To mark the end of Gay Pride Month in the UK, we’ve chatted with our friends at The LGBT Mummies Tribe. So, what happens when you think you understand and think you’re ready for the challenges you’ll face when building a family in a different way, but then something or someone comes out the blue and knocks you off your feet? The lovely Laura-Rose from The LGBT Mummies Tribe, has spoken openly about her experience with how LGBT+ families are viewed by a section of society, and her struggle to come to terms with her role as the ‘other mother’ in their child’s life.
There is a lack of acceptance, support and role models for LGBT+ women on the journey through motherhood. The LGBT Mummies Tribe provide support groups for women on a similar journey to ensure they have a safe space to share their feelings and fears openly, creating a community and safe-haven for LGBT+ families worldwide. They rock!
Over to Laura-Rose Thorogood, Founder, The LGBT Mummies Tribe…
“Do you understand the impact that this could have on you both psychologically?”
“Yes of course! We know it’s going to be hard!”
The desperation was bouncing off us around the room like skittles. At that first counselling session after we decided to go for fertility treatment, we really thought we had it sussed. We had no idea what was in store for us…
Picking a sperm donor was a very surreal experience. We made a list of each others’ “best attributes”, things we liked about each other – our hobbies, interests and characteristics, and thought about what we found attractive in a woman visibly (race, hair colour, eyes). Then from there, we had an idea of the kind of man we were looking for as a sperm donor and signed up with XYTEX sperm bank.
It was honestly the strangest “shopping experience” – like shopping for shoes, except the most expensive and precious choice you’ll ever make! Then we whittled it down to two sperm donors and both decided on the same one. Luckily, because we both wanted to carry a child, we had to have a specific donor and that meant we couldn’t choose the other donor anyway!
And we were so pleased with our choice- he was clever, compassionate, handsome and very family orientated, which was important for us. Both our children are from the same donor and we have more vials frozen, for future babies!
Having fertility treatment is HARD, financially, physically and emotionally. But we were READY. My wife’s body had become a temple of health overnight and I had read every possible article, paper and book about what we were shortly to go through. I did all the research – I knew the success rates and chances of miscarriage. I could reel off to you the different medications my wife was to administer, the side effects and even down to estimating follicle sizes. We were AWARE that we wouldn’t just fall pregnant straight away and we were prepared for that. When we miscarried at the fourth attempt, it was heart-breaking for us, all hopes shattered, our dreams of motherhood splintered after 11 weeks of elation, but we knew this was a possibility. Then it happened, and on the fifth attempt, we got PREGNANT- finally!
We didn’t think anything had ever matched that feeling! You know- the feeling that God has blessed you with the gift of life (via a very amazing clinic- CRGH, we love you guys!) and you are going to be MOTHERS, the very BEST Mummies you could ever meet. For some time, we lived in a bubble of happiness – attending scans, getting excited with family and friends, hitting the growth milestones and stocking up on the ‘must-haves’ that you buy for your first child (that you never ever end up using!).
When induction day came, we got taken down to theatre and our amazing little miracle baby arrived- nothing could ever ruin that unadulterated feeling of happiness knowing we had just become Mothers to a little girl.
Becoming ‘The Other’ Mother
And then, the next day, within moments, it happened. My bubble was burst.
Whilst my wife was having her final checks so that we could go home, I was asked by one of the nurses to bring our daughter into a side room for checks. You know the ones – to check weight, eyes and limbs, to ensure she was healthy and didn’t require any additional care.
So, I took her in to be greeted by a female doctor who asked me my name.
When I gave it she looked at me confused, “No, I want the mother”.
To which I squeaked, puzzled by what she had said, “I am her mother, I am her other mother”. I bumbled my way through another ‘let me out’ situation again.
Then she paused for a second, stared at me whilst she processed what I had said and her face changed.
Then she ‘shooed’ me with her hand dismissively and said aggressively,
“No. I don’t want YOU – I want her REAL MOTHER”.
And there it was…my heart fell out of my chest and for a moment I stopped breathing. It knocked the wind out of me.
I hadn’t in the whole nine months of pregnancy, or even while we were having treatment, prepared myself mentally for this – for this disdain, disgust and dismissal. I had NEVER even considered that anyone would not consider me our child’s mother.
Why would I? We didn’t know any other families like ours with children, or any other couple who had been through what we had at that time. There was no support system, or central source of information for ‘families like us’. Back then, even 6-8 years ago it wasn’t common to see LGBT+ families around, and social media wasn’t as prolific as it is now.
