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"People that see us on the street probably think he's her child, and I'm the nanny."

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A Happy Two Mothers Day

by Kelly Cogswell

MAY 15, 2001. Their classic activist love story began in 1996 when Maura Bairley went to the East Village police precinct in New York City to get a permit for "Dykes Night Out," a march against lesbian-bashing. Officer Eliana Ujueta, an NYPD community liaison, handled the permit. Intrigued by the encounter, she asked Maura out after the march. They've been together ever since.

Children were always in the back of their minds. Two and a half years ago, after Maura recovered from a life-threatening illness, they decided to quit talking about kids, and actually have one. They bought a house in the wilds of Brooklyn, and checked out fertility clinics. Last Mother's Day, Maura was artificially inseminated.

Choosing a donor made her feel a little strange. "It's a game of eugenics. I mean, I don't have a strong preference about height, but it's one of the dozens of factors you can choose from." Eliana felt strongly the donor should be Latino like her. They ended up choosing a Brazilian of Italian descent.

Instead of looking like Maura, who contributed half of his genes, the three-month old baby Miles actually resembles Eliana, a Colombian of European descent. "He has her pale coloring, and grey-green eyes. People that see us on the street probably think he's her child, and I'm the nanny," Maura laughed. Her own mother is white, her father African American.

Maura's Mom, Fran, retired from her job, and moved in with the couple shortly before Mile's birth. Since Maura went back to her job as coordinator of the rape crisis program at Columbia University, Fran has been Miles' primary care-giver. "That's the only thing that made going back to work feel possible," Maura said. "At first, I was worried about issues of territoriality, if things would feel tense, but it's been fine. It works."

It helps that the relationship between mother and daughter is close, despite a rough patch when Maura was a teenager, and later, when she came out as a lesbian in her early twenties. Her mother was shocked. "She had to educate herself, and get support for herself," Maura said. "Now, she's not just supportive, she's affirming of both me and Eliana. She's very involved in our lives."

Motherhood has given Maura a whole new appreciation for Fran. "I feel proud realizing just what an amazing job she did as a young single mother. You learn how difficult it is, and how many decisions you have to make as a parent."

With Eliana and Fran, Maura is anything but alone. Two of Eliana's sisters, who each have two children, are also supportive and encouraging. And there's a lesbian couple they're friends with who had a little girl four months ago. By coincidence, they also used the same donor.

Maura thinks it is a big plus for Miles that their family is an intercultural, multi-generational, multi-racial melting pot. Even the family's name for Eliana, "Maddy," is a combination of mother and daddy. Likewise, Miles gets the hyphenated Bairley-Ujueta surname of both parents. And while "having gay parents complicates the world," Maura said, "that's not necessarily a bad thing. It just means children will have to think about issues of gender and social justice."

She's excited by the opportunity of "raising a whole new person," and plans to give him his first taste of direct action at the annual New York City Dyke March in June.

Meanwhile, Maura, Fran, and Miles were content celebrating Mother's Day together this past Sunday, eating BLT's, planting tomatoes in their backyard, and watching a marathon of The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd on cable. NYPD Officer Eliana Ujueta, unfortunately, was on duty.

Related links:

For a Canadian Lesbian Mothers Support Society.

John Crawford's "The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd" site.

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