Advocate Spotlight: Robin Hopkins of the “If These Ovaries Could Talk” Podcast
ADVOCATE SPOTLIGHT: ROBIN HOPKINS OF THE “IF THESE OVARIES COULD TALK” PODCAST
The hilarious host shares her favorite episodes, lessons learned, and resources for people starting non-traditional families
It’s Pride Month, a time to recognize the impact that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people have had on history. In cities across the country, LGBT folks and their allies will be celebrating diverse genders and sexualities with parades, parties, and observances of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender history, along with the history of the gay rights and related civil rights movements. We sat down with one woman who wears many hats — actor, writer, and producer, to name a few — to discuss the ways she works to raise awareness and offer support year-round for the many non-traditional families out there through a new podcast she launched with co-host Jaimie Kelton earlier this year.
Celmatix: Tell me about “If These Ovaries Could Talk.” What inspired you to launch this podcast, and what do you hope to accomplish?
Robin: Our official blog line is “two lesbians chatting about how to make babies and non-traditional families.” When my co-host, Jaimie, had her second kid and experienced lots of unexplained fertility challenges, she found she couldn’t really find anyone who was speaking to the LGBT community about the fertility process. So she had the idea to start the podcast, and when she approached me with it, it seemed like a great idea to me.
From my own experience, I knew that when my wife and I had kids, people kept asking us how we did it, and so we’d have them over for drinks and explain “OK, here’s what you do, these are your sperm options,” and so forth. So I knew the need was out there for a podcast like this, because this information really just isn’t out there otherwise.
Celmatix: Tell me about your favorite interview on the podcast so far.
Robin: There are two that I’d say are my favorites so far. One is a couple named Rae and Margie, and the episode is called “The Lesbians Who Paved the Way.” They really did. We interviewed their daughter, who is now in her 30s, and that was really interesting. We got to see — how did this shake out, how did the kid do? We got to talk about her experience wanting to find her dad. And her moms were two firecrackers. At the time, no one was doing what they were doing. They were still calling it “Artificial Insemination” then, and using sperm collected from med students. It was such a different journey.
Another one that really sticks with me, because it’s such a personal story, was our interview with Jennifer and Lisa for the episode titled “Laughing at Cancer.” They had two different types of cancer to contend with in the midst of their journey, so naturally a lot of interesting questions came up.
Celmatix: What are some topics you hope to address in upcoming episodes?
Robin: We’re getting ready to wrap this season at the end of June. We have some interesting episodes coming up featuring a lawyer, a standup comic, and we have a couple that was on a Bravo reality show — The Abbys from “The Newlyweds.” They weren’t ready to have a baby, but for the show they needed to develop a storyline, so they basically acted like they were going to. Then it turned out one of them had a really low egg reserve, so that ended up impacting things a bit.
In the future, we’d love to feature a single parent by choice, an egg donor, or maybe someone who worked at a sperm bank. In terms of what stories we’re looking for, it’s really more about what interests us personally.
I look at it more as the power of the personal story, almost like StoryCorps on NPR. It’s a little slice of a moment of someone’s life.
Like in the “Laughing at Cancer” episode, it’s about what someone has to go through.
Celmatix: You’ve been open about your experience with miscarriage. Why do you feel that it’s important for you to speak about this publicly?
Robin: I think that so much around fertility, miscarriage included — people don’t talk about it. If a person in your family died, you would be open about it, and you’d talk about it. People would know you’re in the middle of something, and they could be kinder, gentler, and more supportive. Especially for people who experience multiple miscarriages, they should be able to be open about that experience.
When you decide you want a baby, you want it right then and there. I was lucky. I tried six times and got pregnant twice. When I started talking about my miscarriage, I was amazed by how many other people had experienced one too. A coworker of mine just went through it, and I sent her an article that helped me. It’s important to let people help and support you. For people who have potentially spent thousands of dollars, and gone through all that you go through with a miscarriage, it seems asinine to me. Why not allow people to support you?
Celmatix: What are some of the unique challenges that people starting non-traditional families face when it comes to fertility?
