Maternity Tour, pt. 2
I was beyond exhausted the morning after the hospital training and tour. I felt shaky and unsure, and tempted to just simply let time pass in the hope that the old saying of “time will heal” would kick into action on my account.
Then I decided to take a different route.
In times like this, the challenge is to not assume the worst of places like this hospital but realize that if I want change to occur, I must be the one to push for it. I must be the educator of those who don’t know what language to use, or who don’t even have the foresight to know when they see two women in an audience of parents – even in a progressive place like Southern California – to recognize them both as moms instead. My hope is that if I educate places like this hospital, there will soon be another same-sex couple who won’t have to endure the kind of night my wife and I had. My hope is that there is already another same-sex couple doing this same thing at a local preschool so that my wife and I won’t have to do it there – that we are each making choices that will help someone else.
With all of this in mind the morning after our tour, I called the hospital and got the chance to speak to the woman who is in charge of the maternity education at the hospital. She was kind in her tone and listened to everything I had to say.
I’m not calling to complain, but to help educate. My wife and I still very much want to have our babies in your hospital, but we had a very disruptive experience during your training and tour. And there needs to be a change in the language and images used in educating the public about the birthing experience at your hospital.
I expressed my fear, imagining having to educate the nurses around us on the day our kids are born that I’m not the aunt, or the dad, or the friend – I’m the wife and mother. I just want to be able to beam with pride when I welcome my son and daughter into this world, and to be congratulated alongside other parents, without having to tell the nurses I’m “the other mom” when they ask where “dad” is at. I did my best to make clear that the language used by the hospital needs to become more inclusive to represent all of their patients, and that the images used in advertising and educational materials need to reflect this change as well.
She genuinely thanked me for my call and for letting her know about our experience. She let me know just how difficult it is to make sure everyone is included. Gender-neutral language can sometimes be offensive. For example, she said that there was an instance when a man almost grabbed her in rage, explaining that he was “the dad, not the partner.” She admitted, “the hospital is in a difficult place of figuring out how to be inclusive without excluding others” and assured me that the hospital has had many same-sex couples give birth there, but that my wife and I are probably the first same-sex couple to actually be legally married as same-sex marriage has only been legal for mere months in our state.
My suggestions feel simple and bring everyone to an equal, visible place:
- The person giving the presentation needs to explain in the beginning that she’s aware of the many different kinds of parents represented in the room and will simply use the term “co-parent” or “support person” as a way of including everyone.
- The hospital needs to add photos in their training and education materials that better reflect the community of people using the hospitals services; people of color, age and different sexual orientations.
- If the presenter doesn’t want to make a statement at the beginning of the class, then when discussing the non-carrying parent they need to change the language used to, “partner, husband/dad, and wife/mom”.
She wanted to make sure I knew I was being heard, but also for me to understand she was in a difficult place. Understandably, her main concern was how to be inclusive without excluding others. What I think she meant was, “How do we use ‘gay language’ without making the straight dads angry?”
I understand her point; I mean is she supposed to spend 15 minutes explaining the many different kinds of people represented in the room? Can you imagine how that would go?
Thank you for coming to our tour and training I wanted to let you know we have a couple who have recently relocated from the East Coast, an evangelical Christian couple, a daddy-daddy, a single mom, and a person who does not identify with any gender and prefers pronouns of “hir, ze, their and them” … and by the way, all are welcome!
While I can see the difficult place she’s in, her concern feels awfully familiar. Is making a straight dad angry the slippery slope of inclusive language? I know hospital’s desire isn’t to isolate people, but it felt like she was saying, “It’s most important to find inclusive language that keeps the straight people comfortable and keeps you gays happy enough.”
My feelings about the conversation are torn. I want to be generous, patient and understanding in my dealings with the hospital. I appreciate their openness in hearing me out and I truly hope the more I engage them and those around me in these ways, change will begin to occur. Will people be uncomfortable and maybe even get angry? Yes, she is right that some straight dads might get mad that they are now listed as equals to the women who are just as much a parent as they are, but it’s time to make this change.
For me today, as I’ve given myself a voice I have somehow found a place of not letting even places like the hospital name my experience for me.
I am a woman, I am a lesbian, and while I am not carrying my children in my womb, I am a mother.