Gayby Maybe? The Epic Queer Parenting Roundtable!

Queer parents have been around forever (doing excellent work, by the way), but the conversation around queer moms having kids has evolved a lot in the last decade or so. When I talk to older folks and elders in our communities, many are childfree. Certainly many are childfree by choice, but others wanted kids and never thought it was an affordable or socially acceptable option. Some have kids from previous relationships before they came our or are step-parents to their partner’s kids from previous relationships. When I think about the lesbian elders I know, it seems like only a handful had kids with their queer partners, through adoption or conceiving on their own. And of course those who did, really really really really really really wanted it and worked hard for it and often faced a lot of obstacles to make it happen (and often had a lot of socio-economic advantages to make it work).

Right now, the choice of whether to have children or not is relevant to queer women in ways that it simply wasn’t for generations before us. In the last couple years, my lesbian 30-something friends have been blowing up my Facebook feed with ultrasound and baby pics. The decision to be childfree seems more like a choice than a circumstance. While many ways of expanding our families are still expensive and hard to access, the idea of having kids is more reachable than ever before. According to the 2015 Autostraddle grown-ups reader survey, about half of Autostraddle readers age 29 and older plan to have or already have kids.

Unlike our heterosexual counterparts, having kids is not socially or culturally compulsory. As getting hitched and having kids becomes more common, maybe that will change. Maybe our parents and grandparents will start harassing us about putting a ring on it and getting knocked up. But for now, it feels like lesbian and bi women are mostly still able to make this choice on our own terms. And that’s a good thing.

But gosh, there’s a lot to talk about. We need a place to have some grown-up conversations about queer parenting decisions. You may have noticed we’ve been publishing a lot of baby stuff lately. You hopefully followed Haley‘s Queer Mama vlog, chronicling her and her partner Simone’s adventures in making their perfect small human, Juniper Jude. Caitlin broke and healed our hearts by sharing her experiences with pregnancy after a miscarriage and her babies, Anders and Graeson. We’re published essays about baby-making as a single black lesbian, DIY insemination, and navigating pregnancy and trauma.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg under the queer parenting tag. There is so much to say about queer parenting and there are so many questions.

So many, in fact, that we asked you to send us your questions about queer baby-making, family-growing, and parenting. Then, we gathered together a group of folks who can speak from a range of personal experiences to answer. And here we are! Of course, there are many parenting perspectives that are not represented here and these fine folks can’t represent all queer parents’ experiences. So we hope you will continue to ask questions, educate each other, share your experiences, and discuss these topics in the comments. First, let’s meet your Gayby Mayby parents and parents-to-be:

christina gayby picChristina works in fundraising and is buried under a pile of dirty laundry. She lives in Maryland with her wife, 11 month old daughter, enthusiastic dog, and indifferent cat. A fertility clinic got her knocked up after seven months and 41 weeks and 4 days after that, she popped out a baby at home with a couple of midwives and her dog supervising. She formula fed her baby, finished her Masters with a 6 month old and continues to avoid the angry mob. Christina used to blog at Magical Unicorn Parenting until she got too tired to think straight and may do so again at some point. She believes in coffee.

asher gayby picAsher is a 26-year-old activist and aspiring writer living in St. Louis. As a tiny, black american/Yoruba, lesbian with anxiety who wants to raise her child in a race conscious, queer, intersectional feminist home she knows she’s in for an adventure and she’s pretty stoked about it. Her awesome relationship with her mom made her want to be a parent from a young age and she’s spent over a decade learning everything she can about adoption, pregnancy, childbirth, parenting, and early development.

jess polly gayby picPolly is a paralegal and non-fiction writer and Jess is a community college English professor. They live in Rochester, New York (in the woodsy non-NYC part of the state). Polly and Jess have a 2 year old son they adopted through the foster care system. During their five years as foster parents, Polly and Jess have fostered 13 children ranging in age from newborn to eighteen. Parenting has taught Polly that everything she always thought about parenthood was wrong (very wrong) or at least woefully inadequate. Jess says “Though we were LITERALLY trained to be parents, I still feel like I’m winging it most of the time.”

kaelyn gayby picKaeLyn is a 32-year-old community organizer, sexuality educator, and contributing editor at Autostraddle. She and her partner live in Upstate New York with their furkids and (kind of on hiatus) blog about adding a human kid to the mix at Queer Family Matters. KaeLyn is currently trying to get preggers and has lots of emotions about getting knocked up as a queer feminist Korean adoptee who still likes cats more than babies.

marybeth michelle gayby picMarybeth works as a compensation analyst for a supermarket and Michelle is an Ob/Gyn at a community hospital. They live in Rochester, NY. After Michelle’s unsuccessful attempts to become pregnant, Marybeth, as the younger spouse, took on the challenge. They now have 2 children together, Mason (age 3) and Alisa (age 9) months. It’s important to note that Michelle is an Ob/Gyn, not a pediatrician. Her expertise is in bringing babies into the world, not raising them! They are both learning as parents everyday! Marybeth says, “Just when we think we’ve got it down, the kids change the game!”

lucy gayby picLucy lives outside Boston with her wife and two daughters. She is a contributing writer for AfterEllen where she writes about mom stuff, sports stuff, and recaps The Fosters (which involves a lot of yelling at Brandon Foster). She has been a mostly stay-at-home mom since giving birth to her older daughter and a writer whenever she can find a spare five minutes. In 2014 she was able to steal enough time to write a short story called Dragon Slayer.

Your Burning Questions about Babies and Queer Mom Life

What makes queer parenthood different or unique?

Christina: Straight people have a *lot* of opinions about what makes queer parenthood different. A lot of those assumptions are based on heteronormative stereotypes about gender and are really unfortunate. There’s no law that says my wife is any more or less nurturing than a husband would be, or that my need to provide for my family is as strong as a dude’s. I could say that you have to deliberately want to have children as queer parents, but that slights straight couples with infertility issues and forgets that birth control exists. It’s definitely possible to have whoops babies as a queer couple, but not as possible.

