Hide me!

Norrie

I am a gay man in my 50s, with a teenage daughter, Leigh. Leigh’s mother, Wendy, is a straight friend, with whom I co-parent.

 

I’ve been together with my partner, JJ, since before Leigh was born. I met JJ around the time Wendy and I were discussing having a child so it wasn’t about the three of us having a child together. It was, ‘This is happening, so if we get serious, Leigh is going to be around.’

 

I always knew I was gay. I was out to my family, I was very confident about it.

Wanting to be a dad was there, part of me, all my life. I was always very comfortable around children and work with them professionally.

 

Then, when I was a teenager, I realised it wasn’t going to be possible. In the late 70s/early 80s, surrogacy or adoption weren’t really options.

 

That it wasn’t going to happen for me felt like a huge gap, a huge loss, throughout my 20s. I had come to terms with it by my early 30s but it was always something I felt sad about. I busied myself with other people’s children, living in a big communal house with gay men and a straight couple who had a child.

 

Then Wendy, a friend in her early 30s, asked me if I wanted to have a child with her. It seemed like something really special to offer and I was delighted.

 

We’d been friends for several years and I knew she wanted to be a mum and hadn’t found the right partner but I knew other women in similar situations, so I hadn’t expected it. We were just out one day for a drive, a walk, whatever we were doing – and she just asked me very directly.

 

I think that from her point of view, there had been previous conversations, where she’d sounded out how I felt about children but I’d been unaware of what was going on.

 

She’d obviously been through a longer process than me – but I didn’t need to think about it for a minute!

 

I couldn’t have done it if I couldn’t have been a dad who was really involved but she wanted someone to co-parent anyway. Wendy wasn’t living in Scotland at the time and we needed to be in the same place. We waited a year until the practicalities of moving had been sorted and Leigh was conceived at the second time of trying, at home, using artificial insemination.

 

It’s the best thing I’ve ever done.

 

We knew the optimum time for Wendy to conceive and we saw it as having one opportunity for it to work that month. It wasn’t dressed up in any kind of ceremonial way. It was low key: ‘Now it’s time to do this.’ It didn’t work the first time and the second time, it did.

 

It’s funny, the questions you get asked. People think there has been a sexual relationship. There were two camps: one asking practical questions about how we did it and the other, “That’s fantastic!” – an emotional reaction to what a big decision it was for us.

 

Family and friends responded very positively. They were very respectful of the choice we’d made. I met Wendy’s family before we tried and she met mine after, when she was pregnant.

 

It all happened kind of quickly. Because we didn’t want to put any pressure on ourselves, we thought it might take a while to get pregnant – and then it didn’t!

 

Leigh was born at home, at Wendy’s. I was there with another couple of friends that Wendy wanted there. It all went very well, a very positive experience.

 

I went along to prenatal appointments and classes. There was nothing about me being gay. I think they just assumed that if I was there, I must be the dad. I was just a man.

 

Leigh was breast fed until just short of her first birthday, which had implications for where she could stay, so it was about 11 months before she could stay over with me. For the first year I stayed at Wendy’s a lot, especially when Leigh was first born and about two nights a week after that.

 

I wasn’t living with my partner JJ at the time but I can imagine that if I had been, that would have been an additional thing to negotiate.

 

Later Leigh stayed with me two nights a week. I cut my hours at work so I had a day off to care for her for a year or two. Wendy took extended maternity leave.

 

We worked out the finances as we went along. I wasn’t earning very much but the money stuff wasn’t an issue. I don’t have much memory of it so we must’ve worked something out. We just got by.

 

I suppose we just got into a routine from that point. Routines are very important to Leigh. Wendy went back to work. We were lucky in that family and friends helped with childcare. We lived very close together, which made it easier.

 

Having a child with someone is personal, profound. Wendy and I each wanted a child. We were friends and we thought we were being radical. Really we were doing something ordinary. We were being a mum and a dad. You don’t realise how intimate and intense that is. Your life becomes focused on this small person. Time passes very quickly. Suddenly you look at the other parent and think, ‘Who are you again?’ You have to take a step back and revisit your initial relationship. I think some heterosexual couples get through that and some don’t.

 

We had a parental agreement done soon after Leigh was born. It was very straightforward. It’s something you have to do together. Leigh has both our surnames. Wendy’s is her last surname so that’s the one that gets used at school. I’m often referred to as Mr X rather than Mr Y.

 

Before Leigh went to nursery, we were both keen to make sure people understood Leigh’s family. The last thing we wanted was for Leigh to draw a picture of her family and for someone to say, “Who’s that?”

 

That’s when I realised there’s a constant ‘coming out’ you have to do. Leigh will always have a gay parent. From the moment the pregnancy happens, there’s a story you have to tell. I’ve been explaining it ever since. The reactions I’ve had have always been positive. The constant explaining can be a bit tiresome but it’s part of the choice you make and I think it’s a responsibility you have to take for as long as you need to take it. Leigh takes it on herself more, now that she’s 15.

 

She hasn’t had any problems with it as far as I know. I do explicitly talk about that with her. I made a point of it when she moved up a school and I’m sure I would have been aware if there had been anything. I don’t doubt for a moment that she hasn’t overheard language that might be offensive or comments about my being a gay dad but there’s nothing that ever seems to have bothered her, nothing I know about.

 

It was something I was always concerned about, because it’s not in your control, so it’s a reality you may have to face. All you can do is be honest and give your child confidence in the language to use – because if there’s any secrecy, a lack of honesty in yourself, that’s going to be the weakness that’s exploited.

