9 min Read
Same Sex Parenting
April 25, 2007
9 min Read
April 25, 2007
Having two moms or two dads isnt unusual. According to 2001 Census, the first in Canadian history to collect data same-sex families, there were 34,200 same-sex common couples in Canada. Out of that number, 15 percent of lesbian couples and three percent of gay male couples were living children.
Canadian legislation now gives same-sex families rights never had before. But does this mean that the experience is same as the traditional family? Three same-sex couples shared their parenting experiences.
When we first started dating, the subject of children naturally came up, says Anna. Everything just seemed so clear, says Sylvie. It was, Of course we are going to have kids.
The moms credit living in Quebec with making their journey to parenthood easy and joyful every step of the way. It is so accepting here, says Sylvie, I didnt carry Sacha Anna did so shes not my biological child. I didnt need to adopt her, however, as shes already legally mine. When she was born, we both got to sign the birth certificate, which shows that she has two mothers. It should be that way everywhere, but its not.”
Initially, finding a doctor that would help them have a child was difficult. I went through the yellow pages and called couple of places to ask if they would do an insemination. The secretaries would say there shouldnt be a problem, but when I mentioned that we were two women, theyd come back and say that the doctor wouldnt do it, says Anna. Eventually, through much research and a little help from others, they found Dr. Robert Hemmings, co-founder of Ovo Clinic in Montreal, who made it his mission to help them achieve their dream.
The familys experiences with medical care were positive, but some professionals found it difficult to grasp the situation. Everybody was extremely supportive in the birthing room, but on the ward people from other cultures didnt understand, says Sylvie. One nurse asked me if I was the grandmother! I said, No, Im the mother. But she was looking at my belly and was really confused. So I said, Im not the mother who gave birth, the other mother is in the room. After that she was very nice to me.
Explaining their sexual orientation is something that has happened more often since the couple had Sacha. It is different from being childless. We dont go into details; its nobodys business, but if somebody asks about Sachas father, we address that out of respect for our child, says Anna. So in a way, parenting has forced me to be more open and also to include Sylvie in all explanations. I cant pretend that she doesnt exist.
Surprisingly, explaining that there is no father involved hasnt caused any difficulties. I went to a party and was in the kitchen with Sacha, says Anna. A guest said Shes so beautiful, the father must be really cute, and I said, Well, she doesnt have a father, she has two mothers. In fact, her other mother is the woman you just spoke to in the living room. She thought that was great. Weve always had positive reactions.
In the social whirl that is the life of any two-year-old, the family goes to a lot of birthday parties, a territory where fathers often fear to tread, but Sacha gets to take both mommies. When theres a diaper change, Ill ask Sylvie to take care of it and the other mothers say that they wished they had a wife! They are kind of envious in some ways, says Anna.
Both moms believe that its important to have a strong male presence in their daughters life. We recognize that Sacha needs to have a significant male role model while shes growing up. Its normal, says Anna. Close family friend, Pierre, plays that role in Sachas life. Pierre was there when Sacha was born and has been her father figure every step of the way. He visits her once or twice a week and calls when he is out of town. Sacha got him a tie for Fathers Day.
Bridget and Amanda have fostered kids for the past five years, Two-week-old Hanako entered their lives, just when they were about to start trying for a baby. When Hanako came we very quickly knew that if there was an opportunity we wanted to adopt her, says Bridget. It was very fortuitous for us because she came up for adoption within two months of being with us. The initial response from my parents about the adoption was, What do you want to do that for? You dont know what problems shell have later. But I told them we are doing it because we love her, says Amanda. Her parents have now totally accepted Hanako as their grandchild in the same way they love and support their other grandchildren.
My family was over the moon, says Bridget, But theyve been very accepting of my relationship with Amanda from the beginning and I think that helped.
When the couple decided to try and get pregnant they selected a donor from a bank in the States. We could have used a Canadian donor, but here, there is very little choice as all donors have to agree to be identified when the child reaches 18, should they want to get in touch. Also, there is no monetary incentive to donate here, says Amanda. Getting pregnant was unexpectedly easy and happened the first time the couple tried.
When I told my dad I was pregnant, all he could say was Here’s your mother and passed her the phone. My mother said, Well, I dont know why you just didnt do that in the first place, says Amanda. Easy as getting pregnant was, the pregnancy was difficult (Amanda was on modified bed rest from 20 weeks) and Charles had a low birth weight, which caused initial concerns. I think the fact that I had a difficult pregnancy made my parents more supportive, says Amanda. They have been incredible.
The family takes advantage of local community resources such as the Eastside Family Place. Nobody bats an eye at them being a lesbian couple with kids, as they are usually not the only ones there. Bridget and Amanda live in a womens co-op, and so theyve had a huge amount of support from their neighbors too. Living in Winnipeg or St. Johns, youd probably have a more difficult time, but here its not a big deal, Vancouver is more cosmopolitan and has such a big gay population, says Bridget.
“When I got together with David, I slid right into the parent role and realized that becoming a father was a possibility, says Peter. David already had fathered two sons with a lesbian couple, with whom he shares custody. He had his heart set on raising a little girl and when he saw how his sons bonded with Peter, he knew he had found the right partner.
After two years of talking about having a child together, the couple started the process of adopting a child from Vietnam (one of the few countries that allows single men to adopt). After going through the arduous adoption process, they were eventually blessed with Chloe.
David and Peter have had huge support from their friends and family. My parents were extremely conservative people who have become fairly liberal in their old age. They were like Right on. They just adore Chloe, says Peter. The couples friends rallied around to help when Chloe first arrived in Canada and have been there for her ever since. Chloe has a close relationship with her godmothers, who take her every Monday night to do girl stuff. She lives in a house full of boys, so its really important for us to make sure that she has some strong women around her, says David.
Their experience of parenting has been extremely positive. We are very
much the gay parents in the neighborhood, says Peter. The school
principal treats us with great respect and everybody in the school knows
that we are the gay dads. There are other same-sex parent families at
the schools attended by the familys three children, so Peter and David
are by no means a novelty in their area. Its different from when I was
bringing up the boys in far northern Alberta. I didnt know any other
openly gay parents, says David. If there were other gay parents, they
certainly didnt let you know. After finding life in a small town
difficult, he moved to Vancouver when his youngest son was three.
fathers are very much involved in helping out at the kids schools.
David has made himself available to the Vancouver School Board to talk
in schools about gay parenting. When he went in to talk to his sons
class, some parents had pulled their kids out of the class that day. But
thats definitely the exception,says David, who says this is the only
overt negativity he has experienced as a gay parent.
never know if people dont introduce themselves to you because they are
just shy or because they are homophobic, says Peter. You dont know what
you dont know. When we went on vacation to California about eight years
ago, some people were hostile, but never here.
The joy that Peter
and David have as parents has inspired many of their friends to start
families, as they see them as a testament to what a wonderful experience
same-sex parenting can be. They have in the past been part of a gay
parent support group, but dont feel they need that support on a
continual basis. Were too busy trying to get through life raising three
kids and running a business, says David.