Originally published in My Early Hour Magazine

Author Emma Heatherington has written 40 short plays and films, three musicals and has a four-book deal with Harper Collins. We talk mornings, being a mum-of-five and living with another artist…

October 2016

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Author Emma Heatherington has written 40 short plays and films, three musicals and has a four-book deal with Harper Collins. We talk mornings, being a mum-of-five and living with another artist…

Emma Heatherington, 40, lives in a little village in County Tyrone called Donaghmore, “which is a very creative hub of talent – lots of actors, writers, artists, musicians and TV presenters live here. They say there is something in the water.” She lives with her partner Jim McKee, an artist/singer/songwriter, and children Jordyn, 20, Jade, 15, stepson Dualta, 15, Adam, 14, and 22-month-old Sonny James.

Meet Emma Heatherington

What’s your home/home life like?
It’s very varied and quite unconventional being headed up by two artistic types. We write songs and play music, Jim paints and there are toddler toys everywhere. The older kids, the ‘threenagers’, tend to spend a lot of time in their own caves (aka bedrooms) and my eldest is at uni so it’s a bit like a train station – sometimes it’s packed and sometimes it’s eerily quiet.

Our dog, a whippet called Seamus, can be found sneaking upstairs every now and then when the coast is clear and we always have family dropping by – I’m the eldest of six and we’re very close knit so there’s always comings and goings of some sort.

What time are you up in the morning?
Sonny is our alarm clock and he normally wakes around 7.30 but on school days we are all up and out by 8.10. Jim and I both work from home and are night owls so sometimes one of us will have a sneaky lie in if we can.

What wakes you up?
My toddler climbing over my head.

How do you feel?
I am not a morning person but I know with a wee one I have no choice, so it’s a case of get up and get on with it. He is very easy going though, just like his mum and dad, so we take it pretty easy on the weekends.

What do you do first thing?
Change the baby, get him some milk, get dressed, do the school run, then back for breakfast. Oh and nosey on Facebook and the likes in between all that.

In three words, describe mornings in your home?
Slow, quiet, easy.

What’s for breakfast?
The teens have cereal and the rest of us have eggs. Sonny isn’t really a breakfast person but I’m still trying to find something that he likes. I really enjoy my morning coffee.

How might the rest of your day pan out?
I seem to do a lot of housework and still get nowhere, so I’ll make a start and then when Sonny goes down for his nap, normally just after lunch, I’ll get some writing done. I do tend to work to deadline so it will depend what I have on, and how much I get done in that space of time.

We might go to the park in the afternoon then soon it’s school run time, followed by dinner and bedtime for Sonny, plus some evening runs to sports training or whatever other errands come with the teenagers. Once the baby is in bed and the others are settled, I will grab a few hours writing before bed.

What’s your workspace like?
It’s a corner on the sofa. I don’t work from a desk. My ideas are all in my head or else on my laptop so I’m pretty low maintenance.

Where are the kids when you’re working?
All at school apart from Sonny who I work around during the day, and in the evenings they will be doing homework, at youth club, football, hurling, or in their rooms stuck to some wi-fi connected device.

Emma Heatherington on writing…

Tell us about your various roles: novelist, song writer and travel writer…
I have just completed my eighth novel, having left a full time post in PR about nine years ago to be a writer. This book, The Legacy of Lucy Harte, has taken the longest to write and I’ve put my heart and soul into it so I hope it is well received – it deals with the subject of organ donation and it’s an emotional read but an inspiring one – I hope!

I got my first publishing deal just after I turned 30 so this is a new decade with a new publisher (Harper Collins) and I’m very excited about it. I have always been a writer, even in my youth, and I penned my first musical when I was 12 but it wasn’t very good. Since then, I have written about 40 short plays and films plus three musicals, which have been produced and performed across the north of Ireland, and I’m really proud of them.

My partner Jim and I teamed up for the latest one – a children’s musical called Scarecrow Fred – and it went down a treat locally so we are planning to tour it in early 2017. I am a lyricist more than a songwriter – Jim brings my lyrics to life by creating the melodies and I’ve also worked with some other fantastic musicians along the way.

