Planning a pregnancy opens up a whole new realm of decision making. When should we try? How should I prepare my body? Should I start a new exercise routine before conceiving? Is our house big enough? What are we going to do about daycare? Can we even afford this?
But one decision that is unique to lesbian family planning is: Who is going to carry?
When my wife and I made the choice to start a family together — when we knew we wanted to raise children together — we realized we had a long road ahead before motherhood became a reality for us. But we couldn’t begin any of it without first deciding which one of us was going to be the one to carry our baby into this world.
When I first met Sara, within the first two weeks I learned (among a mixed group of people) that she’s always wanted to have a “little her” running around. I was attracted to this idea and interpreted it to mean that she always wanted to have a baby, as in give birth to one. I immediately began to fantasize about having children with Sara. Sure, I had only officially known her for two weeks, but ours is a love that started at first sight. Well, at least for me. It took her a while to catch on that I was gay. But that’s a whole other story…
Bit by bit. Little by little. We were piecing together our
And all the while, I thought she was going to carry.
I was excited by the thought that I’d become a mother without having to get pregnant or give birth, both of which I have been terrified of most of my life. Since I first realized that I wanted to be a mother, it never mattered to me how that happened. I have never been one of those women with that innate, burning desire to experience pregnancy. It was always just about being a mom for me. Not that I was ever adamantly against being pregnant. I more so thought that motherhood could, and perhaps would, come to me some other way: my partner would carry (at the time, the idea of having a wife wasn’t on the radar, with the laws being what they were in New York), or we would adopt, or foster, or — sure — maybe even I’d birth one. The end result would be the same: Me, a mom.
As time went on, Sara and I began dating, became a Facebook-official couple, got engaged, and then married. Sprinkled throughout all of those times together, we talked lightly and then more seriously about having a family. We discussed timing, finances, housing, what part religion would play in our children’s upbringing, what it would be like to raise a child without a father, our strengths and weaknesses as people, women, and potentially parents, why it was important to us both to use a willing-to-be-known sperm donor from a sperm bank — the discussions were many. Never all at the same time, of course. These conversations happened over the course of two years. Bit by bit. Little by little. We were piecing together our baby-making plan.
And all the while, I thought she was going to carry.
From the night she said, “I’ve always wanted a little me running around,” I had it in my head that she would be the one to carry. And I was thrilled by the thought. No havoc wreaked on my body, no frightening childbirth; this was great. I could become a mother and not have to do an once of the pregnancy work. Score! And then the night came when Sara asked, “So which one of us should carry?”
Which one of us should carry?
“What do you mean? You’re going to carry,” were the first words I could get out of my mouth. As the reality of starting a family became more and more real, with so many of our how-are-we-going-to-do-this questions slowly but surely getting answered, we hadn’t yet had one of the most important conversations two lesbians wanting to start a family need to have. In my defense, it never crossed my mind to have this conversation. In my mind, it was a done deal from that first night. How stupid of me.
I allowed my fear of pregnancy and birth to fully cloud my thinking, and from that first night I convinced myself that Sara would “take care of it.” The pregnancy and birth, that is. Granted, there was a lot else going on in our lives over the course of these two years that starting a family wasn’t the only thing we talked about. Like I said, the baby-making, family-planning talks were more like a pickup game of name-your-sport than they were some serious league team. But suddenly it felt like I’d been playing baseball with a tennis racket.
And so began our most serious discussions. Sara noted that she really didn’t care how she became a mother. Sure, she’d like to leave a little piece of herself in the world, but it wasn’t a must. She’s just as much thrilled by the idea of a little me entering this world. And like so many other aspects of planning our family, logistics and reason and — I daresay, practicality — began to weigh in. Heavily. My employer offers an eight-week, full-pay maternity leave to which I have the option of tacking on extra sick and vacation time. Both of Sara’s jobs very much so depend on her body; she is a CrossFit coach by day, and serves tables a few times a week by night. She is a competitive athlete who is in physical training more months out of the year than not. I work in an office.
I’m a big believer of making the things you want in life happen, and while we could “make it happen” that Sara be the one to carry, the deeper into the discussions we got and the more we weighed the struggles and joys, the more it became apparent: It was going to be me who carried.
It took me a little getting used to the idea that I’d be the one. I had to work through some self-doubts about my strengths and fears, but I’m happy to say: I’m ready for this. And what’s more: I want this.
We both know it makes the most sense for me to carry, and that it would be foolish to consider so many things while planning this pregnancy and not consider the many reasons behind this decision. Sara’s made it clear that — she too — really just wants to be a mother. She even told me she’s in love with the thought of a little me running around.
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Read more of Aela’s writing at Two Moms Make A Right