“Katie and I are just your average lesbian family. Ha! That is a sentence you don’t often hear. Katie and I are two girls who fell in love, got married, and embarked on the journey to have children. Sounds pretty typical of any couple who falls in love. However, the path to having kids was nothing like what we imagined. Not everyone agrees with our ‘lifestyle’ but there are many who do. We paint a pretty good picture of our lives on social media but we don’t often share all the terrible things we’ve encountered being gay and raising a family.
Katie and I always say we are so glad we were born in the world today because imagine how much harder it would have been to be together and raise a family many years ago. The world has made a lot of progress for the LGBTQ community but it still has a lot of progress that needs to be made. Raising kids is already hard but raising kids as two moms comes with more difficult tasks we didn’t imagine. I know we will continue to encounter unwanted experiences because we are gay but for now, this is what we have experienced and learned:
Before having kids, Katie and I had our entire plan laid out for how we would create our children. We knew we wanted to do Reciprocal IVF. Katie wanted to carry my egg, fertilized by a donor sperm. Together, we would both play a part in creating our children. I would at the beginning by using my egg and then Katie would grow our little embryo into our baby. We were both happy with this plan until others decided to share their opinions. Katie was told she would only be a surrogate for me and would never have a connection to a baby that wasn’t actually hers. I was criticized for not wanting to carry my own egg and that I would have a hard time bonding with a baby I didn’t actually carry or deliver. Why did these people care how we made our family?
It’s hard to block out other people’s thoughts, even though you know they don’t matter. All these opinions coming our way made us rethink our decision. Is this the right way for us to have a kid? After our first round of IVF failed, we wondered if it was a sign we were going down the wrong path, as we were told. Then we thought, is there really a wrong way to have a kid if there are two people who love each other and want to welcome a child into their family to love? In the end, we ignored what other people thought and did what we wanted.
We encountered challenges as a two-mom family from the birth of our first daughter. She had jaundice but the hospital told us we could be discharged and come back in a few days for a follow-up appointment. When we returned to the hospital a few days later, we walked up to the counter to state why we were there and the lady behind the desk asked for the mother’s name. We gave both our names and she made a face. Then she asked, ‘Okay so which one of you is the mother? There can only be one.’ Katie and I exchanged a look of sadness and I immediately thought, ‘is this what life is going to be like raising our daughter? Only one of us can be the mom?’ We both knew how the woman should have phrased the question, ‘which one of you gave birth to the child?’ But that isn’t what came out. We didn’t expect a follow-up appointment to leave us feeling unsettled about parenting.
Katie and I have always wanted mom friends. When we first moved into our house in a new town, we wondered how to make friends. We are always nervous about telling people we are gay. I don’t know why this is still a concern to this day but we always wonder what people think of us – it seems to be instilled in us. We showed up at our first new parent class, where moms meet to discuss different baby topics. All the babies in the class were born around the same time so we knew this was the place to make some friends. The entire class the teacher referred to the ‘mom’ and the ‘dad.’ Being gay, this does get annoying to hear. I remember hearing things like, ‘when mom is nursing, dad could be washing the nursing parts and bottles.’ Katie and I tried to joke around saying I must be the dad in these parenting suggestions. When it came to introductions, Katie and I even talked about how we would introduce ourselves and who would have to do it. Does a mom/dad typically do this? Would everyone like us? Our past has made us overly cautious like we are today. I guess if there were more gay couples in the class, we wouldn’t feel as worried about a silly introduction that would make it confirmed, we are a gay couple. Every place we go we are always seeking out gay couples to see that we aren’t alone. Even after announcing we were gay, the teachers we had in the classes all used stereotypical gender roles for parenting suggestions. We just learned to sit through it and joke about it after.
Then the time came for both of us to be back at work. We had been looking at daycares since before our daughter was born, and we had our hearts set on a daycare that checked all of our boxes. We fell in love with the place. The minute we met the daycare director, she asked if we were sisters. I dreaded saying we weren’t because we really wanted our daughter to go to this daycare. After I clarified we were married she just said, ‘oh,’ and continued the tour. At the end, she thanked us for coming by and would let us know if a spot opened. Katie called a few days after to see if a spot opened up and they said one hadn’t. Our friends, a straight couple, went in later that day after Katie called, went on a tour, and were offered a spot. Were we lied to because we were gay? We will never know. What we do know is our friends had a baby the same age as ours and wanted the same days and hours as us. The only difference was we were gay and they were straight.
