On July 5th in a Melbourne hospital, a miracle slipped into the world. I know that’s true because one of her moms called me moments later to tell me I was officially “Tutu”. That’s a Hawaiian word for grandmother and will be my nickname as this most beloved of children grows.
I never experienced motherhood so never expected anyone, ever, to consider me a grandmother. So I’m feeling especially honoured to be drawn into the family circle of little Sunday Margaret.
Let me back up. I’ve written earlier about Robin’s daughter Michelle and her partner Miriam and their dream of starting a family. (Falling in love with Peanut and Farewell, Peanut, and thank you) But I’ve been quiet here during the long and complicated journey from their initial elation and then disappointment. Instead, I’ve lit candles, held my breath, talked with these two beautiful women and Robin, and held a vision in my heart of the baby they would one day hold in their arms.
The entire story is far more detailed than I’ll share here. Michelle is a gifted writer, and I’m anticipating one day I’ll be reading the book only she can write. So this is just the teaser for a much richer story yet to come.
Same-sex couples and parenting in Australia
Same-sex couples face special challenges when they decide to start a family. Australia eased restrictions just in time for Michelle and Miriam to start the IVF (in vitro fertilization) journey. But anyone who’s been down that road knows it’s a bumpy ride, with more failure than success.
Miriam, as the older partner, tried first. After several attempts, the couple could see their best hope was for Michelle to carry Miriam’s fertilized egg.
That’s where gumption, persistence, and determination came in. What Michelle and Miriam were proposing was unprecedented in Australia. That meant more time lost to bureaucratic roadblocks before they could re-start the IVF procedures, this time with Michelle as host mother to Miriam’s egg. (Thanks to the legal changes these brave pioneers pushed for, other Australian women in same-sex relationships have the same right to increase their chances of starting a family.)
The final hurdle jumped, they tried IVF again. On the second try, Miriam’s tiny frozen embryo wasted no time dividing. As soon as it was thawed, it began splitting and expanding, as if this little drop of life was eager to become part of the family. Once inside Michelle’s womb, it attached firmly. To say it grew normally doesn’t capture the sense of awe we all felt as Michelle went through the weeks of morning sickness and began to show the unmistakable shape of a pregnant woman.
I know calling a baby “it” seems cold, but the mothers chose surprise over foreknowledge. For those of us waiting for every update, the child’s sex was not even a secondary consideration. We were awaiting the birth of a miracle.
A special connection
Well into a healthy pregnancy, Michelle was finding sleep difficult. When she lay down at the end of a busy work day, the little munchkin inside her would start dancing. Michelle tried everything to settle it so she could sleep. Nothing worked. Nothing, that is, but the tender touch and voice of the baby’s biological mother.
When we heard that, I thought of sheep. That’s not as odd as it sounds. I have no experience with human babies but quite a lot with sheep. Ewe and lamb know each other’s voices from the instant of birth, which makes me believe they recognize it long before. So it seems both magical and entirely reasonable that the baby growing inside Michelle would recognize the voice of the mother from whose body she originated.
As the pregnancy progressed, the baby’s mothers insisted I choose a grandmother name. I was reluctant because I know grandmothers who’ve earned the name through years of love and heartache can be sensitive about that. I’ve been quite happy having Robin’s son’s children call me by my given name.
But Michelle and Miriam insisted. Robin and I had been part of their journey to parenthood right from the start. We had supported every choice they made, cried with their disappointments, and celebrated their victories.
So when they insisted I choose a name, I Googled “grandmother names” and sent a list of possibilities. “Tutu” was their choice.
Minutes after a six pound, eleven ounce, healthy girl was born, Michelle rang from the hospital. I felt my heart break open when she called me “Tutu” and told me little Sunday Margaret was “perfect”.
Surrounded by love
Sunday—the day her beautiful mothers fell in love, the day they learned they were pregnant, the best day of the week. As soon as they sent a photograph, I posted it on Facebook and sent it to all our friends on e-mail, as proud as any grandmother who’s earned the name through decades of love. Friends had followed our side of the baby journey and greeted the news with joy.
She’s a miracle baby, little Sunday Margaret. She carries into the world the love and welcome of people scattered around the globe. She carries our hopes for a world moving beyond the misunderstandings and prejudices that have prevented other same-sex couples from knowing the highs and lows of parenthood.
Welcome to the world, Sunday Margaret. We’ve been waiting for you for a long time.