Sunday, 31 March 2013

Happy Easter - new life!

Easter is a very evocative time for me. A marking of death and sacrifice, and celebration of new life. In just 22 weeks, all being well, our little baby will be born. New life in our little family.

I remember childhood Easters in Cornwall with my sister, parents and Grandparents, in an old house where the plugs had round pins rather than square ones. This Easter is without question less sunny than those ones!

Our baby is going to be lucky, as it will have three full sets of grandparents. We have decided against being too precious about who is or is not 'officially' a grandparent - we certainly can't do it purely along bloodlines. All three sets of grandparents-to-be are excited to meet the new arrival and I am safe in the knowledge that my parents feel as much involved with this pregnancy as with my sister's.

So, as is now tradition, I must say that by this time next Easter, our baby will be six months old!

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

My baby's heart beat

I heard my baby's heart beat on Monday. It was extraordinary. Every now and again between the rhythmic beats there were little pops and clicks. They were the sound of our little tyke wriggling around.

I've been thinking very much about our child today. I've had a shockingly bad day at work, and R reminded me that there are much more important things to think about - such as our baby. She's right. In just five months I will have a son or daughter. Really, compared to a bad day at work, that's just incredible. It's fascinating how quickly priorities change isn't it?

Only three weeks now until our 20 week scan where the midwife will check for any problems and also, hopefully, tell us if we are expecting a boy or a girl. We do want to know, although we really don't have a preference. I can't wait to find out, but of course then we will face the inevitable name discussions...

So, now, when things get tough at work, I'm going to think again about my baby's heart beat.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Call the Midwife!

So perhaps our midwife doesn't actually look like this... But we are off to see her tomorrow. R is now 17 weeks pregnant so tomorrow we are going to check in with our midwife at the local GP surgery.

I'm feeling quite excited, as we should be able to hear the baby's heart beat for the first time. It's an odd thing really, expecting a baby. R's tummy is definitely growing, and we have seen the little baby on a scan screen, but sometimes you can forget there's a real little person in there. I'm looking forward to hearing our child tomorrow for the very first time. I am sure that will make everything feel very real.

There is also that sense of anxiety that comes before any check up or scan. Everyone knows that these appointments are to just reassure everyone that mummy and baby are doing well, but you can't help but think about what happens if that isn't the case.

No doubt poor R will have to give lots of samples of blood for testing and the inevitable wee in a pot. I will sit and try and ask useful questions and smooth her brow if that seems necessary. I would like to think that we will leave the clinic wiser as to our little baby's health and happiness.

Friday, 22 March 2013

Guest post: Our family tree

I hadn't really given much thought to what our family tree will look like, but one of this blog's followers, Kate, has looked into it. Here, in a guest post, is her experience.

Having recently discovered this blogspot I thought I’d share a few discussions my wife and I have had over the past 3 years ( DD, will be 2 years next week). One of the elements of DD’s development we have spent hours thinking about is her identity.

With family history being en vogue we wanted her to have a family tree that was true to her biological heritage as well as recognising my role in her life. After all she shares my name so how about my family history and future?

We came up with the idea of building a family tree that incorporated three family lines, both her mums’ as well as her donor’s. Although there were times when it was tough for me to accept, she does have a fantastic donor she will hopefully see periodically throughout her life.

We gathered our own data and were lucky enough that our donor was also able to provide information dating back 2-3 generations that he was happy for us to have and share with our daughter as she gets older.

It has not been easy to try and put this together and it is not a particularly clean or tidy genogram but it will hopefully go some way to helping her make sense of who she is and bring with it an element of pride.

Of course another advantage we have with a known donor is that we are aware of DD’s half siblings. The plan is that we will all try and meet up at least once a year and the children will develop a relationship with one another. The other benefit being we have other lesbian mothers we can get support from although we can’t help looking out for little similarities in our children.

Thanks very much to Kate for sharing her story - both the easy and difficult bits. Have you created a family tree?

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Top ten comments on discovering you are expecting a baby

When you discover that a friend is expecting a baby, what do you say? Think carefully, and then read the comments below. These are the ones that R and I now have stock answers for...

  1. Well, that will change your life forever. Yes, marvellous, thank you for that, we hadn't realised...
  2. Is it a boy or a girl? We don't know yet.
  3. Will you find out? Yes, but we don't mind either way.
  4. Well, make the most of any sleep you get now, in a few months you won't get any. Excellent, that's very helpful. Thank you.
  5. When is it due? September.
  6. Did you have IVF? This is one for those of us who don't have an obvious man in our lives. The answer is no.
  7. Ooh, children are a gift aren't they? Yes they are. But I am not sure I need to hear that phrase ever again.
  8. Let me tell you about my traumatic/unpleasant/painful/tragic childbirth story... No, please don't.
  9. To R when she is feeling ghastly: Oh you look really well. Nope, she's not, she feels like death warmed up. Thanks though.
  10. Will you move to a bigger place? No - having a child is hard work enough without moving house too. 
I am tempted now to refer everyone to this link. Yes, I know I sound churlish. In fact I am totally guilty of some of the above myself. Perhaps we could come up with some alternatives?

