Can you tell us how you decided to start a family and the journey you took to get there, including the method you used?
My wife and myself started planning for a baby back in 2016 with 3 rounds of IUI with clinic recruited donor sperm, we were unsuccessful with all of those rounds, we then focused on building a life and a safe place for our children, fast forward to 2021 we had our house built and we were ready! I called the clinic and was told we were to wait seven months for an initial appointment, so we waited again. seven months later we had our appointment and got the ball rolling, however we were faced with another setback (thanks covid!) There were only two potential clinic recruited donors to choose from, none to which we agreed on using. Mel (wife) and I then discussed using a family member.
We talked about who we could ask, Mel has no brothers, and her father was over the age to donate, I (Shauna) did have an older brother, who has completed his family and has 2 children already. We went out for dinner and asked him to be our donor, he said he would think about it and get back to us. A few days later he called us and said he would. We were over the moon!!! We went back to the clinic and told them that we would be using a family member as a donor, using Mel’s eggs and I would carry the baby. It was all a whirlwind from then. Headfirst into fertility treatment. We used IVF and now have a beautiful one year old boy named Ziggy Reef. There is also an embryo frozen waiting for us!
In your experience, does the LGBTQ+ community face unique challenges when starting a family?
I think because there is a lot of stigma around the LGBTQ+ community, we face more challenges than some, especially in overseas adoptions (which I did look into during my time from 2016 to now) as most countries will not let members of the LGBTQ+ community adopt children.
What were the major hurdles you encountered in your journey to parenthood, and how did you overcome them?
One of the major hurdles was finding a donor, we are lucky to have my brother as a donor and are forever grateful for that, I think if we didn't have him we would be financially ruined.
Could you touch on the emotional and practical aspects of your journey to becoming a parent – including the process and outcome?
I am emotional at the best of times, during our journey I was a wreck! I would constantly google EVERYTHING and would overthink everything! Compared to others the time from the first stimulation injection to the first embryo transfer was quite short, there were no complications or issues there.
Our first embryo transfer was successful! being pregnant.... well, that was a whole next level. I started vomiting soon after the transfer and didn't stop until 13 weeks. Then came Gestational Diabetes and High Blood pressure! By week 36 I wanted my baby OUT. I was very drained emotionally and wanted to meet my Boy and then at 38 weeks he was here!
I think going through the mental side of fertility treatment and then a not so good pregnancy really had me in a state by the end of it all. However, would I do it again? YOU'RE ABSOLUTELY RIGHT I WOULD! I won't ever say it's easy because it's not, but I will say it is worth everything!
What has been the best part of becoming a parent, and how has it changed your life and perspective?
Oh God I could write here forever!
Honestly, being a mum has been my dream for many years. but now that the time is here it's the best! Ziggy has brought so much joy into our home and has changed the way I see Mel, watching her become a mum is so special and so beautiful! The bond that they have is incredible and I love sitting back and watching them together. I live my life for my family each and every day and they always come first. I don't want him to grow up, but at the same time I want to see who he becomes as a child, teen, and adult.
How many children do you have, and did they come to you through the same process or different methods?
We have one Son and have a frozen embryo. We have lots of sperm left so we would only need Mel to do an egg collection for more embryos.
Were there any unexpected costs or financial challenges to starting your family?
Going into IVF we had a fair idea of what we would be up against financially, however if my brother didn't donate to us and we had to seek sperm from an international database, I feel that possibly could have ruined our chances of being parents or ruined us financially.
If you could go back and do anything differently in your family-building journey, what would it be and why?
I would try to take away the stress I felt and the pressure I felt like I was under during this time, I would also maybe share my experiences more openly because I wasn't alone even though I felt like I was, there are so many other people out there who felt just like I did.
What advice would you give to others in the LGBTQ+ community who are about to start their own families - what words of wisdom or encouragement would you share with them?
I would be true to them, I would say that yes starting a family from the LQBTQ+ perspective is hard, but the outcome is certainly worth every tear I have shed going through my journey. I would also add to that to reach out to other members of our community or other people who have been through this parenthood journey, because trying to or struggling to make a family is more common than you know and the "trying to conceive community" is HUGE!
If your children are old enough to understand, how do they feel about being part of a rainbow family? If comfortable, could you share their perspectives.
Ziggy is not yet old enough to understand, but I can't wait for him to grow up and know that he is a part of such a special community!
As told by Shauna.
Photo credit: Lisa Webber Photo + Films