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Kari van der Heide

Kari van der Heide

We met on an island in the Caribbean, almost six years ago. She immediately knew we would get married one day. I thought she was funny. She was right though. Three years later I bought her a ring and asked her to be my wife. Six months into our marriage I was pregnant with a little baby girl. Isaya was born in the summer of 2015. It was the happiest day of our lives.

Let me start by telling you that 90% of the time I don’t think about it. This is my everyday life, so it’s completely normal for me and the people around me: two women, married, and having a baby. Only when I see our story reflected in other people’s eyes do I take a moment and go “Oh right, this is different”. These moments feel harmless because the questions come from a place of sincere interest or understandable curiosity. The realization that our lives are less than conventional only feels threatening when things like the Orlando shooting happen. Affairs like that sadden me deeply and make me afraid for my daughter’s future. But thankfully I live in a country where LGBTQ people are relatively safe and are not looked at as freaks or unsavory, but seen as “normal”, deserving people with the same rights as everyone else.

One of the questions we get a lot is: “Was it hard to decide who would carry the baby?” Not really. Of course we talked about it. But it was pretty obvious we would try and get me pregnant because I have had a baby wish pretty much since I was twelve years old. But even though we both had a child wish, I was the only one with a pregnancy wish. Because we found out those are two very different things.

It’s one thing to want to hold, cuddle, kiss and care for a baby. It’s a whole other to want to carry it in your belly, feel your body and emotions change, get sick, feel all sorts of discomfort, be limited in what you can do and last but not least; give birth. I wanted all of the above. My wife could not be more horrified by the prospect of pushing something the size of a watermelon out of her vagina. So yeah, that part was easy.

The next part, not so much. Now, I realize a lot of straight couples have trouble getting pregnant. Gay couples don’t have a monopoly on that. The stories of other mamas out there who have been trying and failing to have a baby breaks my heart. I can relate to what they are going through because we had our share of trying and failing. But first we had another dilemma. And that was how? How can we get pregnant?

After long talks we decided we wanted to try an anonymous donor. It just seemed like an unattractive if not impossible task to raise a baby with a third person or other couple meddling into our decisions. We thought it would be hard enough at times to agree on things between just the two of us. And we didn’t think we knew anyone who would just give us “the stuff’ and leave us to it. So, anonymous it was.

two-mamas1We started a program at a fertility clinic that is specialized in same-sex couples. After an intake, we had several medical check-ups and got on a waiting list. It would take about eight months before the donors’ goods would be available to us. In these months I virtuously kept track of my periods and drank glasses of red wine. In May 2014, we got an offer for sperm from a white male, wavy blond hair, blue eyes, 1.80 cm, 86 kilos. That was all the info they were allowed to give us. We labeled him ‘The Viking’ because that’s what he sounded like to us.

For the next months we would come into the clinic on a specific day – a day I was probably ovulating. I would lie down in a way too well lit room, on a way too cold examination table, while a way too chirpy nurse would fill me up, way too fast. I needed to be up and out five minutes later, for the next equally desperate mama to be. The chances per visit of getting pregnant: 15%. Needless to say, it was stressful. And totally 100% not us. The pregnancy tests, two weeks later, took their toll on us. The first time I just cried. The (what would turn out to be the) last time my wife could barely peel me of the bathroom floor. I felt devastated. My wife felt powerless.

Despair must have a color or smell detectable by those around you, or maybe God loves the gays after all, because our silent pleas to the universe were answered after my bathroom breakdown. An angel, in the form of a loving friend, came to us and offered us his help. No strings attached. He had his own family and just wanted to share what he had and we lacked. We talked things through, with his wife as well, and set up an agreement. And that was that. We had a donor. A real one. Not some fantasy Viking with an unknown DNA and ditto family tree, character and looks. Here was a healthy, handsome, smart, kind, young man who offered us his goods. Our hope was renewed. This felt good.

Not only could we inseminate at home now, we could also do it multiple days per cycle. At the clinic we had to guess the best day and wing it. Now we could inseminate three days around my ovulation with more chances of getting it right. Because seriously people, my body lives by the rules of nature not men. My eggs don’t go pop because a computer says so. And to top it all off, now my wife could get me pregnant because she was the one who inseminated me. All we needed was a cup, a syringe (sans the needle of course) and a plastic tube. So maybe it does not come as a big surprise to you I was pregnant after the first try. We were over the moon.

Even though we were married and new laws were installed in April 2015 to ensure the same rights for lesbian couples as straight couples when it comes to having babies, we wanted to make sure there would be no trouble once our baby was born. So my wife acknowledged our baby as hers when Isaya was still in my belly. And when she was born we notified her birth at the municipality together. Both my baby and myself carry my wife’s last name, so there can be no confusion about our family status. Everyone who helped us during my pregnancy and birth thought it was interesting or “cool”. Our situation was far from common, but nobody acted strange.

These positive experiences must be part of the reason why most of the time I don’t have to think about us being different. I realize we are very fortunate to live in a country that is quite progressive when it comes to gay rights. We are also blessed with family and friends that accept us for who we are. The fact that millions of queer people around the world are scared to live their lives the way they want, abused for who they love, denied basic human rights and rejected by loved ones breaks my heart into a million pieces. It just blows my mind that someone can have a problem with two people in love, trying to be happy.

The fact that we have had it relatively easy on the gay- front doesn’t mean there won’t be challenging times ahead. There will come a day our daughter is going to ask questions about where she came from. And here is what we will tell her:

“Once upon a time your mama’s met each other on a beautiful Island far away from here. We fell in love and decided we never wanted to live without each other. We were very happy, except there was only one thing missing. And that was you, sweet Isaya. We wanted to share our love and happiness with you. But you were still living with the Angels and we needed a little help getting you here. A kind man offered to help us bring you to us. We were very grateful for his kindness and soon we welcomed you into our lives. We feel so blessed to have you and love you to the moon and back.”

 

Kari lives in the Netherlands with her wife Hinke and daughter Isaya. Isaya is fourteen months old. Kari writes about their lives as two mamas and a baby on www.columnsbykari.com. She blogs three times a week about parenting, breastfeeding, baby wearing, co-sleeping, yoga, health, a veggie lifestyle, and style and beauty. You can also follow her on Instagram @karivdheide.

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