We had to use an ‘underground network’ to conceive our baby

As a lesbian couple wanting to have kids in the early '90s, we knew we'd need a little help. It was unusual at that time for gay and lesbian people to start families and many doctors refused to help us.

We had to use an ‘underground network’ to conceive our baby

I always wanted to be a mom; I was one of those little girls who already had names for their future babies and thought about their stories. I never doubted I would accomplish this dream, but there were many more challenges than I expected. I had to get a lot of help to have my two girls, but becoming a mom is the absolute best thing I have ever done.

When I first met my wife Natalie, we were both 19 years old and in college. I heard her talking in her Australian accent across the room and when I turned around, I'm pretty sure it was love at first sight.

After 10 years together, we decided it was time to start our family. As a lesbian couple wanting to have kids in the early '90s, we knew we'd need a little help. It was unusual at that time for gay and lesbian people to start families and many doctors refused to help us. My own OB/Gyn suggested I "have sex with a man in a one night stand" in order to get pregnant.


When we finally found a doctor who would help us, we thought our biggest hurdle was behind us. But after 18 months of in-office inseminations, I still wasn't pregnant. We were frustrated, but we never gave up.

Natalie and I turned to an "underground network" of other lesbian couples who were also trying to figure out how to become parents to be able to achieve our dream. We would hear about lesbian couples who were getting pregnant at home and we would literally knock on their door to ask them how they did it (this was before Facebook, Google or social media!).

We got and received tips from each other and became a tight and supportive network of women all with motherhood on our minds. We became pioneers by necessity. We found a fresh sperm donor and tried at-home insemination. Two weeks later, it finally happened!

I do not recommend this method as it has legal and medical risks but it speaks to the desperation that we felt at the time for something we wanted so badly that was not happening.

The moment our first daughter was born, the moment I became a mom, is the single best moment of my life—and even when we'd faced roadblocks along the way, I never doubted I would have that moment.

A few years later, we did another at home insemination using the same fresh sperm donor (again—not recommended!). Natalie carried our second baby. Now, we were moms to two amazing little girls.

I've always wanted a big family, so when Natalie and I started trying for baby number three, we were excited about the possibility of a house filled with children. But on my 39th birthday, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was actually the mammogram ordered by my IVF doctor, for reasons unknown to him to this day, that saved my life.

Although my tumor was small, my doctor told me that an IVF pregnancy could be very dangerous and even deadly. At that point, I had a choice: sorrow, despair and anger, or determination, intention and gratitude. I chose the latter three.

I realized I couldn't make all of what I was going through disappear, but I could face this the way I'd faced things in the past. I could fight it or I could choose how I lived with it.

While I had found a way to build my own family, I wanted to share what I had learned with others who were facing the same challenges I once did. It makes sense to me now that I would devote my life to helping others achieve the dream of becoming a parent, but it was my own experiences with assisted reproduction that lead me in this direction.

I met a new father who had faced similar challenges in creating his family but had finally cobbled together a team of doctors, a surrogate and an egg donor to have a baby. He started helping other people do the same thing, and I told him to call me if I could ever help in any way. Two weeks later, he did call—and today, I've been helping people have babies for over 20 years.

That was the start of Growing Generations, a full-service egg donation and surrogacy agency. We have helped thousands of people--single moms and dads, gay and lesbian couples, people struggling with infertility, and people like myself—post cancer or illness--to become parents, and give them that same moment of joy that I felt when my daughter was first placed onto my chest after she was born.

Today, my girls are grown and living on their own, but my favorite job is still "mom," and I am so grateful for the challenges I faced in this process because it allowed me the opportunity to help others achieve their dreams of having a family.

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My first baby and I were alone in our Brooklyn apartment during a particularly cold spring with yet another day of no plans. My husband was back at work after a mere three weeks of parental leave (what a joke!) and all my friends were busy with their childless lives—which kept them too busy to stop by or check in (making me, at times, feel jealous).

It was another day in which I would wait for baby to fall asleep for nap number one so I could shower and get ready to attempt to get out of the house together to do something, anything really, so I wouldn't feel the walls of the apartment close in on me by the time the second nap rolled around. I would pack all the diapers and toys and pacifiers and pump and bottles into a ginormous stroller that was already too heavy to push without a baby in it .

