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Two: Inconceivable - the complexities of modern parenting

Updated: Jun 10, 2023

My wife did not want to be pregnant, the thought repulsed her. With an uncontrollable shudder she would use words like alien and parasite feeding off you, but she wanted to be a parent and didn’t care how that happened. I had always lived day by day, from one adventure, job, heart break, party to another so hadn’t really given parenthood much thought. But deep down I knew I wanted to be a mother. Now I was nearly thirty-five and looking for a new adventure so having a baby felt like a natural next step.



LGBTQ aka rainbow, modern, alternative parenting is complex. There are numerous financial, psychological, even philosophical considerations and potential routes that can be taken to grow the family. This an include adoption, fostering, biological parent with a known or anonymous donor, egg sharing, surrogacy, and any potential combination. Genetics didn’t seem to factor too much in our decision making. We were of the mindset that nurture might just outdo nature, but I was intrigued and always up for trying new experiences. That combined with my wife’s aversion to parasites we decided that I would try and get pregnant. It can’t be that difficult, right?


After a very unsuccessful google search and chat to a confused GP we concluded we weren’t eligible for NHS fertility support. There was support, but it seemed we would have to undergo costly procedures over two years and prove I was infertile. My body clock was ticking, and our issue wasn’t one of infertility but lack of the appropriate reproductive system!


The information for LGBTQ+ parenting was non-existent so we reached out to a couple I had known on the scene and who had a child. They happened to return my call whilst at work. Within the very busy, open plan office the call went something like this. Sperm from where? Why the probes? How much? What do you mean enlarged follicles? How many eggs? They did what? Little did I know this was just the start of a very private process becoming public and very visible.


Over the next few weeks, we visited the private London fertility clinics and went with the one we had a good feel about near London Bridge. We went to the educational seminar, met the consultant and paid the deposit. I don’t take it lightly that we were in the very privileged position and could just about self-fund the treatment. But still, the costs were alarming and adding up far quicker than I anticipated. I like numbers and have always managed the finances, but this was stressing me out.


I may like numbers, but I dislike detail, and I couldn’t take in the overwhelming amount of information we were given. What I did hear though, was that stress was one of the biggest causes of fertility treatment not working. It was all too much; anxiety levels were rising and the pressure for the treatment to be successful was starting to build. It was time I hand over the practical control to the clinic and my wife so I could bury my head in the sand and not suffocate.


My wife was amazing. She made friends with all the clinic staff. She listened to every detail, took notes, did the research, paid the bills, came to every appointment, made bad jokes. Whilst I had the tests, seemed to take my trousers off a lot, made acquaintance with the sonographer and her vaginal probe, cut out the alcohol and caffeine and desperately tried to relax. We were officially on the parenting journey and the first stop was AI.



 

AI, IUI, IVF and NICE explained


Just to clarify, AI isn’t some superior computer intelligence but stands for artificial insemination where sperm is inserted directly into the vagina. It is often the first step in fertility treatment followed by IUI. IUI is intrauterine insemination where the sperm is injected directly into the womb. In vitro fertilisation (IVF) is where the egg is removed from the woman's ovaries and fertilised with sperm in a laboratory before being returned to the woman's womb. Don’t get me started on ICSI, that comes later in the journey.


A plea to the NHS


I think we have established this #gayby making is not romantic and fertility treatment can be very expensive. Everyone’s journey is so different. I have a friend who had artificial insemination and fortunately fell pregnant on the first try. Another friend spent tens of thousands of pounds, went through great trauma and finally had to stop after six attempts at IVF. Her and her partner later went on to adopt and thankfully have never been happier.


Since 2013 new NICE guidelines were issued that state a same sex couple or single women could become eligible for three rounds of fertility treatment if they've not been able to get pregnant after twelve cycles of AI, with at least six of the cycles IUI.


These guidelines are a step in the right direction, but the process can be time consuming and very costly with each round of AI costing hundreds of pounds (potentially up to £1600) and IUI considerably more. This can mean thousands of pounds are spent before even being considered for NHS funded IVF. Access is also dependent on the postcode you live within. Many areas don’t follow the guidelines and will not fund for reasons of age, weight, use of donor and other funding priorities. Brighton, known for its large LGBTQ population, won’t allow anyone to have fertility treatment if a donor is being used.


The fertility postcode lottery should and can change if there is a consistent adoption of the guidelines nationally. The financial burden is another issue and creating a rainbow family should not only be for the wealthy. We know more needs to happen so what can be done? Start talking about it, write to local MPs and raise the debate? History shows this works. There is an interesting article from Stonewall linked below, summarising what we can do to advocate for change.


Let’s get the conversation going. Please share your thoughts in comments. The more we talk about LGBTQ+ parenting the more change will happen.


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Guest
Apr 11, 2023

The first thing that needs to be done is that this postcode lottery needs to be standardised and all NHS needs to be regulated. It’s unfair on so many different levels for anyone trying to conceive. It’s too much pressure and stress for a process that needs you to remain calm.

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Guest
Apr 11, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Good to have such practical info!

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