If some one is heterosexual and they become pregnant, most people say “Congratulations”.
I was pregnant with twins and I am a lesbian. People initially said “Congratulations” but I was huge, because there were two, so eventually it came out that it was twins, then I would get asked “Was it natural?” “Did you do IVF?” “Do twins run in your family?”
Then God forbid they find out I was a lesbian, “Oh really, how did you do it? Did you get sperm somehow? From some one you know? Did you do it at home? Did you have sex with someone? Did you do IVF? Will your wife still love them if they are not hers? But how will your wife bond with them? Will your wife breastfeed too, because that’s a thing you know? But so they won’t have a Dad? Who will their Dad be? Wait so how do lesbians have sex?….”
Yes. People asked me all of those questions. Everywhere I went. From total strangers to very good friends. I found all of those questions insulting, intimate, and irritating. Let me phrase those questions a different way, “How did the sperm get into your vagina?” “What penis did that sperm come out of? Was he masturbating or having sex with you in your vagina?” “Did the sperm get stuck up your vagina by a doctor or did your wife stick it in your vagina at home?” (the how do lesbians have sex will be a separate blog post…)
If you really think about the above questions, my translation is actually what people want to know. And honestly, what goes into and out of my vagina is my business, and no one else’s.
So to spare other pregnant lesbians from these horrible questions I decided to write this blog post. If you are a pregnant lesbian, print this out and carry it with you. If you are straight, read it and learn how to be polite. You don’t need to know the details about a person’s fertility journey because you are essentially asking about that person’s vagina. Unless you want her to ask you about yours in return I recommend sticking to the script.
In order to get pregnant a person basically needs three things- a uterus, sperm, and an egg. Lucky for lesbians we have two uteri and multiple eggs between us. So our pregnancy journey generally starts with deciding who will be pregnant and finding sperm. I knew I wanted to be pregnant, and my wife knew she didn’t, so it worked out for us.
We decided to use a sperm bank because we did not want to go through potential legal issues by asking someone we knew. Many lesbian couples use sperm from men they know which is fine. I’ve known people who have used family members (in-laws so not related by blood, e.g. brother of one wife gives sperm to other wife), friends, and even acquaintances. In these instances people generally ask the man to get a battery of bloodwork and screenings done. Then they work out the logistics. If they are in separate states, careful tracking of ovulation is required, and when Mama starts to ovulate there are emergency calls to sperm-man, long car rides and potential masturbation and then inseminations on the side of a highway. I’ve known couples who have flown their sperm donor to their home monthly during ovulation so the person can stay there a few days, and masturbate a few times to provide more than one fresh sample. Then one partner inseminates the other. There are home insemination kits, and turkey basters work too. Before any of this happens, a legal arrangement is usually worked out. Will the man give up parental rights? Will he have parental rights? Will the kids call him by his first name, Dad, or Uncle? An attorney is required to work all of this out.
Because I have an underlying medical condition we chose to go through a fertility doctor and a sperm bank. We chose one particular sperm bank because it did the most genetic screenings and was reasonably priced. Sperm from sperm banks is expensive. Anywhere from $300.00-$1100.00. I was lucky that my health insurance covered at least a percentage of the fertility care I received. Using a fertility doctor was great, but also extremely time consuming, painful, and expensive.
We tried three intrauterine inseminations (IUI)- the sperm is “cleaned” and inserted directly into my uterus. My cycle was tracked via transvaginal ultrasound (yes it sucked a lot) and bloodwork almost daily (yes that sucked too). When I grew an egg or two I would do what’s known as the “trigger shot” to time the release of my eggs with the insemination of the sperm. Then I started the progesterone shots after the insemination. Daily intramuscular shots in my butt that my wife administered, or my friends. I work in healthcare so there were plenty of people willing and able to give me a shot. The IUI’s were stressful because of the time, energy and money that is put into them. All three of mine produced a negative pregnancy test. I went through a lot of blood tests, ultrasounds, shots, and inseminations. After the third time using Clomid, we knew my eggs were not the problem. I was growing a lot of beautiful eggs. But the sperm wasn’t making it to them. It was time to do IVF. I took a few months off, fell into a deep depression, turned thirty, booked a cruise, and while jumping off a pier in Mexico realized my life was good, and I could handle whatever was coming next.