I think, as a whole, it reminds you that you are trying to shoehorn yourself into a system that is not designed for you and that does not think to automatically include you. They will if you make yourself known, but from reminding your medical provider that the birth certificate form needs to be parent 1 / parent 2 instead of mother / father to finding a children’s book that features same sex parents without being about same sex parenting to the confused faces of your daycare provider, it’s just a reminder that you are different.

There’s also a little bit of fear in the back of my mind whenever I find a new healthcare provider or research daycare. Is this going to be the day that I encounter institutional homophobia? How will that look? What will they say? Honestly, if someone doesn’t want my money because my daughter has a two mom family, I don’t want to give it to them, but I still find myself agonizing over the imaginary confrontation.

KaeLyn: It was embracing the idea of “queer parenting”, specifically, that made me grow into the idea of having kids. Waffle has always wanted kids and I have always been like, “No.” I felt the same way about marriage for a long time, but here I am married and trying to get knocked up. All of my own free will. I was the one who brought up both topics, after a lot of thought. What was keeping me from embracing the idea was never a fear of children or of having children. It was the way the world views these super heteronormative ideas of pregnancy and parenting. It is the institutional and systematic oppression that is right there under the surface of the topics of marriage and kids. I didn’t fear kids. I feared losing my identity as queer. I feared disappearing into a white picket fence vortex. Being childfree by choice not only felt like a comfortable place, it felt like a subversive one.

But it can also be subversive to queer parenthood and to queer motherhood. I get really excited when I think about being able to raise a human who shares my values, about creating “family values” tied to intersectional feminism, about busting gender norms in my own home. I got inspired by looking at other queer parents’ blogs: poly families, pregnant men, pregnant butches, glitter femme mamas, QTPOC families, trans moms. I found my queer community, even if we’re far and few in popular media. There is a lot that queer family-making has to address to be truly intersectional in our understanding of where parenting and child-having intersects with race, class, gender, sexuality, and ability. I’m excited about queer parenting now, about being part of that expanding and exciting discourse.

Lucy: Everything and nothing. Everything is different in that we get to decide a lot of things in a way most hetero couples can’t or won’t. Some of that is super irritating. Like why can’t we just have sex and poof! get pregnant? That totally sucks. But, it also means that we get to decide on timing of when to have kids, who is going to carry a baby, how we want to get pregnant, whose sperm we want to use, whether we want that process to be open or not or some kind of hybrid. Choice, choice, and more choice can make your head spin and also be really liberating. Honestly, there is something really satisfying about talking to the moms at the local playgroup about how my wife and I each carried a baby and having them all say, “Holy crap, I wish my husband could carry the next one.”

Nothing is different. Once you peel back the layer of making choices about who carries a baby and who cares for a baby and who washes dishes and does middle of the night feeding etc, there’s nothing different about being a lesbian parent than there is about being a straight one. Babies will poop on you, spit up in your face, babble your name, hold your hand, and tell you they love you without caring if you are gay or not. Being a parent is a universally humbling experience and much of that has nothing to do with being queer or not.

Asher: For me, I read this question and I think, “Queer parenting is just like doing anything else while queer”. Like, parenting is parenting regardless of orientation or gender but being queer means that queer parenting looks a little different. Like Lucy said, we get to decide a lot of things in ways that hetero parents can’t, won’t, or don’t even consider. In just conceiving or adopting we have so many options (private domestic adoption, foster to adopt, sperm bank, known donor, known surrogate, who will carry the tiny human, etc)! Also I feel like because so much of being queer involves forging your own path, being okay with defying normative expectations, and advocating for yourself, queer parents are more likely to question how they want to parent and what values they want to instill in their kids (instead of relying on: “This is how I was raised so I’ll raise my kid just like that.”). I know that for myself, I’m intersectional as fuck so I knew right off the bat I’d have to consider how best to teach my kid to not only deal with racism, homophobia, xenophobia, ableism, patriarchy, and classism, but to take pride in who they are and what their family looks like.

The more I educated myself on how to parent in an intersectional feminist way the more I thought about the way I was raised and questioned what parts of parenting I wanted to keep (Hello, encouraging questioning!) and what parts I wanted to toss (Goodbye, whoopings!). I’m with Kaelyn in that queer parenting is one of the things I most look forward to when it comes to making babies.

Jess: I have no idea. I’ve never parented any other way!

Marybeth: In my viewpoint, it’s parenting, period! We all face very similar, dare I say, the same challenges in parenting. How we get here is different, how we have to help those around us understand how we got here is different. But ultimately one parent spends more time with the kids while the other parent spends more time providing for the family. At least that is how it seems when I compare our family to that of my friends and co-workers. Yes, we had to make more choices to get us here and there are no accidents in our world, but we are just trying to raise our children to be the best they can be. It is not easy and all parents will have challenges. What I have realized as a mom is that we all need to stick together and support one another, whatever the family situation. Because most days at daycare drop off I exchange a knowing look of exhaustion with another mom or another dad, especially if we are both running behind at the start of our days! But I do believe being a parent is simply incredible and the best “job” I’ve ever had (probably with the most ups-and-downs)!

If you’d known five years before you tried to have kids that in five years you were going to try to have kids, is there anything specific you would have done to prepare or otherwise ready yourself?

Christina: I knew I wanted to have kids when I was 28 and we started when I was 32, so a lot of the things we did were with kids as a question mark in the back of our minds. We bought a house with a potential nursery, banked savings for treatments, that sort of thing. In hindsight, I would have banked a lot more money than we did (fertility treatments were really expensive). And while I love my puppy with the passion of a thousand suns, I’m not sure I would have adopted her in 2013 knowing we’d have a baby in 2015. Carving time for the dog when you’re already exhausted from dealing with a newborn has not been easy. It’s gotten better in the past few months, but not a lot better.