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Donor etiquette...

I had an odd thought the other day...

Someone I know who is in a same sex relationship asked if me and R might share some of our conception experiences. I of course said yes - anything we can do to ease someone else's path. We were fortunate to have similar help from friends.

It was at that point I thought that we had the perfect sperm donor to recommend - as though I was recommending a lumber or something. A very odd concept.

What is the etiquette here?!

Saturday, 16 March 2013

What does the donor look like?

No one has actually asked me directly what our sperm donor looks like, but I do know that my Aunt, once I had shared our good news, immediately called my parents and asked them.

She wanted to know his colouring, his build and, no doubt, his intelligence. There is, undoubtedly, something curious about having a child enabled by someone you barely know. Incidentally my parents replied that they didn't know and that it really wasn't relevant to them. Full marks!

If we had conceived through a clinic, the donor's appearance would just have been summarised on clinical notes, whereas we met ours on a number of occasions. I must confess to feeling very fond of our donor. For all sorts of reasons it would be impractical to be friends with him going forward, but in another life I can see how we could have been friends. That said, I do wonder if my fondness comes from his selfless generosity.

Fred (as discussed before, not his real name) is in a relationship and doesn't want children. He does however see the challenges some people face who want them, and enjoys helping them. He doesn't want a formal role in the child's life, and that is fine with us. Both R and I have very good male friends and are close with our own fathers, so our baby will have no shortage of male role models. In addition, he or she will have two loving parents who worked very hard to have a child. This truly was no accident. A lot of thought went into it.

So I'm not going to describe our donor here, beyond saying that he is a kind and generous man who has enabled our dreams to come true.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

The fear...

Are you expecting a baby? Is your partner expecting one? Or perhaps you are soon to adopt a child. Whatever your scenario, at some point you will come across 'the fear'.

It began quite early on for me. Our lovely two bedroom flat is already a bit of a squeeze, and in order to fit in a baby and all the ensuing detritus, we're going to need to either move somewhere bigger or do a life laundry. In order to prevent nervous breakdowns all round, we have opted for the former. This all sounds perfectly reasonable, but of course pregnancy is nature's way of setting a ticking time bomb that you have no control over. We have just five months left now to sort out our lives. Hence, 'the fear'.

'The fear' is that hot sweaty sensation you get in the night when you realise you have no idea where you're going to put a folded buggy.

'The fear' is the moment that people ask which nursery you will use - yes, apparently we should already know this.

'The fear' is that growing sensation that nothing will be the same again.

I am slowly learning that I will not be a perfect parent, nor indeed is it possible to be one. With this lesson, 'the fear' gets smaller, although I will no doubt still wake up in a cold sweat tonight about whether or not to get a bumbo seat...

Sunday, 10 March 2013

My thoughts on Mothering Sunday

Here in the UK it is Mother's Day, or as my own Mum prefers to call it, Mothering Sunday. It does make it sound more spiritual, although it does make me feel as though we ought to mark it in church or something which we haven't done.

R and I sent our own Mothers' cards, and we also sent each other little 'mum-to-be' cards. It's funny to think that, all being well, by Mother's Day 2014 we will have a little baby of our own.

As those of you who have read previous posts will know, I started this blog to try and make sense of my role as the non-biological child that my wife, R, is currently pregnant with. We are 15 weeks pregnant today and contemplating how our lives will change. One of the wonderful things I have discovered about writing this blog, is how many people feel similarly to me. It has been fantastic reading comments and tweets from people sharing their very diverse experiences.

One thing that has become abundantly clear, and that I have found enormously comforting, has been that while I won't share the biological and birth giving connection to my child that my wife has, I will have my own bond with my son or daughter, she she will not have. We will have our own very special roles, neither one more important than the other. This has been a rather delightful revelation to me. So, no, the child won't have my green eyes, but it may well share my sense of humour. And while R will have the connection of breast feeding, I will be the one, while R is on maternity leave, that the baby will enjoy returning home from work.

Finally, this Mothering Sunday, I'd just like to take a moment to think about those who aren't mums and wish they were, or those whose mums are no longer with us. I always think this must be a very tough time for them.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

But we're not infertile!

As I mentioned in an earlier post, at the beginning of the process we did look into having artificial insemination at a clinic. We would need to pay for it, but we reasoned that the expert care and experience of the doctors would be an advantage. In addition the sperm would be pre-screened and legalities would all be covered.

Simple yes?

We had high hopes initially, in spite of the letter that invited us to the 'Infertility Clinic'. It felt a touch negative, but we swept that aside and looked forward to finding out all about our options of starting a family.

