4 LGBTQ+ families share their journey

To celebrate Pride Month and the launch of our Rainbow Collection, we spoke with three incredible LGBTQ+ couples who shared their journeys to starting a family. Whether you’re a part of the community yourself and looking for information & inspiration, or simply enjoy reading about other loving families we know you’ll love these stories:

Holly, Liz & son Theo

Did you both always want children?

Holly and I both wanted children if we were able to have them. Our journey took about 4 years and we started on the journey after getting married in 2015. There were quite a lot of options and avenues so we spent some time exploring these before deciding on the right route for us.

How did you decide which route to go down?

We all explored all the avenues for having children and decided that IUI made the most sense to start with. After visiting some private clinics, we decided to chat with our GP who referred us to our local fertility unit at Kingston hospital. The clinic was incredibly friendly and inclusive, which was reassuring. We mostly paid for our treatment but were able to get some of the mandatory tests done via the NHS. We had three rounds of IUI and were looking at switching to IVF, but fortunately, we got lucky on our third go! The team at Kingston were so excited for us and our son Theo was born in Kingston hospital in June 2020.

Any tips for someone embarking on this journey?

For anyone about to embark on the parenting journey, I would say to research and ask lots of questions and then choose the path that makes the most sense for you as a family. There’s no wrong or right way, just the one that fits you! When we decided to go via the IUI / NHS route we didn’t realise that even though we were paying for our treatment that it would take as long as it did. We also gave ourselves time to process each time our IUI didn’t work so again that adds more time to the journey. Towards the end, we were becoming slightly more stressed as I was hyper-aware that I was getting older and the chances were coming slimmer.

How was the birth?

I decided that I wanted an elective C Section as this is the option I felt most comfortable with. As we neared the end of the pregnancy I ended up with Gestational diabetes so it was decided that Theo needed to arrive earlier than originally planned and he was born at 37 weeks. Although we had taken part in classes prior to the birth and C-sections were covered, I hadn’t processed that sometimes babies don’t breathe straight away as their lungs aren’t cleared which happened to Theo, meaning he was in NICU for a week. It was of course a scary time for us, but the team at Kingston were incredible! We were also very fortunate that Holly was able to stay with us in the hospital the entire time as Theo was born mid-Covid lockdown and the majority of places were very strict. I don’t think I have would have coped with the pressure if we hadn’t been able to be together as a family during all the chaos.

A little about Theo

Theo is an absolute ball of energy and joy, and I can’t believe it’s been nearly two years since he made our family complete!

Mary-Amelia, Kelly & son Albie

A little about the couple

We first met in December 2014 on a dating site, I lived in London and Kelly lived in Kent. By July I had moved in with Kelly and by September we found our first place together and made it our home. We got married on July 24th 2017 in Edinburgh with only our close family and friends, it was such a magical day and one of the best of my life. On the way to the meal, my brother paid street performers to take photos with us both, so we have a wedding picture of us with Star Wars characters! Later, we had a big wedding reception back home where we united the rest of the people we love, it was such a laugh and meant we got to wear our wedding dresses again.   

Did you both always want children?

We both wanted children, but being in a same-sex relationship it’s a lot harder than for straight couples! We wanted to be married before we started trying for a baby as it means you can both be on the birth certificate straight away (instead of having to go for adoption of the child.) 

How did you decide which route to go down?

After our honeymoon, we started on our journey to starting a family together. Our doctor suggested IVF on the NHS, some areas of the UK offer it & others don’t. Unfortunately, we live in an area which didn’t offer to same-sex couples, so we then looked into private companies but the waiting list was a few years and it was incredibly expensive. So we decided to try a sperm donor and eventually found somebody we both loved. This is where the fun began as I had to start tracking my ovulation to find my most fertile dates. After a few months of tracking, I was inseminated on June 18th. You’re supposed to wait two weeks before taking a test, but I was so impatient I did one after 8 days and thankfully saw a faint positive line. I was so excited I rang Kelly at work and we both screamed down the phone with happiness. 

How were the pregnancy and birth?

