment, it is vital to understand the point of view of the so-called other mother. I have, however, offered a specific contribu tion to the existing literature on lesbian motherhood: knowledge on lesbian experien ces of pregnancy and a simultaneous sameness and difference lens for understanding lesbian motherhood. As you may recall from the overview of exis ting literature on lesbian mothers, it has been rich in its investigation of premotherhood decision-making and in its discussion of the maintenance of lesbian families once children are acquired, but remains lacking in its attention to experiences during pregna ncy. In terms of a focus on sameness and difference at the same time, the theoreti cal body of literature th at has dealt with discussing the negotiation between the celebra ted role of mothers and the ostracized nature of lesbianism has been rich, but, with the exception of Hequembourg & Farrell (1999), has not made its way into empirical investigation of how that negotiation is understood and coped with by lesbian mothers. Beyond our theoretical knowledge, there has been an either/or lens in the empirical literature on lesbian families where researchers take on an exclusive lens of difference or one of similarity. In lit erature that focuses on the decision-making process in lesbian familie s, there has been an understandable lens of difference in discussing how lesb ians acquire children and on the discriminatory nature of insemination clinics. The literature on the maintenance of lesbian families is split where some researchers focus on difference and some on similarity. We can see, for instance, difference in studies that fo cus on the division of home car e and child care labor in lesbian households and in studi es that discuss how lesbian family members create new ways of talking about family to incorporate thei r family situations. Still, there has been a

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91 focus on similarity in the lesbian family ma intenance literature where there have been comparisons between lesbian mothers and heterosexual mothers made, a focus on how commitment and recognition of two parents is established, and an i nvestigation into the tactics lesbians use to signify commitment. Throughout this work I have argued that in discussing lesbian motherhood and pregnancy it is essential to have a lens of simultaneous sameness and difference. Specifically in the discussion of pregnancy, it is integral to understand the processes that create simultaneous sameness and difference by understanding the inte rplay of identical body processes and differential experiences, the negotiation of biology, the legitimation of lesbian women because of their family’s ex istence, and in the ways their pregnancies become publicly accountable. I disc uss each of these in turn below. The lesbian mothers interviewed reflect ed the narrative of normalcy Stacey & Biblarz (2001) find in existing social science research on gay and lesbian families. While they suggest that it is researchers who devise questions that measure similarity between gay and lesbian families and heterosexual families, I suggest here that the parents themselves have a particular investment in cr eating that same narrative. In what I call a narrative of sameness, though, difference in experience comes through quite often, resulting in a complex interplay between sameness and difference in experience. Illustrations of this interplay were given in the cases of the poten tial for miscarriage and the public treatment of pregnant women were sameness rests on the same bodily changes during pregnancy and the same hope and love felt for future families, and where difference rests in the varying levels of social support lesbians feel they have in their pregnancies and the ways in which similar tr eatment can be interpreted differently.

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92 A key part of lesbian women’s pregna ncy is the negotiation of love and connectedness in their families. This simultaneous experience of sameness and difference is specific to lesbian families where partners acquire children through one partner’s pregnancy resulti ng in a semi-biologically based family, where one adult member of the family is biologically related to the child and the other adult member is not. Without specifically articulating th is position, lesbian families understand it and have developed specific strategies to cope with the semi-legitimate nature of their families due to the semi-biologically related na ture of their constructions. For instance, in a strategy to include the non-biological mother as another primary parent, anonymous donors were often used to ensure legal prot ection of the dyad. The evaluation of the sperm donor went beyond his necessary absen ce and into choosing key characteristics that fit the non-biological (or sometimes biological) mother’s characteristics in appearance and personality. This created a paradoxical involvement of the sperm donor where he was necessarily abse nt, but present (in his imagined characteristics) in the future of the family by the created child. In discussing the negotiation of love rela tionships in lesbian families, I also found pregnancy described as a critical time wher e the love bond is create d between biological mother and child, non-biological mother a nd child, and (sometimes) between the two mothers. Because of this critical bond, pre gnancy, past a certain amount of time, became a time when investment in love with the child became necessary. That investment in love is possible because of the timing of the pregnancy, because one knows that she will probably bring the pregnancy to term, and becau se of the imagined characteristics of the sperm donor. In creating families that will l ook like they are biologically connected, as

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93 with a White woman who has an African American partner choosing an African American donor for her insemination, lesbian families use existing models to make sense of themselves. Here, I argued that dominant ideologies surrounding fa milies, specifically that families are biologically connected and th erefore look alike, have affected the way lesbian families think about themselves and create their families. This step toward creating a family that looks biologically conne cted may matter little to the members of the family, but acts as protection against treatment that implies illegitimacy. While lesbians work to ensure that their families will be treated as legitimate families, the existence of their families ofte n serves as a legitimating function. This happens in three parts. First, they are seen as more legitimate social actors because a requisite of adulthood is acting as a parent Second, they are granted legitimacy as daughters in their families of origin by carryi ng on the traditions and genetic material of their family members. Third, lesbian comm unities also act as le gitimacy granting bodies in the way that lesbian parents can become exemplary lesbian role models. While all women become more legitimate actors when they become mothers, it may be more strongly felt for lesbian women because other pe ople, specifically thei r families of origin, have imagined that they will remain childle ss. All heterosexual women are assumed to be on a path toward motherhood through pre gnancy; when a woman comes out as a lesbian, it is assumed that her path to mo therhood has ended. What is more, lesbian women, through their pregnancies, can be le gitimated by their lesbian communities, an additional feature of personal legitimacy that does not factor into heterosexual women’s experiences.

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94 Lastly, I offer findings that illustrate the publicly acc ountable nature of lesbian pregnancies where their decisions to beco me pregnant and questions about their pregnancy decisions and families are open for public dialogue. As I stated in this chapter, we can imagine all pregnant wome n’s bodies and decisions during pregnancy being open for public dialogue, but a woman’s lesbianism adds another dimension to this behavior because of the public discourse surrounding lesbianism and lesbian families. While a pregnant woman’s citizenship may be momentarily discredited because it is culturally believed that her body is public property, lesbian women never achieve full citizenship because of the institutionalized na ture of homophobia and the social ostracism reserved for people who identify as sexually di fferent. In this way, it is not just that a pregnant lesbian’s body bel ongs to the public, but that she becomes externally accountable to the public in an swering their questions about her family and internally accountable in negotiating her newly found membership in the heterosexual women’s club of motherhood. A fascinating feature of public accountability is that there is a marked shift in identification with the lesb ian community to identification with women who have been mothers, largely heterosexual wo men. What is key, here, is that it is not just lesbian women’s newly salient identities th at guide them into this solidarity with heterosexual mothers, but heterosexual mothers who treat them with newly felt community membership. Overall, in the area of study on lesbian fa milies, my findings are a key contribution because most research in the area has either focused on the similar outcomes of lesbian parenting or on the different models for organizing lesbian families. What I have illustrated, here, is that it is both. While le sbian families often have the same aspirations

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95 in raising children and the same outcomes in the project, the oppor tunities are different, resulting in different ways of accomplis hing it. While lesbian pregnant women experience the same body changes during pregnancy as heterosexual women, they receive a different interpretation of, and c onsequently different treatment for, their pregnancies. Lesbian pregnant women, and lesbian families more generally, rely on dominant ideas about what families mean to understand and create theirs, but they necessarily establish their familie s in opposition to those norms. For these reasons lesbia n motherhood can be under stood through a lens of simultaneous sameness and difference where many of the same love feelings and constructions of family occur, but where the mere existence of lesbian family formations challenges the conventional understanding of what fa mily means. Still, it is in the period of pregnancy where we can most clearly se e the simultaneity of sameness and difference because the nearly identical nature of pr egnancy across sexual orientations can be observed in coexistence with the different tr eatment of lesbian pregnancies. In the context of lesbian pregnancy, then, neither sameness nor difference can happen alone; both must be understood to happen at once. Beyond a nuanced understanding of lesbian motherhood through the window of pregnancy, my suggestion that we should s eek to understand the simultaneity of sameness and difference holds important sociol ogical contributions. Most significantly, this work has highlighted that while bodies may experience the same natural process as other bodies, the social experience of ha ving that body process is different based on various social locations. Again, bodies may be the same, but treatment of them can be very different. Knowing that different treatment is based on a socially constructed idea

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96 of difference, and not a necessary or essent ial form of difference, should help us in conceiving of new ways to interpret differe nce and social interactions that base themselves on assumed inherent difference. In other words, this study adds to practices like our ongoing deconstruction of the socia lly defined categories of race and gender where, for example, Black Americans have ne arly identical bodies to White Americans, but where the former, as a group, die at younger ages than the latter group do to health care disparities, a measurable outcome of different treatment. Li kewise, men and women have much the same capabilities in our bodies, but in our social world being a man entitles one to, for example, better paying jobs than the ones to which women have access. Also, once difference is constructe d, this study should help us understand how people make sense of themselves as different and the ways in which they may utilize conventional narratives while simultaneously crafting their own unique life stories. In this way, understanding the simultaneity of sameness and difference in lesbian pregnancy narratives can help us in thinking about “di fferent” families more generally, specifically in the ways in which difference operates in the functioning of unconventional families and the ways in which members of “different” families think of themselves as such. Finally, these findings lead us to a discussi on that is necessary for sociologists to continue to engage in and th at is answering the question, is difference detrimental to the social whole? If we find that differential treatment of the same processes operates, it is our responsibility to highlight that disparity and recommend societal solutions. In terms of doing difference in arenas such as sexual orientation or families, it is also our responsibility to show the wa ys that the fear of difference and the enforcement of

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97 sameness operate as mechanisms of social c ontrol; it is our res ponsibility to emphasize the benign functioning of difference.

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98 APPENDIX A SEMI-STRUCTURED QUALITATIVE INTERVIEW GUIDE Typically, tell me how you think about your body. On a normal day, what do you thi nk strangers think about you? *How do you feel about how you th ink strangers probably see you? *Based on your body, what do you think strangers think about your gender and sexuality? Tell me the story of your pregnancy. How would you describe the way your body looked when you were pregnant? How did you feel about your body when you were pregnant? Tell me the story of how your body changed when you were pregnant. *Did you enjoy the changes? Tell me what sex was like when you were pregnant. *How was sex different for you? *Did you experience your body differently during sex? *Do you think your partner felt di fferent about sex with you?

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99 While you were pregnant, did you ever tend to focus on what strangers thought about you? How do you think strangers saw you when you were pregnant? Did strangers ever make co mments to you about your body? *What kind of comments? *Can you remember any particular comments that a stranger made? *What about family members and friends, wh at kind of conversations went on there? How did people treat you when you were pregnant? *Did you enjoy it? If you had to, how would you describe “a lesbian body”? *Do you think you have one? *Does the lesbian body include the pregnant body? What do you think lesbians th ink about pregnant women? *What do you think they think about motherhood?

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100 APPENDIX B INFORMED CONSENT Informed Consent for Face-to-Face Interviews Please read this consent document carefully befo re you decide to partic ipate in this study. Purpose of the research study: The purpose of this investigation is to docum ent and describe the experiences lesbians have when they go through a pregnancy. The researcher may choose to write a book and/or a paper on her findings with the intenti on of publishing it. No participants in this study will be identified in the report. What you will be asked to do in the study: You will be asked to describe your life as a le sbian to the researcher. This interview will be tape-recorded and the tapes will be transcribed for analysis with all identities concealed. Time required: 30 minutes to 1 hour Risks and Benefits: There are no anticipated risks or direct benefits by partic ipating in this interview. Compensation: There is no compensation for participating in this interview. Confidentiality: Your identity will be kept confidential to the extent provided by law. Your information will be assigned a code number. The audio tapes and list connecting your name to this number will be kept in locked file by the pr incipal investigator. Transcribed documents will only use coded identity. When the study is completed and the data have been analyzed, the code list and the tapes will be destroyed. Your name will not be used in any report. Voluntary Participation: Your participation in this study is complete ly voluntary. You may choose not to answer some questions or you may choose to end the se ssion at any time. There is no penalty for not participating. Right to withdraw from the study : You have the right to withdraw from th e study at anytime without consequence.

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101 Whom to contact if you have questions about the study: Maura Ryan, M.A. Student, Graduate Teach ing Assistant, Department of Sociology, University of Florida, P.O. Box 117330, Gainesville, FL 2611, Phone: 352/392-0265 ext. 241, E-mail: mryan@ufl.edu Whom to contact about your rights as a research participant in the study: UFIRB Office, Box 112250, University of Flor ida, Gainesville, FL 32611-2250; Phone: 352/392-0433 Agreement: I have read the procedure described above. I voluntarily agree to participate in the procedure and I have received a copy of this description. Participant: _________________________________ Date: ____________ Principal Investig ator: _________________________ Date: ____________ Faculty Supervisor: ___________________________ Date: ____________ Principal Investigator Contact Information : Maura Ryan, M.A. Student, Graduate Teach ing Assistant, Department of Sociology, University of Florida, P.O. Box 117330, Gainesville, FL 2611, Phone: 352/392-0265 ext. 241, E-mail: mryan@ufl.edu Faculty Supervisor Contact Information: Kendal Broad, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, Turlington 3219, P.O. Box 117330, Gainesville, FL 32611, Phone: 352-392-0265 ext. 257, Fax: 392-6568, E-mail: kendal@soc.ufl.edu Informed Consent for Phone Interviews Please allow me to read a consent document to you before we begin. If you have any questions about the study you can contact me: Maura Ryan, M.A. Student, Graduate Teach ing Assistant, Department of Sociology, University of Florida, P.O. Box 117330, Gainesville, FL 2611, Phone: 352/392-0265 ext. 241, E-mail: mryan@ufl.edu If you have questions about your rights as a research participan t in the study, you may contact the University of Florid a’s Institutional Review Board: UFIRB Office, Box 112250, University of Flor ida, Gainesville, FL 32611-2250; Phone: 352/392-0433 Purpose of the research study:

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102 The purpose of this investigation is to docum ent and describe the experiences lesbians have when they go through a pregnancy. The researcher may choose to write a book and/or a paper on her findings with the intenti on of publishing it. No participants in this study will be identified in the report. What you will be asked to do in the study: You will be asked to describe your life as a lesb ian, as it has related to your pregnancy, to the researcher. This interview will be tape -recorded and the tapes will be transcribed for analysis with all identities concealed. Time required: 30 minutes to 1 hour Risks and Benefits: There are no anticipated risks or direct benefits by partic ipating in this interview. Compensation: There is no compensation for participating in this interview. Confidentiality: Your identity will be kept confidential to the extent provided by law. Your information will be assigned a code number. The audio tapes and list connecting your name to this number will be kept in locked file by the pr incipal investigator. Transcribed documents will only use coded identity. When the study is completed and the data have been analyzed, the code list and the tapes will be destroyed. Your name will not be used in any report. Voluntary Participation: Your participation in this study is complete ly voluntary. You may choose not to answer some questions or you may choose to end the se ssion at any time. There is no penalty for not participating. Right to withdraw from the study: You have the right to withdraw from th e study at anytime without consequence. Do you understand the procedure as I have described it to you? Do you voluntarily agree to participate in the procedure I have described to you? Please state your name. Again if you have questions about the study, please contact me: Maura Ryan, M.A. Student, Graduate Teach ing Assistant, Department of Sociology, University of Florida, P.O. Box 117330, Gainesville, FL 2611, Phone: 352/392-0265 ext. 241, E-mail: mryan@ufl.edu

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103 And if you have questions your rights as a research participant in the study, please contact the University of Florid a’s Institutional Review Board: UFIRB Office, Box 112250, University of Flor ida, Gainesville, FL 32611-2250; Phone: 352/392-0433 Principal Investig ator: _________________________ Date: ____________ Faculty Supervisor: ___________________________ Date: ____________ Principal Investigator Contact Information: Maura Ryan, M.A. Student, Graduate Teach ing Assistant, Department of Sociology, University of Florida, P.O. Box 117330, Gainesville, FL 2611, Phone: 352/392-0265 ext. 241, E-mail: mryan@ufl.edu Faculty Supervisor Contact Information: Kendal Broad, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, Turlington 3219, P.O. Box 117330, Gainesville, FL 32611, Phone: 352-392-0265 ext. 257, Fax: 392-6568, E-mail: kendal@soc.ufl.edu

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104 LIST OF REFERENCES Alway, J. (1995). “The Trouble with Gender: Tales of the Still-Missing Feminist Revolution in Sociological Theory.” Sociological Theory Vol. 13, No.3. pp.20928 Baca Zinn, M., and Eitzen, D.S. (2004) Diversity in Families New York: Allyn & Bacon Publishers Bailey, L. (2001) “Gender Shows: First-Time Mothers and Embodied Selves” Gender & Society, Vol. 15, No. 1. pp.110-129 Blumer, H. (1969). Symbolic Interactionism : Perspective and Method Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall. Breways, A., Ponjaert, I., VanHall, E.V. (1997) “Donor Insemination: Child Development and Family Functioning in Lesbian Mother Families” Human Reproduction Vol.12, No.6. pp.1349-1359 Bright, S. (2003). Mommy’s Little Girl: On Sex, Motherhood, Porn & Cherry Pie New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press. Carrington, C. (2004). “No Place Like Home.” From Sociology: Exploring the Architecture of Everyday Life ed. By David M. Newman and Jodi O’Brien. CA: Pine Forge Press. pp.163-177. Cianciotto, J. (2005). “Hispanic Same-Sex C ouple Households in the United States.” National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (Last referenced, April 2006) http://www.thetaskforce.org/downl oads/blackcensus/BCRNationalFact.pdf Chabot, J. and Ames, B. (2004) “‘It Wasn’t Let’s Get Pregna nt and Go Do It’: Decision Making in Lesbian Couples Planning Mo therhood Via Donor Insemination” in Family Relations Vol. 53, Issue 4. pp.348-356. Clarke, V. (2001). “What about the Childre n? Arguments Against Lesbian and Gay Parenting” Women’s Studies International Forum Vol. 24, Issue 5. pp.555-570. Coontz. S. (2000) The Way We Never Were New York: Basic Books. Crittenden, A. (2001) The Price of Motherhood: Why th e Most Important Job in the World is Still the Least Valued New York: Henry Holt & Company

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105 Dalton, S.E., and Beilby, D.D. 2000. “‘That’s Our Kind of Constellation’”: Lesbian Mothers Negotiate Institutional Understandings of Gender Within the Family” Gender and Society Vol. 14, No. 1. pp.36-61. Dang, A. and Frazer, S. (2004) “Black Same-Sex Households in the U.S.” National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (Last referenced, April 2006) http://www.thetaskforce.org/downloads/H ispanicStudy/HispanicNationalFactSheet. pdf DiLapi, E.M. (1989). “Lesbian Moth erhood and the Motherhood Hierarchy” Journal of Homosexuality, Vol. 18, No.1 and 2. pp.101-121. Dunne, G. A. (2000). “Opting into Mother hood: Lesbians Blurring the Boundaries and Transforming the Meaning of Parenthood and Kinship.” Gender & Society, Vol.14, No.1, pp. 11-15. pp.11-35. Faderman, L. (1991). Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers: A History of Lesbian Life in Twentieth Century America New York: Penguin. Flaks, D.K., Fichler, I., Masterpasqua, F., and Joseph, G. (1995). “Lesbians Choosing Motherhood: A Comparative Study of Lesbia n and Heterosexual Parents and Their Children” Developmental Psychology Vol. 31, No.1. pp.105-114. Gabb, J. (2001) “Querying the Discourses of Love: An Analysis of Contemporary Patterns of Love and the Stratification of Intimacy Within Lesbian Families.” European Journal of Women’s Studies Vol. 8, No. 3. pp.313-328. Glaser, B.G., and Strauss, A. L. (1967). The Discovery of Grounded Theory: Strategies for Qualitative Research New York: Aldine De Gruyter. Goffman, E. (1974) Frame Analysis Boston: Northeastern University Press. Gore, A. (2000). The Mother Trip WA: Seal Press Gore, A. (1998). The Hip Mama Survival Guide New York: Hyperion. Gubrium, J.F. and J.A. Holstein (1995) The Active Interview London: Sage Publications Gubrium, J.F. and J.A. Holstein (1990) What is Family? CA: Mayfield Publishing. Hayden, C.P. (1995) “Gender, Genetics, a nd Generation: Reformulating Biology in Lesbian Kinship” Cultural Anthropology Vol. 10, No.1. pp.41-63. Hequembourg, A.L. (2004) “Unscripted Motherhood: Lesbian Mothers Negotiating Incompletely Institutionalized Families” in Journal of Social and Personal Relationships Vol. 21, No. 6. pp.739-762.

