Making a baby as a lesbian couple is a minefield. There are no ‘early nights’ when it comes to trying, and sperm comes at a premium. Every couple will have their own hurdles, whether it’s money or who wants to conceive, but either way, it’s important that you educate yourself on this incredibly important journey you’re about to embark on.
When we first started trying over five years ago, the community we have today didn’t exist. A lot of the couples we followed either conceived or were conceiving via IUI or IVF, or they had travelled abroad, and whilst they’re all viable options when wanting to conceive, if you’re anything like us – where your funds are limited – it in turn lowers your chances of ever having a baby.
Even Lesbian magazines didn’t really discuss options outside of (expensive) fertility treatments! What we wanted was inclusive conception options, but all we found was exclusion!
BABY-MAKING IS NOT ALWAYS INCLUSIVE
Five years ago, we also couldn’t find anyone else that was doing what we wanted to do (at-home artificial insemination ((AI) aka the Turker Baster approach)) so we used resources such as Pride Angel and Stonewall as a guide. After all, sex education warned you against being even remotely naked near a boy in fear of falling pregnant – how hard could it be?
But we were very wrong, and after two years of trying we sought help from a Kinesiologist to locate any fertility issues. These were found, treated, and after two more cycles I fell pregnant! But even today, when I try and scour the web for help on at-home AI, there is very limited information available unless you search specific topics, and even then they don’t relate to the process as a whole. It’s still very much a minefield with conflicting advice and opinions.
This was amplified a few weeks ago, when we took over the same sex families Instragram. It was a lovely opportunity to meet new families outside of the comments section and share our history with whomever wanted to listen, but very quickly – when we shared our story on our conception journey – we realised that even today, in 2019, couples are still unaware of their options.
View this post on Instagram
So I opened the proverbial floor back over on our instagram, and I let people ask us (sensible) questions on how we conceived, and the responses were overwhelming. I was delighted at the chance to try and help couples move forward on their own journey, but I was also saddened that they had been restricted for so long thanks to out of date information and a lack of resources – still.
So with this in mind, I thought I’d finally share a guide on our process and what needs to be taken into consideration before, during, and after conception; from health checks and donor screening, to choosing who is going to carry! If there is anything I’ve left off along the way, please feel free to message us, we’ll be happy to help.
Stop! Disclosure time.
What I am about to detail comes from someone living in East Sussex in the United Kingdom, therefore this comes with a different health service (in comparison to the United States, for example) as well as different financial obligations. Each area within the UK is also different with different allowances and restrictions. I am also not an expert on baby-making.
What worked for us, may not work for you.
I just want to put all that out there.
Ok, so lets begin,
For couples in a civil partnership or marriage
If a baby is conceived in a UK licensed fertility clinic or at home and the couple are in a civil partnership or married, then the non-birth mother will automatically be the second legal parent and will be named as such on the birth certificate. The donor will have no legal parenthood status.
For couples not in a civil partnership or marriage
If a baby is conceived in a UK licensed fertility clinic and the couple are not in a civil partnership or married, they will need to complete a simple form at the clinic for the non-birth mother to be the legal parent, and to appear on the birth certificate. The donor will have no legal parenthood status.
If the baby is conceived outside of a UK licensed fertility clinic and the couple are not in a civil partnership or married, the non-birth mother must apply to adopt the child to gain legal rights.
1. Deciding who is going to carry.
Unlike heterosexual couples with no known fertility issues, one of the few good things about being in a female same sex sex relationship is that you actually get to decide who is going to carry – which is a bizarre conversation to have with your partner as you just have to delve straight in.
This decision is the sole responsibility of the couple and is incredibly personal. There is no guidebook on what makes the perfect ‘oven’, however here’s a few things that we discussed when we were making the decision:
- Who actually wants to carry the baby? Some people do not want to carry a baby, and that’s ok. They may have suffered trauma or they might not dig something kicking the living daylights out of your organs for 9 months. That’s cool , but you need to ask that question and not just assume that your partner is going to be the person who is going to carry (and birth!) the baby as they may be thinking the same thing! Likewise, what about egg retrieval where you use your partner’s eggs in your oven?
- How is your health? Both Sharon and I were both relatively healthy, and Sharon – as her Grandmother would have probably put it – had ‘good hips’, but she didn’t physically feel up to the task, which is good because I was!
- What do the maternity packages look like? If we have the potential luxury of being able to choose the oven, why not look at the maternity packages at your work and research who has the better deal?
2. IUI, IVF, AI?
IVF is a process involving egg stimulation, retrieval, fertilisation, and transfer. Costs vary, but 1 cycle of treatment may cost up to £5,000 or more (Source: NHS) guidelines state that IVF should be offered to women (under the age of 43)…who have had 12 cycles of artificial insemination.
IUI injects sperm into a uterus to decrease the sperm’s travel time to the egg. Costs range from about £800 to £1,300 for each cycle of IUI treatment (Source: NHS) and for same sex couples in the UK, you need to complete six cycles of IUI using donor sperm from a licensed fertility unit before the NHS will assist.
For us, financially, both of the above options were not viable options, therefore we chose At-Home AI (Artificial Insemination (at home)) and found our sperm via Pride Angel – which also is a great source of information.