My pregnancy wasn’t easy, I had severe morning sickness to the point I was hospitalised and put on a drip. I had to go in so many times with reduced movement and bleeding, he definitely kept us on our toes! Seeing our little boy on the ultrasound machine (especially the 4D scan) and every little kick was incredible though. Towards the end of the pregnancy, I was told I would have to have a c-section as he was breech. I actually found it relaxing as there was no rushing around, he finally arrived on March 2nd 2020 at 9:48am, weighing 6lb 10.

How did you adapt to life as a family of 3?

After two years of trying, we were finally mums which is incredible, but also terrifying. You can’t stop thinking about everything that can go wrong. Thankfully, it all just comes to you naturally. Initially, we were very happy as we’d had him a week before lockdown, but it was very difficult not being able to see our family & friends from when he was a week old until he was 4 months. We video called often, but it was pretty tough not having any help, thankfully he was an absolute dream baby.

A little about Albie

Our little boy is now two years old and definitely has his own personality. He doesn’t stop smiling and loves to play with his many toys. We can’t wait to make amazing memories with him as he grows up. In the future, we’d love more children, but want to wait until he’s at nursery.

*Oliver wears the MORI Rainbow Baby Sleepsuit

Shen, Saxon & son Oliver

Did you both always want children?

We both wanted children, even when we were single so we think of ourselves as incredibly lucky that we found someone to share the journey with. Saxon has an adopted sister 18 years younger than him who he often looked after when she was growing up (she’s now 16) and we joke that he is the hands-on, loving one. I’m a more scientific, practical parent and read a lot of parenting books in preparation for Oliver.

How did you decide which route to go down?

We decided to go through the surrogacy process in the US as it offers the most airtight legal system for homosexual men. A lot of countries honour the birthright of the mothers, however, in the US we were both able to have our names on the birth certificate soon after Oliver was born. There are three parts to the surrogacy process:

  1. The egg donor - we found an anonymous donor through an agent based in LA. We signed all the documents without ever meeting her or knowing her name, however, we did see her profile with photos, education, family and disease history. Some people choose to ask a friend or find somebody themselves to contact directly, however, we were concerned that would add extra emotional and legal complexities to the process so decided against it.
  2. The clinic - they’re responsible for storing the sperm from one of us, getting the eggs from the egg donor, doing the IVF and transferring the embryo(s) to a surrogate mother. Although we used a different clinic based in LA, California, we heard a lot of good reviews about Western Fertility, also based in LA. We recommend doing a lot of research into the clinics and doctors.
  3. The surrogate mother - our initial attempts with our first matched surrogate mother were unsuccessful. It was very unfortunate but also quite rare. Two years later, we found another surrogate mother and thankfully it worked the first time of the transfer. 

A little about Oliver

He was born at 37 weeks, a little small but very healthy. Now he is 9 months old and is crawling everywhere. It’s definitely a constant learning process and we have found ourselves growing with the baby. He’s a very smiley and sociable baby and absolutely loves playgroups and swimming lessons. We bring him to all the social gatherings with our friends and they all adore him. 

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LGBTQ+ families share their journey

*Noelia wears the MORI Rainbow Print Dungarees & Ribbed Bodysuit

Lindsey, Jess & daughter Noelia

Did you both always want children?

We both knew from very young that we wanted children, but there were times where we didn't feel it was possible. Lindsey knew from 16 that she wasn't heterosexual, and didn't know her if it was even an option to have children. After seeing another same-sex couple on their fertility journey via Instagram, it made us determined to become mamas, no matter what it took.

How did you decide which route to go down?

We did a lot of research and also looked at other same-sex couples for ideas. We didn't know any couples personally so we looked at social media for inspiration. Initially we didn't intend to have IVF, we first looked at a donor website but were put off by some of the 'conditions' that some donors set out. Then we tried with a known donor - someone we trusted, and amazingly we conceived on our first try! We were both delighted and shocked by our luck. Sadly, at 6 weeks we found out it was ectopic. This knocked our confidence a lot, and we didn't feel completely able to share our grief through fear of judgement about our method of conception. To make this worse, someone we confided in made a comment about how we had 'played with fire', which really made us feel guilty and irresponsible. In an unrelated phone call with her doctor, J explained what had happened and it wasn't until the doctor said, 'you sound like you are blaming yourself' and reassured us that it could have happened to anyone irrelevant of the method of conception, that we began to accept and process our loss and look positively at trying again. After a few more attempts with a known donor, we decided that IVF was the right option for us and went with London Women's Clinic as they were one of the first to welcome LGBTQ+ couples! 