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106 Hequembourg, A.L., and Farrell, M. ( 1999). “Lesbian Motherhood: Negotiating Marginal-Mainstream Identities” Gender and Society Vol. 13, No.4. pp.540-557. Houvouras, S. (2004) “Negotiated Concep ts: Body, Mind, Emotions, and Self in Women’s Childbearing Narrati ves” Ph.D. dissertation, Department of Sociology, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida. Joos, K. (2003) “LGBT Parents and Their Children.” Distributed by the Sociologists for Women in Society Katz, J. (1995). The Invention of Heterosexuality New York: Plume. Kennedy, E.L. and M. Davis. (1994) Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold: The History of a Lesbian Community. New York: Penguin. Lewin, E. (1993). Lesbian Mothers: Accounts of Gender in American Culture Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press Lewin, E. (1995). “On the Outside Looking In: The Politics of Lesbian Motherhood” from Conceiving the New World Order: The Global Politics of Reproduction ed. By Faye D. Ginsburg and Rayna Rapp. Berkel ey: University of California Press. pp.103-121. Mead, G.H. (1934). Mind, Self, and Society Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. Moraga, C. (1997) Waiting in the Wings: Port rait of a Queer Motherhood New York: Firebrand Press Murphy, J.(2001). “Should Lesbian Coupl es Count as Infertile?” in Queer Families, Queer Politics ed. by Mary Bernstein and Rena te Reimann. New York: Columbia University Press. pp.182-200. Oswald, R. F. (2002) “Resilience within the Family Networks of Lesbian and Gay Men: Intention and Redefinition.” Journal of Marriage and Family Vol. 64, Issue 2. pp.374-383. Patterson, C.J. (2000) “Family Relationships of Lesbians and Gay Men.” Journal of Marriage and Family Vol. 62, No. 4. pp.1052-1069. Salholz, E. (1990, March 12) “The Future of Gay America.” Newsweek 23 Schneider, B. (1984) “Peril and Promise: Le sbians’ Workplace Participation” from T. Darty and S. Potter eds. Women-Identified Women Palo Alto: Mayfield Publishers. pp.211-230 Schneider, D. (1997) “The Power of Culture: Notes on Some Aspects of Gay and Lesbian Kinship in America Today” Cultural Anthropology Vol. 12, No. 2. pp.270-274.

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107 Sears, R.B., Gates, G., Rubenstein, W.B. (2005) “Same-Sex Couples and Same-Sex Couples Raising Children in the United States, Data from the Census.” The Williams Project on Sexual Or ientation Law and Public Policy UCLA School of Law, (Last referenced, April 2006) http://www.law.ucla.edu/william sproj/publications/USReport.pdf Shore, E.A. (1996). “What Kind of Lesbian is a Mother?” Journal of Feminist Family Therapy Vol. 8, No. 3. pp.45-62. Stacey, J. (2003) “Gay and Lesbian Families: Queer Like Us” in Mason, Skolink, and Sugarman eds. All Our Families: New Policies for a New Century Oxford University Press. pp.144-169. Stacey, J. (1996). In the Name of the Family Boston: Beacon Press Stacey, J. and Biblarz, T. (2001). “(How) Does the Sexual Orientation of Parents Matter?” American Sociological Review Vol. 66, No.2. pp.159-183. Stacey, J. and B. Thorne. (1985). “The Mi ssing Feminist Revolution in Sociology,” Social Problems Vol. 32, No.2. pp. 301-316. Stein, A. and Plummer, K. (1994) “‘I Can’t Ev en Think Straight’: ‘Q ueer’ Theory and the Missing Sexual Revolution in Sociology.” Sociological Theory Vol. 12, No.2. pp.178-187. Strauss, A, and Corbin, J. (1998). Basics of Qualitative Research: Techniques and Procedures for Developing Grounded Theory (2nd ed.) Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Stryker, S. (1980). Symbolic Interactionism: A Social Structural Version Menlo Park: Benjamin Cummings. Sullivan, M. (1996) “Rozzie and Harriet: Ge nder and Family Patterns of Lesbian CoParents” Gender & Society Vol. 10, No.6. pp.747-767. Sullivan, M. (2001). “Alma Mater: Family Outings and Making of the Modern OtherMother” in Queer Families, Queer Politics ed. by Mary Bernstein and Renate Reimann. New York: Columbia University Press. pp.231-253. Sullivan, M. (2004). The Family of Woman: Lesbian Mothers, Their Children, and the Undoing of Gender Los Angeles: University of California Press Swainson, M. and Tasker, F. (2005) “Genogr ams Redrawn: Lesbian Couples Define Their Families” Journal of GLBT Family Studies Vol. 1, No. 2. pp.3-27. Valentine, D. (1982) “The Experience of Pregnancy: A Developmental Process” Family Relations Vol. 31. pp.243-248. Weston, K. (1997) Families We Choose New York: Columbia University Press.

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108 Woolet, A. and Phoenix, A. (1991). “Introduction” from Motherhood: Meanings, Practice, and Ideologies. Ed. By Anne Woollet and Ann Phoenix. London: Sage Publications.

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109 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Maura Ryan is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of Flor ida. Her areas of interest are in gender and sexualities, specifi cally in the areas of families and social movements.


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Title: Changing Bodies Mean Shifting Worlds: Lesbian Women and Pregnancy Experiences
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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0013480/00001

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Title: Changing Bodies Mean Shifting Worlds: Lesbian Women and Pregnancy Experiences
Physical Description: Mixed Material
Copyright Date: 2008

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Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
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CHANGING BODIES MEAN SHIFTING WORLDS: LESBIAN WOMEN AND
PREGNANCY EXPERIENCES
















By

MAURA RYAN


A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
MASTER OF ARTS

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA


2006





























Copyright 2006

by

Maura Ryan

































This document is dedicated to lesbian bravery. Our families, our love relationships, our
life stories, and the documentation of our life stories exist because of it.















ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Foremost, I thank my committee members for their expertise and kind

encouragement. Dr. Constance Shehan, who offered support and wisdom, and Dr.

Kendal Broad, who offered diligent attention to detail and countless suggestions for

improvement, both invaluably helped me conceptualize and finish this project. They both

make me proud to be a feminist sociologist.

I am also grateful for my wonderful family and my friends who have become my

family. They have all helped me become a better person and they have pushed me to do

better work.

Finally, I thank the birth mothers who agreed to participate in this study. Beyond

helping me write a thesis, they are helping to change the world by loving themselves and

their children. We should all be grateful.
















TABLE OF CONTENTS



A C K N O W L E D G M E N T S ................................................................................................. iv

ABSTRACT ........ ............................ ...... ......... ........... vii

CHAPTER

1 INTRODUCTION AND HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE........................................1

In tro d u ctio n .................................................................................. 1
H historical Significance........ .................................................................. ...............

2 RECENT RESEARCH AND THEORY ......................................... ...............7

Theoretical Contributions: The Negotiation of Identity ............................................8
Lesbian D ecision-M making in Starting Fam ilies ........................................ .................9
The Creation and Maintenance of Lesbian Families ...............................................12
Theoretical Sensitivity .................. ............................ .. ..... .............. ... 18

3 RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS..................... .......................................23

R e c ru itm e n t ........................................................................................................... 2 3
P a rtic ip a n ts ........................................................................................................... 2 4
In te rv iew s .............................................................................2 6
A n a ly sis ..............................................................................2 8

4 THE NARRATION OF SAMENESS AND DIFFERENCE ............... ............... 29

T he M maintenance of Sam eness ............................................................................. 30
T he E experience of D difference ......................................................... ............... 36
The Interplay Between Sameness and Difference ................................................41
Sameness and Difference in Miscarriage .................................. ...............44
Sameness and Difference in Public Treatment ....................................................46

5 THE NEGOTIATION OF BIOLOGY ................................................49

The Evaluation of the Sperm Donor ..... ............................................... 49
Pregnancy as Critical in the Formation of Love Bonds ...........................................53
Negotiating the Meaning of Family, Love, and Connectedness...............................56









Investing in L ove .................................................... ... .. ............ 56
Creating Love B onds ........................................................................... 58

6 NOT JUST LEGITIMATE FAMILIES, BUT FAMILIES THAT LEGITIMATE...62

H ow D om inant Forces Create Legitim acy ........................................ .....................63
How Lesbian Communities Measure Legitimacy ............................................... 68

7 PU B L IC PR E G N A N C IE S....................................... .............................................72

Public A accountability ............. ............... ............ .......... ............. .. ...... .... 72
Publicly Accountable Decision to Parent....... .... ............................... ....... 73
Publicly A accountable Education ........................................ ...... ............... 76
A accountable Identities .................................. ... .. ..... ............ 79
Losing Lesbianism .............. ... .... .................. .... ........... 80
Gaining Bonds with Heterosexual Women......... ............................. 84

8 DISCU SSION ................................................ .................. 89

APPENDIX

A SEMI-STRUCTURED QUALITATIVE INTERVIEW GUIDE..............................98

B IN F O R M E D C O N SE N T ............................................................... ..................... 100

Informed Consent for Face-to-Face Interviews..............................................100
Inform ed Consent for Phone Interview s.................................... ... ..................101

LIST OF REFEREN CE S ......... .................................. ........................ ............... 104

B IO G R A PH ICA L SK ETCH ......... ................. ...................................... .....................109















Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts

CHANGING BODIES MEAN SHIFTING WORLDS: LESBIAN WOMEN AND
PREGNANCY EXPERIENCES

By

Maura Ryan

May 2006

Chair: Kendal L. Broad
Major Department: Sociology

This research examines the social experiences of pregnancy for lesbian women. It

utilizes eighteen in-depth qualitative interviews with lesbian birth mothers to investigate

their thoughts, concerns, and experiences in their families and in their social worlds. This

document discusses the ways in which lesbian women who become mothers through

pregnancy must make sense of their pregnancies in a world that privileges and assumes

heterosexual pregnancies and the coping strategies they employ to legitimate their

pregnancies and families.

This thesis uses a specific lens for viewing lesbian motherhood, one of sameness

and difference, where lesbian and gay family researchers are encouraged to design

projects that seek to understand how gay and lesbian families simultaneously experience

similarity with and difference from heterosexual families.















CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION AND HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE

Introduction

Motherhood is the ultimate embodiment of womanhood; lesbianism is the

antithesis of true womanhood. Motherhood is something all women should accomplish;

lesbianism is something that is seen as a failure of character. Motherhood through

pregnancy is something all women should do; lesbianism is something no woman should

do.

This is what our social world offers us in understanding the role of mother and the

role of the lesbian. While the above list may look rudimentarily dichotomous, there is

rarely any complexity in the way that we culturally understand the two identities. It is

rare, for instance, to see cultural references to motherhood as being detrimental to women

or to see lesbianism celebrated as a fully woman-identified phenomena; such cases are

not seen in wider culture, but in the cultural criticisms written by subgroups of feminists

and queer1 people. It is perhaps even rarer in folk knowledge to see an overlap of mother

and lesbian identities. The lesbian mother is, in our cultural imagination, an absurdity, an

oxymoron, an impossibility. Academic contributions have articulated the socially

constructed dichotomy between mother and lesbian and the paradoxical implication of

placing the words next to each other as in, lesbian mother (see DiLapi, 1989; Lewin,

1993; Hequembourg & Farrell, 1999).


1 Throughout the thesis I use the word queer to indicate people who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or
transgender [GLBT].









Lesbians who want to be mothers have an initial project that most women do not

have: to convince themselves that it is possible for them to become mothers. While it is

assumed that heterosexual women should and will mother, which can be damaging in

other ways, lesbians must prove to themselves (and sometimes gate keepers in acquiring

children or acquiring sperm) that they are able to mother. This is why, in addition to

many other scholars, I am interested in lesbian mothers. I am specifically interested in

lesbian mothers who choose to use their bodies for pregnancy. Pregnancy offers us a

window of understanding into the world of motherhood; it is the time of transition; it is a

time of visible motherhood.

This research offers a qualitative study of the pregnancy experiences of eighteen

lesbian women. In its offering I hope to make the complex nature of their experiences

more understandable and to make the socially constructed nature of pregnancy more

approachable for investigation.

Historical Significance

In 1990 Newsweek made the famous claim that the United States was in the midst

of a "gayby boom," wherein gay men and lesbians were making the choice to become

parents (Salholz, 1990). This was a historical shift in the way gay parenting occurs

because gay men and lesbians had the social capital to establish families of their own in

combination with the still existing, but older model where a once heterosexual parent

comes out as gay or lesbian, couples with a member of the same sex and raises his/her

children in the context of a same-sex relationship. Both the women's movement and gay

civil rights movements have probably been influential in increasing the numbers of

lesbian parents in the United States (Lewin, 1993).









Although lesbian families are becoming increasingly common and current

demographics of the United States tell us that conventionally, intact, two-parent families

are making way for alternative family forms (Lewin, 1993; Flaks et al., 1995; Baca Zinn,

& Eitzen, 2004), there is a cultural reluctance to accept family forms that stray too far

from what is considered conventional, especially gay and lesbian family formations

(Flaks et al., 1995; Shore, 1996; Clarke, 2001). According to Judith Stacey (2003), gay

and lesbian families are starting points in understanding nuanced forms of kinship and

exist as evidence that there is a publicly unproblematized gap between the ways families

are and the way institutional bodies and legal systems expect them to be. This gap results

in a dangerous legal, social, and political climate for gay and lesbian families. As Kristin

Joos (2003) points out, "the existing legislation does not accurately represent the needs of

LGBT families today. Although there has been progress, there has also been backlash.

Laws vary from state to state and county to county. Some courts represent these families

fairly while others persist in denying their legitimacy as well as their very existence."

While in the last thirty years there have been great academic strides in

incorporating an understanding of gay and lesbian families into a social science

understanding of families, we fall short in some major areas. Most existing research on

lesbian motherhood, for example, has focused on a feminist analysis of negotiating

conflicting identities of lesbian and mother, on the decision-making processes in creating

lesbian families, and on the creation and maintenance of lesbian families. We know very

little about how lesbians experience their time of pregnancy and the ways in which their

pregnancies exist as times to prepare for loving their children, for existing in their

families of origin differently, or existing in new (motherhood) communities. All of what









we know about lesbian motherhood must begin in pregnancy: it is the time that lesbians

begin to see themselves as mothers; it is the time that we can most clearly see the

different treatment in the same experience. Just as lesbian mothering is assumed to be

wholly different from heterosexual mothering, the heterosexual imagination (if it can

imagine or understand lesbian pregnancy at all) treats lesbian pregnancy as wholly

different from heterosexual pregnancy. The difference is that while mothering is a social

experience, pregnancy is assumed to be solely a biological one. Mothering may or may

not be different across sexual orientations or between different individuals, but pregnancy

is largely the same body process. Through the conception of what differently embodied

pregnancies mean and through the public treatment of those pregnancies, we can see

more clearly our skewed views of lesbian mothering and the socially constructed nature

of pregnancy.

Historically, we still know very little about lesbian pregnancy and motherhood.

Lesbianism, firstly, is a relatively new social construction, occurring as a social category

somewhere in the late nineteenth or early twentieth century (Faderman, 1991; Katz,

1995). Women who are now understood to be lesbians, in the early twentieth century,

were educated women who partnered with other educated women in Boston marriages,

arrangements that were like conventional marriages except for their assumed asexual

nature by outsiders; children were not part of these family formations (Faderman, 1991).

In Kennedy and Davis' (1994) work on lesbian bar culture of the 1930's, 1940's,

and 1950's, there is some mention of early lesbian pregnancies. Men who wanted to

have intercourse with lesbians would enter lesbian bars and offer to pay to have sex with

a masculine, or butch, woman in the bar, because masculinity signified real lesbianism;









due to economic hardships and a lack of other money-earning avenues, butch lesbians

often found work this way. When they would become pregnant they would make up

stories that they had large tumors in their stomachs or that they had gained a lot of weight

recently; when it was time to give birth they would leave town and return afterwards,

never speaking of having been pregnant. It is significant that our first narratives of

lesbian pregnancies are ones that exist because of a lack of economic and social options

and are carried out in shame.

Still other knowledge of lesbian pregnancy exist outside academia in the personal

narratives of lesbian pregnancy. A more famous example of these narratives is Cherrie

Moraga's Waiting in the Wings (1997) in which she offers a diary written during her

pregnancy that reveals her changing emotions during the gestation of her now son, Rafael

Angel Moraga. In these pages she describes a negotiation of two distinct experiences: the

raw phsycial nature of gestating a child and how odd it felt, at times, to have a pregnant

body as a lesbian woman who was trained to not see herself as a mother. Do to academic

inattention to pregnancy experiences there is a current disconnect between the ways in

which lesbians in the popular press are navigating their experiences with

pregnancy/motherhood and the ways in which academia is attempting to understand

lesbian motherhood. To understand motherhood, we must understand the transition into

it. To understand the ways in which lesbians feel they have a viable cultural space as

mothers, we must examine the ways in which pregnancy is imagined, decided upon,

treated in the cultural landscape, and the ways in which it is retold as narrative.









To build an academic understanding of lesbian pregnancy experiences that is

mindful of the historical and social meaning of the endeavor, I asked the simple research

question, how do lesbians experience pregnancy?

In what follows I offer an investigation into how the eighteen women I interviewed

experienced their pregnancies in terms of its relation to the standard heterosexual model

of pregnancy; in their negotiation of the semi-biological nature of their families due to

their biological relationship with their children and their partners' non-biological

contribution to the family; in the ways that their pregnancies have served as legitimating

functions for them as citizens, members of their families of origin, and sometimes, in

their lesbian communities; and finally, in the ways in which they become publicly

accountable for their pregnancies.














CHAPTER 2
RECENT RESEARCH AND THEORY

This chapter offers an overview of the theoretical and empirical contributions on

lesbian mothers that have been most prominent in recent years. The overview is

separated into three areas: theoretical contributions on the negotiation of identity,

decision-making in creating lesbian families, and the maintenance of lesbian families. In

each section it will be clear that there is a gap in our knowledge on lesbian mothers and

lesbian families: the period of pregnancy experiences for lesbian women. Although we

now know a lot about the ways in which lesbians strategize to become pregnant and the

ways in which they build their families after acquiring children, we know very little about

how lesbians describe their experiences during pregnancy.

Another more subtle gap exists in the current research on lesbian mothers. This

missing part of our body of knowledge is more subtle because it is one of focus rather

than empirical contribution. What I mean by this is that most empirical work on lesbian

mothers has chosen to focus on the difference in experience or in the similarity of

experience lesbian women have in comparison to normative heterosexual standards. The

idea of the lesbian mother necessarily incorporates sameness and difference at once; it is

inescapable. For that reason, I am convinced that the researchers who have produced

these studies have been mindful of this inextricability: if they have chosen to focus on

difference it is because they have assumed the inherent similarity of being a mother; if

they chosen to focus on similarity it is because they have assumed the constructed

difference in being a lesbian and looked to the ways lesbians create sameness despite









their marginality. Still, without a theoretically clear stance that sameness and difference

are simultaneous, we are left with a missing piece in understanding lesbian motherhood.

What it is more, in relation to this specific study, the simultaneity of sameness and

difference can be seen most clearly during the time of pregnancy where lesbian women

can experience identical body processes, but be treated much differently and experience

their pregnancies much differently than heterosexual women.

Theoretical Contributions: The Negotiation of Identity

Theoretical contributions in the area of lesbian motherhood have incorporated a

view of sameness and difference by focusing on the negotiation of conflicting identity

categories: mother and lesbian. For lesbians, the difference of their sexual orientation

must be understood in the context of their newly found sameness (in terms of an

experience of womanhood) of motherhood.

In popular imagination, the idea of the lesbian mother is imagined as an oxymoron.

The separate roles of mother and lesbian, which are juxtaposed as good women, who

reproduce within the natural context of heterosexuality, and failed women, who violate

the natural order as necessarily non-procreative beings, are difficult to reconcile (Flaks et

al., 1995; Lewin, 1995; Hequembourg & Farrell, 1999).

