Pregnancy · Week by Week Update

Week 20 update

At the end of 20 weeks, our little one is really starting to move around in “G’s” uterus. Visiting our gynaecologist for our monthly check-up, buying more clothes, and generally feeling flutters of the baby moving, were some of the sweet highlights for this week.

This week, our baby is as big as a banana.

Banana
Photo credit

Symptoms: Tired would be an understatement, vivid dreaming, frequent visits to the toilet, hunger.

This week was generally a good week in terms of pregnancy symptoms. Nothing out of the ordinary occurred, and apart from “G” being extremely tired, things went well. Having said that, she often felt like she could take a nap after lunch and after meals in general! Speaking of eating, her appetite was more than healthy this week! I am often the one to pack work lunches for us, and “G” often has to buy a second lunch from the cafeteria because my packed lunch isn’t enough!

At our monthly gynaecologist appointment this week, we saw our baby once again! It was so exciting, because we could really see him or her moving around! His or her tiny feet (which are currently about 3cm long) were kicking about. We desperately want to know the gender of our little one, as we want to refer to them as him or her, or he or she. Our gynaecologist thinks it’s a girl, but she’s not 100% sure yet, so we are hoping to get confirmation of the gender at our anatomy ultrasound (Feindiagnostik in German) at the beginning of 22 weeks.

We could no longer see our little one as a whole on the screen as growth is rapid now and he or she simply doesn’t fit.

After a really good week, we’re on the downhill stretch as we pass the halfway mark and look towards the second half of this pregnancy.

LGBTQ+ stuff · Pregnancy

Last names and adoption

With “G” 20 weeks pregnant, a million things are running through our minds. We have so many things to sort out before the birth of our little one in August, and it feels like time is just flying. We’re slowly buying things and preparing things around the house, but our to-do list just keeps growing bigger and bigger every day.

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Our marriage certificate is concealed in this super subtle book.

During all of this, a few things have popped up that make us feel uneasy. We feel discriminated against as a two-mum family. I don’t even know if that really is how we feel, because discrimination is too strong of a word here, but we certainly feel like we’re being treated unfairly in this situation. Even though we are married (technically it’s a civil union or a Lebenspartnerschaft in German), and pay taxes as a married couple, currently, “G” is the only legal parent of our baby. I currently have no legal rights when it comes to the little one growing in “G’s” uterus, and this infuriates us!

Once our baby is born, then the process of adoption can start. Yes, you read correctly, I have to adopt “G’s” baby. What’s even more degrading, is that it’s not even a simple adoption… it’s called a step-child only adoption. If you’re interested, you can read about LGBT rights in Germany here and here. Additionally, there is more information on how gay adoption is strengthening in Germany in a DW article here, however our opinion is that Germany is still far from providing equal rights to all.

After “G” gives birth, we have to go to the Jugendamt (Youth Welfare Office)  in our local area in Berlin, and apply for adoption. It sounds simple, but it is much more complex than this, and involves a notary, a written letter from “G” about her childhood, home visits, phone calls to “G’s” parents, and much more. This process could potentially take up to a year before I am the legal parent.

At the end of the day, we want what is best for our child, and this isn’t about personal gains or pride in any way. We want our child (and future children) to feel secure in their family, and know that if something were to happen to one of us, that they will be protected.

If this wasn’t enough for us take, we recently re-discovered that Germany isn’t a fan of double-barrelled names. When we got married in February 2015, we weren’t able to change our last names to a double-barrelled name because Germany wouldn’t allow it. It was a recent change in the law that couldn’t really be explained to us by the Standesamt (Registry Office). The woman who collected our paperwork said it was because they didn’t want children with double-barrelled names to grow up and marry someone with a double-barrelled name, and then just end up with a double-double-barrelled name. Who the hell cares?! What we could do though, was add my last name onto the beginning of “G’s” last name to create a double-barrelled name, but my last name had to stay the same. We agreed to this, because it is possible for me to change my last name in Australia, and it is simply not possible to change last names here in Germany. Again, I don’t know why this is the case.

