What’s in a name?

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I decided I should write a quick little post about how the name “So are you the dad?” came to be. The story goes like this. It was Mother’s Day 2016, my very first Mother’s Day. It was an exciting day for both Steph and I! We had friends, family and even strangers wishing us a Happy Mother’s Day. We were outside on our front yard after returning from the Super Mom 5K and a young man walked by and wished us both a great day! I had one individual start by wishing me a Happy Mother’s Day, then paused turned around and said …”or wait are you the Dad?” I didn’t even know what to say or how to respond. I had no words. I wouldn’t say I was offended by this remark; rather it just caught me off guard.  I didn’t get the sense that this comment was made with malicious intent, she knows I’m literally not the Dad.

Many people (including myself from time to time) tend to place a more feminine emphasis on one individual in a couple. In the relationship between Steph and me, I take on the more masculine appearance, and therefore people assume I also take on more of the stereotypical male roles. This isn’t the case! Why do so many people still have this perception of societal norms and gender roles? Is it different when looking at a homosexual, transgender or queer couples? Lesbian couples don’t just keep a clean house, have babies, do laundry and dishes, look after the children and behave; which society has historically told women to do. We also earn an income to provide, fix things when they break, take out the garbage, complete yard work and watch sports while drinking beer! Following that statement, it would seem that the societal norm for the functionality of a couple still exists when looking at queer relationships but gender roles deviate?! Or are the gender roles assumed by the culture of onlookers (those not engaged in the relationship) therefore still relevant? That s$^t’s deep! I’ll leave you with all of that to chew on for a bit.

Here’s a link to a video that was circulating around Facebook a while ago, and it ties into this post perfectly. Steph and I have been asked many of these same questions. Hope you have a chuckle!

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Decisions, decisions.

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Well, little did we know that the decision to have a child was one of the easiest decisions along this journey?  As I have mentioned previously, being in a lesbian relationship has its challenges when it come to conceiving a child. So sperm, we need sperm! Who’s got sperm and how are we going to get it?! We have male friends, we have gay male friends, we have transgender friends but the tricky part is asking any of them for their goods. How would you even bring that up? “Great weather we have been having lately eh? Yeah…so…speaking of weather would you like to donate your swimmers so we can have a baby?”  I’m sure if we had a very close male friend this conversation would have come naturally. For some couples this option is what makes the most sense to them and there really isn’t a question of who or how.

**Tangent- I also tried to put myself on the other end of this question, what if a close friend asked me for a donation of an egg?!? It would be a very difficult, emotional decision to make. I would feel as if there was part of me walking around in this world, part of me that I would never have the chance to meet or know. It takes an extraordinary individual have the heart to donate such an intimate part of themselves for the happiness of another human being. My family is eternally grateful that there are people in this world who are able to share this exceptionally intimate part of themselves with others. Without them, specifically our donor, we would not have been able to bring our beautiful daughter into this world. End tangent**.

Another reason we chose to go with an unknown donor was discovered after we met with a lawyer, and discussed the legalities of both options. At the time we met with her and were in the beginning stages of planning to try and conceive, there was business-962354_1920nothing  in the Assisted Human Reproductive Act in Ontario that would have protected us 100% from a known donor coming back and wanting contact with our child. Even if it was written out in a signed donor contract, witnessed by lawyers, it was not 100% protection for us. We knew that we didn’t want the donor to be part of our child’s everyday life, maybe that was selfish of us but it is what we wanted. Another obstacle we would have faced with using a known donor was that I (not being the bio mom) would have had to adopt my own child for to have legal right as her parent!   You’re – referring to the Assisted Human Reproductive Act – telling me I have to put up with my hormone raging pregnant wife for 9 months and then I have to adopt my child?!  We didn’t like the sounds of that. The legislation is slowly changing to be more user friendly but Ontario still has a long way to go. More information regarding the legalities and processes can be found here.

Now with the decision made to go with an unknown donor, off we go, deep into the world of sperm banks. And it is a deep and rather odd world. Washed or unwashed, open id or anonymous, select, exclusive or ART sperm? When do you go with the cheaper option in this situation? Should we pay more because the donor is a doctor? Why are we paying so much for sperm when in Canada it’s illegal to charge for human tissue, sperm being considered tissue? Holy shit…..what do we do? So many questions… when did sperm get so complicated? This is when I had to walk away. I had to go to bed, my brain was done!