Alongside the cultural ideal that all women must become mothers there exists a

motherhood hierarchy composed of women who make appropriate mothers and those

who make inappropriate mothers, where heterosexual women are the most appropriate

and lesbian women are the least appropriate (DiLapi, 1989; Hequembourg & Farrell,

1999). What results, for individual lesbian mothers, is a combination of their marginal

identity, which consists of their lesbianism and a mainstream identity, which consists of

their motherhood role (Flaks et al., 1995; Hequembourg & Farrell, 1999).









The social proscription against lesbian motherhood is based on an ideological

system that makes motherhood a primary identity category for women; women must

achieve motherhood to be successful women and they cannot be lesbian and be

successful (Woolet & Phoenix, 1991; Lewin, 1995). Furthermore, the ideology that

parenting situations must include a father has not only left lesbian families suspect and

problematized, but discriminated against in terms of acquiring children (Breways et al.,

1997). So, while individual lesbian mothers must work to negotiate their complex social

locations, the societal solution for treatment of lesbian mothers has been to marginalize

them for their unacceptable type of mothering situations, ignoring the complexity of their

multiple categories.

With the exception of Hequembourg and Farrell (1999) there has been more

theoretical contribution to this lesbian/mother category divide than empirical works that

investigates how lesbian mothers actually cope with it. The theoretical contributions,

though, bring up interesting questions as to how these necessary negotiations are carried

out within a social setting that dismisses their motherhood because of their lesbianism

and more specifically, how these negotiations are accomplished during the transitional

moment of pregnancy.

Lesbian Decision-Making in Starting Families

Much of the literature on decision-making in the creation of lesbian families has

come from a standpoint of difference. It would be difficult to construct an empirical

work that focused on how lesbians decide which partner will become pregnant, on child

attainment through insemination clinics, or on the discriminatory nature of insemination

clinics through an assumed lens of sameness. Understandably, then, this literature's

focus is on the different experiences lesbians have in creating their families.









This literature often begins with the assumption that lesbians do not establish

families in order to assimilate into a heterosexual society that priorities child rearing

(Schneider, 1997). On the contrary, lesbian families undermine the heterosexual model

of families that dominates our social understanding of the entity and for this reason

should be considered quite radical (Dalton & Beilby, 2000; Dunne, 2000).

Unlike established dominant patterns of child attainment, there is no one model for

gay and lesbian families. While the heterosexual model may not be strictly followed by

heterosexuals (evidenced by cohabiting couples who raise children or by the increasing

number of single parent homes), there is no model for gay and lesbian families. As

Hayden (1995) points out, lesbian women, in creating families, may do the following:

partner with another woman to raise children who were conceived in a heterosexual

partnership, adopt children, foster children, or decide to reproduce children through the

impregnation of one or both of the lesbian partners; there is no one model in which that

lesbian parents find their way to motherhood. Often, she notes, in deciding to have a

child in the context of a lesbian relationship, pregnancy is an attractive option because of

difficulties in the legal adoption of children by lesbians and the legal precedence assumed

in biological connection, which, through pregnancy, one mother will have. This is

especially true in the state of Florida, one of the few states that specifically bans gay

adoption.

Ellen Lewin (1993) tells us that although children have been raised in the context

of lesbian relationships for decades now, it is becoming much more common because of

the women's movement, the more visible gay rights movement, and reproductive

technologies.









However, reproductive technologies, while helpful for lesbian women, were not

established to help them form families and often exclude them. Because of the socially

constructed importance placed on a father's role in childhood development, many clinics

that perform invitro fertilization discriminate against lesbians in their practices (Breways

et al., 1997). Lewin (1993) notes too that the available technology of artificial

insemination is often complicated by a physician's unwillingness to cooperate due to

value systems that are prejudiced against lesbians and lesbian families.

When the technology is available, it is often inaccessible. Murphy (2001) argues

that lesbian discrimination occurs in the refusal to diagnosis physician-assisted

insemination as medically necessary (and therefore covered by insurance) to lesbians.

She argues that while there is no medical dysfunction, as there might be with

heterosexuals who seek artificial insemination technologies, the assistance of

impregnation is medically necessary for lesbians and lesbian couples. Ignoring this

medical necessity means that the cost of insemination becomes prohibitive and the non-

impregnated partner is not automatically seen as the second parent (as they are in

heterosexual situations).

The journey to motherhood through reproductive technology, once the obstacles

have been navigated, reveals a dynamic process in which the co-parents of the future

child make strategic decisions that concern choices of the characteristics of the donor

(Chabot & Ames, 2004).

While this lens of difference is possibly more useful than a focus on sameness in

understanding the ways in which lesbians experience motherhood, it ignores the possible

similarities found in motherhood experiences. I am interested, for example, in the ways









in which similarity is experienced in preparing for loving a future child, the ways in

which partners are incorporated into the pregnancy experience, and in the public

receiving a pregnant woman, though difference must be present in all of these

experiences as well. Although difference is a key component in understanding lesbian

motherhood and pregnancy decisions, similarity must be a simultaneous component of

our understanding.

The Creation and Maintenance of Lesbian Families

Unlike the empirical work on decision-making in creating lesbian families that

generally has a lens of difference, the literature on the maintenance of lesbian families

takes an either/or approach where either a work focuses on the different ways in which

lesbians do family or it focuses on the ways in which lesbians strive to create legitimacy,

or sameness, in the comparison with other family forms. I discuss important

contributions from both foci below.

The difference approach in discussing lesbian family forms has been used in

empirical studies that seek to understand how the nature of lesbian parent households

disrupts normative assumptions surrounding the workings of gender in families,

specifically in delegated work and child care responsibilities or it has focused on the

alternative ways members of lesbian families define, imagine, and constitute their

families. While sameness is probably assumed in these studies, it is not specifically

noted in them. Again, this focus on difference leaves us with an incomplete

understanding of lesbian families.

It has been argued extensively that the very arrangement of two women as primary

parent undermines the gendered foundations on which the model for American families

rests [see Hayden, 1995 for a discussion]. While the mere existence of a two mother









household disrupts the gendered assumptions of parenthood and household maintenance,

much work is conducted by lesbian mothers to change the gendered meaning of work in

the home. Dalton & Beilby (2000) point out, for instance, that even though there is often

an existence of two parents in lesbian family forms, they cannot rely on the gendered

meanings of the two parent model, mother and father. Instead, according to Dunne

(2000), lesbian families work to define the categories of duties in their homes apart from

mother and father roles.

A specific work on the gendered nature of lesbian family work is useful here.

Maureen Sullivan's (1996) work illustrates the ways in which lesbian families perform

this definitional work. By finding a balance between economic support from outside paid

labor and an equitable division of internal household labor, lesbian families strive to

create a fair division of labor necessary to household functioning.

While lesbian mothers experience social, legal, and economic sanctions because of

their sexual orientation (Shore, 1996), lesbian families have developed various coping

mechanisms to maintain their families in a society that does not recognize them

(Patterson, 2000; Oswald, 2002; Hequembourg, 2004; Swainson & Tasker, 2005).

Some of the maintenance work in lesbian families relies on GLBT community

bonds, or fictive kin networks, where non-biologically related community members are

thought of as actual kin members (Weston, 1997; Carrington, 2004). In other words, gay

and lesbian people have found different ways to do family when conventional ways to do

it have been closed to them. This way of establishing non-biologically related people as

close members of the family has been an instrumental tactic in establishing the non-









biological mother, for instance, as a primary family member without outside social or

legal recognition of her.

Similarly, it has been argued that lesbian families may not problematize their

differences, but insist on opening definitions of family to accommodate them. Swainson

and Takser (2005) conducted a study with lesbian family members asking them to draw a

genogram, or a family tree. Instead of trying to fit their existing family forms into

dominant models (represented by the standard genogram) participants redrew the

diagram, adding lines, circles and other symbols to make space for the way their families

looked to them. This data was used as evidence to argue that lesbian families reconstitute

family formations.

Along the same lines, lesbian families have been found to create new language and

symbols that legitimize, support, and affirm their family structures. According to Oswald

(2002), members of gay and lesbian families take part in what she calls intentionality, or

behavior that seeks to legitimize their family forms, and redefinition, which uses newly

formed linguistic structures to challenge dominant paradigms and include their family

members.

There has also been great focus on the ways in which lesbian families compare to

dominant, or heterosexual families, and the ways in which lesbian mothers are quite

comparable to heterosexual mothers. The focus on similar positions as mothers and the

strategies lesbians use to act similarly to heterosexual families is documented in several

important empirical works. In their focus on similarity they assume that difference is

necessarily present, but without articulating it, the window of overlap between sameness

and difference is lost in their works.









In her groundbreaking work on lesbian mothers, Ellen Lewin (1993) researched a

group of lesbian mothers and single heterosexual mothers finding important theoretical

similarities between the two groups. She argued that without the presence of a male

wage earner or the protection that comes from a male partner in a romantic relationship,

lesbian mothers and heterosexual single mothers were in similar positions in the

motherhood hierarchy in terms of economic and legal stability. She further argues that

when social acceptance of motherhood is taken out of consideration (as it is with lesbian

mothers and single heterosexual mothers), we can begin to investigate the real intentions

of motherhood. With her lesbian mothers, she found that while most of her participants

had children who were born into previously heteronormative relationships, the raising of

their children with another woman necessarily meant a commitment to finding new

models of family life.

Those new models of family life have been researched extensively in the discussion

of lesbian parenthood. Dalton and Beilby (2000) found that without the legal sanction of

marriage available to lesbian couples, co-parenting replaces marriage as a sign of

commitment to the relationship. Once a couple has children (where one partner is the

biological mother) both parties work to establish the non-biological mother as a full

parent through equal time with babies and the equitable divisions of work in caring for

babies through to equal parenting experiences with teenagers. Likewise, Maureen

Sullivan (2001) found that the establishment of the non-biological mother, what she calls

the Modern Other Mother, or MOM, as another primary caretaker takes place in the

context of both parties' desire to construct a two-parent family based on social, rather

than biological, mothering and actual practices that establish the MOM as such.









In addition to thinking of members of their family as full family members in the

absence of biological ties, lesbian families have also been active in creating strategic

tactics that normalize their family forms. These may take the form of lesbian couple

commitment ceremonies or the second parent adoption of a non-biologically related

child. While these may be understood as measures to preserve some semblance of legal

protection for their families, they can also be understood to be strategies that establish

lesbian families as more like dominant (legitimate) families (Hequembourg, 2004).

The literature on the maintenance of lesbian families, whether its focus is on

similarity or difference, misses a key aspect in the discussion on constructing the lesbian

family: the period of pregnancy experiences. If we are discussing lesbians who create

families (and not women with children who come out as lesbian and create families), it is

during pregnancy that a lesbian woman would begin to understand the ways in which her

lesbianism marks her as a different kind of mother. It is during pregnancy that she would

have to learn how she is being interpreted as a mother by strangers, how to interact in

public settings as a mother, and how to negotiate the difficult terrain of doctor's offices,

baby stores, and Lamaze classes.

As I have said earlier, we have made strong academic contributions to the

understanding of lesbian motherhood identities, practices in becoming mothers, and

maintaining family formations. While we have a vast and growing understanding of

pregnancy decision-making and lesbian family forms, we are left without much

knowledge on how lesbian women experience their time during pregnancy. We know

how women decide to become pregnant and how they maintain families while raising









children, but we currently do not know how lesbians transition form planning

motherhood into doing motherhood, the period marked by being pregnant.

Looking more generally to writings on pregnancy, there have been recent feminist

works in the popular press discussing the ways in which the societal concept of what a

mother should be shapes a future mother's concept of herself, her sexuality, her

mothering abilities, and her concept of her former self across lines of sexual orientation;

pregnancy, they point out, is the period that initiates these feelings (Gore, 1998; Gore,

2000; Crittenden, 2001; Bright, 2003). While according to Bailey (2001) there has been

a feminist inattention to theorizing pregnancy in the academic world due to our essential

understanding of the process, several empirical works exist discussing the psychological

negotiations women initiate during pregnancy. Early works, for instance, looked at

pregnancy as an emotional and psychological task both in the woman's new conception

of her family and in her new conception of herself that was brought on by the transitional

period of pregnancy where a woman is taken from non-mother to mother and, as a result,

forces her to occupy a new social role [for an overview of early heterosexual pregnancy

literature see Valentine, 1982]. There has been an ongoing academic investigation into

the ways in which heterosexual pregnant women struggle to understand themselves as

people who embody both aspects of the binary between subject and object found in

rational western thinking by being subjects who holds objects, or others, in their

subjective bodies [for a discussion on the trajectory of this debate and an analysis of an

empirical study on heterosexual pregnant women's negotiation of it see Houvouras,

2004]. In addition, Bailey (2001) has found that the social context in which pregnancy

occurs and the ways in which pregnancy is thought to make women feel more womanly









results in individual women actually feeling more womanly. In other words, because of

their social worlds, their gender becomes embodied by their pregnancies.

Just as a focus on pregnancy in heterosexual women's experiences has offered us

an understanding of the ways in which women are understood as social actors, paying

attention to the specificity of lesbian pregnancy offers key insights into the ways lesbian

motherhood is understood in our society, the ways that lesbian mothers make sense of

their pregnancies and their families in a social context that ignores their existence, and

the ways that identical processes (such as pregnancy) can be constructed by dominant

discourse as different (as in lesbian pregnancies) and deserving of different treatment.

In asking lesbian women to tell me the story of their pregnancies and then asking

subsequent questions focused on their interactions with partners, family members, and

the public, I offer, in some cases, agreement with existing research on how lesbian

women conceptualize their families and, at other times, I offer expanded knowledge on

the area of family conceptualization, love, the understanding of difference, and shifting

nature of primary identity categories. Throughout my findings I offer an understanding

of sameness and difference at the same time. The difference in treatment during the same

biological process of pregnancy provides knowledge on the nature of lesbian motherhood

and lesbian life experiences, but also provides sociological understanding of the socially

constructed nature of pregnancy, the ways in which we make meaning through an

understanding of ourselves and others, and the simultaneous malleability and stability of

families of origin and families of choice.

Theoretical Sensitivity

Consistent with the tenets of grounded theory methodology, no single theoretical

framework has been applied to the data before its own theoretical contributions were









established. The theoretical frameworks of symbolic interactionism, feminist theory, and

queer theory inform and guide this research. These theoretical perspectives are used to

provide a backdrop of understanding for the ways in which lesbian women understand

their pregnancies in their world, how they create meaning of family, of their pregnancy

experiences, and of the ways in which the public interacts with them. What I mean by

this is that I am particularly concerned with the practice of meaning-making on an

interactional and social level. In addition, it is particularly important to recognize the

ways in which meaning-making happens within the institutional contexts of family,

medicine, and the legal system, where their parenting desires and experiences are denied,

questioned, fraught with suspicion or dismissed and where heterosexuality, heterosexual

parenting, and bio-medical definitions of family are privileged.

Symbolic Interaction reflects the idea that people are constantly interpreting their

social world through social interaction with other people (Mead, 1934; Blumer, 1969).

Through the need to grasp an understanding of the social world, our sense of symbols and

language meaning is heightened; human beings, in this way, are distinct from other forms

of life because of our unique ability to communicate through shared meaning (Mead,

1934; Blumer, 1969; Stryker, 1980). It is particularly important in symbolic

interactionism that while institutional forces may shape an actor's motivations and/or

understanding of his/her motivations, they cannot make the actor act (Blumer, 1969).

Symbolic Interactionism, as a perspective that assumes that social situations are built on a

dynamic interpretation process provides an orientation for investigating the ways in

which lesbian women make meaning of their pregnancies in different social settings: with









their partners; with their families of origin; at the grocery store; in their doctor's offices;

buying baby clothes; at a party with lesbian friends; or when walking down the street.

I am guided, here, too by Goffman's (1974) concept of primary frames where

members of a given society share overarching frameworks to make sense of their

interactions, but where, he points out, "there is an incomplete sharing of these cognitive

resources" (Goffman, 1974: 27). While we may have a shared cultural sense of what

pregnancy means (that a woman gestates a fetus for around nine months) and the ways in

which we should treat a pregnant woman (making sure that she does not lift anything

heavy), dominant ideologies surrounding pregnancy allow people to make assumptions

about pregnant women's lived situations and influence the ways in which other people

will treat her. If, for example, our shared knowledge of pregnancy is that it happens in

the context of legal marriage, a stranger is likely to treat a visibly pregnant woman as if

she is legally married whether or not she actually is married. This is particularly

important in lesbian women's meaning-making of pregnancy because, we could say, the

primary framework for understanding the social relationship leading to pregnancy is that

it happens in the context of a married, heterosexual relationship. The incomplete sharing

of cognitive resources in our society, then, means that lesbian women have a different

concept of the possibilities in pregnancy and then must constantly understand and

negotiate the safest actions they can take to secure their families and their sense of selves.

However, I am conscious of structural forces too. If structural forces cannot make

an actor act, they can intensely shape their action or thwart their action. To incorporate a

lens that is sensitive to the ways hierarchical power shapes the lives of individuals, I

employ the frameworks of feminist theory and queer theory.









According to Joan Alway (1995), feminist theory centers on describing women's

lives, experiences, and subordination; its goal is to uncover the ways in which women's

experiences have been overlooked in the way our world is understood and to make the

lived experiences of women's lives better. Distinct from the practice of using gender as a

variable and from the misunderstood concept that feminist theory only reflects the social

movement of feminists, feminist theory seeks to make gender a theoretical focal point in

our dissection of the social world (Stacey & Thorne, 1985).

More specifically, in the area of motherhood, I take a feminist dissection of the

identity and follow Woolet and Phoneix's (1991) argument that motherhood is a primary

identity category for women and its achievement means success; women who do not

achieve motherhood in the socially proscribed way face severe social sanctions. In

addition, I am informed by DiLapi's (1989) description of the motherhood hierarchy in

which heterosexual women are deemed the most appropriate mothers and lesbian women

are deemed the least appropriate.

Similar to the project of feminist theory, queer theory seeks to establish ways of

uncovering the overlooked experiences of queer people's lives, while centering sexuality

as an academic discussion and problematizing our taken for granted knowing of

sexuality, heterosexuality, and queerness (Stein & Plummer, 1994). This project, as one

that seeks to center the lives of lesbian mothers and in so doing problematizes our current

construction of mothers as solely heterosexual, fulfills these goals.

Finally, I am guided by a particular theoretical perspective in my understanding of

kinship and love. First, I am influenced by Gubrium and Holstein's (1990) work on

family that posits that it is a "descriptive practice," shaped through various interpretive









processes; created separately from the members who create what we call a family, the

family, as we know, is an accomplishment of created meaning. Also, the way that this

work views the kinship ties amongst gay and lesbian families is highly influenced by

Kath Weston's (1997) perspective that gay men and lesbians rely on fictive kin networks,

or families of choice, to create family bonds. While her perspective does not include

parent-partner-child relationships, her focus on friendships as family networks is helpful

in conceiving how gay men and lesbians build family formations that are not (solely)

based on biological kinships. In the same way, Jaqui Gabb's (2001) idea that who we

love is socially constructed and that because of the sexual and social marginalization of

lesbian women they may construct their love relationships outside of those socially

constructed love prescriptions. With these theoretical backgrounds in mind, I argue that

family formations and love relationships are consciously created and maintained by

lesbian parents and that these love relationships are produced, thoroughly investigated,

and experienced during pregnancy.














CHAPTER 3
RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS

This work, as stated earlier, offers an analysis of qualitative data, 18 in-depth

interviews, with lesbian birth mothers who were asked to describe their experiences

during pregnancy. This chapter is written in four sections: the process of recruitment for

interviews; a description of participants; background on the creation of the in-depth

interview; and guide for understanding the analysis of the interviews.

Recruitment

Analysis for this paper relies on audiotaped, in-depth interviews with 18 lesbian

women who are currently pregnant or who have been pregnant (and brought the

pregnancy to term) within the last ten years. Participants were recruited and interviewed

through multiple methods and in different cities during 2005.

