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Lesbian couple talk to Chicago Tribune about their experiences of becoming parents:
At first glance, Jennifer Snyder and Linda Borchew could not have been more different. Borchew grew up in Des Plaines and is Jewish. Snyder was raised Presbyterian in a one-stoplight town in central Illinois.
Back in 1997, they were students with a shared passion for women's softball. Their relationship started like many: a deep friendship that blossomed into something more.
Ten years later — on Jan. 4, 2007 — the high school administrators married at Niagara Falls, Canada, and they settled into blissful domesticity on a quiet residential street in Hoffman Estates.
"My dad said that the hardest part was that he'd never get to be a grandfather," Snyder said. But the women, now 37, had no intention of forgoing parenthood. Still, it took five years and more than $50,000 to reach their goal. Said Borchew: "We had no idea what we were in for."
Thirty years ago, same-sex couples started having children in ever-increasing numbers. Today, they still face a mixed bag of challenges when forming families, whether by adoption or reproductive technology, advocates say.
While some of the obstacles Borchew and Snyder encountered were no different than those experienced by infertile straight couples, others were a result of the nation's patchwork laws and lingering hurdles for same-sex couples. The couple gave the Tribune an inside look at the highs and lows on the path to parenthood for same-sex partners.
Currently, 19 percent of gay men and almost 50 percent of lesbians have a child, according to the the National Opinion Research Center's 2008 General Social Survey. As more states recognize same-sex marriage — Maryland became the eighth this month — while others have murky laws, the number of potential child-rearing headaches are bound to increase, experts say.
For Borchew and Snyder, their status informed nearly all their decision-making, such as where they'd deliver, lest they find themselves at a hospital that didn't recognize their union.
"If you create your family and don't fit into a typical pattern, you're going to have some holes in your legal relationship that you didn't even know about," said Jill Metz, a Chicago attorney who specializes in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender cases. "It's a constantly evolving and very tricky situation."
In the beginning, the women knew they'd need hefty resources to have a baby. They didn't realize that they'd need deep reservoirs of patience, as well. First, they struggled to find an OB/GYN willing to do inseminations, as some medical personnel are uncomfortable working with gays or lesbians, they said.
"There's a reason that many lesbians make jokes about using a turkey baster at home," Snyder noted dryly. Eventually, they found their way to Chicago Women's Health Center, where Borchew's eggs were combined with donor sperm, then implanted into her womb.
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