Gail and I often think about the different dynamics of TTC #1 vs. TTC #2. I wrote before about how somehow TTC this time had much more of a taint of selfishness, that somehow, when it is perfectly clear that I can fully love and parent a child whom I didn’t birth, and yet feel dead set to carry our second come hell or high water, it lays bare the fact that the reasons I want this are kind of selfish. I suppose selfish is harsh, but as Gail says slightly more diplomatically, they are at least very personal, and are kind of self-centered. But here’s the thing, Gail’s desire for pregnancy was ALSO selfish, or personal, or kind of self-centered, but we didn’t know it back then because we were both so excited to become parents together. It was the act of “switching up” for number 2 that exposed this, and I don’t think we would have noticed if Gail had carried again. In that case, it would have just been more of the same, and if anything, she would have gotten extra points for being self-sacrificing and willing to put her body through the work of carrying again.
When I read all the stories of lesbian two-mom families, families that take so much work and love to build, I can’t help but notice patterns that I’m not sure that we as a community really notice as a whole. One that I’ve noticed is that in families that may originally plan to “take turns,” a planned second pregnancy often fails to materialize, or does, but it’s a repeat for the mom who already gave birth. There are so many possible reasons for this, not least of which is the extreme cost, in money, time, emotional energy, and hard work it takes for us to get pregnant. But there are other factors, too, and they are impossible to see when making those early decisions about who will “go first.”
In our case, Gail, who was just as insistent on a second kid as me, definitely started dragging her feet on TTC #2 after Leigh was born. We had originally thought to try for something like two-year spacing (as if you have very much control over such things) and she quickly started lobbying that we wait longer. There were all sorts of issues. Money, job and school transitions, the stress of TTC, and sure those were all factors, but the nasty jealous part of me was still thinking, “Sure, you can wait. You already gave birth; for all you care we could never have another.” During the conversations over those months I demanded all different kinds of proof that she was on board for number two, some of them perhaps unreasonable, but I think my fear that she might bail on our plan was actually NOT unreasonable. It definitely happens. We had a different set of motivations, and mine were much stronger, whereas heading into number one, we were both 100% on the same boat.
Now it turned out that my body decided for us that we needed to wait. And to Gail’s credit, she was the one who fussed at me to start charting when Leigh was only about six months old. I thought snarky things like, “well…you don’t even want another one anyway, why should I wake up every day to take my damn temperature?” and really, that response was just masking my own desire not to face up to how bad my cycles really were. Once I charted for a while, and faced facts, it was important to me to give acupuncture a real chance before heading in for drugs; I was now on Gail’s preferred schedule, but for my own reasons.
I’m not sure where I’m going with this, but maybe I’m saying that in a family where both moms plan to give birth, the one who goes first really does have a lot of power over how things progress (and this is assuming the best of legal circumstances). By the time you get to planning for number two, the mom who carried number one has proven fertility. At every slight bump in the TTC road, you both wonder, would this be easier if we just went back to the way we did it before? You also already have a child, a child whose needs you must prioritize. Money is tighter and you know how much childcare costs. Maybe you would have gone all the way to IVF in a heartbeat the first time, but the second time it seems too drastic, and too expensive considering you already have a child to support. And there are the donor issues that come up so often when trying for another kid. If you only have x vials, are you willing to risk them on unproven fertility? Will you move back to your original set-up if you run out, to ensure that your kids will have some genetic link? There’s also the inevitable discomfort with taking on a new role, even if not for parenting, certainly during pregnancy. If things are working like they are, and you’ve finally negotiated your respective places in your family, perhaps in deference to or defiance of biology, it can be hard to face the prospect of finding your way down a new parenting path.
I know every family faces this stuff differently, and that only a small subset of two-mom families even contain two women that both want to give birth, and also manage to avoid the fertility nightmares that can make such a plan impossible. But I think the fact remains (albeit based unscientifically on broad generalizations from our own experience and meta-analysis of way too much blog reading), that once one mom has birthed a first child, she’s probably more likely to birth a second, even if that wasn’t originally in the plans. We felt many of these pressures, and we really had all of the cards stacked in our favor. I guess I may really mean stacked in my favor, since I’m writing about my own chances to achieve this pregnancy I wanted so much. I had ample donor supply, a relatively idyllic legal situation, enough money to keep trying, and a partner who shared my commitment to having another kid and wasn’t chomping at the bit to get pregnant again herself. And even with all of that, we could have easily ended up with Gail pregnant again, despite our intentions at the outset. I am grateful that we got here….and will be even more grateful when I stop puking in the morning. (hello Universe! I’m pushing 15 weeks! Isn’t this supposed to stop?)