Initially my research was localized in the North Central Florida area, specifically in

the college town where I currently do graduate work. I quickly found myself in a crisis

of recruitment, as I only solicited one interview. While I was in contact with many

lesbian mothers in this area, very few of them have gone through pregnancy in the last

ten years. I then changed my data collection approach to include tape-recorded, in-depth

phone interviews and made initial contacts with friends of my acquaintances and

colleagues who knew I was beginning this research. From these initial contacts I

employed snowball sampling techniques to reach more mothers. I also e-mailed relevant

listserves and organizations explaining my research, including a Florida-based play group

for children of gays and lesbians, which garnered ten phone interviews. Other









respondents participated in phone interviews from their homes in the following places:

Seattle, WA; San Francisco, CA; Vancouver, Canada; New Hampshire; Virginia;

Maryland; and Santa Cruz, CA.

Participants

The lesbian birth mothers interviewed were all in their late 30's to mid 40's. All of

the mothers identified as white; one identified her ethnicity as Puerto Rican. Three of the

White women interviewed were in inter-racial relationships during their pregnancies (two

with African American women and one with a Latina woman). The white woman with a

Latina partner and one of the women with an African American partner chose a sperm

donor who was Latino/African American, respectively, in order to produce bi-racial

children.

While I neither formally asked participants to classify themselves in a particular

social class category, nor asked for numerical representations of their household incomes,

the jobs that my participants performed marked them as middle class and (in some cases)

upper middle class. Some of the professions represented included nurse, architect,

university instructor, accountant, police officer, guidance counselor, manager/business

owner, and stay-at-home mother. An unfortunate aspect of my research is that it relies on

the experiences of white, fairly affluent, women. From the 2000 census, we know that, in

the United States, forty-four percent of Latina same-sex couples are raising children

under the age of eighteen (Cianciotto, 2005) and that Black female same-sex households

are raising children around the same rates as Black heterosexual households (61 vs. 69%)

and at about twice the rate of white lesbian households (Dang & Frazer, 2004). Those

women are not represented here (with the exception of my one participant who identifies

culturally and ethnically as Puerto Rican, but racially, as White). This may be a limit of









the study in focusing on pregnancy because many lesbian mothers of color in the United

States are mothering through adoption and by fostering (Sears et. al, 2005). An

alternative explanation of this drawback in my research may be that as White middle-

class researcher, I had access to other White middle-class women. Still, deciding to

become pregnant and acquiring children through an anonymous donor from a sperm bank

is an experience characterized by White affluence. Each experience with family,

analyzed below, should thus be taken as my participants specific relationship with society

not only in terms of their lesbianism, but also their whiteness and middle-class status(es).

While I do not speak to the ways in which their race and class privileges have shaped

their experiences in my analysis, the reader should acknowledge that these statuses are

necessarily present in the formation and understanding of their experiences with

motherhood and pregnancy.

While my participants' intentions toward and experiences with becoming pregnant

may have varied slightly, the majority of them, 14, acquired sperm (or in one case, an

embryo) for the purposes of insemination, from a sperm bank. Two of the birth mothers

became pregnant using a known donor's sperm, with whom they do not currently share a

parenting relationship and one of the birth mothers (although identifying as a lesbian at

the time) became pregnant (to her surprise and eventual joy) during an ongoing sexual

relationship she was participating in with a male partner. One birth mother I interviewed,

though acquiring sperm from a sperm bank, is serving as a surrogate for another couple.

She has two children of her own (conceived in a heterosexual relationship), gave birth to

twins two years ago as a surrogate for a gay male couple (while identifying as a lesbian)









and was pregnant with twins, when I spoke with her, acting again as a surrogate for a

heterosexual couple.

All of the women interviewed identified as lesbians at the conception of their

pregnancies and at the time of interview. While their identification with the category

lesbian should be considered the most important, it is also important to note that I

operationalize the term to mean anyone who solely partners with women and/or calls

themselves lesbian; the presence or absence of sexual contact with men, in this way, is

unimportant.

Interviews

Semi-structured interviews were conducted with the 18 lesbian mothers and lasted

45-100 minutes. My initial interview took place in the birth mother's home while her

current partner and child played in another room. All subsequent interviews were

conducted over the telephone with me in my home and the participants in theirs. While

there are drawbacks to phone interviews, in that the researcher cannot measure facial

reactions and other non-verbal communications, the ease with which a participant may be

able to answer interview question because do to the comfort of being in her home

(possibly with her partner sitting next to her) should not be under-estimated.

Before beginning each interview I asked each interviewee what they would like to

know about me and/or the study in which they were participating. Many women would

ask me if I was lesbian/gay, if I was a mother, or if I intended to become pregnant; one of

the White women who has an African American partner asked me if I was White.

Sensing that this may be important to even participants who did not ask, and in alignment

with my feminist researcher sensibilities that tell me to put myself into my research, I

would answer these questions even if the participant had none. In other words, if a









participant told me that she had no questions, I would tell her, I'm a lesbian, Iam not

currently a mother and I have never been pregnant, but I do intend to mother in the

future. If she only asked if I was a mother, I would answer that question and then say,

I'm a lesbian and I have never been pregnant, but intend to become a mother in the

future, and so on. Interestingly, this often provided me with additional information; after

answering a question from her perspective, an interviewee often gave me advice that I

may take into account in my own life.

My participants were offered open-ended questions that focused on their thoughts,

feelings, and experiences with motherhood and pregnancy. The focus of the interviews

was on their experience with pregnancy as a bodily journey and as a transitional period

into motherhood. Integral in this were their perceptions of their public interaction with

strangers, co-workers, health care professionals, and their private interactions with

partners, chosen family networks, friends, and their families of origin.

Initially I planned to focus interviews on the topic of body image during pregnancy,

but the participants found nothing relevant to discuss in their bodily experiences during

pregnancy. They felt beautiful even though their feet swelled; it was, according to them,

uncomplicated. Following Gubrium and Holstein's active interview approach (1995) I

recognized that the interview was a co-construction and that my participants had an equal

opportunity to shape our conversation; building my project on Strauss and Corbin's

(1998) grounded theory, I recognized that I had to follow the themes that emerged,

paying closer attention to areas my participants found most important in their experiences

of pregnancy. The result is that my findings have little to do with the bodily experience









of pregnancy. Instead, they illustrate the social and public experiences of being a

pregnant lesbian.

Analysis

Following the audio-taped interviews, I took interview notes on the way certain

stories were told, possible connections with previous interviews, and possible new

theoretical promises. Each interview was personally transcribed by me and then read

several times to establish themes of the interviews.

More specifically, the initial textual material was analyzed with grounded theory

methodology for qualitative data analysis (Strauss & Corbin, 1998). As similar situations

and experiences surfaced in initial interviews, they were coded and given tentative labels

during the open phase of the coding process. I used core, or central, categories to

understand the properties in multiple interviews.

In finalizing the coding process, I used Glaser and Strauss' (1967) approach to the

constant comparative method of analyzing data in order to create a set of general themes

that can be used as a theoretical basis to understand a given phenomena; it is not

concerned with generalizability to larger populations. Instead, I offer, here, a small

window to understanding the social world of pregnancies for lesbian women.














CHAPTER 4
THE NARRATION OF SAMENESS AND DIFFERENCE

Stacey and Biblarz (2001) argue that social scientists who study gay and lesbian

parents have constructed a narrative of normalcy, designing their research questions to

measure the similarity that exists between gay/lesbian parents and heterosexual parents. I

argue that it is not only social scientists, but the parents themselves, who work to

construct a narrative of normalcy. The parents are active in weaving the tale of

normalcy for the same reason invested social scientists might be: similarity proves

legitimacy and difference allows for suspicion.

Lesbian mothers know that differences in their parenting expectations or

experiences are translated as evidence to the claim that they are less worthy and less

effective parents. Even when my participants provided stories of difference they

adamantly characterized their entire pregnancies as no different than a heterosexual

woman's experience.

Below I discuss the similarity in experience and the sameness narrative and

contrast it with the next section on different experiences of pregnancy. While it is

necessary in an effort toward cohesion to separate narratives of sameness and experiences

of difference, it is largely counter-productive to do so because the more accurate

portrayal is one of sameness and difference at the same time. This is so true, in fact, that

difference is often admitted in the sameness narrative and sameness is often hinted at in

the different experiences section. The next section highlights how these come to exist in

one place as I discuss the interplay between sameness and difference. I then offer two









example sections as evidentiary sites where sameness and difference happen

concurrently: miscarriage and the positive treatment of pregnant women in public. These

should be understood as thematic illustrations of lesbian pregnancies where there is a

constant interweaving between similarities and differences with the standard narrative of

pregnancy.

The Maintenance of Sameness

For the lesbian parents I interviewed, pregnancy felt, as they say over and over

again, natural. As Sandy says, "It has felt really natural as soon as I got pregnant like

this is what I'm supposed to do." While some opponents of same-sex child rearing might

raise the claim that their role as parents is unnatural or that becoming pregnant through

means other than intercourse is unnatural, my respondents made the claim that the

pregnancy itself felt natural for them. They do not reject the idea that they get pregnant

differently than most people assume women will become pregnant. For instance, Rhonda

says, "There's definitely [a difference in lesbians getting pregnant] because you're

dealing with science more than you're dealing with nature." When I would ask about

how lesbian pregnancies are different than heterosexual women's pregnancies I was told

that the pregnancies are not different getting pregnant and parenting may be different,

but the experience of pregnancy is the same as a heterosexual woman's. Cassandra told

me:

All along the whole process [of getting pregnant], I knew in my
mind that once I was pregnant and had conceived and all of that, to me it
would be no different than a straight woman being pregnant. I felt like
once I had that process done and over with, everything is cool and I can
live my life and go on with my pregnancy and the whole gay issue would
not be an issue.


Carol makes a similar point:









I think personally, I think... okay, yeah...the very beginning yeah,
it's different. You know, you get inseminated as opposed to, you know,
vaginally or whatever. I mean like the heterosexual way. But then after
you're pregnant it's just the same, it's exactly the same as a heterosexual.
I mean your whole body process and everything is the same. It's just the
being inseminated that would be different. But then, women have to go
through that in heterosexual couples. You know, a lot of heterosexual
women go through infertility, so you know.

Although Carol acknowledges that many lesbians become pregnant through

different means than most heterosexual women, as through artificial insemination, she

maintains that the course of pregnancy is no different. Importantly, she points out that

many heterosexual women resort to artificial insemination because of infertility, finding

similarity with heterosexual women through the different experience of insemination.

Respondents discuss similarity in response to a society that constructs the lesbian body as

physically different than a natural woman's body. In mainstream discourse, lesbian

bodies are deviant women's bodies; they are constructed as women who eschew needs

thought to be biological, like heterosexual desire and maternal instinct. Donna and I have

a conversation below:

R: There's a lot of heterosexual women that do not have that
maternal instinct, but just because you're a lesbian doesn't mean
that you don't have that maternal instinct.

I: Do you think that most people think that lesbians don't have a
maternal instinct?

R: I think they think that, yes.

I: Why do you think they think that?

R: Ignorance. They think of us as a different breed, like we're not
human.

While Donna has come to the personal understanding that her sexual orientation

has not discounted her desire to mother, she has had to contend with the societal notion









that lesbianism is the antithesis of motherhood and pregnancy. In her articulation of the

reasoning behind this imagined antithesis she states that they think of lesbian women as a

different breed, pointing out that dominant ideology constructs lesbianism not just as

discounting one's ability to mother, but one's maternal instinct. It is not just lesbian

women who are different, but lesbian bodies that are seen as incomplete and lacking

female bodies. So while the steps taken to get pregnant are in fact different than

conventional assumptions of how heterosexual women become pregnant, the desire to

mother and the way lesbian bodies function during pregnancy are spoken of as the same.

In large measure, when my participants told me, pregnancy is the same, I understood

them to mean, my body functions the same way. Lesbian bodies do function the same

way heterosexual bodies function during pregnancy. If we keep in mind that there are no

lesbian bodies or heterosexual bodies, just bodies that carry out behaviors to which we

attach cultural meaning (like sexual orientation), it makes sense that we also attach

meaning to sexual behaviors of pregnant bodies. While there may be no observable

difference between lesbian pregnancies and heterosexual pregnancies in physicality or

intention, the cultural and socio-political meaning placed on lesbian parents means that

we assume that lesbian pregnancies are different. Bodies are the same, treatment of

bodies is different. Lesbians must make sense of their pregnancies in terms of their

experiences and their understanding of how society frames their experiences: they

understand that their body processes are the same during pregnancy because they have

felt their bodies grow while developing a fetus; they understand that lesbian decisions to

parent are treated differently and that for that reason public treatment of pregnant women

is only constructed with heterosexual women in mind.









Still, some women maintained that their social experiences, not just experiences

with their bodies, during pregnancy were the same as heterosexual women's. Anna, who

gave birth to two children when she identified as heterosexual, is currently a surrogate

and pregnant with twins. She said:

I don't think [there's any difference], for me personally. Of course,
it's a little more explaining you have to do when you go to the doctor's
office and the OB until they get to know who you are and for those
lesbians involved in artificial insemination. I haven't found any
professionals who have taken it any different than any other client or
patient of theirs. As far as the "general public" and family and friends,
what I have found, personally, is that it confuses them because when they
first find out that you're pregnant they look at you like, how did that
happen? You're a lesbian! Just completely floored and then the next train
of thought is she just went and slept with a man so she could have a baby
of her own and then it's a process of educating people, really. I personally
have not found anything any different than I did before I came to the
realization of my sexuality, with my children and being pregnant [now]. I
have not found anything any different.

Notice how this lesbian mother compares her first two pregnancies (while she

identified as heterosexual) to her last two pregnancies (while she has identified as a

lesbian): people fail to understand how she could become pregnant; they ask her

questions; she has to educate people about her pregnancy. Still, she categorizes her

lesbian pregnancies as no different than her pregnancies experienced as a heterosexual

woman.

To illustrate similarity in treatment, my participants often told me that their health

care professionals treated them well. In fact, it should be noted that no one in my study

was treated badly by health care professionals. It should be noted also, though, that we

should expect health care professionals to treat people well. The fact that my respondents

wondered if they would be treated well, asked for recommendations for friendly

practitioners, and interviewed their health care professionals to make sure they would









treat their partners as parents should stand as evidence that they understand how pregnant

lesbians are treated differently. Anna, who says that people fail to understand how

lesbians can become pregnant and admits that she is often in a position to educate people,

still says that she finds nothing different about her pregnancy. While Anna understands

that no one wonders how heterosexual women can possibly become pregnant or asks

heterosexual women to educate them about their pregnancies, she sees no difference in

her pregnancy role because she expects this different treatment. If differential treatment

is played out, not in the form of discrimination, but in the form of benign and innocent

questioning, it is expected and discounted as insignificant. Furthermore, questions about

how one became pregnant and how same-sex households parent are not seen as

differential treatment; they are seen as opportunities to dispel myths about lesbian

families. If the way to end homophobia is to prove how similar lesbians are to

heterosexual people, then focusing on how conventional their pregnancies can be is a

specific strategy. Many respondents used these events as times to educate people about

how similar they are to heterosexual households; weaving the tale of normalcy for an

audience who may someday allow their children to play with children who have same-

sex parents or vote for more lesbian inclusive family policy.

Some participants were appalled by how I implied that lesbian pregnancies are

different with my question about whether or not they are different. For my respondents

most concerned with maintaining the descriptions of similarity, their defensiveness rested

on a common theme: the non-salience of their lesbian identities. For example, Cassandra

told me:

No, [being pregnant was never at odds with me being a lesbian]
because I'm one of those people who I guess I identify as a lesbian, but









it's not like... some people wear it as a badge. Some people are like, hey,
this is what I am, and me, I'm like, I'm human first or I'm woman first or
whatever you want to say. To me, it was just like, [being a lesbian] is a
part of me, but it's not such an identifying part of me that it was somehow
threatened by me being pregnant.

Blanche feels similarly:

I think part of the reason why I'm thinking about some of the
questions as far as the identity of it [is because] I think that we view
ourselves so much as people, no so much as the label. There's a friend of
mine who really put that in perspective for me. He's straight, he's married
to a woman, obviously because he's straight and his wife used to work
with a girl who had a female partner and I remember asking him a long
time ago if this woman had ever admitted to his wife that she was gay
because they knew she was and he said, Why does it matter? He said, I
don't go around telling people I'm straight. So, I guess it's like I know
that's what I am, but I don't go around thinking of myself as any different
than anybody else.


While sexual orientation may not matter to Cassandra and Blanche, it does matter

to other people. Beyond Blanche's interpretation of her own lesbianism or her friend's

heterosexuality, they have different opportunities to discuss their sexual orientations,

even if neither of them vocalize their identifications to other people. Blanche, who works

on the police force, for instance, may be highly ostracized and risk the security of her job

for discussing her lesbianism brother who will not speak to her and parents who are in

marginal communication with her because of her lesbianism. These events, though, did

not lead them to characterize their pregnancy experiences as different. Admitting

difference, in these cases, would be admitting defeat because they would have allowed

other people to prove them to be different. while her heterosexual friend's discussion of

his sexuality would be heard without negative retribution. Still, what is important, here,

is that the way in which Cassandra and Blanche have chosen to interpret the meaning of

their lesbianism, as a non-issue, has lent itself to the characterization of their pregnancies









as no different than heterosexual women's pregnancies. Still, they can and do recognize

difference. For example, Cassandra, living in Tokyo when she and her partner started

trying to get her pregnant, was worried that she would not be able to find a physician

willing to work with her. Blanche, who grew up Southern Baptist, has a Baptist preacher

Sameness narratives, or narratives of normalcy, exist for multiple reasons. They

may exist to discount unfounded differences, like the myth that lesbians do not want to be

mothers or are unable to become pregnant or they may exist to confront homophobic

assumptions about lesbian cultural difference, like the idea that lesbians parent

differently. They may exist, more simply, because people see their lives that way. In

some cases it is not just that narratives of normalcy are created, but that the interpretation

of lived experiences is shaped to fit in congruence with an ideal of normalcy.

The Experience of Difference

It was rare to find what I would call a difference narrative, where difference rather

than sameness was embraced as the characterization of a lesbian woman's pregnancy. In

fact, only Michelle, who identified as a lesbian, but was having a sexual relationship with

a man who got her pregnant and stayed with her during the gestation of her child, reveled

in the ways in which lesbians do pregnancy differently. While difference narratives are

not present, the communication of different experiences is prevalent.

It is simplistic to state that the only difference in lesbian pregnancy is getting

pregnant. Different planning and different procedures are often central to the beginning

of lesbian pregnancies. Beyond the assumed difference in conception, though, there is

difference in treatment, and therefore experience, throughout lesbian pregnancies.

In deciding to become pregnant, lesbians do not have the same opportunities to

become parents. Structurally, there are limits on the ways in which lesbians can parent









existing in bans on adoption, difficulty in adoption if not specific prohibition, and bans on

insemination or fertility treatments. Culturally, lesbians are limited in thinking about

motherhood by a cultural attitude that constructs lesbian mothers as an impossibility. For

instance, Blanche tells her story:

Well, I can tell you that originally I battled with... I grew up in a Southern
Baptist Church so I battled with being gay and being a Christian and if it
was even possible to be both. Ever since I was little I always wanted to
have children. I always wanted to be a mom, but in my battle (as far as if
it was possible to be a Christian and be gay) I was like, I cannot bring kids
into this world, into this environment. It was really when I met my
partner. She was trying to get pregnant before we got together. In talking
to her I started realizing that who I am is who I am and that should not
keep me from having children.

