‘We went in thinking it’d be a fling. Neither of us had been part of a same-sex couple. Months in, we decided to come out to our families. It was all or nothing. It went as badly as it could have.’

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“Our love story seemed very unlikely in the beginning. Laura and I met in 2009, at work in a trading training company in London. Laura had just moved from Idaho, USA and I had relocated from Reading, UK to London. We started work on the very same day, but initially didn’t like each other at all. Laura’s loud, outgoing American-ness was jarring to my quiet, introverted British self. It took us 5 months of working long events together to realize that our differences were actually complimentary and made us a great team.  Our friendship then quickly turned into something more, as we spent every possible moment together – scheduling our work shifts, going to each other’s flats afterwards and spending every waking moment together – so we embarked on a relationship. Neither of us had been part of a same-sex couple previously so it came as a complete surprise to us both, and we went in thinking it’d be a little fling.

Courtesy Sarah and Laura Smith

About 11 months in, we decided on a whim to move to Australia together for a year. As you do! We discussed it over dinner one evening and a week later we’d booked visas and flights! While we were there, working together, travelling and reading at the beach, our ‘fling’ turned into something much more serious – we realized we didn’t want to be without each other. So, we decided it was about time to come out to our families. Until that point, they had presumed we were just good friends. Laura’s parents were accepting, unfortunately mine were not. In fact, it went as badly as it could have, with my parents believing they had done something wrong in raising me as there must have been a mistake. I was asked to keep the relationship a secret and Laura was not allowed in the house and referred to as ‘the American’ for a couple of years. Thankfully, they have since done a 180, and Laura is part of the family – so all that is a distant memory now.

When we first got together, we didn’t know of any lesbian couples with families, marriage for a same-sex couple wasn’t an option and acceptance was far from how it is now. We didn’t know anyone like us, and we didn’t have any role models to give us an idea of what our life could be. Because of this, Laura used to think she couldn’t have the white wedding and family she had always wanted. How wrong she was! It’s amazing how much that has changed with social media, which is honestly why we love it so much.

After 5 years together we tied the knot with a tiny legal ceremony on the first day that same-sex marriage was legal in the UK! We were the first female same-sex couple to marry in Westminster borough. This was followed by a wedding ceremony in Idaho for our friends and family. My Mum walked me down the aisle and the wedding day was part of a trip where we brought together family and friends from Australia, the UK and across America. It was an amazing celebration and the best way to start our married life together.

Courtesy Sarah and Laura Smith

After our wedding, we moved from London to Birmingham, UK to set up our home. Our dog, Bisbee, joined us at Christmas, we became a family. After a few years of settling in, changing jobs – Laura to work as an Office Manager only 5 minutes from our home and me to managing a team in eLearning partly from home and partly travelling to client sites. We wanted to have a baby; as a lesbian couple we knew that we would have to undergo fertility treatment if we were to conceive ourselves. Thankfully our online community was full of advice and guidance, but it wasn’t until we started our journey that we realized how much we didn’t know. There was so much to consider in our journey.

It was in 2017 that we started IUI with CARE Birmingham. We decided I would carry first as I’m older – 35 while Laura is 30. We wanted a UK based donor and knew that would mean that our child would have the ability to contact the donor when turning 18. We were comfortable with this as it would give our child the ability to find out answers about their genetic history should they want to. We went with Brighton Sperm Bank who kept the process really simple. They sent us a spreadsheet with a donor list that we could filter using attributes such as height, coloring, skin tone, build etc. There were no photos available, but they could pick a celebrity lookalike. We were lucky enough to find a profile we connected with and had physical attributes similar to Laura. It was important that our child had similarities to both of us.

To start our fertility journey, I had to track my ovulation. At the start it was going through the expected cycle-Low, High, Peak. After consultations Laura and I started with an unmedicated cycle. It was all very organized, until my ovulation went straight from Low to Peak, and skipped High! What made it worse was I had a meeting that day in London and by the time I got back and to the clinic with Laura, we’d missed our chance. We were absolutely gutted.

Our next attempt we went medicated to add some control. I travel for work which added a challenge around timings, but we had planned my work trips so that I was home when my cycle reached peak. Or so I thought! Sadly, on a work trip to Bournemouth my ovulation did the same as the previous month. It went straight from Low to Peak. Bournemouth is over 3 hours away, so I knew our chance was gone…. again! Double gutted.

We’d prepared ourselves for the failed attempts but not even getting to try at all made us feel even further away.  I started to feel like there must be something wrong with me, even though I knew Laura and I were a team I couldn’t help but blame my body. I felt like I was letting us down. Laura was nothing but supportive but that didn’t change my own mental battle.

Failed attempts still cost, and we were no closer. I had always wanted a ‘natural as possible’ fertility process. I appreciated that we had to use science to conceive but I had hope that the use of medication would be kept to a minimum. I feared injections and knew that IVF or any other option cost a lot more money. It was hard accepting that my plan to conceive via IUI was fading. We felt disappointed and hated that each failed attempt left us a whole month without another chance. It was at this point that we went for another consultation with our clinic. They were supportive and talked through our options, but they couldn’t explain why my cycles were going low to peak which meant they couldn’t give us advice. What they did say was that the success rates with IVF were in our favor. Laura and I returned home and debated our options. Laura was far more open to IVF then I was. It took me time to process where we were and that if we went with IVF it would mean compromising on how I envisioned this journey. After a lot of thought I accepted that having a family was more important that my personal preferences. The rest of our funds would allow us 1 cycle of IVF. We’d have to put our faith in each other and in science. This was it – it was all or nothing.

Our IVF process started with huge boxes of medication being delivered, sessions at the clinic to learn how to administer the injections, doctors’ appointments for blood tests, a lot of diary rearranging and a lot of reminding myself to breathe! We hadn’t told anyone that we were going on this journey, so we only had each other to talk things through with and that meant any stress, nervousness and excitement was kept between our four walls. The main reason we did this was because we didn’t want others’ input, opinions and questions. We wanted this to be our journey.

After weeks of injections and tracking my cycle and bloods we approached the final part of the medication – the trigger shot. The date fell when we had tickets to see Hairspray! at the theatre. At the final song we ran to the bathroom, Laura set up what looked like a science experiment, and within 3 mins it had been administered and we were back in our seats for the all singing and all dancing finale! A memorable moment for sure.

Egg retrieval took place at the clinic and was my first time under anesthetic, but the procedure was quick and successful. The eggs & sperm had a wild Friday night, then we got the call that 5 eggs had fertilized!

The implantation was the most stressful and painful part. It turned out that I have an S-shaped cervix so instead of being a quick process it was a prolonged, painful one. After plenty of perseverance, just as they were about to give up and implant it with a needle into my womb instead, the embryo was in! The procedure had overrun by almost an hour so I due on a work call almost immediately after leaving theatre.  While lying in recovery I was on a conference call with my exec team!

In the Two Week Wait Laura prepared me smoothies with pineapple cores and brazil nuts, I did plenty of ‘womb dancing’ to encourage implantation. As the two weeks progressed, I started napping frequently, which was very out of character for me (Laura has more than a few video clips of this), so we hoped we might be pregnant! Halloween was test day. We woke up at 4 a.m., Googled if a 4 a.m. loo visit was too early to test – it was inconclusive, so we went ahead. After an agonizing 3 minutes, the results were… not quite conclusive. There were 2 lines, but so SO faint, so we spent the next half hour frantically Googling to find out if it still counted. We had a test at the clinic that day which confirmed it. PREGNANT! We were overjoyed and couldn’t believe that it worked!

Courtesy Sarah and Laura Smith
Courtesy Sarah and Laura Smith

I had a straightforward pregnancy and planned cesarean birth as our baby girl was breech. It’s now 10 months later and our beautiful baby Annabelle is an outgoing, sociable, confident, cheeky little girl! Pregnancy was really such a special stage of our lives together and bought us together in ways we didn’t expect. Keeping the journey to ourselves made it all the more special when we shared the news with our families at Christmas.

Courtesy Sarah and Laura Smith

We were fortunate that throughout the pregnancy and ever since, everyone has always acknowledged that Annabelle is ‘ours’, which has meant a lot to us. Laura is Mama and I am Mummy. We parent 50/50 and our responsibilities are divided. We both work full time, so life is busy and days fly by. We are loving it though and our hearts couldn’t be fuller.

Courtesy Sarah and Laura Smith

We share our daily life via our own blog SarahplusLaura.blogspot.com and through Instagram and Instagram stories. We want to be visible for people like us, be that younger LGBT individuals, same-sex couples, couples on their own fertility journey or people who are raising families. We are just like them. Our journey has taught us to appreciate the little things in day to day life, to live in the moment and not to always be looking forward to the next thing. We didn’t know where our journey would take us, but we knew that we would be in it together and that was the most important thing.”

Courtesy Sarah and Laura Smith

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Sarah Smith, 35, and  Laura Smith, 30.  Follow their journey on Instagram here and visit here website here. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

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