Hide me!

Connor

I am a trans man. I was married to a straight man who is staying with me through my transition.

 

I first became aware that I wanted children when I was about 17 but we had fertility issues and it took 12 years for our girl to come along! I conceived through in vitro fertilisation (IVF) with intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI).

 

I would consider coming off hormones at some time in the future to conceive again, likely with a donor embryo.

 

As a trans man who has always experienced dysphoria* it was tough going through IVF and pregnancy. The outcome (our child) is obviously completely worth it, but if I’d had support to assert my right to have my preferred name and male pronouns used I think it would have been easier emotionally.

 

My advice? Don’t be afraid to seek help, the trans community can be a little intimidating and showing up saying you want to get pregnant can cause strong emotions – but, we are there. We are a support network and you have as much right to access that support as anybody else.

 

 

 

 

 

*NHS.uk defines gender dysphoria as a condition in which a person feels there is a mis-match between their biological sex and their gender identity.

Amanda

I came out when I was 15 and that did not change anything with regards to my wish to have children. I was in a serious long-term relationship with a female for four years. We often discussed having children in the future.

 

My current partner is a trans man, who I have been with for nearly 10 years. We intend to use donor insemination to conceive. We discussed having children from an early stage. I started to get more serious about it a few years ago and the sense of urgency has increased as I get older – I’m now 28.

 

My partner wanted to delay things for various practical reasons – job insecurity, location, having surgery/hysterectomy etc – and probably emotional reasons as well, and this caused a lot of friction for a while. In the last six months or so we have resolved these issues and finally started on the long road to conception.

 

Now I think we are on the same page. In the last few months we visited the GP to ask for a referral to a fertility clinic. I had to have some blood tests and we are now waiting for an appointment at the hospital.

 

Quite a long time prior to that we had asked a gay male friend of my partner’s if he would consider being a sperm donor for us. Ideally we would like a known donor so that the child grows up knowing him. My partner is Chinese so we wanted a Chinese donor and suspected that waiting times would be very long for an unknown Chinese donor.

 

We waited an exceedingly long time for this friend to decide if he wanted to participate, 18 months at least. Eventually, when I had given up on him ever saying yes, I discussed all this with a friend of mine, who then discussed it with his flatmate, who is Chinese. The flatmate told my friend, who then told me, that he would have no problem being the donor.

 

I had some reservations about this, mainly just because I didn’t know the flatmate very well. With my partner’s friend so undecided however, the flatmate seemed like our best shot. I was planning to have a chat with him about it when my partner told me he’d spoken to his friend and he was interested after all!

 

My partner and I decided to forge ahead with what we had to do so that we could have more information to present to the potential donors. We visited the GP together to ask for a referral to a fertility clinic. I felt it was important that we went together but it was difficult finding a time when we could both attend because of my partner’s long working hours.

 

My partner had already seen the GP so she knew his trans status. He described the GP as ‘nice’ but I thought she seemed rather abrupt.

 

We explained what we wanted and she told us that I would have to have blood tests to see if I was ovulating. I was a bit put out because I felt like I was being treated as if there was something wrong with me when the only known reason for us not being able to have a baby on our own is my partner’s lack of equipment.

 

The GP also told me that I would need to have a smear test – something I had been putting off for years.

 

When we left the surgery I was quite upset. I had known that the GP or the hospital would probably want to do tests to assess my fertility but I wasn’t prepared for how it would make me feel. I was angry and felt like we were being ‘interfered with.’ I’m still finding it hard to come to the terms with the fact that something so personal between my partner and I requires the involvement of so many medical professionals.

 

I saw the nurse for my blood test and smear test. The smear test was about as bad as I expected, the blood test was no problem.

 

I called the surgery for my results a couple of weeks later. I was told that I was ovulating but that I had to go back to the nurse for a rubella check. I was irritated that she hadn’t done this at the same time as the other test because it felt like an unnecessary delay but I duly went back for the rubella check which came back fine.

 

Then I received the results of my smear test. I had ‘minor changes’ which means a re-test in six months to see if things have returned to normal or not. I was not overly worried about having cancer or anything like that but I was very upset at the thought of a further six month delay before even getting a referral.

 

I called my partner and he agreed that this was a possibility but suggested I visit the GP and ask her if I could have a re-test more quickly. He helped me calm down but once again I was quite angry at what I felt was ‘interference.’ If I was getting pregnant ‘the old fashioned way’ no one would know or care whether I had a smear test first.

 

I made an appointment with the GP to discuss all this. Much to my relief the GP told me that she had already sent off the referral and the smear re-test wasn’t an issue. Most likely I would have had it done before anything happened anyway. Dr Abrupt went up in my estimation that day! She took the time to explain to me what might happen next and to reassure me about the smear test results.

 

So that is where we are now – waiting for the appointment with the people who will hopefully refer us to the fertility clinic…

 

Anonymous II

I’m on the waiting list for assisted conception treatment at Ninewells (Dundee).

 

I’ve been in a relationship with my current partner for three and a half years. We started to think seriously about children a few years ago and decided to ask some of our male friends if they would help us and donate sperm. One came forward and we began to plan. However this fell through and we decided to go to my GP and ask for some assistance. That was a year ago.

 

I have had several blood tests and we were asked to see a counsellor to talk through some of the issues that may arise with having a child through a donor.