Even after overcoming the idea that lesbians cannot mother, there remain choices in how

to acquire children. If we are discussing the sole avenue of pregnancy, because there are

often two partners in the relationship who have decided on children, there remains a

decision on who will be the one to carry the child. In most situations, my participants

told me that the decision of who would carry was based on natural decisions that did not

warrant discussion: the birth parent had a more flexible work schedule; the non-biological

mother had multiple sclerosis or a history of difficult pregnancies; the birth parent always

wanted to be pregnant; the non-biological mother never imagined herself pregnant. Still,

in some situations the woman who both partners assumed would be the natural choice for

pregnancy was unable to become pregnant and the other, "less natural decision," had to

become pregnant. In heterosexual relationships when a woman cannot become pregnant

the couple is infertile. If her male partner's sperm can be used with a surrogate egg and

gestated in a surrogate mother, there may be some emotional work the couple has to

complete because the female partner would watch her male partner pass on his genetic









material, in much the same way she wants to, but cannot. Still, there would be no

competition in the ability to be successful female-bodied people because she and her

partner would have different bodies and different gendered expectations to fulfill those

bodily capabilities. When Dot's partner could not get pregnant, she started treatment and

successfully became pregnant. She describes what that was like:

Um, yeah, we did [have discussions about it]. Not a whole lot of them.
I'm kind of a talker and she's really not one. It wasn't really so much that
I was [pregnant], as much as the fact that she couldn't [be pregnant]. She
was very very hurt by that. Emotionally it was a very very hard time. I've
seen other couples who've gone through that and there was a real
resentment when the other partner got pregnant. We didn't really go
through that at all. I think it was more just kind of a sadness. She was just
very sad that she couldn't get pregnant and that made me a little less
effervescent about being pregnant. I kind of put the brakes on a little bit
and didn't quite get as enthusiastic as I would have because I didn't want
to feel like I was gloating or something...

Because the infertility scenario we are all familiar with is the heterosexual model,

lesbian couples experience it differently not just because they are two women and they

have multiple opportunities to become pregnant, but because no script exists for how to

deal with one partner's loss and one partner's gain, when both refer to pregnancy

opportunities.

Beyond the choice of who will become pregnant, lesbians have to decide on how to

acquire a sperm donation and how to ensure that they will remain the primary parents of

the child. When insemination begins, as Rhonda points out, many lesbians do not know

how fertile they are or how long they will have to try to get pregnant because without

partnering with men, they often have no pregnancy scares and no prior pregnancies. In

terms of insemination, lesbians have to choose a setting for the insemination. Susan, for

instance, was upset that her partner did not want to have a romantic insemination in their









home. For her, because the conception of a future child is supposed to be made in a

moment of loving interaction, having a similar romantic interaction with her partner and

then utilizing sperm to impregnate her made sense. On the contrary, Lydia explains the

conclusion she and her partner came to in deciding to inseminate in a clinic, "There was

something technical going on and let's not try to make it some fluffy private thing at

home. You know, let's make it the most effective way." This debate, while resting on

nothing more than personal preference in setting, is actually telling in the way that

difference is interpreted and experienced. Susan, wanting to have a romantic

insemination in her home, was attempting to use a heterosexual model of intimacy and

reproduction in her insemination while Lydia was recognizing the fundamental and

acceptable difference in her pregnancy. In Lydia's case, she recognized that being

inseminated at home would not mean that the couple was producing the child; being

inseminated in a clinic, therefore, was an acceptable display of difference because it was

more effective.

My findings outlined above are consistent with Chabot and Ames (2004) data that

argues that lesbian mothers do not just become pregnant, but make strategic decisions

with informed ramifications in their getting inseminated. In the case of my research, I

argue that these steps are taken with the conscious acknowledgement of difference in

mind, where difference must be interpreted and then shaped into experience that mirrors

convention or displayed as acceptably variant.

Still, it is not only in pregnancy decisions that lesbians are faced with the

experience of difference. Once they are pregnant, especially when they are visibly

pregnant or in arenas where their pregnant bodies are of primary importance (such as a









doctor's office or a Lamaze class), the way other people treat them it based on a model of

pregnancy that is not theirs. Because lesbian pregnancy is not the standard model for

pregnancy, difference, based on sexual orientation and family organization based on

sexual difference, is intangibly felt, even when non-verbalized. For instance, Nancy

describes feeling different in hospital settings:

...there was the one time when I went into the hospital for pre-term labor
there was one nurse in particular that I don't think was comfortable with it
and she seemed very nervous and she seemed very rushed to get us out of
there. Um, that was the only time I really don't think she was real
comfortable with the idea. I also kind of picked up on that when we did
out tour of the hospital before I delivered and there were all of these
straight couples there; we were the only two women there and I could tell
people were look at us sort of like, what are those two doing?

In Nancy's statement, the difference she feels that she experiences is based on non-

verbal communications and ranges from disapproval to a possibly sincere inability to

conceptualize two women as future parents. It is integral to understanding the process of

different treatment that not all treatment of difference is accomplished with negative

judgments in its intentions. For example, Teresa told me that she and her partner

attended a Lamaze class together where all of the other partners of the birth mothers were

men. While Teresa felt that all of the class members were accepting of their lesbianism,

she recognized that the male partners of the birth mothers struggled with how they should

treat Teresa's partner a partner of a birth mother (like them), but a woman (not like

them). Their end decision was to treat her like one of the guys, like a future father,

instead of a future mother. Even where well-meaning individuals have inclusive

intentions, then, the lack of an existing framework for parents who do not fit a

heteronormative model means that they must highlight difference in treatment or ignore









obvious difference (like being a lesbian co-parent instead of a father) and treat with

forced sameness.

For lesbian mothers, each step toward becoming parents is fraught with difference

because their existence as parents necessarily functions outside of the established

heterosexual model for parenting and reproduction. Each step in becoming pregnant and

experiencing pregnancy is also interpreted as different by their surrounding audience and

difference in treatment (whether intention is negative or benign) is unavoidable.

The Interplay Between Sameness and Difference

While there was a dearth of difference narratives, and a common theme of

sameness throughout my interviews, the way sameness was discussed was with an

understood notion that difference was, in some ways, unavoidable. Again, sameness of

body process and difference in social experience was stressed as ways in which

pregnancy is the same, but mothering experiences are different. More complicated still

was the introduced notion that some social aspects of pregnancy are at once the same and

different. For example, Teresa and I have a conversation below:

R: I feel like it can be [different], but I don't feel like it really has to be. I
think a lot of it depends on where you live, who your partner is, who your
friends are, where you work all that kind of stuff. If everybody is really
open around you, I don't think it really ends up being that much
different...I mean, it's like if people aren't accepting of you as a lesbian, I
think it can be really hard. I think you could feel alienated. I know one
thing is that when you're pregnant you talk about it all the time and if
you're alienated by your work people or if you're closeted and they don't
know, I mean, I don't know how you'd do it it wouldn't be so exciting.

I: In what ways is it the same?

R: You're pregnant and you're going to have this baby and it's thrilling
and I think we all feel (well, obviously not all of us, but most women that
want to get pregnant and get pregnant) I think they all feel that excitement,
all the same fears and all the same excitement in that way I think it's









very very similar. You go through all the same stages and all the same
fear is the baby going to be okay? All of that.

Teresa, in becoming a mother, has experienced similarities in the

motherhood/pregnancy experience that center around excitement about one's future child

and fears about how their health will be after the birth. Through all of those similarities,

though, there exist other possible differences in treatment by others (families of origin,

coworkers, neighbors, community members), as if your expected mothering experiences

will be different. Difference, though, does not have to be experienced negatively. Sandy

told me:

I think [pregnancy] is very similar. My feelings about my body, I think
are similar to how many other women heterosexual and gay would feel
being pregnant. I mean, we're going through the same thing. Before
being pregnant, though, I wasn't as caught up in...I mean, I feel like I'm
so I was okay gaining the weight during pregnancy. I think that might
be a little different. I did feel big, but I didn't freak out that I was getting
bigger, that I was gaining weight.

Similarity in body changes, for Sandy, did not result in what she would identify as

similarity in reaction to those changes. Because she was never fixated on expressing

perfectly feminine expectations of beauty (like thinness), Sandy reveals that she had a

much easier time with the body commitment of gaining weight during pregnancy. In

what she attributes to her lesbianism or identification with a lesbian community that has a

larger spectrum in beauty acceptance than dominant ideologies, her different feelings

about her pregnant body helped her function as a pregnant woman. Difference, then, may

be benign or even helpful for lesbian pregnant women.

In recognizing the similarity and differences in their experiences, the lesbian

mothers I interviewed recognized that sameness and difference happens amongst all

women. Pregnancy, for example, is different for all women; the similarity of pregnancy,









in some ways, exists in its difference. Still, there is recognition that different sets of

social expectations for heterosexual women and lesbian women create different

expectations in pregnancy and experiences throughout pregnancy. Because of the

differences amongst women, though, my participants pointed out that differences in the

desire to reproduce children exist across sexual orientations. For example, Anna says:

R: [To be cut out for pregnancy] I think that [a woman] has to want to be
pregnant. I think that's a big part of it. Number two, I think I don't
know how to describe this without sounding really mean.

I: That's okay.

R: There are some women who are okay with children, but they think that
the whole process is gross, getting to that point. I think you have to be of
the whole mentality that, you know, this is a gift, this is a miracle, to be
able to [have] an understanding of the whole process. Some
women...that's just not their thing, that's just not their bag.

Defying the cultural maxim that heterosexual women are the most apt to be

pregnant and care for children, Anna identifies understanding the process of pregnancy

and having the desire to be pregnant as characteristics that define women who are more

suited for pregnancy and these things are separate from sexual orientation. Similarly,

Noelle said, "I guess I don't feel that [lesbianism and pregnancy] has to do with the other.

I can be pregnant, lesbian or not, and I can be a lesbian, pregnant or not."

Acknowledging that similarity can exist across sexual orientation (in the desire to have

children) and that difference can exist across those lines (in the desire to have children

and the desire not to), my participants were identifying a problem with the logic that

conflates sexuality and what they refer to as, maternal instinct. My participants used this

knowledge to personally confront the idea that pregnancy and lesbianism are different

and mutually exclusive categories by embodying both characteristics and disallowing one









identity to take full salience over the other. Josie, for example, told me, "I was always a

dyke with a baby in my belly."

In lesbian pregnancy experiences, sameness and difference exist simultaneously

where there is a shared experience with bodily functions and motherhood intentions with

heterosexual mothers and an understanding of difference that comes from lesbian

community ideologies and the (potential or actual) treatment they receive from

heterosexuals during their pregnancies. Still more interplay in the arena of sameness and

difference occurs in the conscious attention to how sexuality difference is translated into

a confusion of lesbianism with anti-motherhood feelings. By working to postulate the

idea that pregnant women can be heterosexual or lesbian and lesbian women can be

pregnant or not, lesbian mothers must individually bring two seemingly disparate

categories together, resulting in a new framework, that one can be both at once.

Sameness and Difference in Miscarriage

In the body experience of miscarriage, it is commonly understood that there are

emotional and psychological responses to it. When the natural occurrence of miscarriage

happens (or is feared to happen), then, there are social responses to it.

While at varying levels, each woman I interviewed feared miscarriage at some

point during her pregnancy. In some ways, when conjecturing how they might have felt

if a miscarriage did occur, or reflecting on their own miscarriages, my lesbian

participants were able to understand how any pregnant woman feel in this scenario.

Teresa said:

Having been pregnant, I don't think [it is different], but thinking about it
before [I was pregnant] I would of thought, yes, just because of the
mentality like, you're straight, you can just get pregnant, but it really isn't
about that. When I was pregnant I didn't feel that way. I would feel
horrible for anyone that happened to straight or lesbian.










The emotional response to losing that specific opportunity to mother was often seen

as difficult for all women. Possibly because of their newly found understanding of

heterosexual women through an experience that is thought to be in their domain

(pregnancy) they have gained an understanding that heterosexual women's experiences

are more complex than they are often understood to be. Still others said that miscarriage

did not depend on sexual orientation, but on the personality characteristics of the specific

woman to which it happened. Some women need time to mourn and some women move

on with their lives and try to become pregnant again; the response has little to do with

sexual orientation.

In discussing individual emotional responses to miscarriage, it was understood that

all pregnant women would feel a great loss; the fear of miscarriage or the experience of it

was a traumatic experience that bridges women across sexual orientations. When we

talk, though, of how lesbian women expect they would have been treated by other people

if they experienced a miscarriage, we see more talk of difference. Sandy says:

R: I really obsessed during both of the pregnancies about having a
miscarriage. I was very afraid of that.

I: Did you feel like it would have different for you as a lesbian?

R: Yes because I felt like I wouldn't get as much support. I was afraid of
that and I was afraid of emotionally how I would handle it because of
other people's emotions of not being supportive.

Similarly, Dot told me:

I know for a fact that there are many people who love me dearly who I
work with, who I know socially, who would have said, well, maybe it was
meant to be and they would have meant that because this is not the natural
way. I know absolutely that there's people who would have. I just don't
think straight women straight women sometimes hear, it was meant to
be, but the implication is not, because you're gay.










So, in the personal emotional and psychological response to miscarriage, lesbian

women expect to experience loss in the same way they expect heterosexual women to,

but in external social support networks heterosexual women are understood to have

greater emotional resources. Pregnancy and potential loss of it are bodily occurrences,

but the social understandings of pregnancies and miscarriages determine how lesbian

women will be cared for if they experience them. It is unimportant whether or not their

families, coworkers and friends would have given them adequate support because in

presuming that they would receive differential support, they are citing a critical aspect of

their pregnancy experiences apart from the potential of miscarriage: they are interpreted

as less worthy of attention than heterosexual women's pregnancies.

Sameness and Difference in Public Treatment

Like worrying about miscarriage, we expect that pregnant women will have chairs

given up for them, packages carried for them, and doors opened for them when they are

in public situations. All of the women I interviewed identified being treated with more

kindness and concern in public situations than when they are not pregnant. Carol

illustrates a common point:

People are really nice to you when you're pregnant. They are. They open
doors. They see your belly and they're awwww, you know. Some people
even come up and touch you. I work I'm an ultrasound tech, which
means I have accounts all over [the state]. I have a machine that goes in
my van so I'm at ten different doctor's offices all week long and so I see a
lot of different nurses, and they would come up, rub my belly, some would
even talk to him. It was just neat. Everyone's just...everyone's just a lot
nicer to you.

Recognizing that once the baby was present they would not be the ones receiving

attention, the women I interviewed adored receiving preferential treatment while they

were pregnant. Dot says:









It made me feel special. I kind of saw it like I was giving blood. From the
very beginning of the pregnancy, I saw it as a service that I was doing for
this baby so when [people in public] would [act kindly] I would see it as
them acknowledging, hey, you're doing something special here.

No one who interviewed with me felt that strangers read them as lesbians while

they were pregnant. For this reason, being in a public situation with strangers, their

lesbianism was probably not pronouncing them as visibly different from other pregnant

women. Treatment in public situations, from strangers, was consistent with how my

participants assume heterosexual pregnant women are treated in public. The way that

positive treatment is interpreted by the pregnant lesbian, though, can be very different.

For example, some women told me they had the experience of being read as a lesbian

before they were pregnant and not while they were pregnant. Being read as a lesbian by

strangers does not often lend itself to friendly treatment. So, while special treatment

during pregnancy may be extraordinary for heterosexual women, it is especially different

from the ostracism previously experienced by some lesbian women. Noelle expands on

this point:

I'm a really touchy feely kind of person and to be honest once I came out I
stopped being so touchy feely. I kept remembering my high school days -
you know, there are always rumors so and so's a lesbian and so and so's
not. Everyone's response was always, well, I don't care if she's a lesbian
as long as she doesn't touch me or as long as she doesn't try and do
uaylihilg 1i ith me and that really has stuck with me. Once I came out I
totally became afraid to touch people, to touch them or stand too close to
them because someone's going to think I'm coming on to them and hate
me. For me, that's a really great thing about being pregnant because
people... so many people find it irresistible. They just have to touch you.
So many people just touch you. Suddenly touching is okay again.

Although treatment of pregnant lesbians in public can be identical to the treatment

of pregnant heterosexual women, the way the positive treatment is interpreted by the

pregnant lesbian can have different effects based on her personal experiences with the






48


treatment of her lesbianism. In other words, positive treatment can feel even more

positive.

This chapter has illustrated the complex interplay between sameness and difference

in lesbian pregnancy experiences. This way of thinking about lesbian pregnancy, in its

focus on the simultaneous nature of sameness and difference, is a lens that is used in the

proceeding analysis chapters.














CHAPTER 5
THE NEGOTIATION OF BIOLOGY

When lesbian women become mothers, they do not do so as individual entities.

Rather, their mothering identities are constructed through various negotiations with

others. Whether it is through conversations with their intimate partners or through the

struggles with agencies, lawyers, and other legal bodies, lesbian women's mothering

identities are characterized by a socially constructed and complex process. Specifically,

getting pregnant requires the assistance of a man to act as sperm donor. Accordingly, a

necessary feature of lesbian women's procreative identity is how it becomes intertwined

with the real or imagined identity of the child's sperm donor and eventually his

simultaneous presence and absence in their family.

Lesbian women who will become birth mothers exist in families that are unique in

their semi-biologically related nature, where they will be related to their future children

and their partners will not be. To help cope with the marginalization that non-

biologically related families feel, precautions to lessen this anticipated marginalization

are taken before and during pregnancy in the evaluation of the sperm donor, the ways that

pregnancy is used as a critical time to prepare for loving the future child.

The Evaluation of the Sperm Donor

The standard narrative of pregnancy is that one enters into it with the sole goal of

acquiring a child, which remains, even after subsequent goals are established, the most

important. So, while the lesbian birth mothers I interviewed decided to become pregnant

to, as Roslyn says, "have a full life," and experience the joys of motherhood, they were









also interested in being able to choose characteristics of the sperm donor that would

influence the presence of the conceived child in their families.

While co-parenting between lesbian couples and the sperm donor used for

insemination (usually a gay male friend) do appear to be common, none of the birth

mothers I interviewed were ever interested in, or currently involved in, such

relationships. On the contrary, part of the evaluation of the sperm donor rested on the

lesbian couples' secure understanding that he would not want to co-parent or later

demand parental rights to the couples' children. This led the great majority of my

participants to acquire sperm through a sperm bank, where the identities of the sperm

donor and the purchaser of the sperm are kept confidential. Rhonda explains:

We looked at a lot of different ways; we looked at known donors. We
actually interviewed a friend and we were very close to going that way
until [my partner and I] looked at each other and said, Oh, absolutely not!
And switched over completely to going to a clinic.

Josie, who was thinking about becoming pregnant with the sperm donation of her

gay male friend and roommate, explains why she changed her mind:


You know, there was the Florida case [in 1998] that was happening right
around that time where the lesbian mom she had a partner and the father
came in the two of them had been raising the kid and they took the kid
away from the mom and gave it to the father and he was actually a
convicted criminal. There was all sorts of national attention happening
around adoption and I thought, I'm just not gonna do this. That's also the
reason I went with the bank because Jimmy [her friend and roommate]
wanted to be the biological father, he wanted to be Uncle Jimmy. The
deal was the first kid would be mine and the second time, however we did
it, and it was going to be artificial insemination, the second kid would be
his, but I recognized the complications there. I knew that both of us would
be loving parents, but I knew that having either kid would trap me because
he would want to be wherever I was.









Even in the case of trusted friends, making the choice to become pregnant through

a known donor means that one's full custody rights to their children may be challenged,

or that, in the very least, their parenting and life decisions will have to be made with

another party (besides their partner) in mind.

After it was established that the sperm donor would not be playing a role in the

lives of the lesbian families, what often became important were characteristics that

matched the non-biological mother, or in some cases the biological mother (in terms of

race, ethnicity, religious background, educational background, and hobbies) and

characteristics they felt would make for a well-fitting match in their families. In talking

about why she and her partner chose the particular known donor they did, Isabelle simply

says, "He is a very sweet and gentle man. He had very very sparkly eyes; his color was

very similar to mine. It was his personality and his eyes." Cassandra, talking about a

donor chosen from a sperm bank, tells a more complete story of her and her partner's

choice:

We tried to find somebody who physically or emotionally or
psychologically or what have you, resembled my partner as much as we
could. So the first thing we looked at was physical characteristics like hair
color, eye color, complexion, things like that. If possible, even the ethnic
background she has some English and Italian we tried to find that kind
of thing. Then as we narrowed it down to physical characteristics that
looked good, we would then go through the profiles or answers that
donors would give on their questionnaires to see how they think. We
eventually chose the donor because of all of those characteristics put
together. We just liked something that he said about what he was
interested in and how he described himself, what he thought of himself.
We thought, boy, that sounds like that could be your brother!

The sperm donor, then, is often conceived of as someone who, as a kind of stand-in

for the second mother and influencing factor in the formation of the child they will raise,

must fit well in the existing family structure. Lesbian mothers-to-be make these









decisions, equipped with only the one to two page profiles where men, alongside

demographics about race, education, and medical histories, write their responses to

questions like, Why are you doing this [donating sperm]? What is your relationship i ith

your family like? Where do you see yourself in ten years? Using this simple tool, the

succinct profile, the lesbian women I interviewed entered into the responsibility of

choosing a donor as partners; it was necessary, in most cases, that they agree on the

choice.

