Two Moms Journey to Motherhood – Part One : Reciprocal IVF

{This blog is part one of a series as Madi dives into her family’s journey into growing their family.
You can read more about their beautiful family over at Two Moms Are Better Than One.}

Reciprocal IVF : Part One : Two Moms Journey : Coastal Bend Mom : Corpus ChristiI am in a family where there are two moms.

And no, no one is a stepmom.

We are lesbians and are both mothers to our daughter. As is any woman’s journey to motherhood ours is unique and came with its own set of challenges and triumphs. Allow me to start at the beginning. 

I always dreamt of being a mother. At a young age, I never thought of myself as being married to a guy. Because I was raised in a very sheltered environment the only alternative was to be a single mother. I was all about it. Fast forward to sophomore year in college and it started to make sense why I didn’t want to marry a guy. I was a lesbian. Fast forward again and I meet my now wife in 2013 at Texas A&M (gig ‘em aggies). 

The Beginning : Two Moms Making a Family

When Krystal and I first began getting serious there was the inevitable discussion of if she could see children in her future. At first, her answer was no, but as our relationship progressed and we began to think about what our future together would look like; children were definitely a part of that picture. 

But wait, two moms… aren’t you missing a key ingredient? Yes! We need the swimmers! 

Let me preface by saying there is no father for our daughter. The individual who provided the sperm is not the father or dad, he is simply the helper or donor. When deciding how we wanted to go about obtaining the specimen we knew we didn’t want someone we were acquainted with or had a personal relationship with. Because of our family culture, our fear was that the family might disclose information to the child before they were ready and that they would get caught up in the “Oh, she looks like her dad.” Krystal and I were both very clear that we were not looking for another parental figure we were simply looking for a little help creating our family. We did not want the child to be seen as anyone else’s child other than our own. This decision led us to picking a sperm donor. 

Many people ask, how does the sperm-shopping process works, to be honest, it’s similar to online shopping. There are several Cryobanks or Sperm Banks around the nation. We choose Seattle Sperm Bank because they worked well with our fertility clinic and offered the most affordable packages.  That’s right there are packages. These packages could include anything from more baby pictures (most donors do not offer pictures of themselves in adulthood), an MP3 of their voice, a handwritten letter, extensive genetic testing, extensive family medical history, etc. 

There are also different types of sperm. For example, our genetics test said we could get either CMV positive or negative sperm. Additionally, because of the method, we choose to conceive we could get unwashed sperm (sperm is not separated from the seminal fluid – our fertility clinic washed the sperm on-site). There are also different types of donors. There are those who agree to have their identity and contact information revealed once the offspring turns 18 (an ID disclosure Donor), those who have not agreed to any contact with the offspring (an anonymous donor) and those that agree to have one contact with the child after they turn 18 and any relationships that might progress from there is up to the donor (Open donor). 

Krystal and I choose an Open Donor because it is human nature to want to know where one comes from. If our daughter never chooses to contact her donor that is her choice and we feel confident that she has the option to do so. How did we pick a donor? We wanted a donor that looked like the two of us. Other deciding factors were education, height, and artistic ability. In the end, though, we went with our gut, we narrowed our search down and then choose based on what felt right to us. Hearing his voice and reasoning for becoming a donor was what finally made us pick our donor. 

Krystal and I have chosen not to disclose any information about the donor. We have only what the Sperm Bank included in his profile, because of this limited information we do not want someone else to disclose it to our daughter. Should she have questions about the helper we want her to come to us, not hear about it in passing. 

Although we have discussed disclosing his ID number to some friends that were searching at the same sperm bank as we were, we have not had to, thankfully. How do we know her friends aren’t actually her siblings? This is another reason why we choose the sperm bank that we did, they had a sibling registry. This registry allows us to register her and contact any of the other offspring by that donor should we so choose.

In purchasing the sperm we knew we planned on having multiple children and we wanted them all to share the same sperm donor. Thus we bought 5 vials. No, we do not want 5 children. But we had to account for having to try multiple times in order to get one successful pregnancy. So far we have used one vial and have one child, we are extremely lucky. 

How much does sperm cost? There is a lot that factors into this: 

  • Unwashed ($) v. Washed ($$) 
  • Anonymous ($) v. ID Disclosed ($$) v. Open Donor ($$$)

We averaged about $2,500 total (Note: this does not include shipping to the fertility clinic or yearly storage fee). 

As you can probably already tell creating a family looks different for two moms than it does for most parents, but with today’s advances in science, we have so many options. Deciding how to start our family came with many heart to heart conversations, we both knew that we wanted a child that was biologically related to us (one of us); so this eliminated adoption. Usually, the first question most people ask is how did we decide who would carry? I knew from a very young age that I wanted to be pregnant and Krystal had no desire to, so for us the decision was easy. But we were still left with four options of how we wanted to create our family, most are those that couples struggle with infertility turn too. 

  • There was ICI, Intracervical Insemination or what is commonly referred to as the “turkey baster method” and is shown in Jennifer Aniston’s movie The Switch. This can be done at home and usually is not with a turkey baster contrary to common belief. The difference between this and IUI is that it is not deposited directly into the uterus but at the opening of the cervix. 
  • There was IUI, intrauterine insemination. Basically where the sperm is inseminated directly into the uterus via a catheter through the cervix when you are ovulating. 
  • There was IVF, in vitro fertilization. This is where you stimulate your body to create more eggs then go through a retrieval process where the eggs are removed from the ovaries and fertilized outside of the body with the sperm. This is where you get the term “test-tube baby” because the embryo is created in a petri dish or test tube. After about 5 days when the embryo is about 5 to 10 cells, it can then be either frozen or transferred into the uterus to hopefully implant in the uterine lining and result in a pregnancy. 
  • There was RIVF, reciprocal in vitro fertilization. This is the same process as IVF however the egg retrieval process is done for one woman and the transfer process is done on another woman. So the woman carrying the child would essentially be a surrogate for the woman who went through the egg retrieval’s biologically baby. 

For awhile we had decided on IUI, mostly for financial reasons. IUI is drastically cheaper than IVF or RIVF.  We realized that this was not right for our family. Throughout this whole process, you have to ask yourself these really hard questions like, 

What does family mean to you? Is it important to have a child that is biologically related to you? How will you form a connection with your children? Will your family accept a child that is not biologically related to you as your child or their grandchild? What do you define being a parent as? Are you going to feel like less than a mother if you don’t give birth or breastfeed? Will this make you jealous?

All of these questions are deeply personal and despite societal beliefs, there is no right or wrong answer. It is completely ok to want a child that is biologically related to you. It’s also ok to define motherhood as being a mother to a child you have no biological connection to. It’s ok for family to remain within bloodlines and fall outside of those lines. No one can answer these questions for you and certainly, no one could answer them for us. However, these conversations are the most intense and honest conversations of our marriage. There were many tears shed and perhaps a little shame around our answers, but we created a safe space to be completely raw with our answers and with each other. We are stronger for it and also so happy with our decision. 

I desperately wanted to carry a child. Krystal wanted a biological connection with the child. The child would have my last name. (Krystal took my name when we got married – How did we decide whose name to take? We flipped a coin). So we decided our journey to motherhood would be through Reciprocal In Vitro Fertilization:

We would use Krystal’s egg with a donor’s sperm and I would carry our child.

And thus began our journey began to becoming two moms.

Check out Part Two here.

Two Moms Journey : Egg Retrieval : Corpus Christi : Coastal Bend Moms