She’s a mother who is not on her own daughter’s birth certificate—where she should be, only a blank space exists. As scores of new people file into the hospital to meet her new daughter, they insist on finding out just who the birth mother is. The one in the hospital gown, obviously, she jokes; she doesn’t mention she’s been here seventy-two hours straight as well. She celebrates with everyone who enters, introducing her new daughter with pride, but her heart burns up just a little bit inside.
The first year is the toughest—she realizes she is often a footnote in her daughter’s story when she should be part of the main text. Tired of feeling inferior in Mom status, one day she goes to a lawyer about adoption—it costs more than her and her wife make in a year. She cries because plenty of daddies and mommies don’t want to claim their child as their own, but that’s all she wants to do. Her heart burns up just a little bit inside.
Though she taught her daughter how to read, the teacher at the new school won’t let her pick the child up because she’s not “legally” her parent. She pretends it doesn’t bother her because her daughter doesn’t understand yet (and she doesn’t want her to ever really understand). Sometimes, the three of them ride out to the park and run into old friends; when she introduces the girl as “our daughter,” the other couples often respond, “Yeah, but who is the real mother?” She keeps silent as her heart burns up just a little bit inside.
She cradles her daughter in her arms, rocking her to sleep, whispering promises that there will be a big, family gathering the next day. She’s excited because she always feels most at home as a mother among family. When they arrive, a distant cousin is in attendance; the in-laws make an innocent mistake that breaks her heart: they introduce the child as her wife’s daughter. Her heart burns up just a little bit inside.
When her daughter breaks an arm while her wife is out-of-state, she rushes her to the local hospital—she has to lie to them to get her daughter care. When she heads down to billing, they don’t care who she is because American Express does all the speaking there. She is the first person to sign her daughter’s cast, but her heart burns up just a little bit inside.
At her daughter’s sixteenth birthday, her own Mom and Dad aren’t there; to the two of them, this child isn’t hers. When her daughter’s boyfriend breaks up with her the day after the party, she rocks her while she cries. She remembers this is how her Mom used to rock her when she cried, and she wonders what difference a womb really makes. As she holds her crying baby girl, she thinks about her parents, and her heart burns up just a little bit inside.
May is the month the girl graduates from high school—she is right there in the stands, beaming with pride as she watches her daughter walk across the stage. She cheers loudly as her daughter walks (even after being told not to) as she grips her wife’s hand in excitement. Legally…officially…this child is still not hers, but the child could not have gotten here without her. A tear slips down her cheek and even though she’s so happy, her heart burns up just a little bit inside.
She is the
other mother. The daughter, the girl, the young child…she was always hers, and she was always not. She is the sometimes overlooked, the often mislabeled, the consistently critiqued other mother. And even though it burned her heart alive, she raised that baby girl into a gracious woman who, to this day, still runs into her arms when she arrives.
June 2016 is LGBT Pride Month. Remember, sometimes discrimination isn’t discrimination at all. It’s something much more subtle and painful than that. No hate. More love; more understanding.