Hide me!

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 III

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.

Anonymous

I’m bisexual and originally thought children might be something I would do in the context of a heterosexual long term relationship.

 

When I was single in my late 20s/early 30s, I heard Juliet Stevenson on ‘Desert Island Discs’ (!) saying that if she got to an age where it was too late for her to have children and she hadn’t got round to trying, she would feel she had ‘mismanaged’ things – or something along those lines. That got me thinking.

 

I was doing a MA in Women’s Studies and chose to do my dissertation about women having children by donor or self-insemination. I spoke with a gay friend about him being my donor over a long period of time. Ultimately he opted out and an ex-partner but long-term friend agreed to help me and to be a co-parent. He was living abroad at the time and we had a ‘trial’ run at insemination on a visit back to the UK that coincided with my cycle. And I got pregnant first go!

 

Having a child via self-insemination for me was very easy and straightforward. She was wanted, planned and conceived with love and that feels very special. I made sure her dad got parental responsibility via a court order (necessary in 1997) and she has his surname (my choice).

 

I am now a single parent with a 15 year old daughter. I co-parented with her dad, living in a shared household, for six years and have subsequently lived alone with my daughter.

 

Her dad was very hands on and totally involved in shared parenting while living with us. It then got less and less when he moved out and got married. His wife never accepted our long-term friendship and never really saw my daughter as part of their family. So my daughter doesn’t have a great relationship with her dad although she loves him greatly but she and I are very close and have a delightful mum/daughter relationship.

 

My daughter likes the story of how she was conceived outside of a relationship and by insemination. She feels it is special too (in a positive way!). She tells her closest friends, who think it is ‘cool.’

 

I have no regrets about having a child outside of a relationship though I wish about how future partners might feel about our arrangement (both of us were single at the time I got pregnant) and he used to say that if a future partner of his could not accept the arrangement then that would not be the person for him. Turns out he has married someone who doesn’t accept our friendship and our daughter into her life! So sadly, he is totally out of my life now and minimally involved in our daughter’s life.

 

For several years after he first got married the situation got worse and worse as I battled to maintain his input in my daughter’s life. Communication totally broke down and his wife sent me nasty emails, being incredibly negative about me and about my daughter. Eventually I had to end all contact and give up on anything changing or improving.

 

My daughter still struggles with missing her dad sometimes and wishing she could see more of him but overall is resigned to loving him but finding him hopeless.

 

Despite the struggles around those relationships, my daughter and I are incredibly close and I am so glad I had her when I did (I was 33) – it’s one of my top achievements.

 

Parenting alone as I have for the past 11 years does come with financial implications but we have enough money to live in a nice area. Her dad continues to pay maintenance, although that hasn’t increased in 11 years.

 

I’m an academic and so there have been consequences in terms of work and not being able to attend conferences etc without a great deal of forward planning and negotiation, so some limitations there. Possibly my career has progressed more slowly – but it has been my choice really to prioritise life at home and be there for my daughter (perhaps more so given the absence of her dad).

 

I don’t have family support but I do have a good network of friends and I have never had to pay for childcare since nursery in the early years.

 

Having a child has probably impacted on relationships. Given the situation with my daughter’s dad and how much her relationship with him changed when he got married, I have been her main source of stability and security and I have probably prioritised that over relationships. But overall that’s OK. My family never really understood my choices and chose to ignore them!

 

Doing things differently, especially as a single parent, does require resourcefulness and resilience – so the more support you have around you the better. You cannot anticipate every scenario but discuss in advance as much as you can. Go for it!

Clare

I never allowed myself to think about children too much, thinking it wouldn’t be possible – until I met my partner in my late 20s and we realised that together it could happen.

 

Now my civil partner and I have one child together and are pregnant with our second child, due February 2013.

 

We decided we wanted children and looked into a range of options. During a conversation with a close straight friend, he volunteered to be a donor and is the bio dad for our son and our child who is yet to be born.

