Momspiration

Love, Mom and Babe

GET TO KNOW… ASquaredMamaSquared

Allia is a Senior Producer at Verizon Media and Alison is a High School English and Drama Teacher. They are mamas to Kingston Grey, 20 months old.

Very excited to share this feature on our family, from the website Ani and Wren (a maternity-wear and baby store in Toronto, Ontario). All photos are by Trish Mennell.

Momspiration

TALK TO US ABOUT YOUR FERTILITY JOURNEY — CAN YOU SHARE A BIT ABOUT THE PROCESS, THE CHALLENGES AND THE SURPRISES? HOW DID YOU DECIDE THAT ALISON WOULD BE THE ONE TO CARRY THE BABY?

AC: As a queer couple, we knew that we wouldn’t have what some people see as a conventional approach to pregnancy. We both had an interest in carrying and, for us, deciding what donor process we would use helped to shape our decisions. We wanted our children, if we had several, to be biologically related to one another, so we had to explore some different options. Ultimately, fate decided some things for us.


AM: Because I was older we decided that I would try carrying first. We quickly encountered lots of surprises and challenges. The fertility industry wasn’t as progressive as we had hoped. Forms we filled out didn’t have options like “no man in the relationship” which led to one of our first intake forms saying, “Diagnosis — same-sex couple.” Additionally, we found ourselves having to educate people, including medical staff at various clinics and even at the hospital, about the specifics of how a same-sex couple comes to find themselves expecting. One of these trips to the hospital happened after my second miscarriage. Getting pregnant was easy for me, keeping the baby was the hard part. After two years of trying, I decided to take a break for my mental and physical health. 

AC: That meant that I was on deck. With me carrying, we chose a donor with a similar background as Allia, Jamaican-Irish; it was really important to us, as an interracial couple, that our kids have a similar racial background. It worked out pretty beautifully. Our son looks like both of us and we love that whomever is with Kingston is automatically assumed to be the mother. Obviously we both ARE the mother, but you’d be surprised how many people ask bold, often ignorant questions. A lot of people are still not used to seeing children with two moms, or even with different backgrounds from one or both parents (whether that be multi-racial or blended families, adoption, surrogacy, etc). Of course, we are just happy that he is healthy and ours.

Momspiration - Kingston + Mom

CAN YOU DESCRIBE HOW YOU FELT WHEN YOUR SON WAS BORN? WHAT WERE SOME OF THE EMOTIONS THAT YOU FELT? HOW DID THE FIRST “100” DAYS GO (OTHERWISE KNOWN AS THE MEMORABLE 4TH TRIMESTER)?

AM: You really can’t prepare yourself for the moment of seeing your child for the first time. I was overwhelmed with excitement and gratitude for our midwives and our doula. But I was also fully fearful of the realness of motherhood, and just stunned at Alison’s strength during labour. The first 100 days included moments where we’d look at each other and joyfully say, “we have a baby!” or “we’re parents!” There were also lots of conversations around poop. 

AC: I felt everything! Literally, too, since the epidural only worked on one side of my body. I was so in love from the minute I knew I was pregnant, then even more once he was born. You think you love your partner, then you meet your child and you think “not like THIS.” It’s terrifying to care so much about something, and anxiety-provoking to love and want to protect this tiny, fragile little person. I didn’t know how I would do with “mothering” to be honest. I love teaching high school aged kids, but babies were a bit of a mystery, so I was relieved at how much I enjoyed it. He was a very happy baby, so that definitely helped.

Allison + Allia + Kingston

WE LOVE THE NAME KINGSTON GREY – IS HE NAMED AFTER ANYONE?

AC: It was a natural pick for us and we agreed quickly on his name. I grew up with a cottage on Wolfe Island, spending much of my childhood in Kingston, Ontario. Allia was born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica, and those roots hold a deep significance for her. His name reflects our two worlds and how he is a blend of both. With a mouthful of a last name, we wanted a short, strong middle name. I’m a big fan of Oscar Wilde (The Picture of Dorian Gray), with one letter changed, it’s a nod to queer literary history.

