Hide me!

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).

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.

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.

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.

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.

 

Parenthood in Assisted Reproduction

This web page contains information about the legal definition of parenthood, about donor insemination using a clinic or “do-it-yourself” approach, pre and post 2009 law for civil partners, surrogacy and parental orders.

 

The information is adapted by the Equality Network from articles by Caroline L S Henderson, previously solicitor in the Family Law Unit at Maclay Murray & Spens LLP and now at MTM Family Law LLP.

 

 

Legal definition

The legal definition of parenthood in circumstances where a child is born by assisted reproduction, including donor insemination, is complicated.

 

The legal definition of the mother of a child is the one who gives birth to the child, whether the child is conceived naturally or following assisted reproduction. It does not matter whether she has any genetic connection with the child – in law she is regarded as the mother “for all legal purposes” at the time of the child’s birth.

 

The legal status of ‘mother’ will only be lost through adoption (or in the case of a surrogate mother, through the making of a parental order, detailed below).

 

The child’s other parent in a legal sense, whether male or female, will depend on the genetic material used in the assisted reproduction, but more importantly, will depend on the marital or civil partnership status of the mother.

 

The main determining factor of who a child’s other legal parent is at the time of the child’s birth is whether or not the mother is married or in a civil partnership. If she is, then it is her husband or civil partner who will legally be presumed to be the child’s father or other parent at the time of the child’s birth, irrespective of whether he or she is biologically connected to the child or not.

 

This means that if a woman gives birth to a child conceived by donor insemination, then if she was in a civil partnership at the time of conception, she and her civil partner are the child’s legal parents. The sperm donor is not a legal parent of the child.

 

If a woman who is not in a civil partnership gives birth to a child conceived by donor insemination, the situation is more complex. The other legal parent depends on whether the donor insemination was done through a licensed fertility clinic, or was ‘do-it-yourself’.

 

If a licensed fertility clinic is used, the mother can nominate another person to be the child’s other legal parent – typically this would be her partner.

 

If the donor insemination was not done through a clinic, but was do-it-yourself, then if the mother is not in a civil partnership, it is the sperm donor who is the child’s other legal parent, not the mother’s partner.

 

Donor insemination

The legal position of donor insemination is complicated. Whether or not your donor has any legal rights to a child conceived by donor insemination can depend on a number of things, including whether the sperm is used within the regulatory framework of the 2008 legislation or not (and that can include whether or not the donor is known to the woman), and how the insemination took place. But most importantly it depends on the legal status of the mother at the time of conception.

 

Clinics

If a woman gives birth to a child conceived artificially by donor insemination through a licensed clinic in the UK then the sperm donor is not a legal parent of the child. The child will have one legal parent at the time of birth, that is, the birth mother.

 

If the option of a licensed fertility clinic is used, a single lesbian mother can nominate another person to be the child’s other legal parent. Typically, this would be her partner.

 

If however the woman who gives birth is married or in a civil partnership at the time of artificial insemination through a clinic, then her husband or civil partner will automatically be regarded as the child’s father or other parent in law (provided they have consented to the treatment). In these circumstances a child will have two legal parents at birth.

 

Anonymity of the sperm bank donor (at the time of conception, but only insofar as the legislation provides) ensures that if the donor insemination is carried out at a licensed fertility clinic then the donor will not acquire legal rights to any child born as a result of this method of conception and will not be regarded as a legal parent to the child.

 

If a woman gives birth to a child conceived artificially by insemination from a known donor through a clinic then the most important factor in determining legal parenthood is the marital or partnership status of the recipient of the donor’s sperm.

 

If the woman is single, the donor may still be regarded as the legal father even if he has signed donor consent forms. The known donor can be named on the birth certificate.

 

If the birth is registered jointly with the donor, he will automatically acquire parental responsibilities and rights in relation to the child. He will be relinquishing any treatment in law of him as a licensed sperm donor and will have identical rights and responsibilities to the child as that of the mother.

 

“Do it yourself” donor insemination

A sperm donor who donates sperm outwith the regulatory framework of the 2008 Act (not through a licensed clinic in the UK) is the legal father of any child born as a result of artificial insemination. This is the case if the woman is single, even if she is in a relationship.

 

If this is not the intention of the parties then conception should be undertaken at a UK licensed clinic and the relevant parenthood election forms should be completed.

 

 

The partner (rather than civil partner) of a lesbian conceiving at home would have no legal rights to a child born by these means and would require to apply for parental responsibilities and rights as a “relevant person” in terms of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 or consider adoption of the child.

 

Pre and Post 2009 law for civil partners

The law for donor insemination affecting civil partners changed on 6th April 2009. If a child was conceived after 6 April 2009 in cases where the woman is married or in a civil partnership and her husband or civil partner has consented to the treatment, it would be the husband or civil partner who would be regarded as the second legal parent. They can be named on the birth certificate. The insemination must be by way of artificial means, either through a licensed clinic or “do it yourself”.

 

If the child was conceived through “do it yourself” insemination before 6 April 2009 the civil partner has no automatic recognition as a legal parent. She would be in the same legal position as the partner of a non civil-partnered lesbian and would have the options referred to above.

 

Finally, it is important to note that any person who is involved in parenting a child may apply to the court as “a relevant person” to be granted at least some legal parental responsibilities and rights, for example the right to have contact with the child. The court will only grant this where it thinks such an order would be in the child’s best interests and that it is necessary for such an order to be made.

 

There have been cases where a sperm donor who was not named on the birth certificate has later been granted parental responsibilities and rights by the court after he had played a role in looking after the child. The court can grant such an order even if the mother and her partner oppose it.

 

In such circumstances parties may wish to consider the legalities of such an arrangement in advance by considering a Preconception Agreement. This can limit any legal responsibilities a donor may have or, conversely, a Co-parenting Agreement can ensure the donor’s status in respect of the child he intends to father.

