When I met my partner, he already had a child. He is not her father, her dad, or her parent, but he is a part of her family. She has a biological Mama, and an adoptive Mommy, and he signed over his legal rights as parent.
My partner B’s mother has a good friend, Sarah, who was looking for a sperm donor so she and her wife Liz could start a family. B’s mom recommended B to them, and after much discussion and legal paperwork, they all agreed. And Bean was born. When I met B, he had a photo album of Bean that Sarah and Liz had put together for him, which he showed me on our first date. He’d been to visit them, and had photos of him holding Bean when she was very tiny. Being a liberal kind of woman, I thought it was a really cool and interesting relationship, and so wonderful that they are all in each other’s lives, and his mother has become the “other grandmother,” though she is called by her name.
Then I met Bean at her second birthday party, and realized soon after that I was sad that when we had a baby, it wouldn’t be his first, or his parent’s first grandchild. I didn’t expect this, and knew it was a silly thing to be sad about, but it was something I put some work into, and I got over it. I still have no idea where that sadness came from.
The month after Bean’s birthday, Liz and Sarah invited B over for dinner, and asked him if he would be willing to help them have another baby. He agreed, and when he came home he asked me how I felt about it. I felt fine, although when they called to have him come over not long after that, it felt really quick. I had thought I might be included in some conversation about it, but looking back, they had only met me once, and didn’t know how long I’d be around anyway.
Nine months later, B and I were living together and planning our wedding. Sarah called B to see if we could come over because the baby was on the way. Liz had driven herself to the hospital earlier that day, and was admitted. B stayed with Bean, while I drove Sarah to the hospital to be with Liz, and then drove back. B’s mom came over around 10 to stay with Bean through the night. And the next day, Bean had a sister, Sprout.
I don’t remember exactly how old Sprout was when we met her, but we were at B’s parent’s house, and she was tiny. I was hesitant to hold her at first. I think I wanted to show her moms that I knew who her parents were, but I didn’t know how to do that and hold her, too. B’s mom took care of that, and just thrust her into my arms. And when it was time for Sprout to be adopted by Sarah, we were there, with B’s parents and Sarah’s parents, at City Hall.
After I got pregnant, we started talking about how our kids would be related to each other, and how to define it to them. When Bean was learning about where babies come from, and specifically, the baby in Mama’s belly, she was told that it was a piece of Mama and a piece of B that came together, so she’s always known they are related in some way. We eventually decided on “sort-of” cousins. I figure it’s enough for now for them to know that they are family, and when they get older they can define their own relationships.
Our daughter Little Bear is now 19 months old, and our families get together when we can. Usually it’s a special occasion, but sometimes it’s for an impromptu bike ride to drop off a book we’re lending. Often the girls will play together at B’s parents’ house. In the summer, our two families, plus B’s parents and brother go out to B’s mom’s best friend’s house to spend a long weekend with her family. We lounge in the sun and eat good food, talk and laugh a lot. Recently, Bean, who is 6 now, spent an evening carrying Little Bear everywhere she went. Sprout, who is 3 and a half, and Little Bear are close enough in age that they are interested in some of the same toys, so they have some struggles over “mine” and sharing.
Anyone who has friends in same-sex relationships knows about the legal challenges, and how much weight is given to biological parents here in the US. We’ve heard the bad stories.
Sarah and Liz have been role models for B and me, because we don’t know many people with children, and we really respect their parenting styles. They’ve also been role models for our friends who are in same-sex relationships; they show that this kind of uniquely blended family can work.
Anyone who has friends in same-sex relationships knows about the legal challenges, and how much preference is given to biological parents here in the US. We’ve heard the bad stories. I don’t know exactly how this has worked out so well, but I think it’s partly because we have been really honest and have put some work into identifying and working through our issues. I think we’ve all been really open and willing to talk about uncomfortable things.
I know as our kids grow up and gain a more subtle understanding of biology, family, culture, and life, there will be many more conversations. I’m looking forward to the girls exploring what it means to be family, and I’m really glad that I have the opportunity to do the same. More than anything, I’m looking forward to spending time with my extended, blended family.