One of the benefits to having a child as an LGBTQ couple or individual is that we have to purposely reflect on our decision to become (or not become) parents — and generally run no risk of an “Oops, we’re pregnant” situation. Family planning for us is exactly that: planned.
Being a parent is an amazingly important and challenging role that many heterosexual people get into haphazardly due to accidental pregnancies as well as the relative ease of conceiving when the decision is made to do so. With LGBTQ couples (or singles), there are a series of steps that must be gone through in order to become a parent. We basically have three options: adopt, use a surrogate or, if you or your partner is a cisgender woman, become pregnant through insemination or in vitro. None of these possibilities happens by accident. All of them require money, other parties like doctors and agencies and, of course, a decisive choice to proceed. Because of this distinctive difference in our family-planning processes versus an average straight couple’s process, we have ample time to consider and reflect on what it means to be a parent and whether or not we are truly ready for parenthood.
Here are some guiding thoughts and questions to help you in your personal journey towards determining if you’re ready to become a parent:
First off, why do you want to become a mom or dad? Get really real with yourself here. Don’t just land on “because I’ve always wanted to have kids” or “because I’m at the right age to have kids” and definitely don’t do it because it would make your parents happy! And if you’re thinking of having a child with your partner to fix your ailing relationship, definitely don’t do that! Be certain that you are truly clear on why you want to have a child and be certain that your reasoning isn’t rooted in societal pressures, family expectations or other general psychological dysfunction.
The next set of questions to reflect on involves your relationship with yourself. Do you love yourself? Do you treat yourself with care? Are you open to experience ongoing growth and change? If you aren’t in a place in your life where you’re taking really great care of yourself, both mentally and physically, taking care of a baby will prove challenging. In being a new parent, your needs will come second to your baby’s and the best way to prepare for that is by starting out in a place of extreme health. If you aren’t in a place of self-love and self-care, you’re likely going to start your parenting experience with a deficit in these ways. Furthermore, if you aren’t already interested in self-growth and adaptable to change, your world will be rocked when your baby arrives, so consider this carefully.
The same realities apply to your relationship (unless you’re planning to have a child solo, of course). If your marriage or partnership isn’t strong and healthy, having a child will only add strain and further weaken the already-fragile elements of the relationship. It is relevant to consider that, once you have a child, you will be sharing your partner with that child, both as it relates to time and energy, emotional and otherwise. And what about division of chores? If you and your partner struggle to feel that there’s fairness and equity regarding housework and other obligations, putting a baby into that mix will certainly perpetuate this conflict. If you and your partner are truly considering having a child, regardless of how strong your relationship is, it is a very good idea to seek counseling to fully discuss and process the implications of this massive life change.
The truth is, LGBTQ couples and individuals generally enter into parenthood with greater levels of preparedness, both psychologically and emotionally, because of the great effort we must go to in order to bring a baby into our lives. That said, if you’re contemplating becoming a parent, you’ve probably asked yourself lots of good questions already; however, when it comes to this incredible job, there truly is no such thing as being too prepared. So consider everything, discuss it, envision it and consider it again.
Lastly, if it feels right, don’t be afraid to leap! It may just be the best decision of your life.
Kristina Furia is a psychotherapist committed to working with LGBT individuals and couples and the owner of Emerge Wellness, an LGBT health and wellness center in Center City (www.emergewellnessphilly.com).