Welcome to our first installment of “Awkward Questions.” Here we address some of the questions that often come up for LGBTQ parents. And while the questions themselves aren’t “awkward,” sometimes asking them can feel that way.
To address these questions I tap into the queer networks I’m lucky enough to be a part of, my own experience, and the wisdom of Google.
In cases where I’m quoting people who have shared in Facebook groups such as Queer Mamas and Queer Parents Connect, I have spoken with the original poster and received permission to share their stories here.
To keep these posts not-obscenely-long I’m breaking this up into a multi-part series. I’ll post a new installment every week for at least the next two weeks.
This question comes from Lyndsey Redondo: When selecting a sperm donor, I’ve noticed some don’t have any pregnancies reported. Would this steer you away from choosing this donor or could it be that not all pregnancies are reported?
Until it came time to select a sperm donor, I had given exactly zero thought to what it would be like to select a sperm donor. For those of you who haven’t done it, I offer my personal perspective: IT’S A REALLY WEIRD PROCESS.
We used a popular cryobank and, to be clear, I have nothing but positive things to say about the cryobank, the humans I interacted with there, and — especially — the tiny but ever-growing human they helped produce. BUT SERIOUSLY THE ENTIRE PROCESS WAS REALLY WEIRD. The donors all have profile pages just like on a dating site, and — just a like a dating site — the profiles are full of every little good thing and absolutely no mention of any messy human thing about them. Except the profiles aren’t written by the donors. They’re written by sales people at the cryobank. So you get things like:
The only thing more precious than Donor #74862’s time spent helping orphans in Africa is the fact he still takes his grandmother out to lunch every Tuesday. With a radiant smile and a physique uncannily similar to a cross between Mel Gibson/Adam Levine/Johnny Depp/Robert Redford/Jesus he confesses to sometimes still feeling endearingly but not cripplingly insecure. He takes inspiration from Oprah, various non-violent religious leaders, his mother, and the innocence of small children. He’s chosen to donate his sperm because he loves humanity and believes in you…
But I digress. Lyndsey’s question deals with a very specific subset of the weirdness of ordering sperm over the internet, a specific variation of “But how do I know this $1000 shot of sperm will get me pregnant?”
So here’s how some of the folks on Queer Mamas weighed in on whether proof of prior pregnancies factored into their decision:
We chose to focus on donors with confirmed pregnancies when making our selection. Of course, there are plenty of reasons why there may not be any reported, but it was just one less thing for us to stress about.
We went through 3 donors, the first 2 had confirmed pregnancies and I never got pregnant. The third had no pregnancies and we are now connected to two siblings from him.
It would not sway my decision. Sometimes there is generic compatibility or incompatibility that influence conception. Confirmed pregnancies could mean many things as others have said. We used one donor without success for four cycles who had confirmed pregnancies. Then switched donors and got pregnant with twins on the first try. The donor had no confirmed pregnancies.
That being said, go with your gut and choose the donor who speaks to you and fits your wish list. If it’s unsuccessful after a few cycles switch donors. Wishing you well.
Desiree Scott Torres
I wouldn’t let that stop me! We tried 3 times with a donor with known pregnancies, and it didn’t work. We switched to a donor with no pregnancies and it worked the first try. He is now a sold out donor. I think it scares people just because of the unknowns but they all go through the same screening process!
We were the first confirmed pregnancy for our donor. My wife even got pregnant on try #1. He was pretty new, though.
I think part of it is how much each attempt is going to cost. We’re older and doing IVF and can’t afford multiple tries like we could with IUI. So we’re selecting a donor with confirmed pregnancies to rule that out as a variable.
Is it normal for a parent who didn’t carry the baby to suffer from postpartum depression?
The short answer here is YES. If you adopted your child or your partner carried the baby, YOU CAN STILL SUFFER FROM POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION.
