Singer Harper Grae On navigating pregnancy as a same-sex couple.

By Colleen Crivello

Country music star Harper Grae is expecting a child with her wife, Dawn Gates. Here, she talks getting pregnant as a same-sex couple and all the new mama feels.

Harper shares with an open heart: Her IVF journey, why selecting a donor feels like being on Tinder, keeping the sex a secret, and being a step-mom to a 9-year-old daughter. 

Pregnancy feels?

I count my blessings. I know that it could have been a lot worse, but it was not an easy pregnancy. We decided not to tell too many people that I was pregnant because about a decade ago, I had a miscarriage. I was wrapped in fear of telling people too soon, and god forbid I had miscarried. But I was so sick the first trimester, which made it hard to keep a secret. I even had to go to the hospital a couple of times as I had gotten so dehydrated from morning sickness. Then I got prenatal mastitis, which is the same as regular mastitis you would get after having a baby. I had no idea it was a thing, but it turns pregnant women can get this as well. Initially, I thought it was just another pregnancy symptom like sore boobs and I came to find out it was prenatal mastitis. After I healed, the morning sickness subsided too. Finally, just as they say, overnight, I was better for the second trimester, and now towards the end, we’re back to being sick all over again.

On finding a donor?

Our path to pregnancy is different than most being in a same sex relationship. We started out on donor sites as our first step to see if we liked any donors. Funny enough, whether you’re in a same-sex relationship or struggling with infertility, and you have to look at donor sites, it’s really like Tinder for donors – swiping through people and pictures!

I’m just as “type A” as my wife, so we spent a lot of time honing in on what we wanted. Plus, we did all the genetic tests to ensure there wasn’t an abnormality that I was carrying, that perhaps a donor had as well. Additionally, we needed to work with a clinic that showed both baby pictures and adult photos, as quickly we found out that cute baby pics don’t always turn into attractive adults. Interestingly this is hard to find, and only a select few clinics offer this service.

Once we finally found our donor, it became tense because you have to decide how much of your donor’s sperm to buy. It turns out our donor was very “wanted,” and so the question becomes “how many vials do we buy?” because honestly, you don’t know how many you will need. We had spent all this time trying to find a donor, and if you run out before you’re pregnant, you have to buy more. The tricky part is that sometimes the donors retire, so you would have to start the donor hunt all over again. This is why many families will actually buy more than they need, especially if they want to have more children down the road. For me, this was the most stressful part, estimating and not knowing how many months it would take to get pregnant. Plus, if we want to have more kids in the future, do we need to have a stockpile of frozen sperm? Making these decisions and figuring these pieces out was the most challenging pre-pregnancy.

Getting pregnant?

Luckily, I’m fertile. Once we had all the pieces in place on the donor side came the IUI process. Ultimately it took us four tries which equates to four months and four vials of sperm. This was a relatively short period in the grand scheme of things, but nevertheless, those four months felt like an infinite amount of years. Going down that road was eye-opening, and it’s made me empathetic for anyone that experiences this process. From start to finish, this has given me such a vast, open heart and understanding of women who walk the path of infertility.

Boy or girl?

This is my first, but my wife has a 9-year-old daughter with her previous partner. Therefore when finding out the gender, I didn’t want to know, and she did. Still to this day, I have no idea what the sex of the baby is, and my wife has known since Valentine’s Day! The story goes that I always wanted to be surprised, and my wife can’t stand the thought of not knowing. She can also keep a secret better than anyone, so we agreed that she’d find out, and I would not. So, my manager sent my health records over and helped me create a little gender reveal for her. Then once the baby is born, we’re going to compile a video of when she found out and when I find out at birth. I don’t want the doctor to say it’s a boy or girl, but instead, I want my partner to tell me. We do have names picked out. But I just have an intuitive, spiritual feeling this child is a girl.

Deciding to have a baby?

Being a country artist means my life is predominantly on the road. And with the pandemic and the music industry at a standstill, we figured now was the time. We decided to give ourselves five months to try, and then I got pregnant in the fourth month! The timing ended up being perfect because my tour was rescheduled for October of this year, giving me the ideal maternity leave.

Finding out?

I don’t know how to describe it other, magical. I had gotten used to hearing that I was not pregnant, and on the fourth month, I figured it would be the same. I was just about to shoot my music video for Muddy Water and remember so vividly having this weird dullness under my arms. It felt as though I had worked out, but I hadn’t. Then, the next day, we found out that I was pregnant! Now, our baby has already been in two music videos!

Birth plan?

Most importantly, trusting my doctor. Ultimately, I would prefer not to have an epidural and instead to do it naturally. But I’m also super flexible and realistic if that is not possible. I’ve been researching hypnobirthing and breathing meditation techniques, and think I will know quickly if I can manage the pain on my own or not. If I can’t, then I’m going to take my doctor’s lead as I really trust her and I will get an epidural if I need it. My mom was not part of my life growing up because she was addicted to drugs, so I negatively associate with all drugs and don’t even like taking Benadryl. Therefore, trusting my doctor is an important part of my plan. I know that she’s going to lead me down the road I need to be on.

Plus, I’m excited that I don’t have to labor with a mask on. I think the rules vary from state to state, but they’ve removed the mask regulation in Tennessee. Same for my wife; she doesn’t have to wear a mask in the delivery room unless it’s a C-section. I’m excited about this as I was really nervous about wearing a mask. I have pleurisy, which is essentially a third lining of your lungs. This causes me to have difficulty breathing and catching my breath if I’m out of breath. Therefore laboring with a covering over my mouth was a terrifying thought.

Best support?

For me, it was definitely music and getting back to my roots. I returned to what I know and what I love – writing music, knowing that I’ll be able to slowly start performing again, and remembering all that we have to be grateful for. This time has really shown you not to take anything for granted and to love and respect creation.