 

Surrogacy and parental orders

Surrogacy is where a woman carries and gives birth to a child on behalf of another couple, with the intention that parenthood will be transferred to that other couple shortly after birth. This transfer is done by a ‘parental order’.

 

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 (‘the 1990 Act’) introduced the concept of a parental order. A parental order is the legal mechanism for transferring the status of ‘mother’ from the surrogate to the commissioning parents. The 1990 Act only provided for cases in which the commissioning couple were married.

 

Since 6 April 2010 under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008, the category of people who can apply for a parental order was extended so that civil partners, and mixed-sex or same-sex couples living as partners in an enduring family relationship, as well as married couples, can apply for parental orders.

Before a parental order can be made various conditions require to be fulfilled. Parental orders will only be made where:

 

  1. The application is made by a married couple, civil partners, or two persons who are living as partners in an enduring family relationship and are not within prohibited degrees of relationship in relation to each other (that means, not closely related, eg brother or sister, parent and child, etc);

 

  1. The child has been carried by a woman other than one of the applicants as a result of the placing in her of an embryo or sperm and eggs, or through artificial insemination;

 

  1. The egg or sperm of at least one of the applicants was used to bring about the creation of the embryo;

 

  1. An application for a parental order is made within six months of the birth of the child;

 

  1. The child’s home is with the applicants at the time of the application and at the time the order is made;

 

  1. Either or both of the applicants are domiciled in the United Kingdom, Channel Islands or Isle of Man at the time of application and at the time the order is made;

 

  1. Both the applicants have attained the age of 18 by the time the order is made; and

 

  1. The woman who carried the child and any other person who is a parent of the child have freely, and with full understanding of what is involved agreed unconditionally to the making of the order. A mother cannot give agreement to a parental order less than six weeks after the birth of the child.

 

Other rules about surrogacy

The Surrogacy Arrangements Act 1985 prohibits the entering into or negotiating of a surrogacy arrangement on a commercial basis. In other words, the surrogate mother cannot be paid a fee for being a surrogate, although all her expenses related to the pregnancy can be paid by the commissioning couple.

 

It is criminal offence to negotiate a surrogacy arrangement on a commercial basis. It is not an offence for somebody to enter into an arrangement, but it is an offence for a third party brokering a surrogacy arrangement and to profit by helping someone else make a surrogacy arrangement.

 

Non profit making organisations such as COTS are legal so long as they do not charge for their services, although they may charge a membership fee. It is also a criminal offence in the UK to advertise that you are a third party willing to facilitate the making of a surrogacy arrangement, or that you are looking for a surrogate mother or are willing to act as a surrogate mother.

 

The Act also states that surrogacy agreements entered into in this country are unenforceable. This means that the surrogate mother always has the right to change her mind about the arrangement, and keep the child, up to the point where she agrees to the parental order, which will be at least six weeks after the birth.

 

If the surrogacy arrangement fails and the surrogate elects not to hand the child over following birth, an application to court (by either party) may be made to determine with whom the child should reside and what would be in the child’s best interests: would it be in the best interest of the child to reside with the surrogate or with the commissioning parents. Although unenforceable in the UK a surrogacy agreement can demonstrate the clear intention of the parties at the time the surrogacy arrangement was entered into which may be of relevance in determining a later dispute.

 

It may be possible to enter into a surrogacy arrangement in a country outwith the UK. However, there have been numerous cases which highlight the difficulties of dealing with the laws of two different countries, which may not be compatible. There are many countries in which a surrogacy arrangement is enforceable domestically, unlike in the UK. There are also countries where surrogacy agreements are illegal. This can effectively mean that a child may be regarded as ‘stateless’ and have no rights in either country.

 

There are very complex rules about bringing a surrogate child into the UK. The child will not automatically be a British citizen and in some cases parents may have to apply to the Secretary of State for special entry clearance – a time consuming process preventing the return of the new family unit back to the UK to start their new family life together. Specialist advice should be sought at the earliest opportunity.

 

 

 

Esther

I’ve always wanted to be a mum. I didn’t think about it seriously until I was about 26 and now I’m 31 and 17 weeks pregnant.

 

Bev and I met four years ago. Within a few months we both knew we wanted children, though we didn’t know at that stage that we wanted them together.

 

In my last relationship it was clear that children weren’t an option. With Bev I was glad it was. Friends of mine have split up because one wanted children and the other not, or because they were worried about bringing children up in a same sex relationship.

 

We got married – a civil partnership – last summer. We did talk about having children beforehand and at one point we thought we should start before the wedding, at the beginning of the year, as we’d heard all the stories about it taking forever. It felt urgent. Now I’m glad we decided to stop reading the stuff that was making us panic and focus on the wedding. It meant we could enjoy our honeymoon in Italy and just be together.

 

At one point, when Bev and I had been together for about two years, before I proposed and a wedding was on the cards, we decided I should talk to my doctor about waiting lists and what was involved on the NHS.

 

The first thing they did was a urine test on day 21 of my cycle. At the time I was grateful they were taking me seriously but in hindsight, the test wasn’t very reliable. The GP had to do it to refer us. Later, our private clinic said they never use those tests as they don’t really tell you much.

 

The NHS clinic said that as we didn’t have any donor sperm to give and Edinburgh didn’t have an active sperm donation programme, we would be put on a holding list for up to four years.

 

If there was no sperm and we weren’t offered treatment in that time, that was it.

 

Bev was disappointed, I was half expecting it. One of the frustrations for me is that fertility treatment is different in different NHS areas. We were never told about or given an option to buy in sperm from a foreign sperm bank – at the time I didn’t know that could be a choice. But I do know a couple who are using internationally sourced sperm via the NHS.

 

After the honeymoon, Bev and I talked openly about wanting children. When we spoke to friends about it, one male couple in particular said, “Why haven’t you asked us?”

 

We did explore this option as they are great friends and would be fantastic extended family – but they were interested in being fathers rather than donors and it just seemed too difficult.

