By Ray Rachlin, LM, CPM
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This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around April 25, 2023. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.
In Baby Making for Everybody, queer millennial midwives Ray Rachlin and Marea Goodman use their professional expertise to demystify the dizzying process of pursuing parenthood as queer and solo people, offering detailed, gender-affirming, body-positive advice on topics including:
- Fertility tracking for people with uteruses
- Choosing a sperm donor, egg donor, or surrogate
- Legal considerations for LGBTQ+ families
- Navigating pregnancy and gender identity
- IUI, ICI, and IVF procedures
- Foster parenting and adoption
- Miscarriage and infertility
The result is a much-needed compassionate step-by-step guide for every aspect of the complicated, messy, and glorious process of building a family. Combining practical information with personal narratives and first-person community wisdom, this book provides prospective parents with the information they need to grow their families.
Why Do You Want to Be a Parent, Anyway?
We’ve found through both our midwifery practices and our own experiences that during the process of growing a family as LGBTQ+ or solo people, folks can sometimes get bogged down in the details of the how and lose touch with the why. This makes sense to us—after all, the how can be overwhelming, with many steps, new decisions, and costs to consider. One minute you’re imagining holding your future child in your arms and the next you’re doom-scrolling through donor profiles, peeing on sticks, crunching the numbers (again) to see if you can eke out another round of IUI or wondering how in the h*ll you can afford IVF. Add in all the emotions and it’s no wonder so many of us can lose sight of the forest for the trees.
We know it can be stressful. We’ve counseled hundreds of people through this process, and we’ve been there ourselves. That’s why we want to start this book by supporting you to get in touch with your deep desires, hopes, dreams, and intentions around parenting before you embark on the logistics of actually making that happen. By starting this way, we hope you can feel resourced and supported, and that you can carry these feelings with you throughout your family-building journey.
Why Do People Choose to Become Parents, and How Do They Prepare?
Before we dive into why you want to be a parent, let’s acknowledge that queer people and single people have always been parents. Generations before us have found ways to start and nurture our families, to find community, and to thrive. We also have faced tremendous adversity. Social stigma and lack of resources have trapped many single mothers in the margins of society for generations.1 In the 1970s and 1980s, almost all lesbian mothers who fought for custody of their children in court lost, and it wasn’t until 1997 that New Jersey became the first state in the US to allow gay couples to adopt a child together.2
In the years since Stonewall, LGBTQ+ rights have grown by leaps and bounds, and so have visibility and acceptance of our families. These days, 48 percent of LGBTQ+ millennials are planning on becoming parents,3 and an estimated 2.7 million single-parent households chose solo parenthood.4 Single and LGBTQ+ people are finding their ways to parenthood, but systems haven’t caught up with the needs of our families yet.
As reproductive healthcare professionals, we deeply believe that every person deserves the right to decide whether or not they want to become parents, and how. Both of us have known that we wanted to become parents for a long time. Raising children offers a type of closeness that most of us have never experienced before. Babies and young children have profound stamina for intimacy—they want to be held and cuddled and played with constantly, consistently providing oxytocin and yumminess. For those of us who love personal growth (ahem—Marea), parenting may be the most effective path to enlightenment. You’ll be forced to grow and heal in ways you hadn’t imagined before having children. And besides, parenting is fun! As adults, we can sometimes get stuck in adulting, and it’s helpful to have little people around us who are immensely thrilled when the trash truck comes around.
Parenting is also f*cking challenging. It can be exhausting—from the lack of sleep when you have a newborn to the particular form of mental exhaustion caused by playing imagination games for hours, parenting requires profound wells of energy and patience. If you’re in a partnership, becoming a parent can put immense stress on relationships, changing dynamics and drastically decreasing the amount of time you spend having romantic time with your significant other. The demand that parenting puts on financial resources is profound, and for many families, the expenses start to pile up even before a child is conceived.
Agh! But It’s So Annoying Not to Be Able to Accidentally Make a Baby!
Trust us—we know. But maybe this is a blessing in disguise? As LGBTQ+ and solo people, often we are required to bring tons of intention into our journey to parenting. Although it can be complicated and costly to figure out how we want to grow our families, the care we bring to our family-building journeys can deeply support our mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical well-being. Our children benefit from the knowledge that we worked hard to invite them into our families—that love is a powerful feeling for a child to have.
Because biology, medical transition, or relationship status necessitates that we plan and prepare for every aspect of our family expansion, we have the opportunity to think through many important aspects of the life-changing process of becoming a parent. This preparation can simultaneously heighten the best parts of parenting and create more ease around the challenging ones. For example, we can start saving money for donor sperm or eggs or insemination support, gather hand-me-down baby supplies from friends or people giving their baby stuff away on Craigslist, or move into a co-op house with people interested in supporting us with childcare. And we can find an awesome therapist whom we trust enough to heal some of our childhood trauma so we don’t unconsciously act it out on our children.