Momspiration Family

AS A GAY INTERRACIAL COUPLE, HOW DO YOU PLAN ON ADDRESSING ISSUES OF RACE, RACISM AND SEXUALITY WITH YOUR SON. WE KNOW HE IS STILL YOUNG, BUT HAVE YOU THOUGHT ABOUT THE CONVERSATIONS YOU WILL HAVE?

AM: For a lot of individuals who identify as BIPOC or are part of the LGBTQ+ community, we find ourselves talking about race, racism and sexuality frequently. As a couple, we have always been open about our fertility journey and our queer identity. And I don’t shy away from conversations around my multi-racial identity. We are conscious of the images Kingston sees, the media he might consume and we recognize the importance of diversity and celebrating difference in all aspects of our life. My hope is that he will feel we have created a safe, brave space for him to be curious about these issues so we can have open, honest conversations.

AC: In some ways those choices and conversations are just a natural part of raising a child. You reflect what you value in the choices you make. And the discussions that might seem awkward or difficult become second nature when you are proud of who you are, who you love and your heritage. Removing shame from the equation really opens up the possibility of raising a child in a deliberate, celebratory way; we hope to raise a little person who is gentle, thoughtful, courageous, open-hearted and with a generous spirit. He is growing in an incredible community of strong, vibrant people. He has great role-models and sees different cultures, sexualities and love all around him. 

Allia + Kingston

HOW HAVE YOU BEEN COPING WITH THE CURRENT CLIMATE IN THE WAKE OF THE BLACK LIVES MATTER MOVEMENT. HAVE YOU FELT SUPPORTED BOTH PERSONALLY AND PROFESSIONALLY? WHAT HAVE YOUR WORK AND YOUR FRIENDS DONE THAT YOU HAVE FOUND ENCOURAGING?

AM: My commitment has always been to celebrate difference and drive diversity, inclusion and equity initiatives. Because of the positions I hold within my job and my volunteer work, I’ve found myself in daily conversations around race, anti-black racism and diversity or the lack of it. Cue the extreme exhaustion. I’ve learned to lean into the discomfort with these conversations and create a brave space for others to center courage, care and vulnerability over silence. It’s not easy. I’m not alone in feeling the weight of the opportunity to redefine our reality. I have an amazing support system around me, both personally and professionally, who continue to recognize my fluctuating needs during this difficult time. They’ve stepped up their allyship by listening to my experiences and educating themselves on the issues surrounding systemic racism. I’ve seen many start to self-examine their own privilege and move from ally to accomplice by taking actions to support the black community. I’m encouraged by all of this because the issues we are facing aren’t going to be solved in one or two meetings, one or two actions; however, we can start by listening, self-examining, and practicing allyship through continued actions and conversations. My hope is that this is a movement and not just a moment. When anti-racism isn’t trending, will you still be there?


AC: I am committed to making changes, looking at my own bias/privilege and using the power I am afforded as a straight-passing, cis, white woman to make changes and amplify the voices of those within marginalized communities. It’s an ongoing journey and a responsibility to fight for change. At work, I’m part of my union’s Rights and Equity Committee. At my school, I am the GSA advisor, and an Equity Lead, helping to plan and facilitate professional development for our staff, including anti-black racism forums. In my classroom, I explicitly embed diverse sexualities, gender and cultural representation in the media, social issues and discussions, but there is a huge gap in core literature, so I’m doing an inventory and working to enrich our courses with Black and Indigenous content. I’m excited for two upcoming summer PD sessions, a racial justice and anti-racist learning series, to build my capacity in effective allyship and dismantling systemic racism. I want our son to grow up to see that meaningful change is in our hands. I am seeing, more and more, that my board and my colleagues are talking about, but also prioritizing this work and it makes me feel very hopeful. 

Allia

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CHARITIES YOU SUPPORT, BOOKS THAT YOU ARE CURRENTLY READING OR MOVIES/SHOWS THAT YOU HAVE WATCHED THAT HAVE IMPACTED YOU?