Lucy: I gave birth to our first child when I was 29. Five years before that I was still in law school and my then fiancee (now wife) hadn’t started medical school yet. What should we have known then? Oh! I’ve got one. Frozen sperm don’t swim for shit. We spent about 5 months thinking we could get pregnant with frozen sperm at home without doing an IUI. NOPE. Later, a doctor told us that was equivalent to dropping some sperm in the ocean and hoping it worked. Don’t be as stupid as we were. Don’t waste your money like that.

Christina: Lucy’s got a good point, I wish I’d known how long it was going to take. We are told throughout our teens and early 20’s that even looking at a penis will get us pregnant, and then when we actually want to, we find out it’s a much more involved process. I started our IUIs thinking I’d get knocked up the first try, no problem. HA! I have acquaintances who tried home insemination with a known donor for two years before they got pregnant. The conception process is also emotionally fraught and holds you hostage for a lot of time during it.

Jess: Trying to keep up with a toddler at 39 is EXHAUSTING!

Marybeth: We knew we wanted kids, but we waited. We wanted to do things…to travel…well, I wanted to. I knew we would not be able to travel as easily once we had kids. The waiting may have impacted Michelle’s ability to get pregnant. Because I am 7 years younger, our plan was for her to carry the first baby and me to handle the second and any others. The realization that she was not going to carry one of our children had us “stuck” for awhile. We were considering all our options and I was mentally preparing myself to be the only one that would carry our children. I got pregnant with Mason at age 35, otherwise known as “advanced maternal age.” So we were concerned about the health of our first baby and how well I would do pregnant. Lucky for us, it all worked out! I will say that I was set in my ways to NOT use fertility aids when we were trying to get pregnant the first time. I was convinced I would have multiples if I even used clomid. My levels were good and our doctor humored me. We got pregnant with Mason on the 3rd IUI, with only HCG as the added helper. I was quite pleased with myself! For our 2nd, I was 37 and my levels had changed. Our doc let me try one round without fertility aids and then suggested clomid. Clomid didn’t work after two rounds, so on round four we went with injectables and were successful in getting pregnant and in only having one baby as a result! I think I needed to have a little control of the process, because I really had no control. I remember being so frustrated about how this was supposed to be science helping us get pregnant and, in my opinion, was just not exact enough!

Oh – I now know why you should have kids younger though…sleep deprivation! I think we deal with lack of sleep better in our 20’s and/or early 30’s. Michelle is 45. I am 38. We are TIRED!

KaeLyn: We are trying now and I don’t think I took seriously how many emotions going through this process would bring up. We’re pretty pragmatic about this stuff, in general. We’re not super romantic about the process of getting pregnant. We just want it to work. And a lot of it has been pretty much what I thought it would be, very clinical and efficient. But I was still taken aback when I realized that I was not going to be in charge of my body at all once it all started. I mean, I am, but I feel out of control all the time between what I’m supposed to be eating and not eating and when and what vitamins to take and whether to take fertility drugs and pregnancy tests and why am I having these cramps and googling early pregnancy signs and generally feeling like my body is not my own right now. I can’t wait to get a positive test back, just so I know what is going on. I guess I’d say that if you are going to be the gestational carrier and, like me, pregnancy itself is a thing that is not 100% your cup of tea, be prepared for it to kind of take over your body and your life. The two week wait is the worst, is what I’m saying. I’m glad we are doing this roundtable because I learned so much in the process just reading about other queer moms’ experiences with pregnancy and parenting. There isn’t a ton of support out there that is LGBTQ-specific and I really, really would like us to have the kinds of forums and chatrooms and networks that straight moms do as they go through this stuff.

What did you feel really strongly about before arrival of kid that you ended up deciding to (or having to) completely throw out the window once kid arrived?

Christina: I had really strong feelings about wanting to breastfeed, but that never materialized for us. We had to start supplementing (under the advice of a lactation consultant) at five days old. I had chronic low supply issues and flat nipples, the baby never got a good latch and eventually decided against nursing all together at three months. I exclusively pumped for six months and finally weaned from the pump when the baby was 9 months. This was really, really devastating for me. I’d worried about bonding with the baby since my wife would be taking primary care while I work outside the home, but figured we’d have a nursing relationship to help compensate for it. Then that disintegrated and I felt panicked and left out. It also hit every feeling I had about not being good enough for my child and not being able to provide for her, which, in the postpartum haze of hormones, is really rough. Not to mention that a lot of the birthing and early parenting community has terrible things to say about formula and is really unkind to those who use it.

Parenting is, in a lot of ways, watching all of your self-righteous thoughts and feelings about how you’d parent erode slowly. I said I’d never use formula until, you know, I realized just how serious our nursing issues were. I said I’d never use the television instead of parenting until I needed my daughter to calm down for five minutes so I could pee. I said I’d never give my baby canned baby food until I tried to feed a six month old homemade solids while in grad school and working full time. You adapt and find your way through.

Lucy: I am just nodding along with everything Christina just said. Every single thought you have ever had about a parent screwing up in public, every single one, will come back to haunt you. It’s one of the greatest joys of watching friends and family, especially judgmental ones, have kids of their own because it humbles you. It will bring you to your knees and make you wonder what you were thinking over and over and over again. You will wonder how you could have ever been so stupid. But you can’t know until you have a kid. I can tell you that you will spend nights sleeping on the floor of your kid’s room because it’s the only way you can get any sleep when she turns 18 months and decides sleeping is for losers. I can tell you that and you will look at me like I am a total fool and a wussy parent who just needs to buckle down. And then you’ll find yourself on the floor with a sleeping bag you haven’t used in years just wishing for 5 minutes of peace. Think of me then and know I am smiling and wishing you sleep.

We came home from the hospital to zero bottles and no breast pump. Our older daughter refused to nurse so we sent my parents to the store to buy bottles, formula, and a pump. It’s like doctors knowing that the person with the most intricate birth plan will end up with a c-section, whatever you didn’t plan for will come true. Babies will do that to you. You will be wrong more times than you thought possible. Relax. Know everyone else was too and don’t be too bothered when everyone around you laughs at you. You’ll get your turn later.

