I’d never felt that burning desire to be a parent, so when my partner said she was having a baby despite my reservations, I was scared. Her final decision to go it alone, if she had to, followed several failed fertility treatments during which I supported her but became less and less confident that it was the right thing to pursue.
Finally, after a successful round of IVF, the seven week scan showed a tiny heartbeat. I was completely overwhelmed with feelings of love, hope, fear and responsibility for that tiny being. I felt an immediate and intense connection. I had never imagined I would feel this way, and it was probably the best single moment of my life.
Our parenting experience is sometimes different because my partner and I, who are both legal parents to our daughter, are in a same sex-relationship. I believe that most of these differences, the important ones anyway, are positive. That’s not to say that being a parent in a same-sex relationship is better than being any other kind of parent, but it does have unique elements that should be celebrated.
There are no gender stereotypes which determine our parental roles
We choose our parental roles as individuals, not as defined by our gender. Not that everyone lives by old fashioned stereotypes, but gender role expectations for parents are obviously still alive and well, especially when it comes to careers.
For us though, everything we do as parents is based on our individual preferences or circumstances, and there is absolutely nothing that either one of us automatically expects the other one to do simply because of our gender. Career? We talked about all options, from both of us working full-time to one of us staying at home, and based our ultimate decision what we actually wanted to do. Smaller things? Well... we are both incompetent DIYers, so this does have its downsides. But for the most part it works really well, with neither of us feeling that we have more than our fair share of responsibilities, big or small. This is not to say that we are perfect, but at least we can manage our lives without the extra burden of gender role expectations.
It is proof that love makes a family
No one in either of our families can get enough of our two year old daughter, including my own Mum and Dad, her non-biological Grandparents. They do not see her as any different to any other Granddaughter. Friends that were very close before, are now officially Godparents, and this has brought us all closer together. We also have more friends, many of them parents. The connection between parents is stronger than I ever realised, and if you are a parent you know exactly what I am talking about. This connection has built strong ties between us and parents in straight relationships. It reinforces the common human experiences and similarities we all have regardless of sexuality.
It makes you realise how amazing people can be
We chose our sperm donor primarily on the basis of photos and an audio interview. We really liked the way he looked: he has my colouring and a kind face that looks somehow familiar. In his interview for the sperm bank, he spoke of why he’d decided to become a donor. He explained that he comes from a strong, loving family himself and wanted to make a contribution to people that were unable to start a family without help. He has also agreed to have his identity released to his donor children when they turn eighteen so that they can contact him. This is a legal requirement in the UK, but he is an American donor and so he didn’t have to do this. These are incredible and selfless acts of kindness.
We automatically have #nofilter
Being a same sex parent forces you as as far out of the closet as it is possible to go. Everyone knows we are a two mum family; it’s not something that is easy, or that you’d want to hide. This is a good thing; to quote the this year’s Pride in London campaign, think #nofilter. We are out and proud - not just when we feel like it - all the time! Whether it’s on holiday, in Starbucks or at the doctors.
It makes us mindful parents
Because we are not a traditional family there is a strong compulsion to ensure we are doing the right things in terms of our daughter’s psychological development. Well-founded academic research concludes that it is not the family structure that is important but the quality of relationships within the family that is the key to a happy and well adjusted child. Knowing this helps us to try and focus on our relationships with each other instead of being hung up on how our family is arranged.
It makes me want to help change the world
As a parent or parent-to-be in a same sex relationship it continues to be difficult to find good information on the aspects unique to our situation. Having said that, I don’t believe in using these differences to distance ourselves, if anything we need to become a more integral part of the wider parenting conversations. With these things in mind I have created a website for same sex parents which I hope will become useful for same sex parents and parents-to-be everywhere.
That’s why being a different parent is amazing. Or perhaps it should be: that’s why being a parent is amazing.
First published in the Huffington Post 18 July 2016