I write travel reviews on occasion on family and couple breaks across Ireland and the UK for Sunday Life newspaper which is great fun, and we have been to some lovely places over the past few years from the West End of London to the west coast of Ireland.

What’s your greatest career challenge?
Finding the time and developing a routine. With the kids and working from home that can be very difficult.

What makes it all worthwhile?
Coming up with new ideas, collaborating with other extremely talented artists and performers, and seeing the finished product either on the stage or screen or on the shelves. It’s quite a feeling. As a scriptwriter, I also tackle some fairly heavy subjects such as bullying, crime and suicide awareness, so I feel it’s worthwhile when the short films I write make it to the relevant audience and hopefully educate and make a difference.

Are you a happy lone worker, or do you enjoy the buzz of a shared workspace?
I love getting a few hours to myself where I can really get stuck into a story, be it a novel or a script for theatre or for screen and I really appreciate when I get that opportunity. However, I also enjoy working with others to bring it to life and I have worked with some amazing actors and singers who have done just that to my scripts. I also love working with Jim – it’s a nice way to spend time together as a couple when you are creating something exciting that you both believe in.

What’s the secret to career success?
Hard work! Simple as that!

Is the juggle real for you… do you find it difficult balancing motherhood/relationship/me-time/time for friends/career?
I’m often asked what my secret is but I honestly don’t have one. I think I’m pretty cool headed and calm which probably helps me get done what needs to be done. I’m also a positive person and try to keep going even when the going gets tough. I really love my work but I love time out too when it comes along. It is difficult finding time for everything because Sonny is my main priority during the day at the moment, but we’ll get there and I love every minute of watching him reach all his little milestones, which is the best thing ever.

Describe an ideal weekend?
Friday night is TV night – I love a bit of Graham Norton and channel surfing the chat shows, then an ideal Saturday would be a relaxing day with the kids doing something nice like a day at the beach (Irish weather permitting) followed by a romantic meal for two with a nice bottle of red then some live music in a bar and a catch up with friends. Sundays are always when I meet up with my Dad, my sisters and brother and all the brood that comes with it and we enjoy a big Sunday roast, which is simply the best.

If you could wake up anywhere tomorrow, where would it be?
We recently visited Paris and I fell in love with it more than anywhere I’ve been before, so that would be very nice. A few days walking along the Seine, some French cuisine, art, culture – and of course wine – would be just lovely.

What are you working on now?
I have another two novels to write for Harper Collins, so it’s time to get the thinking cap on again. Plus, I’m working on a really interesting play called ‘The Chronicles of Motherhood’ where I will be exploring true elements of what it takes to be a modern day mother through the eyes of single mums, first time mums, step mums, bereaved mums, those who can’t be a mum, those who don’t want to be a mum, foster mums, grandmums and anyone else I can think of. Then it’s tour time for Scarecrow Fred in the New Year. And that’s as far as I can plan for at the minute. I think that’s plenty, mind you.

What’s your dream?
I’m often asked what my big ambition as a writer is and it has to be seeing my work on the big screen as a feature film. I hope some big Hollywood producer likes The Legacy of Lucy Harte and decides to make it into a movie. Now, that would be a dream come true.

You can pre-order The Legacy of Lucy Harte, published by Harper Collins in December 2016, here.

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Originally published in My Early Hour Magazine

Ashley started out working in fashion for Debenhams before quitting the office job to be a hands-on mum. She tells me about life as a fashion blogger – and why she began documenting her post-birth outfits on her blog A Mother’s Edit…

September 2016

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Ashley, 32, lives in Twickenham, south west London, with her husband and their daughter, Vivienne. She spent 11 years working in the fashion industry before quitting to be a mum and part time fashion blogger. She started documenting her outfits on A Mother’s Edit to encourage her to make more effort after giving birth to Vivienne… 

“After leaving University at Warwick, I joined a graduate program in Birmingham but I really missed home (London) so shortly after, headed back and started working for Debenhams in their head office. It was so much fun working for a big high street retailer and I learnt a lot.

It led to some amazing opportunities working with brands such as Tiffany, French Sole, Pringle of Scotland, Milly and M&S. These days I freelance which gives me the freedom I want to look after Vivienne and work.

