Lesbian Co-Mothers and Transition to Motherhood

A small qualitative study published in the March 2017 issue of Perspective, the journal of Britain’s National Childbirth Trust (NCT), focused on the experiences of the non-birth mother in a lesbian partnership. The hetero-normative language used around pregnancy and birth was a meta-theme that arose within each sub-theme the researcher identified. For the purposes of this study, lesbian non-birth mothers are referred to as Lesbian Co-Mothers (LCMs).

Five main themes arose

Who am I? Beyond the mother/father binary: There is currently inadequate language to describe their new role. Insecurity and uncertainty as to mothering role vis a vis the birth mother can contribute to feelings of anxiety and depression.
Bonding and breastfeeding: The LCMs interviewed named worry about feeling less bonded to their infant than the breastfeeding mother. As is common in heterosexual relationships, there was some jealousy when birth mom was breastfeeding.
Support Communities: The LCMs in the study pointed to insufficient support from both extended families and the general lesbian community.
Educating others: Throughout the process of having a child, the necessity to explain who they are in relation to the baby arises repeatedly.
Emotional Health: Lack of support is a main contributor to postpartum mood and anxiety disorders. For this population, that is often compounded by homophobia and heterosexism, along with insufficient awareness that there is a deep emotional component for the LCM as well as the birth mother.

The author cautions that this was a small sample size and therefore the study offers insight and directions for further research, but is not generalizable.

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