Friday, May 11, 2012


Mothers' Day

I have never had a driver's license. I have always had two mothers. As opposed to dismissing my utter fear of driving, I like to believe that this attachment to public transit was born out of a deeper history. I began with a bus. Or rather, a fleet of them. My parents drove trolleys. It was a good way to meet girls and they got to wear uniforms while navigating the steep hills of Seattle.

Together they bought a house. They acquired various cats and two labs. They got hitched in the backyard wearing matching tuxedos in 1983. They joined a parenting group for lesbians looking to conceive. Those lesbians called themselves The Mothers' Group. Thirty years later, kids grown, they still meet most Saturdays.

When I was born, only my biological mother could display her name on my birth certificate. Co-parent adoption did not exist. Twenty-nine years, one kid, three moves, and four dogs later, they still aren't married in the state we call home, although come June that will be entirely their fault. In 1999, at the tender age of 15, I was issued a new birth certificate by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the state they were later married in. The two women who raised me are now both listed as my mother. We had a Polaroid taken with the judge, who asked if I liked "these people" enough to make it official. I did. I do. But I'm getting ahead of myself. 

I began with a bus. My father, Ron, rode the 16 everyday. He and my mother, Elyse, were friendly. They had once lived in the same apartment building with their respective partners, looking out over Lake Union. This was when my mother still rode a motorcycle and smoked cigarettes. They met again when he appeared on her line, riding home from downtown until he was the only one on board. Finally, she asked him. "Meredith and I want to have a baby. We're looking for a donor. What do you think?" I prefer to imagine him pausing, hand in mid air, waiting to drop his change in the meter.

Everyone wants to know about the sperm. Ron's donation was carried over the West Seattle bridge in an empty baby food jar. It once held pureed apricots. They tried twice, a success rate that haunted me later in my adult life as I ventured into the world of sporadically unprotected heterosexual sex. I knew what happens when a sperm meets an egg a full decade before I understood how they were typically placed in the proper location.

More than once, my father called me his "little republican," betting that my thirst for pink plastics and processed foods in a house of Birkenstocks and bulk brewer's yeast was a peek into my future life of voting for the other side. Ron took me to every Disney movie ever made, loved Connie Francis, bought me my first makeup kit, and was the first gay man I ever made friends with. He died of AIDS in 1998. The fact that my mothers nurtured my relationship with my father during the time he was alive is one of the best gifts they have given me. It has always been my mothers and me, plus the memory of this loud, charming man that I resemble, whose mean sense of humor I share.

When I was five, the Mothers' Group gathered all of us products of donor insemination together, hung butcher paper on the wall of someone's kitchen, and asked us to list everything that bothered us about having lesbian parents. There were the neighbors who no longer allowed their daughter to play at our home. The kids who wanted to know who my real mom was. The dashed hope that the show My Two Dads would have a much richer plot line. The same was true of Three Men and a Baby. I finally answered "having to explain to everyone."

Later on, I would realize that if someone had to explain it might as well be me. If I wasn't comfortable talking about lesbian mothers, gay dads, and baby food jars full of sperm, whole groups of people would go through life thinking that they had never met the functional product of same sex parents. Or that gay people reproduce through cloning. This is a true story. I once met a 22-year-old college student who explained this to me in great detail. She stands corrected.

Now, I ride the bus to their house and open the back gate, careful to not let the dog out. Next year will be their thirtieth anniversary. I will turn twenty-nine. Once you have been comforted by two mothers for the entirety of your childhood no one else can really compare. No one will ever advocate for you as fiercely. No one will ever make you feel as safe. I call both of them "mom" and wait to see who answers. You'd think that in our highly organized family unit we would have come up with something different by now, but it doesn't really matter. They are both my mothers. They always have been.

Previously: What We Have Going for Us.

Drew Zandonella-Stannard speaks to her parents on the telephone at least twice a day. She recently taught them how to text. 

73 Comments / Post A Comment

Genghis Khat

This is so beautiful. I love your moms!


Would give it a 9 out of 10@m


Well, here come the tears. That was really beautiful.


Wow, there's a lot of pollen out today, huh? Be right back.


@Lucienne I know, these ALLERGIES and my EYES. Just, dang. Sniffle.


@Lucienne @frigwiggin I don't appreciate Hairpin making me emotional at work. THIS WAS LOVELY. *sniff*

Porn Peddler

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. Absolutely wonderful in its brevity.


Ahhh, this is so touching. Beautifully written.


Oh, the weeping, here it comes.

The Lady of Shalott

Oh dear, now I am all sniffly.

And that first picture is INCREDIBLY adorable. Your little baby hat!


I love this. Thank you.


SO beautiful. I wanted it to be a novel. But I'll just read it again:)


@melmuu Me too! If you write a novel I'll buy it! I'll actually buy multiples as gifts!


Three cheers for your moms! Just lovely.


Thank you for sharing this.


I have two moms too. One is a step-mom though. My bio mom, Penelope (yes that's really her name!!) had me at sixteen and met my step-mom thirteen years ago. I had such a painfully normal family home (suburbs and christmas trees and chores etc) and it was always the people on the outside of our family with all the issues- not us.
I met my dad two years ago and I have to say how completely complicated that felt. I look like him and act like him, we both have political science degrees, we both can't seem to sit still for longer than ten minutes at a time. I had a family group when I was a kid too called Rainbow Families which was a pretty hilarious bunch of people. Ahhh families are wonderful!!!

Drew Zandonella-Stannard@facebook

@RogueState - Rainbow Families! Amazing. Happy Mothers' Day!


I love your moms' wedding picture!


@muddgirl I know!! Their tuxes are hilarious and charming, and they look so thrilled.

Cat named Virtute

This was beautiful and now my face is all wet.

dj pomegranate

I just can't even today you guys. MOMS!



Crying at work. Love, love, love this.

oh, george

So so so much love for this <3 thank you.


I was really enjoying this and the pictures of your cute moms even before your last paragraph got me right in the feelings!


The first picture, ahhhhh, it is all of the adorbses!!


A lovely piece. I might just share this with my moms.


Ahh this was utterly gorgeous! Thank you for sharing. I'm grinning-crying.


Awesome! What a great story and life!


This was so beautiful. Made me tear up! Your moms seem like amazing women. Thanks for sharing your story.


This was fantastic. Really, really lovely. Thank you.

Lauren Hoffman@twitter

This is a thousand kinds of beautiful, and so are you.

oh, disaster

This is so lovely and beautiful.


"If I wasn't comfortable talking about lesbian mothers, gay dads and baby food jars full of sperm, whole groups of people would go through life thinking that they had never met the functional product of same sex parents. Or that gay people reproduce through cloning."

It sucks that you have to be a living lesson, I bet it gets tiring sometimes, but thank you for doing it! You are EVOLVING PEOPLE.

also, feelings threatening to come out of my eyes. i'm really glad this article exists!

ayo nicole

I really loved this. Thank you so much for sharing. Happy Mothers' Day to your moms!


This is one of those pieces that I'll be re-visiting and thinking about way beyond today. Happy Mothers Day, Elyse and Meredith!!!

Hello Dolly

This was a fantastic piece. Thank you so much for sharing it!


Just so, so, so lovely. Perfect thing to send to my sister and her wife (they have a 6yr old together) for Mother's Day!


oh my god, this was so amazing and touching. as a lesbian who wants to have kids some day, its so nice to hear from a child of lesbian moms about it being a positive experience. it made me cry. thank you for sharing.


This was wonderful! Now my makeup is ruined, but damn, it was worth the read.


Oh, well, my pregnant lesbian self is going to cry all day now. What a sweet story, and what a good daughter you are. Your moms must be really proud.


@carbonation congratulations on procreating!

fondue with cheddar

Wow, this is beautiful. Your moms look so adorable and happy together, and I'm so glad they were able to put both their names on your birth certificate. They sound like wonderful parents. It's great that your father was a part of your life as well. Happy Mother's Day to them!


This is beautiful. Thank you.

The Dilettantista

I have two very close lady friends who have been married in Massachusetts (but, alas, not in our recent, Amendment One passing, tragedy of a state in which we actually live) who are about to try to conceive using an anonymous donor. They'll go for their first attempt next month. I think they'll love this essay.

Judith Slutler

MOMS! What a beautiful story. And I'm sorry to hear you lost your father that way.


This was wonderful. <3 Tears, tears, happy tears.


I too have multiple gay moms! Yay! For all those looking to have more feelings coming from their eyes, colage.org is a website we queerspawn use to connect with each other and organize on behalf of our families (and educate straight-parented kids, or SPKs).

One of the first things that happens when you meet someone at a queerspawn event is they ask you, "Who's in your family?" I effing love it, because I have a huge complex family that defies family trees (one of my bonus sisters called it an "intimacy constellation" rather than family tree). I have one mom, or three, and sometimes a dad depending on the day. (He was never there, and when he was, it was/is mostly unpleasant. So, we focus on the positive!)

