- Feb 7, 2024
Back in the 80s, there was a common assumption that same-sex couples couldn’t become parents. Human fertilisation and embryology technology still had a long way to go and so did the law. But fast forward 4 decades later, we’re now in a position where this is more possible.
I briefly overheard a conversation between two women in a café just the other day, and it really made me stop and think.
She said, “I may not have grown a baby in my belly, but it doesn’t make me any less of a mother than those who have given birth.”
My maternal reaction was to hug this lady! But as you can imagine, I would’ve come off a little strange… (and would then have to admit to eavesdropping!)
In today’s society, we are seeing more families starting their journeys to parenthood in ways that are less explored or spoken about. Very few of them feel they have the support and help available to them that is specific to their circumstances. Let’s delve into a less traditional motherhood pathway and hear what these women have to say from their experiences.
“So, are you the Dad?”
From conception to the delivery room, some of the obstacles that same-sex couples overcome throughout pregnancy could be eliminated simply by changing the use of language. It is the duty of those in care to deliver an inclusive experience for any couple starting a family.
It might be helpful, before your bundle of joy(s) arrives, it may be a good idea to disclose to friends and family the language you wish to use to describe your family. Not everyone wants to be called Mum or Mama. It eliminates any awkwardness for you – and them.
After reading Bethan and Michaela’s story, it shows that more needs to be done in supporting LGBTQ+ couples before, during and after pregnancy. Bethan met with a consultant to discuss the reasons for an induced birth because of an IVF pregnancy and was told “Oh I see, the only problem we have here is that you don’t have a male partner” – yikes.
Source: The Positive Birth Company
Naturally, when things challenge how it has ‘always been done,’ people are going to ask questions. Regardless of whether it’s insensitive or not. Curious people seem to have a knack for that! And because there aren’t many LGBTQ+ families in existence, people will ask questions because they simply haven’t come across it before.
Learn more: 5 things you should never say to LGBTQ+ parents
Upon reading stories of same-sex couples going on this journey together, it’s not unusual for them to be asked questions such as “How did you choose between you who would carry the baby?” or “Are you taking maternity leave too?” or “So you’re next then?”.
We don’t know what we don’t know. Curiosity is great but should be exercised with respect. It shows that even in 2022, there’s a big gap to close in educating others about topics such as this.
Challenges for the LGBTQ+ parent
Being the ‘non-carrying parent’ there are common thoughts and fears that women experience throughout their partner’s pregnancy. You’re supporting your partner in growing a tiny human, which is a huge role, and it’s perfectly normal to think and feel this way!
All parents think about how they can bond with their baby and this connection can start from the moment your babies’ senses and movements develop inside the womb. A tiny kick, your voice and even your touch can nurture the bond between you and your baby, regardless of whether you are carrying.
Claude, a mother of two, shared in her story “…I worked very hard to forge a bond with her as she naturally bonded with Andrea first.” and “…It took a good 18 months for me to actually feel like Shalom felt me as that other parent... but it happened!.”
Source: Poppy Seed
If you are feeling a disconnect between you and your baby, a couple of ways you can bond with your baby can be to read stories or talk about your day to them. Once born, talking to your baby can help them to develop sounds and speech, so it all pays off! Skin to skin is another wonderful way to bond with your baby after they are born. Speak to your midwife if you are also considering breastfeeding alongside your partner – it’s called induced lactation.
Learn more: Benefits of skin-to-skin contact
Growing a baby is no easy feat. I think women over the centuries have proven that! But your role as their partner is equally important. You are their constant, their person when it all feels too difficult, not just the ‘grabber of things’.
Watching a loved one go through pregnancy and birth can be magical but can sometimes also leave you feeling a little helpless. New Mum, Olivia, said “Of course, I was there to support her the whole way through but it wasn’t happening to my body. It was tough…”
Hypnobirthing courses are a popular option to create a nurturing and relaxed birth experience for both parents. We touch on this in our education series: The Modern Midwife’s Guide to Pregnancy, Birth & Beyond.
Especially since the Covid-19 pandemic, a feeling of inclusion throughout pregnancies has proven difficult for many couples. There were limitations to visiting, attending appointments and even being present for the birth itself. Leah shared in her story “As we started this during COVID, Kerry wasn’t allowed into the hospital for many of the appointments so emotionally it was difficult for both of us.”
From listening to the stories of others, partners are often mistaken to be there as a friend or another relative as support. One lady shared that she felt ‘alienated’ from the entire process during appointments, even in the labour room, because professionals didn’t involve her - assuming she wasn’t the other parent to be.
In the US, although the number of LGBTQ+ couples is increasing year upon year, the number of those starting a family is still significantly small. Africa felt that she and her partner Missy were ‘breaking those barriers’ in their hometown. “It's just a new experience for both of us. People assume that maybe you're not a couple and that maybe we're sisters and each of us has a kid,".
Growing new life is an exciting time for couples starting a family and the hurdles that these women go through to get there can be an emotional rollercoaster. Not only do they have to fork out a considerable amount of money to be given a chance of falling pregnant, but they’re also coming to terms with their new identity of becoming a parent whilst society is trying to put a label on who they are.
After talking to parents who have been through this lengthy and hugely rewarding experience, they shared some advice they felt would help other LGBTQ+ families. Because as it turns out, there aren’t many people talking about it!
So, we’ve compiled a helpful list of tips and resources to help you navigate your path to parenthood. These resources are not only here to support you but also to help educate others and connect with other LGBTQ+ families.
- ‘Some Families’ is a highly rated podcast, available on the Apple store, hosted by Lotte and Stu which celebrates LGBTQ+ families. They “share funny, emotional and true stories from a diverse range of families with the series exploring all routes to parenthood”.
- LGBT Mummies is an organisation with the sole purpose to support the LGBT+ community on their path to parenthood. These ladies are making some noise in this quiet space. Take a look at their success stories to read about other couples and families. They also share a list of books which can help to educate and support children and parents in LGBT+ families.
- Lola & Lykke’s Mental Wellness Guide for Pregnancy and Beyond – this isn’t just for pregnant women, it’s for couples going through the journey together. Your priority is keeping your glass full and looking out for yourself and your mental wellbeing. And this guide does exactly what it says on the tin!
- Family Equality – as well as their own Facebook group, they also host online support events and meet-ups so you can connect with other like-minded people. You can find these events under “The Neighbourhood: A Virtual Hub for LGBTQ+ Families”. This resource was founded during the pandemic and has been a vital support network ever since for families who need a safe virtual space.
- Poppy Seed Health have a very useful and factual guide for non-gestational parents. Their company focus on supporting all pathways to parenthood and claim that they can connect people with medical experts via text, with a response in under 90 seconds.
The Bottom Line
You don’t need to give birth to become a mother. And when your baby (or babies!) is born, your role as parents become equal. New parent Leah says “Just enjoy every minute. It isn’t an easy process but having a baby as a same-sex couple is even more magical than I could have ever imagined.”
Would you like to be featured on our blog sharing your parenthood story? (Plus be in for a chance to win a 200€ Lola&lykke Gift Card!) Submit your story here.
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