What happens when you know from any early age that having a family means building it in a different way? The wonderful Millie from @jessi_and_millie (huge voices in the LGBT community), has spoken openly about ‘coming out’ and the consequences this has had on her life and creating a family. There is a lack of acceptance, help and role models. It hasn’t been a smooth ride and we feel these conversations are so important, to help others battling with similar feelings…
Over to Millie…
We need to talk about “Social infertility”
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term “social infertility,” you are not alone. I had never heard of this phrase until my wife and I were casually making enquiries about IVF costs at a fertility clinic.
The lady at the end of the phone asked: “How long have you been trying?” As a queer woman, sometimes these types of questions are a little awkward. I decided to make light of the situation by saying “Well my wife and I have been trying for five years now, but no luck” s t o n e… c o l d… s i l e n c e … followed by “sorry we don’t treat the socially infertile…”
I later found out that “social infertility’ is defined as “an individual or couple, who during a 12-month period, posses the intent to conceive, but cannot due to social or physiological limitations”. Despite not previously being aware of the technical definition, social infertility is something that has deeply affected me most of my life. I genuinely used to believe that coming out as gay meant resigning myself to a life without children. It seems dumb now but, growing up, there were no lesbian role models on TV who had children. The few who did have a biological child had them with a man – we all remember Carol from Friends.
There is a lot of personal turmoil that goes into coming out, and part of that was understanding that the road to motherhood would be far from easy. Not being able to conceive “naturally”, regardless of the circumstances, comes with feelings of loss and grief. Yet, so often LGBT people are omitted from this narrative – our struggles to conceive are left on the sidelines. I did not choose to be gay. No-one chooses their sexuality. I did not choose to be not able to fall pregnant without fertility treatments and donor sperm. I am no different from any other mother who needs IVF or IUI to conceive. Those feelings of helplessness and sadness still apply to me. The out-of-pocket costs still apply to me.
Find tips here about how to save more and stress less for fertility
The long waits, the invasive procedures, the praying, the failures and the loss, they still apply to me. My intention is not to dismiss anyone else’s infertility journey. Certainly, there is additional grief involved in trying to conceive for a year… two years… more…only then to find out IVF is the only option. In some ways, at least I know where I stand already, despite it taking years to come to terms with.
Opening up the Narrative
My hope is to open up the conversation, to talk about the silent anguish of social infertility and to make sure that LGBT couples are part of this narrative. As for us, our baby journey is progressing slowly. There are still a lot of unknowns – when you first try to conceive at 31 everything is a mystery. This last year has included the discovery and removal of an 8cm ovarian tumour (benign, thank God), as well as an endometriosis diagnosis and surgery to remove that.
I don’t know what the future will hold for us, but we are optimistic and still confident that our dreams will be a reality; that we can be the positive lesbian role models we so badly needed when we were young.
If you’re struggling with fertility, read here how a fertility coach can help you.