This interview is part of the Queer Family Archives project. Read along to hear the story of Heather (she/her), Taylor (she/her), and Theo (he/him), a wonderful Chicago family.
Tell me about the story of your family.
Heather: We worked together at an elementary school. We met in the school and dated for a while, then we got married. We knew right away that we wanted to have kids. We started trying for Theo – it was kind of a tough process. We did about six IUIs and then we switched over – the IUI’s weren’t working, so we switched over to IVF and that process went pretty smoothly comparatively – it worked. So then it was a lot of waiting.
Taylor: I had started testing before they told us to start testing. I remember doing those little strips you get from Amazon, and there was starting to be a faint pink line, and I didn’t want to get too hopeful.
Heather: We were nervous and we didn’t want to get our hopes up. But then we were excited about it and we wanted to be sure with the doctor. The doc confirmed!
How has your journey as parents has been so far, particularly as queer parents?
“It’s everything that I hoped for and more. It’s just delightful!”
Taylor: I’ve always wanted to be a parent. I’ve always been obsessed with the idea of being a mother. I think it’s always interested Heather.
Heather: Yeah! I didn’t think about it being an option for a long time, and I think it wasn’t until I met Taylor that I realized I can be a parent. So that was a new thing, and I realized I really did want to be a parent after it became an actual option that I felt like I had. So that was an exciting time, because it’s exciting to be a parent. You realize that that’s something that you want, but I think it was a little extra exciting for me because for a long time it wasn’t even something I thought could happen for me. So it was that double excitement and happiness.
Taylor: I always felt very determined to be a parent. This is something I for sure want. But with how hard it was to get pregnant, it was really shocking and difficult. It was like, this is really a lot of work, and a lot of money, and a lot of time, and we don’t know if this is even going to happen for us. But it’s everything that I hoped for and more. It’s just delightful! And parenting with Heather in particular – I think when I met her, I knew I wanted to parent with her. I think it’s been really great watching her be his mom.
What would you want to tell queer families who are starting the parenthood journey?
Taylor: That it’s really worth it. I had a conversation with my therapist where I was talking about all of the stress and anxiety that comes with things that I didn’t even think about. But he had me focus on what’s joyful and great about being a queer parent and giving Theo a queer household to grow up in. Because even if he’s straight, he still benefits from that. And to think about all the gifts that he’s getting by growing up in our family. And I think that was a really nice perspective shift for me about how it’s going to shape his views of masculinity and his views of relationships and love and friendship. It’s such a benefit for him to have this very expansive view of these things, no matter what his relationships or identities look like. That feels really exciting to be able to offer him.
“It’s just so worth it, and it’s so much better than I ever imagined.”
Heather: For me, I was so excited, but the process is so stressful. It’s a lot – it’s time and money. So for a long time I just wanted us to be pregnant, you know what I mean? And so I wasn’t thinking about the full journey. I was just thinking, “let’s just get there.” But one thing that was really cool for me was that, even though the whole process and going through everything to get pregnant was so much, it’s even better than I imagined. We just wanted to get to that point, but now we’re here and Theo is perfect. It’s just so worth it and it’s so much better than I ever imagined.
Taylor: I feel like the challenge and excitement is that he is his own person – and you don’t know what that person is going to be like and what they’re going to reveal to you. For me, that’s what I suspected would be great about parenting, but it’s really true that you have no idea who you’re getting in your family. For me, that’s very exciting. Who are you going to be? What are you going be interested in? What is your life going to hold? Just seeing that unfold over the days is really exciting.
How do you two feel like you’ve changed since you’ve been parenting?
Taylor: I think parenting with another person forces us to be so intentional and to talk about so many things. We had so many conversations before Theo was even here, and then we have to revisit a lot of those conversations now that we’re actually parenting. Through that, Heather makes me see things differently and we balance each other out in a lot of ways. Being open to that has certainly impacted me and how I’ve changed.