IVF sucks ass. I was on hormones for six weeks leading up to the actual retrieval (egg retrieval= being put under anesthesia while the doctor goes up your vagina and cervix and uterus out the tubes and collects the eggs that have grown). I had to take birth control for 3 weeks, then start Lupron shots. I developed an allergy to Lupron so every night when I injected myself I had big red welts pop up. I told my doctor and he said, “Huh, that’s not good, but we really need you to be on it, so maybe take some Benadryl every time you take it.” Great. For two weeks before the egg retrieval I was on a total of three subcutaneous shots daily, one of which I was allergic to. I was running out of skin and space. I had bruises and hives everywhere. It was so painful by the end I couldn’t self-inject and was having a friend do it daily.
I grew an amazing number of eggs. We did the retrieval. Then five days later I went back and the doctor put two embryos into my uterus. I got to watch the two embryos, who would eventually be my sons, implant on the ultrasound. That was cool. We chose to do two because I didn’t think it was going to work. I thought for sure, after three failed IUI’s, that I was doomed for failure again. Ten days later we had our pregnancy test, and it came up positive. I remember crying and smiling. Then I had the six week ultrasound. I didn’t think there would be two sacs. I truly thought I only had one. The ultrasound tech said, “There are two fetal sacks, both with heartbeats.”
I asked her to look again. She showed me the monitor, and there they were. Two beautiful little circles with heartbeats.
There are other ways that lesbians can get pregnant, but sperm meeting egg is a must, and the resulting embryo landing in a woman’s uterus is also a must. Some lesbian couples who have excellent fertility coverage or who are wealthy, can do a retrieval from one woman, and implantation into the wife’s uterus. This makes both women feel connected to the baby as one is genetically the mother, and the other can carry and breastfeed. Some lesbian couples do have both mom’s breastfeed. It takes commitment and hormone treatment, but it is possible.
In response to questions about bonding. I can only speak from my personal family, and the other lesbian families I know. My sons know that my wife and I are their Mom’s. They are equally bonded with both of us. I breastfed them for eleven months, but my wife was there literally from conception through birth. She held them first, and she took care of them on her own for the first twenty-four hours because I was bed bound due to complications with the delivery. She is as much their mom as I am. To ask a lesbian couple who is more bonded to their kids, or if their kids love one mom less is insulting and hurtful.
Just as love is love, family is family. My sons do not care what vagina they came out of or where the sperm came from. They care who cuddles them in the middle of the night after a bad dream. They care who greets them with smiles and hugs every morning, and kisses them good-night every evening. They are still toddlers, but they know intuitively that their two mom’s would literally walk through fire for them. To say that my wife is less of a mom because she didn’t carry them is bullshit. She held my hair while I vomited on a daily basis. She gave me many of those injections. She cooked, cleaned, and cared for all of us while I was recovering from birth. She did more than her share of nighttime feeds with pumped breastmilk. Just as she will continue to be there for all of us going forward. My son’s do not have a Dad, they have a sperm donor, two Mom’s, extended family, and many friends. My son’s are happy, sweet, and most importantly they are loved. They were wanted. If there is one thing you can be sure of when you meet lesbians and their kids, it’s that they really wanted those kids. Because as stated above, we are missing sperm and penis’s, so there’s a lot that goes into baby-making for us. Every prick of a needle, every test, and every journey up my vagina by my doctors and nurses was painful emotionally and physically. But I look at my son’s faces, I smell their beautiful scent, I hug their chunky little bodies, and it was beyond worth it.
I went through a hell of a lot to have my kids. All together it was one year of hormones, testing, and procedures. My marriage went through a lot too. But my son’s are beautiful and loved. I have no regrets.
I ask you to not demean or diminish any lesbian’s fertility journey by asking heart-breaking and intrusive questions about her vagina, her ability to love, and her wife or partner’s ability to love. Just hug her, and say, “Congratulations, your baby is so lucky to have you both.”