Hugh Has Two Mums – This Is Family

I’m realising that I need to have pride, so that Hugh can have pride when he’s older. As he grows up, I hope that he’s proud to have two mums. But that pride starts with us.

We’re joined by Kate from Team Happity, who shares her story of how she and her same-sex partner, Ceris, became parents.

About Our Family

Our family is made up of 4 different members. There’s me, Kate, my partner, Ceris, our son, Hugh (who’s two-and-a-half), and our dog, Ole. As a family, we spend the majority of our free time going outdoors for walks or enjoying football. We’re big fans of football in our house, especially the women’s Manchester United team. We find women’s football to be a lot friendlier than men’s.

Our family type doesn’t get talked about a lot in popular media, so sharing stories like mine feels important. Ceris and I went into our parenting journey so blind. The only way I managed to find out information about IVF or having children from an LGBT perspective was from an old friend who I hadn’t spoken to in years. I knew she had two children with her female partner through IVF, and I thought, what was the harm in sending a message? I felt comfortable reaching out to her, but other same-sex couples might not. Others might not even have the connection to begin with!

It’s a unique experience, and it can be isolating. Hopefully sharing my story will help someone feel less alone. I’m quite happy to be that friend who helps them to learn more about this route into parenthood.

Where It All Started

Let’s go back to 2020.

I was a competitive cheerleader, and I was training up for the world championships. As you can imagine, life was pretty busy. Our team were supposed to compete in the April, and then following that I was planning to do my next season of cheering with a new team. I had booked myself up for a lot of plans. But then like so many things, the pandemic toppled our pyramid and ended practically all of them.

It’s an understatement to say that COVID-19 put a steely red stop sign in our lives. And it seemed like it wasn’t going away quickly. Cheering was going on hold, and we knew we would have a lot more time on our hands. And, with that time, I started having the gut feeling that it was finally the right point to start a family. It was something I and Ceris knew we wanted. And with our age (plus the timing of everything), it felt like it was the right time to try for a baby.

Private Vs NHS As Same-Sex Parents-To-Be

We decided that we wanted to save up and take the Private route when it came to our parenting journey. Whilst it wasn’t actually the case in our area, we knew there were a lot of locations around the UK that didn’t allow same-sex couples to do IVF on the NHS at the time.

While it’s not applicable to all of the UK, we also knew that in some areas, the NHS has policies in place that makes the process very difficult for same-sex couples. Including needing to have had ‘x’ number of losses and have been trying for a baby for 6 months. And of course, for a same-sex couple, that’s never going to happen as you can’t conceive.

With all that in mind, we decided to save up and take the private route.

Choosing A Fertility Clinic / Deciding On Who Would Carry

After a bit of research and doing Google deep-dives, we picked Create Fertility as our clinic. Going to our first appointment, I really went into it blind. I didn’t know what to expect about timelines, costs, what the many acronyms meant, or how many acronyms there were!

In terms of the process, those initial first consultations are more or less checks to make sure we were fit and healthy. We both had consultations and scans to check that everything was good on the inside, and once we got the thumbs up, the doctor talked us through the different routes.

There was IVF, IUI (although that wasn’t available at our clinic), and a number of alternatives. Ceris and I knew that the route we wanted to take was something called Shared Motherhood. To summarise, they would take Ceris’ eggs, use a donor’s sperm to fertilise them, and then I would carry them.

We knew from the start that I would be the one to be pregnant, as the thought of being pregnant freaked Ceris out a bit. I don’t think Ceris was set on having kids before we were together, but she knew it was something I felt very strongly about.

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Finding A Donor

Because Covid was still at large at the time, there was a real limit of donors available when we were looking. The process of finding a donor made me super curious. How many details do they really give you about the donor? How much do you actually get to pick?

In America, they give you loads of details. There’s photos of the donors as a child alongside photos as an adult so you can get a good idea of what your child would look like. They don’t do that in the UK, and we were far from greeted with family photo albums or galleries of images. You don’t receive photos, but they tell you some of the characteristics of the donor, like ethnicity, hair colour, height, weight, build, occupation and interests.

We eventually received a donor through Create Fertility’s donor bank. We wanted to go for a donor with similar characteristics to me, with it being Ceris’s eggs we were using, but there was a limitation on donors due to Covid (I’m not really sure why!) and in the end, the donor we received was Danish, blonde… and absolutely nothing like me! On the plus side, we heard he was sporty, and that ticks a massive box for both of us.

That initial process of becoming pregnant went pretty fast, to be honest! We had our consultation at the beginning of September, and because everything in my scans was fine, we were good to go as soon as we found the donor. Ceris had her eggs out in November, then they fertilised and froze them in December (Merry Christmas to us!). Then, I went in January, and we were very lucky (and super happy) that it worked the first time. From start to finish, the process took 5 months. 

Maternity / Paternity Leave For Same-Sex Parents

 Luckily for us, just before we got pregnant, Ceris’ employer changed their maternity/paternity policy, so that adoptive parents, carriers and non-carriers were all eligible for 5 months of fully paid leave. This meant she could help me a lot through those early stages.

As mums, we complement each other pretty well. I’m very much a morning person: if you put a film on in the evenings I’m the first to fall asleep. But for Ceris, it takes her about an hour to come round from her sleep. Luckily, Hugh would take both breast and bottle, so we worked in shifts. I would be able to handle the mornings, and Ceris would be able to give him a couple of bottles in the night.

Having support from Ceris in those early stages of motherhood was so beneficial. Having her around helped me so much.  

How We Handle Childcare As Same-Sex Parents

I am the primary carer for Hugh. There were massive hesitations about returning to work after maternity leave. I didn’t like my job (this was before I started at Happity), it was a 40-minute drive away, and the environment was unpleasant and stressful. I also hated the idea of putting Hugh into nursery full-time at such a young age.

When I found the job listing for Happity, it felt like it fit my needs perfectly. We worked out that, even though it was a completely different kind of work and part-time (15 hours a week), the difference when you add in the costs to buy a second car and drive to work with my current job would amount to the same kind of take-home as Happity. With the added benefit of being able to spend much more time with Hugh.

In terms of additional childcare, Hugh goes to the nursery for 2 mornings a week. That’s more through choice than necessity, as I wanted him to have that interaction at nursery. But he didn’t start nursery until he was two.

Ceris’ mum is retired, and her dad & step-mum are semi-retired, so each of them are happy to take a morning of childcare while I work. With those extra bits of childcare, and the flexibility Happity offers, I work in those hours (Or sometimes in the evenings).

Hugh’s Understanding Of Our Family And Same-Sex Parents

He’s very aware now that we have a different family type. He’s played with our next-door neighbours and heard them say ‘daddy’, and then come back to us to question, “oh, daddy?” We’ll break it down for him in simple terms and describe our family dynamic again. Something along the lines of, “yeah Hugh, they have a mummy and a daddy, and you have a mummy and a mumma, don’t you?”

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The questions started a lot earlier than we thought they would! But, for parents wondering how to handle that conversation, there are a few things out there that can help.

For example, there’s a book we got for Hugh called, ‘This Is My Family’, and it goes along the lines of, “some families like to be noisy and loud, some like to be quiet. Some live with grandparents, some live far apart”. We keep a few things like that around our house and read them to Hugh semi-regularly to teach him that all families look different. But they are all beautiful and filled with love.

Now that he’s becoming more aware, we want to be honest instead of shutting it down. The hope is that this openness will help him to grow up more open-minded.

Regularly Coming Out As An LGBT Parent

Before parenthood, I always worried about prejudice and homophobia. I’ve been very fortunate to have not experienced any in my parenting journey. But, for those who are mostly wondering about how parenthood is different for LGBT parents, then one thing to note is that you are almost always coming out!

It happens when you are just existing as an LGBTQ+ person (parent or not!), someone will ask you about your boyfriend or girlfriend and you’ll have to gently let them know that you have a partner of the same sex. Or, to save time and avoid the awkwardness of telling the girl on the till that you’re gay when you just want to buy a bag of satsumas, you decide to just go with it and pretend you’re straight. People aren’t malicious with it when it happens, and you can’t really be upset with them. It’s not homophobic, people are just assuming.

It’s a similar thing when you’re a parent. And it’s happened a few times now where I’ve been out and had people ask, “Is his dad tall or blond?” And, instead of correcting them, you go with it to brush them off because you have a hundred and one things to do and don’t have time to keep on coming out. It’s tedious to keep on outing yourself over and over. But…

Having Pride For My Family

As time goes on, I find I’m having to drag myself out of the closet an inch more every day.

If we’re out shopping, and Hugh asks, “where’s mumma?” and then calls me mummy, I find myself feeling awkward if there’s older people nearby.

It’s not that I’m still in the closet, I came out when I was 16, so that’s a hurdle I overcame years back. That said, I’ve never been one of those people who are loudly proud: I’ve always been modest with it. But As Hugh gets older, we need to start changing that. He’s listening more and becoming more aware of what we say and do. If I continue to hide the fact I’m in a same-sex relationship in those everyday interactions, it subtly indicates to Hugh that having two mums is something he should hide too.

So, the take-home is this: As same-sex parents, you need to have pride so that your children can have pride. As Hugh grows up, I want him to be proud to have two mums. I hope that he doesn’t shy away from it or pretend he has a dad. The truth is that the pride and courage I want for him starts with us. If I shy away from it and continue to stay quiet for convenience, then he will too.

It’s not a dirty little secret. We’re very proud of our family. And I hope that he will be too.

Would You Like To Share YOUR Story?

We’d love to hear from you. This Is Family is all about sharing family stories. Especially from families who feel like their voices are not often heard. Every family has a unique story to tell. We’d love to hear yours. Find out how you can feature on our blog and get involved. So that other parents can feel less alone.

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