A child is born, and the whole world shifts

Has being a grandparent changed you?

I’m collecting stories from people around the country who feel profoundly transformed by grandparenthood.

Here’s what Tammi Williams, 55, of Lincoln, Neb., told me:

“When my daughter came out as being gay, I was sad for many reasons, not the least of which was that I thought I would never have grandchildren from her.

Tammi Williams, whose daughter is gay, was “horrified and scared” when she and her wife decided to have a baby with the help of a male friend they barely knew. But then, Tammi says, everything changed.

Fast forward through adjusting, accepting, and welcoming her girlfriend, and listening to them say they wanted kids but never believing it would happen. They were not wealthy enough to afford a sperm bank. Although they married in another state, their marriage was not recognized by our state, Nebraska, or by their employer. (They met at work.)

But times were changing fast.

First their employer’s policy changed to allow health insurance coverage for same-sex partners. Shortly after that, my daughter-in-law announced she was pregnant. I was stunned and speechless. My husband handled it better, and congratulated them. I followed suit, wondering how it had happened. (They had recently rented their spare bedroom to a friend, and he had agreed to be the donor. He wanted no financial responsibility but wanted to be able to visit and know the child.)

Even though I congratulated them, I was horrified and scared. This man whom I—and they—hardly knew could establish parental rights to the child. My daughter, still not recognized as a spouse in Nebraska, would have absolutely no rights to be a parent to the child.

I saw it as a disaster in the making. They seemed oblivious to the risk. I was afraid that they, and especially my daughter, would end up brokenhearted. So I sent the girls to an attorney.

In order to establish parental rights for both girls (actually women, ages 27 and 33), they ended up seeking prenatal care in Iowa, where their marriage was recognized. Each visit to the doctor required 130 miles of driving roundtrip. The pregnancy was considered high risk, so visits were weekly after 18 weeks and three times weekly toward the end.

Something changed during this time.

We never sent my daughter-in-law that distance alone. Sometimes four of us went—my daughter-in-law, my daughter, the donor father, and me. We grew to know, trust, and love each other during those trips. ‘The child’ became a beautiful baby girl born three weeks early at a hospital in Council Bluffs, Iowa, with both mothers in the delivery room and the donor father quietly wiping his eyes outside.

When my daughter and daughter-in-law came home with the baby, they came to my house first for a few days. As I sat in my new rocking chair in the early hours, looking at her beautiful face, knowing she carried my daughter’s last name, but not her genes, it didn’t matter in the least. She was my granddaughter. For the first time in ages I wasn’t worried about a single thing.

Gabby turned one year old on September 11, and she couldn’t be more perfect or more loved.”