Parenting as a same-sex couple
Parenting as a same-sex couple
As a child growing up I would regularly tell my parents that I was never having kids or getting married.
As a teenager I had a few boyfriends, but nothing I would really class as serious, until in my late teens I met and fell in love with an incredible young woman who has since been my partner for 30 years.
Being in a same-sex relationship comes fraught with its own challenges, especially when you start one quite young, even more so when you consider this was a multicultural relationship formed in the era of AIDS when homophobia was rife, even towards women, such were the misconceptions that surrounded HIV back then.
However, thankfully as time has moved on, we are now in an era of greater acceptance and understanding, where same-sex relationships are perceived as normal and marriage equality is at the forefront of many people’s minds and human rights campaigns. This shift in attitudes has created an environment where it is no big deal if a child has two Mums or two Dads, whereas if this had been the case when I was a child there would have been horrific backlash and bullying because of it.
All the way up to my mid 30’s I was very adamant that I did not want children; I knew I never wanted to be pregnant or give birth, it just simply wasn’t my journey this life, something my partner Sandy accepted, and our relationship was not lacking because we were childless.
Yet once I passed 35 I realised two things: firstly that I would actually make a good parent as I was more settled and mature and felt I had a lot to offer a child and secondly, and please excuse me for being a bit slow on the uptake here, that I didn’t have to be the one to be pregnant, carry the child and give birth. For me this was a win-win situation.
After much discussion and researching about how to approach having a child we opted for donor insemination, which thanks to the support of our GP and fertility specialist was relatively simple. On our third cycle we conceived, much to our excitement and relief as just like IVF, donor insemination does involve blood tests and hormone injections, which do take their toll physically and emotionally.
From the very first baby scan I fell deeply in love with our baby. I loved the GP visits where we would get to listen to his heart beating, I loved watching my partner blossom and enjoy her pregnancy, attending antenatal classes together and preparing for a new life to be welcomed into our home.
The only challenge for me came at the baby shower where essentially Sandy was the centre of attention, and rightly so, but I was not even acknowledged or supported in the celebration. Interesting how this is the case, as I guess most ‘fathers’ would not be present at the baby shower, yet I did feel quite left out at the time.
During the pregnancy it surprised me how many of our friends would just casually remark “so you’ll be having the next one then” like that was the expectation and I found it difficult to get them to understand that I wanted to be a parent, not a mother, as I could see that my role would be that of both mother and father to our child.
Raising a child in a same-sex relationship is, I imagine, no different to any other relationship as you still provide and care for your child’s needs and you love them just as much as any other couple would, raising them to be the best they can by surrounding them with a warm, loving and supportive family.
At first we were worried how other people would treat our son and us, yet we have never encountered any overt prejudice or judgment. In fact it has been quite the opposite, many people have congratulated us for choosing to be parents knowing that it could potentially raise some issues. Others have been intrigued in the process and through our openness some of our single straight female friends were inspired to consider using a donor insemination to conceive.
What I find very amusing is that when I am out with my son on my own, especially when he was a baby, is how many people remark “Oh, he looks just like you” even though biologically he shouldn’t. And the other one is “Oh, you treat and love him just like he is yours” which obviously without a doubt he is, despite the fact that I didn’t carry him.
Raising a child has been a gift that has allowed both myself and my partner to become closer and more united, to heal from our childhood issues and the way we were parented and to grow as human beings. We are now much more honest and open about how we feel and what is going on for us, as right from the start we promised we would never lie to our child – not even about Father Christmas!
Our son is sensitive and tender, intelligent and funny just like any other young boy. He has many role models in his life, both male and female, and never feels he has missed out on having a Dad. I remember not long after he had started school, it was Mother’s Day and he wanted to make us each our own card, when he came home and told me that one of the children said to him ‘You have two Mums’ and he replied like it was the most natural thing in the world “Of course”.
Over recent years there has been much speculation about children raised in same-sex families as to how well adjusted they are; well it turns out that most kids from a same-sex background are intelligent, well-rounded and do just as well socially.
It does not faze my son that he has two Mums; he has never been picked on or teased about it at school and I think that comes from the confidence and solidity of the relationships within our family unit, coupled with the fact that he is given the space to express and be an equal member of our family and is being raised knowing truth, respect and self-responsibility.
I can’t help but wonder what impact having two Mums will have on him as he grows and moves on to high school and beyond. But I like to think that if anything about his upbringing were to cause him any issues that he will be more than well equipped to deal with them knowing that he is, and will always be, loved and supported by two parents who love him deeply, no matter what gender they are.