I was at a friend’s house for dinner. Past the initial pleasantries, once their toddler had gone to bed and the wine was flowing, the real conversations began. We started talking about when I would have a baby.
My friend's boyfriend, who is good-hearted but outspoken, put it straight out there: "I can't imagine having a child with a stranger." The stranger being the unknown sperm donor my wife and I would use to start our family. It was an innocent comment among friends but it had a heavy impact.
I took a sip of wine, trying to mask the hurt, then laughed it off with some joke about it being like a one-night stand. Because being promiscuous and open is 'cool.'
Biting my tongue, for the comfort of others, albeit friends, is nothing new for queer people. I went to bed that night, ruminating on what he meant by that comment and more importantly, why my friend—his girlfriend—didn't speak up.
His is one of the many comments and conversations that signal unconscious bias—in others and myself. I know I have internalized the questions other people have about queer parents, too. As my wife and I begin exploring the medical aspects of getting pregnant as a queer couple, I am also navigating the emotional layers of the process. Feelings that I don't have the privilege to avoid.
From as long as I can remember, I've wanted kids. The strong pull to motherhood only strengthens with time. For many queer people, myself included, it takes years, sometimes decades, to come out. There's no one standard trajectory for this experience. For some, it takes a lifetime.
I came out at 29 when I met my now wife. My life's biggest shifts have been compressed into the past five years—moving to the United States, falling in love, coming out, getting married, and planning for a baby.
While my wife and I are on the same page about wanting a family, to her, having a child isn't essential to a successful life. She doesn't want to carry a child, nor would she be unfulfilled if we can't have kids.
This puts a lot of pressure on me to be emotionally and physically able to carry and birth our baby. Am I being selfish? Can we afford this? To what extent will I go to have a baby?
We’re planning to do reciprocal IVF. She will be the egg donor and I will be the carrier of the embryo created via a sperm donor. If we have a second child, we’ll use my eggs and the same donor. Even with this clarity, I have my fears.
What if the version of motherhood in my heart doesn't match my reality? What if I resent my partner or distance myself from my best friends with kids? Worst of all, what if I don’t feel connected to the child I’ve always wanted? Though I do find comfort in the new studies that show some of the carrier’s DNA does transfer into the fetus. Either way, it will be my—our—child.
The further we go down this road, the more excited I am about carrying the baby that will be a mix of me and my wife. We will choose a donor that's Australian like me and who shares many of my physical features. What a gift and honor to be our child’s first home and to bring life into this world. It will be undeniably powerful to be the first person to hold our baby on my chest.
The conditions are never going to be perfect for us as a queer couple. There's a level of acceptance that needs to occur for us, individually and together. Some of our pregnancy experiences will be robbed of romance and intimacy. We can plan for this by finding a doula who has worked with lesbians, as well as making the birth a beautiful, sacred event by giving my wife the authority to make decisions within the space to keep me safe and comfortable.
Pregnancy conversations with my wife call for complete trust, honesty, and openness. We're grappling with constraints and challenges that many heterosexual couples don't give a second thought to.
In some ways, we first need to process the grief that only one of us will be genetically connected to our baby. Then there are the financial worries that accompany fertility treatments as well as the overwhelming process (and cost) of picking the right donor.
As a couple, we need to consider the social biases of having a baby in a heteronormative system and recognize that we'll forever be 'coming out' in some way—correcting malicious and well-meaning people who ask about the father or our relationship.
We’ll always have a nagging concern for how our baby will be treated. For all these reasons, I want people to understand that so many children of queer couples are well planned for and loved before even conceived or adopted.
Exploring and processing all of these ambiguities before we start the process of having a child is important. There's more to the experience than I could ever comprehend. It's all-consuming, both practically and spiritually. As someone who believes in strengthening society by connecting to and overcoming our own transgenerational trauma, navigating same-sex parenting is a spiritual endeavor in and of itself.
I have my community of mother friends, most of whom are married to men, as confidantes. While being a queer parent is full of nuances that'll likely show up in different ways in various stages, I also can't think of a more beautiful upbringing: two people in love, raising a child they really wanted.
My best friend of 20 years and mother to a 6-month-old said it best: "When you meet that tiny human, you love them so fiercely and they're their own little individual soul, you might find those things that worry you now won’t feel so big anymore."
I know she's right. I love my nephews as my own. I love my friends like family. To go on this adventure with my wife is a privilege in itself. To birth and raise a child in a same-sex partnership is the honor of a lifetime.