Polyamory and Pregnancy: Taking a Break from Polyamory

Minor changes here. This post causes a collision in two of my basic beliefs: 1) no one can force or require you to be in a relationship and 2) you don’t dump people you love because it’s convenient. In the end, #1 is an ethical position related to consent and #2 is a personal opinion on how not to be a douchebag. So when they collide #1 comes out on top. You have every right to do something I consider douche baggy. Some minor revisions here, but the gist of the post hasn’t changed. Revised 2/17/17

Love is infinite, time is not.

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes/How do you measure, measure a year? – Jonathon Larson, Rent

I’m not sure who first said it, but it is true. No matter how we measure and count the days, we only have so much time. And pregnancy and babies take up lots of it.

For some people, this becomes a time to take a break from polyamory or open relationships. To say ‘we are focusing on this relationship and this child.’

Each individual needs to make this decision for themselves. (Yes, individual. This is not something I believe a nesting/primary partner has a right to require of you.) You, and only you, know what your resources are in terms of time, energy, and support. You do not owe anyone a relationship. If you can no longer give a relationship the time and energy you think it deserves, you have every right to say, “I’m sorry, I can no longer keep my commitments here, I need to step back.”

If you DO decide to step back from some relationships, remember that relationships evolve. You and your partners can remain friends, can shift to a more casual relationship, can be comets for each other. There is a lot of middle ground between “keeping things the way they are” and “ending all but one relationship”.

For myself, I can see a situation where I might say ‘I can’t start any new relationships, I need to close up my triad/quad/v/network/group because I can’t commit to anything new.’ I can’t imagine a situation where I would be happy or willing to end relationships rather than evolve them. Or to stop being polyamorous and living in committed monogamy for any length of time. But everyone is different.

Whatever you decide, whether you are able to continue with your current relationships, consider new ones, or find closure with some relationships so you can focus on your primary/nesting relationships and child/ren; make sure you do it with respect for yourself and your partners.

Blessed be.

This post is part of the Polyamory and Pregnancy blog series.

The Polyamorous Home, now in paperback!

Okay, it took me way longer than it should have, but I finally fought my way through the formatting. The Polyamorous Home is now available in paperback on Amazon.

Here, for the first time, is a guide to how polyam folk can create homes and living situations that suit our lives and our relationships. Whether you live alone or with a dozen of your partners, friends, and family, you can create a home life that works for you.

-Alternative living arrangements
-Budgeting for dates
-Moving in together
-Sleeping arrangements
-Holidays
-And more…

The Polyamorous Home by Jess Mahler

Polyamory and Pregnancy: When Primaries Have Children

Minor edits here. This post references a post about an earlier post about secondary partner’s becoming pregnant. That post needs a complete re-write and will (hopefully) be up sometime next week. Revised Feb 15, 2017

This isn’t one that generates the sheer Google traffic of a secondary partner getting pregnant, but I think it deserves just as much attention.

The thing is, hierarchical relationships tend to focus on what affects the primary partners. Of course, everyone fully sympathizes when a secondary partner becomes pregnant and the primary is floundering to figure out how to handle it. However, a secondary who finds out their partner is having a baby with their partner’s primary is affected as well. (For this post I will be referring to ’primary relationships’ as opposed to ’primary couples’. Some people have primary triads, quads or other set ups)

Like many things, I’d like to think it is self-evident that a primary relationship that decides to try to have a child should inform their secondaries. (It’s part of that whole ’open and honest communication thing’). However, even if every primary relationship in the world did this, there would still be the unplanned and expected pregnancies.

Every polyam relationship is different, and “primary” and “secondary” are used for such a wide variety of arrangements. So these situations can vary widely. The primary partners could discuss the possibility of a pregnancy with their secondary(s), asking their opinion and approval. They could inform the secondary(s) of their decision. And sometimes they inform the secondary(s) that they are seeking children and have decided to end all secondary relationships.

Personally, I think that last is a shit thing to do, but some people do it. And it is their right to end their relationships anytime they want for any reason (or no reason).

Equally, some secondaries won’t care what the primary partners do or decide, some will have very strong feelings/opinions, and some may feel threatened or left out. Caught on the outside looking in.

If you are a secondary partner in this situation, a pregnancy in a primary relationship will affect your relationship with your partner(s). But it doesn’t have to be a negative effect. Your SO(s) will need a great deal of support and help, especially at the end of the pregnancy and right after the child is born.