 

Who would be the grandparents? Would there be four sets? What would happen at Christmas?

 

In the end, Bev and I had a serious conversation about what we wanted. It was important for us to be really honest with each other. I felt guilty saying no to friends that wanted to have a child, especially as those friends didn’t have the biological make-up to have children themselves. I felt selfish but we decided we just wanted the two of us as the main parents.

 

There was only one way for us and that was donation through a private clinic.

 

Then suddenly my twin sister got pregnant. I had lots of different feelings. It took her six months of trying and she had free access to sperm! What if I couldn’t do it?

 

Once you’ve made the decision to have a child by insemination, you are at the mercy of other people’s opening hours and timetables, so we looked at local clinics. The nearest were IVF Scotland in Edinburgh and the Nuffield in Glasgow.

 

Prices were similar so we decided to go for the Edinburgh one because it was closer, though it was less well known.

 

When we looked the pricing was complicated – £600 for intra-uterine insertion (IUI) plus lots of add-ons eg. £200 per consultation then nurse’s fees, blood tests etc and you had to see a counsellor – so we estimated it would cost £1,400-£1,600 per treatment cycle. So we looked at our savings and we waited until we had enough for three treatments. I’d done lots of research and that’s what it said you needed.

 

I was obsessed by success rates as they seemed so low. It was confusing as different research would say different things but generally it seemed that 10-15% was a normal success rate for IUI, which is what we thought we would have.

 

My background research included looking at clinic websites and the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, HFEA. The London Women’s clinic had lots of information.

 

There’s also a book, ‘The New Essential Guide to Lesbian Conception, Pregnancy & Birth’, by Stephanie Brill, which covers every way a lesbian, bi or trans man could get pregnant. It is very American so not everything is relevant in the UK but it does make the point that clinic success rates don’t reflect lesbian success rates. For most lesbians lack of pregnancy is about lack of sperm not fertility whereas most heterosexual couples have been trying for at least a year and have known fertility problems.

 

There’s a really good research paper about lesbian and straight women getting pregnant that’s worth reading, ‘Intrauterine donor insemination in single women and lesbian couples: a comparative study of pregnancy rates.’

 

The Edinburgh clinic offered a free 15 minute tour with a nurse which I’d recommend. I don’t know if other clinics do it. It gave us the chance to ask lots of questions. Our nurse was really nice. We’d heard there was only a 10% chance the treatment would be a success but she told us to forget the numbers. She made us feel it was more of an individual process than a game of statistics.

 

Once we’d had the walk-through, things happened very quickly. At that stage you’re not obliged to go forward, you’re free to never go back but we had a really good feeling and within 24 hours we’d booked a consultation. We had an appointment within two weeks.

 

The consultation itself was quite clinical. The consultant just threw a lot of practical questions at us – what my cycle was like, how much I drank. We came out thinking: have we just spent £200 just to have a 40 minute meeting? But we had to see him to go forward.

 

There was also an internal examination that I wasn’t really prepared for – no one mentioned this would happen during the consultation. I think that the consultant wasn’t really thinking through some of the issues that could have come up for me – like, ‘Maybe an internal exam with a male consultant might make her feel nervous.’ I felt it was all quite rushed and a bit rough.

 

I did ask during the free meeting with the nurses if we could have a female consultant but we were told that as the procedures rely on your cycle, it just depends who is available on those days.

 

They wouldn’t do in vitro fertilisation (IVF), although we did ask. The success rates are higher but it is a lot more expensive. We thought, ‘Why not just go straight for that if it’s going to be more successful?’ The consultant said it wasn’t an option until we’d tried IUI at least twice because it’s invasive – you need an operation to take eggs – it involves hormone injections and, as a young healthy woman, I probably wouldn’t need it anyway.

 

After the consultation I was weighed, had my blood pressure taken and gave a urine sample. This was all carried out by nurses.

 

Everything came down to the timing of my periods after that. I’d been using my iPhone app to track my cycle for the last six months so I could tell him exactly.

It was so exciting. We hadn’t told anyone except one of our best friends yet. I didn’t want to detract from my sister’s news and it made it feel special: this was just our secret.

 

Around this point that we found out the clinic was simplifying their prices. The IUI package was less than we’d thought – £960 plus £200 in consultant’s fees which covered the first meeting and a review session.

 

After the consultation, you also have to have a counselling session and a session with a nurse as part of the procedure. We managed to get both on the same day.

We saw the nurse and the counsellor within 10 days of our consultation, which was ideal as my cycle was due to begin soon after that.

 

The counsellor asks a list of questions, some they have to because the sperm is donated, some about child protection, others to check you’re emotionally prepared. Like: “Why have you decided to do this? Have you ever harmed a child? Have you discussed this as a couple?”

 

I felt she had a list which she used for straight couples that she changed for us, eg. “How do your families feel about you having a child together? How does your mum feel about you having donated sperm? Have you ever encountered homophobia?”

 

I felt a bit patronised by some of the questions which I didn’t think they’d ask a straight couple but maybe that’s because I work in equality. Bev enjoyed having the chance to talk about it and we did discuss some things that we hadn’t discussed already so that was useful.

 

The nurse explains the medical procedure you’re going to have in detail, from the blood tests to how the procedure takes place and where it takes place. They also give you advice on healthy eating etc. And you have to choose your donor profile for your donated sperm. Height, eye colour, blood type, job, ethnicity.

 

The donor has the option to write a ‘pen sketch.’ That’s what swung it for us. Some wrote things like, ‘I love playing golf and going to the pub with my friends.’ The one we chose wrote to the child, saying they were open to meeting and interested in family history. I liked that.

 

Of course, if you have money to get sperm from a big European agency you can choose donor characteristics to the ultimate level – education etc but sperm from overseas sperm clinics is about £600 a go (I don’t think that includes storage at your private clinic). Some of the sperm banks we looked at were the European Sperm Bank and Cryos. But in the end we just wanted a healthy baby.

