Queer Conception: The DIY Nitty Gritty


I know a lot of queer folks who are looking to make babies. I also know the internet is not as helpful, inclusive, and/or supportive in this quest as we would hope. I know because I looked. There are lots of “trying to conceive” message boards and websites (TTC is the shorthand that everyone on those boards uses) but those sites are VERY heterocentric, and not every queer individual is going to feel comfortable there. There’s also not a whole lot of helpful technical advice, which is important especially if you are going for DIY conception (not going through a sperm bank but finding your own donor and inseminating in the comfort of your home.)

Side note: To be thorough, I will mention that queer families are also created with the help of fertility clinics, adoption agencies, surrogate mothers, and of course sex, too. I’m not as familiar with these methods of conception, but I hope to have some guest posts here someday to cover all these areas.

DIY conception is what I’m most familiar with because it is what we did, and the route that quite a few other families I know are taking. I’ll get into why we made that choice, and the pros and cons of DIY vs. clinic, in a later post. In this post I’m sharing the steps of our process in a lot of detail, and I hope this will be helpful to other folks.

1. Decide what kind of donor you are looking for, what relationship you seek to have with them, and what relationship you seek your child to have with them (present as well as future). In DIY conception, you know the donor, so decide whether you want that individual to be someone you are very close to, or someone who is more of an acquaintance and won’t be in your life much after the donation. Other factors to consider: age, general health, maturity level, reliability/ timeliness (you are going to be depending on this person to be available to do a very specific thing at a designated time. He needs to be able to keep his appointments.)

We wanted someone who was not in our inner circle of friends so as to avoid any complications in the relationship this person has with our family. We were looking for a donation of sperm, not a co-parent and we knew that B would be doing a second-parent adoption of the child, so we had no desire to establish legal paternity. Yet we wanted someone who would be open to the possibility of a relationship of some sort with the child at a later time when and if the child had a desire to know their biological donor.

2. Find your donor. Come up with a list if your three top choices for donors, and broach the subject. Tell them exactly what you are looking for and what you are not looking for. Ask if they might be willing to consider filling this role for you. Give them time to think about it. Include their partners in the discussion, too, because they have a stake in this as well.

3. Once you and your donor have agreed to move forward, agree on your agreements. Be clear about what is going to happen. We wrote up the things we had talked about, and all involved parties signed and dated the document. It was a covenant. We knew what we were signing up for, and where the boundaries were. Things to discuss and agree on: duration of said agreement (are you going to try just once? Six months? A year?), mode and frequency of communication (we agreed that we would tell our donor when I got my period, so he would know that in about a week and a half we would need to meet up for a donation. Then we would text around day 8 of my cycle to figure out a specific day and time for the donation), method of delivery (make sure you and the donor are on the same page about timing between ejaculation and insemination, what kind of vessel will be used, and keeping the sample warm, etc.), and location (Your place? His place? Will the donor bring the sample to you, or will you go get it? Will you already be in the same place when he produces a sample, or will you coordinate to meet up right after?). Lots to think about…

Also decide whether you want to have a legally binding agreement about donation, or not. I’ll write about this in another post, but for now I’ll just say that this may or may not be necessary or desired, depending on what state you live in. We did not make a legally binding agreement, just a written agreement between us. With our donor and in our state, we were comfortable with that.

4. Track your ovulation, and do the deed. I had been tracking the length of my cycle for several months before we started trying. I also tracked my cervical mucus for signs of ovulation. With this information, I was fairly certain I was ovulating on day 11 of my cycle. Because sperm can live for up to 5 days but an egg is only viable for 24-48 hours after ovulation, we got a sample on day 9 and day 11. The sample was provided to us in a glass jar within 15-20 minutes of it being produced, and it had been kept at body temperature the whole time. We drew the sample into a medication syringe and inserted it just like a tampon. Then for good measure we inserted an Instead Soft Cup to trap the sperm up close to my cervix, which I kept in overnight.

5. Relax, Wait, Persevere.
I know a couple for whom this method worked on the first try. For us it worked on the second try (although I’m fairly certain I had a chemical pregnancy the first try, it just didn’t stick). For other couples it will take much longer, and for some it may never happen. Those TTC sites that I mentioned can be a good source of support for you during the waiting game, but it’s also very easy to over-obsess about the process. What is meant to happen will, so try to give yourself some grace. When a child is supposed to join your family, it will come to you!

Birth Story: First Moments

This is really Part 2 of my birth story, the last moments of A’s birth, but I wrote this part first. Click Here to read the beginning of my birth story– A Forty Hour Labor

The lights were turned bright and directed toward the foot of the bed.  I was in a rhythm of pushing, and I could see Aran’s dark hair reflected in the mirror the midwife had put at the end of the bed.  The nurse was putting an oxygen mask over my face in between contractions. My doula was by my head, ready to support my head and shoulders during the next push, my mom and Beth each held one of my knees against their belly, my feet in the air. After 41 hours of labor, I was tired, but calm and excited. My baby would be here soon. The question of whether I was heading for a C-section was no longer a concern. He was definitely going to be coming out through the birth canal.  Through the numbness of the epidural, I could feel the pressure of the next contraction coming on. My doula coached me through a push of ten counts, and I saw in the mirror that Aran’s head had emerged fully.  I took a deep breath and pushed again, screaming out like a banshee as I felt a burning, stretching sensation, then a warm, slippery whoosh of liquid and slimy baby, and he was out.
“Whoah! That’s a big baby!” said the midwife. “He ‘s huge!” said the doula. He let out a cry and everyone cheered.  The cord was clamped quickly and B cut it, then Aran was whisked over to the warmer and a whole slew of pediatric nurses and doctors.  The midwife said, “How’s the baby doing, is he ok?”  She got an answer in the affirmative and she said, “Good, cause we have a problem over here.” Someone ran out to get the OB and returned to say she was finishing up a delivery and would be in as soon as she could.  Whatever they were talking about was inconsequential–my full attention was on my baby, ten feet away surrounded by a gang in yellow scrubs and masks. He looked like the sunset, like dusk after it rains– pinky gray and purple, wet and shiny.  His cry kept me from worrying too much, but I needed to see him. I needed to touch him.  He needed to be on my belly. Right. Now. I couldn’t tell what they were doing for a few minutes, but Beth was shouting out periodic reports. “Ten toes!”  “Ten fingers!”  “He’s beautiful!” “He just has some fluid in his lungs and they’re helping him breathe!”

Finally the pediatrician held Aran up above the yellow bodies around him for me to get a glimpse. My mom, my doula, and me all let out a joyful squeal, a sigh of relief, and a gasp of breathless wonder to finally see him from head to toe.

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Somewhere in the same span of time the OB got there and the midwife came up to the head of the bed. “We need to get the placenta out as fast as we can because you’re bleeding quite a bit,” she said .
“Did I tear?” I ask, pretty sure of the answer, and not surprised after seeing how big Aran was. “Yeah, you tore pretty bad, a fourth degree, which means through four layers of tissue and muscle, all the way to your rectum. I only repair first and second degree tears, so Dr. Wagner is here to do the repair.”

While Dr. Wagner was stitching me up, the pediatricians were getting Aran ready for transport to the NICU.  His lungs were having trouble fully opening, and he needed more monitoring and assistance.  As they were leaving, they wheeled him to my bed and finally, FINALLY, we touched.

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Beth stayed with Aran in the NICU while my mom and doula stayed with me, and our wonderful friend and photographer went back and forth, bringing news from the other room, and documenting Aran’s first moments, which he spent in Beth’s constant and reassuring presence while he was poked and prodded and wired to more than one machine.

After the baby crew left the delivery room, Dr. Wagner was finishing up the repair.  I started feeling VERY tired, and my mom noticed something was wrong.  She asked me how I was feeling, and all I could say was “I feel tired,” but what I was really feeling was a sense of doom, that I had to stay awake because if I fell asleep I wouldn’t be waking up again.

My blood pressure went down to 60/30, I blacked out, and they opened my IV lines to raise my blood pressure back up. After that, they suggested I get a blood transfusion.  I agreed that that sounded like an excellent idea.

Six hours later, I finally got to hold my sweet bundle in my arms.  He sniffed and licked my breast, latched on and fell asleep.  I cried with relief that we had made it through and were finally, perfectly, together.

Waiting Room

I’m sitting in the lab waiting to get bloodwork done for hypothyroidism and to check my iron levels. The last time I was in this office was in my 39th week, to get an ultrasound to check baby’s estimated weight. The midwives were concerned that baby might be big so they wanted me to have a late-term ultrasound to make sure I wasn’t growing a 13 pound baby. The day of the ultrasound I was having what I thought was early labor- BH contractions very steadily 5-7 minutes apart. I went to the ultrasound (it was a conditional requirement in order to be cleared for a water birth at the hospital) thinking that I’d probably be at the hospital before the radiologist even had a chance to make his/her report. The contractions cooled off when I got back home and rested, and didn’t return again for ten days when I FINALLY went into true labor. My mother had the same pattern when she was pregnant with me; 48 hours of steady but painless BH contractions, then nothing but a few hours of BH in the evening for ten days, then labor finally arriving. I’ve heard lots of women say that their labor was very similar to their mother’s labor for their birth.

Back in the waiting room for my blood draw, Aran is asleep on my chest in his sling, resting his full weight on my ribs and belly. He was on the inside the last time I was in this room and now he ‘s on the outside. Simple, obvious, but still miraculous.

Did you have a similar pattern of labor as your mother?

Are there certain places, foods, or images that trigger strong memories of pregnancy and birth for you?