Ever since I can remember, I always wanted to be a mum. As a three year old, I would precariously hang off the wheels of my newborn brother’s pram, desperate for one last adoring peep before my mum would jump to the poor boy’s rescue and tell me in no uncertain terms to back the fuck off (without of course swearing – hyperbole wasn’t as much of a thing in the 80s!) My wanting to be a mum wasn’t some sort of ideal that society enforced upon me. Nor was it in any way born out of family pressures to heed the growing tickings of the ol’ biological clock. It was purely an innate and all–consuming yearning that I would one day be a parent and have a family of my own.
So when, in July 2009 aged 25, I met and fell in love with a woman, this put a number of somewhat stubborn biological hurdles in front of me. Whilst these hurdles were not in any way insurmountable, they set the troublesome path down which myself and my partner would be led to be where we are today; 32 and 34 respectively, settled in our own home and most importantly up to our eyeballs in dirty nappies, baby milk vomit-soaked muslin cloths and crippling worry that we’re doing things right by our three week old daughter.
If anyone is interested to learn how we got there, then please read on.
My partner, Nikki and I got married in August 2014. We have the unequivocal support of two wonderfully loving sets of parents and families. In many ways our lives together have been quite conventional. The only unconventional thing about our relationship was both parties’ distinct lack of a penis and all that goes with it. We met whilst both living and working in London and moved to Norfolk together to get on the property ladder. We got engaged on my 30th birthday in 2013 and tied the knot in a civil ceremony a year or so later. So far, so ‘two point four children’.
We had talked at length about having children and whilst Nikki has always been categorically opposed to carrying a baby, she very much shared my longing to be a mum and have a family. As I was chomping at the bit to carry, this made the whole fertility pre-works set up perfect!
We decided to really get the ball rolling in March 2015 and so made an appointment with a fertility clinic. The whole experience up to that point was excellent. The clinic wrote to us inviting us to attend a consultation and in that letter warned us to expect that an internal examination may be necessary. Okay, I thought, I have never been prudish about things like that in the past; it will be fine. When we arrived on the day, full of anticipation and excitement, my feelings soon changed to those of worry and anguish – for want of a better word, the clinic was, well, too clinical. It was all brightly coloured and stylish. More Hollyoaks set than a place you’d go for assistance to get up the duff. Everything about it screamed, “this is going to cost you a shit load of cash that you don’t have, buckle up!”
When called into the room, baring in mind we had very much interpreted this meeting as the start of our pregnancy journey, we’d expected the consultant to greet us with a smile, a handshake maybe. But nothing. We just followed him into the room and allowed him to tap away at his computer (with his MASSIVE hands which made me recoil and dry up at the thought of an internal) as we answered very impersonal questions – very much like he was building up a picture of us for some sort of market research.
Then it came. Without asking us what treatment we actually wanted, the sales pitch. The “IVF is better than anything else ever so why would you try any other treatment” spiel. Following that, out came the price list. Like ordering a kitchen at B and Q, we looked on whilst the consultant presented us with a list as long as your arm of prices, which he then presented on his fancy schmancy screen and said, so this is what it will cost, per attempt. My heart sank and I could barely ask another question or muster the enthusiasm to get through the remainder of the meeting without bursting into tears.
For almost the entire car journey home, Nikki and I barely spoke to one another and for probably months, we barely spoke about it at all. In my head, I had written off the idea and thought long and hard, for solace, about how amazing our life already was. Which it genuinely was. We had an amazing family, great friends and all the rest of the trimmings. But for us, it just wasn’t enough and we knew it.
So after the dust had settled, we began to chat about it again. Between us, we had careers in logistics and contracts so pragmatism and problem solving were, or should have been, our forte. We worked out that with the exception of ‘the obvious’, we had everything we needed to start a family. So, off we went and set out to find ‘the obvious’. We joined a site called Pride Angel. Think Match meets Plenty of Fish but throw in the fact that for half the participants on this site, there was absolutely nothing for them to gain which complicated things somewhat. We set about separating the wheat from the chafe. The altruistic guys who genuinely wanted to help from those who insisted on ‘natural insemination’ and, in my view, saw it as a way to get their grubby leg over. There were actually people out there who fit the bill for this – urghhhh..
Anyway, we found our donor in October 2015. We built up a strong relationship with him over email over a period of a month. One crucial piece of advice I would offer others in this position is go with your gut instinct and if either one of you has any qualms whatsoever, scrap it and go back to the drawing board. We went ahead and met our donor in a coffee shop in Norwich shortly after; completely consumed by nerves that I cannot liken to anything I had ever felt before. Think trying to conceal blind date anguish, in a job interview with SPERM VULTURE tattooed across your forehead in invisible ink!!
Nikki, I and the donor got on immediately. What truly sealed the deal for me was that for the first hour or so of meeting, we didn’t actually talk about the donor scenario. We just chatted and all got along as well as can be expected in this totally weird, potentially toe-curlingly awkward gathering. All discussion about procreation and all that went with it was confined to email. We contacted the donor following our meet up to say we wanted to go ahead, he agreed and kindly said that he would be delighted to help us and thought we would make great parents. In some respects, it felt like this person had fallen out of the sky to help us. He attended male fertility seminars, changed his diet and monitored his alcohol intake; all to bolster the chances it would work.
The next part of the story is a bit more serious but all completely necessary if you are to find the right person and do things properly and sensibly. We insisted that the donor go for STI tests and that we draw up a contract between us. As Nikki and I were married and were so at the time of conception, Nikki automatically acquired Parental Responsibility when our child was born. That said, there are some murky grey areas in the case law and so for that reason and general contracts-bod completeness, we signed a contract with the donor to make all our wishes known and understood.
So with all that in place, away we went. The artificial insemination bit couldn’t have been simpler (that is after much research on my part). There is a publication available from Stonewall called A Pregnant Pause that I cannot recommend enough. In there you will find all that you need to inform all the decisions you make. We opted for home-based artificial insemination. The two absolute key pieces of advice I would offer here are 1) Track your ovulation – it honestly is all about the timing. Inseminate in the lead up to, during and just after ovulation. Don’t invest in a fancy (and expensive) ovulation tracker. Just get the cheapy ones from eBay that are made in China. They do the same job. 2) Invest in some Instead soft cups. Keep the sperm sample in a plastic sealed pot under your arm pit for 5 minutes, use an oral syringe to insert it and then bung in a soft cup to keep it all in place for up to 12 hours. Bob’s your uncle.
We were so so fortunate that this method worked for us in the second month of trying. I understand that it isn’t quite so easy for others. But I hope that sharing our story has shown that to same sex couples, the clinic route is not the only viable option. There are alternatives that may involve a bit of risk taking where you put yourself out there and into some awkward situations. For a screaming poo machine that keeps you awake all night, poos, wees and voms on you daily, for whom you would die in a heartbeat, it is well and truly worth it.
First time mummy aged 32 currently finding her feet as they stomp through the chaos and wonderment of motherhood. Professional navigator through a myriad of pet dogs, cats and baby based mess.