Monday, June 8, 2009

Out In Perth - “Rainbow Families: Getting Started”

First published on 11 May 2009 in Out in Perth.

One of the most noticeable changes in the community in recent years is the increasingly high profile of GLBT families. There’s a diverse range of ways in which people are building families, and a vast range of issues and challenges involved. Over coming months, OUTinPerth will be catching up with people in our community to share some of the stories of the families they’re building and the issues they’re facing. This month, Marnie Woodley shares the story of how she, her partner Leonie and their friend Josh have approached starting a family.

‘My partner Leonie and I have been together for 7 years. We decided to have a baby and after much consideration, we asked my best gay male friend to be our known donor with a view to him playing an active parenting role in the child’s life. We gave him a year to think about it - and thankfully he said yes. We agreed to use a clinic to protect my parental rights (as the non-bio/non-birth mother) and to protect him from any financial obligation from Centrelink.

‘We talked LOTS and wrote up a five page parenting contract outlining everything we could think of regarding our co-parenting arrangement and had it notarised. Legally Josh will be a donor and as such, will have no legal rights or responsibilities regardless of the contract. However we wanted to make sure we all had similar expectations and we figured it would be a good back up if our relationship ever broke down so badly we ended up in court.

‘We completed the compulsory counselling through the clinic and Leonie and Josh completed all the tests and screening required by the clinic. There is a six month mandatory ‘cooling off’ period in WA if you use a known donor so we started our first IUI cycle in December 2005. Leonie fell pregnant our third round of IUI and had an early miscarriage at 6.5 weeks. We did another 9 rounds of IUI and had 5 more early miscarriages. We then decided to have a break from TTC.

‘Six months later (and a new fertility specialist) we looked into IVF. Over the next 8 months Leonie did 4 full IVF cycles and we got nowhere. Josh moved overseas for a job opportunity, we sold our investment property to fund our treatment and Leonie and I started to look at other options before our relationship disintegrated.

‘Originally we’d agreed that Lone would carry our first child and I would have our second, both with Josh as our donor/dad. We finally agreed on this after months of ‘debating’ about it because I really only wanted one child and therefore I obviously wanted to have the opportunity to be pregnant. But after watching Leonie go through so much and seeing how much she wanted to be pregnant, I realised I didn’t want it like she did. In fact, I had really taken on my role as non-bio/non-birth parent and I couldn’t imagine it any other way. After Leonie’s fourth IVF cycle we were starting to get desperate and we realised the end result was what was important, not how we got there.

‘So we suggested to our specialist that we use my eggs to get Leonie pregnant. I am 8 years younger than Leonie (29/37) and we figured that maybe it was an egg issue. No one could actually tell us why she couldn’t stay pregnant, which was so frustrating because we kept weighing up our options not knowing what was the problem in the first place. Our specialist didn’t know if using my eggs would make a difference but he supported us and we planned my egg pick up. After a cancelled cycle due to low response to the drugs, I finally had surgery on my 29th birthday. We ended up with 6 embryos (we’d only had 2 at most with Leonie) and the very first fresh transfer 5 days after my birthday worked. As I write, Leonie is now 31 weeks pregnant.

‘It’s been a very high risk pregnancy and we have spent most of it terrified that something would go wrong but we are feeling better as more time goes by. Josh has given up his job overseas and returned home ready for our baby to arrive in June. The three of us are very close after everything we’ve been through. Leonie and I came very close to separating from the stress of infertility - it does horrendous things to even the strongest relationship. We adore Josh - he has been such a support and held everything together when we were falling apart. We feel utterly grateful to have each other and be sharing this together.

‘We have also been blessed with some amazing friends and family members – we feel very lucky. We also made new friends through this process. We met Kelly and Sam Pilgrim-Byrne through a GLCS parenting forum, who also went through a very difficult journey to conceive their daughter Charlotte. They were just so supportive and helped us to pick up the pieces every time something went wrong, and we now consider them two of our dearest friends.

‘Our situation is very different to most of the people we people we know. The majority of our lesbian friends with children used anonymous donors through the clinic or had children in previous straight relationships. Some of our gay male friends would love to have children but don’t have the opportunity to do so due to the legal situation and a lack of willing co-parents/surrogates/egg donors. We had other friends offer before we asked Josh and I feel a lot of regret that our decision to ask Josh could ultimately end their opportunity to have children, as parenting options for gay men are still greatly limited.

‘Our precious baby is now due in less than nine weeks and we are starting to feel confident that we will finally have a baby to take home with us. We are well and truly organised and prepared. Nursery decorated, baby clothes and linen washed, birthing classes finished and hospital bag mostly packed. We are just so excited about meeting our baby, and finally putting all our plans and dreams of the last few years into practise at last.’

[Link: Original Article]

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