In the employment of a third party's sperm, agreed upon by both partners (if

partners are involved), there is a paradox in how the donor is simultaneously welcomed

and distanced. Josie describes their first attempts at insemination as using, "that guy and

I can't remember his number now because he means nothing to me and he didn't

work." After trying for some time, to the point where her partner was threatening to only

go through one more insemination, she needed to order a donor quickly because she

started ovulating at work. While she did not know which specimen was used to

inseminate her until after the procedure, she told the bank to send, "Mr. whatever his

name... 5126 or Mr. yada, yada, I don't remember." At the same time, she tells this story

about thoroughly readings his profile when she got the chance:

I read his profile and he's only half Czech and I remember I'm sitting in
the office and I scream, "Hey, Honey?" this is a classic line in our house
"Did you know the kid's Italian?" She had picked somebody
with an Italian mom! And we spent the next nine months going places and
we'd always see this redhead next to this dark-haired kid and I always
made fun (because [the donor] was Italian) that there was "Coulda Be and
Would Be" and would be didn't look like anybody, but could be looked
like me.

The sperm donor is simultaneously important and unimportant, necessary and

unnecessary, present and absent. While he is important because he must have the desired









characteristics, necessary because of his role in the insemination process, and present in

the future characteristics of a child (like the legacy of being Italian), he must be thought

of as unimportant, unnecessary, and absent to maintain the integrity of the lesbian family.

Reducing the importance of the donor's contribution (while recognizing the lasting

influences of it in characteristics of future children) should be seen as a way to cope with

the limiting heteronormative structures that leave room for only two parents who are

named as biological mother and biological father. The biological "father" (the donor),

here, must become an imaginary helper to make way for two parents who are named

biological mother and non-biological mother. It is a strategy that lesbians have

employed, utilizing technology and capitalism, to legitimize their family forms.

Pregnancy as Critical in the Formation of Love Bonds

Pregnancy is often noted as a time when a birth mother begins to feel a special

bond with her future child. For the birth mothers I interviewed, pregnancy served as both

a time where one begins loving their child (without ever having met them or knowing

their personalities) and a process that initiates a bond that will always be present. Lydia

says this about her dreams about children during her pregnancy:

[My dreams] were really sweet, like this holding a new baby and it was a
boy or things like that. Oh, and I had one [gender] neutral dream. Like, I
had just given birth in the water or something. Anyway, I was in water
and I was holding my baby and the baby from the waist down was in the
water so you couldn't tell [the sex of the child] and I just remember
thinking how much I loved this little baby.


Lydia, without knowing her child and without knowing whether her child would be

a boy or a girl, had already established a love relationship that she feels would endure

regardless of circumstances like biological sex. Rhonda describes a similar bond that

happened between her and her daughter during pregnancy:










It's an experience. I remember vividly the birth and I remember having
her in me and remember when she liked music and the way she would
kick and the times of the day that she would be more active. I remember
literally delivering her and feeling her shoulders pass, and things like that.
It was an amazing experience.

These stories are standard narratives of pregnancy: women unconditionally love

their children beginning in pregnancy; no one can bond with a child the way their birth

mother can because of the gestation period; love (if not life) begins at conception. In the

standard narrative, though, there waits a biological father on the other end of pregnancy:

a father, who is responsible for half of the genetic material of the child, nurtures the

woman through her pregnancy and assumes his role as an unquestioned and necessary

part of the family. In lesbian families, the standard narrative must be slightly redesigned

to include the second (non-biological) mother, who is, by cultural definition, a questioned

and unnecessary part of the family. In lesbian families, pregnancy is a time to establish

that the non-biological mother (and not the sperm donor) is the second parent. For this

reason, the birth mother's pregnancy is a time for the non-biological mother to establish a

love bond with her future child. To do this, the non-biological mother incorporated

herself into a role that is usually seen as the biological father's role, by going to doctor's

appointments, caring for the pregnant woman, and noting the changes in her partner's

body. Cassandra talks about her partner's relationship to her pregnancy:

We did the whole picture thing. We consciously tried to take a picture of
me once a month. She would take a picture of me front view, then side
view. I think as I got bigger and as it got more noticeable she got pulled
into the whole wonder of it. We did do things like we got this little
home ultrasound thing it's this cheap microphone version where you put
it up to your belly and listen to the heartbeat. W would do that, she was
into that. She would talk to him. She was definitely there. She was very
into what was happening to me.









Pregnancy becomes a time, not only for the birth mother to bond with the child, but

also to work on proving the legitimacy of their family form. Birth mothers are also active

agents in this project. Ways of incorporating partners ranged from logistical issues of

interviewing health care professionals to make sure that their partners would be treated as

parents to training themselves to come out to strangers when they were asked about the

fathers of their children. Coming out as lesbian, if not practiced much before pregnancy,

is an issue with which my participants struggled. Because being pregnant means that

many more strangers will refer to you as heterosexual (in innocuous statements like, Your

husband must be so happy!), lesbian mothers have to decide when to ignore heterosexist

assumptions and when to correct them. Correcting strangers is uncomfortable, I am told,

but not coming out makes them feel complicit in ignoring lesbian family possibilities. As

a single woman, allowing strangers to assume that one is heterosexual may make one feel

individually invisible. Being pregnant and allowing that to occur, though, means that

their partnerships and their families are not being recognized. To have healthy children,

my participants recognized, they needed to be sure they did not portray their lesbianism

as something for which they should feel shame. In order to come out naturally and

regularly when their children were present, many used pregnancy as a time to begin that

process.

Pregnancy, in these ways, is used as both a way in which non-biological mothers

can intimately experience the growth of their future child and a transitional time period in

which maintaining the visibility and acknowledgement of their families is practiced for

when their children are born.









Negotiating the Meaning of Family, Love, and Connectedness

We live in a socially constructed world that privileges biological relatedness and

blood-ties. Adoptive families are viewed as second-best and infertile couples are urged

to seek treatment so that they can have the opportunity to conceive a child who is a part

of their sacred genetic union. No matter how much they desire so, lesbians do not have

the option of having a child that is biologically related to both partners; and thus, their

situation illuminates how individuals negotiate bonds with children who are not

genetically related to one or both of them. By focusing on how love and connectedness is

negotiated in lesbian headed families, it is not my intention to indicate that

heterosexually-based families have love and gay families have to create it. All families

invest in and create love, but because lesbians have to go to different (or through distinct

and often more formal) lengths to attain their families, the constructed nature of their love

relationships are highlighted in a more clear fashion.

Investing in Love

In 1998, Josie knew she wanted to raise a child. An acquaintance of hers became

pregnant with a child she neither wanted to abort nor raise. Not knowing the identity of

the man who got her pregnant during a casual encounter, Josie's pregnant friend solely

agreed to let her adopt the future child. Much later in the pregnancy, Josie's pregnant

friend had a chance encounter with the biological father and told him she was pregnant

with his child. He was willing to relinquish his genetic rights to the child, but his parents

were not. On the grounds that the child should not go to someone like Josie, based on her

sexual orientation, she had a failed adoption which propelled her to become pregnant

herself. Although Josie is the only birth mother I interviewed who had a failed adoption,

the possibility of legal difficulties and the eventual loss of child custody were cited by









other participants as the foremost reason in the decision to produce a biological child. If

the child is some part of one of us, it is reasoned, it will be more difficult to take the child

from us.

The love investment in adoption is often seen as foolish by same-sex couples.

Why, they ask, would they invest in children who are difficult to acquire and may be

taken away in any undetermined moment in time? Unlike adoption, where the lesbian

couples I interviewed could not conceive of feeling comfortable at any time during the

proceedings or in the raising of children, there is a time during pregnancy where one must

fully prepare to be raising the child growing inside them. Biological children, then, are

seen as a more secure investment. Still, miscarriage remains an ominous threat to their

established bond with their children. Pregnancy investment in love happens, one would

assume, for all pregnant women, but the concerns that lesbians have surrounding

miscarriage are unique because of the work they must do to become pregnant. The

potential or experience of lesbian miscarriage, like all miscarriages, are described in

terrifying terms. Dot, who gave birth over five years ago, still regularly checks her

underwear for blood to make sure she is not miscarrying. Still, there is a combination of

trauma and calm-headed plans for future pregnancies in the miscarriage scares

experienced by my participants. Cassandra explains:

The time period between when it started happening and when we got to
the hospital and he examined me...there was probably a span of about an
hour or maybe a little more than that before he saw me and in that time we
were both very concerned, but not completely like Oh, My God, I've lost
it! I just thought, DidI lose it? You know, and the prospect of if I had I
knew it wasn't going to be the end of the world. It had only been nine
weeks; I got pregnant the first time; I was very lucky to get that. I thought
to myself, ok, if this isn't going to work this time, I'm going to try again.
It was an extreme I can't it was just complete joy and shock when he
examined me and did the ultrasound and said there it is, it'sfine, the heart









is beating. everything isfine. I was in shock. I was preparing myself for
the worst.


Even in actual miscarriage experiences of my participants, I was told they decided,

(in both cases, during their next ovulation) to try to get pregnant again. Without the

normative association of the fetus with a love relationship, pregnancy is seen solely as a

vehicle by which one may acquire children. So, while the prospect or experience of

miscarriage is terrifying, pregnancy is seen as a process. The process, though, may

include financial considerations and/or emotional difficulties depending on one's socio

economic status and one's ability to easily become pregnant.

Another investment, made solely by the non-biological mother, is made based on

the hope that her relationship with the birth mother will not dissolve, or if it does, that

their relationship will remain cordial enough for visitation of children to remain possible.

Because fusing ovum is nearly unattainable and implanting a partner's egg in another

woman's uterus is often cost prohibitive, the mother who did not carry the child is often

left without legal recourse if the birth mother forbids visitation. The investment in love

based on the biological route of pregnancy is only sound, in terms of legal privileges, if

one is the biological mother.

Creating Love Bonds

As previously noted, when the choice is available, many lesbian mothers-to-be

focus on sameness as a key attribute of the sperm donor. By sameness, I mean, that the

donor is preferably very similar to either the birth mother or the non-biological mother in

the characteristics of race, ethnicity, hair color, eye color, complexion, and other physical

characteristics. While it was far more common for birth mothers to choose a sperm donor

who resembled their partners, some mothers chose donors who looked like them. Carol,









for instance, made the choice to use a White sperm donor even though she was going to

be raising the child with an African American woman. While she had finalized the donor

decision before meeting her partner, she was definite in using a donor who resembled her.

She says:

I want when he's going through school, you know, I want...I don't know.
I might be selfish I guess. But Ijust wanted him to look like me to say,
Oh, yeah, he looks like you, you know? Like I wanted someone to know
that he is mine.

Roslyn, who chose to use a Jewish sperm donor so her child would be half-Jewish,

describes why that was a difficult choice to make:

Well, it was a tough decision because I wanted the donor to be similar to
me so I could make sure that when the baby came out it looked like me,
not like look like a total stranger's child. So, but this was a joint effort and
you certainly make a lot of compromises in relationships and I just really
wanted to honor and respect [my partner] and really bring her into the fold
of the whole experience as much as possible.

The compromise Roslyn describes, while not described in such terms by other

participants, occurred often. Susan, a White woman who had an African American

partner says, "We're together, we're a biracial couple, doesn't it make sense for the child

to be more a representation of us than just of me?" Whether the desired characteristics of

the sperm donor lie in the sameness of the birth mother or the non-biological mother, the

guiding reason is the same: to make the appearance of genetic family possible. Birth

mothers who chose donors like them want other people to recognize their children as

byproducts of them (ignoring that another party was involved); birth mothers who chose

donors like their partners want other people to recognize their children as a combination

of both partners (and maybe make the origin of the child, in terms of which one carried

him/her, undetectable). For instance, Lydia says that although she knows there is no









biological tie to both her and her partner, they could create the appearance of it. She

says, "We're a family and if we have the chance to increase our chances of our kid

looking like both partners, of course we would do that." Rhonda similarly says that the

decision to make their child characteristically similar to her and her partner might make

them "a little bit more of a close family." The donor's presence, in terms of

characteristics, influences not just the way lesbian mothers love their children, but how

they are actually able to produce love in their families. None of my participants

discussed the feeling that they would not be able to love a child that was different from

themselves or their partners and it should be remembered that it is highly common for

lesbians to raise children who do not look like them. It is key, here, though, that the

lesbian birth mothers I interviewed sought out sameness in creating their families to

foster love relationships with their children to undermine the illegitimacy of lesbian

families. In other words, if the leading mainstream logic is that families must look

similar to be taken as families (because children are products of the two heterosexual

people involved in creating the child), lesbian mothers may internalize this assumption

and strive to achieve families that look genetically linked. If being in a love relationship

is creating a third party (a child) who is a combination of both partners, it makes sense

that a White lesbian mother-to-be in partnership with an African American lesbian

mother-to-be, like Susan, would choose to use the donation of an African American man.

Love means bonding through the creation of a child and many lesbians now have the

technological and financial means to artificially create this bond.

The appearance of being genetically linked, though, does not just serve to make

lesbian partners feel bonded to each other. It is described as a coping mechanism to deal









with the mainstream assumptions of family, where it was believed that if their families

looked biologically connected, they would receive less retribution for being artificially

created. Sameness, because it is a ruling criterion for family, serves to legitimize lesbian

families even though they are different.

Lesbian birth mothers must negotiate the terrain of biological connectedness in

ways that families who are all biologically connected do not. While some heterosexual

stepfamilies or heterosexual families that begin with anonymous donor insemination may

face the same issues of semi-biological relatedness, it does not characterize the

experience of heterosexual families the way that it does lesbian families, where it is

nearly impossible to incorporate both women's genetic material into the creation of a

third entity. What is more, because of the shared knowledge that this is an impossibility

lesbian families are recognized as not wholly biologically related (and therefore seem as

illegitimate) whereas heterosexual stepfamilies are not readily accessed this way by the

public. So, while lesbian birth mothers face the same issues in preparing for a love

relationship with their future child, they must also create strategies that will ensure that

their love will be taken seriously by other people, the most salient of which has been to

create families that look biologically related.














CHAPTER 6
NOT JUST LEGITIMATE FAMILIES, BUT FAMILIES THAT LEGITIMATE

In the last chapter I discussed the strategies lesbian mothers employ to create and

maintain the legitimacy of their families in a society that is not conducive to the

recognition of non-heteronormative family forms. It is missing the entire story, though,

to imply that all of the legitimacy work is one-sided, that is individuals trying to create

legitimacy of their families in society. It is true the other way as well, where the

existence of a family, consisting of two partners and childrenn, grants legitimacy to the

individuals as functioning members of society and as lesbian women in the GLBT

community. The legitimating function of their families, then, is doubly so in the way that

it grants this condition to them as citizens and as lesbians.

Here, I investigate how dominant ideas about how families should work have both

influenced how lesbian families are achieved by lesbians and received by imagined

publics and/or specific families of origin. Similarly, I look at how lesbian legitimacy

functions in the context of producing children while identifying as lesbian; I argue that

the achievement of personal, familial, and sexual legitimacy does not occur accidentally

and is maintained dutifully through strategic narration of family experience and intention.

It is key to remember that while the legitimacy of personhood or sexual orientation is

granted based on the existence of childrenn, this discussion is located in the specific

arrangement where one partner is the birth mother to the partners' childrenn. Working

within the biomedical model of family that is dominant in our society, it reasons that

many families of origin feel more connected to a child that they conceive of as being









blood-related to them (in cases where family members are related to the birth mother).

However, for family members related to the non-biological mother, it is still a key

difference in their imagined connection to the child that the non-biological mother was

present in the decision-making process to have the child. Instead of taking on the

responsibility of another woman's child, the non-biological mother was integral to

creating the responsibility. As mother as she could be, the lack of biological relation is

forgiven because they could not conceive the child together, but could and did conceive

of the child together. While adoptive or fostering lesbian families may experience similar

effects from their child rearing, this specific argument rests on mothering experiences

where one person is the birth parent.

How Dominant Forces Create Legitimacy

In living lesbian lives and creating lesbian families, many lesbians feel unrestricted

by the conventions established for having children. The outcast status of the lesbian,

paired with the assumption that she will not be a mother, has the unintentional result of

freeing lesbians from the usual constraints of the parental process. Michelle explains:

As lesbians, we have the ability to reconceptualize ways of doing things
that straight society takes for granted so we don't necessarily have to be
married to have kids. So, that's the really great thing about getting
pregnant and being a lesbian you don't have to marry the guy who
knocked you up, you don't have to move in with the girlfriend you're not
living with. You can figure out different ways to do stuff.

Still, many of the women I interviewed used the dominant model in taking steps to

have children (substituting a lesbian relationship for a heterosexual one) and used

dominant definitions of family to make sense of themselves and their family situations.

A common sentiment is illustrated by Dot talking about how she decided to become a

birth mother, "We had been together for about eight years and together we were ready to









go into the next step and introduce a child into the relationship." The next step Dot

references in not just the next step that she and her partner made, but the next step, a step

that is key in creating a real family: two people (conventionally thought of as two

heterosexual people, but in this case, two lesbian people) meet, they fall in love, they

commit to one another (through marriage, but failing that commitment, a number of years

that signifies commitment) and they produce a child. Children create family; two

partners do not constitute a family. With rare exception, the presence of a partner was

discussed as central in deciding to become pregnant. Cassandra expands on this idea:

To me a huge part of it was that I have a partner who is in this with me a
hundred percent and to me, I wouldn't have even attempted this if I were
single or not had a partner who was fully committed to it. I know that
some lesbian couples go through this where the one who is going to get
pregnant and have the child is not the parent. To me, that never would
have worked. I need that full, ok, we are the parents of this child and
we 're family. To me, that's an important aspect of it.

While Cassandra is careful to point out that these are her values in saying that her

statements are true for her, they stem from a larger social context in which certain

characteristics constitute good and bad families. In the politicized discourse that

surrounds this social context, lesbian-headed families are often characterized as bad

families alongside single-parent families and step families. Although I do not argue that

my participants consciously include a partner as to be taken more seriously as parents, I

am suggesting that the mothers I interviewed saw their lesbianism as the only slight

difference from family norms and that in their imagining of lesbian families, they exist

just as other families do. I also argue that when lesbian partners have a child they gain

legitimacy, in part, because they do so in the context of a committed relationship. It is

important, then, that the mothers do not just talk of their specific partners, but they









imagine that partners must be present. For example, I have a conversation with Lydia

below:

I: If you could talk to a lesbian who was going to get pregnant, what
would you tell her to be prepared for? [Emphasis added]

R: This roller coaster prepare! Be aware that it's going to take time, and
it might cost more than you're expecting, if you're making any purchases.
Remember how much you love your partner and keep in mind what the
final goal is because one day you're going to get there. [Emphasis added]

Like the necessity of a partner being present when a child is produced, it is imagined, as

it is in heterosexual relationships, that partners become a family when children enter into

it. Roslyn tells me why she wanted to be a birth parent:

I just wanted to lead a full life and that's a major experience in life. I
didn't want to go through life and not experience pregnancy, birth,
motherhood, child rearing. I didn't want to grow old alone not to say
that your partner's not there, but your child is a whole other dimension. I
didn't want to have regrets in my old age.

Similarly, Noelle explains why she and her partner thought that her current

pregnancy might unify their family (the two parents, Noelle's nine year old son and her

partner's eight year old daughter):

We're all involved. We're all emotionally invested; we're all present and
feel we have a claim to this baby. It's not just one person's or just one
family's. We all understand that he belongs to all of us. That's what
we're hoping for.

Unlike developing strategies to ensure that future families will be seen as

legitimate, such as choosing a donor that represents the non-biological mother in

appearance and personality, Roslyn and Noelle describe taking steps toward creating

families to ensure legitimacy for people who already exist. Roslyn wants to add a higher

dimension to her life experiences, insuring that she will not regret her missed opportunity

to parent, but if parenting were not a dominant expectation for women (or people, more









generally), she would have no concept that not parenting would lead to an unfulfilled life.

