Gay mom reflects on being the non-birthing parent & tells folks to check their assumptions

Mother and Daughter walk on a sunny winter day / Mother and Daughter
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A lesbian mom who used in vitro fertilization (IVF) to start a family with her wife recently opened up about the complex feelings and decisions that accompany LGBTQ+ family building, as well as what it feels like to be the non-birthing mother.

Lotte Jeffs wrote in Women’s Health that it first occurred to her that some folks might take issue with how she was starting her family when a colleague “referred to the act of choosing a sperm donor as akin to the plot of a science fiction novel.”

“This work associate had taken umbrage with news that a sperm bank had released an app allowing women to search easily for a donor,” Jeffs wrote. “‘Tinder for baby daddies,’ she scoffed. ‘Whatever next!’ I was silent, trying to temper the anger and sadness building in my body, but I could already feel the hot prickle of tears in my eyes. My wife and I had been using this very app to find our own sperm donor, so we could have a baby together.”

The experience led Jeffs to wonder how many other women out there were forced to endure ignorant and naive comments from people who had no idea what they were going through.

She also decried the fact that there are multiple words for “dad” but no words for the experience of being the non-birthing parent in an LGBTQ+ couple.

“While technology and legislation have given birth to a world in which there are more ways than ever to become a parent,” she said, “the narrative that parenthood is exclusively the product of unprotected heterosexual sex persists.”

But as the number of LGBTQ+ couples having children grows – along with the growing prevalence of all non-LGBTQ+ folks waiting until they are older to have children – the use of assisted reproductive technologies is becoming increasingly common.

Jeffs emphasized that the growing number of people using services like IVF doesn’t make the journey any less emotional.

“By the time my wife and I arrived at the app,” she said, “we’d done enough talking to warrant years of couples counseling.”

“We’d spent hours discussing the moral implications of our choice; what it would mean for the mental health of our unborn child; the merits of opting for an anonymous donor or a known one; which one of us would carry our baby, and how the other would feel,” she added.

Before her wife gave birth, Jeffs worried that not being biologically related to her daughter would affect their relationship, but it didn’t at all.

“From the first moment I held her in my arms our biological closeness was completely negated by our actual everyday closeness,” she wrote in a 2022 Instagram post. “Over the last three years, we’ve grown into and around each other as our roots become entangled.”

Jeffs’ essay also explores other types of families, from single moms who decided to adopt to those who have a child with their friend instead of a romantic partner.

“As more women open their minds to unconventional routes to motherhood,” she wrote, “my only hope is that what society thinks constitutes a family will change along with it. We need more role models, more children’s books, more people sharing their stories of what other motherhood looks like to propagate this new normal.”

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