Clinics & Consultations & Clomid…oh my!

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As aforementioned we are going to need some help with trying to conceive a child. We have neither the equipment nor supplies to make it happen on our own! Enter fertility clinics. Since we had zero knowledge of this process we consulted Dr. Fly McDyke our family doctor, as well as decided to attend an information session at Sherbourne Health Centre in Toronto. Dykes Planning Tykes! Yes…you read that right and nope I didn’t even make it up. This is a course that’s offered twice a year and typically runs Fri through Sun. We attended an evening session that very briefly outlined the topics that are covered over the course of the weekend. Some of the topics include:

  • Fertility awareness, insemination procedures and prenatal care
  • Everything you have ever wanted to know about sperm and more
  • Parenting arrangements and adoption options
  • Non –Biological parent connections
  • Legal issues
  • Other LGBTQ information and resources

Although we only went to the evening session we would highly recommend the course to anyone starting to plan a family. There is a similar course offered to men called Daddies & Papa’s 2B (a far less exciting name in my opinion). We came away from this evening feeling empowered by the knowledge we received but also completely disheartened because of the astronomical expense of this process. We tried not to dwell on the latter, until we meet with some clinics and had all of the information in front of us. Another great piece of information we gathered from the info session was which fertility clinics are LGBTQ friendly.

** L-Lesbian G-Gay B- Bisexual T- Transgender Q- Queer **

How awful would it be to experience homophobia while attending a clinic that you have chosen to help you? To help you with one of the most emotional, intimate moments of your life.  During this process you are so vulnerable and exposed, having any type of disapproval or dissension would absolutely break your spirit.  To say the least, we were very fortunate to have gathered this information. With this new found knowledge off to the doctor we go to get some referrals (for most clinics you need a referral from a family doc).

Clinic #1 – Off to Toronto we go! Super excited and hoping for great things! By the time we got there we were about ready to clock one another in the teeth.  There’s nothing more relaxing than driving in the city when you have no F!c&1% clue where you’re going. We took a few breaths when we finally made it, and thought we should at least look like we love each other.  Call me crazy but looking hateful at each other may not be in our best interest while trying to tell someone we wanted a baby together! We walked into the clinic and our first impression was that it was very clean and welcoming however still obviously clinical. We were called into the consultation room and this is when our opinion quickly changed. The doctor was an older man; he had a thick gold chain with a cross ohospital-699417_1920n it that seemed to be tangled in the shag like chest hair that was erupting through the unbuttoned top of his shirt. Need I say more! This clinic was also very insistent on IVF as the best option for insemination.  For us it wasn’t a fertility issue, it was the simple fact we had no sperm so IVF (approx. $15,000 per cycle) right out of the gates seemed unnecessary. He seemed very financially driven and not really genuine.  We listened to all of the recommendations he had but we knew from looking at each other that this wasn’t the clinic for us.

Clinic # 2 –Again, off to Toronto we go. This trip we didn’t need to pretend to love each other by the time we got there, it was much easier to find! We walked into this clinic and again noticed the cleanliness, nice décor and welcoming staff.  There was one other patient in the waiting room and we may have waited at the most ten minutes. Once we met the doctor we were very impressed with her enthusiasm and willingness to listen to what we wanted. She was very open minded and took the time to answer all of our questions. We were feeling great about this clinic…. until we meet with the nurse who talked about the financial aspect of everything. As we were talking with her I’m sure she probably saw the blood drain from my face as she continued to list off the costs: $700-$1500 for sperm, $300 to wash the sperm in their machine (it already comes washed), $600 admin fee per year and for shit sake they even charged to thaw the sperm!! You set it on the counter and let it come to room temp, that’s pretty f!#*^’n  labour intensive! These were only some of the expenses. We also needed to consider the time and cost to travel to Toronto approx 15 days per month for blood work and ultrasounds. We were crushed leaving this appointment. We both felt defeated and broken hearted by the possibility that having a family may not be our reality. This drive home was rather quiet.