Every time we go to the pediatrician’s office, it’s like we are introducing ourselves for the first time. I get asked if my husband is sick and that’s why my child is sick or questions about if this runs on both sides of the family. I get so tired of correcting and saying, ‘No, my wife and I are not sick,’ or ‘I don’t know about those specific details of the donor’s family history of health.’ We went to the grocery store the other day and Kennedy was calling us by our names, ‘mom’ and ‘mama,’ and the cashier asked if we were cousins. We just smiled politely and said we were married. I know if we were a man/woman couple we would not be answering silly questions like this. I almost wish people would just assume we are married so we don’t get asked this question all the time.
Our two-year-old daughter asked the other day why her friend at school has a mom and a dad. We knew this day was coming but at age 2?! We didn’t expect it that young. We explained that every family is different. Some families have two moms, some have two dads, and some have a mom and a dad. There are families who don’t have a mom or a dad but we didn’t get into that just yet. She was content with this answer and said, ‘I have two moms!’ It really isn’t hard explaining to kids that families are different so I’m not sure why so many people make such a big deal about it. Kids are accepting if adults explain it correctly.
We are now at a point in our lives where the kids are older and we want to start traveling more like we did before kids. Exploring which countries are gay safe is challenging. It’s so hard to know if traveling as a lesbian couple is a good choice in certain places. We get terrified when we see stories on the news of hate crimes. We don’t want that to be us and we would never want to put our kids in a dangerous situation. Traveling is supposed to be fun, not terrifying. There are some places we do want to go but we feel like we should have a man with us because that is how we will feel safe. I just wish we didn’t need a man to feel safe? If you know what I mean. Kids need their parents to feel safe but now the parents need a man to feel safe? It just doesn’t make sense.
Do I slightly worry about the future? Yes. What I worry about is other people, not our family. We have supportive family and friends but I can’t control all the people in the world that we may encounter one day. I worry about our kids being treated differently when they are older. I worry about traveling and feeling unsafe because we are gay. I worry what uncontrolled factors will have a negative impact on our life due to being gay. But I could spend my whole life worrying. Parents worry. Whether they are gay or straight. We only want the best for our kids and we will raise them teaching that love is what matters most. If we raise our kids right, then all these uncontrolled factors shouldn’t be an issue because our kids will know the way to handle it.
We chose to share our life on social media. I know that by doing this we invite others to view our lives and not everyone who views it will be supportive. We have received so many hate comments since we created it. So why do we make our lives open for anyone to see? We want those who are LGBTQ to see having a family is possible. We want to spread love. We want to help others. When I felt lost during our journey to create our family, I turned to social media and felt relief and support. It’s comforting to talk to someone or see someone else’s life that you imagine for yourself. It’s hard talking to someone who says they understand but they don’t. We want to be that couple that gives others hope for the future. Since creating our Instagram, we have received so many messages thanking us for what we do. Spreading love and hope is so important to us that I just need to remember that when reading hateful comments. Some comments that have stuck out to me are: We are torturing our children by having them and being gay, our kids will always have a missing puzzle piece in their life without a father, we are gross, we are sick, our life is a sin, we should be punished, etc. The list could go on and on. Although Katie and I try to disregard these comments, there are many that hit us hard. We sulk about it for a while and then get over it. You can’t please everyone but you can show others how you stand tall and don’t sink to their unwanted level.
Being gay isn’t a choice. It isn’t a lifestyle. It isn’t an alternative way of living. This is who I am. Coming out is a scary thing and usually, you have to come out many more times after that. You come out to strangers or people you just met. Being gay can be scary but it’s also great to be out with who you are and love who you want to love. My only hope is that more people are accepting. Being gay isn’t a choice anyone made. Maybe one day people will stop thinking it is.
I know what we have encountered could be worse. I know there are many people in the world who suffer from others opinions and actions. I know for the most part, my life is amazing. I have more than I could ever imagine. When I was a little girl, I never thought I would be gay, marry a girl, need science to have kids, or deal with other people’s opinions of my family. What I don’t want is for my kids to encounter things I have just for being different. I want them to live in a world where people are not targeted for being outside of society’s norms. I can’t make everyone in the world accept my family but I can show others that love makes a family. I want my kids to know it is okay to have our family like ours. I want others to know it is okay to have a family like ours. I want my kids and everyone else to know it is okay to love who you love and gender doesn’t matter. Love is what matters.”
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