Jolivette Mecenas

Forming A New Family, Emotionally And Legally

Last week, Jolivette and Charlyne filed paperwork for a domestic partnership. Here they are, standing outside the County Clerk's office. i i

hide captionLast week, Jolivette and Charlyne filed paperwork for a domestic partnership. Here they are, standing outside the County Clerk's office.

Courtesy of Jolivette Mecenas
Last week, Jolivette and Charlyne filed paperwork for a domestic partnership. Here they are, standing outside the County Clerk's office.

Last week, Jolivette and Charlyne filed paperwork for a domestic partnership. Here they are, standing outside the County Clerk's office.

Courtesy of Jolivette Mecenas

I'm a few weeks into my third trimester now, and a stack of pregnancy books has accumulated on my nightstand. One of my colleagues gave me a good one: And Baby Makes Four: A Trimester-by-Trimester Guide to a Baby-Friendly Dog. It offers advice that I consistently, willfully ignore, and that is: Demote your dog from No. 1 Baby to just "the dog."

Jolivette and Charlyne with their dog, Ono i i

hide captionJolivette and Charlyne with their dog, Ono

Courtesy of Jolivette Mecenas
Jolivette and Charlyne with their dog, Ono

Jolivette and Charlyne with their dog, Ono

Courtesy of Jolivette Mecenas

As I wrote in my introduction, we own a rescue dog named Ono. My partner, Charlyne, tells me that during my pregnancy, I've been speaking baby talk to the dog nonstop. I blame this on the hormones. The pregnancy books tell me that I should expect mood swings due to changes in hormone levels. So far, I've only swung in one direction, and that is sensitive, a little weepy, and surprisingly vulnerable.

Recently, I've cried at every Pride Month documentary aired on public television. Even a short film on the Supreme Court battle over the term "Gay Olympics" left me in tears, hugging my dog. People, can the gays just get a break? And I realize I have been given a tremendous break: an awesomely supportive family.

Family obviously means a lot to me. So for me, as it is for many people, family is a wellspring of vulnerabilities. Thinking about my "new" family, I feel very vulnerable about the legal gray matters of being same-sex parents. On a research mission, Charlyne and I took a trip to the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center in Hollywood. The very nice supervisor of the Family Services Program, Amanda (who just had a baby herself), loaned us a copy of Do Your Own California Adoption: Nolo's Guide for Stepparents & Domestic Partners.

About Jolivette

Jolivette Mecenas, 38, lives with her partner, Charlyne, in Los Angeles. The two welcomed their first child, Maximilian Dominic Mecenas-Sarmiento, on Aug. 17.

We learned that under California law A.B. 205, domestic partners (straight or gay) have the same rights with respect to a child born to either partner. Regardless, it is still a good idea for the non-birth mother to file for adoption to ensure all legal rights as the birth mother. We also learned from Amanda that although most of the local L.A. hospitals acknowledge A.B. 205 in their policies, we should still take a copy of our domestic partnership certificate with us to the hospital when the time comes to deliver, just in case we have to deal with any homophobic health care providers. Our domestic partnership ensures us that both of our names will appear on the baby's birth certificate. This helpful information has eased my sense of vulnerability surrounding our legal rights as parents.

But first, Charlyne and I needed to file for domestic partnership. So last week, we took our application to the County Clerk, paid our $26, and were handed a certificate stamped with an official seal of the County of Los Angeles. Afterward, we met our family for a celebratory lunch: my parents, my brother and his family, and Charlyne's sister and brother in-law.

I was a little nervous about lunch, as my need for acceptance from my "old" family for having a baby with Charlyne leaves me feeling very vulnerable in another way. It's an old vulnerability I've been familiar with since high school, when I first came out to myself, until now, coming out 20 years later as a pregnant mama-to-be.

Jolivette and her family met up for  lunch after she and Charlyne filed their papers. Clockwise from top left: dad Ernesto; Jolivette; Charlyne; sister-in-law Regina; mother Dahlia; niece Leila; and nephew SoulKaya. i i

hide captionJolivette and her family met up for lunch after she and Charlyne filed their papers. Clockwise from top left: dad Ernesto; Jolivette; Charlyne; sister-in-law Regina; mother Dahlia; niece Leila; and nephew SoulKaya.

Courtesy of Jolivette Mecenas
Jolivette and her family met up for  lunch after she and Charlyne filed their papers. Clockwise from top left: dad Ernesto; Jolivette; Charlyne; sister-in-law Regina; mother Dahlia; niece Leila; and nephew SoulKaya.

Jolivette and her family met up for lunch after she and Charlyne filed their papers. Clockwise from top left: dad Ernesto; Jolivette; Charlyne; sister-in-law Regina; mother Dahlia; niece Leila; and nephew SoulKaya.

Courtesy of Jolivette Mecenas

But I didn't have to worry at all: Our family met us at the restaurant with hugs, and my mom even brought us roses. We took pictures. Everyone was happy for us. This new level of closeness with my family has been the happiest surprise of all during my pregnancy, and I am deeply grateful and relieved. These feelings, unlike those for my dog, have nothing to do with pregnancy hormones — just happiness.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

About

Support comes from: