The Birds And The Bees and NPH

“I know Modern Family is just a t.v. show, but on the show did Lily really come from Mitch and Cam?  I mean, was she born from them?” C.J.’s Brother asked as we drove to school one morning last week.

“No. They adopted her. People can have kids lots of different ways. When you make a baby from scratch you need a man and a woman,” I answered.

“Oh, cause I was wondering, cause Mitch and Cam don’t look Chinese.”

“On the show, Lily’s character isn’t from China, she’s from Vietnam, those are two totally different places,” I said. (Geography teacher + sex-ed teacher = me.)

C.J.’s brother has been curious about sex and babies lately. Not only have we been peppered with questions about “the birds and the bees,” but also about “the birds and the birds” and “the bees and the bees.”

“Please just tell me how babies get out of your belly,” he said seriously, tired of the game playing. “And, DON’T tell me they get out through the belly button!”

“The doctor or nurse or midwife helps the baby out,” I said, as I’ve been saying for a while now.

“But, WHERE do they help it come out of?”

“The vagina.”

“WHAT?!?!?! Gross! I thought it came out of the upper-leg area,” he said making a sour-face and smile at the same time.

Ahhhh, to be innocent and think that babies escape the uterus via the thigh.

For as long as he can remember C.J.’s Brother has known that families come in all shapes sizes and gender/sex makeups. But, now that he is thinking about logistics, families that he’s known forever are sparking questions. Take our Facebook friends who are two dads with an adopted daughter named after two famous Hepburns, where’d she come from? She was adopted. Okay.

Families through birth? Check. Families through adoption? Check. Families through surrogacy and egg/sperm donation? No check.

On Sunday night, Oprah’s Next Chapter featured an hour-long interview with Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka. They were talking about “the new nuclear family.” My hubby and I watched that night and sat down with C.J.’s Brother to watch it the next day to show him a family that is different than our own.

“I know them! That’s Neil and David!” he said with a gigantic smile when their images popped onto the scream. C.J.’s Brother attended the world premier of The Muppets movie as the guest of Uncle Uncle who was the guest of Neil and David. It was a defining day in C.J.’s Brother’s life. He went to Hollywood, he had the pleasure of seeing a “hobo” (as he likes to call the housing-challenged), he walked the green carpet, he met THE Muppets, he got to see a movie before any of his friends could have possibly seen it and the day ended with an all-dessert after-party.

Oprah showed a clip from Neil’s days on Doogie Howser, M.D.

“Look, that’s Neil when he was first on t.v.,” I said.

“Wow, that must have been in the sixties….like when they had the first 90210,” he said.

“It’s not that old. I watched it when I was in junior high.”

“That’s old.”

Whatever.

Neil and David gave Oprah a tour of their house. C.J.’s Brother asked if we could get a magic room with a secret door like Neil Patrick Harris has. I told him he could get one in his house when he grows up. He was disappointed. I disappoint my children at least once a day. Today it was due to magic room envy.

Then Neil and David’s twins, Harper and Gideon, appeared.

“Ahhhhh, they’re so cute!” C.J.’s Brother said, quickly getting over our lack of a magic room. “Are they adopted?”

“No,” I answered.

“One of them was pregnant?!” he said pointing to Neil and David.

“No, a lady helped them have their babies,” I explained.

“That was really nice of that lady,” C.J.’s Brother said.

“It sure was,” I replied honestly.

C.J.’s Brother lost interest in the show once the twins were whisked away for lunch and nap-time. I watched a few parts of the sit-down interview again, cause I liked them so much.

First, I liked to watch Neil and David give Oprah an “aha” moment. Viewers watched as Oprah realized, thanks to Neil and David’s family, that same-sex couples have to really plan out having children. There are no accidental pregnancies with same-sex couples; their children are totally thought out, yearned for, planned for and accepted so gratefully with endless amounts of love. Same-sex couple pregnancies are never unwanted, no mistakes, no surprises.

How many people can say that they have given Oprah Winfrey an aha moment?

http://www.oprah.com/common/omplayer_embed.html?article_id=37875

“What is your dream for your family?” Oprah asked them.

“I hope that we find ourselves in positions where they have the freedom to embrace whatever it is that they’re drawn to. I want to provide for them the opportunity for them to do whatever it is that they want,” Neil answered.

“Be their own person.” David added. “Because a lot of the time, we grow up thinking we should be something else. It’s so important that we tell these kids that they’re their own individual.”

The new nuclear family, has the same dream for their family that this mom has for her old traditional family. We didn’t come to be families in the same way, but we want the same things. And, to me, that’s all that matters. Thank you, thank you, thank you to Neil and David for being great people and parents…and, for being brave examples for my sons.

About raisingmyrainbow

RaisingMyRainbow.com is a blog about the adventures in raising a fabulous, gender creative son.
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32 Responses to The Birds And The Bees and NPH

  1. Toby says:

    Sometimes transgender people in same-sex couples have accidental pregnancies.

  2. Cait says:

    My folks back then got us a VHS of “Where did I come from” http://www.amazon.com/Where-Did-I-Come-From/dp/0818402539 which in an “all male” household led me to believe babies came out of a kind of “pee-pee” using the only reference point I had available to me at the time (well I was sort of right if we were spotted hyenas ^_^).
    I think that was when I realised the one reality of childbirth.

    Also, I’m delighted in nominating you for the Reader Appreciation Award.

    Take Care! ♥

  3. Blaad says:

    Some “creative” male ideas of birth go back a long way: the Greek god Dionysos is said to have been born from the thigh of Zeus, where little Dionysos was placed after his mother Semele was consumed by lightning. There is a nice illustraiton of the “birth” here: http://www.theoi.com/Gallery/K12.13.html

  4. I continue to love the hell out of this blog. This post was particularly great and I think you’re a great Mom!

  5. juconiglio says:

    Now, I’m not suggesting CJ’s brother needs at this age a better explanation than the one you gave but, just for the record, you are not entirely right when you say that “When you make a baby from scratch you need a man and a woman.” A gay couple where one partner is cisgender and the other is transgender can too make a baby from scratch.

  6. Alistair says:

    If you get the chance you should watch a film called “Breakfast With Scot”. It is about a couple who end up caring for a child (who happens to remind me a lot of your C.J.). Very family friendly film.

  7. I love NPH and his relationship…so cute together :)

  8. ACH says:

    Have you seen this video? Do you think CJ will grow up to become a Bronie? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Est3UNs-LIk

  9. Cheryl S. says:

    My theory about families (of any sort) is “the more people that love you, the better” This is exactly what I told my 6 y/o daughter when she informed me that one of her BFF’s has 3 mommies. The thing I love about children is that she just accepted that. No problem. Too bad all of society can’t be like that!

    My daughter has known that babies come out of your “girl parts” for a while. I felt bad when she informed my nephew of this when he stated they come out of your tummy. (He was born by C-section, so he’s right too!) He was completely grossed out.

  10. Wow, I had never thought of the fact that there are no unplanned pregnancies with same-sex couples (I mean, obvious once I think about it…but I guess I wasn’t thinking about it). I love aha moments too – thanks for this!

    • jvoor says:

      Which is maybe a good thing, as I know unplanned pregnancies can suck and put people thru a lot of pain. But not being able to accidentally get pregnant also feels heartbreaking to me at times. My future partner and I will never be able to just have a baby. Nor one that is a mix of the two of us…(obviously this is something that infertile couples deal with too, not just same-sex ones, but at least straight couples are more supported in their quest for children.)

  11. Anonymous says:

    NPH is so cool. CJ’s Brothers might have secret room envy but I’ve got meeting Neil Patrick Harris envy! Your blog is great. Your unconditional love for your sons and your openness about the struggles that come with being a parent are inspirational to me.

  12. sjcourchesne says:

    As a counter to the “all children of same-sex couples were planned and wanted” idea: my friend called the other day to say he “just inherited a two year old.” His (male) fiancé apparently had sired a child, unbeknownst to him, with some woman with whom he’d had a dalliance a couple years before. Out of the blue, she brought the little girl by, paternity test confirmed she’s his, and the mom left her daughter there. Now my friend and his fiancé are raising a kid together and they had not a plan in the world to have children, though they will be awesome dads to her.
    Just drives home, ALL families are different. You can’t generalize about ANY group!
    Keep up the good work, CJ’s mom!

  13. judithornot says:

    What a great teachable time!

  14. I recently came across your blog and I love it. It’s so refreshing to have a parent love their kids… and that’s it. It doesn’t matter what they like, who they grow up to be, or who they love. They are your kids and they are supposed to be loved uncontrollable. Thank you for raising a wonderful family.