 

We have been told we should hear in August as I am due for treatment in September. I’m both nervous and excited at becoming a parent. My partner can’t wait too.

 

I hope it all works out and if it doesn’t then we turn to Plan B, and perhaps look at adoption.

Carolyn

About eight years ago my partner and I started to think about having children. We’ve been living together for 11 years, and in a civil partnership for three of those years.

 

My partner always wanted to have children and knew from a young age that she wanted to be a parent.

 

After talking about it we decided that I would have first go, although my partner thought she might also like to try later on too.

 

First, this involved me coming off medication for epilepsy, as we knew the medication could harm a foetus. As doctors thought I no longer needed to be on the medication, having been fit free for a long time, this proved to be quite easy and probably the easiest part of the whole process.

 

Next, we started looking into fertility treatment and were seen by hospital number one. This, however, got us not very far forward as there was a very limited service available and in the end we needed help in finding somewhere more suitable. This turned out to be hospital number two. At the same time we were able to select our donor and order his ‘active ingredient’ from the European Sperm Bank.

 

We have been attending hospital number two for several years and have gone through intrauterine insemination (IUI), assisted IUI and IVF treatments. It has been a very long and difficult process, with much heartache, especially when rounds have failed. There have been many problems encountered on the journey, mainly with my insides, and subsequent investigations and treatment have meant that the journey has taken us a lot longer than we ever anticipated.

 

On our 12th or 13th attempt (we have lost count) – the last attempt for me, I had decided – we successfully got pregnant with the help of Clexane injections.

 

We are now six months into the pregnancy and although I am having to get more scans and obstetrician appointments than is the norm, things are looking OK at the moment, so fingers crossed we will have our baby in October.

 

In practical terms, the journey has cost us approx £30,000 and has involved us having to pay for treatment privately. We have managed to pay for the treatments, but when our baby is born we will probably have to make drastic changes to our budgets as our savings have been eaten into quite a bit.

 

Work, on the whole, has been very supportive. My partner has not encountered any problems getting time off for appointments etc. I have managed to get time off although at times my boss has been reluctant and has sought advice as to whether or not she needs to give it to me.

 

In emotional terms, the journey has been a roller coaster. Going down the fertility treatment route has meant spending time on waiting lists to see the first hospital, then being disappointed when no service could be given. At the second hospital we paid privately, which meant we were seen and started treatment more quickly, but issues were discovered about my insides which subsequently caused anxiety and more waiting. Failed rounds of treatment caused further disappointment and heartache.

 

The final positive result was a surprise, a good one, but with all the problems encountered getting to this point, at times I still expect it not to work out and for things to go wrong, which in a way dampens the excitement of the whole thing.

 

My advice to anyone starting down this road is, don’t give up. Start saving early. Don’t assume you will get pregnant first time (or at all). Have a support network to help you emotionally eg. partner (very important).

Dawn

I didn’t want children. I’d been in a relationship with Maxine for five years and I felt everything was solid. She was a bit older than me. I was 29, she was 36 and I suppose I was the more feminine of the two. There was nothing I wouldn’t have done for her. She wasn’t my first relationship but she was the first woman I really fell in love with.

 

Our family and friends, straight couples, had children and Maxine suggested it would be nice if we had a child.

 

At first I thought, ‘No.’ I wasn’t interested. I didn’t feel in the slightest way maternal, not at all. Then gradually I thought, ‘Well, I’ll think about it.’

 

Maxine didn’t want to do it [get pregnant]. She wanted me to have a one-night stand with her cousin or one of the boys I worked with. I thought, ‘No!’ There was no way I was going to have a random sexual fling with any guy – and that’s when the idea of artificial insemination came in.

 

At first Maxine wanted to use someone from her family but I wouldn’t do that either. I decided if I was going to do it, it would be artificial insemination through a clinic where all the checks were done and it would be an anonymous donor. I wasn’t going to end up with a disease or a disabled child.

 

So we wrote a letter to a pregnancy advisory service in Glasgow. I didn’t say I was gay. I just said I was single and due to my age felt ready for a baby.

 

The letter I got back explained that the doctor in Glasgow did not see single women so I would have to go to Liverpool for the initial consultation, counselling and screening. After that, the inseminations themselves could be done in Glasgow.

 

In a way, I’d hoped the letter would come back a no-go but I ended up going to Liverpool. Maxine didn’t go with me. She was going to but some family thing cropped up so I went on my own.

 

The counsellor discussed having a child, making sure you’re doing it for the right reasons. Obviously I convinced her.

 

I had the medical checks done, the internal. I came away feeling absolutely disgusted, creeped out by it. I came out wanting a shower. I didn’t like the doctor, a man with a nurse present. I just didn’t want to be doing any of this.

 

At the consultation you got to discuss the characteristics of the donor. I just went for the same colouring as myself – same eye colour and hair, not African or anything – same likes and dislikes (I was always good at sports). I wanted to make sure that there would be no strange family traits or strong features, just average appearance.

 

It cost about £150-£200, the consultation in Liverpool. Remember this is 25 years ago.

 

I came back to Edinburgh thinking I would just put it all behind me. Maybe it would all go away. But a letter came about a month later, saying I was healthy, there was nothing to stop me getting pregnant. It said I should contact the clinic in Glasgow.

