QUEER PARENTING PT 1

This is the first piece in a two part series where writer Camlyn explores motherhood and queerness through a conversation with a sexual health professional.

We all know that moment: it’s Thanksgiving and everything’s going great, you’re eating good food, the merengue is bumpin’, you’re acting wild with your cousins, and then comes that one auntie who casually slips in the “soo, you don’t plan on having babies?” Commence the eye rolling, am I right?

I used to know, definitively and without question, that the answer to “do you want kids?” was “it’s not happening.”  Now, as I get older, it’s changed from “yeah, don’t even think about it” to “maybe, just not now...” - but when I really sit and think about what having children looks like for me and in my relationship, I don’t know where to start or even who I would look to.

The reality is that having children in a same sex relationship does come with a huge feeling of uncertainty, of questions, doubts, and confusion for many different reasons other than just motherhood. How do we even get started? How much does it cost? What kind of procedures need to be done? How long can it take? Where can I go? The list goes on.

So, I sat down with my friend Erica Shrubrick who is a Customer Care Coordinator at Extend Fertility, the first facility in the U.S. dedicated exclusively to women choosing to proactively freeze their eggs, and with the help of Dr. Klein (the Chief Medical Officer, Reproductive Endocrinologist and Medical Director of the Embryology Lab) and the rest of their team, to have an honest conversation around what conceiving children in a lesbian relationship can look like.

C: Let’s start with the basics! Where can same sex couples go to find a doctor? What are the first steps to this process? What should I be asking my doctor?

Same sex couples can go anywhere to find a doctor! It’s a bit more convenient for women/ lesbian couples because you can visit your own OB/GYN to get started. The first step to going through this process would be to see a reproductive endocrinologist and discuss your different options. Some OB/GYNs are also reproductive endocrinologists. So, you can start there if that is an option. Your regular OB/GYN can help you learn about some of your options, or they may surprise you and offer those services themselves. It’s a long process, but you would also want to discuss cost as well as ask questions about the different medications.

C: Let’s get into the nitty gritty. I’ve heard of a couple of options on how lesbian couples can have a family. What exactly are all the methods of conceiving?

There are two methods that are mainly used: artificial insemination (IUI) or In vitro fertilization (IVF). An IUI is simply being inseminated with the donor sperm. Where as, with IVF, your eggs are extracted then fertilized with donor sperm, and the embryo is then implanted into the uterus.

C: This sounds like it can get expensive, what can this cost my partner and I? Does insurance cover these procedures? How do I even begin with the process?

This can cost between $10,000 - $30,000 and sometimes more depending on which method you choose. Most insurances will cover reproductive health services. However egg freezing is considered “selective”, and most insurances don’t cover the procedure but may cover the medication. The best way to prepare is exactly what you’re doing right now: ask questions, do your research and save up because this process can be very costly.

C: With us, lets say, women in our late 20’s, maybe early 30’s, what if we’re not ready to have children; should women in relationships (or single!) be freezing their eggs?

The question of whether or not you should freeze your eggs, if you ask me, the answer is yes. I think preserving your fertility is most important. You may not want to get pregnant right now, but preserving your eggs for the future will make the process a lot easier for you. This is simply due to the fact that we are saving the eggs just as they are now. The younger the egg, the better quality the egg - if we begin thinking about egg freezing mid thirties, well, our eggs are also in their mid thirties and it may be more difficult to get pregnant.

C: What about sperm donation?

In regards to sperm donation, this is another very important question you should speak to your doctor about, especially in terms of options. There are many different avenues you can take when it comes to sperm donation.

You can either have what is called a “known donor” which is someone you know. Or you can go through the different cryobanks. Of course going through a cruise bank is more costly than having a known donor, which is why it’s so important to do your research.

C: Speaking of more research, do same sex couples need to be married before deciding to have a child?

I have not seen a requirement where a same sex couple had to be married, however keep in mind that all though this is a medical process, it is a legal one as well. And the decisions you make in this process with your partner can bond you two together married or not.

C: In all cases, I imagine both partners would like to be involved with the process. For women especially, while not all women, we feel the need to have a special bond with our children. Is it possible to create some kind of biological bond from both parents to children?

There are different ways you can both be involved. One popular way is for one of you to carry the other ones embryos. That way both partners are considered parents. One is a biological mother, the other a birth mother.

There are a couple of extra steps to take with this process. In this case, medically it would be considered egg donation. The donor of the egg will have to go  through a FDA screening within 30 days of egg freezing before the process begins. However, this process may be waived if the couple is married.

These are only the first steps but after sitting down with this team the possibilities became a little clearer. Not only is it a conversation about having children and relationships but a conversation about a healthy reproductive system and understanding your fertility. It’s important for women to begin thinking about their options in their twenties, even if the information just sits in your mind for a while.

We live in an age where while more and more women are waiting to conceive, our bodies are not. Knowing your options and details about the INSIDE of your body can help overcome hurdles you may encounter later in life. I may not be ready to have children tomorrow, but I’m beginning to understand the possibilities and I find comfort in that.

[image post with family is from olivia has 2 moms]

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Camlyn Valdez

is a TGM Contributor from NYC you can find wrapped in a blanket burrito, show binging all winter, pretending to be a Latina Carrie Bradshaw, and probably the only person alive racing to the news stands for new magazines.