Heather: Parenting is not just the addition of him to our family, but it has been an addition to me as a person. It’s an extra part of me, that I get to learn and change and grow as a parent. And so that’s been awesome. It’s been all positive, even when it’s challenging. It’s awesome. An addition in every sense.
What do hope for or dream for queer families?
Taylor: A big thing is just accessibility. It was a lot of time, money, and resources to get pregnant. Luckily we had really good insurance, but that’s not a benefit everybody has. And for the birthing process, we needed a lot of support from family and from professionals. I had a very difficult birth. I ended up at a hospital that was not affirming, and it could have gone a lot worse for us, but we had good advocates. You’re in such a vulnerable position in pregnancy and postpartum, so then any extra vulnerabilities, like when you don’t have people in your court, can be really devastating and scary. Even though a lot of things went wrong, we were lucky to have a lot of people there for us.
It just requires a lot of protection when you’re in vulnerable positions. Every legal protection you can get, too. As far as having Heather on the birth certificate, we can do that, but we need to still do the second parent adoption and all of these legal things for protection. We’re lucky that we can access that, but again, it takes time and money. So access is what I hope for people.
But parenthood is possible. I think when I was in college, I wouldn’t have thought this was necessarily possible for us. It’s difficult to access – it should be easier to access – but it’s not something that you just can’t have.
Heather: We need more spaces for queer people. Living in Chicago, we have some options as a queer family, but even still when we go places, you wonder what opinions people hold and what thoughts they have. Growing up, I just wished I could be around people more like me. And as an adult, that feeling has never gone away. And as a parent, it’s just added.
I wish as a family we saw more families, you know what I mean? And obviously some people need that a lot more than others, but it’s always something that’s so important. That’s one thing I love about living in Chicago – there are becoming more of those spaces. Having that community is just the most important thing. It’s one thing to have people be supportive or an ally, whatever people call themselves, but it’s another when these families are just like us, and these people we know are vocally supportive of us. That’s really great. And I think that’s always something from when I was a kid, teenager, and now as an adult and a parent, that’s important.
Have there been any spaces in particular in Chicago that have been helpful for finding community?
Heather: They’re popping up. One big one that we’re really excited about is SloMo’s The Queer Fam Pride Jam. Stuff like that is super exciting for us. And I think that the person who runs SloMo is a new parent! So we are super excited. Anything like that is really exciting for us.
Taylor: I don’t know if there are spaces that formal, but I do just feel this relief when there’s other queer families around so you can just breathe a little bit. There is this constant coming out process when we have him and even just other curious kids that are like, “where’s his dad?” or that kind of thing. And you’re just constantly kind of bracing yourself in the back of your head of, what if somebody has a problem with us? What if somebody is uncomfortable? It shouldn’t really matter, but it’s just this lack of ease that is always in the back of the mind. I just feel a sense ease when there’s other families around that get it.
Is there anything we haven’t talked about that you would want to be part of this story for you?
Heather: As we became parents and are learning how to be parents, a lot of what we are going through makes us even more conscious and thoughtful about how we raise Theo. That’s something that I’m happy about. We both have education backgrounds that we think about, but I think a big part of it is, how do we make him the type of person that is going to be kind and accepting towards others? That’s a driving thing, and that’s something I’m grateful for, is that we are very, very thoughtful about how we raise him. So I do appreciate that the journey we’ve been on impacts how we are raising him.
Taylor: And into what family means for him. How can we be the parent that he needs? I think sometimes people parent from a place of what they needed when they were kids, but he and I are different people. So what does family mean for him? What does a supportive, affirming family look like for him? And how do we keep those lines of communication open so he can tell us what support, family, and affirmation look like for him? We’ve had to spend a lot of time thinking about the world that we wish was there for us, and then how to create that for him. How do we help him be a person that contributes to a better world for other people? We have a lot of hope around that, and a lot of expectation for him around that as well.