AM: We are supporters of the Inside Out Film Festival, SickKids, as well as mental health and equity initiatives through both of our work and personal relationships. We try to support local, whenever possible. 

AC: Both of us have been involved in creative projects with an amazing independent Toronto Publisher, With/out Pretend, whose work centers on the idea that “Feelings Can Be Art.” That really resonates with us. In addition to doing a collection and live readings called “On Mothering,” which we loved, they explore concepts of care, mental health and self-expression, featuring writers of colour, women, non-binary and often underrepresented authors and artists. We both have big stacks of books on our night tables; I just finished Empire of Wild, and I’m currently reading White Fragility, Wow, No Thank You and The Book of Joy.

AM: I’m juggling Well-Read Black Girl and A Brief History of Seven Killings. We just bought lots of exciting stuff for Kingston, including Hair Love, Little Legends: Exceptional Men in Black History, I Am Enoughand Red: A Crayon’s Story. Don’t even get us started on television or podcasts!

Allison

WE JUST CAME TO THE END OF PRIDE MONTH — WHAT DOES “PRIDE” MEAN TO YOU?

AC: I came out when I was sixteen and have celebrated every year since, almost always on Church Street. We took Kingston to Family Pride events last year and that sense of fierce pride, celebration and community is what I want to share with him. I have been so lucky to have unconditional support from my family and we want him, above all else, to know that our love for him is constant and unwavering. Raising a son, we think a lot about what kind of man he will become, but also recognize that he is an individual; whether he is gay, straight, bi, trans… our child will be secure in our love. We want him to see us actively celebrating all kinds of people and identities. To help pave the way, we make some pretty deliberate decisions; we don’t steer him towards stereo-typically masculine toys, clothes, haircuts or expression. He is as likely to hand us The ABCs of Equality, as Little Blue Truck; he has pink jungle-print leggings and a baseball cap; loves his black baby doll and his blocks. We want to leave all options open, to see where he wants to go and who he wants to be.

AM: My journey towards self-acceptance was challenging. Raised religious, I struggled with my identity for most of my life. I’ve come a long way to embrace all aspects of myself. Finding power in one part of my identity has helped me feel pride in the others. It’s hard to love all of yourself if one part is being pushed aside. Pride is also about helping others feel comfortable being them self. As a mother, I would never want my son to feel he couldn’t be his full, authentic self. 

Momspiration Family

ANY LAST WORDS OF WISDOM OR ADVICE FOR OTHER MAMAS OUT THERE? IS THERE A QUOTE OR MANTRA YOU LIVE BY?

AM: These words, by Katherine W. Phillips, sum up my personal, professional and mom-mantra: “The environment I wish to create in all aspects of my life will be one where difference is normalized. If you create that kind of environment in your organizations, in your schools, in your families, you will find that the value of diversity is there for you to capture.”

Out and Proud

Love, Open Letters, Wedding

Saw a lovely post from a teacher who speaks about coming out, after marrying her wife.

He roost reminded me why I came out and keep coming out each year, each semester, in each new class. Being out in my classroom is one of the most valuable lessons and teachable moments I have to offer. It shows closeted kids or those with queer family that it’s possible to live a beautiful, rich and happy life; to be a professional; to be respected and successful as a queer person.

What else motivates me to be out in my classroom? It provides visibility and hope to kids and a learning opportunity about the diversity within our community. So many important steps towards inclusion and acceptance begin with the risk of being seen. For many it is about knowing someone and having that relationship spark the curiosity to question what we have learned or previously taken as truth. It’s hard to bear hatred or intolerance when you have a face to put to the name, whatever the marginalized group or person may be. I am their teacher. Someone they know and care about. Someone who has modelled caring and for respect for all the things that make them who they are. I actively teach anti-oppression and critical thinking about diversity, myth-busting the rhetoric that too frequently is used to promote intolerance.

If it’s safe to do so… come on out. Our kids need to see you there.

Holidays with a Newborn

Love, style

I’ve been noticeably busy. Lol

I am planning a post about what to wear while caring for and feeding an infant. Planning. Everything takes longer and best laid plans get complicated and deterred.

