“It all starts and ends with the movie Juno,” Sandra Sanchez says of the birth of her son, Malcolm. She and her girlfriend, Sarah, brought Malcolm home just over three years ago, after a 40-hour labour and months of trying and planning to get pregnant.
“I always knew I wanted to be a parent but didn’t want to give birth,” says Sanchez. “And then I saw that scene in Juno where Jennifer Garner’s character is holding her baby, and how she looked, and I knew that if I didn’t have a child I would regret it deeply and for the rest of my life.”
Sanchez and Sarah first met at work, under fluorescent lights, surrounded by cutlery and half-eaten food.
“It was very romantic,” Sanchez remembers. The pair spent a year and a half in a long-distance relationship before living together in Winnipeg. “It laid the foundation, it was all emotional,” she says. “I think that really helped. Plus, I keep her lightly drugged with just little bits of Benadryl here and there,” she says with a laugh.
After dating for six years, they began the process of finding a sperm donor, agreeing that Sanchez, two years older, would be the first one to be pregnant. They looked through catalogues for what seemed like a good fit for their family.
“It’s weird,” says Sanchez. “It’s like looking for a Russian bride. You’re looking for physical qualities, and looking for indication of emotional weirdness, and intelligence,” she says. “And it’s all self-disclosed.”
In every other relationship in your life, there are conditions… But with him, he can do whatever and I’ll still love him. Even with puke in my hair, I still loved him.
Sanchez and her girlfriend looked for a sperm donor in the United States, where the wait was significantly shorter than it is in Canada. The expensive process took Sanchez three attempts to get pregnant. Now the couple is looking for another donor so Sarah can give birth to their second, and likely last, child.
“This is what we have to do to have kids,” she says. But for the couple, it’s all worth it.
“Some days it’s like, would you just get in the car? Why do we have to talk about getting in the car? Because every day, we get in the car,” Sanchez says about Malcolm. “And other days, after we’ve had a day of adventuring and going around and having fun, he’ll look at me and unprompted, he’ll say, ‘I love you.’ And it’s like oh… right.”
Sanchez says the feeling of watching Malcolm learn and grow is worth more than the work of raising him. “Except the time I had to pick up his poop at the park. The work versus reward ratio on that was… a little off.”
Besides understanding what Jennifer Garner’s character felt in Juno, the rest of parenthood has been less than picturesque for the family. Turns out that it’s a pretty messy thing, all the way from insemination to traumatic trips to Costco.
“We brought Malcolm home and for the first three days it was just chaos,” says Sanchez. “You go from being just two people to having to take care of this thing that’s just sucking the life force out of you. I was so frazzled, I didn’t get a chance to bond. It wasn’t an instant thing.”
But once the exhaustion and panic subsided, the couple realized that they were parents. “In every other relationship in your life, there are conditions, like I will love you but I need to follow these set rules. But with him, he can do whatever and I’ll still love him. Even with puke in my hair, I still loved him.”
At three years old, Malcolm is still too young to ask questions about having two moms and why some families are different than others.
Before looking for a sperm donor, the City of Winnipeg requires couples to attend counselling, where Sanchez and Sarah learned about how to talk to him about the questions he might have.
“For a little kid, it’s just factual,” says Sanchez. “As he asks questions, we’ll have to let him know about the donor. We have to make it as appropri- ate to his age as we can … just answer the questions he’s able to ask. If you start filling his head with things that he can’t comprehend, it does more harm than good.”
For Sanchez, being a parent has pushed her out of her comfort zone and forced her to set an example for Malcolm. “The best advice I ever got is: children are a miracle. They’re a reflection of who you are.”
The worst part of parenting for Sanchez? Dealing with other parents who are way too slack. “You can tell who only parents in public, because they’re fond of counting to like, 47? They’re going, ‘Brayden! Brayden!’ Well, you’re not Braydening enough at home, Brayden’s ruling the roost, you could count to 4,000. He doesn’t give a fuck.”
Sanchez and her girlfriend hope to have their second child in the next year, with the goal that neither one will end up on Intervention. “But if they did, at least a good episode.”
Sandra Sanchez talks about parenthood, weak gag reflexes and insemination on her podcast, Change of Address.
–Alana Trachenko is a Winnipeg-based freelance writer who’s excited to be an aunty