The world is altering for same-sex mother and father – and this week I made historical past | Dad and mom and parenting
M.Your unborn child does not yet have a name, but it has already had its first trial. On Monday, my partner E and I made (minor) history when we became the first couple in New York to receive a prenatal directive under a new set of laws to protect same-sex families. Due to the pandemic, we had our trial virtually, which means I officially became a mom on Microsoft Teams. Just like I always dreamed of it! You know how babies born on airplanes sometimes get free airline tickets for life? Well I think I deserve at least a lifetime subscription to Microsoft Office.
You may be wondering what exactly is pre-birth ancestry order. The situation is as follows: E will give birth to a baby that we wanted in a few weeks. After long discussions in terms of “your body or mine?” We decided that it would be the one to wear it. We chose a sperm donor together. We paid for the (very expensive) sperm and several rounds of artificial insemination together. We went to doctor’s appointments together. We worked out names together – and so far haven’t decided on one. The baby may not be genetically mine, but in our hearts and minds we are equal parents of you who have not yet been named. However, it is more complicated in the eyes of the law. We can both be listed as parents on the birth certificate, but as a non-mutilated mother my rights are not 100% clear.
Until recently, lesbian parents in New York had to go through a second parent adoption to ensure more legal recognition for the unborn mother. It’s an arduous process: it can take a year and cost thousands of legal fees. It’s also incredibly invasive: you have to list everywhere you’ve lived in the past 28 years, provide fingerprints for a background check, make a home call from a social worker, and so much more. You can also only start the adoption process after the baby is born. This means you can be stuck in legal limbo if a medical emergency arises during childbirth. Fortunately, however, a new law went into effect in February that streamlines this process. All you have to do now is have several documents notarized and appear before a judge. You can do all of this before the baby is born – although it took about 57 phone calls to different people in the court system before we found out that this is the case.
New York isn’t the only place that recently brought family law into the 21st century. Last month, two women from Cork became the first same-sex couple in Ireland to be legally recognized as parents on their children’s birth certificates. Unfortunately, it is not that easy for everyone. The EU Court of Justice is deliberating on the case of a child born to Bulgarian and British lesbian mothers in Spain: the baby is stateless as same-sex relationships are not legally recognized in Bulgaria and the child cannot obtain British citizenship from the other mother receive. A Namibian court is also refusing to issue emergency travel documents to a gay man so he can bring home his daughters, who were born to a surrogate mother in South Africa.
The hearing at which I was allowed the parentage of my unborn child lasted less than 10 minutes but was very long. When I first came out almost 20 years ago, the Netherlands was the only place in the world where same-sex marriages were legal. Now I can marry the person I love in our respective home countries, the UK and the US – and have our child legally recognized as belonging to both of us. I don’t take that for granted. Love may make a family, but legal recognition makes it a hell of a lot easier to have a family.