 

I didn’t make the appointment straightaway. I kept saying I would, I was always “going to” …but I didn’t.

 

Then I came home from work one day and Maxine had made the appointment for me.

 

I saw the nurses and they told me to start to take note of my cycle, so I would know when I was ready to ovulate.

 

Within four months I was pregnant. You got two inseminations each month, a day apart. I would get the train through to Glasgow and I was there for about two hours. You got the insemination and then you had to lie down for half an hour. I’d do it on my day off, arrange my shifts to fit.

 

I kept thinking it wasn’t going to work. Then I missed my period and I felt sick, awfully sick. I went back to the clinic and they confirmed I was pregnant.

 

I remember going into the toilets at Queen Street, shutting the door and crying for an hour. I would have sat there all afternoon if it wasn’t for the attendant banging on the door and asking if I was OK. I said I had a really bad headache and didn’t feel very well. She even offered me a cup of tea. I said I was fine now and got the train home.

 

I went back to the flat. Maxine was very pleased about it, she was happy.

 

I didn’t tell anyone until after the first antenatal, the 12 week scan – not work, not friends, family, nobody. I kept thinking maybe I’d miscarry and not have to tell anybody anything.

 

Maxine knew I felt like this but she could talk me into anything, I was so in love with her.

 

After the scan I told my mother, my sister, my brothers. My mum was a bit concerned about two women having a child.

 

I felt ill throughout the whole pregnancy, dreadful. I didn’t like it. And then the birth, it was horrendous too.

 

When I got to my 40th week, I’d been for the antenatal in the morning. It was July, a scorching day but I was shivering. My back was aching. I was told it was because I was nearly ready. They said that if I didn’t give birth naturally over the weekend, they’d induce. That was Thursday.

 

I went home with a really bad back but they wouldn’t give me any painkillers. They said it was muscular. It was so sore, I was so uncomfortable, I was up all night.

Maxine must have fallen asleep and woken up again because she realised the pain in my back was every 10 minutes. It was contractions, so we went to the hospital. My waters had broken in the night but I was so tired, I hadn’t noticed. I’d been to the toilet and there’d been a flood that wouldn’t stop but I was so exhausted I just wanted to get back to the chair.

 

By the time we got to the maternity hospital I was so tired and in such pain that because of foetal distress I had a C section, a general anaesthetic.

 

Throughout this I remember thinking: ‘I’m going through all this to have a child. If the baby dies, let me die with it.’

 

In amongst all the mayhem, I remember seeing my granny, who’d been dead 10 years, tapping my hand and saying, “It’ll be all right, Dawn.”

 

I came round in the ward in a lot of pain from the C section and I didn’t even know if I’d had a boy or a girl, alive or dead.

 

I remember asking, “Do I have a baby?” and they brought the baby and lay it on the pillow beside me. The nurse told me it was a wee girl.

 

I didn’t feel love. I remember looking at her and thinking, ‘Christ, I’m responsible for this new life.’

 

I’d lost a lot of blood and I was still groggy. I didn’t feel strong enough to hold her so they put her in a cot beside the bed. The way they put her, she wasn’t facing me, I was looking at the back of her head. I was hooked up with a drain from my stomach, a catheter…

 

When I came to, next morning, there were flowers and cards. My sister Ailsa had come down from Aberdeen but I’d no recollection of her being there. She’d tried talking to me but I was talking gibberish.

 

I think that’s when I was told I’d haemorrhaged. I’d lost a lot of blood but they hadn’t transferred me to another hospital because I was too ill. They wanted to transfer me then but I didn’t want to go. I said if I couldn’t stay, I wanted to go home.

 

I was there a month. I saw loads of girls come in, have their babies, have C sections and move out. The baby was healthy but I was in there for a month so it was a month before she came out.

 

I went home, Maxine came home and it was nice. She took us back to the flat we had and we settled into a routine with Jenny, the baby. I was on maternity leave. Maxine only worked part time so she did most of the caring.

 

I went back to work after three months. I used to leave the flat at 8am and not be back ’til 5 or 6pm. Sometimes I did night shifts so Maxine still did most of the caring. That suited me fine because I felt I’d done my bit.

 

For the best part of a year it seemed to work. Maxine did most of the work. I’d come back at night and do a bit – bath Jenny, change her nappy.

 

The baby went without nothing but emotionally my attachment to Jenny wasn’t there.

 

Babies are financially very wearing. I bought everything for the wee one. Money wasn’t an issue but gradually over time Maxine was asking me for more and more, for the baby or for groceries.

 

For a little while it suited me to do the extra hours but then I started thinking, ‘What on earth’s she spending this money on?’

 

I can remember buying a bag of 50 nappies one night, maybe a Monday and by Wednesday Maxine was asking me for more money for nappies and there were only eight left. I thought, ‘How can she be using so many nappies?’

 

I started noticing more – not just nappies but clothes, creams and lotions. It turned out that Maxine’s cousin had a child not much different in age, was on benefits and Maxine was helping her out. And it turned out that during the day, Maxine was going out having coffees, having lunches and I was paying.

 

It started building up, the bitterness, the resentment.

 

When Jenny was about a year old, there was a baseball event in Glasgow and I bought a little baseball suit for Jenny. It was a lot of money but she did look really cute. She out-grew it but it was still in the drawer. I really liked it.

 

I mentioned the suit to a girl at work and I was going to give it to her. I went looking for it but I couldn’t find it. Maxine told me she couldn’t find it either.

 

A month or so later, we were walking in Princes Street and I saw Maxine’s cousin. I looked into the pram and there was her baby, wearing Jenny’s baseball suit. She told me Maxine had bought it for her.

 

After that, with a bit of detective work, I found out a lot more about creams and baby bath and clothes that Maxine had said had got ripped or destroyed in the wash. They hadn’t, the cousin had them.

 

I exploded big time. The cousin had a man living with her. I said I wasn’t bringing up two children.

 

It stopped for a while, then more resentment started coming up. Maxine said one time that Jenny wasn’t her baby, she was my child – and she was having to deal with it!

 

The argument built up until I told her to get her stuff together and to **** off. It was my flat, my name on all the bills. I was Jenny’s biological mother so I was responsible for the child. It was just an argument but a lot was said. I just couldn’t take any more.

 

Jenny was just over two years old when it happened.

 

I went up to my parents in Oban for a long weekend and took the wee one with me. I met up with an old friend and I suppose because I was feeling so low, I had a brief affair.

 

I was torn between Maxine and her but I also felt enough was enough. I called Maxine and told her about the affair. When I came back to Edinburgh Maxine was packed and gone.

 

I was relieved I wouldn’t have to talk to her. She’d only taken a bag of clothes so I knew she’d be back. I phoned a locksmith and had the locks changed. I phoned her sister, asking when she wanted to remove the rest of her belongings.

 

There was a period after that when she was wanting to come back to live in my flat but I wouldn’t have it.

 

The girl next door was looking after Jenny for me and I was looking into putting her in a day nursery but all that fell through because financially I couldn’t cope with it. I used all my holiday entitlement but it wasn’t enough so I had to pack in my job.

 

Eventually my sister Ailsa realised something wasn’t right with me. She came down and got me to go to the benefits office and get sorted. I’d never been in a benefits office in my life. I found it very difficult. I’d never spent that amount of time with Jenny either, being a full-time mother.

 

I struggled for about a year and then I contacted social services. Ailsa and my brother-in-law were going to adopt Jenny because I didn’t feel I could cope. Because it was in the family and they didn’t have anything to prevent them taking on a child it was quite straightforward. But a week before the signing of the final papers, I had a heart to heart with Ailsa.

 

She said once the adoption went through, she would never deny that I was Jenny’s mother but there would be no going back. To all intents and purposes they’d be the parents, deciding schooling and everything. I wouldn’t be able to dip in and out. Jenny would be their child, not mine.

 

We sat up all night, talked and cried. I decided I wanted to keep Jenny. I wanted to be her mother. By this time Jenny was four going on five, about to start school. I started to be a proper mother then.

 

Before the adoption idea, after Maxine left me, I did attempt suicide. I had gone up to Aberdeen, where my brother-in-law Nick had a garage and sold cars. My sister had taken the wee one out and Nick had gone out and locked up the garage.

 

I didn’t know what I was doing, I was out of it. (I’d dropped about seven stone, I was a bag of bones). I’d gone into the kitchen, taken the keys for the garage, taken a car out of the forecourt, locked up the garage again and put the keys back in the house.

I knew the area. I’d taken a hose from the garage and I took the car and was heading to a spot a mile away. I’d decided the wee one was better off with my sister and brother-in-law.

 

Meanwhile, Nick had come back and seen one of his cars was missing. He knew I was feeling down so instead of calling the police he called family and friends to scour the area.

 

What I didn’t know was, he only kept enough petrol in the cars to move them around the forecourt. I only had enough petrol to get me just out of the village. Nick’s brother found me in the car, sobbing. I couldn’t even get that right.

 

I had a breakdown. It was only after that, that I had thought about the adoption.

 

When Jenny started school I got a cleaning job. I had help and support from my sister-in-law. There were two gay guys I knew at the time, Oscar and Lee, who were great – I couldn’t have done without them. Jenny grew up knowing them as Uncle Oscar – he was like a mother hen – and Uncle Lee.

 

Oscar at the time was a drag queen, so he was on the circuit. Lee had a job as a civil servant. It was through Oscar that I became a housekeeper for four guys, entertainers who had a flat share. They had jobs through the day and were female impersonators at night.

 

I’d make cash in hand, cleaning their flat, occasionally helping out with their dresses, keeping them ironed, picking up their costumes.

 

One of the boys, Don, used to buy Jenny ‘Thomas the Tank’ juices for when she came with me. These men with Thomas the Tank juices in their fridge! Jenny used to call them ‘the ladymans’ because she saw them dressed up.

 

There were some funny times. Don used to wear a mink stole as part of his act and one day Jenny must’ve picked up the stole from a chair and she was stroking it like a cat. They were in fits of laughter.

 

Things started picking up. I was enjoying Jenny more. We did have a laugh and some good times.

 

One night they talked me into getting made up so I looked like I had a 5 o’clock shadow. I used to sing then, too. I was known as Oor Elvis. Sometimes I scared myself as I thought, ‘They like me too much.’

 

As Jenny got older, I thought I should tone it down. I remember we went on a school trip to the zoo and the guy had taken out two snails and was talking about ‘this snail and his girlfriend.’ Jenny said, “My mummy’s got a girlfriend” and everyone was looking back and just smiling.