Robin: One is cost. Sperm can cost up to $1,200 a month, and gay men can spend upwards of $200,000 for a surrogate. You need help with everything, and there are a lot of hoops you have to jump through — getting sperm, working out legal documentation for second parent adoption, then whatever your reproductive endocrinologist (RE) or midwife charges. And then you have to figure out the makeup of your family. Are you using a known donor? It gets complicated. You need to be prepared for how you’ll tell your kids about other families that have used the same donor.
Another big thing is coming out. Once you get into the public school system, you’re out everywhere. It’s a lot of “I’m not this mom, I’m the other mom.” But there are situations where you have to decide whether to come out in front of your kids. Do you come out to your Uber driver when he asks if you’re on your way to meet your husband? Brian Esser, a lawyer we had on the show recently, told a story about a dental hygienist who was cleaning his kid’s teeth and kept referencing the kid’s mom. He didn’t want to say anything, but when the dentist came into the room, he corrected the hygienist. And Brian realized he should have modeled the correction for his child.
Sometimes it’s a safety issue. In another country, for example, even getting a king size bed rather than two doubles at a hotel can be an issue.
But as a parent, you always want to model pride for your kids. They’re already going to feel different at some point, so eventually it just becomes part of the fabric of the family.
Celmatix: June is Pride Month. How can we (brands, members of the in/fertility community, etc.) help to be more inclusive of non-traditional families?
Robin: Keep doing what you’re doing. Talk to a collection of people. Non-traditional families aren’t just LGBT — there are families without a dad in the picture, or without a mom, all sorts of variations beyond the standard mother-father family. Continue pushing awareness and inclusivity. We’re all buying products, so really, it’s just smart business.
Celmatix: So much of the podcast is about finding the humor in the journey to parenthood. Can you share some of the funniest stories you’ve heard so far?
Robin: The first one that comes to mind — and this is a weird one to say — is Lisa and Jennifer’s episode, “Laughing at Cancer.” In the episode, you hear these two women talk about their experiences, and as Jennifer talks about how she had a miscarriage, then they faced a bout of cancer, the two of them just burst out laughing at the enormity of what they went through to have a baby. It’s amazing to think about what you could do with something like that, and then what they did instead. I know they had some dark times, but ultimately, it made them stronger.
In addition to the podcast, I’m also a writer, and when I write, I try to write about emotionally raw things but in a way that brings a little levity to it. The same goes for the podcast. We tackle some really tough topics, and of course, when it’s really hard, you just listen. But around it, you try to look for a moment to cut through that tension a bit and create the space to get a little joke in there. It helps everyone let their shoulders drop a bit and remember that we’re all in this together.
Celmatix: Podcasts are hot right now. What advice would you give to other women hoping to launch a podcasts?
Robin: Don’t try to create something homogenized, for everyone. You can’t paint a painting and expect everyone to love it.
Look for who you are, and your unique voice. There’s someone out there who wants to hear it.
Find out what it is that people like about you, and what you like about yourself. I took a scriptwriting film class once, and the instructor told us all to look at the newspaper and write based on what’s hot right now. I could not disagree more. You need to speak from the heart.
Our podcast works because we’re genuinely interested in the people we’re talking to. People respond to authenticity. We’ll hit 100,000 downloads by the end of this season. We were featured by Apple and have gotten some press from sites like AfterEllen. We’ve been hitting a lot of milestones, and have gotten some really great feedback from our listeners.
Celmatix: What are some of your favorite resources for LGBT folks starting families?
Robin: The Gay & Lesbian center in New York is a great resource, and most metro areas have a gay center. They have parenting groups, and often fertility groups as well, which can be really helpful.
Beyond that, there’s the internet of course, but other than that, it’s mostly a word of mouth circle that seems to happen — people you know who did this, did that. We only really knew one way to start our family, but other people have done it in so many different ways.
Robin Hopkins is an actress, a writer, and a producer residing in New York City. For more information on Robin and the “If These Ovaries Could Talk” podcast, visit www.ovariestalk.com.
Do you have an interesting story about your non-traditional family? If so, Robin and Jaimie would love to hear from you! Reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.