Becoming a Lesbian Grandmother: The Joy, The Excitement…. The Panic!

Lynn, niece (left), Nancy (center) and Emily, daughter (right)

Family Equality’s Family Speak Out Programs offers outspoken members of our community opportunities to raise their voices and share their stories. The following testimony comes from our Pearls of Wisdom Speak Out Program, which is designed to empower grandparents—both those who are LGBTQ+ themselves or who are allies and advocates for their LGBTQ+ children and grandchildren—and elders in the LGBTQ community to share their wisdom and love. If you’re interested in joining the Speak Out Program, click here.

I’ve always loved children but coming out in the 70’s and 80’s, I never expected to be a parent.  I thought it would be unfair to bring a child into the world of prejudice we faced back then and the children would likely hate us for it.  As it turned out, nothing could be further from the truth. At 40 years old, I began a relationship with another lesbian who had the most adorable five-year-old daughter, Emily.  

Co-parenting and legally adopting Emily has been the greatest, joy, privilege, source of pride and light in my life.  We bonded quickly at that young age over games, stories, shoulder carries, piggyback rides, a shared love of The Rugrats and so much laughter and love.  We wanted to instill her with a sense of pride in herself and her family. We encouraged her to never hide or lie about our family. Her courage in being open about her lesbian moms and fearlessness in defending us far outweighed even our own at times.  She never wavered.

Having lesbian parents, Emily was raised in Queer Culture and feels truly at home in the LGBTQ+ community.  That feeling of community and belonging first enveloped her at Family Week in Provincetown where she was surrounded by hundreds of families like hers for the first time.  I remember similar feelings at my first Gay Pride parade that still brings tears to my eyes. I saw that in Emily’s eyes at Family Week and it filled my heart that this 13-year-old truly felt the love, sense of belonging and acceptance from our amazing community. Queerspawn, as Emily likes to identify, are an important and vital part of our community.  Emily knew this and pushed others to see it as well. They face the same prejudices we do. They must decide when they should tell people about their family from a very early age. They fight alongside us for equality and justice. Their place in our community should never be questioned. My hope for my new grandchild is that they feel the acceptance and love of our wonderful and diverse community without question.  

I am so grateful that I was given the opportunity to find out how WRONG my thinking was in regards to bringing children into a prejudiced world.  Emily never hated us, as I feared, for the prejudice she faced from others. Instead she helped us change our community for the better and filled my world with so much love, joy, and pride that at times I think my heart might burst.  

Just when I thought it couldn’t get better, Emily is about to give birth to our first grandchild.  I could not have been more thrilled and overjoyed at the news and thoughts of all the wonderful things this new life will bring to our family.  There is no better sound than the laughter of a baby. Then it hit! I’ve never done this before. Emily was 5 when I started co-parenting. I knew nothing of diapers, swaddling (whatever that is) and who knows what else.  I panicked!  How could I be a doting grandmother, always ready to babysit when my infant skillset was non-existent? I told Emily about my sudden revelation and my attempts to find babysitting classes that were not held at Junior High Schools for 12 to 14 year olds.  Once again, my daughter taught me not to let my fears get the best of me. She would teach me all I needed to know just as she had taught me how wrong my old fears on having children were so many years ago. I could not respect anyone or their advice more than my daughter. My panic is gone and only the anticipation of great love, joy, laughter and pride remain.  So, LGBTQ+ first time grandparents to be with limited baby care experience, drop that fear. You’ll figure it out as a family. All you need to do is relax and experience all the joy, love, excitement and possibilities of your new grandchild.

Nan Smith is a proud lesbian mom and ecstatic soon to be first time grandmother.  She is a retired Systems Engineer who enjoys family, political activism, hiking, biking, kayaking, snowshoeing and all things outdoors.