Website of Lina Clerke -

Holistic Bowen Therapist,
Midwife &
Childbirth Educator

 


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Two women and two babies

I wish I could say we were like other fertile couples who have sex together and get pregnant - but that's not possible when your partner's a woman (and I recognise that it's sometimes not that simple for hetro women to get pregnant either). Needless to say the journey from making the decision to have a baby to actually getting pregnant was a complicated one.

When Michelle and I met, one of the things we learnt about each other early on was that each of us wanted to have children. So after being together for a few years we decided to explore what was possible. Babies born to lesbians would have to be the most wanted and considered of all children. 'Will I do it? How will I do it? What will my family say? Will my child be teased at school? Can we afford it? What sort of parents will we make?" These are all questions that we deliberated on for a long time and it wasn't until we had spent more than a year working through these issues that we even made a decision to go ahead.

Being the eldest, and Michelle was very focused on making a career change, it made sense for me to have the first baby. So the next issue was - who should be the biological father? Because of the legalities in Victoria the process is a complex maze of legal, ethical and moral considerations. (Artificial insemination by anyone other than a doctor is illegal in Victoria and access to medically assisted insemination using donor sperm was not possible in Victoria either.) It took us two years and a lot of heartache to find an arrangement that suited us.

At the beginning of our quest for a donor we set ourselves a bottom line - he must be prepared to be known to our children and be happy for Michelle and I to be the primary parents. Our first preference was a friend of mine who we both adored and thought would make a great donor. Our vision was that he would be in our lives as our friend and so would have a lot to do with the children - a bit like an uncle. Unfortunately he said no and we didn't have any other male friends that we felt we could approach in a similar way.

Our next step then was to advertise in the gay press for a donor. What a weird experience that was - meeting men for the purposes of creating a child together. But it was fruitful. We met the most generous and caring man and, after working out the finer details of the arrangement, we began the process of trying to get pregnant. However, after some months of trying we discovered that his sperm count was too low to achieve conception and with much sadness we all agreed to end that arrangement.

Next it was off to a fertility clinic in Albury, NSW, where single women and lesbians have access to artificial insemination using donor sperm. This option was extremely fraught for us and not a very satisfactory option. Conceiving a child through a NSW clinic would mean that our child would never be able to know the identity of the donor. This was problematic for us but at the time we felt we had no other options. We had searched high and low in Melbourne and had run out of ideas.

Travelling interstate was a stressful process. Each month I would visit a gynaecologist in Melbourne who would do an ultrasound to estimate when I would ovulate. I then did an ovulation test each day until my hormones 'surged'. When the second line appeared on the tester we would cancel my work commitments for two days and Michelle and I took off to Albury. It was a long drive there and back and damned inconvenient. It was also expensive costing hundreds of dollars for each cycle.

Another concern about the Albury program was that lots of women were travelling up from Melbourne and inseminating using a small number of donors. The gene pool was very small. After five months we gave up Albury and although we felt relieved to let go of this option our search for a donor/father began all over again.

About twelve months earlier, a friend of an acquaintance heard that we were looking for a donor and made contact with us. Throughout the twelve months we met and talked with him regularly. He had already donated sperm to a fertility clinic and was interested in exploring what it would mean to be a donor for a lesbian couple. Unfortunately for us, he wasn't ready to make a decision about being a donor and we felt we needed to proceed with our plans. However, two months after we stopped going to Albury he rang and said he would like to go ahead and be a donor for us.

Several months later, and after many hours of discussion and negotiations we began to try to get pregnant. We were successful on the second cycle. Michelle and I read the positive pregnancy test and screamed the house down with joy. Like lots women, I had started to wonder if I was ever going to get pregnant. Our efforts in total had included inseminations across more than 14 cycles, a laparoscopy and even the use of fertility drugs at one point. Michelle and I were so glad to be pregnant that we walked on clouds for the entire nine months. In August 2000 our beautiful daughter was born.

The arrangement with the donor has worked out really well. We catch up with him several times a year and he is welcome to make contact or see us whenever he wants. We send him photos of special occasions and chat occasionally on the phone. Our daughter will always know that he is her biological father and calls him by his first name.

We have enjoyed the whole experience of being parents so much that we decided to have a second child with the same donor. I gave birth to our son in October 2002. Michelle is now considering being the birth mother of our third child and the donor has agreed to be a part of this plan.

Becoming parents has been for us the most challenging and rewarding of all life experiences. Like all parents we love our children with an intensity that is almost indescribable. They bring immeasurable joy to our daily lives and sometimes we ask ourselves "Why didn't we do it sooner?". Then we remember the hurdles we faced: the exclusion from primary health services, the search for a donor/father, the legal quagmire, prejudice and discrimination, externally created doubts and worries for our child's future. Becoming a family has been a journey, at times a difficult one but definitely one worth pursuing.

Sue West

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