My name is Kate and my wife’s name is Sharon. We’ve been together for 13 years (married for 7) after meeting online. In 2015 our son was born after trying for two years via at-home artificial insemination.
When we first met I wasn’t really interested in having my own children as I was never that maternal. If someone brought a newborn into the office I would pass on my obligatory congratulations and small talk, but then promptly put my headphones on. I would show more interest in free cakes or a puppy!
However one day, after a few of our friends had started making babies of their own, and my sister giving birth to the first baby of the family (we’re a small family!), my body started giving me the signals that it was time to start making my own. How or why it decided at that point I’ll never know, but either way, I started aching for my own family.
Although we had briefly discussed adoption, we didn’t feel that it was for us at the time, so we decided on the route of making one.
IUI Or IVF
You probably won’t be surprised to hear that it’s incredibly difficult to make a baby as a female same-sex couple, and even more so for gay men! If you don’t have a willing donor or surrogate, or money to pay for fertility treatment, your options are limited, to say the least.
Our problem was the latter, in that we did not have thousands upon thousands of pounds to pay for IUI (Intrauterine Insemination) or IVF (In Vitro Fertilisation). Even if everything inside me was working (which we later find out it didn’t) it would have cost in the region of £3k-£5k at the very least, and at that time there were no payment plans! For a society that was becoming more inclusive, what with same-sex marriage becoming legal in 2013, it wasn’t very inclusive to those that weren’t rich! Equally, we wouldn’t be eligible for assistance from the NHS until we had tried with a known donor for at least 12 cycles!
So just like the way we found each other, we turned to the internet to find ourselves a donor.
Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s not as seedy as you might think. There are websites out there that act as a matching service for couples wanting to start a family but are facing difficulties, and it’s one of these websites – Pride Angel – which is where we found our donor. Pride Angel isn’t just for LGBTQ couples though, it’s for anyone. Anyone who needs eggs, sperm, an oven, a co-parent, you name it. It’s also an excellent source of information and advice to starting your own family; from the legal bits to choosing your donor. Nowadays there are Facebook groups, but in our day (I say that as if it’s decades ago, it was only five years ago!) they didn’t exist as they do now.
Of course, this method comes with its own risks, but when you’re in our situation you have to go with it and protect yourself as much as you can (for example, making sure the health of your donor is examined, writing a donor agreement, and meeting in a safe location). We were fortunate enough to meet our son’s donor early on (I’ve known some couples meet dozens of donors before finding the right one) and until the end of time, he’ll forever be known as our superhero.
Who’s the Mama?
Deciding who was going to be the oven was easier than you’d imagine. I was younger (only by five years) and at the time slightly healthier. Sharon had the better maternity package (seriously, you look into everything – you might as well!) but in the end, we decided that it was I who was going to carry our baby.
That suited us just fine, although I was somewhat regretful when it came to the birth later on. Sharon, not so much. The only thing now standing in our way, apart from the sperm, was now the law.
At the time, for Sharon to be registered on the birth certificate with equal parental rights we had to be married before conception. Otherwise, Sharon would have to go through a lengthy adoption process – even though, by this time, we had been together for well over 5 years. This enraged me, as it appeared that, yet again, we had to jump through hoops to be treated as equals. Nowadays it’s a little more relaxed, however, according to the gov.uk website, there are still a few extra hurdles that same-sex couples have to go through in comparison to opposite-sex couples.
So, we got married (well, civil partnered (we ‘upgraded’ this later on)). Marriage was never actually on our list of things to do for some reason – I guess we felt we didn’t need to validate our relationship with paper and a ring – but when we finally got round to it we had a wonderful time sharing that moment and celebrating our love with those closest to us.
It was a small affair (again, budget issues) with all our friends and family around us. We had the ceremony at a gorgeous registry office in Lewes, East Sussex, and had the reception at our home. Little did our guests know though that once it was all over we would be swiftly moving onto stage two; baby-making.
Choosing a donor was relatively easy. We went with one who looked like Sharon a little and also lived far enough away that school drop-offs wouldn’t be awkward, but not too far that would have meant a lot of travel on his part.
Surprisingly, there were quite a few to choose from – each with their own story as to why they were doing it in the first place. We eventually found some that we liked the look of (again, not as seedy as it sounds, folks!).
