I love becoming ‘Nana’ to little baby Marlowe. He is my first grandchild, birthed on January 16th, 2023, by my lesbian daughter Hannah, with a little help from a sperm donor conscientiously selected by Hannah and her wife Ami. Getting pregnant was a complex process for them, requiring a significant investment of time, energy, and money. Hannah was more than ready when the good news of her pregnancy came! I was delighted, and curious about my own new family role.
I knew without question that my daughter would be an instinctively wonderful, compassionate, loving, competent and attentive mother – after all, she had wholeheartedly jumped into mothering her younger siblings at a very young age, and it just came as a natural passion for her. Yet, here we are today, in a still-beautiful but more confusing world that to me feels increasingly bizarre and upside-down, in which many of the most basic ethics are somehow insidiously twisted into unrecognizable, treacherous, jagged new forms.
My children were raised in two separate households for much of their childhood, with different values and lifestyles being modeled for them, and they have each become their own blend. Now, we have all been uniquely challenged by the governmental and societal covid pandemic responses these past few years, which has showed me just how remarkably and dangerously far society will stray from trusting in common-sense, natural living principles, and how much will be willingly (and unwittingly) sacrificed to politics, corporate and government corruption, and the relative ‘safety’ of herd mentality and group affiliation.
My grandma-joy had a dark shadow passing over it. Despite me sharing my grave concerns, my daughter (and most of my family) received the covid shots. Perhaps a year passed before Hannah became pregnant. That was small consolation for me though, seeing through my lens, and I said a lot of prayers throughout her pregnancy. No one knows the longer-term affects from this experimental, relatively untested, synthetic mRNA technology. I have seen studies showing that aspects linger in the body for a long time, concentrate in the ovaries (and other places including the heart and brain), and can pass through the placental wall and via breastmilk.
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On my daily walks, as Hannah’s pregnancy progressed, a particular chant began to persist in my mind, and I would find myself frequently singing it aloud:
May the longtime sun, shine upon you,
All love surround you,
And the pure light within you,
Guide your way on.
I realized that it would be my song for this baby, and I began to visualize a healthy, happy baby each day as I sang the chant. I did my best to forgive myself for my inability to sway my daughter away from the covid injections I am so concerned about, and to surrender to what was now well beyond my influence or control. The pregnancy progressed, and at least on the surface all appeared to be normal and well. I began to relax more, and it was wonderful to share many intimate mother-daughter connections on the phone throughout the pregnancy stage of Hannah’s initiation into motherhood.
I was caught off guard, in the midst of a busy fruitarian potluck party at my house one Sunday, when Hannah was induced into labor a week and a half before her due date, as a precaution due to some elevated blood pressure. Hers became a long and difficult labor, narrowly dodging a C-section, and I did not feel reassured until, at last, a healthy baby was born! My daughter is courageous and strong, and she did great through all the trials. I am so proud of her, and so thankful for the technology of cell phones allowing me a beautiful window into Marlowe’s first hours, days, and weeks, until I was able to visit for his 3-month birthday.
For two joyous weeks just as Hannah’s wife had returned to work, I traveled to Michigan to finally hold precious tiny Marlowe, connect with Hannah and her little family, and really try on my new role as Nana. I was deeply moved by Marlowe’s happy, smiley, coo-ing response each time I sang him his ‘Longtime Sun’ song. It truly lit him up, and it was like he already knew it, and me. As I sang to him, we would hold each other’s gaze in a wonderful, powerful way I will not forget. I quickly remembered how to hold and care for a wee baby (it had been 23 years since my last child), and I could hardly get enough. The incredible softness, the pure innocence, his fluid emotions, the deep mystery of him, and the joy I felt in watching my daughter so beautifully, so adeptly and graciously become a mother, and fulfill one of her biggest dreams in life...it was all so overwhelmingly precious. It was fun to watch the brave and already skillful new-parents’ partnership dance between Hannah and Ami, and to recall long-lost details of my own with her dad when Hannah was born.
Several people have already asked me whether my grandson is fully vegan from birth – I can say yes, for now, because he is breastfed, however as I am not his mother, I have no domain over this outcome. As with vaccines, and surely many other things to come, I think my job now is to let go, and let God. Baby Marlowe is right where he is meant to be, in a nest of love and care, and his parents will find their way one step at a time, just as Hannah’s dad and I did. They will learn through well-intentioned trial and error, and this is how they will all co-create the journey they are meant to have. Humbly, I don’t know for sure what is best for this child, and so I will aim to offer Hannah and Ami the respect and trust that I wanted for myself as a new mother. I want to be helpful, too….and I am doing my best to follow their lead in this endeavor.
I have been happy to realize places where my elder-wisdom is welcomed and even wanted, such as when Hannah reached out to me for some guidance with breastfeeding. And I have been humbled by the places where this is not the case. It’s a precarious dance we are sensitively choreographing together, while we all learn brand new steps. My daughter and I care differently about some things, but we love each other fiercely, and we share an adventurous and passionate nature. Our mutual love of children, and of nature, will surely carry us through on a beautiful journey.
It does seem to me that the dangers to children today are graver and more pervasive than ever before in my lifetime, and I will no-doubt need to check my temptation to share what I deem to be pertinent healthy-living information with the new parents. I study health and wellness with a passion – physical, emotional, mental, spiritual - and I have been digging very deeply into these matters for several decades. This is an area in which I have earned a bit of expertise! Something I have learned in the process of wanting to share this knowledge, is that many people tend to be emotionally sensitive and protective around their lifestyle choices, and about how they treat their own, and especially their children’s bodies. My experience is that it’s relatively easy for other members of my family to enjoy offering (and being asked for) their expertise in the family circle – in computers, car repair, grammar and writing, crafts, real estate - because these are not emotionally-sensitive areas of life. It’s been helpful for me to realize this, so that I don’t take it personally when it seems that my kind of knowledge about natural living, however extensive it may be, isn’t as readily received in my family.
Surely, there has always been a ‘generational gap’ of misunderstandings and different perceptions that shows itself in the dynamics of parenting and grand-parenting. Today though, by the lens through which I observe the world, it does seem to me that real and present danger touches more aspects of life, is more invisible and insidious, and the stakes are higher. And so it is that my spiritual journey into grand-mothering may feel extra challenging on some levels. Darkness and destruction always reveal the more powerful light though, and what becomes available is an exceptional depth of insight, beauty, new creativity and deeper connections.
I am awed by the gift of a grandchild, and the opportunity to expand my journey with my daughter, and create a deeply loving and rewarding life-long relationship with the new being she has brought into our world. I accept the invitation to practice radical non-attachment, while simultaneously loving my grandson and his parents with all my heart. I am not the parent this time around, and I am not primarily responsible for this child’s upbringing. I am his Nana, a lucky member of the family circle of love wrapped around him. Love is the answer, and the question I’m forever working with is, ‘What would love do?’
Beautiful as always, Ellen! Much love to you, Nana!❤️