Anyway, enough back story, it’s confusing. Basically, the reason I’m telling you all of this is because when our baby is born in August, he or she cannot have a double barrelled name. When we re-discovered this, our hearts sank. We wanted our children to have the same names as us.

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Until Brexit officially happens, this UK passport still means something here in the EU.

Upon doing some further research and speaking with colleagues at work, there was a glimmer of hope. If one of the parents is a national from another country, the parents can choose to use the laws of said country. As I am a dual citizen of Australia and the United Kingdom, we had two countries up our sleeves with laws that allowed double-barrelled names. I recently legally changed my last-name in Australia to ensure that we all had the same last name. “Horray”, you might think. “Congratulations!” But unfortunately, the story doesn’t have a happy ending (just yet we hope). You know that whole business of me not being the legal parent until the adoption goes through after the birth of our child? Yes, you’ve probably put two and two together… it’s going to have an impact on us being able to use the Australian or UK laws for our children… at least here in Germany.

This post seems ranty, and upon reflection, I can see that it is. We genuinely don’t know what to do though. We’re hoping to reach out to others in similar situations to us, and others who know more about this. We all know that members of the LGBTQ+ community face discrimination on a daily basis, but this journey to parenthood has certainly opened our eyes to some of the administrative struggles that same-sex parents have to face to simply get on par. It is still so apparent that equality is far, far, far away from being achieved.

Pregnancy · Week by Week Update

Week 19 update

Today marks the end of 19 weeks. “G” is blossoming whilst carrying our baby, although there have been moments of exhaustion, and emotional outbursts.

This week, our baby is as big as a mango.

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Photo credit

Symptoms: Tired, tired, tired, nosebleeds, dizziness, trouble sleeping and heavy legs in bed, quick bursts of muscle pain in the lower stomach area.

Once again, “G” is finding it difficult to sleep at night. She is now exclusively sleeping on her side, and this isn’t the most comfortable position. She often wakes up in pain or lying on her back and having to consciously roll over onto her side again. Our very good friend (you know who you are) has been so kind and offered to buy “G” a pregnancy pillow (Stillkissen in German), so my wife is looking forward to testing it out soon. This lack of sleep in the evenings doesn’t help her during the working week though, as she is almost always tired after lunch.

Additionally, “G” has noticed a stretching pain in her lower stomach area. These short bursts of pain are her body’s way of telling her that it is preparing for more growth in her uterus. All of her organs, ligaments, muscles and bones are moving, and this movement is causing some discomfort.

We had a midwife appointment on Tuesday, and we heard our baby’s heartbeat again. It was so nice and comforting to know our little one is still safe and sound in “G’s” uterus.

 

Pregnancy · Week by Week Update

Week 18 update

“G” is now 18 weeks pregnant, and boy is she starting to show. Her bump is beginning to expand, and this week I even noticed it through her clothes! Maybe a photo will pop up soon.

This week, our baby is as big as a sweet potato.

sweet-potato
Photo credit

Symptoms: Backaches, nosebleeds, trouble breathing through the nose, and trouble sleeping.

“G” has found little rest during the nights. She is finding it difficult to find a comfortable position and shouldn’t be sleeping on her back anymore. This is due to the increasing size of our little one compressing large veins that reduce the flow of blood to her heart. Our cats don’t always help the situation, and we’ll soon have to say goodbye to them sleeping in our bedroom, but for now, “G” isn’t annoyed enough to kick them out just yet. In addition to the sleepless nights, she is starting to complain of back pain, but who can blame her? She is carrying additional weight at the front of her body that she simply isn’t used to.

This week, “G” has started to feel something in her uterus. She describes it as feeling something tender going on, but finds it hard to explain. At our last appointment, our gynocologist said to expect movements this month, so “G” has been paying close attention to any unusual feelings in and around her belly area.

