“We had 18 artificial inseminations in total”
Jana (42) and Christiane (55) had to embark on a painful and extraordinarily long childbearing journey. Even though their two children Paul and Rahel are already in school today, the memory of the hardships is still present. Nevertheless, Jana and Christiane have agreed to share their very personal story with us to give strength to other couples in a similar situation.
“We had 18 artificial inseminations in total”
Christiane and I have been together for 16 years now and have been living as a registered civil partnership since 2008, and as a married couple since 2018. From the beginning it was clear that we wanted children. Preferably three. We saw our nieces grow up, with whom we have a close contact. The two of us have always seen ourselves as a family. Other couples fight, but for us it was clear: “Nothing comes between us”. This strong bond has also been felt by our friends and family since the beginning. It helped us to be perceived as a “normal couple”. Our mothers had no problem with our partnering, and yet on the “wedding day” the phrase we heard was: “It’s just too bad that we probably won’t have any grandchildren then.”
“With how much man do we want to parent with?”
We gave a lot of thought to our options as a same-sex couple when it came to having children — including, for example, the question, “How much man do we want to parent with?” We didn’t want to ask a homosexual friend to be the biological father of our child. That seemed too complicated. And so we decided that we wanted to parent ourselves, without a father registering rights. I was 33 at the time and Christiane 46 — too old for adoption. So the only option was sperm donation. Because I am the younger one of us, I was to carry the child.
Tips on having a child as a same-sex couple
Nowadays, treatment with donor sperm can also be performed for same-sex couples but in 2009 it was different and a legal gray area. The health insurance did not pay anything, because in order to receive subsidies for artificial insemination, we would have had to prove why pregnancy was not possible naturally. So in our case it was a bad joke!
Then, at a workshop with the topic “desire to have children” in the Women’s Center we met a single mother who was pregnant at the time. She gave us valuable tips and information.
I had to do the insertion of the sperm myself
We found a German clinic and a local sperm bank. That was in the spring of 2009. Everything seemed easy. We don’t know anything about the donor except that he lives in Europe. Even the blood group was not known.
The procedure was notarized. I had to do the last step of the insemination — the insertion of the sperm — myself. After about two weeks I was told that it did not work. That was disappointing, but we didn’t give up.
I started hormone treatment. It seemed to work — and after the second insemination we found out that I was pregnant! But shortly after that I had a miscarriage. After wonderful news, we suddenly had to cope with so much disappointment. It wasn’t easy, especially since the doctor advised us to take a three-month break after the miscarriage.
The worst moment
The wait was terrible. But we made it — and the next insemination followed. And the next. And the next. Always without success. A lot of our memory is a blur, but I still remember the worst moment. I don’t remember today how many attempts it was. I only know: I was alone at home — Christiane was on a business trip — when the phone rang. I knew that this call was from the clinic and that they would tell me whether it had worked this time or not. I answered the phone and learned that this attempt had also been unsuccessful. That’s when I did something I never did before and never did again after that: I searched and found some old pack of cigarettes in a drawer. And I found alcohol. Then I got drunk and smoked one after another. It was terrible.
Our faith has given us a lot of strength
I had exactly 16 unsuccessful inseminations in total. It was an endless ride. Looking back, we are amazed that we got through this exhausting time. I think our faith gave us a lot of strength. But also the rock solid relationship between Christiane and me. It gave me such support to know that I had the absolutely right partner at my side. But our families gave us strength as well.
And yet Christiane and I sometimes had different views. Because, of course, there was also the financial burden. I would have borrowed money from friends to make further attempts, but Christiane slowed me down. We had to set ourselves an end point: We decided that by the time Christiane is turning 50, we would stop trying.
Last attempt: ICSI
At the end of 2012, Christiane was 49 years old. We finally decided, after these 16 attempts, to have ICSI. Why didn’t we make this decision before? We do not know. Of course there were financial reasons, because this treatment is much more expensive. During ICSI we learned that of the nine eggs I had retrieved, only two were of good quality. In retrospect, this explained why the inseminations were not successful.
Two days after the retrieval, the fertilized eggs were reinseminated. On October 22, 2012 we finally received the call we had been waiting for for three years, “You’re pregnant!”
The pregnancy as pure happiness
I remember the terrific feeling during pregnancy: Knowing our first quadruplet was inside me! I enjoyed every moment. The birth, on the other hand, was very exhausting and took 30 hours. Then, on July 3, 2013, Paul came into the world. The child we had waited so long for! We could not get enough of him.
Two years after Paul’s birth, we decided to have a second child. And this time it worked out right away. We used the same donor sperm for the ICSI as we did for Paul — which seemed practical to us, because this way both children can meet their father together later on, if they want to.
Another moving moment comes to mind at this point: On the day I was injected with the fertilized egg, we had no babysitter for Paulus, who was one and a half years old at the time. So I simply took him with me. The fact that Paul could watch how his younger sister was inside me in the form of an egg cell was indescribably beautiful!
So our girl was born in 2015. And she too, just like her brother, bears a biblical name: Rachel. Christiane’s wish was to choose biblical names. I didn’t think it was a good idea at first, but when I saw how many of my suggested names were biblical, I thought, “I guess He guided me there!”
“Dad lives in Europe”
Today we are a very happy, totally normal family. Paul, who is eight years old, often asks about his dad. Then we answer him: “You have a dad, he doesn’t live with us, but he lives in Europe. He is satisfied with that. When he is asked at school who the other woman next to me is, he says quite naturally, “Well, that’s my other mommy.”
Looking back, of course we wish our childbearing journey had been shorter and less stressful. We certainly could have used financial support. It is a pity that it is so difficult for homosexual couples to become parents and that we had to go to such immense expense — just because of the fervent desire to be a family.
Christiane adopted both children in case something happens to me. The moment when we left the courthouse and completed the adoptions was magical. There are so many magical moments, you just have to take them.
Social freezing: success rates
What is the ideal age to freeze my eggs? This is an often asked question in the context of social freezing. A simplified answer would be that it is generally better to freeze at a younger age than at a later age. However, it is not quite that simple.
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