 

You have to go in on Day 1 of your next period, the first proper day of bleeding. You phone and say you need to come in tomorrow for a Day 1 exam and they give you a time; at Edinburgh the appointment and later blood tests were almost always between 7-9am.

 

One thing I’d say is, if you’re thinking of doing this it’s worth thinking about the fact that you’re likely to need quite a lot of time off work. My clinic was in Midlothian so I had to get up at 5am sometimes just to get there on time.

 

During the Day 1 exam, they do a blood test for Luteinising Hormone (LH), check you can take a catheter in your womb (for the sperm) and do a transvaginal scan.

 

The scan is like the one they put on your tummy but it’s an internal one. They have a look at your womb and follicles in each ovary and measure them. They don’t tell you much. The consultant would say things to the nurse like, “Only six on one side, which is lower than average” and “The blood test had a lower score than expected” without saying if it meant there was something wrong.

 

The consultant also seemed to have a problem – or be nervous – about the fact that we were two women eg. he held up the probe and said, ‘Now you can’t take this home ladies,” which I’m sure he wouldn’t have said to a female/ male couple.

 

We didn’t complain at the time but I did complain later about how impersonal it was and the times we were left waiting at 7am or moved from room to room. Bev was quite worried about complaining as they have all the power – maybe they wouldn’t do the treatment properly and use water instead of sperm! – but I thought, ‘We’ve just spent £1,000!” It felt quite good as the results of complaining were almost immediate. Both the nurse and the consultant apologised and we got better service from then on.

 

After the scan, you’re not due in ’til Day 10 but then you have to go in every day for blood tests. They’re looking for a surge in your LH hormone which usually happens between Day 10 and Day 18 (middle of your cycle). They phoned me every afternoon to tell me the results of the blood work.

 

At first Bev was determined to come to everything with me but when it means getting up at 5am to go all that way for a five minute blood test, there’s no point. When it comes down to it, you can’t both be in it all the way. Things like that can cause a bit of resentment – I was a bit jealous of her cosy bed while I trekked about in the snow – but as long as you talk about it, it’s OK.

 

Your LH level will gradually rise until, 36-48 hours before ovulation, it will suddenly jump dramatically. Until they see the jump, you need to go back in the next day and the next day etc. Eventually comes the magical day when they say they’ve seen the surge and they tell you to come in tomorrow for treatment.

 

Basically you turn up and they put a catheter through your cervix into your womb. Your cervix is open anyway because you’re fertile.

 

We got shown to a private room. I got a fluffy gown to wear and tea and coffee – it was like a five star hotel: very nice. You wait until they’re ready for you because there’s a queue of women ahead of you and because the technician has to defrost your sperm and wash it. They can’t do that in advance. We were waiting around for an hour. The nurses were great though. They checked in with us and made sure we knew what was happening.

 

You don’t need to be in the operating theatre for the procedure but you may be, if the consultant’s working in there anyway. I did and Bev got to put on scrubs so it was very exciting!

 

A nurse gets you ready on a medical bed with stirrups. You wear a medical gown and your partner sits next to you. They show you the vial of sperm with the details on so you know you’ve got the right lot. They constantly check your name too, so there’s no mistake.

 

The consultant uses a speculum to open up the vagina and puts the catheter in your womb. Then they inject the sperm into the catheter and that’s it. The consultant leaves. It takes less than three minutes. The sperm looks like water.

 

The nurse covers you in blankets and you can lie there for up to 10 minutes with your partner beside you, before going back to your room. They stress that once the sperm’s inside you it can’t fall out when you stand up but it was quite nice, lying there.

 

You can stay in your private room or the lounge as long as you want. We stayed for about an hour because I just felt better lying in a horizontal position. Then we got the bus home.

 

Within two hours of the treatment I had cramps like period pains. You obsess about symptoms and I was convinced I was pregnant by Day 4. Bev bought 27 cheap pregnancy tests and two Clearblue Digitals. I was doing two a day.

 

Waiting is a scary time. Bev in particular was very upset at the prospect of it not working, more so than you think you’ll be when you’re prepared for it.

 

When I was obsessing about symptoms, I spent a lot of time on the LGBT forum at Fertility Friends. They have a page, the 2-week-wait (2ww), for people waiting for the results. It’s good because you have lots of crazy thoughts after insemination. You analyse everything, from waking up a bit early to a slight tenderness in your boobs or a funny taste in your mouth. Am I pregnant or is it just my period?

 

It worked first time! We found out I was pregnant on Boxing Day. I did a test and there was just one line and I chucked it in the bin. Then I woke up at 6am thinking, ‘I didn’t leave it long enough, not three minutes.’ So I fished it out of the bin and it was positive! Of course I did another few after that just to be sure!

 

You have to go back to the clinic for a blood test 14 days after insemination. They measure for a hormone – I think it’s the pregnancy hormone, human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). It was exciting. We’d known for three days but because part of you is thinking, ‘This can’t be real, it can’t have happened already,’ it’s really reassuring to hear them say, “The hormone level is high, it’s definitely a pregnancy.”

 

Once that’s done you only have to go back and see them five weeks after insemination, when they do another transvaginal scan to look at the baby. In pregnancy terms you are already seven weeks pregnant as they count from the first day of your last period. At this stage the baby is only like a butter bean but they check its heartbeat and that it’s not an ectopic pregnancy.

 

There’s lots of form filling at that stage eg. status of civil partnership for the birth certificate. The consultant shook our hands and said congratulations, which was a nice way to end.

 

That said, a nurse – she was being nice but she did keep saying, “I’m so glad you are able to do this,” which made us feel a bit uncomfortable. You do wish they wouldn’t make you feel different but you’ll take anything after they give you a positive result – but again, maybe I’m being over sensitive because I work in equality.

 

There’s no pregnancy care from the clinic after your seven weeks. Until then you can call them anytime if you’re anxious. They give you forms to show your doctor to show you’re pregnant but they’re not in contact with your GP, it’s your responsibility to give your blood test results to the GP.

