Lesbian couple’s journey to parenthood doubly difficult
SHORTLY after getting married a few years ago, Canadian playwright Natalie Meisner and her Dutch wife Vivien decided that they were ready to start their family. The deciding was the easy part. Finding some way and someone to help them get pregnant was much more difficult. As a lesbian couple, Natalie and Vivien were unable to get pregnant on their own. Owing to Vivien’s personal experiences as a child of adoption, they also were unwilling to adopt or use an anonymous sperm donor. That left them with one option — finding someone who was suitable and willing to donate sperm to them. It is the search for that sperm that forms the core of Natalie’s funny, heartfelt, and heartwarming first book, the appropriately titled memoir, Double Pregnant: Two Lesbians Make a Family. Natalie and Vivien begin their search for a sperm donor in Calgary, where they are living at the time. At first they approach male friends and acquaintances, all of whom, for various and totally understandable reasons, are not prepared to do the favour being asked of them. The women then turn to websites and blogs dedicated to sperm donation and post their request for help online. They receive a few promising responses, but far more inappropriate replies and offers. They meet with some of the donor prospects, have their hopes raised and dashed more times than they can count, and despondently begin to question if their dream is really achievable. “Of course we are different from the traditional couple with fertility issues,” Natalie writes, “and yet our hearts will likely break along the same fault lines should we ultimately be unable to have a baby.” Buoyed by their shared love and determination, however, they do not give up. Finally, after months of disappointment they meet their ideal donor while vacationing on Vancouver Island. In the end, with little fanfare, he provides the sperm that first gets Natalie pregnant, and two months later, gets Vivien pregnant too. The joy of their pregnancies is enhanced by the knowledge that, as they had hoped, their children will be biologically related to one another. “It is hard to put my gratitude at this moment into words,” Natalie says of the successful donor. “It is a very strange feeling, to say the least, to have an almost stranger do you this favour. A gift that could, no... that already has, changed the course of our lives.” The latter half of the memoir is devoted to their double pregnancies, changing bodies and changing expectations. When Natalie is near the end of her term, the two women pack up their car and drive across the country, in the middle of winter, to Lockeport, N.S. It is there, in Natalie’s hometown, that they wish to bring their children into the world. And that is just what they do. Within weeks of one another, Natalie and Vivien each give birth to a son. Then Natalie gave birth to this memoir — a touching and amusing love story about two women, two babies and one happy family.
Sharon Chisvin is a Winnipeg writer.