In this process, once you have obtained a viable source of sperm you (slowly!) insert sperm close to the cervix using a special syringe. There’s obviously more to it than that – but this isn’t what this post is about. I suggest Googling ‘How-To Artificial Insemination’ or pop us a message.
3. Your Health
Before you think about making a massive change to your life, give yourself a little MOT – both mentally and physically. For me, when conception wasn’t working, I went to a Kinesiologist to have a look at me, and lo and behold there were some issues that needed addressing. Once these were resolved, I fell pregnant two cycles later.
Obviously this is something that worked for me, and might not work for you, but the message here is check yourself before you get started.
4. Choosing a Donor and their Health
This is probably THE MOST important bit – and not just for the obvious reason. Choosing your donor must be taken incredibly seriously and not just the aesthetic part and whether they look like your partner. Obviously when you start looking at donors you will inevitably go for looks first, and that’s ok, but after that comes the important bit – them, as a person, and their health. Unless you’re looking for a co-parent, or you make some sort of agreement, you probably won’t ever see your donor again once you’ve conceived, but it is still vital that you ‘like’ them and trust them as a person.
When looking, you might want to look at a couple of things first;
- Their location – a donor probably won’t want to fly to you each time they have to donate, but equally don’t choose one right on your doorstep, it might make for some awkward school runs later on.
- Interests – do you have anything in common? Is there anything on their profile that’s giving you a red flag? Always read their profile in detail.
- Picture – Looks are obviously important, but how recent is that picture?
When we first met our donor we had chatted for some time over email beforehand – going back and forth detailing what we require and what we would expect during each cycle. We also made sure that he knew what we would give in return, and by that I mean not turning up at their door 18 years later looking for child support! They have to trust you just as much as you trust them. We also chatted about their family and what made them want to donate – you don’t want it all to be about ‘the business’!
After we were happy with what we had read we then decided to meet face-to-face. Although we had chatted in great detail via email, meeting in person is a whole new experience, and I for one was incredibly nervous, especially as I would be the one on the receiving end! Once we cleared the air and got over the penis and period chat we eventually relaxed and carried on where we left off via email – chatting about our family, sports, and where we like to holiday. For some, people do this in their home for some familiarity when it comes to donations later, but for us we met at a pub in a neutral location (half way between ours and theirs).
Tip: Before you meet, make sure you ask them for a form of ID – you want to make sure that their face matches the details they’ve given you. This will also be important when you carry out health screenings!
This post would probably double in size if I listed every question and every conversation we had, but in essence you just want to get to know them, and if they’re a decent person they will understand and oblige. Equally, don’t be surprised or offended if they want to ask you some questions – they are, after all, giving you a part of them and need to trust you too.
It will be awkward, you will have to form a relationship similar to one of a ten year marriage in the space of a few hours, and you will be exhausted after, but it’ll be worth it in the end. Here are a few of the important ones off the top of my head:
- Confirm they aware that this is not going to happen via NI (Natural Insemination)? Not only does this come with more risk, it changes the law significantly. I have known some donors try it on thinking that once they’ve met, the couple will suddenly just want to have sex instead (*eye roll*).
- What’s their family history? Any history of poor health? Be direct and ask about things such as diabetes, cancer, etc!
- Have they done something like this before? Yes? How did it go? No? What made them want to donate?
- Are they happy to take part in a health screening (which MUST include an STI check)? If this is a no – even if their reasoning is because they have a family of their own – then you must say goodbye. Any decent donor will be happy to oblige (although you should probably offer to pay for this if it’s not free) and pass you the results after.
- Do they smoke? Alcohol? Drugs?
- What do they do for a living?
A sperm donor contract is a vital ingredient in cementing what has been agreed on both sides, as well as that trust. It confirms the roles of donor & recipient, as well as any parental responsibility, contact, possible siblings, expenses, and intentions to name a few things.
Legally, they can be challenged if the donor wanted to try their luck, however they’re a pretty solid tool if it ever were to go to court! Don’t let anyone put you off getting one written up – they’re worth it.
6. Contact (Before & After)
This is something that should probably be spoken about at the very beginning, but I wanted to expand on this a little as some people don’t often think about situations that might occur 3, 5, 10 years down the line until they happen!
For us, we wanted zero contact. Once the deed once done that was it, and our donor was quite happy with this as they did not want to become attached. They obviously wanted to know when we had been successful, but they didn’t want to see any pictures or know their name. It was strictly a biological business transaction, and that was fine.
For others, not including co-parents as that’s a whole different story, they set up their own agreement with the donor. Some might like to see a picture of the scan or when they’re born (although be mindful of the reasons above as to why we didn’t allow this) or others build a profile or album for when the child starts asking questions so that questions can be answered without treading on the parents toes or breaking that trust.
What you agree with your donor is between you as a couple (and do make sure you both agree on everything) and the donor and it is vital that everyone is in agreement. Trust and that relationship can break down very quickly if there is anything not quite right or if someone doesn’t feel comfortable with something – no matter how small it appears. Trust is everything.
A lot of the questions asked during our takeover have probably been answered here, however if you would like to check out some of the other questions pop over to our Instagram and our ‘LGBT Baby-Making Q&A’ is now stored as a highlight.
In the meantime, if you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to pop us an email or message on one of our social media channels.