Lesbian Parenting. It was the topic of a robust group of women at the Choices in Childbirth workshop at Babeland a week or two ago. Lauren, a lesbian midwife and parent, led the dynamic discussion and fielded questions. I really enjoyed hearing Lauren’s perspective from both personal and professional angles, and her generosity allowed other parents who are trying to conceive or who have recently given birth to open up and share their experiences, as well. Any queer person will say “duh” when reading this, but wow, there is just so much to consider if you are a queer aspiring parent! I’m transcribing some of my notes from the meeting below and will add some resources. Queer readers, please add advice and resources in the comments!
– How do the kids deal with having lesbian moms? It’s really not a big deal, and your kids friends may even wish that they had two moms. If there are other gay families in your kid’s school, you can ask that your kid be placed in the same class. Playgroups with other queer families also help, for both kids and parents.
– Birth options? I like how it was said in the meeting; hospitals have less options for pain relief. Readers of this blog will find this *shocking* to learn. Many home birth midwives in NYC are scrambling to find backup doctors now that St. Vincent’s is closing, so if you’re pregnant at this very moment, you may have to do some extra research on that option.
– Becoming a queer parent is expensive. Really expensive. Costs of conception and legal fees are the main costs, here. If you use a sperm bank, it will cost you around $500 per cycle, and it often takes many cycles to get pregnant. On top of that, additional medical costs like some types of insemination that must be done in a clinical setting will make conception even more pricey.
– What legal things do you have to do, and how much does it cost? $2000 for the sperm donor agreement (if using a known donor), $3000-$4000 for estate planning, $1800-$6800 for the second parent adoption (including the unfortunately required home visit). I might be leaving some things out, but with just making sure that these things are taken care of — you’re looking at around ten grand. Wow.
Also, prepare yourself for the weirdness of a home visit, and having someone come into your nest and evaluate your family and your ability to be an adoptive parent to your own child. You can hire a private, queer friendly (non government affiliated) social worker to do the visit if you prefer, but it will likely cost you extra.
– You know what sucks? Even if you spend ten grand getting legal documents securing your family, a lot of the time it won’t count and there are some homophobic people and institutions out there who really don’t care what legal documents you have. As I wrote about last week, the absolutely heart-wrenching story of the Langbehn-Pond family came up. This family, led by two women in a partnership of 18 years, was on an R Family cruise in Florida when one of the mothers became quite ill. At an unfamiliar hospital in Miami, her partner was told they were “in an anti-gay city and state” and she would not be allowed to see her dying partner, and nor would their children. Even after all their legal documents had been faxed from Washington state where they lived, they faced resistance and ultimately the sick partner died mostly alone.
Piece of advice from the group: when you go on a vacation with your kids, BRING COPIES of EVERY legal document that you have. They may or may not help to get around ridiculously homophobic policies or individuals, but it will save you time if you find yourself in that position.
– Also, Second Parent Adoptions don’t transfer from state to state. Even if you spend ten grand.*
– What do you do with potentially unsupportive family members? Hope that they’ll fall in love with the baby once they see it, or give them time to adjust and go about your life.
– Can non birth parents breastfeed? YES! Breastfeeding resources for adoptive mothers come in handy for lesbian moms, too. Some moms use the drug domperidone to help, and the supplemental nursing system is also an option. The consensus of the group seemed to be that it’s pretty unlikely that the non birth mom can become the sole provider of milk, though.
– Susan Weed’s books about herbal fertility helpers are recommended. So are accupuncture and accupressure.
– What to do when people ask the “who does this baby belong to?” genre of questions? One couple attending the group always allows the mother not holding the baby to speak up and say “both of us” so that neither parent is left out of the conversation.
– Finally, make time for yourselves as a couple. Make time to see friends and go out. Get a babysitter, or organize a babysitting collective with your friends.
The Ultimate Guide to Pregnancy for Lesbians: How to Stay Sane and Care for Yourself from Preconception to Birth (I especially like this one because the author, Rachel Pepper, conceived on her own. Although she uses her personal experiences frequently, she doesn’t make many assumptions about the family structure of the aspiring parents.)
Center Kids, LGBT Community Center, www.gaycenter.com
Books by Stephanie Brill, including The Essential Guide to Lesbian Conception, Pregnancy, and Birth – which I hear is very Trans friendly.
Also, be sure to google around for queer parent list-servs in your community, or start one yourself!
Favorite queer parent blogs:
* UPDATE: Legal second parent adoptions procured in one state are recognized in other states. However, whether second parent adoption by same-sex parents is legal is determined by states and is illegal in some places. Rules about Power of Attorney and Healthcare Proxy vary by state. The National Center for Lesbian Rights is an excellent resource for legal issues. Thanks to @butchmama for the info!