I know biomum is desperate for me to impart the wisdom (and hilarity) of our first insemination attempt but I actually feel like exploring some of the feelings I have about not only not expecting a child (yet) but being the prospective nonbiomum around pregnant women.
Short version – it sucks. Not only do you have the we’re not yet expecting a child jealousy but as a woman who isn’t going to carry her child it is so, so hard to be around pregnant women.
This is in no way meant to be a negative reflection on my female friends and relatives who are or have been pregnant. Even ones whose conversations have revolved around pregnancy for 9 months. It’s a huge thing in their lives and totally fair that they should want to share it with others. However, as someone wanting a child but not being the one to carry that child it’s hard, really hard. There is the usual jealousy, mixed with being overjoyed for pregnant friend of course, but jealous that it is not you that is about to become a parent. This is even worse around first-time mums as every experience is new and whilst sharing in that is great, a small part of me (sometimes a large part) weeps inside at every shared pregnancy joy.
Add to that the fact that when it is our turn to be expecting a wee one (hopefully soon) I still won’t be experiencing the same things. I won’t be pregnant. I won’t be the father. I will have no genetic or biological link to the child my wife will be carrying. What does that make me in the pregnancy? A birth partner? A helper? I will be a mother without any of the experiences that go into that as the foetus grows. Some people have said it is like being the father – the father doesn’t experience pregnancy first-hand. But unlike a father, I have no input into making the baby – other than inseminating biomum with the aid of syringes and speculums. I know it sounds like I’m hung up on genetics but it feels like it matters, and at the point of preparing to be nonbiomum around pregnant friends, it feels like it really matters.
You could say it is no different to adopting a child but for the most part that is at least a shared experience with your partner. Neither of you go through pregnancy and neither of you are biologically the parent.
It feels isolating to be in the situation of being nonbiomum. biomum has pregnant friends and friends who are biological mothers to share experiences with – this is not her sharing her experiences but having ‘the shared experience’ of being a biological mother. Fathers have other dads and dads-to-be to have that shared experience with. That ‘you can only truly know it if you have lived it’ thing. I don’t know anyone in my situation to share it with. I don’t have anyone who has been through this to give me advice and to bounce thoughts and ideas off. This is why I started this blog – so that anyone coming after me might find some ‘shared experience’ to cling to.
So. Some statements. I am nonbiomum and I am jealous of pregnant women. I find them hard to be around even if I love them dearly. I am scared of being forgotten about during the pregnancy. I don’t yet know what role I have in the coming journey. I am frustrated that this all has to be so hard.
Having decided that we were going to have a baby, biomum and I began to look into the options. Obviously just having lots of sex wasn’t going to work (though we did amuse at our GP with that) – not without an added ingredient. I’d been the slower of the two of us to admit that children was something I wanted and given we wanted to give biomum the chance to carry the child we did consider using my eggs and her uterus. Briefly.
For those of you who don’t know, IVF is expensive. Our PCT has only just relented and decided to allow one cycle of IVF on the NHS provided you are under a certain age and have been trying for a certain period of time (with sperm, dammit) – we doubted very much that they would fund harvesting my eggs as well as everything else. Going private was looking like it would be prohibitively expensive especially adding in the cost of buying sperm from a bank. The idea of us having a child that could be considered to come from both of us – my genetic material combined with biomum carrying the child and being the birth mother was just not going to be viable. We would be forced to go down the very clinical route of IVF and, expense aside, it all seemed too impersonal unless we had to. The process of home insemination is by not means romantic but at least it would be the two of us, together, making a baby – even if the baby would have no genetic link to me.
As far as the NHS goes – until you’ve been trying to conceive for a while the only assistance or checks available are some basic blood tests for biomum to check things like iron levels. If we encounter problems later than there are things the NHS may be able to offer us but without going private for either IVF or the acquisition of sperm we were on our own.
I found myself really envying my straight friends at this point. Unless there are specific fertility issues with one party or the other all they have to do is have unprotected sex, a lot. I appreciate this is over-simplifying massively. Getting pregnant can take time and be hard work but compared to what we were facing – finding a sperm donor, home insemination etc, it just seemed too easy for everyone else. Especially when you read the cases of child neglect. I had so much pent-up frustration about how unfair it was. This is before you add in the rubbish about being gay being a ‘lifestyle choice’ and that I shouldn’t therefore be able to have children because I chose to be with a woman. Don’t get me wrong, I have no issues with my sexuality – but it’s not a choice. This is how I’m wired. I also want children and it shouldn’t be this hard.
OK, so, let’s start this off with a bit of background about myself and biomum. We’d always been slightly ambivalent about having children – at least we thought we were. It was always going to take planning – being as we lack a vital ingredient between the two of us. Leaving it to chance wasn’t going to be an option. Each time a friend got pregnant and subsequently gave birth we’d pretend that we weren’t broody, nope, not at all. Not even slightly. Honest guv’, no broodiness here. Yeah, right.
Towards the end of last year we discussed things, finally, in the face of mounting evidence of our broodiness. We discussed the problems – lack of sperm, the various other issues that we were using to say we couldn’t have children… at least not yet, and eventually, after talking to friends with kids already, decided that we were never going to ‘be ready’. Even when we have a child we won’t ‘be ready’ – I’m not sure anyone ever is. We’ll just muddle along like everyone else making the best of it and trying not to screw it up too badly. Bam. Decision made. We were going to have children.
Initially we considered that I would carry the child. However biomum is older than me and I have some issues – during our initial discussions I was going through investigation for endometriosis resulting in surgery. As it stands right now I’m in simulated, chemically induced menopause. I might never be able to have children depending on what happens after the current course of treatment ends. We don’t know. So for now biomum is ‘it’ as it were. I may end up as biomum to a child in the future – we just don’t know. For now I am nonbiomum (albeit nonbiomum-to-be) and figuring out what that means.
In my hunt for similar stories to my own I did find this book which was quite useful – ‘She Looks Just Like You: A Memoir of (Non-Biological) Lesbian Motherhood’ by Amie Klempnauer Miller. She’s American so once again there are some differences but this was the first resource that I found that mentioned feelings of isolation and invisibility during the pregnancy. No two stories will ever be the same but I certainly found this a helpful read towards the start of this year when we were juggling the logistics of donor finding and trying to work out what our plan was going to be. I will admit to having cried at various points as well – be warned!
So… I’m not normally very good at this blogging malarky. When my wife and I decided to start the long process of trying for a baby back in November I went looking for some information that fit my role – that of the non-biological lesbian mother and found very little. What information I did find was very US-based and whilst this isn’t a bad thing per se, the legalities and procedures are somewhat different.
I was looking for experiences however. How other women felt going through a process that would produce a child with no genetic link to themselves. How other women coped with being the non-carrying mother. How other women developed and maintained a connection to a child that they have neither carried nor is biologically related to them. This was what I struggled to find.
This was even before the practicalities of the process took over. Before the finding of the donor, contract drawing up, the trials of home insemination… before any of that had even begun.
I’m hoping that by charting my own feelings, emotions and experiences in our quest to have a baby, I will provide something that other non-bio lesbian mothers-to-be can relate to, and that this will be nice to look back on when I’m finally holding our child in my arms.