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. Our lesbian conception story involved a salsa jar.
Our path to lesbian conception
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.
The factors of choosing a sperm donor
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. Patty’s best friend and our potential donor eventually declined to donate for various reasons.
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.
Using a brother as sperm donor
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.
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 ‘the 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.
How long our lesbian concept took
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).
Why I think lesbian concept creates more intention in families
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.