  15. Jessica says:

    I love the books “It’s Not the Stork!: A Book About Girls, Boys, Babies, Bodies, Families and Friends ,” and “It’s So Amazing!: A Book about Eggs, Sperm, Birth, Babies, and Families” (for older kids), both by Robbie H. Harris. My kids are only 4 and we already read these. They talk about all kids of families and all the kinds of ways that babies come in to our lives. Lots of stuff about bodies and sex but in a very kid friendly, straight forward way. Great books.

  16. Here’s the rub as far as surrogacy, egg donation, sperm donation, etc. The plan includes deciding, in the case of a gay couple, that the child doesn’t need a mom and, in the case of a lesbian couple, the child doesn’t need a dad. When they are babies, it doesn’t much matter. But as they get older, the children yearn for a mom if they don’t have one or a dad if they don’t have one. They see other children with their mom/dad and envy the relationship – much as children of single/divorced/widowed parents. I have seen this play out and it can be very painful.

    The same sex couples often don’t hear the grief, or, if they do, they minimize or dismiss it. It is different from a planned heterosexual pregnancy, adoption, an unplanned pregnancy, or a heterosexual relationship that doesn’t work out. The child is supposed to feel fortunate to have two moms or two dads, to want to protect them from homophobia, and to put their legitimate feelings to the side in service of a broader cause. It can be a tough burden to bear.

    Generally speaking egg and sperm donation, and to a lesser extent, surrogacy, can be considered premeditated child abandonment. The abandonment is planned. Children who are called gifts have been given away. I’m not so sure people should be presents. Heterosexuals do it too and the grief is just as real – with different dynamics.

    I know this may be perceived as buzz kill, but it is an issue that is rarely addressed substantively.

    It isn’t to say that there isn’t an upside to being planned. But there is more to the story.

    • Gabrielle says:

      Sarah, I wonder if you speak from personal experience, and are then projecting your feelings onto everyone else. It’s not about deciding that a child doesn’t need a mom or dad. It’s about deciding that you want to love and nuture a child, just like when a single mom has a child or a single dad adopts. Who is to say that children of gay couples “yearn” for a parent of a different gender than their parents? Who says that all same-sex couples “minimize or dismiss” any concerns their children have? The child isn’t supposed to feel fortunate or anything else other than to feel loved. Donations and surrogacy have nothing to do with abandonment but rather with giving a precious gift to someone who desperately wants a child. That child will be loved by their parent(s), the ones who raise the child, not the one who birthed it, just like adopted kids. I think that if you did experience grief or abandonment issues, they are real to you and you should seek counseling to help you. But please don’t assume that everyone else has the same experience that you did.

    • jvoor says:

      I think that you raise an important point about the concept of loss and difference, and I think that it is possible that children of same-sex parents at one time or another might wish that they had a mom or a dad. I do not want to minimize the feelings that children of lesbian and gay parents may feel in regards to that, or dealing with homophobia, or having to be a good example and show that they are “normal”. I have read accounts by COLAGEr’s, (Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere) that speak to this. And it sounds like you may have personal experience with it. And when this comes up, it shouldn’t be ignored or swept under the carpet, these are very real feelings. But we also should think about the reasons why it comes up. Is this really a problem of the same-sex parents? Or is it a reflection of society and the way that it values a nuclear, heterosexual family? Does this kid have friends who also have same-sex parents? Do they see their family reflected in spaces and places around them? Are they given the space to talk about their feelings? (And as Gabrielle points out below–we shouldn’t assume that same-sex parents don’t talk about these things).

      I actually think that this problem of having a mom and a dad is brought up a lot in society, but in the wrong context, by the wrong people. Fox news and the religious right are always talking about the “damage” done to children of same-sex parents, and this is dangerous and hurtful to these families and to the way these kids feel.

      I think that if children feel that their family is different or that they are alone in having same-sex parents this will influence their other feelings about wanting a mom and dad. And also contribute to how they deal with homophobia and teasing. These are things that we need to talk to children about and give them the tools to deal with it. And if they are wanting a “mom” or a “dad” or a relationship with someone of the opposite sex of their parents, there are ways in which to address this…On the other hand, we should not assume that all children need a mom and a dad, or even two parents. This is heterosexist and also ignores the many children with same-sex parents who do not feel a loss and who are happy in their families. There are also many single parents who are raising happy, healthy, well-adjusted kids, despite the enormous work it takes to parent without a co-parent.