“I FOUND AFTER A YEAR’S MATERNITY LEAVE AND NOT RETURNING TO MY OFFICE JOB – I HAD NO ONE TO MAKE AN EFFORT FOR ANYMORE.”

My go-to outfit, while pregnant, was always jeans – J brand were the best. For other pregnant mums, my advice would be: moisturise. Not just for benefits for your skin, but it helps you get to love all your curves. Nobody is perfect and those wobbly bits I have since Vivienne I have grown to love. It’s taken quite some time though.

I found after a year’s maternity leave and not returning to my office job – I had no one to make an effort for anymore. I didn’t realise the person I needed to make an effort for was actually me. It got me down, and when I forced myself to make an effort again by documenting my outfits, I felt good. I think it’s just about making time for yourself. Your new baby is, of course, the most precious thing to you but you’ve got to put your own gas mask on first. If you’re happy, your baby is happy.

My style has definitely changed since becoming a mum. Gone are the heels, in are the trainers. I spend a lot of time on the floor these days, playing, cleaning, and picking up toys, so my clothes have to be comfortable. But I still want to look good. So well fitting basics are key, and then you can add trend pieces as and when you want.

“I’M NOT SURE IF VIVIENNE A FASHIONISTA IN THE MAKING – SHE MUCH PREFERS BEING IN HER BIRTHDAY SUIT AT THE MOMENT!”

Quick and easy ways for new mums to spruce up their wardrobe…?Accessories, and I always say don’t separate day and evening clothes. Experiment. Wear a dress you save for the odd night out during the day over a tshirt, paired with trainers. Just balance everything so you’re comfortable.

I’m not sure if Vivienne a fashionista in the making – she much prefers being in her birthday suit at the moment! The fashion tip I’d pass on to her are to be aware of the power clothes can have when meeting people, working, and on your own mood.”

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Originally published in My Early Hour Magazine

At the age of 26, Katie Jones is running an award-winning company, selling cookies to increase the milk supply of breastfeeding mums. Boobbix lactation cookies have been endorsed by mums up and down the country. We talk mornings, breastfeeding and motherhood…

September 2016

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Katie Jones, 26, lives in a small village just outside of Windsor with her husband Ian and their daughter Savannah who has just turned two.

What’s your home/home life like?
At the moment we live in a not so child friendly fourth floor flat in a Georgian building with no lift, but we are trying to sell it so that we can have a garden and a lot less stairs. It used to be a really lovely adult flat but now it’s total chaos! Every room is filled with Savannah’s toys and my cookie leaflets and boxes.

What time are you up in the morning?
Around 7am.

What wakes you up?
Normally a tiny hand in my face or foot in my back.

How do you feel?
I really hate getting up and I’m always tired. But I like being able to sneak away for half an hour of quiet time.

What do you do first thing?
Turn the kettle on and check my emails.

In three words, describe mornings in your home?
As soon as Savannah is up, mornings are kids’ TV and sofa whilst me and Ian try to do a little bit of work. Then trying to get her to eat and get ready whilst she tries to run away from me. So: TV, work, eat.

What’s for breakfast?
Savannah and Ian will normally have porridge with berries and honey, but I’m not a big breakfast person. I always have a cup of tea, and I’ll have a cookie if I’ve had a long night of feeding.

How might the rest of your day pan out?
Because we both work from home, we’ve not got a lot of routine at home which is great because Savannah won’t sleep a lot, so we tend to work around her as much as possible. Most days I will bake some cookies, and then reply to emails, and then swap with Ian so he can get something done and I will play with her till he’s done.

“IT WAS ABOUT A YEAR OF PLANNING AND WORKING REALLY HARD BEFORE WE STARTED SELLING”

We like going to a café in Windsor for a little bit to get out of the house and then if the weather is nice, a park or my nan’s house so Savannah can play in the garden.

