This is the birth certificate that leaves the father off the official record for the first time in nearly 200 years. It shows only a mother and a ‘parent’ – also a woman – for newly-born Lily-May Betty Woods. The baby was born to 38-yearold Natalie Woods. The parent named on the form is Miss Woods’s partner, 47-year-old Betty Knowles.
There is no mention of the father, or donor, as the couple prefer to call the anonymous man whose sperm provided half of Lily-May’s genes through IVF treatment. It is thought to be the first recorded birth to two lesbians since a recent change in the law. Birth certificates were introduced 170 years ago and have always recorded the mother and father, if known.
The 2008 Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act paved the way for them for the first time to record two mothers – to the dismay of many Christian groups and campaigners for traditional family values. Until the law changed same sex couples could not put both of their names down for a child conceived by a donor. But the Act meant that children conceived after April 1 last year to same sex couples are entitled to have a birth certificate listing ‘mother and parent’. Traditional male and female couples continue to have birth certificates that list ‘mother and father’. Lily-May was born weighing 7lb 8oz on March 31 in a birthing pool at the terrace home Miss Woods and Miss Knowles share with two cats in Brighton.
Brighton Register Office told them they were the first to record a birth under the new legislation. Miss Woods said she and Miss Knowles wanted to make ‘the historical moment’ public. The couple, who intend to have another child, have agreed that as Lily-May grows up she will call Miss Woods Mummy, while Miss Knowles will be ‘Mama B’.
They also say their employers have been ‘very understanding’. Miss Woods works for a Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender counselling service while Miss Knowles is a delivery driver. She has had two weeks of what is still known as ‘paternity leave’ and two further weeks of parental leave. The couple have been together for 15 years, are engaged and expect to have a civil partnership in the near future. Miss Woods said: ‘We knew we wanted a child and that we were going to be together for ever. The only option was either through a donor or adoption, but It felt important to me to have a biological child.’ The couple selected the father from a choice of four. The men’s names were not given to them, but they were told details about their medical history and that of their parents.
They spent around £7,000 on IVF treatment as gay couples are not entitled to it on the NHS. When Lily-May is 18 she will be entitled, if she wishes, to discover who supplied the sperm. Miss Woods said: ‘We don’t even think of him as a father. He’s a donor, not a father.’ As to whether Lily-May will lack a male role model, Miss Woods says they have many male friends. Lily-May has no contact with her grandparents on Miss Woods’s side as they do not accept their daughter’s sexuality. Miss Knowles’s parents have both died. But the couple say they count many older women among their friends who are already like ‘grannies’ to Lily-May. Miss Woods added: ‘A child needs unconditional love and that is what Betty and I offer Lily-May in spades.’
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