Paige & Linda
Having a baby was always part of the plan for Long Island couple Paige and Linda.
Linda, a magazine editor, had always wanted to be a mother. “Growing up and as a teenager, I never thought it would be possible to have the same kind of family as everyone else,” she said, but growing acceptance of LGBT parents changed that perception. Paige, who works in marketing, felt the same way. “I always wanted kids, even before I met Lin,” she said.
About six months after getting married, the couple began looking at options. They quickly decided that Paige would be the one to carry the baby and began trying to conceive. After having difficulty with artificial insemination, they switched to in vitro fertilization (IVF), which finally took. “IVF was emotionally and financially difficult, so we were very lucky it worked the first time,” said Paige.
The pregnancy went smoothly. “I didn’t really feel pregnant until the 7th or 8th month,” said Paige. “Overall it was pretty seamless.”
When Paige gave birth to their daughter, Becca, it was a surreal moment for the couple. “She was gorgeous!” said Linda. “I couldn’t stop staring at her. We took pictures right away.” Becca had Paige’s lips and curly hair. They looked forward to raising her with excitement and a little bit of nervousness.
Early parenthood involved some trial-by-error. “I remember we couldn’t really figure out how to swaddle her. Never did get it quite right,” laughed Linda. Ultimately, they bought a swaddle blanket with Velcro. Paige, who was trying to breast feed at the time, describes the early, no-sleep, nonstop days as a new level of exhaustion. “But we wouldn’t change anything,” she added.
Paige and Linda both keep up with current events, and though they are married, and both listed as parents on Becca’s birth certificate, changes in the national political climate caused them to begin to worry about Linda’s relationship to her daughter being challenged. “What if we were out of state or abroad and, God forbid, something happened to Paige and Becca and I were denied getting into the hospital?” Linda said. The solution was to go through the process of a step-parent adoption.
“It makes me so mad,” said Paige. “Being called a ‘step-parent adoption,’ because she’s not a step-parent. There’s no ‘step’ in any of this.”
The first part of the process involved submitting a lot of paperwork to the court, including their marriage license and birth certificate. But the court kept coming back with more questions – what was Paige’s weight? Hair color? Eye Color? Hobbies? The court even asked for some specific information that required the couple to go back to their pediatrician who, in turn, had to go back to the hospital for answers. “It felt so invasive!” said Paige. The court was going through the motions asking questions of Paige as if she was an adoptive mother, not the mother of a child she gave birth to.
One of the most invasive parts of the process for Linda came during the home study, in which a social worker came to Paige and Linda’s house and asked all kinds of questions, including ones about their childhoods, religious beliefs, and whether they had Sunday dinners together as a family. “As pleasant an experience as the social worker tried to make it, her visit, just by its nature, still felt as if we were both being judged. If we were a couple adopting a child from somewhere else, I could understand. But Becca was already living with us, for two years at that point, and Paige is her actual birth mother. The whole thing was crazy,” said Linda.
They finally received a court date. At the hearing, the judge quickly approved their adoption paperwork, which listed both Linda and Paige as ‘adoptive parents,’ even though Paige was the birth mother. “What was weird for me was that everyone was saying congratulations,” said Paige. “There was no point. I don’t know why we had to go through this process for the state to recognize something that already was.” Linda felt odd about the congratulations, too. “Nothing felt different for me because I was always her mother. I was her mother before this, and I’m still her mother.”
The entire process for New York to fully recognize Paige and Linda as parents took almost a full year, and came at a considerable emotional and financial cost.
Today the family is doing great. Parenthood is getting a little easier now because Becca is old enough where she can express herself and tell her moms what she wants. She’s a happy and affectionate child.
Paige and Linda want more children, but they dread having to go through the process again —unless the law changes. “Get this passed!” said Paige. “The law should be where we are today and not function as if it’s still 1970. The law needs to evolve.”