By Ashlee Barrett
Sometimes I don't know what type of story we should tell about our life and our family. Are we a family with two Moms? Are we the family that was created with IVF? Or are the family of a child with Down syndrome? We are all three. And we exist in an interesting space that asks us to belong to many different communities at the same time. It is overwhelming at times - trying to figure out where we belong and what our voices should be but one thing we have learned while belonging to each of these communities is that community is important and being an authentic voice is important to us.
Somehow we adopted the term 2 Mom Crew - or maybe I did - and it has stuck on the description. We call ourselves a niche family now - the two Mom crew with an extra chromosome to be exact.
My wife's name is Kate and we were married in 2018. We met when we were both teaching at the same school - I knew immediately I wanted to marry Kate but she took a little convincing. She knew immediately she wanted a huge family but I took a little convincing. We are a balance - a team - she is laid back and funny, the source of play - I am very type A, organizing our lives, and the source of comfort. My wedding vows actually said I would allow her to be the "fun Mom" and I feel like I have held on that promise. We go by Mom (Kate) and Mama (Ashlee) and I think it's pretty important that people get those terms right - you wouldn't like to be called by the wrong name, right?
And that is where life starts to get tricky for us - we exist in a space that is typically reserved for cisgender couples. Parenthood.
For example, when I am at the doctor with Maeve, they never refer to me by my name (Ashlee or Ms. Barrett) - it's always Mom. But I'm not Mom, I am Mama. The birth certificate said "Father" until it was returned to us. And my wife will have to adopt our child even though she is listed on her birth certificate.
I think people take for granted the existence of cisgender families and assume every child belongs to one. We assume people's pronouns - we assume people's roles in parenting - we assume children exist in spaces that make sense in our heternormative environments. To place yourself in that headspace - take a moment and think about how infuriating it is when a person assumes anything about your child's capabilities - how many times have we heard "they won't be able to do xyz?"
Pride month is all about celebrating the unique, wonderful, LGBTQI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex) families that exist in our world and if I could do anything to celebrate that would be to help educate anyone and everyone on the existence of these families by helping others acknowledge the work you can do for the LGBTQI community. This could be as easy as teaching your child that LOVE makes a family not who makes up your family. You could learn the difference between biological sex and gender. You could change the language you use about sexuality - it isn't a lifestyle choice (living on the beach is a lifestyle choice!). You could buy books that represent all types of families ("Mommy, Mama, and me" is a favorite in our house!)
Ask questions! Be open to learning! It isn't about tolerance - it is about acceptance.
But also remember, some things are really offensive and come off as intrusive -just like with our rocking kiddos, not everything is a learning or teaching moment - "does she have a Dad?" "Isn't she going to need a male role model?" "Do you know the donor?" (No, she has two Moms - there are plenty of males in the world she can see all day every day - and Maeve deserves the right to ask questions about her donor before I tell the world).
In June, I want to exist in the Pride space - the LGBTQI space - the space we sometimes forget about because we throw ourselves head first into the Down syndrome space. We are a two mom crew rocking an extra chromosome and we are really proud of our community. Happy Pride month!
Ashlee Barrett, her wife Kate and their beautiful daughter Maeve can be found at @dbl_a_b and @kaitlyn_barrett on Instagram.