We don’t believe that it’s possible to be fully prepared for all the changes that becoming a parent will bring into your life. The intensity of the emotions of having a child, not to mention the unprecedented demands on your time and attention, means that no person can truly know what it’s like until they experience it themselves. However, we can prepare ourselves by proactively working on our own childhood wounds and past trauma, practicing accessing inner resources for holding all the unknowns of pre-conception and parenting, bringing in our community, and lining up all the support we can. It can make a difference to our experiences of the whole family-building process.
Of course, even the best-laid plans can get uprooted. With all this talk about being intentional, we also know that we can’t control many parts of this process. While we encourage you to take the time to understand the road map ahead, we also want to invite you to bring as much flexibility and gentleness to this process as possible.
Knowing your own why is what will allow you to approach this process with compassion and clarity, and in the following pages we hope you’ll find guidance, community wisdom, and some questions to ponder that can leave you feeling clearer on why you want to become a parent, as well as any areas that you’re interested in growing before embarking on parenthood.
Why Do You Want to Become a Parent?
Let’s start with this question: Why do you want to become a parent? Some people may feel that they want a child to connect to a greater purpose in life. Others are looking for a certain kind of closeness and connection that only a child can provide. For others, they imagine that sharing a baby with their partner will connect them together forever, and this can be a primary motive in family formation. Without judgment, it’s important to spend some time reflecting on this huge decision to bring another life into the world or to create a new family with a child who was born into another family.
Getting in Touch with Your Priorities
After answering these questions, take some time to determine your top three reasons for becoming a parent. Write them down on a piece of paper and keep it somewhere visible—you can tape it to your wall in your bedroom or keep it somewhere that you’ll be able to see throughout the coming months or years of building your family.
This may look something like:
Your priorities may look very different from this. But we think it’s helpful to create a visual that can serve as your guiding light in this process of family building. Remember, you can always change or revise your priorities. Flexibility, a key to parenthood, is also essential for conception.
As you read this book, we also encourage you to think about your needs in how you build your family. What, of the help available for conception or family building, resonates best with your lived experience and family-planning wishes? Thinking about your experiences with medical systems, family, and your own body up until this point, you may consider questions like:
Have your experiences receiving healthcare felt comfortable or uncomfortable?
Do you want to lead your conception process, have a medical professional lead your process, or something in between?
Do you want lots of information about your body’s fertility from medical tests? What is your initial reaction to the idea of fertility treatments?
Is privacy or relationships—with partner(s) or donors—a priority for you?
How do you define family? Is being biologically related to your child important to you? Why or why not?
Are there ways you do or don’t want a child to come into your family?
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to the tools we use to grow our families. Understanding our priorities in how we want to navigate care and the whole conception process can help us be empowered regardless of how our path to parenthood unfolds.
So What Can I Plan For?
Whether you’re planning to build your family through your own or your partner’s pregnancy, a surrogate, or fostering and adoption, preparing to talk about your child’s origin story will be emotionally supportive for your children and your family as a whole. It’s also very helpful to plan for practical support, both logistically and emotionally. In a larger system that doesn’t always validate LGBTQ+ and solo parents, knowing the internal and external resources to lean on will help you, your partner(s), and also your future kids weather the challenges that lie ahead. Some of the considerations you can plan for are your kid’s experiences, the relationship you’ll have to your kid’s biological family, your own family and community support, and how you’ll address intergenerational trauma.
Putting Thought into Your Kid’s Experiences About Having a Donor or a Surrogate
If you’re planning to conceive with the help of donor eggs, sperm, or a surrogate, consider how you will talk to your future children about where they came from. We have had many clients choose known donors because they want their future children to be able to know the person who provided half of their genetic material as they grow. For families using anonymous donors, get clear on why this is the right path for your family and how you want to tell your children about where they came from.
Ray has had a handful of clients write and print conception books for their kids—compiling information about how their child was conceived with the help of donors or surrogates in children’s book format. This offers kids an age-appropriate way to know where they came from, and how desired and loved they were even before they were conceived.
Thinking About Adoption or Fostering and How to Relate to a Child’s Biological Family
Whether you know now that you want to grow your family through fostering or adoption, or you come to the decision later in your family-building journey, it’s important to consider how you want to relate to your child’s biological family of origin and maintain a connection to their culture if it differs from yours. There is a ton of information about how important it is for an adopted child’s experience to maintain connection with their biological family.5 Preparing for this now, emotionally as well as logistically, will impact your future child(ren)’s emotional well-being. (We’ll talk about this more in chapter 6.)