      Furthermore, I don’t know that not having connection to your donor/surrogate parent is the same as being abandoned by your heterosexual parent who was supposed to be there for you, who is the “mom” or “dad” in your life. Not all families are the same. Not all heterosexual families are ideal. Some people would be better off without their mother or father in their life. (You do acknowledge that het families abandon their children too). And not all children will respond the same to different situations. You pose heterosexual adoption as being different than same-sex adoption, and I do not understand how the loss of a birth family is different in these contexts, unless you assume that heterosexual parents are going to be better parents. Loss of a birth family should be acknowledged, while also realizing that not all adopted children will struggle with this loss.

      Finally, I do not think that you can lump together the feelings from having a parent die, having parents divorce, with the feelings of being adopted or having same-sex parents. You may link them as being related to not having two opposite-sex parents, but I think they are very different, complex situations. Again, children should be given the tools to talk about these things, they should know their family story, they should be able to discuss how they feel, the good and the bad. But we cannot say that gay and lesbian families are not good enough because the kids won’t have a mom AND a dad.

      • erikagillian says:

        Not to mention the study that said lesbian families are turning out the best people :)

        From my experience, and it is limited, just more a cultural thing from living in the SF Bay Area, sink of sin that it is, people who decide to have children on the scale that decision is for QUILTBAG peoples, also bring a family together that includes reliable friends of all types who will be there for their kids. Because that is the best thing to do for your kids. A nuclear family is a very recent and very easily broken thing, extended families are the norm for most of human history, well and clans and small villages and even small bands of people. If you want to raise a kid, ethically, I think you have to be sure you have a deep bench, even for just please come over, she’s been having a screaming fit for three hours and I can’t stand it anymore. Which is why I’m all for keeping heterosexual people from getting pregnant until they actually think about it rather than awww snookums he’s so cute let’s make one of our own, or our church says we have to, or my mom says, or I’m not a real man or I’m not a real woman. I’m for quality over quantity here

        I think there’s a lot of kids who yearn for what’s ‘normal’ at certain points in their lives, and I think we should teach them to yearn for what’s different and what’s extraordinary.

        Sorry for being rambly, but that seemed to really want to get out.

      • jvoor says:

        You were no more rambly than me, and boy was I long-winded. The support of extended family and friends is so important. As they say, it takes a village. Support keeps parents happy and capable of parenting the best way that they can. AndI think the more people in a child’s life who loves him or her or hir the better. Also, love seeing the QUILTBAG acronym used. :)

    • MomOfSimilarChild says:

      I also share concerns about anonymous donor gametes. Children do want to have access to their genetic heritage and being denied this is often a huge loss. Infertile heterosexual couples or gay couples should be aware of this.

  17. Christine says:

    I love this. Aren’t NPH and DB delightful?! Also, I empathize with the birthing questions. My daughter (age 4) recently asked and was rather surprised to learn about vaginal delivery. She, of course, thought she landed in the toilet. I adore kids…

  18. Lol… must have been half asleep when I posted that comment, confusing CJ for CJ’s brother, and then calling him CG.

  19. You have a wonderful rapport with your little guys and a great way of explaining things! I hope all of our children, whether they are gay or straight, have the chance to experience marriage with society’s full encouragement.

  20. irisgirl says:

    ditto to the perfectly-written comments above……….I also really enjoyed the Oprah interview, especially the whole “aha” moment segment. this program truly reinforced the respect and admiration I already had for NPH and BB as individuals, as a couple, and as parents.

  21. Well said. Dealing with the insemination, pregnancy, and childbirth questions were at times, difficult enough, when my kids were little. Our world, thank goodness, has now provided even more complexity, to explain to them.

  22. bobito says:

    Awww, CJ’s Mom! Your awesomeness seems to grow with every blog entry. The way you answered CJ’s Brother’s questions was great! I’ve had so much admiration for Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka, It takes a lot of courage to give people a closer look at their non-traditional family, just as your blog gives a closer look at a family with a child who doesn’t conform to traditional gender stereotypes. It’s great to know that you and other people take inspiration from them. You certainly have been an inspiration to me!

  23. DannyG says:

    Tremendously well written! And you handled the birds and the birds and the bees and the bees questions so well! CJ and his brother are very fortunate to have you as their Mom. And the world benefits from you publishing your wisdom! Thank you!!

  24. Have you heard of the book “What Makes a Baby?” It isn’t out yet, but it sounds like exactly what CG is looking for. http://www.what-makes-a-baby.com/

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