Perceptions of lesbian motherhood

Sally talks about her children calling her the 'spare mummy' because she hadn't given birth to them, and how it feels to be an older lesbian parent.

Duration 02:23


Image from Max Pixel.


Yes so with my first partner with those children I was kind of used to being the – they used to call me the ‘spare mummy’ – so used to being around but not the mother of the children but that was much more acute when you’re there with a brand new baby so I’m out on my own with a fairly new baby and people are asking me about the birth and things, like people do, you know, so you’re instantly out. You’re out. I mean when we went to hospital in Dublin to sign up the computer crashed. It couldn’t cope with what we were telling them and the woman who did the ultrasound, you know the first scan, the dating scan, she was a student and there was somebody else there and she kept going on and on about contraception and the woman was trying to shush her and say, ‘you really don’t need to talk about that’, and she’d got this list and she had to go through these questions. So that was a learning curve for the hospital in that respect but they were brilliant, really, really, really respectful and they talked to me as if I was a parent. Although I was there one night and this old-school matron-type person came in and said: ‘What are you doing? What are you doing?’ with this baby in the nursery and all the other nurses said, ‘it’s alright; she’s allowed to stay’, you know; ‘she’s the mother’s partner, blah blah blah’, so that was good.

So yeah, explaining to people… So I’ve always been out – maybe not to the person on the bus anymore; because I can’t always be bothered. And I have been, on bad days, been thought to be [name] grandma so they were particularly bad days, but it’s only by one woman, this one woman. I have met her in various different contexts and each time she thought I was his grandma but I think she had her kids very young so… I mean that’s been one of the biggest issues for me is being 40 when one was born and 44 when the next one was born and just feeling like an older mother and a lot of the time that’s a bigger issue for me than being a lesbian mother; really struggling with that because if I’d got pregnant when I started I would have had a 19 year old now. So kind of watching my friends who did get pregnant and their children growing up and me still not got off the starting blocks, you know, I just do feel a bit silly sometimes, a bit strange – as an older parent not a lesbian parent.