No-one had sat me down and said “people may not recognise you as the other mother. People may dismiss you of your role, because biologically, you are nothing to that child”.
Why had no-one sat me down and prepared me for this cruel moment?
Related Article – ‘Social Infertility – I didn’t Choose to be Gay’
Normally being a tenacious and outgoing person, I would be ready with a (relatively) intellectual and sarcastic response, but this time – nothing. I spluttered something along the lines of “but I am her real mother”. During this moment of pure humiliation, she was examining the baby and from a careful examination went to tossing her around.
Multiple times, I asked her to stop throwing her around and to be careful, until in the end I shrilly screamed, “Give her to me now!” The other nurse came back in and escorted me out, apologising for her colleague’s behaviour.
By the time I got back to my wife, I was sobbing and couldn’t get the words out about what had just happened.
The midwives who had looked after us so kindly on the ward advised us to put in a formal complaint to PALS and said that she had had complaints before. The excuse was that, in her country, being gay was illegal, but that did not wash with us – there’s no excuse for homophobia, let alone treating patients or a newborn badly. And so we filed a complaint once we got home. But for me, the damage had been done.
In those few minutes, our previous happy bubble was burst.
What should have been the most wonderful few days, were marred by an incredibly scarring situation that neither of us saw coming.
Related Article – 10 Ways an Infertility Counsellor Can Help Through Infertility Trauma
The Damage Was Done
In the months that followed, I changed. I was anxious all the time. I wanted to hold her or to see to her constantly. My mother-in-law offered to stay with us for a week and I ended up making it so obvious that ‘we didn’t need any help’ that she shortened her stay.
I felt like I had to justify my role in every situation, how often I held her, ensuring I could bath and feed her all the time. We’d be in the supermarket, GP surgery (anywhere in public) and if anyone commented on her, I’d have to announce to that person that I was her ‘other mother’ like a narrator in a show, so that I felt validated as her mum. Looking back now I can imagine I looked borderline neurotic most of the time!
Being the non-biological mother hit me in ways I never thought possible. I considered myself an emotionally strong woman, but in the year following her birth, I crumbled – I was a ghost of my former self. It took me a really long time to get my head around my role and to feel comfortable with the fact that I WAS her mother, just as much as the fact that my wife and I both deserved that title.
All it took was the blunt, yet factual, comments from a homophobic doctor to relinquish me of my strong and usually stoic self, to replace me as an anxious and emotional wreck. Did others feel the same? Did other people look at me like I didn’t matter, that I was a bystander, a gooseberry in our daughter’s life? Was I just a spare part?
Yes, many LGBT+ women have families and the non-biological mother is absolutely fine – she doesn’t experience any of the emotional fallout that I had encountered, because people are different. My wife on the other hand was absolutely fine when I carried our son. I put this down to the fact that she IS the strongest woman I know and the fact that we had done this before. LGBT+ families were then popping up on social media, in your local town shops, in strategically placed adverts by brands wanting to encapsulate how ‘diverse’ they were at the time – we were becoming VISIBLE.
But there are so many thousands of women worldwide, who feel EXACTLY how I felt. So many women who in fact, suffered with Post Natal Depression without carrying their child, and some of whom really struggled to come to terms with their role in their children’s life.
But it is not spoken about. It is taboo, there’s a stigma attached.
“It’s not about you!” I was told once. A point of which I was acutely aware! But when that switch was turned on in the hospital that day, I didn’t know how to switch it off – that self-doubt. I didn’t have anyone to tell me how to be or to support me through it.
So, after the birth of our son, I founded ‘The LGBT Mummies Tribe’ to support LGBT+ women on the journey through motherhood and to create a community and safe-haven for families like us worldwide.
We provide multiple support groups to ensure women have a safe space to share their feelings and fears openly to others who will listen and share their own.
And SO MANY women feel just the same as I did. We are not neurotic. We are HUMAN. We are women, who have fears like any other parent, except being a ‘non-biological mother’ is a parenting role that is rarely put under the microscope or written about and it’s very rarely supported- hence why we do what we do now!
So, I want to share this, for the non-bio mothers out there, who have ever experienced what I went through, or are feeling anxious about their impending motherhood and feel like they too need validation for their role.
You ARE a mother.
You ARE good enough.
Blood does not always a mother make- you ARE VALID.