Fiona and Jane

Fiona: My partner Jane gave birth to our son Mitchell in January and I am seven months pregnant with our second child. They have the same father – Graeme, who is a friend – and he will have contact with them through their lives.

 

We spent three years planning and discussing it before we got pregnant. We both always wanted children and as a couple we talked about it from early on, before we got married. We’ve been together five years and had a civil partnership three years ago. We’d probably been together two years when we started to do the research.

 

We went to see the doctor and she gave us the pre-pregnancy blood tests and we were put on the donor waiting list. However, when we spoke to them about using Graeme as a donor, they removed us from the list as they don’t inseminate with known donors in the Edinburgh region. This differs between councils as they have different funding priorities

 

I’ve known Graeme for about 10 years and Jane’s known him around five. He’s very handsome and has a really lovely nature.

 

We wanted to be the main parents but we also wanted Graeme and his family to be involved in the children’s lives so they will know their heritage. We wanted their upbringing to be as ‘normal’ and happy as possible, and didn’t want them to have questions about where they came from that we were unable to answer.

 

It all started as a bit of a joke with Graeme. Then, after six months of joking about it, we asked him seriously and he agreed.

 

Jane: He did change his mind a few times, twice that was significant. The first time was before we started trying the inseminations, the second was when I was four months pregnant and we were supposed to start trying for Fiona to conceive.

 

The first time was probably because a mutual friend worried him by asking questions, especially about his financial responsibilities. That’s one of the reasons why we did a lot of research into the legal side. We wanted to know all about our own parental rights and responsibilities too, for example: if we didn’t go through a clinic, would the biological parents be on the birth certificate? Who is responsible for the child, especially financially? Could Graeme take the children from us? We discovered there are a lot of gray areas.

 

We did a lot of research online and we contacted a family law organisation in Edinburgh but they didn’t have the correct information to help us, and would have to do their own research to find the actual legalities. We already knew more than them. It’s still a very new area.

 

Fiona: Then we heard about the specialist fertility lawyers, Gamble and Ghevaert, in England and we spoke to them over the phone. They gave us some free advice but mentioned that there were loopholes in the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act, and a Skype conference call to find out more would cost us £500. We decided to look into it ourselves instead.

 

The important thing is because we have a civil partnership our names can go on the birth certificate. If we weren’t civil partners, my name couldn’t go on the birth certificate unless we had used a clinic.

 

Jane: We did look at clinics once, when Graeme changed his mind the first time but I really didn’t like the idea of having an unknown person as the father. Boys in particular need to know who their dads are. Fiona’s dad wasn’t allowed contact with his dad and we have other friends who haven’t known their fathers and it’s caused them a lot of problems.

 

Another thing was the thought of donors having other children and our kids having half-brothers and half-sisters they wouldn’t know about.

 

Then there was the money. Clinics seemed to cost up to £3,000 a try, depending on where you went. A lot of money that could be spent on the kids themselves.

 

Fiona: We also looked into a website called co-parents.net, which is like match.com for people of any sexuality who want to find a sperm donor, surrogate or someone to have a child with. It really freaked us out. It may help some people but we found some very strange people on there!

 

Jane: We also wanted our children to be biologically related, which we couldn’t guarantee with a clinic. We have friends who went back to a clinic wanting the same donor, but they’d run out of their donor’s sperm.

 

Fiona: Luckily Graeme changed his mind about trying for a baby. But when he came to us he said, “I really want to give this to you as a gift.” He saw himself as a donor so we had to talk him into having some involvement with the children, while reassuring him that he wouldn’t be financially liable and responsible for meeting their everyday care needs.

 

Fiona: Initially we planned for me to get pregnant first and then we would try with Jane 4-6 months later, but as Jane is a couple of years older we figured it would be better for Jane to try first in case it took a year to work. Plus, if she wanted to have a second child, it would be better for her to have her first before she was 35, as it becomes harder to conceive after this time, and the risk of the child having a disability is increased.

