Experiences of Preconception,
Pregnancy, and New Motherhood for
Lesbian Nonbiological Mothers
Danuta M. Wojnar and Amy Katzenmeyer
Danuta M. Wojnar, PhD,
RN, IBCLC, FAAN,
Maternal Child and Family
Seattle University, College
901 12th Avenue, PO Box
Seattle, WA 98122-1090.
Objective: To describe the experiences of preconception, pregnancy, and new motherhood from the perspective of
lesbian nonbiological mothers.
Design: Descriptive phenomenology.
Setting: A private room at the study site and participants’ homes.
Participants: Twenty-four self-identiﬁed lesbian nonbiological mothers in a committed relationship and whose partner
gave birth within the past 2 years participated. All of the participants were from urban or suburban areas in the Paciﬁc
Methods: Women participated in semistructured in person interviews that were audio recorded and transcribed verbatim
for analysis. Coliazzi’s method guided the process.
Results: An overarching theme of “feeling different” permeated the experiences of preconception, pregnancy, and new
motherhood for the participants. The women’s narratives revealed seven themes that illustrated their experiences: (a)
Launching pregnancy: A roller coaster ride; (b) Having legal and biological concerns: Biology prevails; (c) There is a
little person in there: Dealing with pregnancy issues; (d) Losing relationships over pregnancy: The elephant in the room;
(e) Feeling incomplete as a mother; (f) Carving a unique role: There are very few of us out there; and (g) Sadness and
regret: Nonbiological mothers get the postpartum blues, too.
Conclusions: The experience of preconception, pregnancy, and new motherhood for nonbiological lesbian mothers is
complicated by the lack of biological and legal substantiation to the infant, few role models, and limited social support.
Nurses and health care providers cognizant of these issues can play an important role in facilitating a positive transition
to motherhood for this population.
JOGNN, 43, 50-60; 2014.
Accepted September 2013
Danuta M. Wojnar, PhD,
RN, IBCLC, FAAN, is an
associate professor and
Department of Maternal
Child and Family Nursing,
Seattle University College
of Nursing, Seattle, WA.
Amy Katzenmeyer, MSN,
FNP, ARNP, is a family
VA Puget Sound Health
Care System, Seattle, WA.
he deﬁnition of family in Western societies has
been in a state of reorganization and diversiﬁ-
cation during the past few decades (Power et al.,
2010). As a result of the gay liberation movement
in the United States during the 1970s and 1980s,
a signiﬁcant number of lesbians and gay men
have settled into two-woman or two-man house-
holds (Dunne, 2000; McManus, Hunter, & Renn,
2006). This has led to an increase in visibility
of gay and lesbian families especially as some
families choose to live a more open life (Suter,
Daas, & Bergan, 2008). With the increasing avail-
ability of alternative childbearing options, a new
population of parents has emerged to challenge
the established norms of human reproduction and
the traditional notion of family (Hayman, Wilkes,
Halcomb, & Jackson, 2013; Wojnar & Swanson,
2006). Although the exact number of lesbian fam-
ilies with children is unknown, the 2000 Census
Report listed 301,026 lesbian families, of which
103,252 (34.3%) were raising biological children
(Erwin, 2007). A recent survey suggested there
were approximately 400,000 to 500,000 lesbian
parents in the United States (Weber, 2010). How-
ever, ofﬁcial estimates may not represent the true
extent of this population, as many same-sex fam-
ilies may have declined self-disclosure to avoid
the potential negative consequences of identifying
themselves for statistical purposes (Erwin, 2007).
The process of becoming parents in lesbian-led
families is complex and multifaceted. Although
The authors report no con-
ﬂict of interest or relevant
2013 AWHONN, the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses