We caught up with the founders of The LGBT Mummies Tribe to find out how their tribe – and their family – is growing
BY CARRIE LYELL
We last spoke to Laura-Rose and her wife Stacey, the founders of The LGBT Mummies Tribe, in August 2019. Since then, their tribe – and their family – have grown. We caught up with Laura-Rose to find out more about their fertility journey, how they’re helping other same-sex families navigate their own paths, and how the pandemic has affected family life.
DIVA: Tell us about yourselves and your fertility journey.
Laura-Rose: We have been together 14 years, married 10 and have two children together who are nearly seven and three – both carried – and have a third child on the way, due in 2021. We used a fertility clinic (CRGH) and US sperm bank (Xytex) to have all of our children. Stacey carried first (due to being older and having PCOS) and it took us three failed medicated IUI attempts. We lost the baby on the fourth and had our daughter on the fifth attempt. For our second child, I carried and had unmedicated IUI and fell pregnant with our son on the second attempt. For our third, which we started trying for prior to the pandemic, I carried again. We had three failed IUI’s where we then discovered I had diminished fertility – halved in three years since our son. We then moved to IVF which was subsequently cancelled due to the first lockdown. In summer 2020, we had a failed fresh IVF cycle and then fell pregnant on our fifth attempt with a frozen IVF cycle.
You’ve been through a lot to get where you are now. How would you describe the process in terms of information and emotional support available?
There wasn’t any! We started our fertility journey nearly 10 years ago and back then there wasn’t any community or support for LGBTQI+ women or people like us, and social media wasn’t as prevalent so we muddled through it. Along the way, with the help of our clinic, we learnt a lot, but became acutely aware of the lack of support for LGBTQI+ people wanting to start a family by multiple routes and we knew we had to use our own lived experiences and relationships with clinics and organisations to improve it. We wanted to bridge the gap in visibility and access for our community. The LGBT Mummies Tribe was born out of need.
You’ve said previously you’ve spent £50k to get pregnant, and you’ve faced terrible heartbreak along the way without much in the way of support. How has all that affected you as people and as a couple?
Yes, near on £50k. We know and appreciate we are incredibly fortunate to have been able to do so, and it hasn’t come as you said without heartbreak. Facing increasing costs, failed cycles, a miscarriage and trying to both work full time around treatment can have a great impact on your mental health and relationship. We worked together to get there, but it was not without difficulty and stress and it did feel like our lives had been put on hold each time, waiting for that positive test. What we didn’t realise we’d encounter is the lack of support and understanding across healthcare for people like us, people’s attitudes and views to us as parents. I struggled as a non-biological mother when our daughter was born with the lack of visibility of my role – the way people addressed me or in one case, refused to acknowledge me as our child’s “real mother”. No one can prepare you for the emotional rollercoaster you go on in your journey. We wished back then we had an organisation or community like ours to support us through it.
Tell us more about that community. What is The LGBT Mummies Tribe?
Our purpose is to “Educate, Share and Celebrate” LGBT+ women and people worldwide on the path to motherhood or parenthood. We act as a central point of support and a safe haven, providing information, guidance and knowledge on the available routes to starting a family through our website and social channels. From educational resources, support groups and services, information on charities, LGBTQI+ brands and sharing stories with our community, to our annual UK “Meets” where families come together to celebrate our community, make friends and share their experiences. Whether you are thinking of starting a family or have children already by fertility treatment, surrogacy, adoption, fostering, as a single parent, co-parent or a step parent, all are welcome. We are passionate about making change for same-sex families – specifically women and non-binary people – are currently in talks with the Government, NHS and other UK governing bodies to bring policy change and support to ensure equality and inclusivity to LGBTQI+ women and their children through the health system and associated services. We work tirelessly to inspire LGBTQI+ women and people on their quest to motherhood or parenthood, while working to normalise our families in the media, creating a more inclusive future for our children by providing visibility of our families, creating change and equality for our amazing women and people and their children.
What are the questions you’re asked most often by other couples looking to start their own family?
Once people have decided if they want to go down the fertility route or another route such as adoption or fostering, mostly it is “where do we start?” People want to have all the information regarding what is available to them whether it be through the NHS in the UK, or other countries like the US if their insurances cover it and what the costs and options entail. They also want to speak to other women and people – whether single by choice, couples or those who co-parent with other couples – to hear their lived experiences and hear their opinions so they can make their own informed decisions regarding their route to parenthood.
What have been your highlights since starting the Tribe?
Being invited to Downing Street to meet the Prime Minister! Being part of Stonewall’s 30th anniversary campaign, getting to work with organisations like the University of Cambridge, Tommy’s, Phillips and the Miscarriage Association to help them improve their literature and provide better support to our community. Getting to meet with the Government Equalities Office to discuss areas which we feel need reviewing, being asked to write articles for the BICA, GLAAD and the Royal College of Midwives has been an honour. Our proudest moment, however, is being asked to be Stakeholders on the NHS England and Improvement Maternity Transformation Programme Council. We are able to impact real policy change for the future to support our LGBTQI+ women and people through pregnancy, birth and beyond.
We love sharing people’s journeys worldwide, providing guidance to them in our support groups then sharing their retrievals, announcements then when their babies are here – even getting to hold them at our yearly UK event! It makes us feel we are really helping to shape our community in a positive way.
Have there been any challenges?
The trolling has on occasion been quite bad, to the point where we had to get the police involved. At times, it’s hard to keep up with the workload – with the work we do regarding policy change across healthcare, specifically in the multiple areas of work we are doing with the NHS, it is time consuming, but we know it will benefit our community for the better.
What do you think are the biggest issues facing LGBTQI+ families today?
The lack of positive visibility of our families across the media and lack of policies that support us through healthcare is quite astounding. The more work we do, specifically with the NHS, shows us how much change is really needed to ensure true equality – not just for us as LGBTQI+ people but our children and their future. There is still a lot of discrimination in society and you find even more of it when it comes to our families.
In what ways have you been impacted as a family by the pandemic? What have been your coping mechanisms?
It has affected our children’s routines, although working from home more has meant I have been more on hand which has been nice. It has brought us closer together and meant we have been able to really take time to enjoy walks, art projects and silly times together. Having our fertility treatment during the pandemic did have an effect on us emotionally as a family – trying to keep going for the children while both struggling after each failed attempt or delay has been hard. The children have got us through it though, and knowing that we are all safe and well we try to remind ourselves often.
What are your hopes for the future – for yourselves and for other LGBTQI+ families?
That we’ll get to the point where people won’t be shocked to hear you’re LGBTQI+ and that you actually have children, and also feel comfortable asking questions so they can educate themselves and we can help dispel ignorance and discrimination. It would be nice to get to the point where you’ll be able to take your child to a healthcare appointment without having confusion and getting asked, “So what about the dad?” because yours and your child’s data is collected, so the GP knows how your child was created and your family makeup. Most importantly, we hope that healthcare will invest fully in education and training for midwives and professionals so they have a good understanding of our routes to family creation and can then support us better, along with equal access to fertility treatment, not just those who can afford it and not just in the UK, but worldwide.
Find out more and join the Tribe at thelgbtmummiestribe.com
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