We went in to see the doctor, who didn't even look up from his papers as he said "female couple looking for artificial insemination yes?" We sat down, a bit unnerved by his detached approach. He then proceeded to tell R all the many millions of tests she would need, some uncomfortable and invasive. This all seemed a bit like overkill. Surely she didn't need those tests unless we thought there was a problem? Apparently not. She was treated like every other woman who darkened his door, and that's not about his commitment to equality, but a reflection of his assumption that all women are the same. They are not.

We asked him to slow down and talk through exactly what each test was, what it involved and why it was necessary. Then, without asking, he booked R in for them. I could see she was already beginning to feel upset. This was not the happy, exciting open discussion we had been looking for.

We left, feeling that this simply was not for us. I hasten to add at this point that I suspect had we seen someone else or been to a different clinic things may have been very different. The things that clinics such as this are able to do for couples with fertility issues is incredible. Even so, I suspect they're not overly keen on being seen in the 'infertility' clinic...

So, we put the clinic on the back burner. We would revisit should we have trouble conceiving. We have been massively fortunate to be able to conceive with minimal medical input, but still, there must have been better way that appointment could have gone.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

So in this day and age it's easy to get LGBT children's books right?

We've been thinking through all the 'stuff' we're going to need for when the baby arrives. The life laundry has begun, and we're already saying farewell to surplus objects that seemed like a good idea at the time. Why we felt the need to have three spare mobile phones hanging around is a mystery to me...

I was reassured yesterday that babies actually don't need that much stuff, and in fact a lot of the perceived need is market driven. That is a useful thing to keep in mind. Facebook hasn't worked out I'm going to be a mother yet, so I have yet to have the pleasure of constant baby ads. The wedding ones last year were bad enough...

One thing we do want to do though is make sure we have plenty of story books for both our child and others that show other families 'like us'. Sadly, they are depressingly thin on the ground. I've had to resort to Amazon. One of my faves is Mommy, Mama and Me by Leslie Newman. It is American, as many of these books are - nothing wrong with that, although some of the references don't quite work. But finding a British one seems nigh on impossible. The most beautiful that I know is And Tango Makes Three, based on the true story of two boy penguins in a New York City zoo who brought up a baby penguin. There is a theatrical interpretation of that story at our local arts centre this weekend and we're really looking forward to going, along with some other LGBT parents and parents-to-be.

Delightfully, I have found that some classics have been reinterpreted - for example Goldilocks and the three bears who are now two mums and baby bear. But in all fairness, I could count on one hand the number that I found. Am I looking in the wrong place?

If you have any suggestions of books for any children under 10 which include LGBT characters, please, I implore you, let me know!

Monday, 4 March 2013

What's in a name?

A phone call last week:

Me: hello mum, I just thought you'd want to know that me and R have chosen our names for when the baby comes. Do you want to hear them?

Mum: Don't you want to keep them secret until the baby is here? I feel a bit superstitious about knowing names before he or she is here...

Me: no mum, we've not even got that far yet. I mean the names for us, what the baby will call us!

This is something that most straight couples don't go through. Yet, for us, people often ask us what we will be called, and in turn, we ask other same-sex parents what they do.

We had several options, including:
1 - just being 'mum and dad'. This was swiftly discounted as it could confuse the child, and perhaps other children too. I do have a strange fondness of the 'dad' name though, although I feel faintly disloyal about that...
2 - being 'mummy S and mummy R'. This seemed a bit long winded, and a bit too contrived.
3 - being 'mum' and 'mummy'. This felt too similar.
4 - being 'mummy' and 'mama'. To start with I wasn't sure. But then I realised something... Children always say 'mama' before mummy, and so the baby will say my name first! In addition, I have decided that if the child ever says 'dada', I'll claim that as me too.

Ultimately, at some point, my son or daughter will make their own mind up about what to call us, regardless of what we choose, and so much the better!

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Mood swings anyone?

Pages of pregnancy books are devoted to the emotions of the mother-to-be and some of the challenges she can face. She is dealing with the enormity of the forthcoming arrival of parenthood, worries about the baby, physical symptoms of pregnancy and, of course, hormones. They are right to devote those pages. The pressure on pregnant women is immense.

What is very rarely discussed is the emotional impact on the other partner. In one of the pregnancy books we've got, there's a section on how the father-to-be might get a bit worried about the impact a new baby might have on his cricket and football playing, and going down the pub with his mates... Personally, I can't relate to that, although it did make me smile. More recently though I've begun to have my own stresses.

Will I be able to provide for the child?

Will I be a good enough parent?

How will we ever get our home ready in time for the baby's arrival?

How can I support R best?

If R is in a bad mood, is it a failing on my part?

This is supposed to be a happy and exciting time. Why am I so stressed?

Which all leads to guilt!

R has definitely had moments of being tearful, snappy and perhaps *whispers* irrational. But she's not alone. I have too. I think it is safe to say that *both* R and I have been able to tick off quite a few of those pregnancy emotions.

Not so long ago I read that depression and anxiety during pregnancy is more common in mums than postnatal depression. I can believe it. But I think it has a further reach than just the pregnant party.