If you choose to back away from the pregnancy as ’something that doesn’t involve you’, then your relationship will definitely lose intensity. It may end as the baby becomes a major focus of their time and energy. This can be healthy, if the relationship has run its course and you are ready to move on, or if you decide it is the best thing for you. Or it can be unhealthy if you feel resentful of the ’wedge’ that the pregnancy has driven in your relationship(s).

However, you can choose to be involved as a friend. If you do, you can offer to help with transport to doctor’s appointments, help set up the nursery, or babysit (or help with the dishes) so baby’s parents can get a break. If you do this, then the pregnancy and child can become not something that drives a wedge in the relationship, but another way to have a relationship.

If you are a part of the primary relationship in this situation, try to keep your secondary(s) in the communication loop. Maybe they want to be involved on some level, maybe they don’t. Maybe you want them involved, maybe you don’t. IMO, within reason, the pregnant person should get what they want during pregnancy (they’re the one going through hell). But be considerate of the other people who are affected.

All of this is pretty much the same if the pregnancy is unexpected, except that it’ll be coming at everyone as a surprise. As I believe I’ve mentioned in earlier posts; take your time deciding how you feel about it, and don’t make any major decisions immediately. You usually have nine months or so to figure everything out.

This post is part of the Polyamory and Pregnancy blog series.

Polyamory and Pregnancy: What makes a parent

Since writing this post I have learned that the poem is by Fleur Conkling Heylinger and was probably published in the early 1950s. Unfortunately, my Google-fu is failing me, and aside from one other poem, I haven’t been able to find anything about Fleur Conkling Heylinger. She might or might not be the same as the Fleur Conkling who wrote children’s books during the 1950s.

I still don’t have any words to add. Updated 2/14/17.

The Answer (to my adopted child of choice)

Not flesh of my flesh, nor bone of my bone,
But still, miraculously, my own.
Never forget for a single minute
That you didn’t grow under my heart, but in it.

I don’t know who wrote it, or where it came from, but I grew up with that verse hanging next to my bed. I was adopted, raised by people who I had no blood relation to, but who were my family as truly as if I had been born among them.

Perhaps it is that upbringing that makes it so easy for me to see others as parents for my children. To say that being a parent is as much a matter of the love and commitment, as it is conception.

I don’t have any profound words to add. For me, that simple verse says it all. Within your polycule, you need to decide who will be a parental figure to the baby, and who will be an aunt/uncle, friend of the family, god/dess parent, or whatever works.

But if a child grows within your heart, and if you let that feeling become action – to care for and raise and guide, to walk the floor with through an infant’s first cold, hold her hand as she takes her first steps, make him endless lunches for endless school days, bandage his hurts, praise her successes and be there in all things, because of the love you have for them, then you are a parent. Biology be damned.

This post is part of the Polyamory and Pregnancy blog series.

Partner Preferences

Minor edits here. I think my space bar was broken when I wrote this because SO MANY extra spaces. Sadly, Matt Bullen stopped writing his blog (or possibly moved it without a forwarding address) a few years ago, but you can still find him on Facebook and Twitter if you look. Revised 2/10/2017.

Giving a shout out to Matt Bullen, who recently started the blog “Matt Bullen: Polyamory Next Door.” In addition to a great sense of humor and enjoyable writing style, Matt put up a post last month that gave me an insight into a practical polyam problem that never occurred to me (and probably should have, given past experiences.)

Y’see, Matt had a problem a little while back. He was trying to decide whether or not to shave, knowing that one of his partners likes him shaved, and the other likes him scruffy. Now, I’ve never been in Matt’s position, cause these days I tend to have an attitude of ‘I am who I am, and if you don’t like it, there’s the door.’ But I have been the partner in this kind of situation – and with questions a lot more volatile than whether or not the guy I was with should take a razor to his beard.

This kind of situation can range from the humorous (ok, if I just shave half my face, A can sit on the left, and B can sit on the right and they’ll  both be happy, right?) to the destructive (A wants to come with me on my  business trip, but B doesn’t want him to go and no matter what I do one  of them will be pissed at me!)

Stuck in the Middle?