Polly: Before we had children, both Jess and I were convinced that our kids would never partake in the commercial culture of childhood—we would avoid the trendy toys that are hawked every five minutes on Nickelodeon. We knew that our kids would play exclusively with educational toys and learning games (brand-free of course). We also thought that we could raise children who would not adhere to societal gender norms—our girls would love trucks and our boys tea parties. Ha! We were so naive. I sit here now in a living room buried in Jake and the Neverland Pirates merchandise and my two year old son has never had a tea party. In fact, he broke the tea set we bought him mere minutes after opening it by stomping it with a dinosaur.

Jess: TV is not the devil, pop-tarts are OK for breakfast (and sometimes lunch and dinner), and the occasional swear word or fart joke from a toddler in public is both embarrassing and hilarious.

Marybeth: I guess I should throw my need to control things right out the window, although I still try to keep some sort of control over our lives/household! It’s so interesting to read what others have responded with. I feel like I had a good handle on what it meant to take care of a newborn, but I was so naive about breastfeeding. The whole concept of it being natural gave me the impression that it would just work for me and for my baby. This was not the case with Mason. I blame him…jokingly…but really, it was his fault…he was a lazy sucker. He just wanted a bottle. He had a horrible latch and no matter how hard I tried, I could not make it work for us. My breaking point was at about five weeks postpartum when I threw the breastshield (that was supposed to help him latch easier) across our family room in a moment of defeat. That was the point when Michelle said she thought we needed to reevaluate the nursing. I asked her why. I really did not see how it had overwhelmed me. When I set my mind to something, I am not a person who fails, so this was a failure to me. In the end, my wonderful lactation consultant was the person who helped release me from my black hole of nursing. She said something to the effect of, “You don’t have to nurse. It may not be what works for you and your family,” and it opened everything up for me. It made me realize that what I needed to keep my family on track was to do what would work for us. I pumped until 12 weeks, but it was only about a quarter of his supply. Mason was basically formula fed. I will say things were so much easier and the guilt I was putting on myself did go away. I now remember how I would cringe in the middle of the night when he woke up for his feeding. I was so paranoid about getting him to nurse that I was not even enjoying my time with him. I know I made the right decision for us and for our family.

The experience with Mason also provided me with a better mental start for nursing Alisa. I basically decided that if she was like him, I would just pump what I could and move on. This girl is a ROCK STAR at nursing. She’s amazing and I am so happy that I was able to experience both. Alisa is nine-and-a-half months old and we are still going strong.

I also thought sleep would get better quicker. Although I know this can be different for everyone and I know we could have it worse. But living through the baby phase and the teething phase a second time makes me firm in my decision that our family is complete with two kids! I’m thinking back and realizing that I thought we could just do a little “cry it out” if the babies didn’t sleep. Mason would gag himself from crying and vomit even in just 10 minutes of crying. It was not for us. Neither one of us could justify allowing him to vomit just to get us sleep. We did a lot of rocking him to sleep. He’s a better sleeper now, but he will still wake up and come into bed with us. We are both okay with this, to a point. When he was in our bed so much that I had a backache, we needed to do some tough love. Ultimately, we do what works for us!

If you are partnered, did your partner induce lactation so they could nurse the baby? If you adopted, did either or both of you try to nurse?

Christina: My partner was never particularly interested in inducing lactation. I think this idea is lovely if both partners are on board, but it was first presented as the solution to my nursing problems. It both hurt my feelings and ducked the question. My partner’s breasts should not be the answer to my lactation failure issues (if for no other reason than it takes time to induce lactation). As time has moved on though, I see the benefit of co-nursing. It takes pressure off the carrying mom to be the sole source of food for the baby, meaning that not every feeding has to be you. You’ll never realize how much you treasure seven hours of uninterrupted sleep until you don’t have it for three months. Keep in mind that one of the drugs you use for this, domperidone, is not readily available in the United States.

Lucy: The thought never occurred to either of us. We each breastfed/pumped for the child we carried. We shared feeding for both babies though with either pumped milk in the night or formula. Sleep is a luxury and getting four hours in a row is heaven in those first weeks.

Michelle: I did think about this but quickly decided not to when a good friend of mine shared that it took three months of Domperidone and pumping before she got even a drop of colostrum.

I think I need a list with every variation of “mom” possible for my future household. What different mother titles do you use?

Christina: We use Mommy and Mama, but always forget which one we are.

Lucy: I am Mama and my wife is Mommy. Nothing cracks my kids up like when they accidentally switch names or confuses them more than when strangers use the names interchangeably.

Asher: I don’t currently use any titles since I’m not even pregnant yet but I’ve already got thoughts about which terms I like and which ones I’m not too keen on. I absolutely don’t want to be called “ma” or “mom”. “Màmá”, “mommy”, “bàbá” are the ones I’m leaning towards most now but also kids tend to come up with their own names for people so I’m open to that as well. Actually I’m kind of hoping for it. Please name me, tiny human! I don’t want to chose for myself.

Marybeth: We use Mama and Mommy, but we would mess up a lot in the beginning and now only occasionally.

KaeLyn: I used to call my grandma, who was also my daytime babysitter while my parents were are work, “Ama.” It was probably my Korean adoptee toddler-kind-of-recalling-language-even-though-I-was-then-learning-English version of the Korean colloquial word for mom, “Umma” (엄마). I like the idea of being an Umma/Ama. I took German for many years in high school and college and my mom is German-Swedish, so I sometimes call her “Mutti,” the casual German word for mom. Searching your native language or ancestry for words for “mom” and “mommy” in other languages is a great way to find alternatives that have meaning for you.

What are some alternatives to “mom” for genderfluid or gender non-binary parents?

