How we used a salsa jar to get pregnant

December 12 2011 | Guest post by christina
By: Nina MatthewsCC BY 2.0
In September 2010 our beautiful daughter Beatrice Rinn was born to her two mamas — thanks in part to a salsa jar.

Yes, you read that right.

Patty and I have been legally married since 2008 — we were one of the 18,000 couples that were able to marry during the short window in California's history. First comes marriage… then the baby carriage comes, right? Well, we needed a little help with that one.

We always knew we wanted to have a baby, but having two sets of ovaries doesn't really help with that. Patty's best friend has always talked about helping her conceive by donating sperm, but Patty didn't want to carry the baby herself. I, on the other hand, was happy to get pregnant. We did consider adoption, and I in fact always thought that would be the way I'd have a child, but since we had a willing known donor… we figured we should at least give conceiving a biological child a shot!

We started seriously thinking about having a baby a year after our wedding. I'm a bit long in the tooth (let's just say 35+), so we didn't have the luxury of time. I bought two books that became my "getting pregnant bibles" — Taking Charge of Your Fertility and The Essential Guide to Lesbian Conception, Pregnancy and Birth. I started charting, taking my temperature, checking for ovulation signs and peeing on sticks everyday. I also began acupuncture to "boost" my blood and fertility. I was fecund and ready.

However, Patty's best friend and our potential donor then declined to donate for various reasons. Although having a baby is much easier for lesbians than it is for gay men (who usually have to rely on adoption or surrogacy, both of which can be both costly and difficult), finding the right donor can be challenging. There is the "unknown" donor route, where you literally choose a donor based on a biography and description of the donor and possibly a photo. There are many sperm banks out there, as well as sperm banks that specialize in lesbian families, but I didn't want to go that route yet.

Another option is the "known donor" — usually a friend or family member. As I really wanted our donor to play a part in the children's life growing up (it does take a village!), this was my first choice. There are a myriad of ways that the donor can be involved — simply as an "uncle" or even a Papa. They can share financial responsibility or just be known in the child's life as another family member who spoils them on weekends and takes them out for ice cream. I have friends who co-parent children — both the lesbian and gay couples are referred to as "Mama" or "Papa" and she equal parenting and financial roles. Since we wanted to try to known donor route, we began to brainstorm for a potential match for our family.

Patty has a younger brother with whom she is very close — in fact, they are the same age for one week during the year and they've been in several bands together. One day I asked Patty if she had ever considered asking her brother to be the donor — and she hadn't. She didn't have a reason for not doing so, it just never entered her mind and she didn't know if he would be willing. I encouraged her to ask him — after all, the worst thing he could do would be to say no. The following week she asked him after band practice. Not only did he accept, he as thrilled to be able to give her this gift. So the decline of her friend turned out to be a blessing in disguise — our baby would not only be able to know the donor, but he or she would be genetically linked to both mamas.

Then they told us: "Get a salsa jar. It's wide and low, making it easier for him to get 'his goods' in there."

Once Patty's brother was on board we sent him to the doctor to get a check-up and made a dinner date with friends who had conceived their child in a similar fashion. They sat down with us for hours and were amazing — they were totally open, honest, and frank about the whole experience. It was incredibly beautiful and helpful. Of course, we wanted to know how exactly they conceived their child — short of having sex with a man, I wanted this process to be as natural and low-tech as possible. I really didn't want to sterile environment of a doctor's office and I also didn't want to have to go the IVF route.

Then they told us: "Get a salsa jar. It's wide and low, making it easier for him to get 'his goods' in there."

So folks, here's how it worked: we conceived our child via the "turkey baster" method, as it's commonly referred to in lesbian circles. Since I'd been charting for over a year, I knew exactly when I ovulated, and knew on which day I was most fertile. We decided to try a few days before I ovulated to see what happened. We gathered our materials: a salsa jar, feeding syringe, and lots of pineapple. It's probably an urban myth, but more than a few people told me to eat lots of pineapple (including the core) because it helps with implantation. I love pineapple so hey — no harm, no foul.

The day we attempted insemination happened to be a Friday, which is also the day Patty and her brother have band practice. He came over early before practice, and we did as our friends instructed — placed an empty salsa jar on our bedside table with her brother while we anxiously watched TV in the other room. He filled the jar, left it on the table, and left to go get coffee. We then used a feeding syringe to get the sperm from the jar to inside my body. Then Patty went to band practice and I raised my feet high above my head with lots of pillows, watched inane TV, and ate copious amounts of pineapple.