I cook the dinners most of the time and Savannah will try to help me by mixing or moving things I need. We all sit down to eat dinner together so it’s a bit of a nightmare trying to eat mine and get her to eat but I prefer it that way so that I can give her the same food as us. Ian will give her a bath whilst I sort the house out a bit and then I get her ready and put her to bed. She doesn’t sleep till late so sometimes I fall asleep with her, but if I manage to stay awake I’ll go and watch some telly and relax a little. I love trashy programmes like the Kardashians and this is pretty much the only chance I get to watch them.

What’s your workspace like?
I don’t really have a set workspace at the moment; for baking we hire a commercial kitchen, which is, nice, but for paperwork and orders I will do it wherever and whenever I can. If I can get her to sleep and the sun is out I love sitting in my nan’s garden and getting work done.

Where is Savannah when you’re working?
Generally trying to sit on me or press the computer buttons. Savannah hasn’t quite got the personal space issue yet, and as I still breastfeed her she will choose the most awkward time to demand a feed, or that I draw with her. I’m lucky that Ian is able to take her out for a couple of hours, and if he’s busy, then my mum and nan are so close to us that they will help out.

Tell us about your business…
I came up with the idea of Boobbix just after I had Savannah. I found it really tough to pump any milk off because she fed on the hour, every hour, and because of that no one else could help me feed her. I looked online for ways to increase your milk supply and came across lactation cookies, but sadly they were only really available in the US and they were really expensive. I did order a bag, but when they came in they tasted awful and so I didn’t want to eat them, even if they would’ve helped me.

I decided to try and make my own, but the first few times I tried they also tasted awful! I’ve always loved cooking and baking so I kept tweaking the recipe until I got it just right, and I was amazed at how well they worked. I figured that it couldn’t just be me that wanted something like this, and so I started asking my mum’s friends that had stopped breastfeeding why they had stopped. As I’d predicted, the majority of them said that it was fears of low milk supply, and lots of them said that they would’ve happily have tried cookies if they helped.

I then trialled them with lots of mums – who loved them – and this gave me the confidence to start a business. I made sure that as much as possible the cookies were made from organic ingredients, as diet is very important for breastfeeding and pregnant mums. The idea that the cookies are a natural way of increasing milk meant that the ingredients had to be as good as possible to fit in with our ethos.

I didn’t really have a lot of experience in business, but I also didn’t have a great budget, so Ian took pictures and helped me design the packaging, and I did the website, and contacted bloggers to see if they wanted to try it. It was about a year of planning and working really hard before we started selling, and we launched in December 2015.

I graduated from Royal Holloway with a first just before having Savannah, and I had every intention of getting a job once she was about six months old, but when it came down to it I didn’t want to leave her, so luckily having Boobbix meant that I could work from home as well as being with her.

“I LOVE WHAT I DO, AND I TRULY BELIEVE IN OUR PRODUCTS, SO I KEEP WORKING HARD AND TRYING NEW THINGS SO THAT WE CAN BUILD OUR BUSINESS.”

Although we’re still only new, we’ve had some great successes and have recently won a gold award from Loved by Parents for our cookies. I’m really happy with the way things are going at the moment as we are building a future for our family.

What’s the greatest challenge when running your own businesses?
I think the biggest challenges for me are all concerning trying to work and look after Savannah. I get a lot of mum guilt when I’m emailing or baking and she wants my attention, but she also has a lovely little life and lots of people who dote on her so we do everything to minimise the effect on her.

What makes it all worthwhile?
I love getting good feedback from customers, and even though we get a lot more now that more people are buying from us, every single message means a lot to me. The best ones are always mums who have struggled with breastfeeding and not had a lot of support, but have felt so much more confident and able to continue feeding because of the cookies.

Are there aspects of the production that you delegate to others; do you enjoy, for instance, the creative side but not the accounts?
Ian takes all of the pictures because he’s an amateur photographer and he needs to justify having as much kit as he does! My brother helps with the packing and postage and my nan packs them ready for shipping. I do the baking, paperwork, and day-to-day bits. I probably enjoy the social media side of things most because since I have started doing it, I’ve met so many great people who have been so helpful with starting a business.

Are you a happy lone worker, or do you enjoy the buzz of a shared workspace?
I quite like being on my own because I am so easily distracted! I’m better being able to work at my own pace.

