I have no kids, and I certainly never thought I’d be writing a conception scene. But when you write fairy tales about fictional royalty, eventually the whole ‘heir’ issue is going to come up. Queen Shulamit is a lesbian and, although in the first half of the book she thinks she has no alternative to creating her heir the biological way, she eventually rejects the idea of ever having sex for a man even for that.
Luckily for her, she’s living in a magical universe where I could shoehorn in artificial insemination (AI.) I realized that this would be a great opportunity for me to write about this very real part of lesbian motherhood, and to represent the stories of some of my friends. (Naturally, not every two-mom couple conceives using AI, but certainly this method deserves a shout-out if one is writing about lesbian moms.)
I’m very lucky that two of my friends who have conceived this way were willing to speak with me about something so intimate. Without their help and guidance, I’d certainly have fallen on my face. I’m sure every mother’s experience with AI is different, but when I first wrote the conception scene I was aiming for romantic sensuality and seriousness, and they both said I was off base.
What they told me was to become more prosaic, and to add awkwardness and humor. One of them even recounted a story of how she and her wife tried it once in the car on the side of the highway, because they were in a hurry before the material lost its potency. This is real life here, which is what Shulamit and her partner Aviva have always represented for me, not some kind of idealized perfection. This is “oops!” and “hehhhh…” and “whoa, not that.”
By writing Shulamit and Aviva as sharing in the conception process equally, just as my real-life friends’ wives participated in the AI conception of their children, I was able to celebrate the joint contribution of both gestating mother and non-gestating mother in a two-mom family. I found this very meaningful, and I hope that those of you for whom this is your reality will be moved as well.