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Couples Chronicles — Interview 1
Lesbian Parents Find Support & Joy
by Demian
First published December 1986
© January 7, 2018, Demian

Roxanne is a college teacher. Margarette is a scientist. They are lovers, life companions, who decided to birth and raise a child.

Why did you want to have children?

Roxanne: I’ve known since sitting beside the empty bassinet when I was a kid, 12, almost 13, waiting for my little sister to come. I didn’t know babies couldn’t focus that well when they first come home from the hospital. I must have spent 10 hours getting ready so my little sister would have a good impression of me.

I always had a very special connection with children, trying to have them myself, not being able to. When I was married, I miscarried several times. I’ve always had a real love for children; a special need to give.

Margarette: My story is more complicated. I had a baby when I was 19, one I gave up for adoption. Giving up a child is really difficult. Having done that made me shut down from the whole process, and from thinking about having kids.

A couple of years ago we were getting counseling from a woman who had a baby by alternative insemination. We asked her thousands of questions about the process. Through the counseling I got a more positive self image and the sense I had something to give to a child.

It was as if a door had opened. I started thinking about these things again and realized I wanted to have a baby. There was a lot of excitement and joy, possibilities for really positive things: for being a guide to a little baby, for learning a lot myself, for the joy that comes with the kid as well as all the complexities. I was ready to take that challenge. It was almost as if I’d finally grown up enough to want that challenge.

Why did you want to birth your own child?

Margarette: We never thought about child care for someone else. We had no opportunity to get involved with friends of ours who had babies. We could have gone out and looked for somebody, but it just never occurred to us.

Adoption never sounded like something a lesbian would be able to do. In the last couple of years, we’ve seen articles about gay men who were foster parents whose children were taken away from them, even though they’d gone through the whole process openly. The courts allowed everything, then a year later reversed their decision, breaking up homes. The notion of that was horrendous to both of us. We didn’t want to go through that.

Since then, we know a lesbian couple that has adopted a baby. Apparently it is possible now. But it seemed like we might invest too much, and then have the whole thing ripped up. I don’t think that would be good for us or for a baby.

There is something special about having your own baby.

Roxanne: If there were other ways, if you could just go to the grocery store and get one, that would have worked fine too. One of the safest ways for us, in terms of the legal system, was knowing that this baby would be ours and nobody would take him away.

How did you decide which of you would carry the child?

Roxanne: I couldn’t because of age, history of miscarriage, and feeling that the time was past.

What method did you consider for insemination?

Margarette: We got a lot of good information from the woman we’d talked to that opened the door on this idea. Then a number of things fell into place: a movie called Choosing Children, about lesbians having children, premiered in Seattle, and a book came out called “Considering Parenthood: A Handbook for Lesbians.” [See Media Resources: Parenting.]

We started meeting people who had either thought about this, or knew somebody who had done it. We got together with a group of women, five couples, who were all interested in the notion of having a baby through alternative insemination.

We went through a lot of thinking about the different ways that might work for us. One of those ways would be to use someone we knew, possibly a relative. We had considered Roxie’s brother, later deciding against the idea for a variety of reasons.

We thought about men we knew. There was one in particular we considered very seriously. But Roxie was worried about where her rights would be if we used a man known to both of us; whether she’d be forced out; that this man might get too involved.

Trying to do things with an unknown donor is complicated, but clearly that is the way a lot of lesbians go. Frequently, its done outside of the medical system. You have a go-between who arranges for a third party donor.

One friend of ours came up with a man who would have been a good donor. We were seriously considering that when we found a doctor who was doing inseminations and had access to a sperm bank.

When we talked to the doctor she answered all our questions about the medical and legal aspects. The part that appeals to us is that when a man donates sperm through a doctor, the man gives up all legal rights. That gave us the assurance we wanted that there wouldn’t be anyone contesting later on.

We chose the option of going through the doctor. We don’t have access to information about the donor, if the baby should ever want it. But it’s the safest thing for us in terms of the legal system.

How do you protect Roxanne’s status as legal guardian?

Roxanne: We did as much, legally, as we possibly could. We did wills in each other’s names. I’m named guardian there, as well as in power-of-attorney papers. We did a partnership agreement. Should our union dissolve, I’m allowed access and rights to the baby, and to continue participating in his upbringing, emotionally and financially.

These agreements have not been legally tested. We’ve covered as much as possible, but some capricious judge could give him away.

What is your present relationship to your blood families?

Roxanne: Both our families know our involvement and are quite cooperative. If anything happened to Margie, they’d want me to be taking care of the baby. They think of us as the parents. It’s clear in their reaction, even to the degree in my family they’re getting that kind of grandmother-and-grandfather, aunt-and-uncle feeling toward the baby.

Margarette: But I think our decision to use pseudonyms today reflects that little bit of worry in the back of our minds. Not wanting to open ourselves up completely to everybody in the world. I wouldn’t appear on a television show. I won’t run that risk.

Roxanne: That is ironic, because Marge and I are open.

In some ways we’re terribly conservative folks. We don’t do drugs. We’ve been a couple for over 13 years. We’re very staid, responsible, good people.

Margarette: Except for this one outlandish little thing. Somebody might get upset.

I would like to say though that absolutely everybody we have run into has been marvelous. The people where I work have been very supportive. Also where Roxie works. Everyone in the health maintenance organization we were involved with was just terrific and very excited. Roxanne: And friends and family.

Margarette: Nobody gave us a hard time at all.

We’re really glad we did it. We had no idea he’d be such a splendid baby.

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