 

Jane: I got pregnant first time but a lot of research went into how to make this happen. You have to work out when you are ovulating, which is normally 12 to 14 days after the first day of your last period, depending on your cycle. Ovulation sticks are then used to test exactly when you are most fertile. When the sticks show a positive result you have a 48 hour window when your chances of conceiving are higher. The sticks are expensive to buy in chemists but you can get them cheap online.

 

Around the time I expected to be fertile there was a week when Graeme was ‘on call.’ When the tests showed positive we phoned him to come round and, using a kit of sterile cups and syringes we’d bought on the internet, we carried out the insemination.

 

We researched methods to ensure we would maximise the chances of getting pregnant first time. It helps to keep the sperm warm and to make sure the syringe is as far up as possible and the sperm is released slowly. It is recommended that you have an orgasm then lie with your legs up for at least 40 minutes afterwards. It is also advisable to carry out this process again within a 24 hour period.

 

Jane: We got a Clear Blue early pregnancy test at 10 days. I was convinced I wasn’t pregnant because I was getting cramps like period pains. Much to our delight and surprise the test came up positive. We were preparing ourselves for it to take up to a year to work as allegedly the chances of conception are lower through artificial insemination than sexual intercourse.

 

Fiona: At the time of the insemination, I felt very involved but there were other times when I felt powerless. The month before we tried successfully, Jane and Graeme decided they wanted to wait a month as Jane didn’t want a Christmas baby. At this time I felt like I had no control over the situation and it was the first time I recognised that there would always be three of us in our relationship. However, after talking things through extensively we all learned to respect each other’s views and feelings.

 

I struggled a bit at 8-12 weeks, too. I think we were all coming to terms with the pregnancy and we were busy redecorating the house. The pregnancy was now a reality and I couldn’t work out what my role was. A lot of people saw it as Jane’s baby, not ours.

 

Having discussed this with friends in similar situations, it seems to be common for the non-biological parent to have these feelings. We’d just assumed we would both be equal parents, like a heterosexual couple having a baby but in reality everyone else in society doesn’t view it this way so the non-biological parent can feel a bit detached.

 

I also felt a lot of uncertainty about whether I would get pregnant too.

 

Jane: There was added stress as Graeme changed his mind about trying for the second baby when I was four months pregnant with Mitchell. We’d always agreed we would have the children close together but the reality of becoming a dad caused Graeme to have second thoughts at the time we were due to start trying. He hadn’t come to terms with becoming a dad to one child and felt overwhelmed by the thought of fathering two children so close together.

 

Fiona: His stress and reconsideration were fuelled by wrong information that he would be financially responsible and we could pursue him for child maintenance. Graeme would never be liable as we are civil partners and the non-biological mother can go on the birth certificate as the other parent and therefore has all parental rights and responsibilities. We had some difficulty confirming this but sought advice from the specialist lawyers in Kent (Gamble and Ghevaert) and provided this information to Graeme in writing. Graeme also met a solicitor who confirmed this information was correct, and this reassured him enough to agree to the second insemination.

 

Jane: There’s a loophole in the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act which means that if Graeme could prove he’d had sex with me, or vice versa, he could gain parental rights and responsibilities and would therefore be financially liable. Obviously this did not happen and could not be proven on either side.

 

Fiona: Once we included Graeme in our research, he felt more at ease. We just hadn’t thought about how he was feeling. Once he felt reassured, he agreed to try again.

 

Jane: The reason for having the children so close in age was so they can offer each other support as they grow up.

 

Fiona: And for practical and financial reasons. Jane will take a year off work with Mitchell and I’ll take a year with this one [pats bump], so there will be six months when we are off together. This will allow us the time to bond with both of them and we won’t have to rely on childcare.

 

Jane was about five and a half months pregnant when I got pregnant. We didn’t think it would work first time but we are ecstatic that it did. We’ve found out we’re having a girl, due in July.

 

Jane: Our parents are all delighted. Friends and family are all really supportive. And we’ve got a new family with Graeme’s relatives. It feels like there are 10 grannies and granddads.