 

She went through primary and secondary and all the usual stuff, where they think they know it all.

 

I had a few relationships in between but I never had anyone stay over that I hadn’t been seeing for a length of time. She never came in in the morning and saw a stranger in my bed.

 

Jenny was about 10 when Don and the boys sold the flat and moved down to London, so I no longer acted as housekeeper. That’s when I started working in a care home.

 

Around that time, when Jenny was 10 or 11, there was a lesbian mothers’ group starting up in Edinburgh but they were all women who’d been married, had kiddies, spilt with their husbands and decided they were gay and looking for a partner. I didn’t relate to them. I’d been with a female partner and gone through insemination, it was different for me. I didn’t feel I belonged.

 

So I went through to a lesbian group in Glasgow and met May, who’d had a child by artificial insemination in London. It was a good friendship and our girls were close in ages but she wanted more from the relationship than me so I stopped contact with her.

 

My partner now is Emma. We had a civil partnership last year. When I was 18 I joined the army – the WRAC – and Emma was in the same intake. We didn’t really get on then because we’re very different. I was always out and about doing while she had her nose in a book. Our lives went in different ways. She got married and had children.

 

We met up again at a WRAC reunion about five years ago. We got speaking and realised, through photographs, that we’d known each other ’way back. We started meeting for coffee as friends and over time it just grew into more. I’m in a happier place now.

 

As far as Maxine goes, she went to London when Jenny was two and came back to Edinburgh when Jenny was 13. I was in Asda shopping and this woman was looking at me, staring. She was dishevelled and because I was a support worker, I thought she must be an old client. She came over and said my name and I thought, ‘Where do I know you from?’ It was only when I looked into her eyes that I knew it was Maxine.

 

She looked older, in poor health through drinking, smoking; she dabbled in drugs. She started telling me I was the only woman she’d ever really loved, she was sorry, we should never have broken up – and she started talking to Jenny.

 

I didn’t see her again, I was in a relationship but I think she and Jenny met up a couple of times. She made out we’d only split up because of things I’d done, which caused a lot of conflict between Jenny and me in her teenage years.

 

Jenny has no contact with Maxine today but for that period, until Jenny was 16, she caused problems. I tried to give Jenny the freedom to choose but when she went off the rails and got pregnant, I told Maxine enough was enough and to get out of our lives.

 

Jenny has a son now – Ruaridh – and oh, he’s just amazing! He’s seven years old and there’s nothing I wouldn’t do or give up for the wee man. And the strange thing is, I look into his face and the resemblance is so strong, it’s like looking at pictures of me as a child, only with short hair rather than long. He’s so much like me.

 

I dote on him. I can love and care and do things for him, things I could never do with Jenny. I think she sometimes gets jealous of the bond I have with him that I didn’t have with her.

 

But Jenny’s OK. She has a part-time job. At times my relationship with her is strained, at other times it’s very good. I think our earlier years have affected things.

 

Sometimes we can be very close but she won’t listen to me if I think a course of action she’s taking is very wrong. She can be so pig-headed. Ailsa says I was like that when I was a teenager. I’d do what I wanted and to hell with the consequences.

 

I am over 50 but I am more settled now than I’ve been all my life. It’s just taken 50 years to get here.

 

If I see Maxine now I cross the street. She’s an alcoholic, living in disabled housing. She looks that bad, I wouldn’t even want anyone to acknowledge I ever had anything to do with her.

 

But if it hadn’t been for Maxine I wouldn’t have Jenny or Ruaridh.

Jo II

My civil partner is Scottish but we live in England.

 

Our first son, born to my partner by an anonymous, identity release American donor in 2006, was later adopted by me. [Identity-release or open-identity sperm donors are willing to have their identity released to adult offspring]. Our second son by the same donor was born to myself earlier this year. We are not planning to try for any more children ourselves though would consider adoption or long term fostering in future.

 

My partner had about six intrauterine insemination (IUI) treatments followed by two in vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatments, then a very problematic pregnancy. I had one operation and four IVFs, followed by my pregnancy, which seemed straight forward compared to our first son.

 

We became civil partners while my partner was pregnant. I changed my surname after that. At that time, I could not be named as the second parent on the birth certificate so I adopted our first son. By the time our second son was born, the law had changed and we are both parents on the birth certificate.

 

Emotionally, when treatment does not work for long periods, it is very difficult. It put strain on our relationship with friends who had no difficulty having children.

 

When you go to a clinic the process is very medical from the start. Many of the processes have unpleasant side effects or are painful and involve taking time off work at short notice. It is all quite stressful. The treatment process was very demanding physically, emotionally and financially, but we feel very lucky to have two wonderful sons.

 

The huge financial cost has given us about £20k additional debt, which makes our finances very tight.

 

We have a very strong relationship and quickly learnt to seek support from friends and family.

 

My advice? Don’t put everything else on hold whilst trying to have your family.

Lee

Unsure when I first became aware I wanted children. Probably once I came out to myself and realised that having a partner and family was possible. Until then, I thought that I would just live alone (when faced with the heterosexual expectations of my future).

 

I started to think about it seriously once my partner and I entered a civil partnership. We are waiting to begin the process of treatment. So far, it has been very positive – our GP, the fertility assessment in Larbert and initial meeting at the fertility clinic.

