My wife Mikhayla and I have been married for 3 years and together for 8. Our journey to children was through reciprocal IVF, involving my partner providing the egg, an anonymous donor, and me carrying. IVF took on the first transfer, but was then a bit more difficult, with a complicated pregnancy and traumatic birth. But it all wrapped up with healthy (uncomplicated) twins, Francesca and Quinn, now 5 months old.
We always knew we wanted to have children together and talked about it often, including that we wanted one wife to carry and the other to provide the egg, so we would both be involved in growing of babies in different ways. Not that it matters, but it was also a nice zinger to have in your back pocket for when the inevitable question “who’s mum?” was asked. We just reached a point in our lives where the moment felt right - work was settled for me, we had a home, we had a car, we were staying in one location for a while, and my wife is in med school (which is apparently the best time for doctors to start families because you have more freedom then you are going to have for the next decade). And since we weren’t moving for at least two years, we could conduct the entire process with the same clinic for continuity of care - everything clicked into place.
The IVF process began with a comment over dinner. We agreed to just feeling it out, saying we should start with an appointment to bombarb a fertility specialist with questions.
We chose to go with Rainbow Fertility, as Mikhayla had received a lecture from their fertility specialist, Dr Andreadis. Walking out of the doctor’s office the next month, we actually started straight away. This meant both of us being healthier in our diets and going off contraceptives which we were taking for mood/flow management (since we practice the best contraceptive of gay).
We then researched what donor path we wanted to go down, comparing the benefits of changing clinics to get a better donor repository, or asking a friend, or seeking out an altruistic stranger. There were many aspects to consider: whether we wanted them in the lives of our children; if we were inclined to use my side of the family for genetics; how weird we found the different options… we eventually decided our clinic had the best donor library and we chose an anonymous donor, which was quite a fun experience since the clinic has an app setup like tinder, where you can swipe left and right based on the donor’s listed attributes!
While this was happening, we also were seeing a counsellor about the IVF process (it’s compulsory to attend 2 sessions); thinking about names and finances and nursery designs; doing research into pregnancy and raising kids; and we both having internal ultrasounds to check the viability of our baby-making parts. We were also trying to understand what support we could get through work and Medicare - as we were classed as “socially infertile”, as in, it was our choice to not get pregnant through heteronormative means, we were unfortunately ineligible for a lot of support. Socially infertile was a strange new label for us to earn…
Next was a few weeks of Mikhayla taking supplements and injecting hormones to get ready for egg collection. We were very successful at egg collection, storing 13 fertilised embryos. Then it was my turn for hormones and supplements, and when the time lined up we did a “transfer” of 1 (not 2) fertilised embryo.
After that it started as the pretty standard pregnancy route. We waited in excitement for the first pregnancy test, the first scan, the first phone call announcements to family. We were lucky enough to have only enthusiastic family and friends, with no rude discourse on our situation. The strangest comments we got on queer parenting were questions about the donor and whether the baby look like me at all because I was carrying (no, but they’d have my immune system!) and how lucky we were to be two mums (to which my retort was “luckier to have so many parents wanting them so much”).
At 7 weeks, things got complicated - the scan told us it was twins! “Yes double the love”, “yes our hands WILL be full”, “yes two for the price of one”… I had to master the art of being zen. No stress was allowed in this body, nothing that could endanger our baby- babies! From 16 weeks I had to get an ultrasound and see the obstetrician every fortnight, take supplements and vitamins, and eat nutrient dense diabetes-friendly food whenever I could keep anything down. From 28 weeks, visits increased to weekly, and heart rate scans were added in. Finally, by 34 weeks I had to be admitted to hospital with high blood pressure and preeclampsia, and at 34+5 days we went into an emergency c-section. I lost a lot of blood, resulting in 1 blood transfusion, 1 iron infusion and 2 weeks in the hospital. The babies were so small… 3 days in NICU and then SCU for 11 days, with breathing and feeding support. But we all left together! With nothing too lasting for any of us. Then it was time to learn how to live with these new little housemates. “Yes they are identical”, “No we are not friends who had babies at the same time”, “we are both mum - I carried, her egg”, “yes they are ours”, “there’s a donor, not a dad”, “no we aren’t trying to ensure they have male energy in the house”, “I’M going to be the one to teach them how to fix things and throw a ball.”
Yes, we are so very grateful to have them and have each other. No, we could not live without them. Yes, we are so, SO happy and looking forward to adventuring together, forever.
P.S - Vik also runs the 'West of Sydney Rainbow Families Group, known as WoS. If you live in the Penrith area, keep an eye on our socials or website for the date of the next catch up.
