My partner and I first met in 1995 when we were both taking a painting class together. I was 25 years old and she was 34. I hated painting and on the first day of class my goal was to place my painting station next to someone who could paint. My motive was to somehow convince that person to help me paint my paintings. It sounds corny but I saw Carol from across the room. Why here? I don’t know. I had never seen her before nor did I know anything about her but I was drawn to her. I do know she seemed as if she knew how to paint and that was important because, folks, if I needed someone to do my paintings for me I certainly needed that person to be able to paint, right? Crazy, I know. It’s easy to say that now when looking back but my plan seemed so reasonable and logical at the time.
So with having selected Carol as the person I felt could “help me out” in a painting kind of way, I set my painting station right slap dab next to hers. OK, well, needless to say it didn’t turn out quite the way I had planned. Let me put it this way. To say we disliked each other would have been an understatement. Carol found me to be aggressive, angry and always stepping into her personal space. She would say I had boundary issues. You think? I have no idea where she got that idea. How about the fact that I was always going into her painting area and borrowing paint without asking. Did leaving a note count because I’d at least leave a note? OK, well, maybe not every time but some of the time I would. Gosh, I wasn’t counting. Often, I’d sit in her chair in her painting station when she wasn’t there. Oh, hell, who was I kidding? I’d sit in her chair when she was there. At least I didn’t only do it behind her back. SO maybe I did have a few boundary issues. Funny enough I had never done that to anyone else. I had never felt that comfortable. I’m not sure why I felt comfortable to do it to Carol. At that time I saw Carol as very quiet and I must admit, weird. Meanwhile, why did I think she was weird? It was because she wore 1980’s glasses and clothes. Folks it was already 1995. Come one! I say that but between you and me I was still wearing many of my 1980’s clothes too. But we won’t get off the subject at hand. Anyway, I would spend hours trying to get her to talk to me and then when she did I never could hear her. Carol had a tendency to speak very quietly and I was constantly saying, “What? I didn’t hear you. What did you say?” I’m sure that didn’t help to get her to warm up to me. But over time (about a year) my persistence paid off. We became friends. We’d go to the movies together or out to eat. We’d spend hours and hours talking until the wee hours of the morning in her car. Never in a million years would I had thought our dislike for one another would have transformed into love. But, it did. In April of 1997 we were an official couple. Now let me explain something to you about lesbians. It is said we will have a date, sleep together and then move in together. Lesbians never seem to have a “dating” period. And to keep true to lesbian form, Carol and I did just that and started living together immediately. Gosh, folks, I was a lesbian now. I couldn’t disappoint. I had to follow the crowd. (Please note obvious humor, here.)
During those beginning years times were hard just like any new couple starting off. We had discussed having a baby. Well, I brought it up. I was 27 and I wanted Carol to know what I wanted. But before even thinking about actually having a baby we’d have to get past certain hurdles first. Carol had another life before me. She had been married (to a man) for 11 years and they had a daughter who was ten at the time. Listen, Carol was all for us having a baby but later- possibly much later. She needed to be there for her daughter especially after a long bitter divorce. Meanwhile, Carol’s relationship with me would become a source of problems for Carol’s ex husband and he’d ultimately try to use “our gay relationship” to try to take her daughter away from her. And in South Carolina where her ex-husband lived it was legal to use that as a reason to remove a child from a parent’s home. Carol’s attorney advised her to keep our relationship a “secret”. Meaning we were never to reference each other as partners or ever even insinuate we had an intimate relationship. We were to tell everyone we were roommates for financial reasons. And by keeping up that charade it would take a lot for Carol’s ex to prove other wise. OK, so here we are newly in love. All we wanted was to be happy and to share our joy. For those of you who have ever been in love you know what I mean. And yet, we couldn’t. So much could be threatened if we did. It was hard. Meanwhile, I would have thought it to be obvious we were more than roommates. I often ask myself how did we “hide”? Well for one it helped when the people we were fooling weren’t that bright. But that alone could only last for so long before even they too started questioning. I won’t lie. On an emotional level it was very difficult and extremely stressful on our relationship. I was hiding for Carol. I loved her. But, I was naive and I didn’t know how hard that would be.