After chatting to a few, we met up with one that we connected with, and after the necessary checks and agreements were made we began trying via Artificial Insemination (aka the Turkey Baster route). This lasted a few cycles before, suddenly, he ghosted us. One day decided to not reply to our texts or calls. We were devastated. The work that goes into finding a donor and setting everything up is emotionally and physically draining. That’s before you even start trying.
But we couldn’t dwell on the what-ifs and the regret of wasting our time with someone who had clearly chickened out without the courtesy of letting us know (I’m not bitter, honest). We had to carry on if we wanted this baby. So back to Pride Angel, we went, and after chatting to a few more potential donors we found our Superhero.
Call it fate or intuition, but this one was different. Whilst the other one ticked the boxes, otherwise, we wouldn’t have agreed to him being our donor, this one was ‘The One’. I don’t know whether it was because he was a father himself or whether there was more to his story than what he was letting on. but in the two years, we were trying for our son he was just there for us.
To make matters worse, along the way I also happened to find out about some fertility issues, after we had visited a Kinesiologist following dozens of failed attempts. I don’t know what prompted us to visit them – perhaps despair and desperation – but I’m so glad we did as two cycles after my treatment had finished I fell pregnant. We were their 56th couple to see her about fertility issues. We’d also contributed to her 100% success rate.
I wish I’d gone to her sooner, but you never really think it’s your fault as such that you’re not falling pregnant. You blame it on the way you ran down the street on insemination number 5, or that spicy burger on insemination number 12. Those trousers were a little tight on insemination number 8, maybe that’s the reason you didn’t fall pregnant this month. As a child, and certainly as a girl, you’re told not to even sit next to a boy otherwise you might fall pregnant. So why, with a body displaying no obvious issues or restrictions, am I not falling pregnant. If straight couples can have ‘accidents’ why, as someone who is intentionally placing (a lot of) sperm into my cervix am I not falling pregnant?
In the two years, we were trying for our son it became our life. Sharon charted my temperature (and other stuff!) every day and researched until her eyes were square. I turned down job opportunities (in the fear/hope that I would be pregnant and didn’t want that awkward conversation of having to take maternity leave just as I’m starting a new job) and put all my concentration on trying for that baby. I went to the gym, changed my diet, and read so many books and forums. We saved every penny in case we suddenly fell pregnant, which meant we didn’t holiday or treat ourselves often.
Time just stood still
It honestly became our life, our obsession, for two years. I could never tell you who had the harder job. Me, who had the weight of the world on my shoulders trying to make this work and feeling like a failure for not succeeding, or Sharon, who had so little control over anything and couldn’t give her wife the greatest gift.
This resulted in a lot of resentment. Against people who I felt didn’t appreciate their children enough or those who appeared (based on face value, wrong I know!) to have it easy. I was just so angry. None of it was fair. Two years doesn’t sound long, and looking back – now that our son is almost five – it’s not that long. But when you concentrate on every minute of each day, reading the symptoms and listening to what your body is telling you, a ‘two-week wait’ can feel like a lifetime.
Mummy & Mama
Meeting our son for the first time was a feeling I’d never experienced before in my life. Although we’d seen him a handful of times and felt him inside me throughout my pregnancy; moving around and making himself comfortable, nothing really prepares you for when you hear their cries and touch their skin.
It suddenly becomes very real
Before that point, it just felt like a dream and that suddenly I was going to wake up or have the carpet ripped from underneath you (this wasn’t helped by the fact that I repeatedly had those types of dreams, often waking up and getting brought back into reality). After two years you start to believe that it isn’t meant for you. That you should just stop and face reality.
But something, someone, just drives you to keep going. I’m not often one to admit defeat.
Even now I can’t quite put it into words the feelings and emotions I had the day we met our son. I’d done my job, given Sharon the greatest gift, and created our family. We’d finally come to the end of a long and tiresome journey, but at the same time started the beginning of another. Despite Sharon researching until the early hours of most mornings, nothing can prepare you for that rush of love. That feeling of finally joining ‘The Parent Club’. That feeling of finally being ‘complete’.
Was it worth it? ABSOLUTELY.
Would I do it again? In a heartbeat.