INSPIRATIONAL LGBT+ WOMEN – KATRIEN & YOLANDE NIEMANDT SCHÖTTLER
In 2017 I started the “Inspirational Women Series” where I feature women that I find inspirational just for living their authentic life.
This year we’re focusing on inspirational LGBT+ South African Women. In their own words, they share a facet of their family life and how they live their authentic lives as individuals, wives and moms.
Thank you Katrien and Yolande for your time and sharing your story.
If you, the reader, know of any other inspirational LGBT+ individuals or your own story we could feature contact us.
Amidst the buzz of the 2010 Soccer World Cup in South Africa, two hearts sparked a unified fire and the story of our family was born. Just like those exciting months of soccer, our time together was filled with surprising results, very little sleep and loads of fun.
Flash forward 9 years, and the woman that swept me off my feet and I are married with lively 8-month-old twins. The road that got us here wasn’t always easy, but our foundation is strong and the beauty has far outweighed the bad. Right off the bat, we were both open an honest about what we wanted out of a relationship, and out of the life lying ahead of us. It turned out that even with our 11 year age gap, we were on the same page wanting an honest loving relationship that led to marriage and kids. Sounds simple right?
Well, my story differs very much from that of my wife. I am bisexual and my family and German heritage have never judged me for who I love. I introduced my wife as my girlfriend and that was that. No big speech, nerves, conversations, nothing. Yolande didn’t have it as easy. She grew up in a very Christian household and she understood, that no matter how much her family loved her and supported her (which they do more than can be put into words) it would be an uphill battle for everyone to come to terms with who she was. When she finally mustered the courage to say out loud what she knew from the age of 5, she was 22 years old. It hit her family hard. A lot of tears and a lot of prayers later, they all found a way to move forward together and accept their new reality. I, for one, am 100% accepted by her family as a second daughter. It’s amazing.
Side note: I think it is important for everyone who is struggling with the acceptance of their sexuality to know that it may be rough initially, and you may lose those closest to you, but talking from experience, they all somehow find their way back to you or get replaced with people who are exactly what you need in life. By living your truest life, you find happiness, freedom, which no humans presence can replace.
So, our journey before we met was very different. And while my unjudged 23yr old self, and my 34yr old, soon to be wife, were wedding planning, I was about to get a taste of her world.
Certain Venues, once realizing the two of us were getting married, doubled their price. Other’s just did not bother getting back to us. You could literally see people short-circuiting when asking about my future husband and we were like, no, “we” are getting married.
When trying to find a pastor/person to marry us, we were unsuccessful due to the “nature” of our relationship. We opted to have a Home Affairs legal shindig followed by the wedding of our dreams. Even at Home Affairs, our first interaction was an old Afrikaans man throwing our ID’s back at us saying “I won’t do this, but there’s another lady that works here and she can do it”. At first, we thought he does not do weddings, but then soon realised he was saying he won’t marry two girls. Needless to say, it was a huge blessing in disguise as the lady that did end up doing our legal ceremony was amazing and made it a far more memorable experience than we ever thought it would be.
Moving on… legal wedding done. The perfect romantic getaway wedding done. Time for babies! Shortly after our wedding, we started the process of fertility treatment at a clinic in Johannesburg. I was 24 at the time with no fertility issues, so instead of IVF, we tried to fall pregnant by means of IUI (In-Utero Insemination). We started out so excited with dreams of sitting with a bottle of wine and lists of sperm donors and selecting our future child/rens genetics from a range of stats like eye colour to hobbies and careers. But this was not to be.
Unbeknown to us, the fertility clinic we selected had their own sperm bank which we had to use if we did not have a private sperm donor. So, a big fat file was put down in front of us only to be paged to one specific page and told, here is your section. One page, 4 donors. Huh? Small writing at the top read “same-sex couples”. So, not quite the selection we were looking for. We get it, men that donate get to choose who they want or do not want their sperm to go to. They are giving us a gift they do not have to give, but this was unexpected. Forget the bottle of wine, it’s eeny meeny miney moe time.
Our first two attempts were unsuccessful with life throwing us yet another curveball. I had a big job offer on the table and after much debate, it was goodbye Jozi and hello Durbs. Making babies was put on hold due to the career move and we only started the process again two years later at a new clinic. At our new clinic, we could choose from multiple banks and donors. Bring on the wine!! And our quirky doctor made every visit a memorable one. We still quote him on “I have found the rrrrrecipe” when checking my egg growth after our first failed attempt. Numerous injections that my wife had to administer into my stomach led to a better growth result and we were on the track for attempt number 2 in Durban. A smiley face on a stick showed I was ovulating and off to the clinic we went where our donor sperm was injected directly into my uterus. Fingers crossed and a superstitious Yoga headstand for 2 minutes in the changing room finished up the job. Now we wait for 2 weeks.
A very faded 2 stripes followed by blood tests revealed we were pregnant! Emotions were so high. It was on our wedding anniversary and everything felt just right! Unfortunately, I miscarried a few weeks in. It hit us hard as you are only allowed to try IUI 4 times and we had cashed in all our chips. Next step was IVF which we said we would never do. For us, that amount of money would rather be spent on adopting (which hopefully still lies in our future).
The staff at the clinic were so supportive, and I didn’t feel at all disheartened even though I had believed, many times before, that maybe it wasn’t to be. But here we sat, waiting for our Doc to tell us IVF is the next step and like a sudden extra zero or two added to your tax payout, he gave us the best news ever! Because we had in fact fallen pregnant (even though miscarried) it meant we were allowed to try again. My progesterone levels were just too low which was an easy fix. And true as Bob, the next try I fell pregnant with non-identical twins.
After the most blissful pregnancy, our twins arrived 7 weeks early and had to spend 1.5 weeks in NICU, which they mastered like absolute champs. Being moms has been the most rewarding journey, with plenty of ups and downs (initial hormones and mom-guilt is rough!) but has truly been an absolute dream come true for us. How lucky are we that we get to be mothers of two such incredible beings? Because let’s be real, as a lesbian, you get to that point in your life where you realise how different you are to the norm. How, besides the hardship of coming out to your family and friends, you need to find your place in a very heteronormative world. Will I be able to live the life I always dreamed of living? The fact that we get to live such a normal life, as a married couple with our gorgeous kids, is the biggest gift we could have ever wished for.
Our hearts are full and sleep reserves empty. We adapted quite nicely to being parents and have found that we have very similar viewpoints on how we want to raise these two beings. We are very health-orientated and avoid all sugars and processed foods when feeding them, we believe that there is no such thing as too much love, touch and attention as we both cuddle our babies as much as possible. This is also extremely important to us, as we are both working moms and want to be completely present when we are with them. We co-sleep on nights that aren’t too hot and for the future, I believe that we will be very firm and even quite strict when it comes to discipline.
Laughter and fun fill the gaps in between routine feeding, sleeping and teething pains. Watching them develop into these glorious bubbly 8-month-old besties had been quite the blessing. We still have a long way to go and find our feet in this parenting journey but our family foundation of love, respect and open communication will see us through.
Lastly, thank you, Rachel Platten, for writing “Better Place”. Both in our relationship and our new family dynamic, your words hold true.
I’ll tell the world, I’ll sing a song
It’s a better place since you came along
Since you came along
Your touch is sunlight through the trees
Your kisses are the ocean breeze
Everything’s alright when you’re with me
And I hold my favourite thing
I hold the love that you bring
But it feels like I’ve opened my eyes again
And the colours are golden and bright again
There’s a song in my heart, I feel like I belong
It’s a better place since you came along
It’s a better place since you came along