Carol and I were formally known as “roommates”. We had separate beds in our apartment to help keep up appearances for the sake of her daughter. You’d have to admit it was strange that we were roommates and yet we’d go everywhere together. But, what could we do? This was the reality of Carol’s life and if it assured she could remain in her daughter’s life, we were going to do it. So, we played the game. Because of this we by no means could show affection to each other in public. Carol was creative, though. Sometimes while in public she would “accidentally” bump into me to be able to touch me. Remember folks, we were newly in love. Try maintaining that separation from your significant other especially at that time. It’s hard and emotionally draining. We felt imprisoned and hated it. Though in time our lie was realized which in a lot of ways was a relief. But by that point Carol’s daughter was 15 years old and able to choose where she wanted to live. By that time we had spent 5 years hiding and it took a toll on our relationship. Hiding and pretending to be someone we weren’t really had a negative impact on our relationship during that time. I know we both didn’t think we’d make it through. It was so hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel but we did finally reach it. Carol’s relationship with her daughter was going well. Her daughter eventually accepted our relationship. It was a long 5 years until that day came but more than anything we were elated we got there. It was amazing how freeing it was when we no longer had to hide. However, I’d be lying if I said those 5 long years didn’t leave us scared. They definitely did.
During the Spring of 2001 I approached Carol about my desire to have a baby and for the first time Carol was on board. However, she had one small requirement before we could start the process. She told me she wanted to be married first. Folks, I thought she was nuts. Married? Come on! I wanted a baby. Can’t we skip the marriage thing? After all it wasn’t as if it was legal. But, what Carol wanted was a commitment from each other. No, it wasn’t “legal” but it was a verbal contract to each other that we’d stick together through the good, the bad and the ugly. Listen, I had always dreamed about getting married and I loved the pomp and circumstance that came with it but my dream was with the idea of having a baby. I understood Carol’s point, though. Before we have a baby together she wanted a ceremony where we would commit to each other and our guests would be our witnesses. We needed to say it out loud. Having a baby was a serious decision and she needed to know I was committed. Who would have thought my girlfriend was so traditional? Marriage before babies? How ironic was that, folks? Hey, just because we’re gay doesn’t mean we can’t have traditional morals.
In July of 2001 we invited 50 close friends and family to our commitment ceremony where we promised to each other to stay together through thick and thin. You know all of the same wedding ceremonial stuff that everyone else does. Since neither our friends or family or us had ever seen a same sex commitment ceremony, it was something new for all of us. I never thought a ceremony where two people stand up in front of witnesses would ever make a difference but it did. Not only did it make us feel married but it also made our guests gain a new understanding of what it meant for two women to love each other. To this day we have family who were in attendance tell us it was at our ceremony where they really accepted that our love was as real and as pure as it gets. Our ceremony not only affirmed our love to one another but it in many wonderful ways allowed others to gain insight into that different kind of love. It really was a special moment. Don’t get me wrong though. We want the right to marry legally. But, that’s an entirely different can of worms.
After we were “married” Carol and I came back to the table to discuss more seriously how to have a baby. Not only were we both in a good place but our lives were in order. With the countless amount of hours we spent speaking about our dream of having a baby, I never thought we’d really get to that place where we could make it a reality. But, there we were. Carol had a good job where she had partner benefits. For the first time in years the two of us had health insurance and it would pay for most of the infertility services we needed. And even though our partner benefits were taxed as income (because we weren’t a legally married couple), it didn’t matter at the time. What mattered was that everything seemed to be falling into place.
As we were doing our research we wanted to do one thing first. Just like other blended families Carol and I wanted to speak to Carol’s daughter about our plans. We weren’t asking for her permission but our hopes were to include her so she’d be excited about it too. Also, it was important that she knew she wasn’t going to be replaced. The truth was we wanted her to love our baby too and to be the big sister. Meanwhile, Carol’s daughter was a typical 15 year old. She had her fears and concerns. All we could do was to be there for her and to show her she was as important.
We knew from the start I was going to be the one to carry the baby. At 31 by this time I was definitely feeling my fertility time clock counting down. But I felt confident it would work out. Maybe I was a bit too confident before knowing the process that we’d have to go through however I needed to be positive. I needed to feel it would work. Over and over again I had painted that picture in my head of me having a child with Carol. It had to work, right? What’s that saying, “You paint it, it will happen?” Yea, I know. That’s not the saying, but for me it was. I really believed it would become a reality. And so we took the next step….