KaeLyn: I know “baba” is a popular one. We has mixed feelings about using it, since it draws from cultures we aren’t a part of. My genderfluid and transmasculine partner is probably going to settle on “dad” and there are definitely lesbians who use dad, too. There’s a blog by a “lesbian dad” a.k.a. Polly Pagenhart that is a great resource. You can also make up your own word. Haley and Simone came up with “monie” for Simone, which I think is really, really cute. Or you can let your kids use your first names or a variation of your first names, if that feels OK to you.

Christina: One of the favorite ones I’ve heard is Momily, for a mom named Emily.

Asher: A genderqueer friend of mine’s kid calls them “sweetie”. I think that’s kind of a cute idea.

How do you deal with “mom” communities and stereotypes that are really heteronormative and conservative?

Christina: Funny story, I was super excited to join a BabyCenter group for my due date until I saw that they didn’t allow controversial topics to be discussed, including LGBT issues. So I took my controversial ass to Ravelry and found a great group of online support there. On the internet, I just try to avoid it whenever possible. We haven’t had to deal with it too much in person (yet), but it’s frustrating. I try to have some banked snarky answers.

Lucy: I challenge them or roll my eyes, usually. Honestly, the more I got to know the moms at the library play group I took our kids to the more they came to see how awesome our family was. Mostly they were jealous of the shared burdens of child rearing and the fact that we were having two kids but only had to be pregnant once. For every mom who was weird or uncomfortable at the start they almost universally got over it and expressed jealousy by the end.

Any tips for talking about LGBTQ issues with your kids? How do you prepare them for possibly being teased by other kids for having two moms (or queer parents)?

Lucy: We talk a lot in our house about how families are all different from single parents, adoptive parents, grandparent caregivers etc and we talk about our family a being a part of that overall patchwork. We live in liberal Massachusetts so haven’t had much issue but we are quick to challenge ideas that come home from school. If a kid doesn’t understand that our kids have two moms we talk to our kids about it. If it happens while we are around, we answer questions honestly and with kids, it’s never been much of a problem.

We have added some books with same-sex parents to our bookshelves (like “Mommy, Mama, and Me“) to give our kids a sense that their family isn’t bad because it’s different and to give them a sense that they aren’t the only ones with two moms.

KaeLyn: Not necessarily the same thing, but I grew up being pretty much the only Asian kid at my rural school and my parents did a pretty good job of preparing me for being “different.” One thing they did that I really admire is that they talked with me about our family and being adopted and looking different than my white peers. I don’t know that anything fully prepares a small kid for bullying. I still came home crying sometimes. But I knew I could talk to my parents about it and I wasn’t confused about who I was and who my family was. It made it a little easier to deal with the world.

I like to think the world is changing, too. Today’s kids hopefully won’t be the only ones with lesbian, gay, bi and/or trans parents in their school. But I always think about those isolated rural areas where that may not be the case and I think having the open conversation and support at home makes a huge difference.

Did you always know you wanted kids? If so, how did you know?

Christina: Around eight, I thought I would adopt a bunch of kids from the foster care system and raise them, since so many other kids in the world needed love. Around 16, I thought, “Well, maybe I’ll have one biologically.” Around 23, I thought I didn’t want kids, mostly because I couldn’t imagine supporting a child at that point in my life, working in theatre, making $20K a year and living with my aunt. My circumstances improved marginally, but I continued to feel that way until my late 20’s, when my biological clock kicked in with a vengeance and not only did I want kids, I wanted to be pregnant NOW NOW NOW. I changed careers, started making more money and started ticking off the milestones I had for kids (earning more money, owning a house, etc.). The more concrete it got as a future, the more I wanted it.

Lucy: Nope. I was sure I wouldn’t have kids for a long time. I was sure about it the same way I was sure I wouldn’t get married. I never imagined it was possible. At 18 I met my first girlfriend and she told me she was having kids and if I wasn’t interested I could take a hike. Well, that girl is my wife now. She was worth changing my mind and so are my kids.

Asher: I’ve always known I wanted to be a mother. From as early as I can remember when I was a kid I always carried around a baby doll and loved on her like she was my own. I read through my journal from when I was twelve the other day and even then I was talking about being a mom and thinking about potential baby names as if it were the most natural thing in the world. There are two things that I’ve always known about myself, one being that I like girls, the other being that I want to be a mother someday. I’ve just always known.

My own mother was/is a really amazing, wonderful, and accepting parent and I’ve always had a really close intimate bond with her. I want to try to create something beautiful like that with my own child.

Marybeth: I’ve always known. I remember not knowing what I wanted to do when I grew up, but knowing that I wanted to be a mother. I never pictured getting married or dreamed about my wedding day. But I pictured being a mother!

KaeLyn: I was strongly childfree by choice. Honestly, if I had not fallen in love with who I did, I don’t know if I’d be doing this right now. Because I never imagined myself as having a kid. I imagined having a career I loved and doing work for social change and lots of other things. I never imagined spouse and kids. I didn’t hate the idea. It just wasn’t on my Top Ten List of Things I Want to Accomplish In My Life. But I met and cultivated this beautiful thing with someone who is as different as me as different can be. Opposites attract or whatever. And we did my career stuff for the first ten years. Now it’s time to do the family stuff for him, and for us! I never thought I’d be as ready as I am, but I really am. My biological clock has been about creating change and creating words more than babes in the past, but I’ve never wanted to be pregnant as much as I do right now.

Pages: 1 2 3See entire article on one page

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

Join AF+!


KaeLyn is a 40-year-old hard femme bisexual dino mom. You can typically find her binge-watching TV, standing somewhere with a mic or a sign in her hand, over-caffeinating herself, or just generally doing too many things at once. She lives in Upstate NY with her spouse, a baby T. rex, a scaredy cat, an elderly betta fish, and two rascally rabbits. You can buy her debut book, Girls Resist! A Guide to Activism, Leadership, and Starting a Revolution if you want to, if you feel like it, if that's a thing that interests you or whatever.

KaeLyn has written 230 articles for us.


  1. This is a super interesting resource and I definitely expect to come back to it as a reference later. Thanks for sharing so much of your personal experiences!

