Coming to terms with the limits of lesbian conception

Guest post by Nicole Vermeer


The first words out of my mother’s mouth when I told her that I was no longer questioning my sexuality, and I really did identify as lesbian were: “Am I still going to have grandkids?”

“Yes, mom,” I said, in that general teenager-ish way.

Maybe I only remember that one part because it makes for a pretty funny anecdote. I know she also assured me that it was totally fine, and she’d always love and support me, but her inquiry into my having kids someday is the only part of that conversation I clearly remember.

For a few years I didn’t really think I would want kids, however, I’ve gotten older and changed and realized that I really do. Not for any specific reason that I can name, it’s just what I feel. And luckily I now have a partner who I am absolutely in love with and wants to have kids with me. Well, we want to build a family together. It only recently struck me that as much as I want to … I can never conceive a child with my chosen partner.

There are so many ways for a lesbian couple to conceive, and so many resources that it’s not really necessary for me to discuss that aspect. I’ve never thought of parents as “two people who make a baby” — I think family can be any number of people who share a loving connection.

But somehow it really just hit me: I cannot physically conceive a baby with my future wife. I realize it might sound silly, and of course I always knew I would never be able to conceive with our bodies, but it never really struck me until recently.

It came when I was reading a post here on Offbeat Mama about infertility. I was doing totally fine, reading about how some people tried infertility drugs, some people didn’t, and some managed to get pregnant on their own. I was reading some comments when someone mentioned they were currently “ttc.” First I thought to myself, Isn’t this a no-acronym zone? What does “ttc” even mean? Then I realized: Oh. Trying to conceive.

I thought about what that entailed, and suddenly I had tears running down my face, because it had never hit me that hard that no matter what I did, or what kind of medical help I enlisted, I couldn’t “make” a baby with my fiancée.

I felt a huge empty hole somewhere inside when I thought about the fact that as much as we love each other, our physical love can never translate into a new addition to our family.

I had already planned on what kind of birth I would someday have, already checked out cloth diapering sites, but never really internalized the details of how I would get pregnant. I felt a huge empty hole somewhere inside when I thought about the fact that as much as we love each other, our physical love can never translate into a new addition to our family. We could never have a “happy accident,” as it were. (The only happy accident we could have that would result in pregnancy is accidentally tripping over a sperm bank delivery, and for some reason I don’t see it happening that way…)

I am considering adoption in my future, as well as possibly conceiving through a sperm donor, and I don’t think any one way of having a child is better than any other. I don’t think adopted children would be any less a part of my family as a biological child. This isn’t about that at all, and like I said: I know families are made in all kinds of ways. But it’s clear that certain ways are simply not an option for me and my partner.

My fiancée jokes about it once in a while, something along the lines of “if I could make it happen you would be so pregnant right now.” And sometimes we act it out, pretending that we are conceiving a child, and that a tiny new person for us to love will soon be growing inside my belly. She even rubs my lower abdomen sometimes in anticipation.

In the end, I guess this is something I have to come to terms with. I know that I’m not planning on getting a partner with a different sex anytime soon. What I’m the most sure of though is that all the love we put into our relationship, and all the positive thoughts we have about our future children will someday translate into a very happy family … regardless of how that family comes together.

Comments on Coming to terms with the limits of lesbian conception

  1. i really understand this grief, and it’s funny that you should talk about it suddenly hitting you, even though it’s something you must always have known, because it happened like that for me too.
    we make our families out of the pieces we have, and with all the love we can give, and that’s awesome, but it think it’s sometimes ok to feel a little sad about the fact that it’s that bit harder and more complicated for us as queer families.
    all the best with your journey!

  2. My partner and I have our ups and downs with this. My partner is a transman and adopted, the only one of his bloodline. I don’t have any male siblings who could donate sperm. But we still dream of having a family together in the future.

  3. My partner and I are the adoptive parents of a lovely 7 year old. When I look at our daughter, I DO see my partner reflected in her, because she has absorbed my partner’s love and care over the years, the things she’s taught her, certain ways of speaking, etc. Just think about how much you love your partner – that should surely remind you that love does not depend on biology. Not one bit.

    So go ahead and feel a little sad – and then go ahead and create a beautiful family!

  4. myself and my partner also came to this realisation. I already have a child from a previous relationship and my partner has brought her up from about a month old, we really really want a child together and have opted to use known donor sperm but conceive together at home, as i’ve had my own child and she really wants to experience having a child she’s going to have our baby. In my mind the child is very much our baby, although the child wont be biologically mine, i feel i can offer just as much love!

    You will be wonderful parents x

  5. this feeling hit me recently too. Every conversation me and my wife have had over the last five years of our relationship have been about baby names, how we would raise our child, what we thought were important things for our children to learn and be like. but the thought of our children only being biologically one of ours and not both of ours and having to plan so tightly the way we will make our family is a hard thing to get my head and heart around.

  6. I’m only brand new out at 24, and I’ve been struggling a lot with the knowledge that my best friend of 5 years and partner of 1 will never be able to combine her sweet genes with mine. It makes me feel a lot better to see that I’m not the only one who’s mourning the loss of something I’ve never had. Thank you lovely folk for putting my mind somewhat at ease, you all sound like beautiful humans ❤️

  7. nicole, I’d love to talk to you about where you’re at with this – I’m writing a book, “The Girlfriend’s Guide to Fertility” (Random House 2020) and would love to use a quote from here for my LGBTQ chapter.

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