Les­bian cou­ple’s jour­ney to par­ent­hood dou­bly dif­fi­cult

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - BOOKS - Re­viewed by Sharon Chisvin

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.

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