My mom’s first Mother’s Day was particularly memorable, as it was the day she first became a mother. She laboured through the night and I popped out bright and early at 7:22 am that Sunday morning, just in time for her to be showered with Mother’s Day greetings along with congratulations on my arrival.
Her 27th Mother’s Day was equally memorable as it marks the occasion where I, in a horrible lapse of judgement, came out to her for the first time. I’d been out in my life on the Coast for years. It had reached the critical point where if I wanted an authentic, adult relationship with my parents, I had to tell them I was queer. I was only passing through my hometown for a few days and wanted to break the news early enough in the visit to give us time to talk it through. Needless to say, my timing wasn’t as impeccable as on that very first Mother’s Day, nor was my announcement greeted with the same joy as my happy arrival into the world.
I’d actually given my coming out a lot of angst-ridden thought and, after weighing the multitude of pros and cons, had naively concluded that doing it on Mother’s Day wouldn’t be such a big deal. My mother, who’d grown up in England, had always downplayed the significance of Mother’s Day, along with all the other North American Hallmark holidays. “It’s just another day,” she’d say, as we showered her with flowers and cards. “You really don’t need to make such a fuss.”
Until the year I dropped the lesbian bomb. Not only did I destroy her life as she knew it by turning out queer, but I’d completely ruined her Mother’s Day. She was so upset that she retreated into her garden for days, tending to her flowers and barely talking to me for the rest of the visit. Every time I approached, she’d dissolve into tears. Live and learn: Hallmark holidays do matter, no matter what she says. I’ve spent every Mother’s Day since overcompensating for my cringe-worthy, twenty-something faux-pas.
One of the reasons my mom was so devastated by my coming out, I later found out through the family grapevine, was that she assumed it meant I wasn’t going to have children of my own:
“She was so looking forward to having grandchildren,” my aunt relayed sadly to her own kids, as she processed the latest family tragedy – which actually wasn’t such a tragedy to my savvy adult cousins:
“Who says Sara’s not having kids? Two sets of ovaries, two wombs? Being a lesbian actually doubles her chances of becoming a mom.”
My aunt was totally floored.
“It’s amazing what you can do with modern reproductive technologies,” one of my cousins went on. My aunt’s eyes widened as she scrambled to process – this was a bold, new world that she and my mother had never before considered.
I’d actually tried to reassure my mom that day I first came out to her. “I still want to have kids,” I’d insisted. “I’ve always wanted to have kids, and that hasn’t changed.” At the time, this upset her even more. I don’t know if she didn’t believe me, didn’t want to go there, or was just too overwhelmed by my newly-announced queerness to really hear me.
Luckily, my entire family has since come around to a place of acceptance. The process took years – my mother couldn’t even bring herself to mention my sexuality for almost a decade. By the time I met Amanda (the first girlfriend that my mom actually liked) and got engaged, it was no longer to possible for her to dismiss my queerness as a passing phase. Our wedding ceremony marked a seismic shift for both my parents: seeing me and my beloved up there, warmly supported by our gathered family and friends, declaring our love and commitment to one another in the same way that straight people do, finally seemed to make them get it – that we were a couple like any other, and that this was love, end of story. My mom hadn’t lost a daughter after all; in fact, she’d gained a daughter-in-law. My son’s arrival a year later sealed the deal: I’d finally given her the grandchild she’d so badly wanted; the one she’d given up on that Mother’s Day so many years ago. The fact that he had two moms and was conceived with donor sperm no longer mattered. We were a family.
My own first Mother’s Day was also memorable. My birthday happened to land on Sunday again that year, meaning there was much to celebrate – another year older, after a year full of exciting changes. Birthday cake intermingled with family celebrations as Amanda and I jointly marked our first Mother’s Day as new moms. There was something extra-special about sharing that first Mother’s Day with a partner (as well as the ones that followed). It gave us a wonderful pause in that crazy-busy first year, an opportunity to stop grumbling about sleep deprivation, lack of couple time and all the other myriad of complaints that pepper life with a newborn, and instead reflect together on the miracle of our son’s birth and growing little family. We marvelled at how much had changed in our lives in such a short time, and how we’d both been challenged to stretch and grow in positive ways in our new role as parents.
That first Mother’s Day also marked something for me personally – a happy reminder of the bridges I’d been able to rebuild with my own mother by becoming a queer mom. I was amazed by the power of my small son – an ambassador of the next generation – to bring my family back together in spite of the initial fears, prejudices and differences that had ruptured my relationship with my parents when I first came out. My experience is not unique; I have seen similar scenarios play out in many queer families in my community. It seems that the very act of bringing a child into a queer partnership and creating a family, by whatever means – known or anonymous donor, birth or adoption – has the potential not only to help legitimize our relationships in broader society, but also to promote powerful healing within our own, extended families.