First Name: Jen
Partner’s First Name: Kendra
Hometown: Boston, MA
Number of Children: 1
Names of Children: Addison
When did you decide you wanted children?
Before we started dating, we both knew the other wanted kids. It was never a question of if we’d have kids, only when.
How did you decide to either biologically have a child or adopt a child?
Kendra has always wanted to carry a child, whereas I have never had that desire. Again, it was an easy decision for us to make.
Did you share your journey with your family and friends? If so, have they been supportive?
Considering my mom started pushing for a grandkid as soon as we got married, and Kendra’s mom is a card-carrying member of PFLAG, it would have been impossible not to include them! In fact, they each bought us a vial of sperm – talk about love and acceptance! Both of our immediate and extended families have been incredibly supportive. Addison’s life is filled with cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and great-grandparents who love her unconditionally, just as they love us.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced raising a child as a lesbian couple? How have you overcome those challenges and what advice would you give new parents in a similar situation?
We are incredibly lucky in that we live in Massachusetts. During the entire process, not a single person batted an eye at our relationship or desire to have a child together. I am listed on Addison’s birth certificate as her second parent. Even when visiting Kendra’s family in the south, we’ve never faced any discrimination. This past summer, we were out west in a small town in Colorado and had to take Addison to a walk-in-clinic. I was nervous about how the staff would react to our relationship, but when we introduced ourselves as Addison’s moms, we were treated accordingly. I am well aware that we have somehow managed to live in a bubble, and am very grateful for being able to live my life without opposition or discrimination.
What do you wish you would have known before you started?
We have found the two-week cycle of waiting to be very emotionally trying. Once Kendra starts her period, we spend two weeks waiting and testing for ovulation. After she’s ovulated and we have inseminated, we spend another agonizing two weeks waiting to find out if she is pregnant. Every false pregnancy test causes visceral pain. We had imagined the process to be very straightforward and simple, easily handled in a detached manner, but the reality is there is no mental or emotional break during the process, which can really dampen your spirit.
What was your biggest setback in the process?
Last September we started trying to conceive a second child. Our donor is sold out, but we had four vials left and hoped to give Addison a donor-sibling. On our first try, Kendra got pregnant! We were ecstatic – her HCG levels were through the roof. However, even though we saw a heartbeat at 6 weeks, we were told because it was only 99 bpm that there was a 50% chance Kendra would miscarry. The following two weeks, waiting for the second ultrasound, were torturous. As soon as the nurse located the gestational sac, I knew we’d lost the baby. It was devastating for both of us, and very physically trying for Kendra. We just started trying again in February, and this past week used our last vial of donor sperm. Though we are keeping a positive outlook, both of us are sad that we no longer have the opportunity for Addison to have a full genetic sibling. We are now picking a new donor, which feels a bit like starting back on square one.
What was the funniest thing that happened along the way?
We spent a lot of time in various Barnes and Nobles last summer as we road tripped across the U.S. As we walked through the aisles of one in Virginia, Kendra grew visibly excited and exclaimed, “Look how many nursing books they have!” I had to gently explain they were books about the profession, not the act of breastfeeding. I had a good laugh at her expense while she trotted over to Starbucks to nurse her wounds with a grande iced chai.
Did you ever consider giving up?
We never have wanted to give up, but Kendra considered taking a break after the first four tries of IUI. We had a long discussion, and though I didn’t want to stop trying, I made it clear I would support whatever decision she felt was best for her body. She decided to go forward, and got pregnant with Addison on the next try.
How has your life changed during this process? Before having kids and after having kids?
I have become a much calmer person. Having Addie shifted my perspective – I used to have a hard time compartmentalizing work stress, but the minute I pick her up after school, my body relaxes and my mind clears.
How much did you budget for the process? How much has the process cost so far? What were the actual costs and how were they different from what was planned?
We were prepared to spend between ten and fifteen thousand dollars per baby. We knew we wanted two kids and both agreed that we would find the money to make that happen. I like to call Addison my $5000 baby, and so far we’ve spent over $10,000 on baby number two.
Was your state a challenge to the process? How did it impact your decisions, if at all?
As residents of Massachusetts, we couldn’t live in a more ideal state. We faced no challenges to, only affirmations of, our journey.
Will you prepare your children to answer questions about their donor?
The only thing we have decided in regard to questions Addison may ask in the future is that we will answer them honestly. We also specifically chose an open donor, which means that she will have the opportunity to contact her donor after she turns 18 if that is an avenue she wants to pursue. We also are in contact with the families of some of her donor-siblings – children conceived by other parents using the same donor sperm – through donorsiblingregistry.com. Though at first we weren’t sure how we felt about including these families in our life, we decided we would much rather Addison grow up knowing about her donor-siblings rather than be surprised by the concept at a later age.
Would you be willing to share the name of the sperm bank or other resources you used and why? If so, please list them below (and if you have any notes – was your experience good, poor? why or why not?)
Addison was conceived with donor sperm purchased from New England Cryogenic Center, Inc. in Newton, MA. Our personal experience with them was very good. We use Boston IVF for our inseminations, and love our doctor and nurses. The administrative assistants are at times insensitive and frustrating to deal with, but that is a minor inconvenience given the quality of the services we received.
Any other advice, comments, or misc. wisdom about the gay parenting process?
My biggest piece of advice would be to talk to gay and lesbian couples that have already been through the process. There are a lot of unknowns, and having a guide help you navigate the waters of becoming a parent is an invaluable resource.
Jen and Kendra are the authors of the Adventurous Moms blog, where they write about life with their daughter, Addison, life as lesbian parents in Massachusetts, and other adventures outdoors.