De novo lesbian families: legitimizing the other mother
This study aimed to explore the experiences of other mothers in de novo or planned lesbian-led families in Australia to elaborate on one theme: legitimizing our families. Little is known or understood about how lesbians construct mothering within their families. Even less is understood about the experiences of the often marginalized and invisible other mother; that is, the non-birth mother in lesbian families. Fifteen self-identified lesbian couples participated in semistructured, in-depth interviews (as couples) using a story-sharing approach, undertook journaling, and completed a demographic data collection sheet. To be included in the study, participants had to have planned, conceived, birthed, and be raising their children together. A process of constant comparative analysis was used to analyse the data and generate themes and subthemes. Legitimizing our families was described by participants in terms of several subthemes, including the following: the role of the other mother in planning, conception, pregnancy, and birth; symbols of family connection; and negotiating health care. Other mothers participating in the study were acutely aware that people in society generally did not perceive them as genuine parents. This finding was consistent with the concepts of Others and Othering. To this end, other mothers sought to legitimize their role within their families by establishing symbols and using ceremonies, names, and other methods of formal recognition to justify their role as an authentic mother and signify legitimate de novo family connections.