Hannah and I met on Tumblr as teenagers in 2013, and got married in 2016 in Yorkshire, England, in a rural wedding with yurts and birds of prey. We had always talked about having children, and knew it was an inevitable part of our story. I (Freya) am donor conceived, with two mums, so we knew that we would be following in their footsteps.
In 2019 we started the process of choosing a donor via Cryos, but soon learnt that the laws had changed and they were no longer able to ship to home addresses in the U.K. Our plans for home insemination were over and we quickly moved onto booking into a fertility clinic in Manchester instead, and once we had chosen a donor from their sperm bank we had our first IUI in November 2019.
Incredibly, just like my mum when they conceived me via an anonymous donor back in 1994, the first time worked! My pregnancy was easy aside from it being through a global pandemic, and our daughter Birdie was born in August 2020- a week after my birthday, meaning my mum and I conceived in identical ways almost exactly 26 years apart.
Since Birdie was born, I’ve started writing, and I’m now halfway through a book about my experience as a donor-conceived person who has also used a donor, that I hope to get published in the future.
Birdie is now six months old, and the laws state that she will be able to find her donor when she is 18, whereas when I was conceived anonymous meant anonymity for life. We have reserved our donor for a sibling in the future for Birdie, and we can’t wait to see watch our little family grow.
How did you feel when the option to do home insemination was off the table?
F: Crushed, at first. We had chosen a donor, spent months (years, really) planning it in a ‘certain way,’ and it was all suddenly not possible. I booked in with a clinic on a whim while sat in Starbucks mourning the sudden change of plan. Now we can’t imagine it any other way. It took off a lot of the process’s stress in many ways. Having a third party helping, and now it feels like it was always meant to be that way. We are glad that we were able to do an unmedicated IUI. It helped us keep that feeling of it being as ‘natural’ as possible. We are glad Hannah was able to come in for all the appointments at that point as COVID hadn’t hit. We do still feel sad that we weren’t given a choice. As many other couples aren’t, purely because they changed the laws.
How did you go about finding a donor? What were some of the things you were looking for?
Really, we had a very small criteria to try and ‘match’ with Hannah. Who would be the non-biological parent- white, blue eyes. We didn’t even really care about hair color, as Hannah was born blonde and now has very dark brown hair! We loved our donor’s profile when we saw it because he specified that he wanted to help LGBT couples. That was important, especially after reading an article about a sperm donor who sued a clinic after lesbian parents used his sperm. That thought terrified me, so having it confirmed in writing that our child would always be welcomed by him in the future reassured me massively.
How was the pregnancy for Hannah, as the parent who wasn’t carrying?
H: The main issue for me during pregnancy was all Covid related! I was lucky enough to be able to come to all of the scans except the last one. But we had several episodes of reduced movements, and I couldn’t go into the hospital for them and had to sit outside in the car. I felt lucky that we could do a hypnobirthing course together at home. It prepared us both really well and gave me a feeling of involvement.
I didn’t worry about bonding with the baby when she arrived because I could see Freya’s relationship with her non-biological mum, and they are so close. Knowing that Freya has such a strong relationship with her meant I didn’t worry that I wouldn’t feel that same love. Still, I worried occasionally that the baby might know there was a difference between us when they got older. Those worries faded once she arrived!
In some ways, the counseling session at the fertility clinic before the IUI helped. But most of the information I’d already seen first hand from Freya and her parents! I liked bonding with bump, and we made sure I put the stretch mark cream on every evening to have that bonding time, and I talked to her every day.
How was your birth experience?
Amazing! I had four days of contractions at home, which was grueling. Then when I arrived at the hospital the first time, I was told I wasn’t dilated enough and sent home. I was back a few hours later, and then it was all systems go because my waters had broken and had meconium in them. It meant my natural water-birth couldn’t happen as I had to be continually monitored. However, Hannah made sure my birth plan was followed, and I was helped into an upright position as we’d learned through hypnobirthing, and I only had gas and air. A few hours after we got to the hospital, Birdie was born! It was an amazing experience, and it made me excited to do it again in the future!
Is there anything else that you’d like to share?
F: After realizing when pregnant that there weren’t any LGBTQ+ parenting groups near me except one that was a little too organized (I wanted casual coffee mornings!), so I set one up myself! We haven’t been able to meet yet. But there are over 60 of us who are eager to start having family get-togethers when lockdown is over in a few months. I had the same as a child of LGBTQ+ parents growing up, and it was a lifeline as I never felt like my family was different because I was surrounded by families who looked like mine! I hope our daughter can have the same!
Photography by Hannah Bracher