  2. Oh my goodness, thank you all so much for sharing! My wife and I have saved up our money and the plan is to try IVF. We tried IUI with sperm frozen before my wife transitioned. We have one vial left and had been debating back and forth about IVF. The emotional ups and downs were more than I expected when were trying IUI, like you mentioned Kaelyn. It was really nice one day after I started a new job to be working with two other women who were both trying with their wives to become parents. Sometimes it feels so lonely especially as my wife is not public about her trans* history.

    I’ve always enjoyed little kids and my career involves working with little ones. My wife is less fond of the day to days with kids but wants to be a parent. We’ve talked about foster care/adoption which I am interested in but she is less comfortable with that option. I loved hearing all of your stories about your winding paths to becoming parents!

    • Thank you for sharing you and your wife’s story! Wishing you lots of luck with your last vial! And, if that doesn’t work out, whatever comes next for you as a family. <3 <3

  3. From what I’ve heard from frustrated friends, “frozen sperm doesn’t swim for shit” is advice worth its weight in gold.

  4. I’m 26 and nowhere NEAR ready to even THINK about having kids yet, but this will definitely be a useful resource when I am! Specifically, whenever I do think about the possibility of someday becoming a parent, I’m pretty sure that I am not interested in actually giving birth, so depending on what my partner will want, adoption is most definitely on the table. I definitely didn’t know that the cost of adoption was so high! Luckily, I am a lawyer, and know a lot of family lawyers (including one in my own family) so if need be, I can probably offset the costs somewhat, but that’s a little insane.

    • Private adoption is incredibly expensive. $20-40k is typical. But if it is what you want and you can find a way to afford it, it is worth it (says the adoptee). Public adoption through the foster system costs much less.

  5. This is a super fun read, I haven’t had a chance to finish but wanted to chime in that we were having babies a decade ago! It was so much cheaper then!! We’re just, well, as invisible within the queer community as you’d feared ;)

    In my Midwestern city, we had plenty of families for a playgroup. I had way more queer community then than I do now, actually.

    • Thanks for sharing your family’s experiences! I hope queer communities continue to become more and more kid-inclusive as more and more queer families have kids! :)

    • Ooo! Fellow midwestern queer, thanks for sharing! So many queer parenting stories (not that there’s a plethora or anything) are from people on the coast. I’m always pleased to hear about other Midwest based people making and raising babies.

      • @asher-jak My wife and I live a little over an hour away from St. Louis! I work two days a week up in St. Louis and that’s where two of my co-workers were talking about making queer babies.

        • Eee! That’s so cool! I feel like I never know how to find people locally and then poof, here’s like four. :D

  6. Made it. Great article.

    I’m in the rare camp of people who got pregnant easily with frozen sperm, so it can happen.

    And my older kids may have told friends that their brothers came in the mail in liquid nitrogen tanks.

  7. I wish there was more information and discussion about adoption and fostering. I’m disabled and it’s something that’s quite important to me and because I know it can be tough for disabled kids to be adopted and a lot of them spend a long time in the foster system, fostering disabled kids specifically is something I’ve been thinking about a lot. But it’s so difficult to find information on what it’s truly like, especially as first time parents. A lot of stories in the media are pretty scary and a lot of people talking about foster kids, especially disabled ones, say they go through so much abuse they’re really “difficult” and violent and fostering them is almost impossible. It breaks my heart when I hear people talking like that. :( Both my wife and I grew up in abusive households so discussion about these things can get pretty tough on us too. We don’t have illusions about “saving” children, but I (I can’t really speak for her) grew up feeling like adults in my life really failed to look out for my wellbeing and I didn’t have anyone in my life whom, I felt, really cared about me and wanted me around until I was much older so it’s tough for me to resign myself to thinking that a lot of other kids have to grow up like that too just because that’s what things are like and there’s little I can do as an individual.

    It just seems that there are so many difficulties if you want to foster and there’s so little information, we’ll probably end up going the fertility treatments route even though it’s so expensive.

    • Hey! I think whatever you choose is the best and most compassionate choice. You have to know your own heart when it comes to big decisions like growing your family.

      Foster adoption has challenges. So goes private adoption and so does fertility treatment. Have you considered going to a foster placement agency to learn about foster adoption? Especially if you are interested in fostering and/or adopting children with disabilities, I am sure they would love to talk to you about what that process is like. It may not be as onerous or scary as you think. You still may decide it isn’t right for you! Or you may find it is exactly what you want.

      Even if you don’t end up exploring foster adoption, there are ways you can support children in the foster system, like volunteering for or donating to charities for foster kids, educating others, etc.

      I wish you luck, however it all works out. :)

    • Thank you for bringing this up. We have friends who went into Fostering and adoption specifically to serve medically fragile and disabled children, kind of like Polly and I went into it to help LGBTQI kids. There is, like you mentioned, a huge need for both.

      What makes it extra tricky to talk about I’m a national forum lime this is that foster care differs not just from state to state, but in most cases from county to county. I echo Kaelyn’s suggestion to go contact your local agency to see what opportunities exist.

  8. Two things:

    1. this is an amazing article! Thank you so much to all of you for sharing your experiences!

    2. Is there something I’m missing regarding a concentration of autostraddlers in Rochester? Given that there are multiple Rochesterians in this roundtable, and me, I feel like there should be some sort of meetup. I want to meet the other cool queer folk around here!!

  9. Thank you so much for this, Autostraddle, and all of you lovely individuals/couples for sharing your stories! This was really interesting and useful. I’m in the UK and, subject to money/jobs/housing, my wife and I are hoping to start trying in 2016. We’d like to try reciprocal IVF as I would like to carry but she cares more about being biologically related – we’re lucky that we are likely to be able to do this, hopefully, but it is more expensive than standard IVF. I was more open to adoption but our views on it aren’t the same and having just watched a (heterosexual, infertile) friend go through it, I know it would be very difficult (emotionally) even if my wife was 100% up for it as well. Lots of admiration for those going through foster to adopt which must be even more emotionally difficult.

