We were told to go Couple’s Counseling.

After our initial consultation with our chosen reproductive endocrinologist (RE) at Columbia Fertility Associates (CFA), we received a Donor Recipient Cycling Checklist. For someone like me, this was helpful in keeping us organized with tracking the several steps involving assisted reproductive procedures such as artificial insemination. This checklist included a recommendation to have what CFA calls a “psychological consult”. The RE recommended we meet with a licensed clinical social worker who’s line of work specializes in women’s health issues, infertility counseling, and those who use a sperm donor to build a family. She has been meeting with patients of our RE for over 20 years. Such a recommendation is made broadly to those who receive services from fertility clinics like CFA.

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Initially, we wondered why a queer couple would be recommended to receive counseling while it is highly unlikely a straight couple receives the same recommendation. For a while, we were skeptical. Eventually, we relented and didn’t shut it down. We learned that this service is recommended as a way of assisting couples in navigating novel complexities of a third party. It is true that we had next to no knowledge about such an experience. After all, we are involving another person in the procreation of a child while they aren’t considered a parent of that child. That doesn’t happen every day around us. While we decided go ahead with this couple’s counseling session because we had nothing to lose except for some hundreds of dollars, know that this is not required if you feel this is not meant for you. That’s perfectly okay too.

On a late Tuesday morning, we drove to the counselor’s office. Originally, we were going to have the counseling appointment via video chat. However, due to the need for accessibility so to fulfill our needs and maximize this experience, we requested for an in-person meeting with an American Sign Language interpreter. In result of self-advocacy, our request was graciously granted. If you have particular needs or accommodations during your appointment, don’t hesitate to ask. The counselor is providing YOU with a service. They are under moral obligation to ensure your experience is accessible just like any other individual entering their office. Prior our appointment, our counselor shared several articles for us to read and discuss together if we wished. And you bet we did! We enjoy that kind of thing. In fact, we make it sort of a date with late night glasses of wine and dessert as we pressed the articles and bounced off each others thoughts. C3 took note of any questions that arose for us that we’d want to discuss at our session.

Keep in mind, every counselor is likely to have a different take on such sessions, so our experience may not be similar to yours. After introductions and sharing one another’s backgrounds, we jumped right in by sharing where were at in this process of TTC. At the time of the session, we narrowed down to three sperm banks and discussed what we wished to consider when selecting a sperm donor. That’s a story for another day. After we discussed about selecting a donor, our counselor took the stance of being the “mouthpiece” of a child who is a recipient of artificial insemination as we discussed the intricacies of having a child conceived by way of a donor. This stance allowed Maya and I to think about the child’s potential experience in being a part of our family. We brainstormed how we can respond to our future child’s significant developmental stages of processing their birthing and familial reality.

Without going into too much detail, Maya and I had three main takeaways from our couple’s counseling. We recognize and believe it is important to allow our child autonomy when it comes to making certain choices. For instance, if our child wishes to know about or even meet the donor when they come of age, they ought to have that privilege. It is a part of who they are and we are not going to deny that truth. Additionally, our child has the right to know about their origin and birth story. We would be selfish to deprive them of the truth, a truth about how they exist. In time, we’ll navigate their story with them when it becomes appropriate. Finally, we believe it is essential for us to acknowledge the potential difficulty that arises when our child processes their reality as a recipient of artificial insemination. We are here to tell them as much as they want to know when they are ready. It’s not just our story. It is theirs too.

We wrapped up our counseling session, acknowledging that there is a world out there to deal with when it comes to our family story being public. For queer parenting couples, their families, friends, and society often do not respond positively. Even if a queer couple is solid and provides a loving home to their child(ren), they may face continuous obstacles of unsolicited opinions, behaviors, or even actions from others. This is pretty much inevitable. We found that talking and preparing for such possibilities with a counselor may equip a couple with the tools to face those challenges head-on. We believe in our rights and our love for the family we are raising. We hope you do too.

Have at it.

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