We did this two months in a row, and the second time it worked. My period didn't come when it was supposed to, so I took a test (actually, two of them), and found out I was pregnant. We were thrilled — we had given ourselves a year to try to conceive (if we hadn't in that time we were going to move on to adoption). We have several friends who struggle with fertility issues, and were very grateful that we conceived so quickly.

We spent the next nine months in awe of this amazing thing that was happening to my body… thanks to a salsa jar! My pregnancy was easy and beautiful, and our birth was long but amazing. In September 2010 Beatrice Rinn made her appearance (also on my birthday).

Mama, Mapa, and Beatrice. Photo by Brett Gurewitz.

I want our daughter to grow up knowing that although her conception was not conventional, our love for her is strong and true, and her life and family are totally normal. I want to be open and honest from the beginning — no secrets. I believe LGBT parents have so much to offer their children — we have to plan our children so perfectly. Look at it this way: a gay or lesbian couple can't have a baby accidentally. This doesn't mean that children of straight parents aren't also planned and wanted, but many critics of LGBT parents cite as unfit and I don't believe this is the case.

Beatrice is wanted and loved and surrounded by supportive family and friends. She has a Mama (me), Mapa (Patty, short for Mama Patty), and a very special uncle.

  1. I love this story! This is how my friends conceived their baby boy (altho I don't know the specifics, so it might not have been a salsa jar exactly – ha!). But my friend conceived with her partner's twin brother's sperm. I know it meant a lot to both sides of the family that this opportunity was possible.

  2. This story was very cute and put a smile on my face. It indeed was very unconventional but in the end, she really is connected to the both of you. Congrats on being mommies!

  3. Thank you for sharing. My wife and I just started a similar course last month. After several known donors backing out at the last minute, this last month we actually had three willing to donate so we tried on 3 different days in the middle of her cycle. Two weeks later, the day before we were going to test, she miscarried. This was both encouraging (it worked the first time we tried!) and very depressing (we lost our first child before we even knew it was on the on the way). We're trying to keep our spirits up and continue on this journey. It will be so worth it when we hold our baby for the first time!

    • thanks for your note…my faith comes from knowing everything happens for a reason…your little one will come when he/she is ready! sending lots of love + light to you on your journey!

  4. I used the same two books, the feeding syringe and my brother-in-law. We used a tea cup though! Because of this I feel a great connection to lesbians that carry children. I am straight, married to a man and its lovely that we both have a bio connection even though my husband had nothing to give. I hope to raise my son around all different shapes and sizes of families, and salute your efforts! Congrats!

  5. i love love her name!!! super cute! great story. all that matters is love and being the best parent you can be to raise a child… nothing else.

  6. I am eating my dinner (cold pasta) out of a sala jar RIGHT now and tearing up over how awesome this is. What a lucky little soul to be born into such a rad family.

  7. FINALLY someone gives me some advice I can use! This is exactly what I needed, from exactly how to conceive, to what books to read, to just knowing others out there who have done this. I haven't started anything yet, but I plan to in the next few years. If anyone has any tips for adoption for lesbians and/or single moms (I may end up being both…already the first!), I'd be interested in that as well. Thank you for this article. Now, off to see if they offer those books for Kindle! Damn, I love this website!

    EDIT: Congrats on your wedding! I'm sure we marched together to keep it legal! πŸ™‚

  8. I've concieved 3 times this way (unfortunately with two miscarriages completely unrelated to the conseptions) and have a beautiful daughter to show for it. We also didn't want to have to go the sterile fertility doctor route and luckily this has worked for us each time within 4 months. Congratulations on becoming parents! No matter how we get there it is certainly worth it in the end πŸ™‚

  9. This is so awesome!!! I worked for a fertility specialist for over a year and assisted in a few "turkey baster" procedures. It always felt awkward to me – not because I was holding a test tube of a some guy's sperm in my breast pocket to keep it close to body temperature or that the lady's business was hanging out for all to see – but because conceiving a child is such an intimate experience and here we are, all 4 of us cramped into a small exam's face in your crotch, partner holding vessel's hand, me nearly sitting on partner's lap as I pass "the goods" to the doctor. This is how it should be. In the privacy of your own home, without an audience, just the 2 of you and your sample. Great job, ladies!

