By: Brandy Black
In celebrating mothers for the month of May, I was fortunate to sit down with Gabrielle, a mommy of two. We chatted about life with her wife, daughter Clover, and stepdaughter Lily.
What strikes me most about our conversation in Gabrielle’s cozy office are the many different, beautiful ways that families become families. Every story is unique and yet the similarities are uncanny.
B: Tell me a little bit about your family.
G: Ok, so I immediately think of the stick figures (laugh). So, it’s myself and my partner [Nancy] –we’ve been together for about 7 years, married for almost two years –and our daughter Clover, who is going to be 3 next month, and my stepdaughter Lily, who is 9, who Nancy raised since birth with her best friend. Nancy’s best friend is the biological mom.
B: How did it come about that they raised her together?
G: She got pregnant and needed some help and the dad was somewhat unavailable, so Nancy moved in and raised Lily. Nancy worked full time and paid for the mom to go to school and get an education and supported the family.
B: They weren’t in a relationship?
G: No. Nancy always wanted to be a mom and she didn’t think she ever would be. This was her idea of “Ok, this is what I can have.” Nancy is introverted and quiet and not a big relationship kind of girl; we’re total opposites. So she just thought, “well, I’ll probably never be in a relationship and won’t have kids, so this is an awesome miracle — that I get to raise this amazing girl.” And then we met and she was like “great, ok, now we get more, all right!”
B: So was it your idea to have kids or hers?
G: I didn’t think I wanted kids. When I came out I thought that the whole husband-wife-picket fence thing was gone. All my friends starting having kids at 20, 21, and I came out 18, so I didn’t really know where my path was going. I started dating women and no one said they wanted to have kids. Then I met Nancy and she was very clear that she was a parent and that she loved kids and kids were a priority. In our first year of dating I was a little bit in denial that she had a child. I kind of thought, “well legally she’s not yours.” It was very…just denial. I thought, “we’re dating and it’s just me and you and sometimes it’s me and you and Lily but she’s kind of like your niece.” And then I kind of….got it: this was her child. It took me a while. Then we started talking about having kids of our own and it was really hard to be a step mom because I had a difficult relationship with my step mom. So when it became really obvious that Nancy and I were going to be long-term and that Lily was absolutely going to be part of my life, I stopped pushing that whole step parent idea away and started to embrace it. It became really obvious to me that I wanted to be a parent. Nancy is absolutely one of the greatest parents I’ve ever met in my life. She really inspired me and made me feel like parenting wasn’t going to be the hardest thing in the world. She made it look really easy. She still makes it look really easy (laughs). She has all these quotes, things that she says to me, like “fix your face”. Because I’m going like this (her face has a look of shock) and Nancy will walk by and say “fix your face” and keep walking and I’d think “Oh wow, that’s so interesting.”
Nancy is such a great parent. She’s just a pro; and it comes so naturally.
B: So is Nancy “Mom” to Lily?
G: Well, Lily calls her “auntie”, but on all the paperwork it says she’s the parent. We’ve paid for her medical insurance her whole life, her braces, school, soccer, everything she’s done.
B: So, you were the biological mom of Clover?
B: Was it tough to make that decision –which of you would the biological mother?
G: It was tough. We talked about it and Nancy had already had the experience of it. Basically she already had a child and I didn’t have any children yet, other than my stepchild [Lily]. I thought if Nancy were to get pregnant then I would feel like this was more her child, like she had two children. I wasn’t sure, but I really didn’t know if I would be secure enough if she had the first child. I always pictured getting pregnant and having a husband when I was younger, and then I thought “I can’t have kids; I’m a lesbian.” Once I realized I could have kids I thought, “so how do we want to do this? –because we can both get pregnant.” Nancy said, “you go ahead and get pregnant; it’s fine”. It was tough, though.
B: It’s tricky with 2 moms. So how do the girls get along?
G: They get along really well. Lily is a great big sister. Clover will climb up in her bunk bed and lay down with her and she’s always asking where Lily is when Lily stays at her mom’s house. They get along so well, they share a room.
B: She calls her her sister right?
B: So are you getting any questions from Clover about the 2 mom thing?
G: No. It’s really strange because she’ll do little stories and say, “Ok, who wants to be the mommy and who wants to be the daddy and the sister and the brother?” So clearly she’s influenced by what she’s hearing. Every once in a while I’ll throw in “but if there’s mommy, who’s the mama?”
B: Is that what you call each other? “Mommy” and “Mama”?
G: Yeah, I’m mommy and Nancy is mama. Clover asked me about my own mom. She said, “is that your mommy or your mama?” And I said, “she’s my mommy.” And she said, “well who’s your mama?” I told her, “I didn’t get to have one. I have a daddy, but I don’t have a mama.”
B: How do you handle Mother’s Day? What do you do?
G: We have traditionally been going out with Lily’s biological mom and my mom for brunch. The girls make cards and gifts. It’s really sweet. At school they had Mother’s Day tea and I couldn’t go on the day scheduled so they did another one for me. They said, “well, there are two of you so why don’t we just do another one?” That was really nice.
I had the chance to meet both of their children and they are incredible little girls who are so very lucky to have the parents that they do. It was a pleasure to get a glimpse of the magic behind this very sweet family.
Thank you Gabrielle for sharing your story!