At the beginning, we were just gay. A run-of-the-mill lesbian couple who knew we’d need some extra ingredients to have a baby. That was 2.5 years ago. Now I’m the mother of two babies lost in early pregnancy, with no living children so far, and my wife and I are continuing with IVF treatment to build our family.
Make no mistake, the “social infertility” of not being able to conceive with your partner in a same-sex partnership is a unique experience that comes with its own challenges. We resented needing to find a sperm donor, the costs of conceiving and the arduous second-parent adoption process my wife would need to go through when our child was born.
But that was before our long (and ongoing) battle with infertility and pregnancy loss. That was back before I truly understood that sexual orientation has no bearing on medical infertility or the ease of someone’s path to parenthood. All I saw around me were happy lesbian families celebrating a parade of births of beautiful new babies, most of which were conceived at home. Ease and joy. Procreation, with a little bit of help (but just a little) from science.
Pregnancy loss was not what we expected on this path. If I’m being honest, we were so distracted by all the other aspects of the infertility process that we forgot to fear the possibility that a pregnancy might not last. I fixated instead on the other losses we were experiencing along the way – the inability to have a baby in an act of physical love with the life partner I’d chosen, the loss of dignity knowing my wife would need to legally adopt our very wanted child through a lengthy and expensive second-parent adoption, the loss of privacy that comes with involving donors and doctors and legal advisors intimately in your attempt to have a family.
When we realized that we’d spent more than a year trying to conceive at home with not a single hint of pregnancy, I began researching how the infertility coverage mandate worked in the state where I work. What I found felt like the biggest hurdle I could imagine: my insurance company defined infertility differently for same-sex couples than for couples where the partners were of different sexes. Rather than trusting that we had done home inseminations similar to a different-sex couple trying via intercourse for a year at home, we would be held to a different standard of needing to “prove” that we tried 12 times by doing 12 IUI procedures with a reproductive endocrinologist, all paid out of pocket despite the fact that my insurance offers full coverage for infertility services. Aside from the fact that this standard was outside of accepted clinical practice guidelines for infertility treatment, it would have cost us almost $24,000 to comply with this requirement between the cost of donor sperm, medications, and the IUI procedures.
Luckily I’m a pretty determined self-advocate and health insurance is something I have a lot of professional experience in! We fought the insurer’s discriminatory standard legally, and we won. We were over the moon. We’d fought what we thought was the hardest battle, and we had coverage for IVF. It felt like the hardest part was over and a baby would soon follow.
The losses and failed IVF cycles that followed caught me completely off guard. It felt doubly unfair to have had to fight so hard for access to IVF only to have it end in such a heartbreaking way. But pregnancy loss doesn’t care what else you’ve experienced or how challenging the hand you’ve been dealt has been for you thus far. The causes of pregnancy loss don’t pick and choose to haunt certain people. It isn’t about who deserves a baby or fought the hardest for it. It isn’t about whether you’re gay or straight.
That’s why I’m here. To share my story and represent a different side from the happy and easy lesbian baby-making narrative that has left me feeling isolated and alone as we have charted these seemingly unnavigated waters. I know I’m not alone and if your story is anything like mine, now you know you’re not alone either.