PART TWO - RAINBOW FAMILY QUESTIONS:
Can you tell us how you decided to start a family and the journey you took to get there, including the method you used (IVF, adoption, surrogacy, etc.)?
Reciprocal IVF, with an anonymous donor. One embryo was transferred and it split into identical twins.
In your experience, how does the LGBTQ+ community face unique challenges when starting a family compared to other people?
Since we were classified as “socially infertile”, as in it was our choice to not get pregnant through heteronormative means, we were unfortunately ineligible for a lot of support. So, to be certain types of queer and wanting kids, you either have to save up a large amount of money, or be willing to consider hetero routes for impregnating, and/or have to enter negotiations with a third party on what their involvement will be. Not many other family units have to share the experience of creating their family with an external party’s opinion being taken into account.
We were often regarded as friends or sisters rather than two mums.
I was asked personal, sexual and awkward questions about how I was pregnant.
Everyone had an opinion on how we should get a donor, what that donor should look like, and why we didn’t choose a different donor method.
We had to come out all over again, but as having children as a queer couple.
We had to select our clinic, hospital, parent group, counsellor etc not just by renown in fertility success, but by experience in queer couples and comfortability with lesbian parents. We were often “the only gays in the village” in every group we came across. It was great to have the rainbow families to turn to for prenatal classes and parenting groups.
What were the major hurdles you encountered in your journey to parenthood, and how did you overcome them?
Having to do IVF. We overcame this by delaying starting our family long enough to save the large sum of money required (plus the money required to raise kids). It costs money for the fertility specialist, the counsellor, the egg retrieval, the donor library access, the donation, the egg transfer, the follow up appointments…
Could you touch on the emotional and practical aspects of your journey to becoming a parent, including the process and the eventual outcome?
Emotional considerations were a big one for me, especially in identity. I had body dysmorphic issues when my body changed for the pregnancy - and there is definitely no affordable gender neutral pregnancy clothes out there, unless you embrace oversized men’s clothes that you will have to size up every few weeks. I also had to embrace literally losing my strength while the babies ate all my muscle mass. Strength was a big part of my identity, and a key factor to my sense of agency and independence. As a masc presenting lesbian, I sought my validation through masculine clothing, workouts and being the strong handyma’am at home. With that all stripped away, I had to find other things to like about myself and pin to my self worth.
I was also terrified of never fitting in with a new crowd - “mums”. I never saw myself as a mum, I kind of saw myself as a dad but never identified as trans. It wasn’t until I had a wonderful counsellor ask me if I’d ever considered just being a parent; that helped me adjust my perspective to embrace parenting my kids, not, being their mum. I no longer had shudders over having to wear yoga tights and talking about stay-at-home-mum hacks. Now I love being a house spouse for the duration of my maternity leave, and happily tell Mikhayla about all the plans I have for cooking this week, without the looming dysmorphia of being boxed into a house wife role. The only thing I really wish for is that all the groups for parenting weren’t labelled “mum groups”. Let’s normalise “parent groups” and see some more diversity in people interested in parenting!
What has been the best part of becoming a parent, and how has it changed your life and perspective?
Probably realising how much I do not care about some things in life. Having kids has given me so much control over what I agonise over, more than all the therapy in the world. You really start to see that no, I don’t want to waist oxygen on talking to that family member when they are a toxic person - always have been, but NOW I don’t want that influence on my children. It’s so much easier to advocate for something when you are protecting someone else, especially when those someones are your defenceless babies, who came into this world only because you wanted them here. All the self help books ever written could not have prepared me better for the rush of feeling that, of the finite energy I have, I have no intent to waist it stressing on people pleasing, fearmongering news feeds or opinionated strangers.
How many children do you have, and did they come to you through the same process or different methods?
Two! Twins from the same round of IVF. And that will be it for us.
Were there any unexpected costs or financial challenges to starting your family?
The unexpected increase from one to two babies! But also, the aforementioned issue that social infertility is not supported by medical cover.
If you could go back and do anything differently in your family-building journey, what would it be and why?
Stressed less about buying that thing that will make my life easier during pregnancy.
Decided at the start on what snappy retort to say when I could feel someone entering into a monologue about our choice in donors…
My wife wanted to care less about other people’s opinions on whether we were a couple, rather than a couple of friends. Their assumptions didn’t matter and didn’t affect our journey.
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?
Find your people, they are out there! It will take a few parents groups, book clubs, baby classes and what have you to find them, but they are there.
Be prepared for odd looks and comments, either with a steely resolve to ignore it all, or some prepared witty retorts.
Also if you’re having a planned family, save more than you need - there’s always some extra cost (and the lifetime of less back pain from wearing the right physio shorts is worth the money).