Then I would spend so much time figuring out where we could go with said stroller, because I wanted to avoid places with steps or narrow doors (I couldn't lift the stroller by myself and I was too embarrassed to ask strangers for help—also hi, New Yorkers, please help new moms when you see them huffing and puffing up the subway stairs, okay?). Then I would obsess about the weather, was it too cold to bring the baby out? And by the time I thought I had our adventure planned, the baby would wake up, I would still be in my PJs and it was time to pump yet again.

Slowly, but surely, and mostly thanks to sleep deprivation and isolation, I began to detest this whole new mom life. I've always been a social butterfly. I moved to New York because I craved that non-stop energy the city has and in the years before having my baby I amassed new friends I made through my daily adventures. I would never stop. I would walk everywhere just to take in the scenery and was always on the move.

Now I had this ball and chain attached to me, I thought, that didn't even allow me to make it out of the door to walk the dog. This sucks, I would think regularly, followed by maybe I'm not meant to be a mom after all.

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I never wanted to be a mom. It wasn't something I ever thought would happen until I fell madly in love with my husband—who knew very well he wanted children. While he was a natural at entertaining our nephews or our friends' kids, I would awkwardly try to interact with them, not really knowing what to say or do.

Our first pregnancy was a surprise, a much-wanted one but also a unicorn, "first try" kind of pregnancy. As my belly grew bigger, so did my insecurities. How do you even mom when you never saw motherhood in your future? I focused all my uncertainties on coming up with a plan for the delivery of my baby—which proved to be a terrible idea when my dreamed-of unmedicated vaginal birth turned into an emergency C-section. I couldn't even start motherhood the way I wanted, I thought. And that feeling happened again when I couldn't breastfeed and instead had to pump and bottle-feed. And once more, when all the stress from things not going my way turned into debilitating postpartum anxiety that left me not really enjoying my brand new baby.

As my baby grew, slowly so did my confidence that I could do this. When he would tumble to the ground while learning how to walk and only my hugs could calm him, I felt invincible. But on the nights he wouldn't sleep—whether because he was going through a regression, a leap, a teeth eruption or just a full moon—I would break down in tears to my husband telling him that he was a better parent than me.

Then I found out I was pregnant again, and that this time it was twins. I panicked. I really cannot do two babies at the same time. I kept repeating that to myself (and to my poor husband) at every single appointment we had because I was just terrified. He, of course, thought I could absolutely do it, and he got me through a very hard pregnancy.

When the twins were born at full term and just as big as singleton babies, I still felt inadequate, despite the monumental effort I had made to grow these healthy babies and go through a repeat C-section to make sure they were both okay. I still felt my skin crawl when they cried and thought, What if I can't calm them down? I still turned to my husband for diaper changes because I wasn't a good enough mom for twins.

My husband reminded me (and still does) that I am exactly what my babies need. That I am enough. A phrase that has now become my mantra, both in motherhood and beyond, because as my husband likes to say, I'm the queen of selling myself short on everything.

So when my babies start crying, I tell myself that I am enough to calm them down.

When my toddler has a tantrum, I remind myself that I am enough to get through to him.

When I go out with the three kids by myself and start sweating about everything that could go wrong (poop explosions times three), I remind myself that I am enough to handle it all, even with a little humor.

And then one day I found this bracelet. Initially, I thought how cheesy it'd be to wear a reminder like this on my wrist, but I bought it anyway because something about it was calling my name. I'm so glad I did because since day one I haven't stopped wearing it.

Every time I look down, there it is, shining back at me. I am enough.

I Am Enough bracelet 

SONTAKEY  I Am Enough Bracelet

May this Oath Bracelet be your reminder that you are perfect just the way you are. That you are enough for your children, you are enough for your friends & family, you are enough for everything that you do. You are enough, mama <3


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Errands and showers are not self-care for moms

Thinking they are is what's burning moms out.

A friend and I bump into each other at Target nearly every time we go. We don't pre-plan this; we must just be on the same paper towel use cycle or something. Really, I think there was a stretch where I saw her at Target five times in a row.

We've turned it into a bit of a running joke. "Yeah," I say sarcastically, "We needed paper towels so you know, I had to come to Target… for two hours of alone time."

She'll laugh and reply, "Oh yes, we were out of… um… paper clips. So here I am, shopping without the kids. Heaven!"

Now don't get me wrong. I adore my trips to Target (and based on the fullness of my cart when I leave, I am pretty sure Target adores my trips there, too).

But my little running joke with my friend is actually a big problem. Because why is the absence of paper towels the thing that prompts me to get a break? And why on earth is buying paper towels considered a break for moms?

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