Any tips for someone embarking on this journey?

Do lots of research and consider all options. IVF is expensive and we were extremely fortunate that a family member made a significant contribution to the cost, with no pressure to pay it back anytime soon. IUI may be cheaper but look at the success rates and have fertility tests done before making any decisions, if you can afford it. We feel fortunate that we conceived via IVF on our first try and were married at the time of conception because we know of lots of couples who were not married and now the non-birth parent is having to adopt their own child. Our main tip for starting this journey would be to reach out to others who identify as an LGBTQ family, because even though you have expectations of what challenges you may face, it can still knock you at times and feel like you have to keep outing yourself in every appointment and situation! If you are ever faced with someone who asks questions such as "who is the real parent?," remember it is the care, time and love you provide for your child that makes you a parent. Don't be afraid to educate people. Often their comments or questions come from a place of ignorance, not malice, and they are happy to be informed. Be proud of your journey!

How was the birth?

My birth was not what I expected or wanted and to be brutally honest I think this comes down to a lack of education on my part. After giving birth, I found out so much that would have helped me during birth and I really regret not educating myself more in advance. But, each to their own and I'm not suggesting that there is a right way. I ended up opting for an induction, which I would never do again. I was suffering with severe anxiety which crept up on me suddenly in my last week of pregnancy. As someone who has never suffered with anxiety before, I was determined to get the baby out as soon as possible as I couldn't cope with the worry and woke up one night convinced she wasn't moving and expected the worst. With a lot of persuasion our consultant agreed to an induction because my cervix was 'favourable' but 36 hours after being induced there was still no sign of the baby and her heart rate started to increase. I was exhausted and too worried to sleep. The second time her heart rate increased, I had my waters broken and then the contractions came hard and fast. I was transferred to the labour ward only to find I was just 3cm dilated, despite the contractions getting stronger and longer (apparently not uncommon with induction). I also later found out that epidurals almost always lead to surgery but I unwittingly opted for one in my desperate state. My dilation didn't progress and our baby ended up in distress so I was rushed for an emergency c-section. However, I have heard of so many positive and inspiring birth stories since my own and have learned a lot. If I could do it again I would do it very differently, but the most important thing is that she arrived safely and in good health. She is the most beautiful baby and was worth it all. It's important to remember that there is no right or wrong way and YOU are in charge. Do what feels right for you and if that changes, just go with the flow and trust yourself.

How did you feel when you met Noelia for the first time?

A lot of people talk about how they felt when they first met their child and it is hard to imagine before experiencing it. Even though we only knew our donors ethnicity and history, we didn't see a picture of him and so we created our own image of what Noelia would look like when she came out; thick hair, a small nose, petite, big eyes...and she looked exactly how we had pictured her! It does also feel like, how can that bump have been that beautiful baby? 

She was so small and fragile. I felt an instant calm when I saw her but also complete and utter disbelief and fear of the unknown!

Do you have any tips you would pass on to expecting mothers?

Be prepared to be unprepared! Appreciate every moment because it goes so fast and they grow so quickly. The first few weeks are an overwhelming blur filled with joy and exhaustion but those moments are so precious. Be proud of what you've achieved and be kind to yourself. Be realistic with your expectations and ask for help when you need it. Be patient with each other. If you can find the energy, keep a diary as one regret I have is not having documented my own feelings and experiences during pregnancy and postnatally as it really is a unique and incredible experience.

A little about Noelia

Obviously we are biased, but Noelia really is a beautiful baby, inside and out. In the beginning we used to say she never complained unless she was hungry. Well, that has changed a little, but generally she is an easy-going and happy bubba. She is full of energy and only power naps during the day. Although this is exhausting for her mamas, we believe it is due to her outgoing personality and fear of missing out (FOMO!). She loves to socialise and interact, and she never stops talking (making cute coos and weird noises!) She is already fiercely independent and will no doubt run before she can walk. She is determined just like her mamas and knows exactly what she wants! She loves to laugh and smiles all the time. She really is a joy and we love her so much. Watching her grow and develop really is the most amazing experience and she seems to be learning new skills daily. She certainly keeps us on our toes and we wouldn't change it for the world.

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