 

I’m now 17 weeks along and I’ve seen the scans and heard the heartbeat but it still doesn’t feel totally real. I’m still in shock a bit, especially as it happened first time.

I told Mum and Dad after seven weeks. It was our big secret until then. I remember thinking, ‘How the hell are we going to tell them now, when they have had no warm up that we are trying?’

 

I just blurted it out after dinner one night. My dad’s jaw hit the floor and my mum was happy hysterical. Then they started reminiscing about having twins! This will practically be the same thing, as my sister and I have due dates exactly 11 weeks apart.

 

We don’t want to know the sex of the baby. Having known so much about the process, it’s nice to not know and have a sense of anticipation.

 

I’m due 4 September. We’re just excited to be having a baby. We don’t care what comes out.

 

 

 

 

Read Bev’s story

Erin

I’ve been in a committed relationship for nearly 10 years and throughout all of that – even before that, since I was a teenager – children have been at the forefront of my mind. Coming out as a lesbian didn’t affect my thinking, it just added the practical question of ‘How?’

 

I have a physical, biological urge to have children but my partner doesn’t so it was easy to decide who would be the tummy mummy.

 

We approached a gay friend as a donor. It was over a few glasses of wine. He nearly fell off the sofa! He’d never considered it and understandably he needed some time. So over the course of a year we spent time together, thinking how it might be.

 

But things changed for him. He was promoted at work and he began to realise that he wasn’t ready – but my biological clock was ticking.

 

Once he decided, it helped in a way. It had felt like it was so out of our control, waiting for him to decide, that we realised we just wanted it to be us, me and my partner, in our family. It was about me and her and our joint future. So in October 2009 we approached our NHS nurse practitioner. She knew us and she’s really LGBT friendly.

 

I’m lucky because the work I do means I know what’s going on. I knew there had been a recent case  (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/glasgow_and_west/7913082.stm)  in which Glasgow Health Board had been taken to tribunal for not providing assisted conception to a same-sex couple, so I felt confident that I could challenge a decision if we were refused.

 

It’s still the case that some local health boards don’t give fertility treatment to same sex couples – their policies just don’t acknowledge them and/or they say there’s a shortage of donor sperm. (There was a change in legislation – the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act – which meant donors couldn’t remain anonymous as a child needs to be able to trace its parents if it wants, once it’s 18).

 

The nurse practitioner was great. We saw her at our local GP practice and she referred us to a consultant in Dumfries Royal Infirmary. We had our first appointment with her in December 2009. She told us that although Dumfries & Galloway Health Board’s policy still didn’t include same-sex couples, there was a real willingness to change… but it wouldn’t happen overnight.

 

We were placed on a holding list until West of Scotland NHS boards met to discuss changing their policies. However, it didn’t feel as if nothing was happening. The consultant checked my fertility, did blood tests, took our medical histories (both myself and my partner) and in January 2010 she referred me for an HSG test (a hysterosalpingogram) to see if my fallopian tubes were OK.

 

We were then in limbo for a bit until the policy was changed but in August 2010 we were referred to Greater Glasgow for treatment. Dumfries & Galloway can’t do it in-house as they don’t have the facilities to store donor sperm.

 

There was then another six month wait to get an appointment in Glasgow.

 

By then it was January 2011. They explained the treatment options to us. Through Greater Glasgow, Dumfries & Galloway would fund three cycles of IUI (intrauterine insemination) and, if that was unsuccessful, two cycles of IVF (in vitro fertilisation) – but they wouldn’t fund the supply of donor sperm. I argued back and forth about that, as there’s no point them funding IUI if there isn’t any donor sperm but I realised I wasn’t getting anywhere.

 

I don’t know if that’s what happens in all local health boards. Women living in Greater Glasgow get sperm free but they say they don’t have enough to supply women from outside.

 

So we had to get a loan to get donor sperm. My mum re-mortgaged her house. It costs about £3,000 to use the European Sperm Bank as they ask you to buy all the sperm you might need for all the IUI and IVF cycles, to make sure you have enough.

 

You get lots of information about the donor via the sperm bank. A photo of him as a child, a Myers Briggs personality profile, his medical history including his family.

It was another nine months before we get to the top of the waiting list. It’s worse in some places, people have to wait longer but there aren’t so many women in Dumfries & Galloway.

 

Even so, I was ready to have a baby when I first asked my friend in 2007 and I still don’t have one. Your biological clock doesn’t stop. I’m 39.

 

Eventually we reached the top of the waiting list and I began treatment. It was really bizarre. When we realised the ball was finally starting to roll it was such a high, we weren’t ready for the emotional roller coaster. In the space of about two weeks I turned from a normal rational person into mayhem.

 

I think some clinics have different approaches and not all of them opt for drug therapy straight away as it is quite invasive – but my menstrual cycle wasn’t totally predictable and as I was a bit older when I started treatment, they decided to start me on a series of fertility drugs.

 

The treatment for IUI began with a nasal spray, four times a day, which stops your natural cycle and gives them control. It basically makes you peri-menopausal, complete with all the symptoms. I was a mess.

 

You carry the nasal spray around with you all day and set alarms to take it. It’s really demanding.

 

I was on that non-stop from the beginning of November to the end of February. Then I went to Glasgow for a scan and blood tests to see if the spray had done what it was meant to have done.

 

If it has, you start a daily, self-administered injection to stimulate your follicles.

 

Every two days while I was taking injections I had to go to Glasgow for blood tests or a scan and blood tests. It was a 5 hour journey door to door, so it was a real commitment.

 

It really helps to have a sympathetic employer. I didn’t intend to but I ended up being signed off sick. I get menstrual migraines anyway and with all the hormones I was injecting, I had migraines, hot flushes, mood swings, acute anxiety – just feeling really out of control and emotional. That coupled with the demands of getting to

 

Glasgow for 9am every two days made work untenable.