 

They treat us positively and we are not made to feel inadequate or a hassle in any way. It is a process that seems – so far – to be focused on us and our future as parents, but it is stressful to think about travelling to clinics for treatment while trying to maintain working commitments. I have discussed our intentions with my line manager.

 

Our main sources of information have been two same-sex couples in different stages of the process. One family has just given birth, another is in the third trimester.

 

My advice to anyone who found themselves in my situation would be: it will be discouraging and slow if you are going to go the self-funded (not private clinics) route. Get informed and speak about EVERYTHING with your partner (if you have one).

 

You will both have different preconceptions that you are not aware of. Be really reflective about what you expect, think and visualise about the present, treatment and the future.

Mhari

I’ve never not wanted children. When I had my first same-sex relationship, thinking about whether or not I’d have children in a same-sex relationship was a big part of working out what my future would look like.

 

About three years ago, my partner was in her mid-30s, I was in my early 30s, and we’d both finally got stable jobs and bought a house. We spent a long time discussing how we’d like to get pregnant and what sort of family structure we’d like.

 

We’re trying to conceive using donor sperm (unknown donor, using a local fertility clinic). We plan to have children in the near future, but obviously it’s not 100% in our control.

Sarah and Lucy

Sarah: We’ve just gone through fertility treatment and Lucy is four months along.

 

Lucy: It’s a boy. My mum wanted us to have a girl because she thought it would be easier with the situation – two mums.

 

Sarah: We’ve been together for eight years and married for two. We started to look into it in October. We went online to look for a donor but were worried about the legal implications and issues that could arise with the donor in future. We wanted all the information to be straightforward so decided to go through a clinic.

I said to Lucy, “Why don’t you go to your doctor?”

 

Lucy: I hadn’t thought of that – but after all it was a medical procedure, so we did. He was really supportive.

 

You can have the procedure on the NHS – but you just go on a long ‘holding’ list and in reality there’s no funding – but the doctor arranged for us to have the HSG test [hysterosalpingogram] to make sure my tubes were OK and blood tests so we didn’t have to pay the clinic for things that could be done on the NHS.

 

At one point a gay friend at work did offer to be the donor but he changed his mind when he saw children playing in the park, so we went back to the clinic. After that it was quite quick – two months.

 

The doctor at the clinic itself worked for Spire IVF Scotland at Danderhall, Edinburgh. It cost £200 for a meeting with the consultant then more to see a nurse who told us everything anyway. We fed back to the clinic – it would have been better if we had seen the nurse first.

 

Sarah: Going through the forms, we felt completely alone but we felt that if we went through someone we knew, they’d want to co-parent. With the clinic it was all anonymous. We just had to choose a donor from information given to us – like height, skin colour, hair colour.

 

If our son wants to find his biological parent when he’s 18, we’ll support him.

 

Lucy: There were blood tests every day for a week to find out when I was ovulating. No drugs as I wasn’t infertile. My cycle was regular. The procedure itself was like a turkey baster only in a sterile environment. We were lucky as I got pregnant the first time.

 

Sarah: Lucy’s parents wouldn’t associate our child as being their grandchild if I carried him. The decision was as simple as that.

 

Lucy: We didn’t tell our parents we were going for fertility treatment so when my brother told them on Skype that the baby was already on the way, they had to come to terms with it. He told them because I was so stressed about them, I wasn’t sleeping and he said that wasn’t good for the baby. He was brilliant.

 

It bothers my mum a lot that she doesn’t know who the donor is but it doesn’t bother us.

Trish and Lesley

Lesley: We have been in East Lothian for the past three years but we met in London. Trish is from Scotland originally and I’m from overseas. Our son Angus is five, our daughter Iona is seven months. I’m 47 and Trish is 39.

 

Trish: It’s something I’d always thought about, having children. I didn’t come out until I was 22. Before that I’d gone along with the usual, assuming boyfriends, marriage, children. When I came out my vision in terms of having children didn’t really change.

 

Lesley: I found out quite early that I couldn’t have children. I had a thrombosis when I was 17. Then the doctors found out I had polycystic ovarian syndrome as well, so I came to terms with not having children when I was really young. When I came out I thought, ‘Well at least it’s not a waste.’ In my country being female is all about being fertile. You’re not fulfilling your godly task as a woman unless you have children!

 

Trish: When we got together, I raised it right away but there was no urgency. I was 26-27, so I wasn’t ready to have children anyway. I said, “Let’s see what happens.”

Over time I felt the urge more. Then, when I was 31-32, a lesbian friend of ours had her first child. That was the start of thinking about it more seriously. I had Angus just before I was 34.

 

Initially we asked a gay male friend of Lesley’s in her home country, who said, “Thanks for asking but no thanks, the distance is too far.”

 

We asked another gay male friend in California but after a health check, he found he had no decent sperm!

 

We contacted a sperm bank in California too and even went through rigorous health checks and one insemination but it didn’t work. We tried them because they had a scheme where after a year you exchanged details with the donor you had chosen so you could have a relationship with him and that was quite important to us. Then we realised that having a donor in California was just too difficult when we were based in London, and that led to our decision to register with a London-based private clinic.

 

We went through the initial stages and again had one insemination but the whole experience was so horrible, we just knew it wasn’t for us.

 

Lesley: It was just so clinical, so impersonal. Using a sperm donor we hadn’t met wasn’t for us.

 

Trish: I registered with an NHS clinic in East London but they wouldn’t accept us because of my weight. The cut off was 16 stone.

 

We decided to start looking for our own donor, so we went on the computer for the first time. We tried Sperm Donors Worldwide because two friends had found donors through them. This felt like more of a risky thing to do but gave us the control over the process we wanted and a hopefully a much more personal experience.

 

We emailed three men and met up with them. The first two were absolute no-no’s. On paper they ticked the right boxes but I didn’t feel any warmth or engagement with them and that was important.

 

On reflection now, I realise that despite feeling quite a desperate urge to conceive and have a child by this stage, we did manage to find a good person and the best way to do it, for us. Lesley really helped us to stay grounded when my emotions took over and at the same time, she understood the urgency I felt. It wasn’t all smooth sailing though, there were stressful moments and I pushed a lot but the strength of our relationship helped.

 

Lesley: You are genetically wired to look for things in a mate, to resonate with them. We didn’t feel any connection until we met Matt. Then it was almost immediate for both of us. After that it was just the small details we worried about.

 

Trish: Matt is in the same professional role as me. We connected and it was the beginning of a trusting relationship.

 

Matt’s straight. He has an older son by his first marriage and his second wife Sandra has a daughter from her first marriage. He’s helped several other lesbian couples and he donated sperm anonymously to a sperm bank before the law changed, allowing children to trace their parents when they’re 16.

 

Lesley: The fact he’d donated to a sperm bank recently meant he had documentation about his sexual health, so we knew he was clean.

It was also important to us that his wife knew and it was all above board and out in the open, so nothing would come out of the woodwork later. He was happy to participate any way we wanted him to.

 

Trish: Matt’s 50 so he would have been in his early 40s then. We agreed we were happy to go for it, so we did – and I conceived first time.

 

Matt met Lesley in London with the sperm after work. It was in a camera-film container. Lesley brought it home on the train.

 

Lesley: I kept it warm in-between my breasts, at body temperature. The journey was about half an hour, so we knew it should be just about all right.

 

Trish: There was a stressful point, with me at home worrying: was Matt going to be there? Was Lesley going to bring back the sperm on the train? But there was a level of trust that has grown since and Matt has never let us down.

 

When Lesley got home, we used a baby medicine syringe from a pharmacy, so it was sterile.

 

Lesley: We made it romantic, we had champagne. We did it the old-fashioned way only using implements!

 

Trish: I raised my hips and lay there for the whole evening.

 

Lesley: She could hardly wait to do the tests, she was so impatient.

 

Trish: When I tested negative on day 11 or 12, I cried. I felt quite disappointed. I went jogging again (I’d been trying to lose weight), cleared out the loft and then drank a whole bottle of red wine that night. I’d always had regular periods and a 28 day cycle, and when I did a test again on day 15, it was positive!

 

We let Matt know pretty soon after, by text. We had to tell him we wouldn’t be meeting again for sperm. We had intermittent contact with him during the pregnancy – letting him know we’d had a scan, when the due date was. He didn’t intrude on us in any way. The trust grew as he left us alone. We’d agreed there would be some sort of relationship between Matt and the baby but that it would emerge over time.

 

It was a very straightforward pregnancy with Angus, up until the labour. We planned a home birth and everything in the run up was fine.

 

Lesley: I went into the hospital with Trish towards the end, though, and thought there was an underlying something, in terms of how we were treated as a couple – which prompted Trish to propose!

 

Trish: Lesley is the romantic one, I’m more practical.

 

Lesley: When I first proposed to Trish earlier, she said, “No, there’s no need” – then one day towards the end of her pregnancy, I came home and she insisted, “We have to get married!”

 

So we got married in the February, partly in case there were problems with the pregnancy, so I wouldn’t have to refer to a family member if things went wrong. Until then, I kept having to spell it out, that when I said I was her partner, I didn’t just mean her birthing partner, I was her lover – we were lesbians.

 

Trish: We started the labour at home but unfortunately the community midwives made errors and did not offer the support we needed, so we ended up in hospital for two days. Angus was born by emergency C section.

 

I’d always said to Lesley, “Whatever happens to me, you have to stay with Angus.”

 

Lesley: It was brilliant because the staff gave him straight to me from the womb. I cleaned him and weighed him, it was incredible!

 

Trish: I was still on the table, they were still suturing me.

 

Lesley: I think they had started to take me seriously by then. There had been a series of unhelpful medical interventions before a really great midwife interceded to get Trish into surgery and I had to get quite assertive. You have to be confident in your role as the partner. If the birth mother gets into difficulties you have to step up.

 

On the whole we’ve found midwives are more concerned about you, the person, than the doctors.

 

Once we got home with Angus, we got caught up in life with a baby. We didn’t think about having other children at that stage.

 

Matt saw Angus every six months or so. We took photos of them, so we could show them to Angus later on.

 

Lesley: We’ve also made him a family book with information in it about all of us and our families, grandparents and aunties and uncles. Periodically he’ll be really into it, reshuffle things about in it – then he’ll put it away.

 

Trish: Now he’s five, he has questions about parents and babies and how he came about. We’ve been very honest with him, saying Matt was a very kind man who gave his sperm to us, and mummy grew him in her tummy. I think it’s important to answer children’s questions with facts, but in an age-appropriate way.