What’s the secret to career success?
I wish I knew! I think it’s passion and belief in what you do. I love what I do, and I truly believe in our products, so I keep working hard and trying new things so that we can build our business. It’s difficult because lactation cookies aren’t very well known here, unlike in America and Australia where they are popular and used by loads of women. I have to make sure that we are always present on the internet for women that search for breastfeeding problems, as they are a lot less likely to search for lactation cookies.

Is the juggle real for you… do you find it difficult balancing motherhood/relationship/me-time/time for friends/career? 
It is a real struggle with motherhood and my relationship with Ian because Savannah is so full on! My mum has her one day a week, and that’s really important for us. After I’ve got some work done, we can spend some time together, and eat a meal out without little fingers poking our food.

I always seem to have a massive to-do list that I never get through, which means when I do get me-time it’s generally spent doing things that are long overdue.

I don’t see my friends as much as I would like, but I do speak to them almost every day and that makes it easier. I’m quite a home body so I’m not too bothered about not going out, but being a mum and working at home can be quite lonely.

Describe an ideal weekend?
I like chilled weekends. Ideally, I would love to see my family for a bit and let Savannah play in the garden whilst I can drink a hot cup of tea. Apart from that, it would be a lot of relaxing and not a lot of work.

If you could wake up anywhere tomorrow, where would it be?
Miami. In a super king size bed. We used to go there every year before Savannah, and I loved the weather, the food quantities and being able to just get in the pool whenever you like. We went earlier this year, but because Savannah is so young it just wasn’t quite as relaxed as it used to be.

Any future ventures?
I have just launched a pregnancy cookie, which we are trying to promote, and so that is the next few months for us. But after that, I would really love to get our cookies onto shelves, and make them more known with breastfeeding mums and health professionals.

Boobbix lactation cookies
Boobbix on Instagram: @boobbix
Boobbix on Twitter: @boobbix
Boobbix on Facebook: /boobbix

katie-arnelle

Originally published in My Early Hour Magazine

A photo capturing the moment BJ Barone’s son Milo was born, via surrogacy, went viral. It was later used, without permission, by European politicians to support their campaigns against surrogacy and LGBT families. He tells us about his journey to fatherhood…

September 2016

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BJ Barone, 36, lives in Toronto with his husband Frankie, and their son, Milo, two. He talks us through the highs and lows of becoming a dad through surrogacy…

“Frankie is a fantastic father and an amazing husband. He is always there to support me, to push me, and he makes me want to be a better person. When you see him take care of Milo, you really see the loving, caring person he is.

When we first met (on the dance floor), we had the same shoes on, which was a definite icebreaker. Frankie complimented me on my shoes and the rest is history. We hit it off right away and I ended up driving up to Toronto from Niagara every chance I got. We had the same interests and I loved that he loved spending time with his family. Frank was the first guy I had met that I knew I wanted to get to know better.

We both love kids, spending time with our own nieces and nephews, and we talked about having one (or more) of our own. Frankie always knew he wanted to be a father; it took me a little longer to come to that realization. It was one of the things we discussed when we started dating. Frankie told me soon after we started getting serious with one another that he was serious about having a child. I personally didn’t feel ready, physically, mentally, and financially. But in 2012, I signed my contract with the school board and then said to Frankie, “Ok, let’s do this!” Then we began the process of surrogacy.

Why surrogacy…?

Soon after we met, Frank signed us up for the “Daddy and Papas 2B” class at the 519 community centre here in Toronto so we could both learn more about the different ways we could become dads. After a lot of discussion, we felt with surrogacy we could have more control than that of the adoption route, but we soon realized that no one really has control over the whole baby making process! We felt surrogacy was the right path for us to take and we never looked back.

“THERE ARE NOT THAT MANY SURROGATES OUT THERE, AND AS SOON AS A WOMAN’S PROFILE BECOMES AVAILABLE, SHE QUICKLY BECOMES MATCHED WITH INTENDED PARENTS. IT IS SOMEWHAT LIKE A DATING GAME.”