 

Fiona: Both our employers have been really supportive as well. I’ve been quite ill through my pregnancy and needed a lot of time off work as morning sickness comes all through the day and hasn’t subsided as the weeks have gone on! It’s been nice in some ways as it’s meant I’ve had more time with Mitchell.

 

Jane: My pregnancy itself was fairly normal, although I had nosebleeds and I was tired from travelling a lot with work.

 

Fiona: Jane had an horrific labour.

 

Jane: I was in labour for four days and Mitchell was eventually delivered by forceps. He was in the wrong position which made it really painful. I had to have a blood transfusion afterwards.

 

Two hours after he was born Mitchell stopped breathing and was rushed away to Intensive Care. We didn’t know for an hour if he had been resuscitated. It was terrifying.

 

Fiona: Eventually the consultant arrived and explained that Mitchell was breathing but would need to be closely monitored for the next few days. Jane was too ill to leave the ward but I went to see him.

 

Graeme hadn’t been with us during the labour but came to the hospital when he heard about Mitchell. He explained who he was and was allowed to come into the ward and see Mitchell with me.

 

Jane: Mitchell could breathe on his own after he was resuscitated but he had to have an ECG because they thought he’d had a seizure, then blood tests in case there was an infection. He was cold – they had to keep his temperature down or it would increase the risk of seizure. He was on a heart monitor with all these tubes coming out of him. We couldn’t even touch him. It was horrendous.

 

Fiona: The following day the nurse wouldn’t tell me what was going on. She said that she could only tell the legal parent, that they wouldn’t even tell the father unless he was married to the mother. I said I was the legal parent, that I was married to the mother and that they were discriminating against me. That seemed to get them moving.

 

The consultant came and they apologised. There had been a change of staff on shift so information hadn’t been passed on. I asked them to put it on the chart.

 

I don’t know what would have happened if I hadn’t been assertive and mentioned discrimination.

 

Jane: After 48 hours I was eventually able to hold Mitchell skin to skin. It was such a relief.

 

He’s fine now. It was probably just the trauma of the forceps delivery. They’ll check him until he’s one but apart from getting flu at five weeks and being back in hospital which was worrying, he’s fine. He’s really advanced and he’s reached all his milestones.

 

Fiona: There was just one other occasion when I felt that they (the NHS) were condescending. When we went for Mitchell’s three month check, although Jane had explained I was his other mum, the nurse commented, “Oh, you’re helping Mum for the day,” which I found a bit patronising. Despite Jane explaining our situation they just didn’t seem to get it.

 

Jane: It wasn’t malicious, though – it’s ignorance really. It’s still quite a new thing for people, same sex parents.

 

Fiona: I’ve decided to have a home birth after what happened in the hospital. The community midwives have been lovely and really supportive.

 

My advice? If you are using a donor or someone you know, you have to really agree the details with them. If you have any doubts, don’t go through with it. Although there were lots of ups and downs with Graeme, we all want the same thing for our children.

 

Agree on the money, the contact time, what level their family is going to be involved.

We don’t expect Graeme to provide any financial assistance. That won’t change, even if we split up, which was one of his worries. But he does want to be able to take the children for days out and to pay for that, which is fine. Our only expectation is that he maintains a loving relationship with his children.

 

Jane: We’ve also talked about whether he’d be involved in decisions on schooling etc and whilst it’s our final decision, we do consult him and ask his opinion. Although he has no legal right to contest any decisions we make.

 

It can seem quite daunting because there are prejudices and you do worry about how your children will be treated, but our neighbours are great. Families are so much more diverse now.

 

Fiona: We’ve also spoken about moving away. Graeme has talked about going travelling, though I don’t think he’d do that now. His family lives close by, so he’s here frequently anyway.

 

He was worried we would move away and he would have no contact. We explained that the reason we wanted a friend to be the father is so he would always be involved in the children’s lives.

 

Jane: We want the children to know their dad as we feel this is their right, even if it makes things a bit more complicated for us. The children’s welfare has always been at the centre of our thoughts.

 

 

 

Read Graeme’s story