Case Study 2 – A Case Story

Sally and Laura

Sally and Laura had been living together for 15 years when Laura begins talking about adopting a baby from China. In the early years of their relationship they hadn’t considered parenting. But recently, as their relationship has deepened, so has their yearning for a child.

The idea of being inseminated by an unknown male, although experienced by acquaintances, is not appealing to either of them. When Laura discovers China does not discriminate against gay and lesbian parents, and that the child would almost surely be a girl, she begins to seriously become interested in adopting for the first time.

Less than a year later, they are the parents of a 10-month-old baby girl. Laura legally becomes the adoptive parent and, because she earns more money, continues working full time. Sally becomes the stay-at-home mom.

Since, in their circle of lesbian friends, many are mothers with older children, Sally and Laura are more often associating with other adoptive parents. Their identities as lesbians begin to fade into the background as their identities as parents become stronger.

Sally reports experiencing an almost continual dissonance, as people assume her partner is a man and that their relationship is a traditional one. Even in “out” contexts, such as play groups, other mothers often make blanket statements as though everyone’s partner is male.

When it is time for preschool, Laura and Sally find themselves back in the straight world they had once been able to avoid. They are not feeling accepted as a family. The director of the school initiates a very uncomfortable conversation about concerns for their daughter. Sally and Laura are looking for schools and a neighborhood where they will be accepted.

Thrust back into a straight world, where they are marginalized, is taking its toll on their relationship. At the same time, the couple is aware that Sally has no legal parental rights. This could be a problem if something happens to Laura or to their relationship.

As much as Sally and Laura prepared to become parents, the cultural “norms” of the world began to seriously affect them: the experience of not being fully accepted, the legitimacy of their family being questioned, and not having access to the same kinds of legal rights as heterosexual married couples, began to dominate their identity as parents.

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