I guess I rarely thought about it in my 20s as none of my peers (largely graduates) were starting families. Focus was on working/career/travelling/ having a great time.
As I got into my 30s I started thinking, ‘How am I going to manage this given I’m a lesbian?’ and ‘What will my parents and friends think if I do have a family?’.
I started trying to get pregnant in 2006.
My ex-civil partner and I were both keen to be parents: I have always wanted to be pregnant/bear a child, and she was keen to be a parent but had no interest in being pregnant. I think this was a good match to some degree, although it had its pitfalls (eg. she simply did not understand my burning urge to have a baby of my own rather than adopt).
We went to a Rainbow Families conference in Manchester which was brilliant, provided syringe kits, info on fertility monitoring, clinics etc, and access to people who had experienced it all.
We approached a gay male friend (who had a partner) to ask if he would consider being our child’s father – with no specifically paternal contact, or demands from us for support, but able to be in touch/friends with the child, and be identified as the biological father in due course.
He (and his partner) agreed and we shortly embarked on home insemination (cup & syringe!). This was made difficult, timing-wise, as he moved some distance away shortly afterwards – but still we persevered.
We had about nine attempts over 14 months or so. It wasn’t happening. Another male friend (straight) then offered his ‘services’ with no strings. He was happy to be identified as the biological father in due course, as long as it meant no specific responsibility.
We switched donor for a few reasons: the original donor and partner were getting a little too excited and not demonstrating signs of understanding separation (“Can we come to the scan?”, “Can we buy the cot/first bike?”, “Can I take the wee one to see my mother”…). Plus, they didn’t understand the urgency with me being mid 30s.
They often put other interests/events before our insemination dates, which were of course last minute and unchangeable.
Around this time, I was concerned that I hadn’t fallen pregnant, so went to the doctor’s to request investigation. But I fell pregnant immediately, the first time with the new donor (cup & syringe again!), before any investigation took place.
I lost that baby in what was a very dramatic, very public miscarriage, two days short of 12 weeks gestation (blood running down legs on a beach in Australia and an ambulance called). I struggled badly with this, as did my then civil partner, although I did not know the consequences of that until later.
After a couple of months’ break, we began to try again with the second donor, and six months later, in December 2008, I fell pregnant – just after I had once again gone to the doctor to see if they would investigate why there was no pregnancy.
I had an extremely healthy pregnancy, followed by a difficult birth (C section) and a sick baby girl in the neonatal unit for a few days, although she was 9lbs 9oz – a good healthy size!
My family were excited and delighted. My partner’s family were dismissive and homophobic, and largely denied the baby was part of the family, despite our civil partnership and the legal ramifications! They gave token gifts but refused to accept any link or demonstrate any understanding or emotion.
This was difficult – but they were always difficult and a bit homophobic. Our relationship hadn’t been great and I had been so focused on the pregnancy that I hadn’t really noticed or paid attention.
When my daughter was seven months old I had suspicions about my partner’s fidelity and found sexy messages to an ex on her phone, in Facebook and in her emails (I never checked until I had well-founded suspicions). I caught her going to see this ex when she was lying about going elsewhere.
She was aggressive (not physically) and controlling when confronted, but admitted she had also had intercourse with a man (!) after I lost the first baby, during my recovery period.
All this I could not cope with, so I left with baby in tow.
It was difficult but the right thing to do. She was not prepared to stand by our family, and I think this goes back to a complete lack of understanding of maternal urges or what it means to be a parent (ie. you come second!).
I met a wonderful woman seven months later – my current partner – who has two children from her marriage and we have formed a fabulous lesbian family unit. Our children are well-adjusted and well aware of our relationship.
There will be challenges ahead – but there are for any parents.
My daughter still sees my ex, most weekends for a few hours, but there is no suggestion of a parenting role. I don’t trust her to deliver. My daughter is nearly three and she is the best thing I ever did with my life.
If you’re thinking about having children, do your homework and think very carefully about which option you are happy with for yourself and future child:
Complete anonymity – ie. online fresh sperm delivery – where neither you nor your child will ever know who the father is?
Some discretion – ie. a fertility clinic and unknown sperm donation? Your child will be able to find out who their father is at age 18.
Known quantity – ie. private donation, or known donation through a clinic with a male of your choice. This way you know the traits, family medical history etc. You run the risk of emotional involvement, but for me, that was the smallest risk of the three options, when weighed up against the benefits of having a known donor.