Our next midwife appointment is coming up next week, and we’re very excited to hear our baby’s heartbeat again!

Pregnancy · Sperm Donor

Choosing our donor

Choosing the man who was going to be biologically related to our future children was an incredibly important and potentially life-changing decision. I say potentially life-changing because we cannot predict the future or whether or not our future children will want to meet their biological father some day*. Who knows what that hypothetical day might bring to all our lives.

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Baby “G”

The process for choosing our donor was a long one, and started long before we actually began our journey to parenthood. We knew long ago that we both wanted to try to conceive and fall pregnant, but it was clear that “G” would be the first. On that note, we wanted to choose a donor that would be suitable for both of us, so that when I did start trying, our children would be biological siblings.

When we arrived in Berlin in 2014 and started planning for a family, we wanted to find a fertility clinic that had a doctor who spoke both English and German. We had done a little research online, but eventually landed on the Praxis für Fertilität. We were impressed by the founding doctor, and were happy with the reviews we read online. At the beginning of this process, we were quite naive, and when we had our initial meeting with our fertility doctor, he mentioned quite a lot of things that had to be done. You can read about this meeting and the outcome here.

We were incredibly lucky to find out that our fertility doctor actually founded the Berliner Samenbank, a sperm bank that is situated in the same building as our fertility clinic. This made the process a little easier, although limited us in terms of donor options.

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Baby “P”

“G” had to go through a number of medical tests and we had to fill in some paperwork
before the sperm bank could give us suitable donors. During this process, we listed what our ‘perfect’ donor should look like. Ideally, he should have brown hair, brown eyes, be of similar height to us, and be of a certain build. Initially, we tried to find a donor that was similar to how I looked, but actually, the limited physical attributes we were able to list suited how we both look. Unfortunately there was no possibility of seeing baby photos or any photos of potential donors, but at the end of the day, we just wanted our future children to be healthy. This is something the Berliner Samenbank assured us during this process.

After the testing and paperwork, we received a number of potential donors that were suitable. We received information about their eye colour, hair colour, height, weight, body type, nationality, job and hobbies, in addition to some medical information such as blood type, etc. We chose our donor based on these qualities, but ultimately decided on someone who was willing to donate their sperm and give “G” and I the gift of life. We are so grateful that this human being decided to donate so that we could conceive a child. If there was the possibility of personally thanking him in some way, “G” and I would not hesitate to do so, but of course this isn’t the case. So for now, we’d just like to publicly thank him here. Thank you.

*In Germany, once our future children are 18 years old, they are entitled to find out information about the identity of their biological parent.

Insemination · IVF · Pregnancy

Decision to do IVF

A lot of people ask us how we got pregnant (because, you know, two women can’t make a baby without some form of help just yet), and I am always incredibly proud to say that it was through IVF. Unfortunately, there is still a lot of stigma attached to IVF and I honestly don’t know why. Is it because of ignorance? Religion? Cost? The process is absolutely amazing, and allows women to fulfil their dream of carrying a child. It puzzles me how often women are quick to judge and comment on another woman’s choice to do whatever the heck she wants. Why aren’t we praising each other and lifting each other up? Aren’t there already enough people out there who want to put us down? Why do we go and do that to our fellow sisters?

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The view from our Fertility Clinic

But… I digress. Our decision to undergo IVF was an easy, yet difficult one to make. There were many factors in the decision-making process, but ultimately, it was the next (and last) option for us.

During our Summer holidays in 2016, we tried three cycles of IUI. It was the perfect time to just try as often as possible, because “G” was super relaxed and we didn’t have to worry about taking time off work or stressing about how to ovulate at the right time outside of working hours. During our sixth unsuccessful insemination, our regular fertility doctor was on holidays, so “G” met with his colleague. She immediately asked “G” why we were still trying with the IUI process and not taking the IVF route or even switching utero to ME! We were actually quite shocked by this, as despite “G” being 37,  she has always been really healthy and way above average, medically speaking. IVF simply wasn’t on our radar, and the later thought was downright rude.

