A Guest Blog Post from Kari van der Heide
We met on an Island, in the Caribbean, almost six years ago. She immediately knew we would get married one day, I thought she was funny. She was right though. Three years later I bought her a ring and asked her to be my wife. Six months into our marriage I was pregnant with a little baby girl. Isaya was born in the summer of 2015. It was the happiest day of our lives.
Let me start by telling you that 90% of the time I don’t think about it. This is my everyday life, so it’s completely normal for me and the people around me that we are doing this: two women, married, having a baby. Only when I see our story reflected in other people’s eyes and questions do I take a moment and go ‘oh right, this is different’. These moments feel harmless, because the questions come from a place of sincere interest or understandable curiosity. The realisation that our lives are less than conventional only feels threatening when things like the Orlando shooting happen. Affairs like that sadden me deeply and make me afraid for my daughter’s future. But thankfully I live in a country where homosexuals are relatively safe and are not looked at as freaks or unsavoury, but seen as normal, deserving people with the same rights as everyone else.
So that is why I’m writing this blog. To share with you our story, that in a lot of ways is the same as any other couple with a pregnancy and child wish and in some ways strays a bit from the usual.
One of the questions we get a lot is: ‘Was it hard to decide who would carry the baby?’. Not really. Of course we talked about it. But it was pretty obvious we would try and get me pregnant, because I have had a baby wish pretty much since I was twelve years old. My wife had more of a ‘sure, one day’- kind of mentality when it came to kids. When we started talking about it, this of course changed into a ‘yes, let’s do this!’- vibe. But even though now we both had a child wish, I was the only one with a pregnancy wish. Because we found out those are two very different things!
It’s one thing to want to hold, cuddle, kiss and care for a baby. It’s a whole different thing to want to carry it in your belly, feel your body and emotions change, get sick, feel all sorts of discomfort, be limited in what you can do and last but not least; give birth. I wanted all of the above, my wife could not be more horrified by the prospect of pushing something the size of a watermelon out of her vagina. So yeah, that part was easy.
The next part, not so much. Now, I realize a lot of straight couples have trouble getting pregnant. Gay couples don’t have a monopoly on that. The stories of other mamas out there who have been trying and failing to have a baby break my heart. I can relate to what they are going through, because we had our share of trying and failing. But first we had another dilemma. And that was How? How can we get pregnant?
After long talks we decided we wanted to try an anonymous donor. It just seemed like an unattractive if not impossible task to raise a baby with a third person or other couple meddling into our decisions. We thought it would be hard enough at times to agree on things between just the two of us. And we didn’t think we knew anyone who would just give us ‘the stuff’ and leave us to it. So, anonymous it was.
We started a program at a fertility clinic that specialises in same sex couples with a child wish. After being accepted, we had several medical check-ups and got on a waiting list. It would take about eight months before the donor’s goods would be available to us. In these months I virtuously kept track of my periods and drank unvirtuous glasses of red wine. In the month of May of the year 2014, we got ‘an offer’ for sperm from ‘a white male, wavy blond hair, blue eyes, 1.80 cm, 86 kilos’’. That was all the info they were allowed to give us. We labelled him ‘The Viking’, because that’s what he sounded like to us.
For the next months we would come into the clinic on a specific day – a day I was probably ovulating. I would lie down in a way too well lit room, on a way too cold examination table, while a way too chirpy nurse would fill me up, way too fast; I needed to be up and out five minutes later, for the next equally desperate mama to be. The chances per visit of getting pregnant: 15%. Needless to say, it was stressful. And totally, absolutely 100% not us. The pregnancy tests, two weeks later, took their toll on us. The first time I ‘just’ cried. The (what would turn out to be the) last time my wife could barely peel me of the bathroom floor. I felt devastated. My wife felt helpless.
Despair must have a colour or smell detectable by those around you, because our silent pleas to the universe were answered after my bathroom breakdown. An angel, in the form of a loving friend, came to us and offered us his help. No strings attached. He had his own family and just wanted to share what he had and we lacked. We talked things through, with his wife as well, and set up an agreement. And that was that. We had a donor. A ‘real one’. Not some Fantasy Viking with an unknown DNA and ditto family tree, character and looks. Here was a healthy, handsome, smart, kind, young man who offered us his goods. Our hope was renewed. This felt good.
Not only could we inseminate at home now, in a relaxing setting. We could also ‘do it’ multiple days per cycle. At the clinic we had to ‘guess’ the best day and wing it. Now we could inseminate three days around my ovulation, with more chances of getting it right. Because seriously people, my body lives by the rules of nature not men. My eggs don’t go ‘pop’ because a computer says so. And to top it all off, now my wife could get me pregnant, because she was the one who inseminated me. All we needed was a cup, a syringe (sans the needle of course) and a plastic tube. So maybe it does not come as a big surprise to you that I was pregnant after the first try. We were over the moon.
Even though we were married and new laws were installed in April 2015 to ensure same rights for lesbian couples as straight couples when it comes to having babies, we wanted to make sure there would be no trouble once our baby was born. So my wife acknowledged our baby as hers when Isaya was still in my belly. And when she was born we notified her birth at the municipality together. Both myself and my baby carry my wife’s last name, so there can be no confusion about our family status. Everyone who helped us during my pregnancy, Aya’s birth and afterwards thought it was ‘interesting’ or ‘cool’. Our situation was far from common, but nobody was weirded out or acted strange.
These positive experiences must be part of the reason why most of the time I don’t have to think about us being different. I realise we are very fortunate to live in a country that is quite progressive when it comes to gay rights. We are also blessed with family and friends that accept us for who we are. The fact that millions of homosexuals around the world are scared to live their lives the way they want, are abused for who they love, are denied basic human rights and feel rejected by loved ones breaks my heart into a million pieces. It just blows my mind that someone can have a problem with two people in love, trying to be happy.
The fact that we have had it relatively easy on the gay- front doesn’t mean there won’t be challenging times ahead. There will come a day our daughter is going to ask questions about where she came from. And here is what we will tell her:
“Once upon a time your mamas met each other on a beautiful Island far away from here. We fell in love and decided we never wanted to live without each other. We were very happy. Except, there was only one thing missing. And that was you, sweet Isaya. We wanted to share our love and happiness with you. But you were still living with the Angels and we needed a little help getting you here. A kind man offered to help us bring you to us. We were very grateful for his kindness and soon we welcomed you into our lives. We feel so blessed to have you and love you to the moon and back.”
Kari lives in the Netherlands, with her wife Hinke and daughter Isaya. Isaya is fourteen months old. Kari writes about their lives on www.columnsbykari.com. She blogs three times a week about parenting, breastfeeding, baby wearing, co sleeping, yoga, health, a veggie lifestyle, style and beauty. You can also follow her on Instagram.