Likewise, Noelle and her partner, Marina, wanted to have a child that the existing step-

family conceived of together. In this way, they would become a family at a definite time

(the birth of Noelle and Marina's child) instead of being in arrangement where they feel

that they are noncommittally living in the same quarters. The societal regulation of

families is composed of the definitions of family that we have access to, the influence

those definitions have on our beliefs about our own lives, and the implicit steps inherent

in dominant models to create families. Both of these shape the ways in which lesbian

women choose to become mothers and, once achieved, add to their legitimacy as social

actors.

Legitimacy, though, is neither determined by an individual's assessment of how

well she has measured up to the societal measuring stick, nor is it an abstract label placed

on certain acts. When I discuss legitimacy I mean the intangible feeling that comes with

approval, but I also mean to suggest that there are real benefits to being seen as

legitimate. In that regard, legitimacy is a highly interpretative act and the interpretation

of one's legitimacy rests in the hands of individual actors, often heterosexual friends or

coworkers and members of families of origin.

For instance, Sandy explains why the thought of a miscarriage during her current second

pregnancy was not as terrifying as it was during her first:

The first pregnancy, it would have been different than with this one. With
the first pregnancy I was more worried about [not getting social support],
but with this pregnancy because we already have a family established I
think we'd have more support because we've proven that we can do it.









In Sandy's mind, social support would be extended not based on the occurrence of

a miscarriage when trying to acquire their first child, but only in the context of a

miscarriage when they already have a child. Social support would not be extended to a

lesbian couple, but it might be extended to a (lesbian) family, a family who Sandy admits

has to prove itself as worthy of such support.

Many of my respondents told me that they had wonderful families whom they felt

supported by during their pregnancies. For women who did not have such support

networks, their children re-introduced them to a more cordial and affection-based

interaction with their biological families. For instance, Susan says:

My father, when he found out I was pregnant, didn't talk to me for my
entire pregnancy and almost until Paris [my son] was a year old. He was
not happy about me being pregnant, but he has, though, since come around
and met Paris. He had a stroke and was in the hospital. My mother was
out of town so he called me so I ended up going down there to take him
something so he met Paris then and he was 11 months old. But once you
meet the grandkid! Grandpa loves the boy!

Nancy describes a similar experience:

[Her family is] very against, you know, a lot of our lifestyle, and a lot of
choices that they perceive we have made and honestly, the getting
pregnant is what brought us all a lot closer. It forced them to confront that
this is our family and this is who we are. It has actually brought my
partner closer to her parents and her sister and then all of us as a unit, now
that they kind of understand, you know, us and our relationship and our
family. We thought that it would go one way or the other they were
either all going to walk away or they were going to accept us and they did.

When Susan's father learned of her pregnancy, he disapproved because she was in

the stage of creating a lesbian family, something with which he disagreed strongly. Like

Sandy's expectation that she would have only received social support for a miscarriage

during her second pregnancy, Susan's father could disassociate her pregnancy from his

future grandchild and a future lesbian family. When Susan was pregnant she was doing









something deviant by becoming a mother even though she was a lesbian; meeting her

son, Paris, at eleven months old, he could see her as a mother and ignore her lesbianism.

Her son, in other words, made her father see her as a legitimate family member because

she was the mother of his grandchild. What Nancy describes is perhaps even more telling

of how having children creates a recognition of the lesbian partnerships and the lesbian

family.

Having a child (or meeting a grandchild), then, is a way in which lesbians are

granted legitimacy as social actors (because they are fulfilling the role of parent) and as

daughters in their families of origin (because they are, in some sense, carrying on the

biologies/traditions of their biological families).

How Lesbian Communities Measure Legitimacy

Lesbian communities do not have the same power over its members as the

dominant discourse does. While the sanctions they can produce may result in a feeling of

ostracism, they do not greatly affect the life chances of its members the way that larger

social structures might. On a micro interactional level, though, there are interpretations

of correct and incorrect lesbian behavior and consequent privileges and sanctions that act

in accordance with those standards.

In terms of having children, many respondents felt that their lesbian community

interpreted their decision to parent as "role model behavior." Having a child in the

context of a committed relationship helped to dispel the societal myth that same-sex

relationships are uncommitted and unfulfilling; becoming parents helped dispel the myth

that lesbian women are not maternal beings. They became women to look up to because

they became women who are more socially reputable and less associated with norms of

lesbianism; they became good lesbians. Roslyn expands on this idea:









[You become a role model because] for one thing, at that point, you have a
steady long term relationship and now you're very obvious with a huge
belly so that sort of escalates you a little bit. I think people, definitely
lesbians, just really really admire their mothers and respect their mothers
and you know, for one of your buddies to become a mother it's like oh, my
god, you're not just my buddy anymore, you're a mother like my mother
was a mother to me and that is, that is huge, I think especially for lesbians.

As Roslyn points out, there are aspects of lesbian motherhood that are embraced by

lesbian communities: being associated with a committed relationship and taking on the

respected role of a mother. At the same time, some aspects of lesbian motherhood cast

suspicion on the pregnant woman because some lesbians wonder if she had sex with men

to become pregnant. If they did have intercourse to become pregnant, which three of my

participants did (two of them with the sole intention of becoming pregnant), they felt that

they had to disguise how they became pregnant when talking to the public, but

specifically in talking to other lesbians. Noelle and I have a conversation below:

R: We actually chose to have sexual intercourse. Um. We it's
kind of funny to be talking about it because we don't normally talk about
it. We normally tell people that we did it artificially, but we felt that we
waited so long and we know that the chances are higher that way and we
just really wanted it...We didn't want to take any chances, and we pulled
out all the stops, and we just went for it.

I: So, why do you tell people you went about it through artificial means?

R: Because you get a lot of raised eyebrows and disapproving looks in any
community, but I've found that in the lesbian community they question
you and [to some extent] in the heterosexual community they question
you. I've gotten a lot of, well, you can't really call yourself a lesbian if
you had sex iilh a man. I've dealt with that a lot. That's why we just
choose not to tell people, we don't have to.

To maintain her community's idea of her as a legitimate lesbian, Noelle and her partner

find it easier to tell people that she was artificially inseminated. For the two women who

had intercourse with the intention of becoming pregnant, their reasons were not based in









desire. Noelle cites the reasons stated above and also told me that she and her partner

"never had the kind of money, I guess you could say, to go down to a local sperm bank or

a clinic and do it that way." Donna explained to me she applied for invitro fertilization,

but clinics in her area and surrounding areas turned her away because of her status as a

"single woman." Still, they perceived that the act of intercourse would make other

lesbians deem them as less authentic lesbians. Donna, who considered herself single at

the time of her impregnation, also told people she was artificially inseminated:

I was inseminated and Ijust left it at that. I didn't let them ask any
questions and in my mind it was kind of an insemination because there
was no emotional attachment there. It was the deed and that was it. He
got his clothes and he left, there wasn't a cigarette or anything. I was
concerned. I didn't tell my best friends until Robert [her son] was 5 years
old. I flat out lied to a couple of people...I didn't think they would think it
was very good. Now I'm okay with it because I, I guess because of the
way I'm raising Robert, because we are a lesbian family or a lesbian
couple raising a child, now I'm more open about it.

In partnering with a woman has also become Robert's mother, Donna feels more

open in disclosing that she had intercourse to become pregnant. Importantly, Donna

never felt that it was unlesbian-like behavior to have intercourse with a man. It is only in

what she feels are other lesbians' demarcations of appropriate lesbian behavior that she

either lied or disclosed how she became pregnant. Now, even though she had intercourse

with a man, she feels that she will be found an authentic lesbian because she is raising her

son in a lesbian family.

So, while lesbian communities' differentiation between good and bad lesbian

behavior may not be as severe in shaping behavior as societal forces are, the potential

benefits are real (in feeling like an esteemed member of the community) and the potential

sanctions are real (in having to lie about your sexual history to your friends). Although









lesbian communities have no institutional power, their established norms for correct

behavior do shape the way lives are lived and/or discussed in a social context.

Because ascendancy into full adulthood is achieved after having children, all

women are treated as more legitimate social actors once they become mothers. For

lesbians, though, this newly acquired legitimacy may be felt more strongly because of

their dismissal as full citizens through institutionalized homophobia and because their

families of origin have understood them to be women who will remain childless. Also

unlike heterosexual women, lesbian pregnant women have the potential to be seen as

more legitimate by their families of origin, by larger dominant forces, and by lesbian

communities.














CHAPTER 7
PUBLIC PREGNANCIES

Pregnancies, often thought to be private familial experiences, are different for

lesbian women in the way that they become public endeavors. Pregnancy, more

generally across sexual orientations, has some public component to it. Women who are

visibly pregnant receive primary treatment in seating and door opening, we touch their

bellies, we want to know when their baby is due, and whether they are having a girl or a

boy. The public nature of pregnancy, though, when compounded with a woman's

lesbianism, makes her publicly accountable to discourse about her pregnancy and

internally accountable to respond to the ways in which her newly visible identity as a

mother changes her opportunities for membership in two different groups: lesbian

communities and mother/heterosexual communities.

Public Accountability

Even if we have not been pregnant, we can imagine the ways in which pregnant

women's bodies and decisions are held accountable to dominant discourses that tell them

how to be pregnant women: they should eat well; they should not drink alcohol; they

should not smoke cigarettes; they should not stand too long; they should not lift heavy

objects; they should not ingest or inject drugs; they should not, in their third trimester,

work full time for pay, ride a bike, or fly on an airplane. Each of these, while personal

decisions that might affect the health of the mother and the future child, are made public

in the ways that non-pregnant families members, friends, coworkers and strangers feel

they can advise pregnant women on how to conduct themselves.









While pregnant lesbians are responsible for all of these public concerns, they are

also held publicly accountable in their decisions to mother and answering questions about

how their pregnancies are possible.

Publicly Accountable Decision to Parent

Judgment for one's sexual orientation can often be made more vitriolic when one

decides to become pregnant. Children, who are sometimes understood to be a public

concern, complicate the issue of lesbianism because the public assumes lesbianism will

be indoctrinated into their socialization processes. Anna says:

There are a lot of people who say, I don't have an issue i/ i/h you being a
lesbian, I have an issue i iih you being a lesbian u/ ith children. You have
to be able to cope with that and overcome that because everyone has the
right to have children.

While anyone with this point of view clearly has a problem with lesbianism, the

more pronounced problem is that the deviance of lesbianism is being spread to future

generations, meaning that at some point in the future there could be more lesbian/gay

people or more heterosexual people who think of gay and lesbian lives as acceptable.

A common theme was understanding the trials involved in the steps to get pregnant

and the negative responses people would have to their pregnancies, but because of their

desire to get pregnant, moving forward because, as Nancy says, "it was meant to be."

Sandy dealt with this conflict in a similar way:

I know that both me and my partner are kind and generous and easy going
people and I knew that we would be really good parents so I just set all
those worries aside and said we 're going to do this. We both said, we 're
just going to make this work.

Putting fears aside and continuing forward in the journey to become a parent

because it is meant to be or because one believes that she will make a good parent is

responsive to a culture that either ignores their possible existence as parents or frowns









upon their existence as such. Still, others talked about becoming parents in a fashion that

was unmoved by their lesbianism. Either they had always wanted to become parents and

had to find the right time in their lives (as many heterosexuals do) or they never thought

about children until, as Cassandra notes, a spontaneous wanting to be pregnant occurred.

In these cases, though, where the women I interviewed always wanted children or

spontaneously decided to have children, their lesbianism may still have been a factor in

the timing of their pregnancies. For instance, a majority of the women I interviewed

were in their late thirties or early forties when they began trying to get pregnant. This

may be a caused by what Beth Schneider (1984) refers to as lesbians being work oriented,

where because of the absence of a male earner, lesbians must face the dangerous

navigation of the paid work force to establish their careers and ensure their livelihoods.

The women I interviewed wanted children at some undetermined future or never

imagined children in their lives until their late thirties/early forties, in large measure,

because they had to work for pay and because they were not working under the

expectation of heterosexual womanhood that prescribes women to be mothers before

anything else.

Because of the public perception that lesbian pregnancy is an impossibility or

because lesbians are not subject to the dominant ideology that forces them to think about

becoming mothers before they are ready, lesbians must identify a reason that they should

mother (that they would make good parents) or they spontaneously decide to become

pregnant without friends and family pressuring them to do so. Even when lesbians

personally believe that they will eventually mother and find nothing inconsistent with the









idea of mothering and their lesbianism, other people make their understanding of that

inconsistency known to them. For example, Lydia told me:

No, no [I never had to rethink having kids when I came out as a lesbian].
My mom was like, but I thought you would have kids (when I came out to
her as a lesbian) and in my own mind, I was like, what? I always always
thought I was going to be a lesbian and a mother. I never thought that
coming out as a lesbian could discount or remove some other part of me.

While other people's conception that being a lesbian meant that one would not be a

mother did not affect the way Lydia envisioned her own life course, it does affect many

lesbian's lives. For them, some event in their lives often has to happen to make lesbian

parenting possible for themselves and possible in its legitimacy for the public. Josie's

explains when she began to think having children was possible:

A parent wasn't anything I ever thought about until after I turned 30.
Growing up where I did, growing up gay, I didn't have any positive role
models and then I went to UMASS, Amherst and I finally met people who
wore dresses and who were professionals and they weren't these bar room
dykes. There wasn't a lot of alcohol and there wasn't a lot of abuse. So, I
went from 18 to 24 six years not knowing how to be me and just
assumed that I would be single and I would do things my way which is the
way I'd grown up doing things.

Similarly, Blanche explains how she began to think that her being a lesbian mother

was possible:

Probably the biggest influence on me was a guy. He was probably 21 at
the time. He was raised by his mother and her female partner and he has a
dad because his mom and dad were married at one point, but he was really
involved in his church and he had been in the military as a reserve or in
some branch of the military. But anyway, I realized that if he turned out
to be such a great guy being raised by two women I was like, ok, then,
maybe it will be alright. It really changed my opinion dramatically
because I realized that I can have great kids being in this lifestyle.

For Josie, finding other women like her, who were goal-oriented, middle-class

women (and who are more acceptable to straight society than the bar dykes she









references) allowed her to disassociate actual lesbian possibilities from the negative

connotation people have of lesbians. This newly formulated idea of what lesbians are

like lead her to the understanding that if lesbians can be like everyone else in dress and

career behavior, then they can mother as well. In a similar fashion, Blanche decided that

she could be a lesbian mother because the children she would produce had the potential

to be functioning adults who contribute to aspects of society highly valued by dominant

groups: masculine men who contribute to law enforcement, the military and religious

communities.

Although dominant ideology has tried its best to dissuade lesbian parenting by

promoting the concept that only heterosexual women make acceptable mothers, the

women's movements) and gay civil rights movements) have brought us to a point in our

cultural landscape where lesbians are becoming mothers. Still, in becoming mothers, it

seems most acceptable to parent in a way that heterosexuals parent, in having the same

lifestyle (except for sexuality) and in having the same hopes for future children. In this

way, while their sexuality may not keep them from being parents, they are still held to

public accountability in the ways they prove themselves (to be like heterosexuals as much

as possible) and in the ways they want to produce acceptable children.

Publicly Accountable Education

In becoming pregnant, there is a constant interpretation of what other people think of

one's pregnancy. In interaction with strangers, the lesbians I interviewed had a continual

flow of internal questions like, do they think I'm straight? Do they know that I'm a

lesbian? Do they know that my partner and I are together? What do they think of my

pregnancy? Do they think I had sex i i/h a man to getpregnant? Gathering what they

know about how heterosexual people think about lesbian parenthood (from having the









same access to dominant discourse that heterosexuals have and from drawing on a life

history of treatment for their lesbianism) the mothers I talked to were able to give

themselves anticipated answers to those questions. While the interpretative process was

not explained as formally as it is above, my participants were aware of wondering what

strangers thought of them and, in many cases, they were sure they knew. For example,

Sandy told me:

Well, I just sort of felt like I was...like, oh, you shouldn't. I don't know.
I kind of [had] this feeling like, I'm getting away with something, I'm
pregnant and I shouldn't be; I wonder if anyone knows I'm a lesbian. I
would have these thoughts when I would go out and interact with
strangers. People probably thought this traditional woman...people would
comment, oh, your husband must be excited, that kind of thing. So, it was
kind of a weird feeling. This [pregnancy] I'm much more comfortable
with things and being pregnant. The first pregnancy was a different
experience. I felt almost like an imposter.

It was Sandy's lived experience of being a lesbian and her understanding that other

people assume she was heterosexual because of her pregnancy that made her feel like an

imposter. In her mind, other people, not her, believe that only heterosexual women can

be pregnant and that her masquerading as the woman they thought her to be made her feel

fraudulent. When women are aware that they are taken as lesbians, there is a similar

interpretative practice that happens, wondering what the other person thinks and

responding in turn. Josie, an out professor on a small New England college campus tells

a story:

I had told one of my classes [I was pregnant] because we physically had to
move when [I] got pregnant. I was teaching in a room that was the
chemistry lab, we're a small campus. We needed] to move out of there
because I couldn't be exposed to the chemicals and they all wanted to
know why we needed to move. They're all looking at me and I had been
green a couple of days in a row, and I said, I'm pregnant. The next day I
had this kid who worked security, who I had never seen before, say, Hey
Sullivan, I heard you 're pregnant; we were talking aboutya at the pub. It









was one of these, what were the frat boys talking about me at the pub?
And then it went down the frat boy fantasy two lesbians and this really
bad dialogue that I assumed they had, that I knew they didn't and it was all
my stuff, but I kind of had this awkward feeling for a little all of about a
minute and a half but, you know, there were those kind of instances of
[asking myself], what kind of a guy's fantasy is playing out here?

While Josie utilized a larger discourse surrounding what she believes men think

about lesbian sexuality involving men to make sense of how the man working security

believed she became pregnant, many women do not have to rely on this kind of

communication. Oftentimes, other people make specific comments about the discrepancy

they see in lesbian pregnancy. Noelle illustrates this point, "If I say that I'm a lesbian

and I'm pregnant immediately the response is, you can't be a lesbian ifyou 're pregnant.

Why don 'tyou say you're bisexual?" Two points are critical in Noelle's experience.

First, other women who have not had strangers verbalize this position are probably right

in their assumption that they are taken for heterosexual because they are pregnant or if

they are known to be lesbian, they are thought to be secretly bisexual because of their

visibly pregnant bodies. Second, beyond what the public believes about a pregnant

lesbian woman, because of her position in the sex, gender, and sexuality hierarchy,

strangers are allowed to voice their confusion to her through prodding questioning about

her identity and experiences. Another example of this is Susan's experience at a work

function:

I was not out at my job. Probably 4 people at my job knew the whole
story beginning to end and the rest of the people did not so there was a lot
of speculation about exactly [how I got pregnant]. My supervisor chose
the job shower to bring up what she thought I had told her, that [I got
pregnant] through a donor sperm bank. I had not told her that, but she
assumed that. So, she brought it up in the middle of the shower like, well,
what was that experience like? And did you get to pick off the pages and
didyou get topick eye color? I was very upset because I felt that was
inappropriate. I thought that she should have addressed me, not in front of









people (there were several people I really don't work with who I see
maybe once every couple of weeks). I thought this was none of their
business and I didn't share [information on how I got pregnant] with [my
boss]. I thought this was very inappropriate and I brought that up to her.

To combat the invasive questions that lesbian mothers receive from public encounters,

they often devise a strategy of becoming educators. For instance, Rhonda says:

Sometimes it's interesting because you get to educate people that way.
When they assume that I have a husband because they see a ring and a kid
they assume I'm straight and I say, no, two mom house and it takes them
a minute to let that sink into their heads, what a two mom house is. What
does that mean? Like oh, ok, oh, woah! And then they get it they have
to figure out how you get two moms, step-parents or what it is. So, it's
kind of funny to see the process play out on their faces when they try to
place it together.

Similarly, Josie remarked, "I'm an educator so I believe that it's okay to ask. I

would talk to them about how we picked donors, how we did the insemination. From an

educational role, I was able to distance myself sort of personally."

In having lives that differ from expected norms of mothers, lesbian pregnant lives

are on display and open to questioning. Because the questions will inevitably come

through implication or direct queries, the lesbian mothers I interviewed actively became

what they call, educators. In answering questions or speaking in answer to anticipated

questions, they help to demystify the experiences of lesbian families and they preserve

their dignity. Being an educator, after all, is a role one can take on, but having answers

about your life and your decisions demanded of you is a demeaning invasion of privacy.

