Family Is Love | #HowWeFamily

Throughout my life, my definition of family has been redefined. As an only child and first-generation American, I understood my family to be my mom and my dad. I knew no relatives, no aunts or uncles, or cousins. It was just the three of us.

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At an all-girls private high school, I was surrounded by young woman of diverse backgrounds, each with their own definitions and configurations of family; some raised by single parents, some from nuclear families, some from multiracial families, some from strong religious backgrounds. This opened my eyes to the diversity of families. Because this was a boarding school and we spent so much time together, for many of these young woman teachers, faculty, and other students became family. It is in high school that I met my first two-mom family. Every Saturday, my field hockey coach would meet us up at the field before our game, accompanied by her partner and their two daughters. I vividly remember the team potluck at their home one Friday night. I stood in the kitchen, mesmerized by their photos, by the rainbow flag, by the reality that this sort of family exists.

I would struggle with my identity for several years in high school, with much internal turmoil, struggling with an eating disorder, several anti-depressants, and appointments with psychiatrists. While I came to accept myself, my parents grieved the loss of their daughter. This period of rejection challenged my conception of family, of my systems of love and support. Like many young people struggling with their sexuality, family is the most challenging obstacle we encounter.

It took several years to heal these wounds. The realities of family are often painful. Families are laden with conflict, abuse, addiction, and mental illness. Reconciliation is hard and healing takes time.

With time comes growth.

I went off to college where I healed and grew. In my senior year, I grew to love a woman I endearingly referred to as my “lady friend.” I had no intention of falling in love with this woman, or moving in together, or moving 3,000 miles away with her, or marrying her, and certainly not having a child with her.

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You see, Christina and I met in a bar in Ogunquit, Maine at 3 o’clock in the afternoon one day in July 2007. With drinks in hand, our eyes locked. I’m not sure it was magical, but it was certainly intoxicating {either that or the liquor was doing it’s thing}. According to a recent study, nine percent of couples meet at a bar or club. We were part of that 9%. Most relationships that start in a bar are over pretty quickly. Except we soon discovered the bar scene wasn’t really our thing. We just happened to be in the right place at the right time.

Flash forward several years, and we were still in the right place at the right time, but this time together. Christina uprooted her life in Maine, away from friends and family, to move to Boston with me. We began to redefine family our way. So we rescued a dog to add to our furry family.

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I proposed to Christina on May 12, 2010 when same-sex marriage was only legal in a handful of states. We had a wedding in Maine on September 10, 2011, even though same-sex marriage was not yet legal at the time. This didn’t stop us from having a big party with lots of dancing and drinking and celebrating in the town where it all began – Ogunquit, Maine. We had a commitment ceremony on September 10, 2011. This was our wedding. This was our big party. This was the cut the rug, cut the cake, and cut her off night.

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We were living in Oregon when we got hit with the baby-bug. You know the one where your uterus aches and your biological clock speeds up when you see/smell/hold a baby. It’s contagious. We had moved to the Pacific Northwest so I could pursue my PhD. There’s something in the water there that makes women fertile, specifically graduate students. We were surrounded by pregnancy and newborns. And we caught the bug. And we made that baby.

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I’ve never felt an overwhelming desire to procreate. I’ll be honest. But Christina’s womb was raring to go. And sperm was on sale. What can I say? I’m a sucker for sales.

For me, the moment we became a family was the first time we saw the heartbeat of our baby. I have never been more in love with Christina than the 9 months she carried our daughter. I was in awe of the amazing things her body was doing. I’d stand behind her, my chin on her shoulder, and rest my palms on her stomach. I sent love to that little seedling. I talked to it. I told it how much I loved it.

The first moment I felt our daughter kick my heart nearly exploded. She was in there. She really was.

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If my heart nearly exploded in that moment, my entire body nearly spontaneously combusted when the nurse handed our daughter to me for the first time in the operating room. That was a truly epic moment. My neurons were firing full-speed, my heart was pumping, my adrenaline was flowing.

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These days what makes us a family is the mundane and the extraordinary. It’s trips to the doctor’s office and to the grocery store. It’s getting legally married when same-sex married passed in Oregon.

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Its afternoon snuggles in the bed and munching popcorn on the couch.

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It’s moving to Houston for a new job.

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We treasure the little moments and the big ones, knowing all too well this life is not easy. We’ve faced obstacles and discrimination. And I wish I could say that those moments are the past. But data show that kids of LGBT parents get bullied just as much as LGBT kids themselves. But I believe love is bigger than this all. For us family is love and we will do whatever we need to for love to endure.

We started off on the east coast. And then life took us to the west coast. A job came along, and well you know, that brought us to the gulf coast. So that’s what we do. We move. We make new friends. We find new communities. We add to our family, and sometimes we lose some along the way.

For us family is not about blood or DNA. Family is not about ethnicity or race. Family is not about gender or sexuality. Family is about love and support.

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TYLENOL® would love to hear about how you family. Post or share a photo or video of what represents your family love and pride using the #HowWeFamily hashtag on Twitter or Instagram. You can also visit #HowWeFamily to learn more and see other great family stories too.

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Please Note :: Houston Moms Blog has received information and materials from McNeil Consumer Healthcare, Division of McNEIL-PPC, Inc., the makers of TYLENOL®. The opinions stated are my own. This is a sponsored post.

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Erica is a New England native who moved to Houston with her family in June 2014. She and her wife Christina live in Pearland with their daughter Quinn {Dec 2013}, dog Charley, and two cats Phoebe and Oliver. Erica is an Assistant Professor at the University of Houston where she teaches classes on strategic communication and social media. When Erica isn’t busy teaching, researching, or being a mom, she enjoys getting her yoga on, creating culinary delights, scoring deals shopping online, and exploring Texas with her girls.

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