When I was a kid, donor insemination was new and sparkly (and I never knew that a turkey baster was originally intended for basting turkeys, until a few years ago) and my mom's friends mostly didn't have kids. We had a handful of peers with gay parents, but mostly we just had a bunch of awesome radical and liberal queer role models/grown-up friends. We call them the Lesbian Mafia, or sometimes the Village People (because it takes a village). And this Sunday we will feed some of them breakfast in bed, and call all the others, one by one, until every mom or mom-style person has been celebrated and thanked.

Daria Morgendorffer

@SuzzyRoche My kids' names: queerspawn 1 and queerspawn 2. Suckers!

Drew Zandonella-Stannard@facebook

@SuzzyRoche - I used to volunteer with COLAGE for Family Weekend in Provincetown every summer! Perhaps we have met? COLAGE Family Weekend was the first time I met so many diverse families in one place. Products of donor insemination my age were few and far between. It was always wonderful to meet younger kids and reassure parents that yes, we are just like everyone else. Mixed, messy, many.


I was raised by two lesbians as well and it was the best thing that ever happened to me. My biological parents didn't have my best interest in mind and allowed several horrible things to happen to me. My aunt and her partner took me in when I was in 8th grade and I stayed with them after my bio mom's death. They raised me with so much love and support, it was the best environment for this damaged girl. I grew up to be strong, independent, smart and amazingly well-adjusted, all thanks to them. I hate to think how my life would be different if they hadn't taken care of me when I needed it most.


@honeybee1200 And this is why The Straights don't have a monopoly on so-called "family values." Your story made me get all lumpy in the throat.


I loved this!

A marginally-related question. Will Washington recognize their Mass. marriage come June? Or would they hypothetically have to get remarried there for it to be recognized?
And I'm of course asking in very general terms out of a genuine curiosity about how some of these laws are working as more states begin to move forward. Obviously your moms are adorable and should do whatever the hell they want :)

Drew Zandonella-Stannard@facebook

@HeyThatsMyBike - At this point, to my understanding, it's state by state, but I'm sure others are much more educated on this subject. They vacation on Cape Cod every summer and are always excited to "be married again" in Massachusetts. They will most likely renew their vows in Washington for their 30th anniversary next year.


@Drew Zandonella-Stannard@facebook Thanks for responding! I really hope that they'll be married in the eyes of the law wherever they happen to be standing someday soon. Among the million other problems with inconsistent views across states wrt gay marriage (like, you know, basic human rights and such for gay couples not being standard across the board), it seems the legal ins and outs are mind-bogglingly confusing.
But in the meantime, congrats to your moms on 29 years! And Happy Mother's Day to them!


This was heartwarming. Your moms sound awesome!

Daria Morgendorffer

I came down here to post about my eyes welling up, and I am not the only one (for once)! It makes me so optimistic that someday my hypothetical kids will love their two moms just like the writer does. It's so scary thinking that they'll resent you for making their lives harder.


your moms sound awesome! does this mean you get to have two brunches on sunday?!

Drew Zandonella-Stannard@facebook

@srsly - It's basically 2 mom Christmas around here. We had the brunch to beat all brunches today.


I'm just now catching up on all my Hairpinning for the week and have to say that this was so, so beautiful to read. Thank you for writing this and making me feel all warm and happy before celebrating my own mom, who is also wonderful.


The part where she's like "Hey man, wanna donate some sperm to me and ____?" is the part where I start to get really confused... like, how did this happen in real life? There are so many different kinds of people out there with different ways of living their lives. It is mind boggling...

Drew Zandonella-Stannard@facebook

@MalPal - If you knew Elyse you would understand. Just this afternoon she got my boyfriend to completely rearrange our living room post-brunch. Sperm donation was a breeze.


Oh this is so lovely!

Passion Fruit

This was AWESOME! Thank you for sharing, it was so sweet!


This was a really lovely piece, thank you.

Drew Zandonella-Stannard@facebook

You guys. My mothers have read every comment and are so touched. Lots of love and wet cheeks over here. Happy Mother's Day, Hairpin!


This is beautiful. I can't even point to one particular line that I loved most, but it had me in tears by the end.


Mommmmasss! Your story is exactly mine, though my donor (and his sperm) came through a chain of very excited lesbians in Western Massachusetts and I was a year or so after you. Explaining was always the worst as a kid, but it gets better and better as time goes on, something that I attribute much more to people's evolving views and our culture's increased awareness than to my own shpiel being awesome. And having two mothers is the best thing ever. All my friends were jealous on Sunday. Lesbians who are thinking of having babies - doooo it!


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