    • According to the NHS you can get 6 IUI treatments for free, and then you might have to try it another 6 times before being eligible for IVF on the NHS, but the decision is with your local NHS trust.

      Obvs don’t know your personal circumstances but depending on how big of a deal the biological stuff is, there are cheaper options out there!

      Also I think the process of extracting an egg is pretty intense? I seem to remember reading about loads of self-injections and invasive procedures.

      • Thanks – I need to look again as last time I checked you could only get free fertility treatment if you had either tried naturally (heterosexual couples) or with at home insemination / paid for IUI (same sex couples) and not been successful. I didn’t think you got free IUI up front, unless it’s because of where we live. Either way though, we both have PCOS and the success rates of IUI are lower so we were already considering going straight for IVF to increase our chances of success (we are fortunate to be able to afford to do this), so reciprocal IVF just shares out the hard bits (egg retrieval / pregnancy and childbirth). Plus, for us, the additional benefit is both of us feeling involved in ‘creating’ the baby. I know it wouldn’t be the best option for everyone, though.

        • The NHS only funds IVF or other fertility treatments if you can’t conceive because of health issues, this generally doesn’t apply to same-sex couples. Even for hetero couples with fertility problems there’s little funding and IVF is expensive so the vast majority of women who qualify for them don’t get the full 3 free IVF cycles because the money runs out. Some trusts don’t have money for any IVF treatments and have stopped offering them. It’s very likely IVF will stop being covered by the NHS altogether in the next couple of years. You should look into private insurance that covers fertility treatments, it might be cheaper than paying for IVF on its own especially in the likely event you’ll need more than one cycle.

          For info in this:

          • Yeah that’s pretty much what I thought. I’m not sure where we’ll be living next year yet either which makes it hard to plan. I think (maybe semi consciously?) part of the reason for doing it how we plan to is it removes the lack of control/uncertainty to some extent as it doesn’t rely on the NHS (I love the NHS in all other ways and am fiercely proud of it but for this, it feels uncertain). I hadn’t thought of insurance, thanks for the suggestion :-)

        • Wish you a lot of luck! My parents have always said that adopting my sister and me is the best thing they ever did in their marriage. It was super expensive, even back then. But it was worth it.

          I’m sure whatever you decide, it will be worth it when you welcome that new family member into your life.

          • Thank you! Best of luck for you too and I look forward to sharing your journey (the parts of it you choose to share) through Autostraddle. I think you’re right, we all make the decisions that feel right to us and so whatever journey you take will (hopefully!) be the right one for you and your family.

  10. Great input from these parents and parents to be. This about summed parenting up for me though – “Parenting is, in a lot of ways, watching all of your self-righteous thoughts and feelings about how you’d parent erode slowly”

  11. Wow this is a really awesome roundtable! Thank you all for sharing all of this really awesome information and these heartwarming parenting stories!

    My partner and I are looking forward to a large poly household with plenty of adults and 2 (or maybe 3….) small sprouts. For whom we may or may not have already picked names… Although it’s far removed from my current reality, thinking about the years ahead and reading real stories about the future possibilities is really helpful.

    I would loooooove to see any content you all come up with focusing on queer poly families! :)

    • Hmmm, I guess I’ll have to step up to that plate some day. :D Hopefully others will as well but, if Autostraddle is interested, my poly-ness is definitely becoming more of a factor in my baby making journey. Plus, I may be semi-seriously talking with my best friend about finding a house big enough for them, me, our parents, my partner, and my future offspring to live in together. So communal living might be a thing.

  12. I’m a long way away from becoming a parent, but I read this with interest and wanted to thank you for contributing such a valuable resource to the Internet.

  13. **update**: as with most moments in foster parenting, things change quickly. The teenager we referenced in our original contribution as being “gone” is back and things are going quite well. Adoption process has started and its full steam ahead!

    I share this partly because there is a fair chance the kiddo will read this, but also to point out how much of a roller coaster Fostering can be. It’s a fun ride but sometimes I feel like I might lose my lunch.

  14. “you poop on the table and curse at your loved ones and then there’s a baby or something. Should be fine, probably.” This was all I needed to know, really.

  15. This was incredible and so useful and I really loved reading it. Anything else you write about this, I will be thrilled to read. Autostraddle, you the best.

  16. This was amazing, thank you. I’m a queer woman who plans to be a single parent, and there are so few narratives and stories on either of those parenting identities! This article pushed me back down the rabbit hole of cryobank websites, even though the serious searching won’t start for a few years. This was so interesting and what I’ve been waiting for.

    • Yay! I’m so glad it was affirming for you and I’m excited about your journey towards parenthood!

  17. Thank you for this.

    My wife and I have been trying IVF since May, after trying IUI, and we are now working on licensing our home to fost-adopt.

    • Good luck AK to you and your wife with the next steps in your journey. Your sentences are so matter of fact but I can only imagine all of the ups and downs behind them, as my wife and I discuss IVF. Take care.

  18. Thank you for this article. It’s come at the perfect time. It’s great seeing so much information being shared openly by queer parents/prospective parents.

    My partner and I are currently going through our first IVF cycle. It’s going very well so far so fingers crossed for next year. We decided to go straight to IVF because although it is invasive (I’ve gotten very good at injecting myself) the success rates are higher and considering we’re importing sperm from the US (choices of donor sperm in Australia are severely limited) we want the best chance of success possible.

    One of the best things about it so far is the openness we’ve had to have about the whole process. Because we could both carry we were able to talk through and decide what was be best for us and our family. We decided I would because I get good parental leave and her work is flexible so she’ll be able to spend a lot of time at home anyway.

    We’re lucky in Australia “social infertility” is partially covered by our Medicare system so we will get about half of the IVF costs back. That makes a huge difference financially.