 

The clinic didn’t want more than one follicle to ripen due to the risk of multiple births. When the scans show one leader follicle is just about right, they give you a booster injection which is designed to make you ovulate. Exactly 42 hours later you’re inseminated.

 

You have the insemination and you think, ‘Yay!’ and you start analysing everything that’s going on in your body and manically watch fertility forums where people are posting all kinds of symptoms. You’re also desperately trying not to test early as you’re advised not to – but everyone is and getting negative results and getting depressed.

 

You become one of a desperate community of women, desperately wanting children.

It’s a lot of pressure. If I’m honest, because I had been waiting so long, when it all started I wasn’t prepared for a negative result – and when I got it I was devastated.

 

You start to think: how many shots do I have left now? What was a possibility becomes a diminishing possibility.

 

Peer support has been critical to me, straight and lesbian friends who are going through the same process. And the staff at Glasgow have been great. Happy for you to call them up and ask your questions. A really positive thing.

 

So, I’ve now been through all my IUI processes with negative results, and the next stage is IVF. More form filling and again, we had to wait to reach the top of the list.

I’ve been on a break for two months which is good as I’ve been taken off the drugs and I feel like a normal human being again. But time is still ticking on.

 

The first baseline appointment for IVF is in the middle of May and I guess the next treatment will start in July. I expect it will be similar to the last time but with greater dosages of hormones to get as many eggs as possible. I think they do the egg retrieval under local anaesthetic, hopefully transferring two embryos when they are fertilised – touch wood.

 

It’s been full on and it’s equally hard for my other half. She’s not just had the waiting and the disappointment, she’s had to cope with a dysfunctional partner. It can be too easy to turn on each other. Luckily we have a strong relationship.

 

I’m trying to remain quietly optimistic but there are no guarantees. IVF has a higher chance of success because sperm will meet the egg – with IUI you don’t even know if fertilisation has taken place.

 

I’ll have two rounds of egg retrieval, hopefully with more than one fertilised embryo to work on.

 

If it doesn’t work… I can’t really think about that yet but we’ll probably think of fostering and adoption. I desperately want to have my own child, I always have done, so I’ll want to exhaust all avenues.

 

I had IVF in August, and they managed to retrieve eight eggs, four of which were successfully fertilised via intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). I had a rough trot on egg retrieval, and ended up admitted to hospital with morphine for pain relief. I think they perforated something and I struggled for a week or two after to manage the pain.

 

I got an early pregnancy positive a couple of days before my official test date (ecstatic as you might imagine) and got another positive after a blood test at the hospital. They weren’t overly happy with the levels however, so decided to test again four days later and by that time I had lost the pregnancy.

 

It was the weirdest feeling – so much loss for something that barely even lived, but I suppose all our hopes and dreams of many years were tied up in those two faint lines, only to have them dashed a few days later.

 

With a bit of time for physical and emotional recovery, I am about to have frozen embryo transfer, and so am on a regimen of enforced menopause followed by HRT yet again.

 

I’m struggling a bit with it to be fair, and am about to be signed off for two weeks to ensure I am fully rested, particularly because I miscarried last time. All we can do is hope…

Bev

Having kids was just a given for me, before sexuality was even part of it. When I started having serious relationships, when I was around 18, I was very aware that I wanted to be a parent one day.

 

It became more of a reality when I met Esther because we established pretty quickly that we both wanted kids.

 

In my relationships before, when exes hadn’t wanted children it wasn’t really a problem because I wasn’t sure I’d be with the person forever – but with Esther, I knew. I couldn’t imagine not being with Esther.

 

It’s an overpowering urge for me to have children but because I’ve known for such a long time that it was going to be with a woman, it wasn’t necessarily going to be a biological thing for me.

 

Esther was keen from the start to be a mum in the physical and biological sense. I’m petrified at the thought of giving birth, so it was a very natural decision for us. I count that as very lucky. I’ve known female couples where one of them wants kids and the other doesn’t… it’s hard.

 

Esther and I talked about it seriously for about two years. Then her twin sister got pregnant and that was it! Esther went, “I’m 31, let’s do it!”

 

We had discussed the possibility of using a friend as a donor. I think a lot of lesbians joke and laugh with male friends about them being donors, so if the dynamic changes and you do talk about it seriously, it can be quite daunting.

 

To start with, I thought using a friend as a donor could work but we discounted it eventually. We discussed it in detail and I increasingly realised that it wasn’t what I wanted – the baby having more parents than just the two of us.

 

So in the end, the decision came down to a private clinic and we had to accept what was involved in the financial side of that. We were fortunate to have enough money to try three times. We decided we’d rather pay than wait two, three or four years on the NHS. Mostly the worries were about: what if it doesn’t work the first time, the second time, the third time and we run out of money? But it worked first time! I couldn’t believe it!

 

My family are a lot better than they used to be. After Esther and I had our civil partnership, we talked seriously about having kids and I got into a fight with my parents when I said it would be Esther carrying the baby. They were upset I wouldn’t be the one physically having it, that it wouldn’t be their biological grandchild – especially my mum. To me it makes no difference at all. I’m there for the baby from the birth and that’s all I care about. I finally got it through to my parents that I wasn’t having a child for them!

 

Even when we did fight, I thought it would be OK in the end because, I felt, ‘Who’s not going to love this baby?’

 

As soon as Esther found out she was pregnant we were both overjoyed. I feel so grateful she did it, that she’s going through all these physical changes for us. When she was going through all the early morning blood tests at the clinic – literally 7am every day when you’re ovulating – I felt really bad for her. She was really tired and I couldn’t do all the mornings, what with work.

 

The day we got the news that she was ready for the procedure was very exciting. The staff had talked us through it all and you get your own room to relax in and have some privacy, before and after. The treatment itself only took about two minutes!

Esther had a little bit of cramping because you get inseminated via a very thin catheter. You can lie down for as long as you like before you go home.

