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In My 80s, I Learned to Embrace Modern Parenthood

My friends and I have great-grandkids born to two wives.

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illustration of grandmother talking two daughter and wife, modern family, modern parenthood
Marta Monteiro
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"I’m a great grandma, ‘’exclaimed Dorothy, my next-door neighbor, as I opened the front door. She was carrying a bottle of prosecco and two wine glasses. "Let’s celebrate.’’

We sat down on my living room couch, and as I poured the wine, we toasted the arrival of Dorothy’s great-grandbaby. Trying to keep her excitement from going into overdrive, she told me about the video call she received from her granddaughter, just hours earlier.

"Grandma, I have someone I want you to meet,’’ her granddaughter exclaimed as she showed her the picture of a tiny baby girl with a head of dark hair.

"I tried not to cry at the joy I felt,” Dorothy said, “But I sobbed to welcome my sweet great-granddaughter into the world. “

"Um,’’ I said, confused. "I thought your granddaughter was gay.’’

"She is,’’ Dorothy responded and explained that she too was confused at first. As she explained: “I’ve always felt it’s a good thing that society has become more accepting of diversity — and that includes gays, lesbians, transgender men and women.’’

But when her granddaughter revealed some years ago that she was gay, Dorothy did not feel as accepting. "A lesbian in my family ... no way,’’ she admitted was her response Gradually she began to understand that her granddaughter should be free to live her authentic life.

Holding back tears, Dorothy remembered the time she gave her granddaughter a big hug and told her that "whatever makes you happy makes me happy too.’’ Her granddaughter responded with, "Grandma, I’m glad you understand that loving a woman instead of a man is only part of who I am.’’

As we sipped our wine, Dorothy explained that when same-sex marriage became legal nationwide, her granddaughter married the woman she loved. "It was a night of merriment as friends and families toasted the brides, and danced the night away.”

"But having a baby? I don’t understand,’’ I said. "I’m in my 80s and from another generation. Please explain that to me.’’

Dorothy said that she, too, was confused and wondered how these two wonderful women would ever be mothers. But when she viewed the PBS Nova documentary 18 Ways to Make a Baby, she gained a better understanding.

The growth of assisted reproduction, including the use of donor egg, donor sperm and/or donor womb, is now an increasingly common method for same-sex and infertile couples to conceive. Science has come a long way since the 1975 birth of Louise Brown in England, the first baby to be conceived by in vitro fertilization.

According to a 2021 report from the Centers for Disease Control, Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) is a successful trend. The report cites that "approximately 238,126 patients had 413,776 ART cycles performed at 453 reporting clinics in the United States during 2021, resulting in …97,128 live-born infants.”

Dorothy told me that her daughter and wife chose to use a sperm bank recommended by a fertility clinic specialist. "They carefully checked their donor’s medical history. They also looked for someone athletic and sports-minded like they are.’’

As I listened to Dorothy, I found the whole topic fascinating. I thought of the same-sex parents I’d seen in restaurants or the park, caring for their children just as any heterosexual couple would care for theirs.

I realized that it was not unusual at all.

Then, I began to think of others among my aging contemporaries who have gay children and grandchildren, who are now able to create families of their own.

When my friend Barbara first showed me pictures of her granddaughter, she told me immediately that the "cutie pie" was the daughter of her son and his partner. "The baby was carried by a chosen surrogate who was impregnated by the sperm of one of the men,” she said. "The little girl is now an adorable six-year-old with a headful of blonde curls."

Another friend, Sara, a member of my book club, shared the news of the impending arrival of her grandchild, to be born to her daughter and her wife. And now, I truly understand the rise of non-traditional ways babies enter our world, and that acceptance on the part of parents and grandparents is essential.

My granddaughter and her wife have a new baby, and I’d be a lonely 85-year-old woman if I weren't a part of their lives. If they are happy, I’m happy. All babies added to our families are here for us to love and cherish.

Are you a grandparent yet? Let us know in the comments below.

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