Obviously, a lot of these situations you will have your own opinion on. Hell, I’m pretty sure that Matt has an opinion as to whether to shave or not. But he wants to do what will make his partners happy. Which makes him a good guy to be in a relationship with, and puts him in a tough position. I doubt he would be that accommodating in a discussion of whether or not they should move to . . . oh, I don’t know, Zimbabwe. Probably have some pretty damn firm opinions on that one.

Before we get into navigating conflicting partner preferences, I’m going to break what some people say is a cardinal rule of polyamory. Sometimes, negotiation and compromise are not the answer.

It’s about boundaries. It’s one thing to negotiate your relationship: how much time to spend together, sleeping arrangements, etc. But you do not give up your identity when you become a part of a relationship. Unless you have negotiated a power exchange as part of your relationship (and often even then), some things are your decisions.

What you wear, your friends, your hobbies, how you style your hair, whether or not you shave, and a host of other things should not be things your partners feel like they should have a say over. Sure, they can express a preference. If it’s something you don’t have a strong opinion on (or even if it is) you may choose to do what they prefer because you want to make them happy. But that is your choice and not something they should ever feel they have a right to dictate. (Again, some power exchange relationships excepted.)

That said, whether it is an issue that your partners do have a legitimate say in or a situation where you want to make them happy, navigating mutually exclusive preferences can be a major mess. Especially when you factor in that you have to keep yourself happy too.

A few thoughts:

Remember yourself – whether it’s a move across the country or what to wear for a night out, don’t focus too much on making your partners happy. If you let your own preferences get overlooked, all you will do is make yourself miserable.

Bow out – alternately, if you really don’t have an opinion, bow out of the discussion, and let them sort it out.

Find a third way – while this isn’t always possible, thinking outside the box can come up with a lot more options than we tend to realize. For instance, Matt could have decided to grow a goatee. They can both come with you on the business trip. You can use Dr. Doolittle’s trick for deciding where to go on vacation (close your eyes and point to a spot on the map).

Stop trying to make everyone happy – sometimes, it isn’t possible to make everyone happy. When that happens, work out the best solution possible, and trust that your partners are grown up enough to recognize that sometimes you have to give in gracefully.

Not sure how much help any of this is. (I get tired of writing about  potential problems and not being able to offer real solutions to them,  but this is the real world and not fairy tale land, and most problems  just don’t have neatly packaged solutions.)

For those of you on the Atlantic Coast, I hope you are tucked away safe and come through  Irene’s visit without any major problems. I’m heading to bed. Night all.

Polyamory and Pregnancy: Contraception and Fertility

I removed gendered language from this post, cleaned up my phrasing and fixed a few typos. On a personal note, I gave up on abstinance eventually, and my fourth child is now a year old. I have plans to get an IUD this month, fingers crossed it works as advertised. After some debate I decided not to add detailed info on different contraceptive methods. This post is meant as a general overview of issues that can crop up in polyam relationships, and I think it does that well. Revised Feb 8, 2017.

Oops–one last thing. Please excuse all the ‘yelling’. I was apparently feeling very strongly about these issues when I wrote this post.

I touched on this one briefly in my discussion of unexpected pregnancies, but it probably deserves some special attention.

To start, I am not an expert on contraceptive methods, because once it was established that the most common methods don’t work for me, I pretty much stopped bothering, aside from using condoms. So I’m not going to be throwing around statistic this and study that. (If you are interested in what is more or less effective, WebMD has a comparison chart. In comparison, you are considered to have fertility problems if are trying to get pregnant for a year and can’t.)

Instead of going into those details, I’m going to be looking at some fundamentals of how contraceptives work, and how this can impact your polyamorous relationships. (Oh, and why is this under pregnancy? Because if you aren’t careful with your contraceptives, you are probably going to end up needing the rest of the pregnancy stuff sooner of later.)

Contraceptives

So . . . first off, the open secret of contraceptives that no one talks about: the person with internal genitalia is in control. Yup. It sucks, but it is true. Except for the most failure prone contraceptives (withdrawal and condoms), all contraceptive medication and devices are designed for people with internal genitalia. Which I’m sure many of us don’t see a problem with – it’s our bodies if we get pregnant. Kind of a foolish and one-sided view, but hey people are people. However, if you espouse that view, and you are polyam, stop and think for a minute how you feel about the fact that your partner with external genitalia has no access to effective contraceptives when with their other partners. Yup, it sucks.

Now, I am not saying that people with external genitalia are excused from responsibility for doing everything they can to protect against unplanned pregnancies. They damn well should be using condoms and doing everything possible to reduce the likelihood of pregnancy. But, reality is .  . .

However, if you have external genitalia you can still be involved in contraception. Ask the people you are involved with what kind of contraceptives they are using, be aware of their schedule, stay informed, if you know a person you are with is forgetful, bad with schedules, whatever, then offer to help them remember the next pill/shot/ring/whatever. Hell, if they are using the ring, make putting it in and taking it out a part of your sex play! Whatever it takes STAY THE FRICK INVOLVED.

And for those of us with internal genitalia, our externally-equipped partners have every fricking reason to want to be involved and aware of what we’re using and how effective it is. For the love of chocolate, do not tell them it is none of their business – if we get pregnant, it’s their kid too! Keep them aware, keep them informed, keep the communication going!

Fertility

Next up: fertility. Personally, I think if it’s affordable (which it isn’t for me or most people) everyone who can, should get their fertility levels checked at least once. Why? Because knowing how fertile you are has a big impact on what contraceptives you should consider and how much you need to worry. Me? I am walking fertility drug. I kid you not, my partner was told his sperm count was so low he was infertile, and I got pregnant. Same thing happened to two of my aunts. And my mother has had 11 pregnancies (6 full term) half of them on various kinds of birth control. I’m told that I am too fertile to get my frigging tubes tied! (I’d end up with ectopic pregnancies – not good.)

A friend of mine had to jump through hoops like a circus dog to get pregnant. If she’d known that years ago, she could have fretted a lot less about the possibility of becoming pregnant before she was ready.

Since fertility testing is so expensive, at the very least, do what you can to check the family history. That can give you some clue as to what you might be able to expect out of your little swimmers or floaters.

Tubal

Number 3: Getting your tubes tied is not a guarantee!!!! A female friend of my had her tubes cut and tied, and a uterine ablation (her UTERUS cauterized) and still got pregnant. A male friend of my mother’s? Had his tubes tied, got his wife pregnant – it turned out that he had THREE tubes, and they missed one. Again, if it’s possible, get your fertility checked after your tubes are tied if you want to be sure.

Plan B

Fourth and ten – three words MORNING AFTER PILL!!!!! If you have any reason to believe that your birth control may be off, may have failed or may just be fricking useless, stock up on this little gem. If you have it you can always choose not to use it. The reverse is entirely not true.

 

Now, folks with internal genitalia jumped on the pill with cries of ‘hallelujah!’ for a reason – overall, the thing works. Since its introduction, there have been thousands, if not millions of people who have happily made like rabbits for years without getting pregnant. My point here is not to be crying sexual Armageddon, and if you are one of those lucky stiffs who can take the pill regularly, have your fun for as long as you want, and then get pregnant as soon as you decide you are ready? My hat’s off to you (and as a side note, I hate you). But please be aware of the facts, options, and what not to make educated decisions about what you and your partners do.

As for me? I am fricking paranoid for a reason (see above), and I am abstaining until further notice. (Michael, the blessed saint, is willing to put up with it too!)

Family Names: Legal Stuff

Nothing much changed here. Laws in the UK and the US don’t seem to have changed much the last few years. If know anything about the laws in other countries, please share in the comments! Revised Jan 29, 2017.

Disclaimer part 1: I am not a lawyer, or more than a moderately competent researcher, please do not consider any info here as legal advice.

Disclaimer part 2: I am surprised and gratified by the international following this blog has picked up. There are readers from several different countries in Europe, England, Australia, Canada and possibly more. That said, I’m an (insert preferred pejorative) American.  I will occasionally (as with the UK below) stretch my research skills to dig up legal info for other countries. In general, legal stuff will be strictly US law.

So, that said, let’s get to the good stuff.

As discussed in the first post on family names,  some polyam family groups want to share a family name. For some families, having a name that they use day-to-day will be enough. Others will want to go the legal route and make their polyam family name official.

UK Name Change Laws

When it comes to name changes, folks across the pond have it sweet  – though not as sweet as it was ten years ago. In order to change your name in the UK, legally and officially, you fill out a ‘Deed  Poll’, sign it before an ‘independent witness’ (which from examples given means someone not related to you) and . . . that seems to be pretty much it. You can have the deed poll written up by a solicitor or by a company that specializes in them. Be careful– some companies’ deed poll documents aren’t universally accepted. Have to admit I’m not clear on that bit.

