The Other Mothers by Jennifer Berney, Sourcebooks, 2021.
Many couples struggle to have children. Various circumstances, including infertility, work against them. But it’s twice as hard when the couple is two women.
In this marvelous memoir, Jenn and Kellie struggle first to decide whether they both want to try. Kellie is older and not as keen on having a baby, but ultimately she agrees. Then they need sperm to get Jenn pregnant. They try to go through the system, but medical professionals are mostly disapproving or clueless. They look for a husband, not accepting Kellie as Jenn’s life partner. The first doctor they see diagnoses their problem as “lack of sperm.” He also says he won’t do any diagnostic tests until they have been “trying” for a year, the same thing he tells heterosexual couples. Only after they have used up 10 units of donor sperm and Jenn has suffered multiple miscarriages do they find a doctor who is willing to take a closer look to see why all of the pregnancies have failed. By then, they’re out of money and losing hope. Ultimately the couple finds a solution with the help of their friends, but I won’t spoil the story with details. This book is an eye-opener, laced with research on the challenges facing same-sex couples who want to have children. It’s also a darned good story.
For readers here at Childless by Marriage, I have to include a trigger warning. Kellie and Jenn do end up having babies. If this bothers you, you might want to skip this one or stop reading when sperm and egg unite. But I think you might identify with much of the story, even if you’re straight.
I haven’t written much here about gay couples. Being straight, I can’t claim to know what it’s really like. I’m not even sure “gay” is the acceptable word anymore. Too much of my thinking is colored by the same-sex couples I see on TV, which is probably not realistic. The LGBTQ couples I know in real life are all childfree by choice.
It has only been a few decades since parenthood was even considered a possibility for the LGBTQ community. It was assumed that couples of the same gender would never have children because one of the ingredients was missing. But there are ways to make it happen. Adoption. A male friend and a turkey baster. Sperm donors, egg donors, surrogates, and fertility clinics.
But one critical ingredient remains: Both partners must want to have children and be willing to put in the time, money and misery to make it happen. It’s not going to happen by accident. If they’re not on the same page, they’ll be childless by marriage like the rest of us.
Help me fill in the blanks. I would love to hear about your real-life experiences with same-sex couples and parenthood.
The Nomo Crones are meeting again for another Childless Elderwomen chat. On Sunday, June 20, noon PDT, I will join Jody Day, Donna Ward, Karen Kaufmann, Jackie Shannon Hollis, Maria Hill, Karen Malone Wright and Stella Duffy. We’ll talk about coming out of the COVID cocoon and the skills we’ve learned from our childless lives. No doubt, our talk will range all over the place. We’re a rowdy bunch. To register to listen live or receive the recording later, click here.
Sunday is also Father’s Day in the U.S. Or as frequent commenter Tony calls it, “Chopped Liver Day” because that’s how he feels. This week, Childless Not by Choice podcaster Civilla Morgan gathered several men to share their views and suggestions for surviving the day. Click here to listen.