During our first few months with LB, all of our parenting was conducted in the public space of the NICU. This experience was not ideal, and only occasionally blissful. It's hard to parent in public. It's hard to parent in public under stress. It's hard to parent in public under stress as a member of a marginalized group. Lesbian moms in the NICU face specific legal and logistical issues. In the urban teaching hospital where I had LB, Badger faced no problems related to NICU access. Badger was able to go to the NICU and hold LB while I was still passed out from the birth. I'm sure the NICU is used to dealing with diverse structures, and their default seemed to be to allow liberal access. Despite our good experience, I was very glad that we had consulted with a lawyer with a lot of LGBT experience to get our 2nd parent adoption started. If we had had a problem, we knew that she was someone to whom we could reach out. [If meeting with an LGBT lawyer is logistically or financially impossible (and if money is a problem, call around to compare rates and ask about sliding scale fees), at least have the number of an LGBT advocacy group you can contact if you run into serious issues.] We took all our paperwork to the hospital, but no one seemed very interested in seeing it, and I seem to remember that I had to force someone to take a copy of my advance directive. If you are lesbian parents who know that your baby is likely to need NICU care, you can request a NICU consult before the birth-both to learn about specific policies, and to get a general sense of the NICU's attitude toward gay parents. [While I try not to be paranoid and/or assume the worst about people, cases like this one, from NC where only one mom could adopt their child, and when the child was hospitalized the mom who was not allowed to adopt was not allowed to stay alone with the child overnight because she was a "visitor" and not a parent are incredibly distressing. If we had had to deal with this crap while also dealing with a premature baby, I would have lost my mind.]
|LB shortly before she came home|
My advice for parents: figure out who your allies are and ask them for help. A sympathetic charge nurse or NICU social worker can help you find your way through the NICU. And if you are too tired to address every problem you encounter, that is okay also. You can always write a letter after the NICU is over. Try not to stress and worry, which is pretty much the most useless advice ever. My advice for health care providers: our primary goal was to have calm and competent care for LB, but the people we really liked made an extra effort to ask us little things like "So how did you guys meet?" or "How long have you been together?" Normal questions that made us feel comfortable.
Family Equality Council
National Center for Lesbian Rights
[Edited due to a serious lack of previous editing.]