Most lesbian parents think about how they’re going to create their family for years, before setting out to actually have children.
Many factors will influence the decisions you make. The main ones fall into two groups:
- the relevant laws, and
- your personal values and circumstances.
Only you can decide how to create your family. Personal values and circumstances play a big role. Who do you think should be involved in raising children? Do you know a man suitable to ask? Do you think children should ideally grow up having a relationship with the man who contributed to their genetic makeup, or are you happy with your child being able to contact him, if they want to, at age 18 or earlier?
Some women want to welcome others into helping raise their children, and decide to explore co-parenting. Some women decide to welcome a known donor (and his partner, and perhaps his extended family) into their lives, with contact varying from occasional to significant time together. Many start with an agreement to minimal contact, but an openness to seeing (and a process for deciding) where the journey might lead them.
Other women decide that they don’t want to bring other adults into their family – that one or two loving mothers (and any extended family) are all the family their children need. Some decide this because they do not know a man who is suitable, with whom they have a close or trusting enough relationship. Some women ask the brother of the intending non-birth mother.
Any of these decisions is legitimate. The most important thing is that you base your choices on your own values. Try not to let fear – of what might happen, or of what other people might think – dictate this critical life decision. In particular, try to challenge the idea (even within yourself) that ‘all children need a mother and a father’. Three decades of rigorous Australian and international research show that children of same-sex parents are not disadvantaged, and are in some ways – such as in their capacity for empathy – better off!
Lesbians have been creating and raising families in many ways for many years, and will continue to do so. Victorian children of lesbian couples now have legal equality. Social attitudes have also improved immeasurably, and this is increasing as our numbers and diversity grow.
That old biological clock
Another issue for women to consider is that of fertility and their age. It is important to be aware that women’s fertility decreases at a sharp rate after the age of 35. Although some women do conceive after age 40, others cannot. There are also a variety of other reasons why conception might not be as straightforward as you hope, or might not even succeed. If you are a couple and one of you cannot conceive, hopefully the other can. However we strongly advise that you do not delay trying for a family for too long (while certainly not rushing processes like finding the right donor), or seeking further medical advice if conception is proving difficult.