When we started on this journey, we had no idea what we were doing. We had no friends to ask or reasonable sources of advice beyond what the fertility clinics deign to provide. By fertility clinics, of course, I mean the very few private fertility clinics who are licenced to provide donor sperm to couples like us. So here’s a timeline of our experiences. I hope it will help other couples like us shed light on the whole process (or, perhaps, frustrate the crap out of them).
We chose to go with the artificial insemination route for several reasons:
- Legally, in Australia, if the pregnancy is brought about by a doctor who both mothers have been referred to (by another doctor) then the resulting baby’s birth certificate can bare both mothers’ names. This was very appealing because:
- We would both have legal and parental responsibility for the child, no questions asked, from the time they were born.
- It saves the stress and cost of the non-birth mother having to adopt the child later. It may even work out cheaper in the long run.
- We didn’t have a sperm donor so donor sperm was a better option. Fun fact: it is actually cheaper to buy donor sperm from the clinic than it is the BYO sperm donor. Or course, if the sperm donor is intended to be the baby’s father, then it’s pretty much free to BYO sperm. Go figure!
We had always talked about having kids but Chloe and I actually started to do something about it! I had finished my PhD in January and gone back to work full time in February 2016. I had applied for a few post-docs overseas and a job in Melbourne, Australia. I hadn’t got any of the jobs but, I didn’t really mind. I had a pretty good job already and that’s pretty lucky for any newly graduated PhD student. Chloe had a job too and our home and work places were all within a 6km radius.
I don’t know how it happened, but somehow we threw out the idea of me getting a post-doc overseas, moving far away and having a great adventure. Both of us were so keen to nest that it was hard to find the motivation to shake up our lives at that point. Our families were in our city, or close by. We were 27; a bit young, but not too young to have kids.
It was time, we decided. Time to nest and make babies.
Although we had our wedding in March 2016, we were finally able to hand in the paperwork to have our relationship ‘registered’ in July. In the state of NSW, Australia, they allow same-sex couples to get registered, which basically means you pay money to have a certificate. This certificate essentially means that you’re de-facto. We decided to do this for some weird reason (it’s expensive and practically useless since most couples living together are considered de-facto in Australia). I guess we didn’t want to give anyone an excuse to treat our relationship as being less than any other, if we could possibly avoid it. Having an official document to prove we were a couple seemed like a good back up for a lot of life maladies.
What we didn’t realise (because we are still the only couple I know to get ‘registered’ in NSW), was that, if my wife wanted to change her surname to my surname (which she did, because it’s a far superior surname :P), she’d have to change it before we got registered because, if she changed it after, we’d have to get registered again in her new name. Yet another reason why Australia should just get on with legalising marriage equality… you can get married and THEN change your name without getting remarried!!
The day we finally submitted the registration paperwork was the same day we went for our first doctor visit. We went to my GP. I had never come out to my GP (he was fairly new GP) so it was a little nerve racking for me walking in there with Chlo and announcing, “Hi. We’d like to have a baby. Together.” I wasn’t really surprised that he had never had such a request before. But, he’s a great doctor and asked us what we needed. We had done enough research about the process to know to request a referral to a fertility specialist who we knew would be able to refer us for a dose of donor sperm and the IVF clinic. We got our referral and were on our way. (My GP, BTW, was super excited and requested that he be my doctor through the pregnancy and our future baby’s doctor).
Now, a word about choosing a fertility specialist: if I were to do the whole thing again, I would have done my research into the fertility specialist above all else. The IVF clinic, when I enquired about what to do told us that they had one fertility specialist in our city. Our choice to use this doctor came down to an issue of travel. Do we travel for 10 minutes or do we choose to travel for 2-3 hours? It seemed an easy choice at the time. We were told to get a referral for the fertility specialist in our city and so we did. Interestingly, a couple of friends of ours who lived very near us were going through the same process and the same clinic a few weeks after us. They were told by the fertility clinic that there was NO fertility specialist in our city. I wish I had have been told that too. Worth mentioning too that our FS was just a referring FS, not actually part of the IVF clinic. My advice: stay away from doctors that are not part of the clinic and will not be part of the treatment. Also, read reviews on the FS in question (this particular FS has several bad reviews online, which should have been a flashing red light, but I just didn’t Google it!)
We went to a donor sperm information evening hosted by our chosen IVF clinic. I thought hosting an info session like that meant that they were pretty involved with helping same sex couples conceive. How did we choose the IVF clinic? It was a choice of two in the state (NSW) and I chose the one that seemed least homophobic. Seriously. I think I made the wrong choice in hindsight.
A few days later, we paid to go onto the donor sperm waiting list. We were informed the wait for IUI quality sperm was 8-10 months and the wait for IVF sperm was 2 months. Our friends, who were a couple of weeks behind us in this process were told there was a 6 month waiting list for IUI sperm. Go figure.
Spurred by these hopeful developments, I started looking to buy a family and doggo friendly house J We had our first fertility appointment the same day I took Chloe to see a house I liked. It was the first house I had looked at and the first one she had looked at. We went straight from the house to our appointment.
Our first appointment with the only person in Wollongong capable of proclaiming people worthy of donor sperm. It was anticlimactic. He referred me for all the standard tests: pelvic ultrasound, blood tests. He said it was good we were starting young. That would make it a lot easier.
I bought that house, or, at least, had my offer accepted.
I went and got all those tests. It didn’t seem much point hurrying because we were preparing to wait almost a year for donor sperm. But, I got them anyway and called up the doctor’s office to see if I had to come in and get the results. The receptionist told me they were all fine and to come in once we were at the top of the donor sperm waiting list. So we waited.
Wifey and I moved into that kid-and-dog friendly house 🙂
My mother met a woman who had gotten pregnant using donor sperm and IVF. Apparently, she didn’t have to wait at all for her sperm. “Why don’t you go to IVF Australia? You won’t have to wait for sperm and B says they’re really good.” Out of two possible choices, we had gone with IVF Australia, gaining us a 8-10 month sperm wait. Thanks for the advice.
The compulsory time-wasting money-grubbing counsellor sessions at the clinic.
“Have you thought about who’s going to work and who’s going to take care of baby?
“Have you considered that baby things cost money?
“Do you know about maternity leave?
Anyone who gets to this stage and hasn’t spoken to their partner about who’s going to take care of the bloody baby is a nincompoop. So, counselling was pretty pointless because any person who has been waiting to do IVF for 6 months has ACTUALLY THOUGHT ABOUT THE RESULTING BABY! But the IVF clinic got $400 and we were approved to continue along the baby making road.
Mostly, I think these counselling sessions are for people who have to deal with surprise infertility and all the rubbish that goes along with that. Lesbians are immune to this, being already quite sure that they are not going to make a baby naturally. There’s always surprises for everyone, though.