By Brittany Berger
Do you ever find yourself completely grateful for your child, like they saved your life? I sat down with my friend Jannae Palovich (they/them) to learn more about the lived experience of being a Queer parent. I was reminded that there are many unconventional ways that families make life work, and often those come with many sacrifices to meet the needs of a child. Jannae opens up about the difficult decisions they made to show up as the best version of themself for their child and the importance and significance of Thanksgiving week to their relationship with their child. Jannae’s child, Avery (she/her), is a “redheaded fire child” who is 8 years old and lives with her dad in another state. While I recognize that many Transgender or Non-Binary parents may not use gendered terms to describe themself as a parent, Jannae does use the terms mother and parent when describing themself.
Jannae currently lives in Portland, Oregon. They lived in Portland when Avery was born, and they were far from family support. Jannae explains “I was so deep in postpartum depression, but at that time I didn’t know who that was.” While this isn’t what triggered a move for Jannae, they felt that being in Idaho would provide a life for Avery that would include family support and stability. Then a couple years later Jannae came out when they had the realization they were “Just flaming Gay”.
“You’re not a woman, you’re Gay and you’re Pansexual and you’re non-monogamous … like I have all these pieces that came pouring out of me when I moved back into this highly conservative community that felt like ‘I don’t exist here, Portland is my home,” explains Jannae. They weren’t living in an environment where they could be their authentic self, and that meant that their child wouldn’t grow up to know who her mother was. Jannae continues to tell their story and explain why moving back to Portland without their child made the most sense, “I have such a beautiful relationship with Avery because I was able to come [to Portland] and live out my truth and to do something for myself that is a dream I’ve had for 10 years of being a midwife and being able to serve families who are within my community and in alignment with who I am and being able to get to know myself so that I can show up for her as a parent. All we want to do is to be the person we are inside, regardless of how often that changes, we want [our children] to see our true self … I don’t want to lie to her.”
Being a full-time midwifery student would mean that Jannae couldn’t financially support themself. While most midwives with children are partnered, Jannae was not. They lived with friends and were spending their days and nights at clinic, attending births, or doing homework. With Avery in Idaho, at home with aunts, grandmas, cousins, and her dad, Jannae’s time with Avery was precious and intentional. However, Jannae vulnerably discusses the social stigmas around long distance parenting, especially as a mother. “Society’s vision of what a long-distance mother would be is basically a shame. The unfortunate stereotype is that if the person who gave birth to a child cannot be the primary caregiver equals ‘you must have done something horrible, you must have abused your child, you must be out of your mind on drugs, you didn’t want responsibility, there’s no positive label that goes with long distance parenting, or that you’ve abandoned your child,’ and my story cannot be further from that lie. That is just a narrative that other people put on my shoulders and so it takes a lot of time to unlearn that. That doesn’t have to be our relationship … [Avery] and I know exactly what our relationship looks like.”
Despite what society thinks about long-distance parenting, Jannae further explains that one of the most important parts of being a parent for them is leading by example. Jannae’s story is one of choosing to move to a different state to fulfill a dream they wanted in order to be a better parent, and Jannae says they “Think that message gets lost about my decision”. While the times that Jannae spends in person with Avery are few and far between, “They’re impactful … they’re intentional. There’s an intention behind my parenting where, when I’m around I show up for her in a way that she has more availability to her emotions, and more availability to seeing me in my authentic self instead of this unhappy version that didn’t have anything other than being a parent going for me … There’s a part of my story that I was like ‘I’m just a parent, I’m just a mom, I don’t have anything else other than to just be here for her’ and like ‘when do I get to just spread my wings a little bit; when do I get to re-engage in the world that brings me joy and happiness and fulfillment, and she is very much a part of that’.”
Thanksgiving week is one of those intentional times that Jannae gets to spend with Avery. Jannae describes themself as a little less traditional with this holiday. Thanksgiving is a “Day of appreciation with your people and less about ‘colonizer’ traditions … I don’t want to teach my child those traditions, I want to teach her that we are grateful for life, we’re grateful to have each other, we can be grateful … We can have good experiences together while setting an example [for our children] that we can follow a different path.”
Jannae expands on their own gratefulness for Avery, “She was the catalyst for finding myself, she was. When I look back at photos of myself pregnant with her, photos of me giving birth to her, photos in the early postpartum period, that was a person who I don’t know if they knew who they were, and that makes me sad because that’s what Avery knows. Avery knows someone who didn’t know themself, they’re getting to know me now, but we spent most of our time together as somebody who didn’t know who they were, and the gift that she gave me was the ability to realize that I am much more than that, and she reignited that fire inside of me. She’s my reason ‘why’. Why I chose to go after my goals and my dreams and find the path that makes me feel alive. She kept me alive; I know that is cliché to say that my child saved my life, … but she is always my reason to believe that I know who I am.”
I want to personally thank Jannae for being so vulnerable in telling they’re version of what it is like to be a Queer parent. You can find Jannae on Instagram @transliminalmidwifery, and you can learn more about their inclusive and affirming midwifery practice in Portland, Oregon, Transliminal Midwifery at their website: jpalovich.wixsite.com/transliminal