The challenges of the bisexual parent

Photo credit: Mark Evans

In a warm, low-lit multipurpose room, mothers gathered in a circle, carefully cradling their babies.

There were some fathers, but mostly mothers. Straight mothers, talking about how much their husbands do and do not help with the baby.

I was also a new mother, and a new bride, married to a man. I should have felt like I belonged, but I didn’t.

It all came down to those ‘how we met’ questions. My answer was not so cute, not so easy. I’d met my partner when I was terribly in love with his cousin, and I followed her to another province under the illusion that we would finally end up together. The three of us shared a house, along with my partner’s brother. It was horrible and lonely, until I finally bonded with my partner-to-be.

It did not make for great cocktail chatter. What it did was make me feel like someone playing at being the straight – and straightforward – wife and mother. My life a pretence and myself – fake, fake, fake.

How could I be a good mother if I wasn’t a good wife? How could I be a good wife if I wasn’t honest and open and myself? Maybe what was left of myself was no good at all.

That first year was difficult. There was a whole new life to adjust to, postpartum depression to battle, and the feeling that I did not belong.

When I left the hospital with my newborn son, I thought someone would stop me, would see through me and know I couldn’t possibly be a parent. Many mothers talk about this feeling. But in addition to feeling out of my depth, I also felt like I had to say goodbye to certain parts of me. I didn’t believe I could be bisexual and be a married woman with a child.

I didn’t realize I was bisexual until I was 19 or 20. All the signs were there, and I’d been called lesbian often enough to know I was probably more wavy than straight. But bisexuals weren’t real. I was told bisexuals were just going through a phase. There were think pieces everywhere about women kissing other women to impress men at clubs. When I hit university, there were jokes about the LUGs – lesbians until graduation.

When I got married, I thought it meant that part of my life, that phase, was over. I thought it was like a skin I could shed, or a way of thinking I could outgrow. But it lingered, still there in the neglected recesses of myself.

Raising my baby, I felt like a pretender. I didn’t know how to answer medical questionnaires regarding my sexuality, or how to respond when someone went off about some bisexual movie star. ‘They should just make up their mind’ comments stung, though I thought of myself as someone who had made up her mind.

Except, I hadn’t. Being bisexual wasn’t just about being sexually attracted to someone (or a variety of someones, in my case). It formed my childhood self, mostly manifesting in my confused and intense devotion to girl friends. It formed my awkward adolescence when I couldn’t seem to be comfortable with any gender, excited and intrigued by so many people. And it was a part of me when I met my partner, and when I met my son.

Things shifted when my partner and I separated. Though I still seemed to end up with men (I am a lazy dater), I knew that wasn’t all there was to me. Eventually I met my current partner and had a son with him as well, but this time, I had my baby my way. We were more confident parents.

I still struggled with postpartum depression after having my child. But the struggle wasn’t as linked to my bisexuality as it was the first time. I felt like a rotten parent at times, and often completely overwhelmed.

But I was lucky – I was older and I knew myself better. I could fight off the demons who said I didn’t deserve my children, that I was just a confused mom who couldn’t make up her mind about what or who she wanted. Who would never be any good.

And though, yes, I am in a long-term relationship with a man, I don’t let that define me as straight, not any longer. I have always been wavy. I have always been queer.