** Quick side note on why we both think the switching uterus comment is rude. Quite a lot of people asked us why we didn’t switch to me, or when we would decide to switch to me, or even simply suggested switching to me, because clearly everyone else knows best. I know our friends and family were not intending to be rude, and probably didn’t think twice about the comments, but for us, these comments really hurt. If it was a heterosexual couple, would you suggest switching to someone else’s uterus so quickly? “G” wanted to get pregnant first, and I totally and 100% supported her in this. My time will definitely come. We weren’t going to give up so quickly, especially since we hadn’t tried everything.

After our seventh unsuccessful insemination attempt, we decided to weigh up our options and talk more about IVF. “G” and I weren’t in a good place, and our relationship was under strain. I certainly didn’t feel like we were connecting, and “G” was feeling 10 times worse than me. Imagine feeling like your uterus is failing every time a big fat negative appears on a test, or when your period comes. On the outside, we projected the image of a happy couple, but deep down, we were devastated. We both hated the thought of going out, so we’d spend days at home, wallowing in our despair. This probably wasn’t the best thing to do, but at the time, it felt like it was the only thing we could do to cope.

Our regular fertility doctor supported our decision to try something new, so we continued down this path. Up until this point, we had done everything naturally, with no additional hormones or medication. “G” was physically fit, so our fertility doctor didn’t suggest anything different. In fact, he was always super positive and happy. Seriously, the guy whistled every time “G” opened her legs.

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The stirrups

Although we were both extremely crushed at the time, we had to keep thinking about the fact that seven failed cycles was actually not a bad statistic at all. It can take couples years to conceive a child without any assistance, so we needed to stay positive. Easier said than done.

We had a few things going against us that required us to speed up the trying to conceive process. The biggest factor that we had to consider was finances. IUI and IVF aren’t cheap options; sperm costs money, the procedures cost money. Everything that touches and doesn’t touch you, costs money. We are extremely grateful and fortunate to live in Germany, as the costs are much cheaper than in the UK, US and Australia, but they are still steep. We had to budget and save constantly.

We didn’t want to keep paying for IUI attempts when the probability of getting pregnant was much lower than the success rate of IVF treatment. Each IUI had a 13% chance of success as opposed to 40-50% with IVF. The switch to IVF was a no-brainer at this point.

So, after that Summer, we took a couple of months to regroup and get back on our feet before starting the IVF process. It wasn’t always easy, and we fought and cried and hugged each other a lot, but ultimately, we both wanted the same thing, so we kept going.

 

Pregnancy

Hiatus over and good news

Hi again everyone! Remember us?! I know it has been a long time, but we’re back. Finally!

We inadvertently took a long hiatus from blogging. It was a difficult time, and blogging just wasn’t on our radar. The last time we shared a blog post was during the two week wait for our sixth insemination attempt. We were unsuccessful, and tried another time before moving onto IVF. It would be a massive understatement to say that I’m paraphrasing quite a lot here, but I’m going to go ahead and say it anyway. I’m paraphrasing. This hiatus was HUGE, and with it came a lot of tears, both happy and sad.

I’ll get to all that another time.

The good news that we are just so freaking delighted to share with you all though, is that we are finally pregnant! Yes, after just nine cycles, “G” has a bun in the oven. She is eating for two. She is knocked up. She is carrying our baby, our little one, our future child. She is preggers and putting on the pounds. Ok, I jest. I’m from Australia and have no idea what a pound is. We’re in the 21st Century, people*… get your shit together.

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24.11.2016 – BIG FAT POSITIVE!

We’re just so excited, and cannot contain our happiness!

Over the next few days and weeks, I’ll be updating the blog with “G’s” progress. She is currently 17 weeks pregnant and looking gorgeous.

*I’m looking at you, United States of America.