9 Questions: Melissa Connelly Shares Her IVF Journey

woman with text in front

Verywell / Photo Illustration by Christian Alzate / Melissa Connelly

In honor of the nine months of pregnancy, we are asking pregnant people nine questions about their journey to parenthood. This is an inside look at LBGTQ+ advocate and content creator Melissa Connelly’s pregnancy experience.

“I’ve had what’s been considered by all definitions a unicorn pregnancy,” says Melissa Connelly, the founder of @missyhalle, a social media account that highlights her life (her slug is "queer life, love, and family"). When we spoke with her she was in her second trimester, living in Cleveland, Ohio, with her wife, Kim. They've been married since 2020 and are expecting a baby girl later this year.

Both have full-time jobs (Connelly as a sales manager and Kim as a registered nurse); and as a side hustle, they've grown the Instagram account to over 25,000 followers. People follow along to learn more about their lives as expecting parents, as well as seek inspiration through Connelly’s heartfelt voice and positive attitude. 

At first, she was private, but then Connelly decided to make her account public so she could share some of the vendors who supported the couple and their wedding. “I wanted to create the kind of visibility for interracial gay couples in the LGBTQ+ community that I wish I’d seen," she shared via an Instagram post. "What I ended up finding was my voice and myself.”

Connelly is able to take her vulnerabilities and make them into content that resonates with her audience. There are posts about being an interracial couple, being gay, and body positivity. (There's even one on getting a colonoscopy!) Very few subjects are off-limits, including their entire fertility journey. Connelly is an open book and is somehow both even-keeled and enthusiastic.

As for where she finds the strength to be so vulnerable? “Therapy. It’s just therapy,” she says.  She has been in therapy for a long time to help sort through issues she’s had dating back to being kicked out of her family’s house at 20 years old. She grew up as a Jehovah’s Witness and found herself kicked out of her house at one o’clock in the morning after coming out to her parents. She had to withdraw from school because her parents were paying for it, and she found herself homeless. 

“I was really able to take advantage of university counseling, navigating coming out on my own for the first time," she explains. "Now, I don’t want to repeat those cyclical family traumas that existed in my past.”

Therapy similarly played a part in getting her ready for parenthood. The couple wanted to wait until they felt emotionally, mentally, and physically ready. Now at 38, Connelly is due to give birth to a baby girl this summer. Here, she shares her story about getting pregnant, the costs for a gay couple to get pregnant, her expectations, and more.

Question 1

Verywell Family: Can you share about your journey to pregnancy?

Melissa Connelly: My wife and I had discussed our plans for expanding our family before we got married. Because I didn't have any health issues or restrictions, we went straight into IUI (intrauterine insemination) in March of 2021. We went through two rounds of IUI, both of which failed. 

Fortunately, my insurance (coverage through my company) expanded and included IVF, without the previously mandated six failed IUI rounds before coverage. It's a huge blessing and very rare. We said, let's just switch to IVF because the rates of success are so much higher than that of IUI. We were very, very fortunate to be able to afford to do IVF. 

Question 2

VWF: How did you decide who was going to carry the baby?

MC: We both would like to carry [a baby]. I'm just genetically older, two years older than my wife. So the doctor was like, you have less time! You should probably go first.

two women, one pregnant, in nursery

Verywell / Photo Illustration by Christian Alzate / Melissa Connelly

Question 3

VWF: How do you expect parenting to be for you as a gay woman?

MC: I definitely expect it to be different. My wife and I are both straight presenting. If you were to see one of us individually on the street, I don't think you would jump to the conclusion that either of us was married to a woman.

We are we bought a house in June, but there are things that we took into consideration about inclusivity and diversity. We looked at the language on the forms at the daycares we’ve been looking at—is it inclusive? The language on [some] websites, where it's like, enter father's information and a mother's information. It puts you in the mindset that there may, in fact, be some challenges where there's that natural assumption that your spouse is a man or that you're a heterosexual couple raising a child.

There were a lot of things that, typically, heterosexual couples don't have to contend with or consider when family planning.

There’s also a level of advocacy that goes along with it. During our fertility journey when I was consulting with my fertility clinic, I explained that we technically have social infertility, which is infertility due to a lack of access to sperm.

When we went through the process to start IUI, we had to be psychologically evaluated, because we were using a third-party donor to start our family. So there were a lot of things that I think typically, heterosexual couples don't have to contend with or consider when family planning.

