Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Being a Mother - Legally

I hope you will forgive me for posting something personal on the PFLAG blog. I usually like to share something about individual students that are making change in their community, or how a school system is confronting bullying head-on, or what you can do to help make schools safer. But today I want to talk about being a mother – legally.

About eight months ago the partner of one of my dearest friends gave birth to a baby girl. This little one, in the ways that babies are famous for, has stolen both of her mothers’ hearts’ and those of all the people around her. And in every way, big and small, both moms have been taking care of every need and decision with regard to this child. From before she was born when they decided how to have her, where to have her, and what her name would be. Since her birth they have shared the thousands of details sleepless parents confront in the first months of life. What foods should they introduce and how often? Is she ready for a nap? How much time do we have to baby proof this home? Both moms have been mom from the beginning. And yet only one had full legal rights and responsibilities for this child.

Today, that all changed. After petitioning the court, filing the paperwork, submitting the references, meeting with the social worker for home visits and spending time and money on a legal procedure, this little girl has not one but two legally recognized moms. Should they have had to go through this process? No. Have they both been her moms in every sense from the beginning? Yes. But watching them make their family a legal unit in accordance with the laws of the District of Columbia brought unexpected tears to my eyes. I sat behind them, in the family section with the three adoring grandparents. I listened to a smiling judge read aloud, in a voice pitched perfectly to the baby, that both of her moms are now her moms in the eyes of the court. I knew nothing had changed, but things were different. Their day to day lives will be filled with the same decisions, discussions, joys and frustrations. But their place in the community is acknowledged. And it will mean something when they enroll her in school for the first time or face their first soccer injury in the emergency room. If they had been able to get married to begin with, this would have been unnecessary. But until that day, watching this lucky little girl, in her adorable party dress, going home with two very happy and proud legal moms was a gratifying experience.