 

Then you’ve got the two week wait before you go back for the blood test. It was excruciating, the wait, absolutely excruciating. Esther was sure she felt pregnant, felt physical changes within only two days – but I was trying to block it out mentally. I didn’t want to get my hopes up. I kept telling myself it was too early to know.

 

You can find out if you’re pregnant at home using pregnancy tests. Esther started doing them early and they were negative. I remember Esther showed me one test and it was negative and I was more disappointed than I had thought I would be. I thought, ‘Don’t be ridiculous, it’s too early, it isn’t going to happen the first time.’

 

I realised I would be more upset than I’d thought if it didn’t work. I couldn’t imagine going through the waiting process again and again. Esther started doing the tests behind my back rather than get my hopes up every time! I preferred it that way.

 

We found out on Boxing Day. At the two week blood test, they ask you if you have tested yourself. Esther said, “Yes, it’s positive” and they were a bit cautious, saying, “Don’t get excited ’til you get the official blood test results.” They phoned that afternoon to say, “Yes, it’s confirmed.”

 

The good thing with a private clinic is you get a seven week scan. Usually people have to wait at least 12 weeks. The wait still feels like a lifetime though! You don’t really believe there’s a baby ’til there’s a bump. At the scan, they check that the baby has a heartbeat, is the right size and in the right place. If it’s all OK, then you’re finished at the clinic and you move on to regular NHS services.

 

I’m a worrier so I did think about whether there was going to be something wrong with the baby. I’d think about it all day: ‘What if it’s not OK,’ worrying about what we were going to do if we lost the baby.

 

By 12 weeks, the baby was practically dancing around! It took 45 minutes to get a good picture of it, it was so active. Now, Esther can feel it moving. It’ll be two or three weeks before I can. Esther tells me how it feels and it’s difficult to imagine, but you feel as excited as each other.

 

My parents are very excited. They want to buy baby clothes and I’m saying, “Don’t buy too many” because I want to buy lots, too! They’re happy we’re not trying to find out the sex because that’s the way it was in their day, a complete surprise.

 

Now that Esther’s pregnant, people are being a bit over protective – ‘I’ll do this, I’ll do that’ and ‘I can’t wait to be with the baby, I can’t wait to come and see you in the hospital.’ It’s sometimes as if people are vying with each other to be more important in the baby’s life.

 

We’re like, ‘Hold on, the baby’s not even here yet!’ We’re already very protective. It’s made us closer.

 

It has made me start to worry about the responsibility that’s involved. Everyone feels like that – at least they should. Esther will go on maternity leave, so there is anxiety there for me around the time that she’s off and me being the main breadwinner; but it’s more concern about bringing a person up!

 

The excitement of finding out who this person is going to be overrides that though.

 

Who is it in there? Hello!

 

My advice to anyone thinking about doing this is: just go for it!

 

If you’re with the right person – or even if you’re on your own – it’s definitely not something you’re going to regret. You have to be prepared for the waiting, the financial side, the fact that it’s all-consuming. Don’t worry about all the stories and statistics about success rates and how long it’ll take and it might not work. You don’t know ’til you try.

 

 

Read Esther’s story

Stevie and Lauren

Stevie: I wanted kids since I was wee, maybe about 15. I’m 20 now. I’ve got nine brothers and sisters. I used to have a business with my mum and we worked it so that I could give my sister her feeds. We did the same with my wee brother.

 

Lauren: We got together in June last year. My wee boy was born in July, not long after. I’m 17 now.

 

Stevie: We were mates before and started going out when Lauren was pregnant. I knew in my head that I wanted to be with her before she was pregnant but I just didn’t have the balls to ask her.

 

Lauren: We’d known each other two or three years. I got pregnant, experimenting with a friend. It was complicated, a stupid mistake. I was at the stage, when I asked Stevie out, of thinking about whether to keep the baby or have it adopted. We decided to keep it.

 

Stevie: She thought she was going to lose me and that was why she thought of getting rid of the baby but I managed to talk her round when I said I would be there for her no matter what. I’d known for a year that I wanted to be with her.

 

Lauren: I knew years ago, just after we started talking the first time.

 

Stevie: Lauren didn’t want another baby after the baby was born but I did.

 

Lauren: I didn’t, not after I had to have a C section. The pregnancy was rough. My baby was premature.

 

Stevie: We were lying in bed one night, watching a film, Knocked Up. I went downstairs for some water and she went to the toilet. We didn’t know it but her waters had broken. In the film, the woman’s waters had broken at the same time.

 

Lauren: I didn’t realise it was my waters breaking – I thought I’d wet myself!

 

Stevie: I got concerned because she didn’t move all night and her bump had disappeared: it was just a baby shape.

 

Lauren: I had an appointment with the midwife the next day. She said the baby was OK. I was having pains from when my waters broke but not serious ones. Then I started having shitty ones and we called the midwife again. She said he was coming – the baby. He was six weeks early.

 

Stevie: I had had to leave, because of work. I was virtually living at Lauren’s mum’s, apart from when I had to go south to work. I got a phone call at 9pm to say Lauren was going into hospital. I got there the next day. I met her mum downstairs in the café and she took me up to her.

 

Lauren: The day after, I got my C section. I was in labour for four days. They gave me a jab and tablets. I didn’t have an epidural because I freaked out when I saw the needle.

 

The baby was feet down and his cord was wrapped round and pulling at my belly button. If I’d pushed him out it would have ripped me and killed him, so they had to do the C section.

 

Stevie: I was sitting with her mum and her sisters, a bag of nerves. I had to get a cuddle off her sister because I didn’t know what to do. It was my first experience of the whole lot. No-one came to tell us how the baby was. We even had to stop Lauren’s midwife to find out if Lauren was OK. They said they couldn’t tell me much because Lauren hadn’t come round but the baby had flatlined and had to g o to intensive care.

 

Lauren: He was out, not breathing, for 40 minutes. They told me while I was still coming round and asked me if they could pass the information on.

