In Conversation with… Kym and Jade

Kym & Jade have been together for 11 years and married for 4 of them. In some ways they are very different, but in many others very alike.   After a couple of (not hugely successful) pet-owning attempts they decided it was time to get serious so they got married in a room full of loved ones, got a mortgage and had a child. Here is their story of an unconventional family.

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Can you tell us about how you became parents?

K: Like any other young couple we had decided that there was more to life than nice restaurants, travelling and lie ins (note we were wrong!) so we decided to introduce a sprog into our little world! We visited our doctor to find out exactly what the options were for lesbians to have a baby together and from there we spent a lot of time browsing donor sperm catalogues, yup it’s a real thing! We then spent a year or so visiting clinics and so on until we got a positive result on a pee stick. Fast forward 9 months and we welcomed our beautiful baby boy into the world.

J: It was something we have always discussed, we both wanted to be parents eventually. I guess we were at that point in our relationship where we knew it was the right time for us. The process was obviously a very clinical one and unlike most heterosexual pregnancies, we took months planning and screening donors and picking which process would best suit us at that time (IVF, IUI) it was all very new to us and everyone around us. We got there eventually and after what felt like the longest pregnancy ever (because you find out so soon with IUI due to the scheduled testing etc) we took home our greatest achievement yet.

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“My biggest consideration and still is, is society’s perception of our unconventional family. I guess I just don’t want my child to suffer the consequences of our choice to bring them into the world.”

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What were your biggest considerations before making your decision to embark on parenthood?

K: I didn’t have many considerations pre-pregnancy, I tend to run away with a plan without always thinking it through. But during the pregnancy I did consider a few times if we were really “ready” for it. And by it, I mean giving up the luxury of not being responsible for keeping a whole human being alive, fed, loved and looked after. Turns out we’re managing quite well.

J: My biggest consideration and still is, is society’s perception of our unconventional family. The world is so hate-fuelled and when things go against the so-called ‘norm’, that becomes heightened. I guess I just don’t want my child to suffer the consequences of our choice to bring them into the world.

What have you learnt about yourself along the way?

K: I have a lot less patience than I thought I did!  And I care more about “developmental milestones” than I thought I ever would.

J: That sleep is a God given gift, don’t waste it! But seriously, I think I’m learning more about myself all of the time since becoming a parent, that’s the beauty to teach your child, yet learn from them too.

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“I sincerely believe that there is no better starting ground for a new life than it being truly, truly wanted.”

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What advice would you give to anyone else who is considering embarking on a similar journey?

K: Do it. If you want to be a mum or a dad. Do it. Being in a same sex couple doesn’t make a difference, I sincerely believe that there is no better starting ground for a new life than it being truly, truly wanted. In our situation you don’t fall pregnant by accident. No amount of drunken nights of passion will result in a baby for us. Our baby was well planned for.

J: If this is truly what you want then go for it! Life is too short to have regrets and although having a child turns your life on its head, you will gain more than you will have lost.

Would you do anything differently?

K: Probably avoid moving house whilst 5 months pregnant. Maybe save some more £s too. In terms of being a parent, I would enjoy those early newborn days way more than I did. Everyone told us it would go fast and it has. I really miss the snuggly, snoozy, totally dependent on their parent, newborn days.

J: No I’m not sure I would have really. The only thing I can think is that I would have liked to ask the donor a few questions because in situations as big as this you will always have questions (as will our child) but other than that I think we did alright for first timers!

What inspires you and your parenting?

K: Instagram and Pinterest give me loads of inspo for meals and educational activities. But mainly our son inspires my parenting. Watching him learn a new skill or say a new word really keeps me going through the long and if I’m honest, sometimes boring or mundane days of parenting stuff like cooking, changing nappies and watching yet another episode of the pink, bratty pig also known as Peppa.

J: My family, my mother and grandmother are two of the greatest (barring my wife) mothers that I know. It takes a village to raise a young one and I learned how to parent from instincts that I have picked up from them.

What keeps you up at night? (if anything!)

K: Our kid! He’s not a great sleeper. He doesn’t seem to have read the memo that says “you feel heaps better after a solid night’s sleep”!

J: I second that! I think I have definitely become more anxious as a parent, so in all honesty I do worry about things that haven’t and possibly will not happen but that’s parenthood, it’s my job to worry. 

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“Be a mix of the parents that you had/have and the parents that you wanted to have.”

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What was the best piece of advice you ever received?

K: Enjoy them whilst they are small. It’s hard, it really is. But even at 23 months there is so much independence oozing out of this small human that it scares me to think one day he won’t physically need us anymore.

J: Be a mix of the parents that you had/have and the parents that you wanted to have.

What is the biggest challenge that you face on a daily basis and how do you overcome this?

K: Managing being a working mum/stay at home mum means I often feel guilty about something or other. If he’s sick one of us has to try to get time off of work or gauge just how ill he is and decide if he can go into nursery or not. If he’s crying and we’ve exhausted all options I feel awful that I don’t “just know” what it is that’s upsetting him. Mum guilt is a constant battle.

J: I work full time and miss out on a lot of his day. It would be ideal to be home earlier and get to spend family time on the weekdays.

What are you most proud of?

K: My family. Every day my son learns something new and blossoms into a new person. Every day my wife gets up and commutes into Central London to afford us luxuries such as a nice home and holidays. Through the sleepless nights and toddler tantrums we are doing it. We are parenting. And doing it well, if I don’t say so myself!

J: I’m proud of us (Kym and I) for cracking on and dealing with this parenthood thing. I am proud of my extended family for being a support network and accepting our family as the norm. I’m proud of my little guy for being such a bright beacon of light and bringing so much into our world.

Do you have any tips or habits for happiness?

K: Lower your expectations. Chase your dreams. Eat your veggies.

J: Meditate, communicate and don’t procrastinate

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Right Now I’m….

Watching:

SO much Netflix including Stranger Things and Queen of The South as well as for a bit of balance and all that, Tiffany Haddish and Dave Chappelle’s latest comedy specials.

Reading:

K: Michelle Obama “Becoming” – what a woman!

J: I’ve just finished Akala’s book Natives: Race Class in the ruins of empire. Brilliant read!

Listening to:  Beyoncé is always on the list, H.E.R as well but we’re also big on U.K music like Ella Mai, Wretch 32 and Dave.

Pass it on:

Who would make brilliant guests on the Muse? Please suggest up to 3 people with their Instagram and Twitter handles and we’ll invite them to join us.

Caprice Fox @the.fox.family

Bee Adamic – @mamabossgirl

Kira – @kirasocialldn

In Conversation with… Liv Thorne

Liv Thorne was perpetually single at 37, she wanted a baby so she bought sperm, went to a clinic but didn’t get pregnant x 3.  Eventually (after buying more sperm) she went back to a clinic and got pregnant.  Now 40, Liv has a one year old son, Herb and  is the co-owner of a digital branding agency in Oxford.

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Can you tell us a bit about how you became a mum to Herb?

It is a pretty long story, not an overnight decision, but in short: My problem was the primal desire I felt to become a parent and the lack of sperm in my life!  So, in very basic terms, I bought some online from a clinic in Denmark, got it shipped to a clinic in London and on the fourth attempt got pregnant.  My treatment was IUI (Intrauterine insemination), rather than IVF.  So, essentially turkey basting.  Really romantic.  There was no reason why I couldn’t get pregnant as far as I knew, it was just that I didn’t have a partner.  So, as I didn’t want the extra expense and physical stress of fertility drugs if that was something I could avoid, I tried IUI first (against the ‘wants’ of the clinic.  I really don’t think I can call it advice.  They are a business after all).

I told myself that I would give IUI four tries before opting for IVF.  I got pregnant on my fourth try.  I was very, very lucky.  Especially as, statistically speaking, I was unlikely to get pregnant at all as I was ‘old’ (in fertility terms, being over 35 is genuinely called ‘geriatric’) and overweight (I eat my feelings!) However I think most fertility stats are bullshit, but that is a story for another time … don’t get me started!

What were your biggest considerations before making your decision to become a single mum?

I needed to know that I had the support of my family.  My parents died when I was a teenager, so my siblings mean everything to me.  If they were to tell me they thought I couldn’t /shouldn’t do it, then I would’ve had to really consider whether or not I should go ahead.  Needless to say, they have been truly amazing.

What have you learnt about yourself along the way?

That I didn’t need as much sleep as I thought! Seriously though that is a really tricky question.  I am sure that I have learnt a plethora of things, however I am not sure I will realise what they are until I am out of the thick of it.  So maybe ask me again in ten years!

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“Whilst it is has been mind boggling, I wouldn’t change a thing.”

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Would you do anything differently?

Nothing. I have been really lucky. Herb is a happy, healthy, funny boy.  I think the first year (and probably the subsequent thirty!) is an absolute minefield, it is all encompassing, it changes you, you dig deeper than you ever thought you could.  If I had changed anything, it might have had a Sliding Doors effect … would I still have had Herb?  So whilst it is has been mind boggling, I wouldn’t change a thing.

What keeps you up at night?

Money. Pathetic isn’t it?  I have a one year old child and for 10 months it hasn’t been him that wakes me up, but the worry of money.  I have always been bad with money, it isn’t Herb that has made this happen, let’s be clear!  However currently there is a perfect storm brewing from the last few years’ monetary situations that is about to implode!  For example, before I had Herb I worked out my childcare costs (I work full time, I have to) based on the old working tax credit system, not the new Universal Credit system.  With the new system I am not eligible for any help.  I earn a good living, but I earn a good living in the most expensive city in the UK (outside of London), with a big mortgage and on top of that the same again in childcare expenses.  Without any help, could you find an extra £1000 a month?  It’s hard but let’s face it, I am really, really fortunate that I own my own house, so things could be much worse.  It is just the one thing that is always on my mind.  So if I’m lucky enough to do an Instagram ad, don’t hate me …

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“You do you”

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What was the best piece of advice you ever received?

You do you.  If you want to breastfeed, great. If you don’t, great. If you want to co-sleep great.  If you don’t, great.  If you want to let your babe play in the mud, great.  If you don’t, also great.

Unless it affects anyone else, then it is your decision to work out how to best live for you and your baby.

P.S. No-one knows what they are doing, there are NO answers.

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“Just work out if that fiver in Starbucks is worth it?  Instead chuck it in a savings account.  You will be SO grateful you did.”

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What advice would you give to anyone else who is considering trying for a baby as a single mum?

Save. Every. Single. Penny.

Seriously.  Apart from the cost of getting pregnant (it cost me £14k in total), everything that comes after that; childcare, shoes, clothes, food, nappies, books, bedding, entertaining them day after day… nearly everything costs money. So just work out if that fiver in Starbucks is worth it?  Instead chuck it in a savings account.  You will be SO grateful you did.  Needless to say, I did not do this.

Other than that, I really cannot give advice it is too huge a decision.

Oh wait, one thing I would also advise is to get second, third, fourth opinions in terms of speaking to fertility clinics; they are a business, they want your money and some prey on your vulnerability, so make sure you are truly happy with what they are suggesting before going ahead with anything.

What are you most proud of?      

Herb.  I made him.  I did that.  He is bloody wonderful.

What is the biggest challenge that you face on a daily basis and how do you overcome this?

Loneliness and money problems.  Both are manageable.  Both are possibly fixable. However both are very, very real.  I don’t know how to overcome either, but I am working on it!

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“My best friend who always anchored me, held me, encouraged me, supported me even though we didn’t live in each others pockets, died in a car accident when I was 7 months pregnant.  I have felt slightly at sea since and I am not sure if it is grief or motherhood.”

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Do you have any tips or habits for happiness? You always seem so upbeat 🙂

That is so funny, as I have suffered from anxiety and depression to varying degrees for years and I suspect many of my friends wouldn’t say I am upbeat!  Tears of a clown and all that.  If I am it is because I have learnt to say no.  For example if there is a party and I don’t want to go because it will make me anxious, I don’t go. I used to go and drink my feelings and wake up angst ridden for days. Now I just say no like the good people of Grange Hill told me to!  I am aware it makes people eye roll, but it keeps my mental health on the straight and narrow, which is the most important thing.  I’m difficult.

I have also learnt not to be arrogant enough to assume a gathering will be a horrific disaster without my sparkling presence!  Turning up because you don’t want to disappoint people, is very rarely a decision based on their feelings, it is about yours.  97% of the time they will have a great time regardless.  I don’t drink as much as I used to as that used to spike the anxiety, so that has really helped. That is not to say I don’t drink, just I don’t drink at home as I think that could be my slippery slope.  Instead I am sliding, head first into the snack cupboard.

Don’t get me wrong I am happy loads of the time, I am very lucky and have a massive circle of friends, but I do have to work at it, it doesn’t come naturally to me.  I don’t have that one person that would call me if the world was going to end, be it a partner, a best friend or a parent and that is an odd feeling.  I would absolutely be on the list of people to call, but I am not at the top of anyone’s list.  My best friend who always anchored me, held me, encouraged me, supported me even though we didn’t live in each others pockets, died in a car accident when I was 7 months pregnant.  I have felt slightly at sea since and I am not sure if it is grief or motherhood.

It is well documented that many comics have had / do suffer from depression and I get that.  Social awkwardness is very real to me … I will always be the one ‘helping’ in the kitchen at parties!  Also, have you seen Herb?  Of course I look happy!!

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Right Now I’m….

Watching –  to be honest I think I completed Netflix months ago … I live alone with a toddler, I watch a lot of TV!

I absolutely love the real life crime dramas like The Staircase (which is ridiculous for a girl who still sleeps with the light on!) Also I have watched Home & Away every day since it started. I record it! It is the only soap I have ever watched and is my daily dose of vitamin D.  Yes, Alf is still in it.  No, I am not sorry.

Ultimately I will watch most things, from what might be considered high brow to the lowest (yep, I am a Love Islander.) My truly happy place is watching people interact, so programmes like 24 Hours in A&E & 7UpSeries absolutely break me … how people care for each other, hold each other. People are amazing.

Reading –  I am terrible at reading, I have some sort of reading narcolepsy, so for years I have listened to audio books. The last one I listened to and genuinely loved was The Wild Other by Clover Stroud. We have both suffered loss & trauma and we dealt with it in very different ways. She is now a friend. How cool is that?

I have also started reading, The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read..., by Phillippa Perry.  It is fascinating. Will I finish it?  Unlikely.  Soz Herb.

Of course there is also the endless rounds of Oi Frog! too.

Listening to – I did my degree in radio production. I am obsessed with radio & its intimate place in people’s lives. So now podcasts have changed my life. I wish they had been around twenty years ago when I did my degree, then maybe I would have stuck with it! I would LOVE to do one, but it needs to have a really great hook, the market is getting saturated.

The ones I religiously listen to are Adam Buxton (everything about it is a brilliant; a dog, batshit jingles, intelligent chat, laughs, tears, stupid adverts … it’s the best!); Desert Island Discs (because WHY wouldn’t you?); Table Manners (it is based around food & peoples life stories. I am a nosey glutton, so what is not to love?) and The High Low (Pandora & Dolly are often intimidatingly bright, but it’s like reading The Week, they find out all the interesting stuff for you and point you in the right direction!)

Music-wise … I listen to everything, it is really important in my life.  I first went to a festival when I was 14 when you used to go in your very worst clothes, it blows my mind that people now buy jazzy outfits specifically for festivals!  I bought my first house for its proximity to the local live music venue as I figured it was save me in taxis.  It did, eventually.  My favourite album is a tie, I cannot choose: Nevermind by Nirvana and Graceland by Paul Simon.  I am a white, middle class cliche.  Sorry Kurt.

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Pass it on:

Who would make brilliant guests on the Muse?  Please suggest up to 3 people with their Instagram and Twitter handles and we’ll invite them to join us.

  • @thehotcrossmum – Jess is as brilliant and as honest as they come. Regularly documents about her mental health which is so important.
  • @remi.sade – would happily listen to her talk about ANYTHING alllllll day. She has taught me so much already.
  • @alright.bab – she’s brilliant, and setting up Godiva to help people in situations like she was once in is, whilst looking after her son and just bossing life, she is bloody amazing
  • @ultimategirlgang – Liv is a hugely supportive friend and is pregnant with her fourth little girl! But mainly follow her because she is brutally honest & hilarious!
  • @themindfulbirthgroup – I met Emiliana at a hen do years ago, she now runs this hypnobirthing company but mainly she is becoming a surrogate for her best friend who could not carry her own child.  How amazing????