 

It was quite challenging for JJ in the early days but now he’s Leigh’s dad and she has a good relationship with him. Leigh can’t shake a stick without seeing a dad! Wendy has a long-term partner too and they have another child, who will stay with me sometimes. Knowing her too has been important because she’s Leigh’s sister and we are a family.

 

When Wendy and I first met each other’s families, there was never any expectation that we would be like in-laws. My family were local, Wendy’s were not. Leigh has good relationships with both families. She is also part of my partner’s family, so there’s no shortage of family in her life.

 

When you construct families like this, you can’t overly define the roles people will play. They’ll emerge. But you can’t under-estimate the biological link between the child and its mum and dad either. When I lived in the communal house, before Leigh was born, it was fascinating to see four gay men working out what kind of uncles they were to the child and the bond the child had with its parents.

 

When we had Leigh, I didn’t know anybody else who had done this. I knew there were other guys in heterosexual relationships who had had children then come out, but no-one in my situation. I know someone else now, who has become a dad recently but he’s the only one.

 

There are clearly some gay men who get it, who want to be dads and others who don’t. If you do, there’s just a bit more planning that needs to go into it. It’s probably the same with heterosexual men – some want children, others just do it because it’s expected. As a gay man, you need to have an extra drive or desire to do it which heterosexual men don’t even need to think about… No, that’s not fair. There are straight men who have difficulty conceiving.

 

I would do it again – yes! – but I’m getting a bit old now. If I was in my 30s now I would be more proactive. I’d look at surrogacy and adoption. They have a cost, they can take years and a large amount of commitment, even now, but they are real options. If it’s something you want, it’s something you’ll work around. It’s a fundamental human need, if you’re driven to be a parent.

 

If it’s something you don’t want, you shouldn’t do it.

 

My advice? If you’re going to have a child with someone, your relationship will change. If you think that’s just in heterosexual relationships, you’re kidding yourself.

 

Being a man who is a parent is more important to the role you play in your child’s life than being a gay dad. And you have to work out your role in relation to the mother. I think motherhood is a very powerful connection, different from the one a child has with their dad and you have to work that one out. Everyone’s different and everyone’s style is going to be different. It’s difficult to explain or understand until you’re doing it.

 

Parenting with someone else is difficult. There are going to be hard times and times when you feel you can rely on them. It’s not something you do in the short term. You are tying yourself to that person for life, good and bad – and you have to retain your respect for that person as a parent, for the rest of your life, for the child.

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!

Laura and Jean

Laura: We got together 8 years ago and we have a little boy who is 4 going on 14.

People want to know about the nitty gritty, like how did it happen? Generally turkey basters come into it somewhere.

 

Another common question is, “What does he call you?” We worried about that for a while, what he was going to call us. But we kind of left it and he decided for himself. So Jean is Mum Mum and I’m Mummy. Unless he’s having an attitude – then I’m Laura and she’s Jean!

 

People are very reluctant to ask about the donor. It’s like he’s a non-entity. Even for family, it’s a question they skirt around. But people need to ask these questions if they want to know what to do to have a child.

 

When we got together, Jean already had a son who was 18. She wanted another child and I wanted a child so we knew it was on the cards from early on. I think we even started buying baby clothes before we did anything else.

 

Jean: We started by getting a dog, a cat, fish, all that…

 

Laura: And we started looking on the internet, not looking for a clinic but to try to have a relationship with a donor. Not as a parent but because our child needed to know where they come from.

 

Jean: We didn’t use someone we knew because we thought it could go horribly wrong. We went through everyone we knew thinking, “What if this or that happened?” We ruled it out pretty quickly. It would be too complicated.

 

Laura: We were looking for the donor for 12 months. This was the longest bit. We found him through the Rainbow Network Forum. It took us a while to check him out.

 

You feel quite vulnerable. This was the internet! Who was this person? But once we met him, we knew. We met a couple of other guys before him but it didn’t feel right. With him, we just clicked – it was instinct.

 

He donated for a clinic. He’d been challenged on the forum for donating privately – he’d done campaigns about donating. He’s straight but passionate about fertility and anyone being able to have children. He believes that if he can help anyone overcome barriers to having children…

 

We were clear with the donor about what we wanted and he was laid back. He was clear too. He also had a wicked sense of humour like us which is great because you can’t approach a situation like that [turkey baster] seriously.

 

He lived six hours away so that was a barrier but we were really lucky in that I got pregnant straightaway. We called up and told him I was ovulating and he said, “Fine, OK,” and we did it and went to work next day as if nothing had happened.

 

We’ve been lucky. In the hospital when I went into labour, the midwife had had her kids the same way.

 

We’re from a rural area which can be very backward but we’ve been very open and people accept us. The more you make of something, the more of an issue it is. We just said, “Laura is having a baby in so many weeks – does anyone want a coffee?” and got on with it. Now we just say, “This is our family” and people accept it. If we were uncomfortable or embarrassed it wouldn’t be so easy.

 

After our son was born, our donor had two children of his own. We wanted our son to know where he comes from so we kept in touch with our donor and our son has met his half brother – a bit weird as they look quite similar.

 

We have kept all the correspondence we’ve had with the donor so our son can see it. It’s important to be honest and open with him. When he was three, he was talking to a friend who had a daddy. He was, like, “You have a daddy? Really?”

 

I asked him what he thought about having two mummies. He – looking puzzled – said, “I don’t have two mummies. I have a Mum Mum and a Mummy.”

 

Jean: It’s been an incredible journey. I’ve seen it from both sides – I’ve given birth and I’ve been a supportive mum and it really is a privilege.

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.