Eventually in every gay parent’s life, there will come a time when you get asked the ultimate question: So, how did you get your kids?
This is one of those things that’s probably unique to being a gay parent. I’d imagine most heterosexual couples don’t get this question all that often. An assumption is made that man+woman=baby, even if that may have not been the case (such as with adoption, egg donation, etc). Generally, I am transparent about where each of our darlings came from, though I’ll stop short of answering just any old prying question. Let’s get this out there now: there are just some things that are not Ok to ask lesbian moms, ok? For example, it is not Ok to ask which one is the “real” mom. We both are moms, lets just leave it at that. It is also not Ok to ask us if we had sex with the donors. I would think this one is pretty obvious, but you’d be surprised how often this assumption is made. I don’t make it my business to ask questions of other people about who they are sleeping with, so it’s a little jarring when it happens to me.
Each of our kid’s stories is unique.
Our oldest, Parker, is from a heterosexual relationship that Carrie had throughout her 20’s. That relationship ended when Parker was quite young. Carrie and Parker’s father share custody of Parker, and he splits his time between our house and his father’s house (his dad lives quite close to us). The relationship between Parker’s dad and Carrie is amicable, and they are able to work together when it comes to being flexible in living arrangements, vacations and holidays, and school.
Our middle child is Abby. I gave birth to Abby while in a long-term (also lesbian) relationship with my ex-partner. I conceived her through artificial insemination with anonymous donor sperm. It took me over 4 years to conceive Abby. I like to joke that lesbianism was the least of my fertility problems. My Ex-partner and I share custody of her, and I would cautiously say that the relationship between us is “stabilizing”. Break ups are tough and full of hurt feelings; ours was no different. While our parenting styles remain quite different, we both make the effort to put Abby’s needs above our own. Until Carrie and I became a couple, Abby was an only child, and liked it! Adjusting to being part of a large family has had its challenges for her, but it has also been extremely rewarding.
Our youngest is Reese. Reese was born while Carrie was single, and was also conceived with donor sperm and the help of a fertility clinic. Carrie also underwent the same IUI procedure I did. However, Carrie proved to be much more fertile than I was and conceived Reese after only two tries!
Both Carrie and I do not use the terms “father” or “dad” when referring to Abby and Reese’s donors. In fact, we simply use the term “donor”. Neither Carrie nor I knew the men who donated their sperm; they were both anonymous donors. Records revealing the donor’s identities are not available to either us nor the girls, not now, and not ever. I’m sure that to some, that sounds a little strange. I know that I, for one, struggled a bit with whether in time, that would become an issue. So far, it hasn’t. Abby is a little older, and so she has at times had questions for me about both her donor and how she came to be conceived. I’ve answered them as they have come, in child appropriate language. For her, this is just how it always has been, and so it doesn’t seem “strange” to her at all. She does not hesitate to correct someone, saying “I don’t have a dad, I have a donor”.
There are other ways that lesbians are creating families. Some choose adoption, or fostering children. Some opt to use a “known” donor; usually a male friend who agrees to donate his sperm so that the couple can conceive a child. I actually tried such an arrangement for many months with a friend of mine, though ultimately, it did not work out. There are pros and cons to each type of donor, and the only ones who can make the decision of what’s best is the couple themselves, in my opinion.
Being a blended family is not always easy; there are plenty of landmines that you try not to step on constantly, like the toes of the child’s other parents or overstepping your bounds as a “step-parent”. And while Carrie and I have very similar parenting styles, we’re not identical. Especially early on there were issues that arose because we were newly dating and still learning about each other while simultaneously still parenting our brood. When feelings got hurt or toes got stepped on, we just made it a point to talk about it. At the end of the day, each of us would rather be parenting our kids together, than by ourselves.