Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Essential Baby - “Same-sex parenting, our story” by Nicole Salinas

Feature Member July 09

My name is Leanne and I’m in a same sex relationship. I have been with my partner for over 11 years and we decided early in our relationship that we wanted children.

My partner and I are the proud parents of a 3-year-old son who was conceived via IVF with a known donor. I am ‘mummy’ and my partner is ‘Omi’, short for other mummy.  Our Donor, ‘donor sperm dad’, is a close friend who is happily married. It was his wife who actually volunteered him for the job!

His wife has 5 grown children from a previous marriage, but our donor has no biological children of his own. We wanted a known donor for a few reasons. The main one, so our future children would know their father and where they came from.

This was a cause for a few people to voice their opinions and ‘what ifs’. Little did we know, many people had many opinions on “people like us” having children.

We discussed all the details with the donor and his wife
It was something we talked about extensively with our donor and his wife, for hours. Their involvement in our future kids lives and how we would explain to them once they got older.

Everything was on the table, there were no hidden agendas. We wanted children and had planned for it for years. We were financial and didn’t want anything from him, other than his swimmers of course. His name would not be on the birth certificate and he would have no claim on the children at all. He would have as much or as little involvement in our family as we wanted. He had his family and he was giving us the greatest gift of all. He and his wife understood what we wanted.

Our family was unsure
Our families were more hesitant. They were concerned that the donor would lay claim to future children and tried to talk us into using an unknown donor. While they supported us in the fact that we wanted children (my father got teary) they couldn’t really grasp the fact that someone we knew would be the father and he didn’t want any part in the children’s life.

Our IVF journey began
Our IVF journey has been a bit of a rollercoaster ride. When we first started 6 years ago, we rang a fertility clinic recommended to us by friends who had gone to them and were successful. When I spoke to them, I told them right from the beginning that we were a same sex couple with a known donor.

They asked a few questions and whilst on the phone I overheard the nurse asking various doctors who would be willing to see us. After a few minutes and what seemed like lots of doctors, one doctor finally said yes. I couldn’t believe we had difficulty in finding a fertility doctor that would see us. I didn’t think that being a same sex couple cause a problem.
A few days later we got a phone call from the clinic. “So sorry, we will not be able to see you as your donor is too old” they told us. “You could continue with an unknown donor if you would like”. Our donor was 43 and known donors have to be under 40. We knew that because we were a same sex couple it was going to be an uphill battle, but to be knocked back on the age factor was a blow.

After all we had been through so far, an unknown donor wasn’t an option for us. We were all in this together and eventually we found another clinic and doctor willing to help. Our clinic now has most of their paperwork now saying patient and partner. I think we were one of their first same sex couples and our nurse was fantastic.

Our second cycle was a success
As it turns out, I have endometrioses (where the uterine lining grows outside the uterus) and had to have a laparoscopy to remove as much as possible. This was done after our first IVF cycle failed. I did not respond well so we had no frozen embryos to use and had to start again with IVF. Our second IVF cycle gave us our son.

My pregnancy went well, though a scan at 30 weeks showed our baby was measuring a little on the large side. We decided that a Caesarean Section was best. We just wanted a healthy baby. Again we had to defend our decision, this time to the midwife doing our antenatal class. She pulled us aside during lunch and asked if we were making the right choice. We were the only same sex couple in the class and the only ones having a planned Caesarean Section

Support and judgment
My partner was wonderful throughout the pregnancy. She came to most appointments and every scan. She treated me like a queen. She actually had more morning sickness than me! If I was glowing throughout my pregnancy, so was she. We got the usual “those types shouldn’t be having children, they will be disadvantaged as the child will not have a father”. Sorry, but our child has a father!
That was part of the reason we wanted a known donor. Our friends were a great support. Anyone who passed judgment on us we decided weren’t worth a response. Who cares what strangers think? At our antenatal classes, apart from being stared at to begin with, most people were accepting and those that weren’t kept their distance.

I wanted another!
As soon as I heard our son's first cry I told my partner I wanted to be pregnant again. We had planned for a couple of children and I was to have the first (due to my age) then her. She said yes straight away. The plan then was I had one, she has the next and we’d take it in turns.

So, when our son was one-year-old we decided that we would look at getting my partner pregnant. Unfortunately her first cycle of IVF was cancelled due to hyper-stimulation. She wasn’t well and spent several days on bed rest. We were disappointed but we knew there would be a next time.

With next cycle we found out she has polycystic ovaries. It was six months before this was discovered and a decision had to be made. Our son was nearly 2. We wanted our children to be relatively close in age and I was getting older. It was decided I would try again. My partner would take a break, lose some weight, get her body right and then try again herself. We knew I could get pregnant and with my partner it was a bit of an unknown, but not impossible.

That was December 2007. Since then I have had six IVF cycles and a pregnancy that resulted in a blighted ovum and a curette at eight weeks. After that it was back to the drawing board. It’s no use beating yourself up about it, all you do is make yourself feel bad and that’s just a waste of time. We think ourselves lucky it was at eight weeks and not 20. We took it as another failed attempt which must have been for a reason. We are thinking forward to our next cycle and look at the big picture. At least I can get pregnant.

We understand that people can be cruel, sometimes even if it is unintentionally. One well meaning friend actually asked after numerous IVF failures, why I just didn't go out, pick up and then lie there thinking happy thoughts. I asked if they would like their partner to be with someone else and haven't said much to them since.

Our son is very loved
Our son has two loving parents plus the love of his father and extended family. We have a wonderful network of family and friends. Friends with children and without, same sex couples and single friends, all who dote on our son. We understand that when he goes to school most children will have a mum and a dad. But also lots of children will live in one parent households, or some with their grandparents or even foster parents. Some of those children might even have aunties or uncles that are in same sex relationships.

Everyone’s definition of a “normal” family is different. We believe that children in general are very accepting and it’s the parent’s views that influence how other children will treat our son. Slowly, we believe, those views are changing.

We have had comments on how well behaved and adjusted our son is. He is a normal little boy who loves cars and dinosaurs. He is very laid back and takes most things in his stride. All the carers at his day care know that he has a mummy and Omi and we have found them to be very open and understanding.

I guess I’m one of the lucky one. My life is good and I have a wonderful family. Our donor is a part of our life and to our son, he is daddy.

[Link: Original Article]

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