Anyway, once you have your deed poll, you provide a copy to your bank, the UK equivalent of the DMV, and any other official document organization you need to in order to get all your documents showing your new name. According to UK Deed Poll Service,  you should only need to pay for an updated passport. You’d need to pay UK Deed Poll Service 33 pounds for the first deed poll, and a reduced fee for others ordered at the same time.

There are places on the  internet that claim that a deed poll isn’t necessary and you can just start using a new name. From what I’ve been able to find, that was true up until 9/11, but new laws since then have made the deed poll mandatory.

American Name Changes

Ok, so welcome to confusion and insanity.

  • Federal law and legal precedent give two very contradictory pieces of information regarding changing your name:
  • Any person can change their name at any time, just by starting to use the new name. There’s some caveat’s and quibbles, but that’s the gist.

State’s have the right to determine who is allowed to change their name, and what the process will be.

Welcome to the joys of federation.

As near as I can parse this contradiction, you can simply start using a new name for anything that doesn’t require proof of ID. No one can stop you using whatever name you want. However, the standard proof of ID is issued by the states. So if you want to update your state issued ID (and thus open a bank account, get a job or do anything else that requires ID) under your new name, you need to jump through the state-ordained hoops.

While  these hoops do vary, the general tendency includes filing a petition for name change (and paying a filing fee), going before a judge to  explain why you want the name change (and paying court fees), going  through whatever additional steps are necessary (PA requires you to  publish the change in at least 2 newspapers), finally get the official  court documents saying your name is changed, then going ahead and updating all those legal documents (and paying the necessary fees for  those). If UKDPS is to be believed, our friends across the pond can get everything taken care of in around 3 weeks. Given the fact that court hearings are often scheduled months ahead of time, I think I can stand by my early statement – folks across the pond have it sweet. (And that doesn’t even count the monetary cost).

So how bad is it really?

I  feel like I’m being a bit of a downer here, probably at least partly because in my experience things involving the courts are a royal pain in the ass. That said, from everything I can find, name changes in the US,  while involved and expensive, are usually pretty straight forward. People who have been through it say it’s not much more hassle than getting your driver’s license or registering a child for school.

Name Change Law is a website that has both a list of the steps required in all 50  states (and D.C.) for changing your name and will (for a fee) supply an appropriate name change document that you can fill out for yourself.  For an additional fee, they’ll fill it out for you. All hail capitalism.

Or,  of course, you can start using a new name tomorrow, as long as you don’t mind you’re old name being on all your legal documents.

 

​Clarify Your Silence In the Name of Love by Michon Neal

Updated version. Previously appeared on Postmodern Woman.
Are you one of those people who hates awkward silences? Do you feel like you have to fill in the quiet with something, anything? Have you ever dated or talked with someone who went silent and assumed they were bored, angry, or shutting you out?

My longest term partner felt like that a lot. He still isn’t very comfortable with silence. And he couldn’t stand it whenever I would go quiet, or when I wouldn’t respond, or when I’d simply sit on my own without making conversation.
There has been a lot of talk going around about how silence is a form of violence. And this makes a lot of sense. After all, we all grow up with the messages that to be shunned (usually depicted by people literally turning their back on a character) is awful and that the silent treatment is a go-to move (especially for women). And we’ve all had that person drop out of our lives without even a parting word.

Silence has become the enemy.

But this is missing the ‘words’ for the trees.

    There are two types of relational silence — one that serves the connection, one that damages it. In the first, silence comes with the qualifier “I need some quiet time to reflect”, which is healthy and respectful to the connection. In the second, silence comes with no qualifier and others are left to wonder what is actually happening. In this case, silence is actually violence — a passive aggressive attempt to cause suffering, or, at the least, a negligent self-absorption that makes things worse. Given that so many of us grew up with the silent treatment, it is essential that we let others know what is happening when we go quiet. It is respectful and it keeps the love alive. Even something like “Time out!” can be enough to keep silence from turning into violence. (~an excerpt from ‘Love it Forward’)

For those of us who are introverted, who value our independence and individuality, who are autistic, who are empaths, who have been abused, who are creative (especially writers), who meditate or think a lot, or who are simply naturally quiet it is our default state.

