There are a lot of reactions when you tell people you’re thinking about having children. It’s usually a mix of happiness and advice, followed by the question of if you’re “trying” yet. In a lesbian relationship, the answer “yes” leads to an entirely different place—one that’s much more specific. This chain of questions goes something like this: “Did you buy sperm yet? When is your next cycle? When is your insemination appointment?” To simply say you’re “trying” like straight couples can doesn’t seem like enough. In that situation no one follows-up with, “When did you have sex? Did he ejaculate? Do you think the sperm concentration was high enough to impregnate you?”
Instead, these are the types of hyper-personal questions that seem commonplace to ask a lesbian. And in many circles, if you’re trying to be open about wanting to start a family it’s a slippery slope before they’re asking you your ovulation dates and the when you find out if you’re pregnant. This is all well intentioned, but the first thing to disappear when you’re a lesbian couple trying to get pregnant is privacy.
A lot of the questions have to do with the mystery behind the process in general. People just want to know how it works. And, like anything in life, they have some questions. My two favorites (which have been repeated several times) are:
Are you going to carry at the same time? I don’t know, have you ever been around two women with their periods at the same time? Do you want to multiply that by thousands and have it sustained for 9 months? Another obvious downfall of this idea is it’s like planning to have twins. And what if one, or both of you, has real twins along with the planned simultaneous pregnancies? This could get out of hand fast.
Also, if you’re both pregnant at the same time you may be able to sympathize with each other’s pain, but you lose your support person along the way. Who’s going to run to the store to get ice cream at midnight? That’s almost as important as the possibility that you’ll go into labor at the same time and then you won’t have your support person when you give birth. Then you get home, you have two (or more) new babies, two women who just had something the size of a watermelon exit them… You get the idea.
Are you going to try “the swirl?” Just so we’re on the same page: yes, this means they’re suggesting we take sperm from several men, usually brothers-in-law, and swirl it in a cup to be injected. On the outside, this is a great way to keep things in the family, and it might be a viable option for some. But I envisioned family dinners where everyone claimed the good stuff the kid did, and every time he did something poorly everyone would point fingers saying that he was someone else’s. Some things don’t have to be kept in the family.
Besides some of these unique questions to the mysterious process for a lesbian couple, one of the big things I’ve learned is that we’re far from alone. There are a lot of people, straight and gay alike, who are getting pregnant through insemination and invitro-fertilization. I found myself in a strange situation of getting a lot of my information through one of my straight friends, who was going through the process a few steps ahead of us. I was slightly jealous that she was able to get her sperm for free, but the process seems all the more stressful for couples who thought they could avoid this arduous process to get pregnant. Still, I gratefully took note of any information she shared, and surely asked overly-personal questions of her myself more times than is acceptable.
There are also women getting pregnant on their own through this process, still having to buy sperm and going to the doctor for insemination appointments. For them, I’m sure the invasive questions are only compounded with some along the lines of, “are you sure you want to do this alone?”
This is all leaving out adoptions, surrogates, and the many other ways to create a family. Through it all there’s one thing that seems to remain universal—the harder it is for you to get pregnant the more stories you hear about people getting pregnant accidentally or without trying at all. It can be frustrating, but I stick with the policy of being happy for everyone, because you come to find out how hard this simple act can be for many.
And as far as the questions go, keeping the process a secret from the beginning might be the best idea, but, unfortunately, I’ve never been very good at that.