I am a 42 year old lesbian woman who has always wanted to experience pregnancy and become a mother, but I am in early menopause. My 34 year old partner has never wanted to be pregnant but is willing to go through donor inseminations and pregnancy so that we can have a family. I’m glad we have another option but I feel such loss at the same time. Is this normal?

Written by our mental health expert, Dr. Karen Kranz.

Yes this is completely normal. It is wonderful that you have connected with a partner who is willing to conceive and parent children with you. However, there are losses associated with not being able to conceive a biological child, gestate a baby, and give birth. Early menopause can result in women feeling that their body is failing them, that there is something wrong with them, and that they do not have control of their lives. They can feel overwhelming sadness, grief, sorrow, and anger. For some women not being able to conceive and gestate a baby challenges their self-image of being female, can erode their self-confidence, and can create strain in their relationships. Many women experience pain associated with the loss of genetic continuity, that is, they anticipate they will feel a disconnection between their parents/grandparents and their children.

Before pursuing fertility treatments as a couple, it is important to give yourself time to understand and mourn these losses. Feeling sad about the lost opportunity to have a biological child doesn’t mean that you aren’t committed to building your family in a different manner. Meeting with others who are experiencing fertility challenges, and/or a therapist with experience in infertility can help you manage the losses, feel less alone in your grief, normalize your pain, and come to a place of acceptance. When considering an appointment with a therapist, you may find it helpful to include your partner in these discussions, or you may decide to have a session or two on your own. It is also important for you to consider what biological connection means to you and how you feel about parenting a child who is not biologically related to you. Even though the pain will become smaller and more manageable over time, feelings of loss may resurface and this too is normal. Acknowledging and grieving these losses will help you embrace entering into parenthood, in this different way, with your partner.

Given that you are in a relationship with another woman, there are options you both can consider when building your family. Although you are in early menopause you may still be able to carry and give birth to a baby. Your partner’s eggs could be inseminated with the sperm of your chosen donor, and the embryo can be transferred into your uterus. This is called reciprocal IVF. It allows you to have a “gestational” connection to your child through pregnancy and childbirth, while your partner will have a “genetic” connection to your child. Although this will involve more medical intervention and more cost, it is an option that you, your partner and your fertility specialist can explore. You may decide to select a sperm donor who has your same ethnicity, colouring, or qualities in order to feel like these are represented in your child. Even if your partner carries and births your baby, you still have the potential to breast-feed the baby through induced lactation. Either way, remember that without both of you, this baby would not be created – you are moving forward with this choice together as a couple, and no matter whose genetics are represented in your child, you are still the mother.

Read more about reciprocal IVF here and here. 

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