Finding a woman to carry our baby was the hardest part in this journey. We signed up to surrogacy websites where profiles of egg donors and surrogates are listed. Finding an egg donor was the easy part for us, we were lucky someone we both liked wanted to match with us. Once we found the egg donor, we began our search to find the woman who would carry our baby. There are not that many surrogates out there, and as soon as a woman’s profile becomes available, she quickly becomes matched with intended parents. It is somewhat like a dating game.

During the process of looking for our surrogate, we spoke to many women who could potentially be our surrogate. Some we talked to on the phone and some women we met, but no one seemed to fit the bill. This was a very stressful time for us and it seemed we would never find the right woman.

One day Frankie emailed a woman named Kathy back. A few months earlier when Frankie had messaged her she had told us she was matched with another couple, but we thought we would try again and see if things had changed. Kathy told us that things were not working out with the couple she was matched with and that she wouldn’t mind talking to us. We emailed back and forth at first, and then chatted on the phone and finally we set up a day to meet with her and her family.

We drove up to Kingston (about three hours from Toronto) and met with Kathy and her husband Kris, and their two children, Jordan and Layla. We spent the day with them, and things just clicked. We got along great, the kids loved us and they felt like they were already a part of our family, and we theirs. The next day, Kathy called us and said she would love to help us create our family.

We are forever grateful for having that moment Milo was born captured in the photo that went viral. The picture was taken literally within seconds of him being born. He is still attached to Kathy in it! The picture shows such raw emotion that any parent has when their child is born. And I feel that a lot of people can relate to it, whether gay or straight. It’s that unconditional love you have for your child the moment you meet them. That bond is so overwhelming and you can see it in Frankie’s face.

We spent the day with Kathy and her husband at the hospital. She was in labour for about six hours and Milo’s actual birth happened so quickly. I remember Kathy saying that it was starting to burn down there (she had chosen to have Milo naturally, with a midwife and no pain meds at all), and our midwife Heather said, “It is time!” Then I remember Milo’s head start to emerge and Heather screamed, “Shirts Off!” Frankie and I both took our shirts off, and literally seconds later Milo was born.

He was placed on Frankie’s chest and I wrapped my arms around both of them. We both immediately began crying. This was something we both wanted so badly and we couldn’t believe that our son was here. It was very surreal. It was the most incredible and most scary moment of our lives. We will never forget it.

I like to think of myself of being a dad, and not necessarily a gay dad. That said, being a father is the best thing in the world. I feel like my life has purpose now. The fact that I can teach Milo things, watch him grow and develop, and nurture him. I think the most important thing is that Milo has taught me to be more patient and appreciate life a little more.

An advantage, in my opinion, is that in our house there are no gender-based roles. People sometimes ask, “Who does the mommy jobs?” Which I think is absolutely ridiculous in the first place, that there are even “mommy jobs”. Regardless of gender, in any household, the duties need to get done, so it doesn’t matter who does it.

After Milo was born, and all the attention we received from the photo, many people told us that we should write a book about our adventure to parenthood. We thought it was a good idea, but we were busy with a newborn and put that idea on the back burner.

THE WAY OTHERS MAY TREAT MILO DEFINITELY HAS CROSSED OUR MINDS BECAUSE HE HAS TWO DADS, BUT IT IS NOT A MAJOR CONCERN OF OURS

In March of this year, our photo was being used by politicians in Europe to support their campaigns against same sex families, and we felt that this was the perfect time to write our story and help educate the world that all families are created differently and that family is about love.

We felt that the story should be told through Milo’s perspective and told in his voice because it is his adventure on how he became a part of our family. It is a children’s book, so it is told in simple language that any child can understand. Milo’s Adventures is also appropriate within current Health Curriculum in schools so it can be used by educators to help discuss surrogacy to their students. Parents can also read it to their children to show and teach them that all families are created differently.

The way others may treat Milo definitely has crossed our minds because he has two dads, but it is not a major concern of ours. Toronto is a progressive and accepting city, and we have not encountered any issues in our community. Milo currently goes to a day care that is very diverse and inclusive, and he will continue to go to school there when the time comes. There are many same sex families, families of mixed races and inter-faith families, so the fact that he has two dads doesn’t worry us.

