Love is Love: The Story of Us. Nicole and Mary Kate.
How did we meet?
Nicole and I met in 2001 in college. I was on the softball team and she was a student athletic trainer. We became friends after 2001, I quickly learned she was a funny,trustworthy and reliable friend. She graduated before me and we lost touch. It was not until 2003 when a mutual friend played matchmaker for us.
When did you decide to have a family?
During our early years of dating, I spoke frequently about wanting to start a family but the timing was never right. It frustrated me back then but I had to respect Nicole’s timing. Finally, in 2009 we decided it was time to begin our family and I was going to carry our first child. Unfortunately, I was a teacher in a Catholic school and I would have been fired if they knew I was a lesbian. So I lied early on and said I was married to a man. When I took the job, I was desperate to find a teaching job and that position was all I could find. I was incredibly uncomfortable hiding but I knew this was not my forever job and I was eventually going to move on.
My health coverage did not cover anything for fertility treatments, so we completed Intracervical insemination (ICI) at home.
We attempted 5 cycles of ICI’s. I tracked my ovulation by taking my temperature and using ovulation kits. I had put so much pressure on myself to get the timing just perfect. I was beyond stressed during this time, which was hurting us as a couple. That was probably one of the hardest periods in our relationship. I was so angry that my body wasn’t cooperating and not getting pregnant.
Looking back, I feel as if I had a mental breakdown. For my mental state and our relationship, we decided to take a little break from ttc. We actually thought it would have been a few months but it ended up being a few years.
Life happened, I went back to school to change my career and we got married. We became certified foster parents with the hope of starting our family through foster to adopt. We found out the hard way that where we live is not in need of homes. That was another huge blow for us.
Finally, in 2015 we were able to start trying again for a child of our own. I was able to secure a job that offered fertility coverage. Ten months later, with a total of 7 rounds of IUI’s, and one round of IVF we finally had our daughter.
We are currently trying for our second child and again, the fertility road is long. My wife is attempting to get pregnant this time. She has undergone 6 rounds of IUI’s and one round of IVF. We are going through with a frozen embryo transfer in early June and we are so hopeful that we will have our second child from this cycle.
What kind of community do you have for support?
Our immediate support is my family. We live within 30 minutes from my entire family. My mother is our main support, as she watches our daughter 1-2 days per week for us. My in laws live over three hours from us but are a huge support. We will visit them for a weekend and we actually get time to relax. They absolutely love being grandparents and cherish every minute they get to spend with Olivia.
In the early weeks of parenthood, I couldn't find much support for breastfeeding. Almost everyone I knew did not breastfeed. I remember wanting to quit around week three, but a cousin of mine encouraged me to try for at least one more week. She gave me some advice and I am so happy I listened. Olivia will be two years old in June and we are still breastfeeding.
We have a few sets of friends that we turn to for parenting tips/advice- from more simpler things like what brand diapers to use to when do you think we call the doctor.
What do we want others to know?
For me, it has always been that being a lesbian is not a choice. I have been told that a lot in my life. The way I see it is that the only choice I had was to be true to myself or live in the closet. I hid who I was for year's from the world, even from myself. Hiding is nowhere anyone should ever be. It's such a lonely and depressing place to be.
I am extremely sensitive when it comes to making sure my wife feels accepted by the outside world as our daughter's mother. I don't ever want her to feel less than because she did not carry Olivia. When outsiders refer to our family, I have heard ”she is the other mother” I am always quick to correct and just say she is the mama. I have never heard anyone refer to me as the other mother. For the most part, we don’t take offense to most comments because we are realizing we are the first LGBTQ family a lot of people are encountering. A lot of it's just educating those that are open to learning about is.
The other thing I feel is important, is that we are the same as other families. We laugh, cry, argue, smile just like your family does. We struggled the first year of Olivia’s life as a couple. At one point, we both were not sure we were going to make it as a couple. But we are both committed to each other and to Olivia, we knew things needed to change. We don't try to be perfect, we just try and be as real as we can.
How to other moms react? Do you find the mom tribe to be welcoming?
The only mom tribe we have are our close friends. We do not see them as often as we would like but they are extremely welcoming as far as us being an LGBTQ family and a breastfeeding family.
As far as us being visible in our community, we are. We have taken our daughter to a few different classes. We will introduce ourselves as Olivia’s parents and we have not come across any issues. We live in a small town in the suburbs of NYC. We would like to get more involved in the LGBTQ community in our area. In June they typically offer a few family-friendly pride events that we take advantage of.
Does this effect your nursing relationships?
As far as nursing is concerned, our family and friends are still aware that we are nursing. I have defiantly heard comments from friends, outside of what we consider our tribe, and making fun of mothers who still nurse their children after 1. But that does not stop me from doing it. Before I became a parent, I was that judgmental person as well. I never understood why anyone would breastfeed past 1 either. And then I became a mom and understood. I don't care what the world thinks, my wife supports our decision to continue breastfeeding. Olivia still loves breastfeeding. At one point she was calling me milk mommy. We don't have a plan of when we are going to stop because we are taking the lead from Olivia.
I honestly became even more confident in the fact that we are still breastfeeding when I became apart of your team. To see so many other visible breastfeeding moms, including you. I truly thank you for giving me the opportunity.