Cristina and Lauren: Taking Pride and Family Building Abroad
June is LGBTQIA+ Pride Month and while many parts of the country are progressive when it comes to family building, there are some parts of the world that are, well, only now beginning to catch up to the year 2019 (or at the very least, 2005-ish).
Now imagine you are a same sex couple trying to expand your family with fertility treatment in another part of the world that is still working on that whole “acceptance” thing. While the clinic they cycled at, Barbados Fertility Centre (BFC), provides every patient the best possible chance of having a child regardless of marital status, gender or sexual orientation, the rest of the country (as experienced by Cristina & Lauren) is still slightly reticent to embrace the rainbow.
However, after speaking to this amazing couple (who are expecting a baby boy this October), we can’t imagine two better advocates to change prejudices. Below is ALT FAM’s interview with the happy couple. We are certain you will love them as much as we did!
Jennifer: How did you and Lauren meet?
Cristina: We met online just before I was moving to California for my first professional job in 2008. Lauren was working in Las Vegas at the time and I was stopping over on my drive from Colorado to California. We spent an evening together in Las Vegas and have been together ever since. We were long distance for about 6 months before Lauren’s job ended and she moved out to Santa Barbara where I was living and working. She came to Santa Barbara to focus her career in nutrition and farming while I was establishing myself as an Occupational Therapist. We spent 5.5 years there until we finally decided to move back to Colorado where most of my close family is from and still lives. We have lived here for about 6 years now. We now own a small coffee roasting business called Korbadeere Coffee Roasters. Lauren developed a love for coffee when she was working on a farm in Goleta, CA which is the first farm on the mainland of the US to grow coffee!
Jennifer: When did you know expanding your family was something you wanted to do?
Cristina: Part of the reason why we moved from Santa Barbara back to Colorado in 2013 was the idea that we wanted to start a family in the near future, and we wanted to be around family to do this. We started seriously talking about it in 2016.
Jennifer: Please tell me about your journey to pursue IVF as an option? (Any concerns? Anything you felt good about during the process?)
Cristina: We started trying to get pregnant in 2017 using donor sperm by doing IUI through a fertility clinic. We had four unsuccessful attempts (two tries in clinic and two tries at home with a midwife) before we needed to reevaluate. That sinking feeling of getting negative pregnancy results was becoming too much. We investigated IVF in the US but discovered it was going to cost close to $40,000 USD when all was said and done! This was obviously discouraging since our insurance does not cover any of the IVF process. I was talking with a co-worker one day about this and she mentioned that two of her friends recently did IVF in South Africa and were pregnant with twins! This led us to research IVF abroad.
Jennifer: What led you to pursue treatment in Barbados ?
Cristina: After much online research into credibility and prices, we concluded there was absolutely no better choice than BFC. The reviews we read were amazing and they even had a page on their website dedicated to their support for LGBTQ couples having children. There was also a link to an interview with an LGBTQ couple that made us feel even more comfortable with our decision. We wished we could hear from more LGBTQ couples going through this process, which is why we felt it important to do this interview with Alt Fam Mag. We adore BFC and can’t imagine having done IVF with any other clinic. We have been spreading the word in our community as well.
Jennifer: How did it feel leaving the US healthcare system for treatment?
Cristina: At first it was a little overwhelming but as soon as we walked into BFC, we felt welcomed, and immediately relaxed. The massages helped with that too, which we highly recommend getting for both of you as soon as possible after you arrive. Their health and wellness center are excellent as well. If you go there, definitely take advantage of that!
It is common in the US to feel like you are just another number and feel like you are being rushed out of the office without all your questions being answered. It’s an expensive decision that might not turn out as planned so you really want a loving, caring environment. Also, we were drawn to Barbados itself and loved the idea of an IVF vacation where the only true goal (that we had control over) was to relax. We came open and ready to do everything we could to relax! We also believe it is an essential part of this process. The US clinics could learn a thing or two from these folks!
Jennifer: What did you like about cycling in Barbados?
Cristina: At BFC in particular, we felt like they actually cared about us and were happy to have us there. It was a huge breath of fresh air and this helped us feel calm. They made the process very understandable and less scary than anticipated.
Jennifer: What were other things you did on the island that you enjoyed overall?
