Love is Love: The Story of Us
Cali and Jamie.
My name is Cali, and even though I am often labeled a lesbian (and sometimes just call myself that since it’s easier to say), I actually identify as a “homoromantic pansexual.” I know...it’s a mouthful. Basically what that means is that I am sexually attracted to all sorts of people across the gender spectrum (from male to female to trans to genderqueer, etc.), but I feel more comfortable in romantic relationships with women. Most of the time, I identify under the umbrella term “queer.” It’s a word once used to bully and target people like me, but now encompasses all members of our community. Some queer people still don’t love the word, but I LIVE for it.
As a kid, I never even considered the idea that I could be queer. Back then, I only knew of two sexual orientations: Gay and Straight. I knew that I liked boys, so there it was - I was straight. It wasn’t until later in life that I started to piece together my own identity, using terms that didn’t even exist when I was growing up. When I first started to feel any kind of sexual or romantic attraction to women, it scared me. I was confused because “I was straight.” I think the world did me a disservice by not properly educating me on gender identity and sexual orientation. I was a student of the binary, and thought that was all there was. Now, I am confident and comfortable in my identity. It might be a mouthful, but it’s so ME, and the more I share that, the more I can help educate others.
My wife, Jamie, and I met in college. We are both softball players (shocking - lesbian softball players 😂) and were both offered scholarships to play at Rider University in New Jersey. We knew each other as team mates first and friends next. When we became roommates in the dorms, I never could have predicted where our lives would be over 15 years later. One day, I realized I loved her. It took months for us to properly talk about it, and a few more for me to even accept our love for real. The world had tried to teach me it was wrong. The day I shut the door on that lie, is the day I embraced the greatest relationship I have ever known.
We talked about kids for years. In college, I remember us joking around that we’d name our first kid Rider. But we didn’t want to dive into motherhood so we took some time in our twenties to just be young. We used our money for fun as often as we could, but mostly we just squirreled it away so we could buy a house. In 2012 we bought our home, and threw a rockstar wedding in 2013. As that year came to a close, we realized that we felt ready for kids.
The fertility process was exhausting and expensive, but proof that magic exists. We picked a donor that was like my wife (even the personality traits are just HER!) and we used my eggs. We were fortunate enough to only need IUI (what used to be called “artificial insemination”) to make our son, whom we named Rider after all). And later on, that same magic gave us our daughter, Birdie. Even though I know in my head that Jamie’s biology is not in these kids, my heart doesn’t believe it. They have so much of her in them, like somehow the universe granted us a wish we didn’t even know we had sent to the stars.
Motherhood has completely wrecked me AND created me at the same time. There are mornings when I’ve begged for the 11th time for my son to put his shoes on, spent far too many minutes searching the toy bins for my daughter’s water cup that she insists on hiding, and have finally gotten both kids with hats and jackets on for school, just to have one (or both) poop before we get out the door. As I flop the stinkiest one down on the couch for a lightning fast diaper change, catching the clock in the corner of my eye knowing that I am going to be late yet again, I almost can’t believe that motherhood is like this. How do people do it? Survive it? Not go crazy? But then, there are moments when things are slow and quiet, and I take stock of the life we’ve built and I just breathe in the amazing feeling of love. Tonight, Birdie fell asleep as I nursed her before bed. She doesn’t always do that. Most nights, I nurse her a bit, she pokes at my nose, giggles and tries to stall, and then goes in her crib with a kiss, snuggling her blanket as she rolls onto her belly. Tonight, though, she just conked out, one hand on her blanket and one hand grasping mine. I looked down at her and tried my best for a few moments to engrave that image of her as deep into my memory as I could. The days are long, they say, but the years are short. It is unbelievably hard to remember that in the thick of it, but I will try.
I am fortunate enough to be a part of a whole bunch of communities for support when I need it most. I am a queer, breastfeeding belly-mama of two toddlers conceived via IUI. I have about 12 hashtags I follow just on these characteristics alone! Sometimes the online, semi-anonymous communities feel more like a unit of support than my own friends. It isn’t that my friends aren’t there for me - it’s just that sometimes anonymity can help me be more forthcoming, more honest, and therefore more real. On the home front, however, Jamie and I are both so lucky to have parents and siblings that have been incredible support systems. We have loads of friends in our community that don’t even talk to their parents anymore because of being queer. Having our parents (and three grandparents) at our wedding was a blessing not taken for granted.
I am definitely the odd one in most Mom Circles, though. I have never really fit in with the mainstream crowd. I am the only out queer teacher at my school. I grew up in Southern California, but now live in New Jersey (pretty much the opposite of what a lot of other people might dream of doing). I have only two real-life friends that have embraced breastfeeding as I have - most Moms I encounter are turned off by my breastfeeding journeys and won’t hesitate to show as much. As a defense mechanism I have told myself repeatedly that I don’t need to be in those cliques, and pretend to be fine with being an outcast. But if I’m really honest with myself, it would be kind of cool to be included in the popular kids group for once.
Perhaps that’s another reason I like the online communities so much - I stick to places where I can feel included, and maybe that’s all we need as Moms. Maybe with the chaos of the morning rush, or the sleepless nights, or breastfeeding troubles, or whatever else we run into on our individual paths, we just need to feel normal at some point in between. So Moms of the world, stop turning your nose up at someone else’s parenting choices. They need you, and maybe you need them. Embrace it. 😘