 

Matt used “Daddy” to describe himself, which we were uncomfortable with in the beginning, because we were very clear that we were Angus’s parents – even though we wanted Matt to know Angus and Angus to know him. But we’ve grown used to it and it’s what Angus calls him. Any alternative would be quite a hard concept to explain to a five year old child.

 

Angus calls me Mummy and Lesley, Mummy-Ma or just Ma.

 

Lesley: When Angus was about 18 months old, we moved to Scotland, where Trish was born. We wanted to bring Angus up in the countryside, where he could feel free and look at bugs and live a good life. We’d both been brought up in the countryside and we were feeling quite tired of London.

 

Trish: We moved to a little cottage my mum had on the coast to start with. Then to a small seaside town, not far from Edinburgh. I went back to work four days a week.

 

Lesley: It would have been nice if other LGBT families had been here but that wasn’t an issue. We have a few lesbian friends here, and some siblings, but most of our friends here are straight.

 

Whoever is going to be the parent involved in the local community has to be strong. There can be some resistance if you’re out. The waters can part if you’re asked, “So what does your husband do?” and you say, “She is a… ” It’s taken a long time to build relationships.

 

Trish: And we’re not people who don’t integrate, we like to be part of the community.

 

Lesley: You have to participate and you have to keep at it.

 

Trish: You have to be a positive role model for your children, too. You have to be a normal family so your children feel they’re a normal family and the community do too.

 

We’ve always been very open. I went and had a meeting with Angus’s head teacher and said, “This is our family and our son is coming to your school. She said, “There are children from all sorts of families in our school, he will be welcomed just like anyone else” and then to our surprise his teachers went out and bought some books – that was lovely. The teachers said, “We haven’t had a two-mum family before but here we are” and they were very welcoming. I feel that’s a two-way street.

 

I also did a ‘show and tell’ with Iona, after she was born, to Angus’s class. We talked about what babies like and read a story about families by Todd Parr. All Angus’s friends know Angus has two mummies and a daddy.

 

Lesley: We’ve always been very open, we don’t make too much of an issue of it, we just live. A friend of Angus’s said the other day, “I think you’re really lucky that you have two mums, I think that’s really cool.” I think that’s really cool!

 

Angus is really happy to discuss the fact he has two mums and a dad. He’s not embarrassed, he’s confident. We want our children to have full lives, not feel they’re different – because they’re not different. Their home life is exactly the same as every other family’s.

 

Trish: When we moved, we still saw Matt every six months and then we met his wife, Sandra. We went to his home and had lunch, so the relationship progressed. Gradually we started to think about having another child.

 

It did feel different the second time, because we felt we were asking Sandra as well – it wasn’t as simple but it was still something we were all willing to do.

 

I started monitoring my cycle again. The website, Taking Charge of Your Fertility – www.tcoyf.com – was brilliant, so I read the threads and used their diary chart.

 

I would take my temperature and look at my cervical mucus so when all the signs were really strong I would know when I was ovulating. I’d send Matt a text and we’d drive the 400 miles to see him. We’d stay in a hotel for one night or two and he would bring the sperm sample to Lesley, just like before. Getting the sperm, looking after the sperm, that was always her role because that way it was a shared experience, a shared responsibility.

 

It took me four cycles to get pregnant with Iona. Once we were pregnant we didn’t see Matt for about a year. The whole process of conceiving was quite stressful this time around. We all needed a bit of space afterwards.

 

I saw the GP and then I was referred to the community midwives service. They were absolutely brilliant, both in terms of care and in terms of us being a same-sex couple.

 

There’s nothing much to say about the second pregnancy really because it was all straightforward. The whole experience with the hospital was a lot less stressful, too – I had to have a C section again but it was planned and there was none of the consultant arrogance there was in London. There just seemed to be more acceptance about the fact that we were a same-sex couple, more openness.

 

Lesley was there for the C section and she was given Iona right away. With postnatal care it was the same rule for us as for heterosexual couples, so she wasn’t able to stay overnight.

 

A midwife at Simpson’s [maternity unit, Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh] tells me there are quite a few lesbian couples coming through now.

 

We didn’t know in advance that we were having a boy with Angus but we found out with Iona and kept it to ourselves as Angus had said he wanted it to be a surprise.

 

When we first met Matt, he had graying hair so we hadn’t expected it when Angus was born with red hair. Then when we saw pictures of Matt as a boy, he had red hair, which he grew out of.

 

Angus looks like Matt and Iona looks a bit more like me. Angus has a lot of his Ma’s traits though, as she has been the one at home raising him for the past three years. He has her accent and they are very close.

 

Getting pregnant as a lesbian couple in a small village has been an experience, and I am glad to say mostly a positive one. I find it quite funny that people really express their approval that Iona has the same father as Angus. I guess it’s just the norm. If we hadn’t been able to have Iona with Matt, I’m not sure we would have used another donor. It would have felt like having a whole new mountain to climb.

 

Now we have Iona, that’s the family complete – both from an age perspective and because two is plenty! We are very blessed.

 

Our advice?

 

Keep an open mind as to how you’re going to have children because there’s lots of different options available. What’s important is sticking to your values eg. if you want a known donor, stick to that but be open to the possibilities of how that might happen.

 

Don’t wait.

 

If you’re positive and open about who you are, that tends to be returned by others.