Cristina: We LOVE the island of Barbados. We took many walks along the boardwalk in Hastings and through the towns. We would stop at various beaches nearly every day. There were delicious restaurants along the way with beautiful ocean views.
We loved Ackee Tree for lunch and Champers for a nice night out. At the fish market we really enjoyed De Red Snapper. We spent happy hour at Tapas quite a few times. We had the best soups and barracuda (which was surprisingly delicious) at Naru. We loved hanging out with Raquel at her farm stand in our parking lot as we picked up food to cook several times a week. Also, the grocery store is walking distance with excellent options.
We stayed at the Santa Neta Apartments and got the front balcony room (which we highly recommend). Great location and with a kitchen! Also, they offer a two-week deal when you are working with the clinic. We did a lot of cooking, which we enjoyed a lot. There are also many places to eat that are incredible. We miss the food there. My mouth is watering writing this.
We took a catamaran out to see the shipwrecks, snorkelled, and sailed up the coast. We also took a jeep tour around the island (which was breathtaking), and enjoyed a delicious Bajan lunch at a beautiful inland resort that was part of the tour. If you don’t have a car, a jeep tour is a good way to see the rest of the island. We went to the history museum, where we learned about the island and the people, and got to view excellent artist displays.
We visited Wyndham Coffee Roasters where we got to know the owners and head roaster, and sampled delicious fresh roasted coffee. Love them! We spent two full days with them, had lots to talk about, and enjoyed connecting with fellow coffee people!
We also visited the Abbey which is where we found Wyndham’s delicious rum barrel aged coffee. The Harrison Caves are a must see -- don’t miss that. Barbados is unique, dynamic and always interesting. We look forward to returning.
Jennifer: What advice would you give to other LGBTQ couples just starting on their own family building journey?
Cristina: Everybody’s journey is unique and personal. As for the LGBTQ scene in Barbados, while the clinic itself is open and gay friendly, the island is a bit behind the times. It is still in the beginning stages of becoming openly accepting of the LGBTQ community. In fact, the law still prohibits our lifestyle, but we do believe that a lot of people there are more progressive than that. We have heard that attitudes are changing for the better towards the queer community in Barbados overall. The biggest indication is that they held their first ever gay pride parade last year (2018) in Bridgetown! Bravo Barbados!! Keep spreading the love!!
However, we are grateful for BFC and their willingness to be a leader for change by supporting our community with open arms, genuine care, and for standing by us in one of the most important and sensitive times of our lives. If you are struggling with fertility or simply want to have a better probability of getting pregnant, then we recommend at least looking into the IVF process there. Their success rates are comparatively high, and from what we know and have learned, we can assure you this is the place to do it. It’s the whole package.
Overall, everyone we met in Barbados was friendly and kind, and even though as a country they are behind the times in accepting our community, we do believe change is coming. We seriously loved it there. We will return and are looking forward to the day we go for round two! We have 3 little frozen embryos awaiting us in storage at BFC.
Jennifer: What would you say to those who are considering IVF treatment outside of the US in general?
Cristina: Just do it! We have absolutely no regrets and feel that the experience was so much more rewarding than the “just a number, and a pay-check, rush-em-through” mentality that we felt from our fertility clinic in the US.
Let’s be honest, IVF is a super intense undertaking and is hard on the body and emotions. The love, thoughtfulness, and intelligent care that BFC provides is so very important. They are good people and they know what they’re doing. PLUS, for well under the price of one round of IVF in the US, we were able to have a 2-week dream vacation while at the same time becoming pregnant in a stellar environment! It’s a no brainer.
Whether you decide to build your family locally or overseas, there are several options for the LGBTQ community to explore. This includes fertility preservation, reciprocal IVF, using a surrogate, donor eggs, donor sperm, adoption and more. Visit our resources page to learn more.
About Jennifer “Jay” Palumbo (interviewer)
Jennifer “Jay” Palumbo is is the founder and CEO of Wonder Woman Writer, LLC, a freelance writer, public speaker, infertility/women’s rights advocate, author of the blog, ‘The 2 Week Wait’, and proud IVF Mom. As an Infertility Subject Matter Expert as well as Spokesperson and Blogger, she has been interviewed on news outlets such as CNN, NPR and BBC where she has demonstrated her ability to make even reproductive issues fun and educational. Her articles have been featured on the Huffington Post, ScaryMommy, Time Magazine, and The Mighty. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram.