My first official 'talk' to share my story - and the Routes to Parenthood Show
Last weekend I got to meet myself 12 years ago - several times! The We Are Family team trekked to Manchester for the Routes to Parenthood show – the second in a new series of regional shows. We had a stand and I was doing my first talk about my parenting journey.
It was a lovely event – lots of people came, there were quite a few stands from clinics, adoption agencies and specialists in the field, generating a good buzz. We met several lesbian couples looking to start their families – at varying stages of their journeys, all hopeful, determined and some dragged down by failures they’d experienced so far. I was acutely aware that I am now the person I admired, envied and wanted to pump for all useful knowledge, whilst clinging onto them in the hope that some of their family planning success would rub off on me. I felt bad for them because I can still remember that mixture of emotions on top of an aching heart like it was yesterday. However I felt I could give them the benefit of my story, for what it was worth.
Our journey to parenthood took around 8 years and we had many failures, false starts and jaunts down random garden paths and dark alleys before we reached our goal. I spoke to random sperm donors who were really just interested in talking about themselves, we had a social worker over who talked about second rate kids for second rate families, we spent a year courting a gay couple for adoption, we had clandestine meetings with sperm donors in long coats who produced a vial of sperm that we couldn’t bring ourselves to use and we had some mishaps on the fertility clinic medical bed.
So for the first time I relayed these ups and the downs to an audience. It went down well. Several couples came and chatted to me afterwards and thanked me for sharing.
What amazed me was despite my journey being 6-14 years old now, many couples voiced that they’re experiencing the same issues – they have struggled to find the right information in the right place. This was one of the initial reasons I set up We Are Family magazine, and why Olivia and Andrew Sanderson set up Routes to Parenthood – none of us could get the advice or support we needed when we needed it. Information was either biased because it was coming from someone with a specific agenda – whether that’s an adoption agency wanting to encourage you to adopt or a fertility clinic wanting you to have treatment or a solicitor wanting you to get legal advice – or the people we asked didn’t know the answer. So it felt I was really able to give them something of value and my only agenda was for them to buy my magazine – a resource they would want!
Another bit of feedback that reminded me of myself – one woman said, “Your story helped me realise that we do have options.” Just because we don’t have all the biology in place does not mean we don’t have options – we just have to be a bit more creative and a little open to alternatives to how we thought we might become parents. The same goes for heterosexual people who are not able to conceive.
So I met myself 12 years ago and I gave her the support that she wished she had found. It felt cathartic and I felt blessed to have that opportunity. Thanks to Olivia and Andrew Sanderson who started Routes to Parenthood and for inviting me to speak. We had a great dinner with them, their two great kids and their family and team. Their journey to parenthood is also amazing and we’ll be hearing all about that in issue 9 of We Are Family magazine.
There are two more RtP events to come this year and I will be telling my story at both – hopefully with some improvements! So come along to Coventry or Falkirk in Scotland and show your support and let me know what you think!