Suzie Ehlers on LGBTQ+ Parenthood and the Power of Persistence
Tell us a little about yourself.
I am a registered nurse currently living in Los Angeles, CA, but I was born and raised in Cincinnati, OH. I recently achieved a master’s degree in nursing and became licensed as a Family Nurse Practitioner. I got married in March 2018 to the most amazing woman named Lauren and rescued our dog, Remy, soon after. Outside of work, I absolutely love to cook and I’ll take any opportunity to travel, hike, and explore National Parks.
You can follow Suzie on Instagram at @suziecakes9
What brought you to where you are now? Bring us along from the beginning.
After working in Cincinnati for a few years after college, I felt like my life was not on the path that I wanted for myself. It wasn’t one thing in particular, but I just couldn’t find myself settled in my own skin. I decided to start travel nursing and that brought me to southern California. On one of my job assignments, I met Lauren, who is also a nurse, and I pretty much immediately knew I needed to spend more time in SoCal getting to know her. It was easy falling in love with her, but difficult coming out and explaining it to my friends and loved ones. I had previously dated only men, most of whom were great, and it took a lot of love and patience on both ends of each conversation. Ultimately, I was received with so much love and support.
Tell us about your partner. What made you want to start or grow a family together?
Lauren is from Grand Rapids, Michigan and has been a registered nurse for 13 years. She has also worked as a traveling nurse in the past, which is how luck landed us at the same assignment at the same time. She is really into health and fitness and constantly stays active. We met when we were both 27 and took advantage of all the fun SoCal had to offer. Lauren proposed to me on a wine tasting trip in Santa Barbara, CA in January 2017 and we got married in Palm Springs, CA in March 2018. If I’m completely honest, I didn’t always imagine myself having children, but falling in love with the right person made it very clear that building a family was in our future. Lauren is the most kind, patient and understanding person, who happens to love kids, and is AMAZING with them.
There are so many different paths to parenthood for LGBTQ+ couples. How did you decide which path to parenthood you were going to take?
There are so many components to consider when making this decision, including some not-so-romantic topics, like age, cost, and insurance coverage. We actually had to switch insurance from Lauren’s to mine to get anything covered, which was a hassle, but totally worth it.
We often get asked how we decided who would carry this pregnancy. It was actually a very easy decision for us because, as much as Lauren wants to be a mother, she didn’t feel the urge or instinct to become pregnant. As luck would have it, I do have that desire, and I’m really excited about it. We discussed the possibility of using a known sperm donor and did research on the legalities of that option, but ultimately decided that going through a cryobank was the right choice for us. We also discussed the option of reciprocal in vitro fertilization, where a follicle from Lauren would be retrieved and fertilized, using donor sperm, and then implanted to my uterus. This option is quite expensive and not covered by my insurance, but is something we are considering for baby #2 (not to put the cart before the horse or anything HA!). For this pregnancy, because we are both 34 years old, with no major underlying health conditions, we decided just to go forward with an intrauterine insemination (IUI) during my ovulation cycle. Luckily, all the testing and procedures were covered 100% by my insurance which is a huge blessing.
What was your journey to parenthood like?
In total, we tried off and on for nine months before becoming pregnant in February 2020. The first two months, we didn’t use any medication and were not successful. With the third and fifth attempts, I took a medication called Femara to stimulate follicle growth and then an injection called Ovidrel to initiate ovulation with hopes to time everything perfectly but still didn’t have luck. As nurses, we understood the science behind it all, but knew ultimately it’s out of our control which made this part of the process pretty difficult. Not to mention, constant MD appointments and intermittent high and lows of hope and disappointment.
With guidance from my fertility MD, we switched sperm donors and I began taking a blood thinning medication, as well as the fertility medications, and a progesterone supplement after insemination. And on the sixth IUI, we had a positive pregnancy test in November, which unfortunately ended in a miscarriage at six week. We decided to let my body rest and recover for a few months and take a much needed mental and emotional break. We did our best to enjoy the holidays, focus on personal growth and goals for 2020 and actually had a great few months! It was decided that it would be a good idea to have a procedure to examine my uterus and make sure that there were no abnormalities that could be causing the fertility issues. So I completed that at the end of January, and at my follow up in early February, my doc said everything looked great and that we were ready to try again. We repeated exactly what worked for the previous cycle, and on February 21st we got a positive pregnancy test, followed by confirming ultrasounds and that’s how we got here today!
How do you think being an LGBTQ+ couple impacted your overall experience becoming parents?
There were so many logistical aspects that we had to learn about like legal parental rights for non-genetic LGBTQ+ parents, possible second parent adoption for after the baby is born, navigating cryobanks, and health insurance. Outside of the red tape, so to speak, we found that a lot of friends and family had questions and confusion about the process as well. This process has given us an opportunity to act as resources for those looking to learn more or embark on this journey.
What experiences shaped your understanding of conception and pregnancy?
I have a large group of girl friends who have openly shared their experiences with infertility, miscarriage, pregnancy, and motherhood. The ability to be a part of these honest conversations, as well as my nursing background, really helped me manage my expectations and provided comfort during the difficult times.
Were there any resources that you found particularly helpful as an LGBTQ+ looking to start a family?
I really felt that the most helpful and useful resources were the LGBTQ+ individuals/couples who shared their experiences, trials, and tribulations with us. We were lucky to have two sets of really great friends talk us through all the nitty gritty details of their process.
What's your wish or words of advice for other LGBTQ+ couples who are trying to start their families?
For words of advice, I would say do as much research on the not-so-fun parts as you can. Unfortunately, not all companies and insurances will help cover costs and it can add up pretty quickly. Having a good understanding and managing those expectations can be very helpful for decision making during this process. Secondly, find a fertility MD that you really like and feel comfortable with. Hopefully you’re not there that often, but if you are, it’s wonderful to have a team on your side that is encouraging and honest. Lastly, try not to pause or give other aspects of your life that bring you joy (unless they are unhealthy) during this process because no matter what happens, you are more than your fertility.
As for wishes, I sincerely hope that LQBTQ+ individuals/couples find all the success, love, and support they need throughout their journey so that we can continue to build families that represent the uniqueness of our world.
Check out our parenting guidebook Parent Plans: LGBTQ+ Edition written specifically with LGBTQ+ parents and parents-to-be in mind.