Question 4

VWF: How are you handling maternity leave?

MC: My plan is to take a full leave. That way I get to bond with the baby, recover physically and have time with my family before that expectation of family work-life balance comes back into play. 

[In regards to my platforms], my general advice in any circumstance is don't over commit. There's always this pressure to say yes. I think it's a pressure that a lot of women have, whether it be due to societal expectations or just fear of disappointing others. 

I would love to be able to share as much of the [postpartum] journey as possible for people that are looking at expanding their family or same-sex couples that are wondering what that looks like or even non-LGBTQ families that are wondering how life is similar or different. 

But I definitely do not have any set expectations for myself, my blog, or my social media on what that looks like. I'm going to allow my body, my mental state, and where I'm at emotionally really guide the frequency with which I'm hearing.

The cost of creating a family was shocking. I mean, everyone knows that IVF is expensive. I think everyone has that general concept. But to put an actual numerical value to it is something that's really astonishing.

Question 5

VWF: You talk a lot about chosen family. What advice do you have for someone who might need to manage family expectations while pregnant?

MC: I talk [about this] a lot on my social platforms: [I am] a huge advocate for therapy. [It is] especially [helpful] when you're preparing to bring an additional life into the world.

For anyone who has a complicated family dynamic, it [can] bring up questions [like], what does my family look like? What would I like my family to look like? And what are the familial connections that I'm welcoming? Which ones am I placing boundaries on for self-preservation?

For us, chosen families are really important. It’s those people who have consistently shown up with unconditional love and support for myself and my wife. [They] are more than welcomed into our family as family.

Neither my wife nor I really have a supportive biological family system. As long as our child is loved, unconditionally accepted, and supported—that needs to be the definition of family. You don't necessarily have to have biological relationships to fulfill that definition of family. 

Question 6

VWF: What’s one of the most shocking things about parenthood so far?

MC: The cost of creating a family was shocking. I mean, everyone knows that IVF is expensive. But to put an actual numerical value to it is something that's really astonishing. Even the cost of IUI—using a third-party donor—how much it actually cost per attempt [was surprising]. The vial that you're sending from the cryobank, plus the shipping, storage, and processing—that all adds up to a very large dollar amount. 

In our case, we were fortunate enough to have insurance for a lot of it. But they send you that itemized copy that says, “this is not a bill;” and you see the total at the bottom and you're like, "thank God I don't have to pay it."

But there are families who do, and it's something that makes growing a family such a challenge for so many same-sex couples. It really is disheartening to see so many people that would be fantastic parents. who genuinely want to raise children, not have financial access to be able to do it.

Question 7

VWF: How do you deal with negativity when you’re in such a vulnerable state, and one that should be celebrated?

MC: I take it on a case-by-case basis. If I feel like if it's something that other people are also likely to encounter, I will post it and I will talk about it. I recently did this with one of my posts where I hate messages from someone online. And I said, you know what, I'm going to make a Reel out of it.

I feel like I was able to turn it into something educational. And I had a lot of people who didn’t realize that people could write something so hateful about the person that I love and the fact that I’m married to a woman. 

I feel like sometimes it's a learning opportunity. And sometimes you really just have to hit delete and block. You have a choice over the amount of negativity that you will allow within your own personal space and mindset. I'm very protective of that. In cases where I don't feel like it's going to benefit anyone to share, I block and delete every time.

Question 8

VWF: What does intersectionality mean to you? How will you present it to your daughter?

MC: My wife and I are diversity unicorns. So I am Black and British and my wife is Korean and Irish. We will have a melting pot of diversity. We want to make sure that she is able to embrace all parts of her identity, so we made it a point to get books that celebrate how her family might be different in ways from some others. 

There are a lot of really great resources. Have those conversations [with your child] upfront—about how people are different and all of those differences should be celebrated. And it's okay if your family looks different. We love and support everyone. It’s what matters in our house and we put that message out to the world.

two women with a dog

Verywell / Photo Illustration by Christian Alzate / Melissa Connelly

Question 9

VWF: What do you hope to teach your child about the world?

MC: I hope to teach her how to always look for kindness, acceptance, and the opportunity to make the world better. But, also to not close her eyes when injustice or prejudice does rear its ugly head. Identify it, listen to the stories of others, and lead with compassion.

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