Unfortunately bullying exists, and it doesn’t matter if you have two dads, or two moms, or a mom and a dad, or whoever makes up your family, kids can tease and be mean to each other. We will teach him that other kids may not like our type of family, and that’s ok, just be respectful of them and walk away from people that do not like you.

We will for sure be open to Milo about surrogacy. He has two dads, so he is going to ask at some point where he came from! There is also his book written about him so I think he will have some idea of how he became a part of our family. We’re still good friends with our surrogate, Kathy, she is a part of our family. We will always continue to have contact with her and her family, and Milo will know that she is a very important person to us.

“ADVICE THAT I WOULD GIVE TO OTHER GAY COUPLES OR GAY SINGLES WHO ARE THINKING ABOUT STARTING A FAMILY IS THIS: IF YOU CAN; DO IT.”

We are raising Milo with the same morals and values that our parents taught us. Respect one another, accept everyone, love each other and be kind to everyone. Be patient with others and respect their differences. We are all different and that is what makes us awesome.

The only thing that I think straight couples could learn from us is that gender doesn’t have to have a particular role when raising a child. We share all the parental roles between us.

Advice that I would give to other gay couples or gay singles who are thinking about starting a family is this: if you can; do it. It is the most challenging and rewarding thing anyone can do. You will grow so much yourself, and watching your little one develop is the most incredible thing in this world.

I would say one of the things we were told as soon as we had Milo was don’t take advice from anyone. After saying this, if there is any advice I could give anyone is go with your instinct. You know what is best for your child, and you. What works for them and what doesn’t work. Many people like to offer advice. Smile and nod. Say thank you. Then do your own thing!”

You can buy Milo’s Adventures: a Story About Love and visit BJ Barone’s website: www.familyisaboutlove.com.

They are also on Facebook: Family Is About Love
Instagram: familyisaboutlove
And Twitter: familysaboutluv

Main image credit: Lindsay Foster Photography

2014 LFP

Originally published in My Early Hour Magazine

Have you ever imagined how it might feel to be the parent of a transgender child? How you’d feel if your child felt they belonged to the opposite sex? In an honest, revealing interview with Arnelle, Cheryl B. Evans discusses her son’s transition from female to male…

September 2016

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Cheryl B. Evans is in her forties and lives with her husband Jim and their son Jordan, who is transgender and who has recently turned 18. Our daughter Mariah is 21 and lives on her own.

“My husband and I were at home when we got a call from Jordan’s school, he was in grade 8 at the time. We were asked to come into the school right away. Jordan had confided in a friend that he had begun cutting himself and had already tried to commit suicide. That friend went to the school principal with that information who in turn shared it with us.

When we brought Jordan home from school that afternoon he poured everything out to us in tears. That was the day we learned Jordan was having gender struggles and the day our journey began.  My initial thought was that this was just a typical teenage girl adjusting to the extra hormones rushing through her body. My reaction soon changed to – we need to do whatever is necessary to help Jordan through this. As Jordan continued to enlighten Jim and me, we began to realise this was so much deeper than a teenage girl going through puberty.

I started creating a personal journal. The documenting of our story helped me to heal and come to terms with what was happening. So what eventually became I Promised Not to Tell: Raising a Transgender Child didn’t actually start out as a book. This is why it has such a personal feel. In fact, it never would have been published without my son’s permission. Names had to be changed in order to protect his privacy.

“I DIDN’T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT TRANSGENDER PEOPLE AND THEREFORE JUST ASSUMED JORDAN WAS A TOMBOY.”

The motivation behind sharing our story is only to help other parents, families and society as a whole. Without stories like this being shared, we can’t expect others to understand. I know our story can help educate others. I know readers will come away with an understanding of transgender people that you just can’t get from a textbook. There is something about a personal story told by a mother that resonates with the reader.

There is no doubt parts are hard to read, especially if you are a parent. I didn’t hold back. I told our story the way we experienced it, raw and honest. I wish there was a book like this I could have read when our journey first began.   There are stories about transgender children out there but I haven’t found one that covers the journey in this detail.

