I always wanted to be a mum.
I knew that from very early on and I imagined that some day I would have that chance. Being gay didn’t affect that but it did make it a ‘thing’ which needed consideration, research, planning and, of course, money. Fortunately my partner (and now wife, Stacey) wanted the same things and so it was something which we spoke about at quite an early stage of our relationship.
It was by chance, really, that the process began for us.
Stace was on the London tube and happened upon an advert in a paper about the London Women’s Clinic ‘Want to be a Parent Show’. For the first time it was being held outside of London. We live in Bristol so its location in Cardiff was really easy and the small fee of £5 made it so accessible that we didn’t think twice about going! We didn’t know what to expect, of course, so we went with open minds and fluttery tummies. After 5 minutes those open minds were accompanied by dazzled expressions; there was so much we didn’t know! The day was a market-stall style event where you could circulate and speak to a range of people: NHS/health services, various private clinics, support groups, sperm banks and so on. It meant that you could easily access all sorts of information (and get a lifetime supply of free pens!) which we made good use of.
It was overwhelming for relatively clueless beginners. I had to go outside for a few deep breaths after the first stall! There were all sorts of things, new, exciting and scary, which I realised we needed to think about but we persevered and came away with a buzz of excitement and more than enough leaflets. It’s hard to say how long the process might have been without the ‘Want to be a Parent Show’, but I certainly know that it gave us the leg-up we needed. These types of shows are everywhere, so I highly recommend looking one up close to your area.
The game-changer that came out of the day were the words, “If I were you, I’d look at the European sperm banks like Cryos”. Well. Who knew? Not us! The other invaluable outcome of going to the show was that the Cardiff branch of the London Women’s clinic gave us a free fertility check voucher (usually in the region of £250). We went along and were blown away by the facilities and services offered: the people were welcoming, friendly, professional experts. We chose both to have the fertility check although we had decided that, all being well, Stace would try pregnancy first as she is a bit older than me. I tried out the nickname ‘Youthful Backup Uterus’ but amazingly it didn’t stick!
We had a double thumbs up. So far so good. For whatever reason we then did very little in the way of moving things on for a while. We scouted Cryos every so often for potential donors, talked through friends’ experiences with them and assimilated ourselves to the idea that could become a reality. Our plans rumbled along gently whilst we got on with house renovations, wedding planning and new jobs. By the time we got round to really starting the process, it had been 18months or so (another house move and a wedding later) and Stace needed repeat testing to be able to have treatment at the London Women’s Clinic in Cardiff. After meeting the consultant and discussing the process we began the various blood tests, doctors appointments, counselling session and fertility tests which enable you to really start start!
So, that was that. We were ready to go. All we needed was a few syringes of strong swimmers…
After careful consideration we decided that IUI was the right option for us (Intrauterine insemination) on the basis of the fertility tests we had. The other option would have been IVF (In vitro insemination) which has higher percentage successes (30-35%) than IUI (10-20%) but is also a lot more invasive and expensive. I guess our thinking was that it would also be unnecessary if we could get pregnant using IUI which, for gay women, is about as natural as fertility treatment gets. The clinic offers treatment in cycles of three at a set cost: so at the very least 3 lots of sperm were needed. However, there were a couple of things that we knew from speaking to friends who had been through the same process:
1. We had to be prepared that it might take several attempts (we heard of 6-7!)
2. We wanted to be able to have siblings. In short, we needed ALL the sperm just in case!
Choosing a donor through Cryos, as we did, is a bit like internet dating: you can filter by hair/skin/eye colour, height, body type, blood type and onwards. We essentially kept it pretty simple (hair, eye and skin colour only…although I was secretly ruling out donors over 6ft tall too!). For us it meant there was more to choose from but it really depends on your priorities as to how specific you want to/can be in your search. You can even see advanced profiles with baby pictures, family histories and voice recordings but that wasn’t for us. Once we’d made our final choice (ooh scary!) it was just a case of ordering in bulk. Doesn’t sound quite as romantic perhaps as meeting your child-making-soul mate-lover, but it sure was exciting.
Let the baby making commence… …as soon as we could work a wee-on-a-stick ovulation test! That took a few goes-and therefore cycles-but once we’d got a positive reading (and accidentally sent a picture of it to the whole sports team on WhatsApp!) it was a next day trip the clinic for the first attempt at IUI.
The staff, again, were fab. We were understandably nervous and didn’t want to be too excited in case it didn’t work. But they were calm, made us feel relaxed and ultimately made sure we enjoyed the whole experience. For me it was important to be there for it all: if I couldn’t provide the sperm myself I certainly wasn’t going to miss its great adventure into the unknown!
And the short version of the story is: it worked! First time! I put it all down to making Stace laugh as the insemination happened but I don’t know that science would support it. Worth a try?
Of course we had to wait 2 weeks for a pregnancy test to confirm it but Stace was tentatively confident that she ‘felt pregnant’. Low and behold, we were. Joy of joys: a baby on the way! How on earth did that happen?
Written by: Robyn Androlah
Keep watching MumPowered to hear the next chapter of MUMMY & MIMMY and the journey of these two wonderful mums through pregnancy and the first year with their little one.