Laura and her partner have three children aged 9, 5, 3 and a fourth arrival due in October. Here she shares her experience as a non-birthing mother navigating parenthood and the challenges that have come with being an LGBT+ couple going through the maternity system.
“We feel incredibly lucky to have our children, but each pregnancy and birth has been completely different, and we’ve faced a lot of barriers as an LGBT+ couple. We have 3 children - our first child is 9 years old, and it took 5 attempts at IUI, including a miscarriage. Our second child is now 5, which took 2 IUI attempts and with our third child, we had 3 failed IUI’s, 1 failed IVF and on the 5th attempt, IVF worked. Our fourth child, who is due in October, was conceived through 1 round of IVF.
“After everything we went through, we have felt mesmerised and in disbelief that each of our babies was finally here and safe! The best part of being a parent is waking up knowing you’ve been given the best gift ever and hearing them call your name!
“But the fear that the world is unkind and that someday they’ll come to realise that, is hard to digest. We have to equip them with the understanding that not everyone is accepting of our family unit or who they are, and we are teaching them how to navigate those situations.
“Across the healthcare setting, especially in maternity care, there’s a real lack of education about different family pathways and needs. The worst interaction was with the doctor the day after our eldest was born. She refused to deal with me as the non-birthing mother and told the nurse to, “get her out, I don’t want her. I want the REAL mum.” That sentence and memory lives with me. It definitely tainted our first experience as first-time mothers.
“Being from multiple marginalised minority groups whilst having to overcome a multitude of barriers has been a struggle. Everything from lack of funding, general discrimination, lack of understanding, systems not fit for purpose that exclude our family and our needs, all put us and our communities at risk of poorer outcomes. However, the midwives at our first birth were AMAZING. They didn’t know everything, but they were considerate, asked questions, listened and got excited with us – it made us feel like it was an adventure and a memorable experience.
“I’d advise anyone looking to start a family to research every potential family pathway. You don’t know where it will lead or how unfortunately, sometimes the path you thought you’d take is unviable due to fertility or finances. Find your support network and organisations to give you guidance about safe spaces around care or treatment.
“Our journey was difficult, and we wanted to create a community and an organisation that supported people down the different paths to parenthood- so people didn’t have to experience what we did. LGBT Mummies was founded from this need: a need for a safe haven for women and people like us to come to for guidance, support and to meet others with lived experience- so that their journey felt less isolating and to be understood and celebrated.
“We want equal rights in funding access, access to inclusive care and a system that is trained to support us. How can you support someone if you have no understanding of the struggles and barriers they’ve had to overcome?”
You can find support and information from LGBT Mummies on their website.