Family and Community Support
When our family-formation journey starts long before the first pregnancy test, we have more time to gather our network to support our kids as they grow. As queer midwives, we know the power of chosen community and have seen how amazing it can be for kids to have so many close, loving grown-ups in their lives, whether they are biologically related or not. Community support also means you have more time and space to be an adult and care for yourself, and caring for yourself allows you to show up better as a parent. It’s so good for the kids—not to mention you—to get community and family support on board as special people in your future children’s lives, even before they come into being.
Preparing to Parent—Healing Generational Trauma
There’s nothing like parenting to remind you that, like it or not, you are a product of your own parents, and they are a product of theirs. The moment that Marea became a parent, she started worrying about a thousand things a day: from her kids falling out a window to them getting scurvy from not eating enough fruits and vegetables. Many of her worries were ridiculous carbon copies of concerns her own parents had when she grew up. Now, five years later, Marea stands in front of the TV watching the Golden State Warriors exactly like her dad watched the Knicks while she was young.
Whether we are conscious of it or not, the way we parent is similar to how we were parented, unless we put the effort in to process and change it. It’s so important that we take some time to reflect on our own childhoods, and take action to heal from the parts that didn’t serve us, to avoid causing hurts to our children similar to what we experienced as young ones. Putting thought, intention, and healing into your own childhood wounds will do wonders in supporting your ability to kindly and compassionately parent your future children.
The following worksheet is meant to spark some of these conversations about family patterns. If you have a partner or partners, these questions can encourage dialogue between you with the hope of supporting you to start disentangling the web of childhood emotions before you have a child of your own to raise. If you or your partner(s) or potential co-parents had a painful or traumatic childhood, we recommend going through this section with a friend, therapist, or other support person. Trauma from our families of origin does have a tendency to come up when we pursue becoming parents ourselves.
When the World Is on Fire, How Do You Want to Parent?
When Marea was early in her pregnancy, she and her family were forced to spend most of five weeks indoors to avoid breathing as much of the noxious smoke caused by California’s wildfire season as possible. It was a hard time for her—not only was it stressful to breathe poisonous air and to be trapped in a house with two antsy kids, but it was also scary thinking about the kind of world that this tiny baby who didn’t yet even know how to breathe would inherit. What would the world look like for this child in ten years? In fifty?
We know that the way humans in the Global North are using resources is unsustainable, and climate change is leading many people to question if it’s ethical to bring new humans into the world. Some people who want to parent are choosing to foster or adopt instead of creating a new human, and others who desire pregnancy or a genetically related child may grapple with the environmental costs of their decisions. There is no right answer to this question of whether or how to become parents because of climate change, but as midwives we know that the desire to create, birth, and parent children is one of the oldest truths of the human experience.
For all of us choosing to pursue parenthood, we must align ourselves to fight against the racist, capitalist system that’s creating the climate crisis and set an example for our children, who will grow up needing to care for our planet in new ways. Becoming parents has the potential to help us feel more connected to our planet and what it needs for us to continue to live here. We can educate ourselves and organize for change with the intention of taking care of our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, as well as all of their extended communities.
We know that climate change is a huge topic, and it can be easier to try to tune it out than to actually engage in changing it. But we also know as parents and future parents (and humans in general) that we need to be working on making the planet livable to every human and animal on it. Perhaps we are a group of people uniquely positioned to make a difference in protecting our planet. Our kids need us to be.
We know that there are important logistics to consider when embarking on our family-building journeys and that at times it can feel overwhelming. So we’ve included this decision tree as a tool to help guide you through navigating many of your potential decisions related to becoming a parent.
Now that we’ve put some thought into why we want to become parents, we are ready to talk about step one for folks pursuing biological parenthood—finding the gametes (aka sperm and eggs) you need! We’re going to be diving into how to find sperm and egg donors as well as, for people without uteruses in their relationships, gestational carriers or surrogates. For those of you who are clear that you will be forming your families through fostering and adoption, feel free to skip to chapter 6.
Sperm, Eggs, and Uteruses—Where to Get ’Em When You Need ’Em
There are three essential components that create a pregnancy: sperm, egg, and uterus. Some LGBTQ+ families have all the components to make a baby, but most do not. So the question is: When we lack one or two of those items, how do we go about getting them? Finding genetic material for your future children can be, to say the least, a roller coaster. Many of our clients spend months weighing the options, from buying sperm from a bank or traveling to a known donor (near or far!) for monthly inseminations to poring over sperm-bank websites and listening to voice recordings of potential donors. When people lack eggs or a uterus to grow a pregnancy, the prospects of how to make a baby can become even more daunting.
- On Sale
- Apr 25, 2023
- Page Count
- 272 pages