Sandra and jb conceived their son Leo through at-home insemination (after a long TTC process) with a little help from acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine. Here’s their story.

First Name: Sandra
Partner’s First Name: jb
Age: 30
Hometown/City: Philadelphia
Number of Children: 1
Names of Children: Leo

When did you decide you wanted children?
My partner and I both come from large close-knit families, so we were both on board with having kids from the beginning.

How did you decide to either biologically have a child or adopt a child?
Having worked as a doula and always wanting to experience pregnancy and childbirth, it was an obvious choice for me. jb doesn’t have any interest in pregnancy, so as we continue to build our family we may explore other options like fostering or adoption – although I did love being pregnant so much we may go down that road again.

Did you share your journey with your family and friends? If so, have they been supportive? We only told a select few people that we were trying to conceive, and in retrospect, I’m very glad about that (in fact there are a couple people I wish I hadn’t confided in) because it took a lot longer than we expected. It was emotionally draining when supportive friends asked how it was going and we repeatedly had no news.

Once we were pregnant we told our families first and we were mostly met with support. My father-in-law, though, was not happy with the news and said some hurtful things. At that point we didn’t think our child would have a relationship with him at all, which made us very sad.

When Leo was born he was beloved by all, including my father-in-law who is now a doting grandfather. I know not everyone is so lucky, but I really think babies are magical and bring out the best in people. Leo has transformed my relationship with all our family members for the better – even the ones I already had great relationships with.

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced raising a child as a gay couple? How have you overcome those challenges and what advice would you give new parents in a similar situation?
We’ve been fortunate in that we haven’t had any major setbacks since Leo was born. We live in a fairly progressive neighborhood and jb’s job is very supportive.

One thing we struggled with was what jb would go by since she didn’t feel like a “mom” and other options weren’t a good fit. We ended up going with “dad” and it’s worked out for us so far. You can read more about our experience here.

What do you wish you would have known before you started?
I wish I would have know that one day we would have the family we were dreaming of. I also wish I would have considered a known donor sooner. We spent nearly two years and an obscene amount of money using frozen anonymous donor sperm from a bank. Just when we were going to give up because we were out of money and out of emotional reserves, we began to consider going “low tech” and using a known donor. It was easy, free, and the personal relationship Leo has with his donor is priceless. It can be scary to open up your family to the legal uncertainties – but if there is someone you trust enough, I absolutely recommend it. You can read more about our experience here.

What was your biggest setback in the process?
Our long road and battle with infertility was really difficult. We lost our first pregnancy at 12 weeks and that was absolutely devastating. Now it all seems worth it, but in the thick of it when we didn’t know if we’d ever have a baby, it was really trying.

What was the funniest thing that happened along the way?
We almost ended up inadvertently giving our baby the initials LGBT. Luckily we realized it before he was born – but oh man, that would have been embarrassing.

Did you ever consider giving up?
Yes. When we nearly two years in and out of money and had all but exhausted our medical options, we did talk about giving up – or exploring other options. I never would have guessed that a DIY at-home insemination supported by only acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicinal herbs would be our ticket to success!

How has your life changed during this process? Before having kids and after having kids?
Everything has changed. Really, everything. But it’s so amazing.

Will you prepare your child to answer questions about his donor?
Leo already has a great relationship with his uncle/donor and as questions arise we will answer them honestly, openly and age appropriately. He’s already been present for conversations about how we created our family (although he isn’t able to understand much at this age) and eventually he will just remember that we “always” were open about it and never associated embarrassment or shame with it.

Sandra is a queer, latina stay-at-home mom reclaiming family values in Philadelphia. You can follow her at her blog West Philly Mama.

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