Our Journey to Parenthood: Brenda and Jen

Brenda and I had been together for ten years when we decided the time was right to have a child. This was the winter of 2009, just before the Varnum v. Brien ruling, so there were no expectations that the legal issues around parenting as a same-sex couple would be easy to navigate. And unfortunately, even being legally married did not completely mitigate the legal issues we would face.

We married in May 2009, and we continued our efforts to get pregnant, with confidence and hope that our new married status would help with legal issues surrounding parenthood.

After undergoing fertility treatment, Brenda got pregnant in October 2009 and we were thrilled! Throughout the pregnancy, we experienced many of the joys and concerns of any new parents-to-be. Brenda struggled to find the least frilly, hey-look-at-me-I’m-pregnant clothes, and Jennifer had to figure out how to put a crib together. People threw us baby showers, and family and friends were excited for us.

But beyond all the basic fears and expectations, we had looming problems that opposite-sex couples (even those unmarried, even those who use donor sperm or eggs) never have to think about: Would my name go on the birth certificate as a legal parent? If not, what legal rights would I have at the baby’s birth? Would I have legal authority of the child if something happened to Brenda during/after child birth? If I had no legal rights to the child, could the child still be covered under my insurance as a dependent? All of these questions needed answers. We retained a lawyer in Des Moines, at no small expense, to get answers about the birth certificate from the Attorney General – the answer was NO.

After our son was born, we were immediately faced with our harsh predicament when it came time to fill out the birth certificate application. Not only would Jennifer’s name be excluded, but Brenda would have to mark herself as Single, and not married. The euphoria of having our child in our arms was dulled by this gut-wrenching experience. We jumped through the hurtful and deceitful legal hoops because we did not want to delay the filing of the birth certificate, which would delay the inevitable adoption process. We cried and raged at the system many times throughout the pregnancy, and after, until I was able to legally adopt Lloyd Bennett as my own child. The silver lining to our legal predicament was that I was able to adopt as a step-parent, which is much less onerous than a second parent adoption. But even this hurt. We are both Lloyd’s parents, shouldn’t we be treated like any other married couple?

Four months after our son’s birth, we could both stop holding our breath and breathe a sigh of relief when we were both finally listed on his birth certificate. Lloyd turned two in June, and he brings us much joy and fulfillment. While we would do it all over again, we would like to hope that the legal system could figure out how to be more equitable and more fair to same-sex couples.

We do not know what challenges we may face in the future, but we will meet them head on, as a family.


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