For us, silence means many things:

  • It may mean we’ve been hurt.
  • It may mean we’ve been ignored.
  • It may mean we recharge with silence.
  • It may be that we’re just one of those who revel in it.

When people constantly talk over you, when you’ve been belittled or abused, when you think before you speak, when you recharge by focusing inward, when you need to focus it is by being silent if you are a person who is quiet.

Yet for those who don’t understand this sort of silence things can go terribly wrong. People have their feelings hurt. They don’t understand what went wrong. Like the quote above says: there are two kinds of silence. How are you to tell the difference? How can these types of people come to a healthy understanding?

Well, each one has a job to do.

The onus lies on the quiet person to speak up about their need for silence. Tell your partners what duration works best for you. Tell them if they’ve triggered you. If you’ve shut down then tell them why at the soonest possible moment or warn them that it’s coming. Tell them you need time to think about your reply. Tell them you enjoy having them near because being in the same space is a way to share yourself.

For the not-quiet person here are things to try: listen (quietly) while they speak. If you’re the type to interrupt or if you’re thinking about what to say next then work on that. You need to give them the space to open up in their own time. Instead of assuming they’ve shut down or shut you out, ask if they’re thinking or need time. If you find it hard to sit without talking then play some music.
Because for the empath, autistic, or the introvert it’s easy to be overwhelmed. Think about it as a smell. At first the scent is light and pleasant. But as the day wears on, the scent grows stronger and stronger, until you can barely concentrate on anything else. Even if you love the smell (say it’s your favorite perfume) you definitely feel uncomfortable when it’s caked on too much.

So the next time you find yourself panicking when your partner takes a breath that lasts three seconds (even if it seems like an eternity) or if you panic because only three seconds have passed before you’re being asked another question (they’re not trying to bombard you) please keep in mind that everyone is different. Remember that you must speak up so that they know your experience. Remember that you must listen so that you don’t miss anything. Remember that there are as many kinds of silence as there are people.

It is not something to fear. It is something to embrace. Because even if the silence is intentionally meant to hurt you, I can guarantee it still has nothing to do with you. And either way, you have to learn to deal with it. Let it go. Let it be.

Family Name – Decisions, Decisions

This post really reflects my original bias towards highly entwined group relationships. The original was also heavily heteronormative. I think I’ve managed to remove all the heteronormativity, but the focus on entwined group relationships is kind of built into the topic. Also the usual grammar and readability fixes. Revised Jan 17, 2017.

As seems to be frequently the case, writing the last post – about picking names for a new baby – reminded me of other stuff. For instance, the discussions I have been in, and had with others, about everyone in a polyamorous family wanting to share the same last name.

It’s kind of ironic. Women are increasingly enforcing their equality and independence by keeping their maiden names, making families with two last names common. At the same time, some polyam families sometimes put great importance on sharing the same last name.

Perhaps it isn’t surprising that some polyam families want very much to have the same last name. A shared last name is still the most recognized indication of family relationship. And having our relationships recognized and acknowledged is a pretty big deal for a lot of polyam folk.

Next week, I’ll tackle the legal stuff involved with name changes and what not. (Recently I learned something that has me seriously envying UK polyam folks on this one!) For now, I’ll toss out some thoughts for polyamorous families that want to share a last name.

Picking a Family Name

Everyone taking one person’s name would be the culturally traditional choice, in as much as monogamous culture works applied to polyamory. And in this case, it often doesn’t. A hinged triad might all take the last name of the hinge partner. A leather family or D/s family where there is one person in charge, everyone taking that person’s name might be generally acceptable. But in many polyam families, whose name would people take? There isn’t often a clear answer.

Picking a new name is an option. Possibilities range from smashing together the first syllables of everyone’s last name to baby-name type brainstorming. Toss out ideas, talk about them, and see what sticks.

And once you’ve decided on a name, what then do you do with it?

New Naming Conventions?

Everyone changes their name: this would be the obvious answer. It has some social advantages, and all the professional disadvantages of a woman changing her maiden name (all you documentation, diplomas, etc will be in the old names). Taking a new name might upset extended family and involves much legal hassle.

-Name: I loved this idea in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress – everyone who married into the line family added the family name as a hyphenated name. This has a very nice bonus of allowing everyone to keep their old family name, which can be very important to some people. It may be possible to hyphenate the name informally and keep your family-of-origin name as your legal last name, saving on legal fees and hassle.

