My Juliet

The Next Family

By: Brandy Black

10 years ago I spent many torturous months getting the courage up to tell my parents that I was a lesbian.  I tossed and turned at night thinking about how I was going to tell them.  In my struggles I also learned that I was terrified of what I had become, not because I didn’t want to be gay, but because I was letting go of all of that I learned my future to be.  I was letting go of that big white wedding and those 2 children that I had prepared myself for- by taking child development classes in high school and working at daycares all the while talking about how I would parent, what I learned, what I hoped to teach my children one day.  I lay in bed thinking it was all gone because I had become someone that no one prepared me to be.  I had no handbook for life after falling in love with a woman.  At one point I actually convinced myself that maybe I should turn a cheek to the love of my life and follow through with the dreams that I knew so well.  But after much thought, love prevailed and I flew to Seattle to face the truth with my parents.

I sat by the stream in their backyard sobbing and barely able to utter the words out of my mouth while my mom and dad lovingly waited.  With one last ounce of breath I unveiled it all; I was raw and aching inside but I told them that I had fallen in love with a woman.  When I did this, when I laid it all on the line, prepared for the demise, the big argument, the possibility of being disowned as I had seen with other friends that had blazed this trail, my mother took off her glasses and asked me… if I was homophobic.  I put myself through hell and she accuses me of being homophobic.  She then explained in great detail that I should not rob myself of all that I have wanted because of one glitch in this silly game of life, that fear was the only thing standing in my way from having it all.

After coming home from that trip I was empowered and promptly informed Susan that I wanted to have a wedding and kids and if she wasn’t on board she should let me know now.

2 years later, I married Susan (not legally) but I did wear the white princess wedding dress that I had always imagined. And one year after that we began picking anonymous donors in preparation for my pregnancy with our child.  It was as if someone swung open the doors of possibility.  We were giddy flipping through pages of stats on various men trying to find the perfect match for our family.  Don’t get me wrong, this was an awkward process that was oftentimes clinical and far from romantic but underneath it all we were creating a family that we had never fathomed we could.  I, being the type A girl that I am, wanted it NOW!  I couldn’t wait to see that plus sign on a stick.  Month after month we went to the doctor hoping that this was the one.  Two and a half years later, we were done; it had been determined that I had unexplained infertility.  Susan, who never had the urge to physically carry a child, made the ultimate sacrifice for our family and attempted pregnancy and that didn’t even work.  This was devastating, given that the process we had been using for many months was literally as close to an exact science recipe to getting pregnant as you could ask for.

We had given up.  We didn’t want to, but it seemed as though the universe was telling us something.  I went through moments of wondering if I was deserving of having a child, if this was some sort of a sign, if I had become a lesbian for a reason.  I didn’t want to think this way but I couldn’t help it after all that we had been through.  As a final ditch effort, we gave it one last try.

14 days later we were given the results that I, out of some miracle, was pregnant.  I sobbed the entire 45-minute drive home.  I sobbed for all for those shameful undeserving moments I had, I sobbed for all that the process had put my wife and I through and I sobbed out of gratitude that we finally were able to bring a little human being into the world to be a part of our family.

As my belly grew through the summer, fall and winter months I read book after book searching diligently for tips on how to be a mom.  I realized I had no idea what I was getting us into and Susan, with her relaxed, breezy, fly-by-the-seat-of-your pants mentality, wasn’t helping my neurotic, pregnant state of mind.  I sat up at night briefing Susan on tabbed pages and highlighted notes about sleep schedules, nursing, vaccinations, you name it.

When our daughter Sophia was born, all that we studied slowly drifted away and we became two moms navigating our way through the perfectly natural process of parenting.  It was as if our daughter was guiding us along.  We worried what she would call us, how she would know, who would be mom and who would be mommy and one day Sophia said “Mama. Mama” and pointed to me.  I am mama!  Susan became mom and that was that.  Sophia knows her parents’ names with no mistake.  We read her a book just last month and there was a family of 3 skunks and Sophia pointed to the one with the bow on its head and said “mama” and she pointed to the one without a bow and said “mom”.  It’s that simple.  I know in years to come we will face challenging questions but the once-dreaded worries of discussions with our daughter and the general public about our family have become welcomed conversations that expand our world and are received with great love.  Although we do find ourselves “coming out” again and again to the lady at the market and the man in the Starbucks when Sophia explains with great excitement that I am mama and Susan is mom and we are a family, it’s easier than I thought it would be.  She takes a hatred that lingers in dark places and turns it into sweet, pure innocent love.  When the pleasant older man at the Easter party tells me how beautiful my daughter is and five minutes later asks why Sophia called that woman over there mom, I can only smile and take the same approach that I have learned from my 2 year old and proudly say she has 2 moms.

Through the process of motherhood I began to think about the definition of family and whom I learned it from and how it came to be that I once thought that family could only be a mom and a dad, a husband and a wife. By random chance I followed my heart and fell in love with a Juliet, not a Romeo. My definition of family changed in a flash. I started wondering how many others had families that were different from their childhood pictures.  Single parents that never intended to get divorced, families that have adopted because they couldn’t get pregnant, or couples that have chosen to go the non-traditional route, so to speak.  I started researching these “families” and realized that 60% of our society makes up those families.  So the way I see it, we are in the norm.  With this I was inspired to create The Next Family; it is a place for people to share their stories and celebrate their differences.  As I sit pouring through interviews with single moms who are inspiring all mothers everywhere, and the 2 dad family in Malibu who are about to send their little girl off to college, and the Phillips family in Arkansas whose 10-year-old refused to stand up for the pledge of allegiance until same sex marriage is legal, I learn everyday.  I learn that what I’m doing is only a tiny part of this huge amazing world of people that spread love and inspire others beyond anything I could have imagined.  I am lucky to have fallen into the most wonderful job ever- discovering people’s hearts and sharing them with others.  It is a constant reminder to me how special my family is and a much needed support system that touches me everyday.  My daughter and my wife and The Next Family community at large bring a love that I could have never dreamt for in my wildest childhood dreams.

*I recently read this at a Show called Spark at The Powerhouse Theatre in Santa Monica, I thought I’d share.

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