    My older sister and her partner went through the same process a few years ago and have one gorgeous kid and another on the way so they’ve been a great help. We haven’t told anyone else yet because there is so much pressure from my family, but all going well we’ll be able to in late January.

    I just realised this is a huge over share. I think I’m just excited and nervous and it’s hard not being able to talk about it as much as I’d like.

    • Thanks for sharing! I’m glad you did! It does feel so good to talk about it, doesn’t it? Even though it is still kind of taboo. I often found myself unable to put all my feelings and thoughts into words, especially because parenting decisions are coming from this really personal place where my queerness and feminism intersect with my real life. Plus, it’s a thing that lots of people who haven’t done fertility treatment to get pregnant have a million really personal questions about. Sometimes I just don’t feel like having that conversation. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for you! It sounds like you have a great support in your sister and her partner. Good luck! Good luck! Good luck!

    • Good luck with the IVF! It is so nice to have this space for talking and sharing our stories. IRL there can be so much pressure or awkwardness or just a desire for privacy, but at the same time it’s nice to have some place for processing all of the feelings!

  19. Super fascinating! I never really thought about assisted fertility being cheaper than adoption– I thought it was the other way around. Also- wow there’s a lot to think about just in terms of fertility, doing a preconception workup, tests that are available during pregnancy, and covering everything financially. I wish there was a website that described all these options and fostering and adoption from an intersectional stand point.

    I’m hoping to co-parent and joined several co-parenting websites but it’s pretty clear that the sites work best for cis and hetereosexual people. Maybe I need to think more about cis men and trans women I know already in terms of actually conceiving, but realistically adoption may be in my future as I am 36. The thought of being a single dad is scary too. Ideally I’d be raising a kid with extended adoptive kin. Adoption maybe seems a little less intimidating since it would at least take away the challenges of male pregnancy, but parenting is challenging no matter how you cut it.

    I’m still trying to find my co-parenting situation and appreciate just learning how others are approaching parenting and thinking through options. So thank you for this panel. I think ideally I could find a resource oriented around prospective trans co-parents that is inclusive of trans women. Maybe this can evolve as more convos on queer parenting arise. In the meanwhile I’ll be seeking out local convos =)

  20. The person who asked the 1st question on page 2 here (the one with the %).
    Thank you so so much for all of this, really, all these answers to questions I didn’t even know I needed the answer to.

    To clarify, the % is assumed, since I have endometriosis, and my specialist says the infertility factor could go one way or the other (but that infertility is looming, and very likely as I get older) since I’m still young, so there’s a 50-50 chance of all sorts of things going wrong and my bits just not working at all in a few years time. And then I add at least a solid 35% to account for having very… erm… bad experiences with sperm (abusive ex boyfriend hooray and a completely closeted self).

    Recently it was announced that a Swedish IVF clinic (IVF Sverige) is going to take over the only clinic in my country starting next year and make it better for women of all kinds and people with uteruses (or so I hope, at least no more intrusive questions about you, your partner (or lack thereof), sexuality (and then frowns and kinda… dry responses after you tell them you’re a nonbinary person attracted to females (in my case)), etc.), slightly lower prices, and the option to have things frozen here instead of having to spend money to fly abroad on top of the cost of having it done there.

    I’ll discuss the option of freezing my eggs with my specialist next appointment for sure. Just in case. It’ll cost a few years’ salary, but I feel more at ease thinking that I’ll have healthy ones stored away in case my bits decide to quit on me.

    I also know at least two couples who’ve adopted, and they say it’s hard on your wallet, patience and mental state, but worth it in the end.
    I…do want to adopt, but at the same time I want to have a biological child….
    well…. I don’t even have a partner currently, this would be better to talk about with them, if/when I find someone for the long term.

    Again, thank you so much for answering these questions and for just being generally really awesome people and good luck to all of you.
    Seriously this made my whole month, haven’t been able to comment until now because every time I just get lost in reading the questions and answers and everyone’s comments and it just makes me happy and confident, but also a bit sad because non-hetero parenting seems to be way more of a struggle than it needs to be, no matter where you live.

    • Thanks for commenting. I’m so glad that the roundtable was helpful for you and that you enjoyed reading it. Thanks for asking a question! Answering the questions was really fun.

      It’s so hard because every person’s situation is so very unique. I’d keep talking with your specialists, definitely. Options are out there! As you know, there is still a chance to be able to conceive with endometriosis, unless you doctor has told you otherwise.

      I have also had several unprotected intercourse experiences with a past cis male partner and once wondered if I was infertile because of it. I’m not. Really there is a fairly small window during which you can conceive (as those of us trying really hard to do so have learned). So unless you were having intercourse every day or actually tracking and planning your fertility during that time, I wouldn’t take that as an indicator that you can’t get pregnant. I’m really glad you got out of that relationship. It sounds like that was really toxic. I’m glad you came out, too!

      Lastly, I’m glad you’re still considering adoption as an option! Adoption wasn’t my (straight) parents’ first choice, but they say now that it was the best thing they ever did. So I’m sure however it turns out for you, you will be able to create the family you want eventually.

      Good luck with everything!

  21. My goodness, reading through this again over and year and a half later- what a different perspective. IVF didn’t work for us, though we still have part of a vial of material that we are paying storage fees on. My wife wants to save money to try again. But for now we went through the foster care classes in our county. Our first placement was six months ago today, and just last week she went back to her bio mama. Our second placement was a week and a half after the first and she’s still with us, though we are working on getting her back with her bio family.

    I’ve worked with kids for quite some time and still was surprised by some of the unique challenges of foster care. Sometimes the kids are so sad and mad which is understandable but also exhausting. Also for now I’m the bread winner and the main caretaker. The kids sometimes have called me by my first name though more often mom. They generally have referred to my wife by her first name. We will see what time will bring.

    • Ha. Same! Thanks for the trip down memory road. We’ve both had a lot of changes in the last >2 yrs!

      I’m so happy that you have been able to grow your family through foster parenting, with all its joys and challenges. I bet you’re amazing moms!

Comments are closed.