A new year may motivate many of us to ponder new endeavors. For some, this may mean taking the first steps toward parenthood — so I wanted to revisit some of the tips I found most useful as my spouse and I began our own journey. This is not a guide on how to create a family (there are too many options to explore in a column of this length), but rather some suggestions on what you may want to do first in order to start weighing those options.
Talk with each other. For anyone planning to parent with a spouse or partner(s), this is essential. My spouse and I talked over many months about whether we really wanted to start a family, how we wanted to do so, and the type of relationship we wanted with the sperm donor and potential donor siblings. (Substitute surrogates, egg donors, or birth parents if appropriate for the family option[s] you are considering.)
We also discussed how we wanted to raise our child. Would one of us stay home with him/her and for how long? What values did we want to convey and what experiences did we want him/her to have? How did we feel about toy guns, Barbies, screen time, allowances, and other topics? We didn’t always agree, but we tried to accept our differences. The point was not to plan out everything in advance (an impossible task) — but rather to confirm that we would be compatible as parents. We also shared stories of our own childhoods, favorite children’s books and family vacations, which I found invaluable for helping me reflect on how I wanted to raise my own child.
If you are considering using a known donor or surrogate, you may want to start having initial conversations with that person as well — but if you don’t have someone in mind yet, don’t sweat it. Having the above conversations may lead you to better determine whom you want to ask.
Talk with confidantes. Both single and married/partnered prospective parents should reach out to trusted friends, neighbors or relatives, who can share their experiences as parents and offer constructive insight. These people may also form the core of a support network (for babysitting or simply emotional support) once you become a parent.
Reach out to other LGBTQ parents. It can be both informative and calming to socialize with other queer families. If you don’t know any, contact our local LGBTQ parents’ group through Philadelphia Family Pride (philadelphiafamilypride.org). Some groups even have events specifically for prospective parents. Also useful are the various online forums (such as Facebook groups) for LGBTQ parents and prospective parents.
Read. There are a growing number of books that delve into further details of LGBTQ family making (see the book lists I’ve compiled at mombian.com), although most focus primarily on same-sex, cisgender couples (an imbalance that I hope changes soon). You may also find that some general-audience books on specific topics, such as single parenting, adoption, infertility and multi-racial families are relevant to your needs.
See a doctor. If you or a spouse/partner are considering a biological connection to your children, this should be an obvious move, if only to assess physical readiness. Your general practitioner may also be able to answer basic questions about fertility procedures or refer you to a specialist. Even if you will be a non-bio parent, however, it is useful to identify any potential health issues of your own before you start the marathon of parenting. Ask friends or members of LGBTQ parenting groups for names of local LGBTQ-friendly doctors, if you need one, or check HRC’s Healthcare Equality Index (hrc.org/hei).
Consult an attorney. A lawyer can answer legal questions you may have about donors, adoptions and surrogacy under your state’s laws. For couples where one of you will bear the child, you may also want to get medical powers of attorney for each other before you start down the road to pregnancy. This will allow you to make medical decisions for each other in case one of you is incapacitated. Wills and advanced medical directives are likewise a good idea for any couple.
A lawyer trained in LGBTQ issues can also help you navigate the laws in your state to ensure all intended parents of your child have the fullest rights possible. Simply being married is not necessarily enough. Do an online search for “LGBTQ attorney [your state]” to get started, or tap into queer networks as above for recommendations. GLAD (glad.org) also runs a free information line that can recommend lawyers and they along with Lambda Legal and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, each have hotlines in case you run into discrimination as you create your family.
Review your finances. Parenting brings a host of financial issues. Know the funds you have available and what medical and legal costs your employer(s) will cover, if any. Reassess your monthly budget if 1one of you will stop outside employment. If you plan to use daycare, determine how much it will add to your expenses — and see if your employer offers a pre-tax daycare spending account.
These tips may raise as many questions as answers, but I think every stage of parenting is like that. Keep notes, make lists and enjoy the exploration. Remember, too, that despite all the advice and opinions, you must ultimately choose the answers that feel right for you. Best wishes to all who are beginning the adventure this year.
Dana Rudolph is the founder and publisher of Mombian (mombian.com), a GLAAD Media Award-winning blog and resource directory for LGBTQ parents.