Accountable Identities

Pregnancy, as a time that transitions women into motherhood, is also a time where

old community ties are tested and new community bonds are established. Specifically,

the ways in which lesbianism was previously experienced changes and a new association

with heterosexual women through the bond of pregnancy and future motherhood is felt.









In these ways, other lesbians and lesbian communities hold pregnant lesbians accountable

for their changing sense of solidarity with other communities and heterosexual women

become more accepting because of their changed identification with a motherhood

identity.

Losing Lesbianism

Not only do we have an idea that mothers are heterosexual and lesbians are not

mothers, there is also a culturally held belief that some women look like mothers and

others look like lesbians. For instance, Dot told me that instead of looking like a lesbian,

she now looks like somebody's mother:

I: Did you ever feel like you looked like somebody's mom before you
gave birth?

R: No.

I: Ok. Did...

R: No, wait. I'm sorry. Yes, I did because I actually have a child who is
seven that we adopted and so, yeah, but I didn't feel like I looked like
somebody's mother before I was pregnant. No, I didn't. [Emphasis mine]

While Dot felt the need to correct herself because she had the experience of being a

mother before she became a birth mother, the presence of her adopted son did not make

her feel like she looked like a mother. It was her pregnant body and the ramifications of

her pregnant body (wider hips and larger breasts) that makes her now feel like she looks

like a mother. In this context, it is important that she does not describe looking like a

lesbian mother; she describes looking like somebody's mother, an ordinary mother, a

heterosexual mother. Similarly, Blanche told me that it would have been difficult for

people to read her as a lesbian because, as she says, "I think that I just automatically took

on that mom look."









Losing the ability to be read as a lesbian, by other lesbians, does not just happen

because one changes her physical appearance by having longer hair or dressing

differently. Often it is the presence of a pregnant stomach, or after pregnancy, the

presence of children that makes lesbian mothers less visible as lesbians. Rhonda

explains:

I try not to look like a soccer mom all the time, but it's kinda hard.
Actually that's probably the biggest thing that my friends and I talk about
is how we have lost a lot of our lesbian identity. You really, on the street,
can't even tell that we're lesbians 'cause we just look like moms...We
drive mini vans and have kids and unless we're all together no one assume
that we're any kind of a different family.

Josie agrees that since her pregnancy, she has been understood to be a mother, not a

lesbian in public situations. Now she notices a difference between when she is alone and

when her children accompany her:

[I'm not perceived as a lesbian] when I'm with my children, but when I'm
walking up the street I was going to the post office the other day and this
woman looked up and she was just like, Oh, hi. Oh, hi and it was just like
gaydar was going off everywhere. I go through one of those Sam's clubs
with the kids and I'll see another lesbian couple walking around and they
don't even see me. I am invisible as the day is long and it's only when
Toni [my partner] shows up or when the kids call to one of us because
they're both talking now, they'll turn around and I'll get reassessed.

While it was a pronounced problem for some women that heterosexual strangers

understood them to be straight, resulting in statement's like Dot's that she wanted to wear

a button everyday that said "Don't assume I'm straight," a more troubling problem was

that lesbians failed to read them as lesbians. Lydia explains further:

I used to have much shorter hair. I used to dress much more
androgynously and I think it was easier years ago for people to identify me
as a lesbian. Now, though, my hair is a little bit longer. I usually have a
toddler with me. I have a ring on my finger. When I'm walking around I
can pick out lesbians, but they don't see me as a lesbian. I feel like Ijust
feel a little left out.










While not being read as lesbian by heterosexuals may be unsettling if one was read

by them before pregnancy, it was described as more challenging to be ignored by

lesbians. Other lesbians are more tuned into the subtleties of lesbian interaction so it may

be that few heterosexual ever read my participants as lesbians. More importantly,

though, lesbians provide a familiar context in unknown social situations; recognition of

lesbianism from lesbian strangers acts as portable community membership and aides

feelings of alienation inflicted by dominant heterosexual society. Josie illustrates this

common theme:

I would call it an in-group experience. You'll often see this when you see
a small number of students of color on campus and they see each other.
They nod, and they know they have a shared experience, but they don't
talk to each other, they're not necessarily friends. Everyone assumes they
know each other, they just know they exist and it's an ever so slight
method of communication. When I didn't have kids, consequently I didn't
have the curves, I could walk through any community and somebody
would seek me out with eye contact or I would seek them out with eye
contact we would acknowledge each other and it was a good feeling.

Changes in being able to identify with other lesbians do not just happen because of

missed opportunities for friendship with lesbian strangers or fleeting moments of

recognition with them; often current friendships with lesbians are challenged because of

the transition into motherhood. While many of my participants had supportive lesbian

friends or lesbian friends who all plan to become pregnant, there were instances of losing

lesbian friends because they did not want to take part in motherhood. Isabelle recalls,

"We would go over to play poker once a month and it would be you could just tell they

only wanted to hear a little bit of what was going on and that enough for them."

Similarly, Roslyn says, "You had to see subtle signs that you knew that they weren't so

much going to be your friend anymore once you crossed over into your new life of









motherhood." Because of the dichotomy enforced between mother (heterosexual) and

lesbian (non-mother), many lesbian communities have been built on the assumption that

women in them will not become mothers. In some communities, where lesbian parenting

is more common, this situation is very different. Teresa told me:

Like in Santa Cruz [California] there are so many pregnant lesbians and so
many little kids it was like it was exciting for everyone else. It was like -
you're the next one. Pretty accepting and kind of like the new club in
town, being the lesbian parent.

However, this is not the general case. For the majority of the women I interviewed,

their communities assumed that motherhood was not part of a lesbian life and

consequently subtly worked to disassociate the new lesbian parents from their circle of

friends. To maintain lesbian connections, many of my participants were active in gay

parents' organizations or spent time with other lesbian parents, rather than being active in

the larger gay community or spending time with gay people who are not parents.

Michelle explains why this may be the case:

I think that lesbians who are moms are more boring. I mean you end up
being interested in things like you're children's poo or good preschools in
the area these become matters of pressing concern as opposed to oh, let's
get dressed up in exciting outfits and go and have random sex or whatever.
That's just my personal opinion. Once you have a kid, you tend to hang
out with other parents and even when they're queer you end up talking
about being parents rather than being queer because it's more pressing.

Because lesbian identity is such a socially agreed upon category, experienced by

being read as a member of the group, having a place in the community and being friends

with its members, the ostracism that the transition into motherhood creates can be

difficult to reconcile with one's felt lesbian identity. Importantly, though, while the

membership is strained it is maintained while another membership with people who are

mothers is established.











Gaining Bonds with Heterosexual Women

Another aspect of being read as heterosexual is that in heterosexuals not

recognizing you as a lesbian, you do not receive negative treatment reserved for lesbians

and you do receive the privileges that occur from assumed heterosexuality. Josie

explains:

I keep thinking, wow, this is a new process in the coming out model -
coming to terms with being a mommy and what gives me an enormous
amount of heterosexual privilege. You know, it gives me a lot of
privilege. I can go to the library and people accept me because I'm a
mommy, but when I go to the library [without my children] people look at
me differently. Do I think through the privilege part of it? Yes.

Michelle, who got pregnant through a sexual relationship she was having with a

man while identifying as a lesbian, continued to date the biological father of her child

through her pregnancy. They were often together in public. She describes her new sense

of privilege this way:


You know, one has a great craving for security one really wants to be
taken care of when one is pregnant, in my experience. When I first
thought about it, before it became a reality, [I thought] it will be really
terrible to walk down the street with the father and have people say, oh,
what a cute heterosexual couple. In fact, the worst part was that it wasn't
horrible. I really enjoyed it. It was like sinking into a warm bath. People
assumed that we were this lovely young couple. People would say to him,
oh, your wife. One time he got out of a ticket. He got pulled over and he
said, wife'spregnant and she wantspie and he was like oh, ok. We never
thought of getting married, it was just something we put toward our
advantage...He sort of enjoyed that little routine. I enjoyed it too. It was
sick, but I enjoyed it.

In being taken as heterosexual and experiencing social (while not legal or

institutional) heterosexual privilege, the lesbian mothers I interviewed were able to

experience the feelings of full citizenship heterosexual women experience. In other









words, when they experienced privilege they also came into a more complete

understanding of what it means to be treated badly as a lesbian. Still, at other times,

when people knew that they were lesbians, they were welcomed into communities as

mothers, despite their sexual orientations.

Because of their newly salient role as future mothers, during their time as pregnant

women, they found community in public recognition of other pregnant women. Similar

to the once fleeting recognition felt with other lesbians in public spaces, the lesbian

mothers I interviewed became connected to women who shared their bodily state. The

connection was referred to as an immediate bond or an instant friendship or as Blanche

points out, "It's kind of like people who ride motorcycles, they all wave to people as

they're going down the road you just kind of have this thing in common. It's almost a

nonverbal communication that goes on." Several women referred to this felt connection

as a secret society of the pregnant, as Michelle does here:

You know, I'm walking down the street and thinking, I'm making a baby,
what are you doing? I was just in this wild state... I don't know if I felt
like I had any wisdom that's not it...but it was like this secret society. I
would look at other pregnant women and wonder, how do you feel about
this? I never said anything to them and they never said anything to me so
it was like this weird secret society of the pregnant.

Sometimes more than eye contact, a nod, or even a wave, pregnant strangers would

stop and talk to each other. Some of my participants took part in spontaneous discussions

on due dates, the possibility of a girl or a boy, how each was feeling, and sore parts of

their bodies with the pregnant strangers. Isabelle explains why this might be:

There is a special bond because you're both experiencing the same
changes in your body and you know, sometime people around you don't
want to talk about every ache and pain and twinge that you're feeling. So,
it's kind of nice to have somebody else that's going through the same
thing.










Some women felt that their welcomed presence in the pregnant society was fragile

because of their lesbianism. For example, Carol and I have a conversation below:

R: You notice more pregnant women big time. I have never noticed so
many pregnant women as when I was pregnant. You just are really ware
of it more.

I: Did you ever talk to pregnant women in public?

R: Oh, yeah. We're like how far along are you? You know? How far
along are you? You know, you have this bond in common.

I: When you would talk to them did you ever bring up that you were a
lesbian, did that ever come up or not?

R: No, no no no no. Only if I knew they were gay too.

I: If you didn't know they were gay, for what reasons wouldn't you bring
it up?

R: The same reasons why I wouldn't bring it up not pregnant. You know,
I mean you just don't bring up being gay, period. Much less when you're
pregnant.

For the majority of my participants, though, their lesbianism did not affect their felt

group membership with mothers and other pregnant women. It is significant that the few

women who felt the way Carol does never brought up their lesbianism before or during

pregnancy. Other women who describe themselves as being read as lesbian because of

their pre-pregnancy visual recognizability or their constant verbal outing of themselves as

lesbians, felt that they were welcomed without attention to their sexual orientation. Ellen

Lewin (1993) found that the salience of a motherhood identity was so strong that it

superseded the difference of sexual orientation. This is true, here, but I add another

dimension to Lewin's argument: it is not just that lesbian mothers prioritize their









mothering identities over their lesbian identities, but that other people, specifically

heterosexual women, treat lesbian mothers as mothers first. Teresa explains:

I think that probably the coolest thing about being pregnant and having a
baby is that you're welcomed into the mom club and it's almost like that
surpasses everything else. Whether you're a lesbian or you're whatever
color you are or whatever it's almost like that's the number one club and
once you get into that club not that much else matters. We talked a lot
about it when I was pregnant because we were like oh, my god, this is so
weird, you know? It's great, but it's almost like, nobody cares anymore
that you're a lesbian? You're a mother first and that was a cool
experience.

Josie feels similarly:

The shift for me was being welcomed into the straight community
differently. [With] all of the straight women who knew that I was gay, we
used to talk at a distance, [but when I became pregnant] our conversation
shifted; it was about having shared community on a different level. They
used to come up to me and rub my body (some of them it was ok and
some people I was like, what are you doing touch me? You don't know
me), but it was about having a baby in me. It wasn't about my identity or
my sexual orientation or that you had a husband and I had a wife. It was
about there's a baby and we've all had this and isn't this great?

During the transition into motherhood felt by pregnant women, a shift occurs in the

identification they feel with other women. Their group membership and felt connections

to other individuals goes from being strictly with other lesbian women to being with other

lesbian women and mothers (even if they are heterosexual mothers). As Lydia says, "It's

like I was joining a new club like I was in the lesbian club and now I was in the

pregnant lady club." It is important that in joining their new club they maintain

membership in lesbian communities, however altered.

The shift in group identification occurs through a complex intermingling of the new

responsibilities lesbian women take on in mothering, their new sense of themselves as









mothers in conjunction with their sense of themselves as lesbians, and a transformation in

the way heterosexual mothers treat them in public spaces.

Because of the politicized nature of lesbianism and lesbian families, lesbian women

are initially made accountable to the public for their decision to become parents; once

pregnant it is assumed that they can be questioned about the logistics of their pregnancies

and family formations. A fascinating feature of this external accountability is that it

exists alongside an internal accountability where a shift in the salience of identity can

move from their being lesbians to their being mothers. While this is consistent with

previous findings (Lewin, 1993), it is significant, here, that the lesbian birth mothers I

interviewed did not describe this as a measure of their own personal feelings about

community membership. Instead, they described heterosexual women as viewing them

as mothers (despite their sexual orientation) and therefore deserving of motherhood

membership.














CHAPTER 8
DISCUSSION

These finding should be understood against a backdrop of lesbian life in this

historical moment. While I do not mean to infer that generalizability is possible from the

window of understanding I have offered, the institutionalized nature of homophobia and

the discriminatory exclusion of lesbian families in social and legal recognition, means

that it is possible for many lesbian families to find their stories in these pages.

While I hope I have provided important insight into the social experiences of

pregnancy for lesbian women, more research is needed in the area. Specifically, there is

more research needed on the ways in which lesbians of color become mothers, experience

pregnancy, and envision lesbian families. As most research exists, we have a vast

knowledge on white middle-class experiences with lesbian motherhood and very little on

the motherhood experiences of lesbians of color. My narrowly focused data on lesbian

pregnancy adds to this inconsistency between the real world and academic illustrations of

it. Lesbian families of color exist despite a homophobic and white supremacist culture

that works to ensure that they will not; our academic inattention to their survival skills

borders on negligence. Additionally, we need research on the pregnancy experiences of

the non-biological mother and how she negotiates her relationship with the child, the

birth mother, and her position in the family. For most of the birth mothers I interviewed,

their partners acted as equal catalysts in deciding to get pregnant and as primary sources

of affection and understanding during their pregnancies. To build a more holistic picture

of the ways in which lesbian families understand pregnancy in their family's negotiation









of biology and navigation of public treatment, it is vital to understand the point of view of

the so-called other mother.

I have, however, offered a specific contribution to the existing literature on lesbian

motherhood: knowledge on lesbian experiences of pregnancy and a simultaneous

sameness and difference lens for understanding lesbian motherhood.

As you may recall from the overview of existing literature on lesbian mothers, it

has been rich in its investigation of pre-motherhood decision-making and in its discussion

of the maintenance of lesbian families once children are acquired, but remains lacking in

its attention to experiences during pregnancy. In terms of a focus on sameness and

difference at the same time, the theoretical body of literature that has dealt with

discussing the negotiation between the celebrated role of mothers and the ostracized

nature of lesbianism has been rich, but, with the exception of Hequembourg & Farrell

(1999), has not made its way into empirical investigation of how that negotiation is

understood and coped with by lesbian mothers. Beyond our theoretical knowledge, there

has been an either/or lens in the empirical literature on lesbian families where researchers

take on an exclusive lens of difference or one of similarity. In literature that focuses on

the decision-making process in lesbian families, there has been an understandable lens of

difference in discussing how lesbians acquire children and on the discriminatory nature of

insemination clinics. The literature on the maintenance of lesbian families is split where

some researchers focus on difference and some on similarity. We can see, for instance,

difference in studies that focus on the division of home care and child care labor in

lesbian households and in studies that discuss how lesbian family members create new

ways of talking about family to incorporate their family situations. Still, there has been a









focus on similarity in the lesbian family maintenance literature where there have been

comparisons between lesbian mothers and heterosexual mothers made, a focus on how

commitment and recognition of two parents is established, and an investigation into the

tactics lesbians use to signify commitment.

Throughout this work I have argued that in discussing lesbian motherhood and

pregnancy it is essential to have a lens of simultaneous sameness and difference.

Specifically in the discussion of pregnancy, it is integral to understand the processes that

create simultaneous sameness and difference by understanding the interplay of identical

body processes and differential experiences, the negotiation of biology, the legitimation

of lesbian women because of their family's existence, and in the ways their pregnancies

become publicly accountable. I discuss each of these in turn below.

The lesbian mothers interviewed reflected the narrative of normalcy Stacey &

Biblarz (2001) find in existing social science research on gay and lesbian families. While

they suggest that it is researchers who devise questions that measure similarity between

gay and lesbian families and heterosexual families, I suggest here that the parents

themselves have a particular investment in creating that same narrative. In what I call a

narrative of sameness, though, difference in experience comes through quite often,

resulting in a complex interplay between sameness and difference in experience.

Illustrations of this interplay were given in the cases of the potential for miscarriage and

the public treatment of pregnant women were sameness rests on the same bodily changes

during pregnancy and the same hope and love felt for future families, and where

difference rests in the varying levels of social support lesbians feel they have in their

pregnancies and the ways in which similar treatment can be interpreted differently.









A key part of lesbian women's pregnancy is the negotiation of love and

connectedness in their families. This simultaneous experience of sameness and

difference is specific to lesbian families where partners acquire children through one

partner's pregnancy resulting in a semi-biologically based family, where one adult

member of the family is biologically related to the child and the other adult member is

not. Without specifically articulating this position, lesbian families understand it and

have developed specific strategies to cope with the semi-legitimate nature of their

families due to the semi-biologically related nature of their constructions. For instance,

in a strategy to include the non-biological mother as another primary parent, anonymous

donors were often used to ensure legal protection of the dyad. The evaluation of the

sperm donor went beyond his necessary absence and into choosing key characteristics

that fit the non-biological (or sometimes biological) mother's characteristics in

appearance and personality. This created a paradoxical involvement of the sperm donor

where he was necessarily absent, but present (in his imagined characteristics) in the

future of the family by the created child.

In discussing the negotiation of love relationships in lesbian families, I also found

pregnancy described as a critical time where the love bond is created between biological

mother and child, non-biological mother and child, and (sometimes) between the two

mothers. Because of this critical bond, pregnancy, past a certain amount of time, became

a time when investment in love with the child became necessary. That investment in love

is possible because of the timing of the pregnancy, because one knows that she will

probably bring the pregnancy to term, and because of the imagined characteristics of the

sperm donor. In creating families that will look like they are biologically connected, as









with a White woman who has an African American partner choosing an African

American donor for her insemination, lesbian families use existing models to make sense

of themselves. Here, I argued that dominant ideologies surrounding families, specifically

that families are biologically connected and therefore look alike, have affected the way

lesbian families think about themselves and create their families. This step toward

creating a family that looks biologically connected may matter little to the members of

the family, but acts as protection against treatment that implies illegitimacy.

While lesbians work to ensure that their families will be treated as legitimate

families, the existence of their families often serves as a legitimating function. This

happens in three parts. First, they are seen as more legitimate social actors because a

requisite of adulthood is acting as a parent. Second, they are granted legitimacy as

daughters in their families of origin by carrying on the traditions and genetic material of

their family members. Third, lesbian communities also act as legitimacy granting bodies

in the way that lesbian parents can become exemplary lesbian role models. While all

women become more legitimate actors when they become mothers, it may be more

strongly felt for lesbian women because other people, specifically their families of origin,

have imagined that they will remain childless. All heterosexual women are assumed to

be on a path toward motherhood through pregnancy; when a woman comes out as a

lesbian, it is assumed that her path to motherhood has ended. What is more, lesbian

women, through their pregnancies, can be legitimate by their lesbian communities, an

additional feature of personal legitimacy that does not factor into heterosexual women's

experiences.