How Do Lesbian Couples Decide Who Will Carry the Baby?

Originally posted on Brides

“So, which of you would carry?” It was a relationship question I hadn’t encountered before, but one that I started to hear a lot. And, for the last three years, it’s one my female partner and I keep hearing.

A lot of couples have some bumps in the road when trying to get pregnant. It’s a totally normal part of the process—in fact, many people are surprised at how long it takes. But one thing that a lot of couples don’t have to deal with is deciding who is going to get pregnant in the first place. When I met my girlfriend and got into a serious lesbian relationship—and met a lot more lesbians along the way—it opened me up to a whole new relationship dimension. Suddenly, there was a lot of discussion about “carrying”.

Carrying—which essentially just means which of you becomes pregnant if you choose to have children biologically rather than adopt—is a big talking point. “Talking about who would carry” is a relationship milestone, like talking about moving in together or if you are going to get married. To be honest, deciding who will carry is just the first of many hurdles to lesbian motherhood—you still have to go through deciding on a sperm donor, insemination or in vitro fertilization, and often some very intense fertility treatments. But first, you have to decide who’s going to carry.

Sometimes, It Seems Clear

Depending on the couple, looking at who will carry can be a really easy or a really difficult conversation. For my girlfriend and I, the choice would be clear—or at least, it would seem clear. I have PCOS, which makes my fertility questionable, and I also have never had any desire to be pregnant. In fact, I can think of nothing worse than being pregnant. There are the added snacks, of course, but other than that, pregnancy sounds like torture—and I can have snacks and just not be pregnant, so I’ll think I’ll go with that. My girlfriend, on the other hand, has always wanted to have a baby and likes the idea of being pregnant. So it’s a simple choice. Or at least, we think it’s a simple choice. We’re assuming that she’ll have no problem getting pregnant, but if (or when) we get there, we may need to reconsider.

And often, fertility issues are the decisive factor. “For us, it was just a number thing,” Rebecca*, 41 tells Brides. “I was six years older than my partner and wasn’t really fussed about which of us carried. It was more about starting a family together. But we weren’t ready for a kid when I was in those ‘prime baby-making years,’ so we talked about it and thought it made sense to wait, knowing that meant my partner would almost definitely be the one to carry.” For them, like many, age or fertility issues make it an obvious choice.

But It Can Be More Complicated

For some couples, it’s just not that clear. If two women have both always wanted to be pregnant, they’ll have to decide how to do that. Even if they both decide to carry, they’ll have to decide who goes first—although I have heard of one couple where both women decided to get pregnant at the same time. There are a lot of different factors to take into account—career, family history, hobbies, health, finances—and some factors will matter more to some couples than others. While some couples choose to get rigorous fertility testing done to decide who is a better candidate, others just to decide to try and see. The truth is, when it comes to lesbians having babies, there’s a whole smorgasbord of ways it can happen—so every couple is going to have a slightly different take on it.

It’s Never That Straightforward

But even when the choice itself seems straightforward, it’s not without complications. “I didn’t think it would make a difference and I never thought I’d be jealous of someone being pregnant, but it at moments it was really hard,” Rebecca explained. “Even though I didn’t want to literally carry a person inside of me, I started to worry that I would miss out on this crazy bonding experience. But once our little girl was born, it wasn’t like that all.” I have to say, I was relieved to talk to Rebecca about it. Even though I don’t want to be pregnant, it has occurred to me that if we did have kids, it might feel weird if my partner had a biological connection to them that I didn’t. I felt like a hypocrite, because I’ve always been very much in favor of adoption (an option still on the table for us), but the idea of one of us having that biological connection and not the other did feel a little strange. We’ve even talked about using my egg and having her carry it, if that was an option.

I’m sure it wouldn’t matter once it happened, but hearing Rebecca talk about it made me realize I’m not alone in those fears—and that having those concerns wouldn’t make me a bad mom. It was a good reminder that it’s OK to have doubts, to have tricky conversations, and to voice your concerns, even if you’re a little ashamed that they cropped up in the first place.

Choosing who will carry in a lesbian relationship can be a straightforward or a more complicated question—and that’s before you even get into issues around sperm and insemination. But all the couples I’ve met have been more focused on the baby being healthy and happy—and as soon as the baby’s here, the carrying question is quickly forgotten. There’s more than one way to make a family (and more than one way to make a baby with lesbian parents), so every couple just needs to focus on finding a way that works for them.