According to the Mayo Clinic, PPD can range from relatively mild “baby blues” to much more severe depression. Check out the article by Mayo Clinic for the full list of signs and symptoms, and if you’re experiencing any of them please consider reaching out to a medical professional. PPD is real, and with support and/or treatment you can feel better.
So what causes PPD, and why is it usually associated with the mother who carried the child?
According to the Mayo Clinic, there are two main factors that can contribute to PPD. While the first factor is exclusive to the birth mother — hormone changes associated with pregnancy — the second factor can affect both parents equally. Specifically:
When you’re sleep deprived and overwhelmed, you may have trouble handling even minor problems. You may be anxious about your ability to care for a newborn. You may feel less attractive, struggle with your sense of identity or feel that you’ve lost control over your life. Any of these issues can contribute to postpartum depression.
When suffering from PPD it’s common to feel guilty, inadequate or alone. Sometimes hearing other people’s stories can provide an extra sense of help or support. Along those lines, I recommend reading this post on Postpartum Progress. In it, Elizabeth R. talks candidly about the postpartum depression she suffered (although it was her wife who carried their son). This is a great piece because she doesn’t shy away from sharing the things that she felt guilty about feeling, and it also covers her treatment and recovery. Here’s an excerpt:
I loved my son more than anything in the world — I know that now — but I didn’t want my son. The days at home, alone, caring for him grew immensely harder, the sleepless nights of guilt never-ending. I remember turning over in bed one night, and saying, “Seventeen years, eleven months, and two days, and we’ll be free again!“ Nothing seemed illogical with that statement to me. And then it got worse. Much worse. What could be so wrong with me to cause the thoughts and feelings so awful and unspeakable?
Additionally, in the Queer Mamas Facebook group, lots of moms who were never pregnant have weighed in on the matter. Below are a few perspectives shared in that group. Some folks were comfortable with me sharing their full names, other preferred to be more anonymous.
When our first was born, I went into what I can only describe as some form of PPD. I was a total mess, especially when I went back to work and was totally exhausted. Our son was, and still is, a terrible sleeper, so that didn’t help. I honestly thought we had totally destroyed our lives. Then I went to a therapy session and got my bearings again. Took some time though, as in months. For whatever reason, no issues for me when our second was born. Parenting is just really hard. Long days, short years.
Yes I did. Ours is not quite three months old now but the first month felt super hormonal for me and I was not expecting it. Ours sleeps pretty well but the hardest time for me was when she wasn’t yet. I didn’t realize sleep would affect me so much. My wife called out that she thought I was having some PPD symptoms and just naming that helped a little though I also felt guilty, like I was failing my wife by not being able to cope when she was the one who had the baby! For me going back to work two weeks ago actually helped a little because it helped me to feel adult again and obsess less about the baby’s nap schedules, feeding, etc. But you are definitely not alone.
In our home, that would be my wife. But lack of sleep hits everyone differently. We had a bad sleep regression around 4 months & she literally lost it. The baby woke up (in our room) & she started yelling “shut up” at her. She was so out of it she didn’t fully realize what she was doing. She felt so bad 5 minutes later once she fully woke up. That was basically her breaking point. I took the baby & spent the next 4 nights on the couch with the baby so she could sleep. I can run longer on little sleep. Then I hit my point & she took the baby so I could get a night. We made it a point to trade off more often so we both got sleep. Good luck!
That brings us to the end of our first installment of Awkward Questions.
Do you have experience with either of the topics discussed in this post? If so, please weigh in in the comments! Also, if you have a question you’d like to see addressed in a future post, please send an email (lgbtqparenting at gmail.com) or leave it in the comments and we’ll do our best to gather some answers!
I also want to acknowledge that the questions I’ve addressed so far deal primarily with being a lesbian parent. This is a bias that results from my own personal experience and knowledge. I’m working on getting a broader perspective, and will do my best to steadily improve on that as this blog continues. Additionally, if you have questions, experiences or resources you’re willing to share with me to help with the process, please either send me an email or leave a comment.
Next post I’ll addressing two more “awkward questions.” I hope to see you there!