This morning as my wife and I were still lying in bed, foggy with sleep, her ex called us right before she dropped my stepdaughter off at school. My wife and I have my stepdaughter with us on Thursdays through Sundays, but this was Wednesday, and her ex had something suddenly come up and offered us an extra night with our spunky, red-headed beauty since she would be busy for most of the evening. We, of course, said yes. Later that day we got another call from her, filling us in on the status of some incentives and consequences that needed to be rolled over into her daughter’s stay at our home. That was it, we went about the rest of our day, and my tiny, first grade, constantly curious stepdaughter is asleep in her bed at her other home while I wrote this book review.
This story is relevant, because if you’re in a blended family like me that has its wrinkles (don’t they all?), but by and large runs smoothly without much of a hitch, you might not stop to think twice about the struggles and ugliness that can often go hand in hand with a spousal separation. When children are involved in the separation and parents essentially must come to terms with losing at least half of their child’s waking hours, another level of resentment and conflict can layer each and every detail. Add in a same sex relationship to the mix and a nonbiological partner can run the risk of losing it all.
Since the Supreme Court passed marriage equality in 2015, it can be easy to assume that LGBT families have full and equal rights under the law, but that still isn’t the case. Due to the nature of conception that’s required in the creation of lesbian families, when one partner uses her own eggs, carries, and births the child, the other parent runs the risk of being seen as less of a mother in the eyes of the law.
Michelle Darné is a trailblazer within the LGBT community, as a woman responsible for the creation of the pioneer alternative parenting magazine And Baby, a fighter for the right to parent her nonbiological twin babies are separating from her parter. In Parent Deleted, Michelle takes readers back to her own childhood, painting a picture of a woman who consistently battled the odds and won, who is a fighter, someone who has been beaten down repeatedly and insists on getting back up, bruised and battered, to go to battle for what she deserves.
After separation from her partner, whom she simply refers to as ‘X’ throughout the memoir, Michelle suddenly finds herself on the outside looking in at her own family. She neglected to sign the papers to legally adopt her twin girls due to the mounds of paperwork she faced on a daily basis, but a mother never thinks those technical details will prevent her ability to parent the children she helped conceive from day one. What follows is a harrowing and horrific catalogue of events that would break down even the strongest of us, as both the odds and the justice system seem stacked against an outspoken Latina women with two white children whom she didn’t birth herself.
At no point in this story does Michelle attempt to compose a narrative wherein she’s a hero, thwarted by the evil villain who is the ex. The author recognizes her own flaws and missteps, acknowledging words and actions spoken and done by her that indicate more than an active participation in the self destruction of her marriage, but a partner who fails in a romantic relationship doesn’t deserve to lose the chance to succeed as a parent by default.
Michelle strips herself down and bares her sole to tell a cautionary tale in hopes that it will spark action within the LGBT community. Through this book and her non-profit Simply Parent, Michelle’s goal is to educate others in the fight to exterminate parental alienation. In an original essay from Michelle, she states:
If you’re looking for a memoir that will leave you feeling warm and fuzzy about the difficulties of creating and coexisting in a blended same sex family, Parent Deleted is not that. There is no happy ending at the conclusion of this book, because this battle continues to be fought. Whether parental alienation directly affects you, don’t shy away from the emotional challenge that is this book. Michelle deserves for her story to be read and spread with love, because every parent deserves to be just that.
Read Parent Deleted to open your eyes to the fights we still have in front of us, because marriage equality is just the first small step to basic human rights. As for me, I choose to join Michelle and every other same sex parent in her fight for her right to parent.