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Tuesday 24 October 2017

Anna Nolan: Why the world should welcome lesbian couple's quintuplets

HOW the world has changed. We learned this week that a lesbian couple, one of whom is Irish, are due quintuplets. Rosemary Nolan and Melissa Keevers, who now live in Australia, are due five babies at the end of the year.

The world has changed because this phenomenon has been reported so positively, with such celebration. And so it should be. These five little beings will no doubt have all the love they can get from two committed parents, who already have a young child together.

The donor, it seems, is some dark-haired law student in Australia who is to remain anonymous. But there will no doubt be 30 men who donated to that particular fertility service, all thanking their lucky stars that they don't have to pay maintenance to this brood!

That said, because news of the multiple pregnancy - unusual not just because the parents are lesbians but because the five babies were conceived without IVF - travelled like an Aussie bushfire, those same 30 men will no doubt wonder, 'Are they mine?'

Most sperm donors never become aware of who has their children, or indeed any further details whatsoever. But in this case, one wonders, when the 30 men see the pictures - as no doubt they will - of the babies when they're born, will one donor see himself in their eyes and say: "Definitely mine alright."

The notion that two lesbians are having babies without the influence of a father will be a difficult thing for some people to get their heads around.

You'll probably hear the usual high-pitched objections being dusted off and wheeled out about the impact of gay parents on children or the negative effect of children without fathers.

But I have yet to meet a child of a gay couple who is troubled or damaged as a result of this particular type of upbringing.

Several years ago I made a documentary, as part of the Would You Believe series, that told the story of two women who had two sons. They also conceived their boys through donors. This happened in London in the late 80s, early 90s.

They moved to Ireland and set up home just outside Dublin.

I was fascinated with the two young men these lesbian mums produced and I had the same questions as anyone else: What's it like having two mothers? Was it difficult growing up? Did either of them become gay themselves? (Answers: Great. No and NO!).

They had an unshakeable sense of self, these lads - and because of their "colourful" upbringing, were aware of a much broader world than many of their peers.

They were smart, warm, funny and very much like any Irish boys you may know.

But the biggest question for me was, "What about your fathers? Do you want to find them, to get to know them?"

I was sure that one day a little voice would tell them to seek him out. I felt strongly that as one gets older, one needs to know one's history, one's identity.

Both boys answered the same. They had no desire to meet their biological fathers. They were happy with their life. Nothing was missing.

Rosemary and Melissa may also have to deal with some of these questions when their five little ones are old enough. But it should be no different or no more a problem just because their mothers are lesbians, than if they were adopted, if there was a stepfather involved or a hundred and one other family issues ordinary people deal with every day.

Until then, there will be 40 nappy changes a day, 30 bottle feeds; and many arms needed to rock them to sleep.

May the five little babies be healthy and happy, because that's all that really matters.

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