Starting a family is often the most important decision in people’s lives. It can mean joy and fulfilment but also trepidation that something could go wrong.
For members of the LGBTQ+ community, it can seem like a daunting prospect – with all the challenges faced by cishet parents plus the stress of having to cope with prejudice and heteronormative systems.
Happily, many queer couples are thriving as parents – and we caught up with half of one such couple, Oxford Brookes alumni Alisa Stef (pictured, on the right, with her partner Naomi), who shares her parenting story here.
When did you decide to start a family?
My partner Naomi and I met in 2018. Once we’d decided we wanted the same thing, we moved in together, away from the city and busy professional life to the North Oxfordshire countryside. And in lockdown, we decided to start a family.
I arranged for a Romanian friend of mine to donate sperm. I am Romanian and Naomi is English and we wanted to extend that multiculturalism to our child’s genes.
Naomi got pregnant (pictured) and she carried our little Rose. So, we had a wonderful daughter and wanted a bigger family. But I didn’t want to carry a baby. Instead, we went into training to be foster carers.
And within a year we had an amazing 15-year-old foster daughter. Fostering has been an inspiration for us and others around us. I would really recommend it.
Our dinner table is filled up now and we love it!
What were the challenges you faced?
Medical professionals often address you as if you have a husband at first, just assuming that you’re part of a heterosexual couple. We are appreciating though, how everyone is doing their best to improve this.
Just before lockdown, I attended a pregnancy group where all the dads go to support the mums. There was about 9 or 10 of us, all male except me. I really shook up the group dynamic!
Even though there was some discomfort in the air, at first, I could tell that everyone was trying to adjust to the idea of same-sex parenting.
The lockdown was a challenge in some ways but it was also amazing to have such a close and intimate time for nursing. As the non-birth mother, I was also able to breastfeed thanks to a simple Canadian Protocol for Inducing Lactation.
Therefore, our first daughter simply loved life with two sets of breasts feeding her growth for over two years. This was new for the medical team but they were very open to trying and learning. Women’s bodies are incredible when it comes to procreation!
How prepared were you?
Naomi has always been out as a gay woman and she already knew queer people who have had children. Two of our very good friends, a same-sex female couple, were six months ahead of us.
In a way, we had an advantage over a heterosexual couple in that it had to be a very conscious, well-planned decision. No accident here!
We were relatively well-informed and Naomi is from a medical background. We also went with our intuition.
Even with all these, ‘’preparations’’ we were still a bit of a train-wreck. The mix of emotions, hormones, adrenaline, lack of sleep, fear and post-birth trauma, caught us by surprise. At the same time, we were not prepared for the moments of joy, stillness, fulfilment and beauty in being able to nurture one another.
How has family life affected your work?
It has taken a turn that I didn’t expect. I’ve always seen myself as a professional and having children as a side. Now I see it the other way around.
My background is in business and international law. I’ve worked for NGOs, private businesses and government, across three different countries both as an employee and as a freelancer.
We decided that I would be a full-time, stay-at-home mum and Naomi went back to work but only part-time. So we can both focus on the children. And it’s been one of the greatest decisions. My most amazing freelance gig! We’re very proud of it and very happy.
Naomi and I already have some ideas about where and what we’re going to do professionally in the future. We’re both drawn to environmental topics and I am tailoring my work life, working as a freelancer, to suit my family life.
Did you enjoy your time at Brookes?
Yes, very much. I studied for a Master’s in International Law. The process of learning and the experience of working with peers has been extremely valuable. And I learnt skills that have been very transferable to other kinds of work.
I was working at the time so didn’t have much time for socialising but being in Oxford was good with many avenues to explore.
Overall, how are you enjoying life now?
Nearly three years into full-time parenting and I absolutely love it!
We have scaled down and slowed our pace of life. Now we have time for lots of silliness and messiness, for making bread, hatching chickens and having fun.
Our daughters are now three and seventeen – witnessing their growth, their confidence building up, and their joy for little things has meant we have grown with them.
The process of nurturing them means we have nurtured ourselves as a result.
If anyone has any questions on this topic, how can they get in touch with you?
They can contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org