 

Stevie: You don’t remember anything about the two days after that.

 

Lauren: I can’t remember anything after they told me he’d flatlined apart from going to see him for five minutes. I remember holding him, leaving him in there, in intensive care but nothing after that. I was away with the fairies because of the drugs.

He had all these tubes in him. He had a thing on his foot, a splint on his arm, a drip in his leg, pads on his chest, a hose thing for breathing. He was in intensive care for five weeks.

 

Stevie: We had to wait until he weighed 5lb 10oz ’til he could come out of hospital. Even then there were complications. It was his second week home.

 

He was feeding and there was food or mucus stuck in his throat. He just flopped in his gran’s arms. He’d gone blue.

 

Lauren: It was horrible. He was taken back to hospital. He’s been back three times. The day after he had to go back because he wasn’t peeing. There was nothing in his nappy. They got medicine for him and it seemed to work.

 

Stevie: Your mum said he was taking the mick because he came home and peed. The he had to go back in again because he had reflux. He projectile vomited all over me. From there we just had to be careful how much we were feeding him. We had to go back to the premature food. Now he just eats everything.

 

Lauren: He’s OK now, there’s nothing wrong.

 

Stevie: He’s nearly walking. He’s a happy boy now – he was quite narky when he was wee.

 

He’s staying up north with his gran while we sort out the flat, then he’ll come down and live here.

 

Lauren: We just see him at weekends at the moment but he’ll come here when we’ve moved everything in and he’ll go and see them at weekends.

 

Stevie: I started nagging Lauren as soon as he was born, about me having a child too. I think she felt insecure because she thought I wanted to have a child with a man, so we didn’t talk about it for a while but once we’d cleared that up, we started talking about it again.

 

Lauren: We want them [the children] to have the same skin tone as us, so they don’t look too different.

 

Stevie: We’ve got someone – a donor – in Edinburgh, someone in Glasgow and someone in Dundee, who we’ve discussed it with. One I know, the others we met through some online sites which are registered and where all the donors are checked. They check out if the family has genetic problems and they have medical checks.

 

I knew before Lauren got pregnant that there were ways I could go about it because I’d seen a programme. I decided on this way more for Lauren, so we can do it ourselves through artificial insemination.

 

The person [potential donor] I know, we were having a discussion about how I wanted kids and how I wanted them to have my skin colour. It was just a general conversation and he said he would do it but he’d have to speak to his wife. He’s married with kids. He wasn’t sure if she’d allow it, him not seeing the kid or her knowing he had a kid out there but not by her.

 

We spoke about if he did go ahead with it, would he want to have contact.

 

Lauren: I’d prefer it if we had a donor who then walked away and had no contact.

 

Stevie: It might be OK if they wanted contact once in a blue moon, sent a birthday card…

 

Lauren: I don’t know if I would be comfortable with that. It might cause complications.

 

Stevie: There was a donor in Edinburgh who said he wanted to buy everything until the baby was born and then walk away but we didn’t think that was fair.

 

We’ve got a number one donor who really wants to do it, who’s constantly in contact asking when we’re ready. And we’ve decided we really want to start next month, after we get the flat ready. We need to find out my ovulation days and then tell him we’re ready to start. Now that we have our own place, we might have him over to stay.

 

Lauren: I’m not sure about that. He was OK about staying in a hotel.

 

Stevie: We’ve thought about it so long now. This month we’re just counting the days. I’ve got a test to find out when I’m ovulating, so we know when it will be next month. I’ve got syringes to use on the night.

 

My advice is to do a lot of research online or even just go to one of the youth groups. Get into some of the forums and ask around. Find out about the different ways of doing it – it’s not just sleeping with a guy or IVF, there’s artificial insemination.

 

It does put a strain on a relationship so make sure you are steady before you do it. Trust is the main thing. Be supportive of the other person, especially when they’re pregnant – be prepared for mood swings!

Lauren: You still need to do everything a normal couple does while you’re pregnant, have fun, just more carefully.

Stevie: Realise the partner needs to bond with the bump. I found it quite easy. I would put my head on the bump and talk to him, feeling his foot move against my finger. He knew my voice straightaway.

Lauren: Enjoy the pregnancy while you can. Make sure your partner’s not going to run.

Stevie: Start saving now. Just make sure you’ve got a steady income.

Lauren: Some people think a baby just costs a couple of pounds here and there, they don’t realise how much it costs.

Stevie: Research it. You need to talk about it all in depth, to know you both want it – not one person wanting a baby and the other being put on the spot and saying “Yes, let’s do it,” then chickening out.

Lauren: If the wee boy asks, we’ll tell him about his dad but if he doesn’t I don’t see the point. His dad is not showing any interest so far and he only lives a couple of doors away.

Stevie: We’re not really wanting the complications of one child knowing their dad and the other one not, or one getting more presents than the other one.

Lauren: My family’s been really supportive.

Stevie: My mum has never really accepted that I want to be with a girl and doesn’t really acknowledge that we have a kid already. She’s been brought up the way her mum was brought up, the old way where girls shouldn’t be with girls and boys shouldn’t be with boys. She’s just stubborn when it comes to this. She doesn’t even mind when it’s outside the family, it’s because it’s me. My cousin’s scared of coming out because of the way the family treated me when I came out. I’ve got concerns about when my children go to school, about being bullied.

Lauren: I don’t think our wee boy will be picked on.

Stevie: I know quite a lot of gay people who have got kids. I don’t think they’ve had any problems.

Lauren: I know someone in my family who hasn’t had any problems and her wee boy is 10.

Stevie: There were a couple of women who came out and their kid got picked on. They moved away. My home area is bad for people who come out, so it would be bad for bringing up a kid. I was getting on a train and someone threw a bottle at my head.

I think when the wee boy gets to a certain age, we’ll be wanting to move away. My brother’s in Australia and I’ve got a career that means I can get a transfer across there.