This one comes from the wonderful Poly Mom, and I would love to have heard of it years ago. Polly is in a triad with two men, when she legally married one, she took his name, and she is getting her name hyphenated with her other husband’s name. Apparently, there was talk of the men hyphenating their names as well, but even if they don’t, this is a neat idea. I could see this working for a quad as well as a triad, though any bigger than that and there may be problems. Neat tip: in some states, when a woman gets married, she can change her name to anything, not just her husband’s name, and it is automatically her legal name. So you can get legally married to spouse1, and make your name Spouse1-Spouse2 and avoid all the hassle of the usual insane process for getting a name change.

 

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Pregnancy and Polyamory: Picking Baby Names

Did my best to removed gendered language and fixed some really poorly written sentences. Other than that, it’s much the same as it always was. Revised 1/16/17.

Picking baby names is one of the great joys of pregnancy. Also a real pain in the you-know-what. There are two extremes of name picking: those who have known the names they want for their children since they were children and those who don’t figure it out until after the baby is born. (I had a friend in high school who was named after a brand of soap. The hospital wouldn’t let them leave until her mother picked a name).

In between the two extremes are things like those who pore over baby-name books for hours, folks who want to name the baby after a relative, and the stereotypical ’run every possible name by your best friend to see what they think’. Oh – and don’t forget some families have naming traditions!

Like everything polyamory, if a decision is hard for two people, it is ridiculous for more people.

But why does it have to be more than two people? Why not just have the bio parents pick the name? First, you won’t always know who the second bio parent is. And some people may want to involve their polyam family in the decision, especially if everyone in the family is going to raising the children as parents. So, if you know for certain who the bio parents are, and it works for you, then certainly the bio parents can decide on the name themselves. If not . . . well, the ‘if not’ is why I wrote this blog post 😉

When my first child was born, I was in a triad. We did not know who the father was and we decided not to find out the assumed gender until the birth. One of my husbands didn’t want to discuss baby names. When he was born his parents had been arguing between two different names. They saw him and immediately knew which was the right one. So he was convinced that as soon as he saw the baby the perfect name would come to him. (He somehow didn’t notice the difference between picking one of two names and picking a name out of the blue). I wanted the three of us to go through baby books, rate names, make lists, and generally bored both of them to tears. My other husband seemed at least a little interested in the baby name books and my lists, but he wasn’t good at speaking up and voicing his opinion.

When my second child was born, we found out the assumed gender, boy, and the name was pretty much automatic. Both my family and one of my husband’s families have naming traditions for boys. And we were so focused on that, it didn’t even occur to us it left my other husband out of the discussion entirely. Much hard feelings from that.

Unfortunately, and as I’m afraid seems to be common for this blog, I don’t have any concrete suggestions on this one. It will be different for each family and each child. The usually polyam stuff of communication, honesty and respect will probably get you through somehow.

Last Names

Of course, as difficult as it can be picking the first name for your child, it kinda pales in comparison to how high feelings run when you are discussing last names.

It is traditional, in America, for a child to have their father’s last name. It is becoming more and more acceptable (if unwieldy) to hyphenate both parents’ names. Either of these options works well when the bio parents are known.

But what if you don’t know the second bio parent? Oy oy oy this one can be a real problem. For once, though, I actually have a few suggestions, none of which are perfect, but all of which can work:

  •     Use the mother’s name for the children: nice and simple, can work for all relationship configurations, and drs, teachers, etc won’t even blink at it.
  •     Hyphenate everyone’s name: not even gonna go into the problems with this one, but in a triad, especially if two members of the triad are legally married and have taken the same name, it is actually feasible
  •     Middle names: it is somewhat common to use the mother’s maiden name as a middle name for a child. There is no reason this can’t be adapted to polyam. And I have a cousin (child of a mono relationship) with three middle names and a last name, I’ve heard of people with more. So everyone can be included.
  •     Combine names: this one . . . is a stretch. But, if you don’t mind going for the odd and unusual, you can combine syllables from everyone’s last name to create a new name. Can’t say I like this one, and socially would cause a lot of problems, because it’s expected that a kid will have the same last name as at least 1 parent. But, it’s an option.

If you’ve had a child in a polyamorous family, how did you pick a name, and what was done for a last name?