Clinic #3 – This time we didn’t have to travel so far, the clinic was in Oshawa. This facility could have passed for a spa if we didn’t know any better. It was far less clinical feeling than the first two. We arrived and were the only ones in the waiting room, possibly the only ones in the entire clinic but yet waited about 45 minutes. We met with a nurse and she went over all of our info and we spoke about what our plan for conception was.  At this point the doctor joined us and explained the process of the procedures and what we could expect. **Side note: he could have just come from a GQ photo shoot strutting his pointy shoes, skinny jeans and perfectly coiffed hair.** Then out came the dreaded fee schedule. This clinic was comparable to the second clinic in the financial department, but also wanted to send us home with about $400 worth of “fmedical-563427_1920ertility supplements”. Again, our obstacle is not infertility; it is the lack of sperm! Steph’s uterus is already nice and fluffy, we don’t need extra fluff, and her eggs are lovely we don’t need to plump them.  We just need sperm to enter her uterus without the use of a penis…that is all! We left and we cried. We cried for the family that was becoming further and further out of our reach.

We took some much needed “us” time after all of the information we collected from our clinic visits. We revisited our plan to conceive and decided a trip to our family doc was going to be our next step. If we could find a local OBGYN who would track Steph’s cycle with blood work and ultrasounds we would go the route of in home insemination.

Away we went to see Dr. Fly McDyke. We were cautiously optimistic about our new plan and knew we needed to stay positive. Our positivity pulled us through, our appointment went better then we could have even imagined! Not only did a local OBGYN agree to take us on to track Staph’s cycle, but our most thoughtful, utterly altruistic doctor and her health team offered to inseminate us! This made our hearts shine; we once again felt the hope of a child in our future.  I have tried 8 times to write a sentence to explain how thankful and joyous we were following this appointment but there truly are no words. I’m sure we were glowing for days as the “holy s%!t this is going to happen” continued to sink in. Now that we had a solid plan for insemination, we needed the magical yet mysterious concoction that is sperm!

The Journey Begins

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“So let’s have a baby!” she says. “Oh ok…yeah let’s do that” I say. And so began our journey into the adventure that is lesbian motherhood. This was one of the only times in my life that I even remotely thought that ‘the penis’ would have come in handy. Not because I don’t love my wife to absolute bits but because being in a lesbian (two va-jay-jay) relationship has its challenges when trying to conceive a child. Having said that, I don’t regret any nanosecond of our research, phone calls, appointments, ultrasounds, blood work, emails, travel, early mornings, sleepless nights, tears and unexplainable happiness. However, my wife may have something not so nice to say about all of the appointments, ultrasounds and blood work.

20140315_231537I suppose this is when I should introduce myself and give you a little bit of insight into who sits behind the keyboard writing frantically before the thoughts escape my mind! My name is Shawna (left in the pic)! I live in Ontario, Canada with my wife Stephanie (right in the pic) and our cheeky but charming, lovable, hilarious and very independent daughter, EM. We also share our home with our three pups and a goldfish. Stephanie and I met online in April 2012, were married in August 2015 and gave birth to our daughter in December 2015. I work full-time in the recreation department at a long term care home and Stephanie works full time as an administrative assistant at a world renowned spa.

When starting this blog, my initial intention was to reach out to other lesbian couples wishing to start a family or those who face the challenges of society while raising children as a same sex couple. However, as I started to talk about the possibly of starting a blog with some friends and family I began to realize that most people are quite intrigued with our stories and experiences – and we have some crazy stories! Others were in disbelief at some of the obstacles we faced. We started our journey into motherhood not knowing what to expect, what questions to ask or who to turn to for answers. We are fortunate to have had friends we could turn to for guidance, as they had been through the process of conceiving several years prior to us trying. They were open and honest about their experience and that insight proved invaluable to us. If it wasn’t for their support and knowledge we would have gotten lost in the world of fertility clinics, sperm banks, lawyers and at home insemination kits! So… if I am able to answer just one question, or help just one couple through sharing our story than I will have accomplished what I set out for. Hopefully for you straight folk out there, you can learn something new, perhaps have a little chuckle and maybe hug those lesbian momma’s out there a smidgen tighter!

Comments, questions, discussion and shares are welcomed and appreciated.  However comments of a disrespectful, judgmental, demeaning or derogatory nature will not be tolerated and removed immediately.  Let’s all just get a long and have a nice time!

Disclaimer: *While I share our story you will have to turn a blind eye to grammar, punctuation and perchance even political correctness. I’m far from perfect and such will be my blog! Although the focus of my story is just that, my story, I acknowledge that fertility struggles touch the lives of many different people; lesbians, gays, straights, singletons, trans and beyond. By no means am I trying to discredit their experiences.

**Please note names have been changed to respect the privacy of others.