The entire process of my child’s transition from female to male is shared including hormone replacement therapy, sex reassignment surgeries, dating, and so much more. It’s like a road map now for other parents who may be experiencing the same things with their child. Or, a fantastic resource to help individuals or loved ones going through gender struggles or gender transitions.

During his childhood, there weren’t any moments when I thought Jordan might identify with the opposite gender. Well, not that I was able to recognise at the time, aynway. Honestly, I didn’t know anything about transgender people and therefore just assumed Jordan was a tomboy. I wish as a parent I was educated about transgenderism because if I was, I may have been able to recognise the signs Jordan was showing us.

For the most part, with a couple exceptions, everyone was very supportive.   His sister did struggle to come to terms with it, which was largely due to the interactions and influences of others. Namely, religious folks who told my daughter that what she was describing was “not of God”. The misunderstanding or resistance we experienced was the result of ignorance more than anything else. By ignorance I don’t necessarily mean people with negative attitudes, I only mean not thoroughly understanding something. People just aren’t educated on transgenderism. I hope interviews like this can help to change that.

On raising a transgender child

It’s been an interesting journey with many ups and downs. It’s scary raising a transgender child. You worry where to buy diovan hct online mexico about their wellbeing all the time. You fear others will bully them, harm them in some way because they don’t understand or even believe transgenderism is real. It’s hard to imagine your child being trapped in the wrong body. It seems impossible. Usually the first words you hear when you deliver a baby is “it’s a girl” or “it’s a boy”. I have come to understand those three words don’t always ring true.

As parents, our child’s health and happiness is what matters most to me and my husband. We vowed to do whatever we needed to do to ensure our child was whole, mentally and physically and able to live an authentic life even if it was not one we expected he would live. Our experiences taught me that as parents, we need to be open and realise that we don’t always get what we expect. My mind has definitely been opened through our parenting experiences with Jordan and it’s my sincere hope that through my book we can help others. Parents need to know there is far more to gender than most people realise.

When Jordan decided to transition, we did a ton of research; we got our child professional help, the right doctors, and a good therapist to talk to. We fought for his rights to change his gender on his identification and even got a law changed that will help pave the way for other transgender children in our province.

The difference in Jordan’s attitude and life pre-transition to today is unbelievable. He is confident, healthy, happy and truly alive today. These are things I could not have said about him in the years leading up to his transition. He was a very happy confident tomboy as a child. It was only when puberty hit that everything went very dark.

“YOU LOVED YOUR CHILD WHEN THEY WERE BORN AND YOU HAVE LOVED THEM UP TO THIS POINT. PLEASE CONTINUE TO LOVE THEM NOW AND AFTER THEY TRANSITION.”

The stigma around being transgender can be changed when people admit there may be things they don’t fully understand. For the most part, it is a lack of knowledge. Just like me, people are generally not well versed on the topic of transgenderism. With a willingness to learn and to listen to the experiences of others, the stigma can be replaced with acceptance, understanding and even compassion.

Reading my book I Promised Not to Tell would be a great start. It is such a detailed and personal story that it would be impossible for a reader to finish the book and not feel they have gained a better understanding about transgenderism.

To other parents with a transgender child, I would say get professional help; someone you and your child can talk to. To quote a paragraph from chapter 7 in my book I would go on to say:

“If you are a parent of a transgender child, especially if you are struggling with that reality, know that you are not alone. Whether you believe in God or not, believe in yourself. Believe that there is no one that knows your child the way you do. Believe that you are well equipped to love your child. At the root of it all, there must be love. You loved your child when they were born and you have loved them up to this point. Please continue to love them now and after they transition. Ignore the criticisms of others, they will criticize you regardless. We should be grateful our children are alive to love. We should be thankful we can continue to share our lives with them regardless of whether they are male or female. It is a heart wrenching time, for some more so than for others, but if you make it about love and not gender, you will get through this journey; that I can promise you.”

If you would like to learn more about my book I Promised Not to Tell – Raising a transgender child please check it out on Amazon – order a copy. I know you will not be disappointed. You just never know, once you read it for yourself, you may be able to recommend it to someone who really needs it. Together, we may even begin to change minds about transgenderism one reader at time.”