Becoming a lesbian mum in the 1980s
Val talks about wanting a child and her journey to becoming a lesbian mum in the 1980s.
TRANSCRIPTI always wanted to have a child and in years gone by I … when I was – well when I thought I was heterosexual – I had this fairytale idea that, you know, you meet a guy and you have a child and you‘ve got a family and that‘s the way it was done. Well it didn’t quite work out like that, as it doesn’t do for anyone, and I suppose it was more my early thirties I came out to myself and to a few others as a lesbian. It was - I wasn’t in a relationship - it was at the time when there was a lot happening in the Women’s Movement and I was very involved in the Women’s Movement in different capacities , whether it be women’s groups, women’s health groups, National Abortion Campaign, Women Against Violence, etc. etc.
I also read quite a lot to do with feminism like Spare Rib, Wires, that were out at the time. And, getting to early thirties it’s a time when you’re told that your biological clock with regard to having a kid is, not coming to an end, but slowing down and so I started to think about how I might have a child, not really knowing what, how, who. It was then that I read about an insemination group that was in London, a women’s group that had started to do self-insemination and so, as a start, I wrote - because emails were not on the agenda then - and got no reply. So I then thought ‘what next?’
I then contacted BPAS (British Pregnancy Advisory Service) because the only other way I knew was to do it through them because they did then offer for a fee – I can’t remember how much it was but, you know, it was a few hundred pounds – and you could be inseminated there. I had considered at one point, perhaps, you know, asking a friend - a male friend - and we’d just sleep together for the night, but to cut a long story short, that really wasn’t what I wanted to do. So I went down the BPAS route to start with and had a chat. In the meanwhile I didn’t really want to do it that way, because (a) it was quite costly and (b) it was quite clinical, and, as I say, I just didn’t want to. But I then met someone who was willing to do it privately, now when I mean privately I don’t mean for a fee. It was a woman who wasn’t a lesbian but she was very involved in the women’s movement and it so happened that there was somebody that she knew - well this all came at a later date - but she did want to help and eventually there was somebody that she knew who was willing to be a donor.
And so at that time she knew someone who was willing to donate the sperm and we made a private arrangement and it so happens that she was also doing this for another woman who I then later met and we are in fact still friends, 30-odd years later. And the process, well, seems quite hilarious now, it was, at the time, it was - well, it was novel, in that I used to meet this woman at a central location, sometimes in a lift, and there’d be just the two of us and she would pass on to me a phial with sperm in and I then had arranged with a friend of mine to go up to her house and I would then lie on the bed, insert it with a syringe - that again had been gotten from somewhere - and lie there for 20 to 30 minutes with my legs up in the air, and it was thought that that was the best way to conceive.
Fortunately for me I conceived the third time that I tried, whereas for the friend who had in fact started before me, it took her several years. I mean she did eventually, but it’s different for every woman and it’s not until you start actually trying that you find out. At the time I didn’t know - well I knew of this other woman who was trying and I knew of one other woman who in fact was pregnant. So to my knowledge she was the first woman that I knew in Leeds who had got pregnant via A.I. [artificial insemination] and there may well have been others but I didn’t know of them, so in some ways it was quite isolating; it was quite difficult. I had to find out all the information myself, which I did bit by bit and because I was – and still am – quite an independent soul, I just went ahead with it because it was something that was really important to me. I wanted a child and I didn’t see any reason why not.