  10. Thank you for writing this. It really gave me insight into a topic I had often wondered about but never knew who to ask (and do so without sounding weird or ignorant).

  11. so awesome that a brother could be used so the genetic makeup will be very similar to as if science allowed you to conceive 'naturally', way way cool that both parents genes will be in this offspring.

  12. Great story! My wife is currently pregnant with our "thermos cup and meat thermometer" baby! We inseminated at home, and it never ceases to amaze people (usually not queer)that the conception wasn't more "high tech". My wife's sassy response is, "how high tech is the way that you do it?". Congrats on your beautiful baby.

  13. We used a baby food jar Our first donor said every time he walked down the babyfood isle in the grocery store he got turned on!! For the actual insemination my partner was the sperm runner. When she got home we squirted the sample into an "instead" cup you can use for your period which kept the swimmers up close to my cervix with nowhere to escape. That was probably just psycho-somatic as the best and most able swimmers get through the cervix right away but it did me good to visualize that no one was slipping out. We ended up miscarrying with first donor, switched donors and now have an amazing 15 month old daughter! Great resource sharing. Next time though, I decided I'm just going with the ovulation predictor kit. Temping, charting, etc. drove us both straight up crazy. Congrats to us all.

  14. Thank you! I remember seeing your wedding, maybe on Green Wedding Shoes, and I am so happy to read your family story. My partner and I are hoping to conceive in this way, using my brother as a donor, in the future. It is reassuring and kind of validating to hear of other families becoming in this way too πŸ™‚

  15. We totally would have done this but my wife and I both only have sisters. So we went with the FedEx'd sperm tank method. I gave birth to our daughter a year ago and now we are trying to get my wife pregnant with #2 with the same donor.

  16. Neat to read this! We just had our salsa-jar baby a week and a half ago…although we used two jars, a salsa jar and a queso dip jar, an we aren't sure which one was the winner in the end! Mama craved bean dip all through pregnancy, so could have been either!

    • Ha ha!!! And I forgot to mention that I love the photo/image with the salsa in the middle of the crackers. Looks like a ripe egg surrounded with sperm trying to get in. I would print this out and use it for visualization if I were trying to get pregnant!

  17. thank you for sharing your story, we attempted to get pregnant the same way by asking my brother unfortunately he chose not to be involved…so it's really nice to read stories where this way has worked out well πŸ™‚

    what a cute looking family!

  18. Congrats on your gorgeous daughter! And thank you for lifting my spirits! My husband and I have kicked around the jar idea for months (for various reasons all against us at the moment)…we discussed it again last night! He is on board with the process, my son (from a prev. marriage) is on board with becoming a big brother, and my spirit has been renewed! Thank you!

  19. Beautiful story! I have a technical question…does the sample have to be kept at a specific temperature once it's in the jar and will it start to die after a while? Basically wondering if you had to implant it within a certain amount of time or keep it a certain temp until you did.

    • hi…thank you. honestly, i don't know the answer to that! we did it within minutes (i'd say about 20 minutes after…), but i've heard stories of women keeping it warm near their bodies until implantation…

  20. Greetings from the uk, Im hoping the tread is still active as my partner and I are ttc the exact same way, maybe minus the salsa jar though πŸ™‚ but with her brother, I was just wondering if you have any concerns about the future as in bambino asking questions about her dad. And how you will explain it? This is my partners main concern and possibly our only concern period! As the thought of a genetic link between both of us is immense! Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

    • hi! thanks for your note…honestly, we are just being honest and upfront from the beginning. we already use the word "donor" around her in reference to her "special uncle." there is some crazy family drama/secrets in our past and we have a very strong commitment to HONESTY and no lying to her…so we want to explain it to her exactly how it happened…

      "your moms love each other very much but we needed some help to create you…" or something like that…patty's brother is ok with that and totally open as well. he lives about 5 minutes away from us, so we're really lucky that he's already involved in her life…

      feel free to email me if you have any other questions! {}

      hope that helps! good luck!

  21. I don't know if Christina still checks this post for comments, but if you do: My partner and I are in the same situation, but we are feeling overpowered by the awkwardness of it all. How did you deal with/overcome that?

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