Then comes the holiday season. The holiday show must go on. And we made merry like it was no big deal. We are getting the hang of things.

Our son is now two months old and we are smitten. From tree-side selfies to family party snaps … I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

Dabbing his way through the holiday.

Four Years

Love, Wedding

I can hardly believe that four years have passed since the day I married my wife. It feels like yesterday. It feels like a lifetime ago. So much has happened.

Wedding

This accidental magic captures how I feel with you. Photo: Sweetheart Empire (Kate O’Connor)

For our fourth Anniversary, aside from the silk/satin motif (silk screened pregnancy announcement tees, and silk pajamas), Allia made us a wedding video. Watching it takes me back to exactly how I felt in those moments. It perfectly encapsulates the magic of our day.

Why do I care about that? Partly because it feels momentous and nostalgic to look back at happiness that still feels tangible and vivid, partly because there are people who told me this would never happen.

Allia and Alison’s Wedding (for the video follow this link)

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Berkeley-Fieldhouse-Wedding-05.jpg

When I first came out, it was six years before gay marriage was legalized in Canada (2005). I was a teenager, but I remember one of my mom’s friends saying, sympathetically, ‘It’s so sad that Alison won’t have a wedding and you’ll never have grandkids.’ Politely, my mom replied, ‘Fuck that.’

Not quite in those words, but with the same rebellious denial of that assumption. I am my mother’s daughter (and my father’s) and neither raised me to believe that anything I truly wanted was out of reach. They are the biggest advocates, even before I came out, they raised me to see every possibility and to feel entitled to happiness, love and acceptance. Maybe this is why I work so fiercely, at work and at play, to try to make others believe that we all deserve love, dignity and acceptance.

When people asked questions like, “will you ever get married?” “which one of you will wear a suit?” “so, you don’t want to ever have kids?” or made statements like “that must have been so hard for your parents” – I responded to it as a challenge.

We had exactly the wedding I envisioned, a reflection of our relationship, two people – full of laughter, dancing, old traditions and quirky, personal touches. I come from a theatre background and although I wasn’t a Disney princess sort of little girl, it never occurred to me that I couldn’t have a dreamy wedding fit for a fairytale. We themed it like a performance, a show, a circus, with several acts and lots of spectacle. It was a romance and a comedy. And I have never felt more at ease, so relaxed and so happy, in front of my loved ones, looking into the eyes of the woman I love.

I hope we can raise a little one who feels that swell of love and support, and will see that look in our eyes, four years, ten, twenty… fifty years from now.

Happy anniversary, my love. Cheers to many, many more.

 

Big Day For #Us

Love

We’ve had a good three years. For whatever reason we are taking over the news and social media (just a little). 

We are front page on Huffington Post Canada. See the whole story at http://m.huffpost.com/ca/entry/16089958


And getting featured with #YYZImports in their promo video. 


Check them out for great, affordable and eclectic jewellery. @yyzimports 

And getting sweet love and shoutouts for our 3Rd anniversary from the talented photographer Kate O’Connor of #


How do you celebrate your #love and your #uniqueself?

Take Over Tuesday

Love

Photo cred: @theangelalewis

It’s not new news to me that my wife is a force of nature; but it seems today that everyone else is getting wise to my long-known-n0n-secret. Today, She Does the City is featuring Allia on their Instagram, as she takes over their feed; today, her vlog and article – about coming out, living proud and being at peace with losing part of her past –  go live on Huffington Post Canada. I’m proud of her, understandably. And she is opening up today about her job, her family and what it’s like to live this life.

She Does The City

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If you know her even a fraction as much as I do, it’s impossible not to fall in love with her. Follow her at @buttonsmcleod on Instagram, or check out our baby-making journey right here in WordPress or see her video and article on Huff Post Coming Out As My Father Became A Priest


She’s a light in the dark: Instagram: She Does the City

A Day in the Life – In the snow, from Huffington Post Canada’s headquarters, to after work winding down… here is a peek into her fab life.


9AM: Hey People! I’m Allia McLeod; director, writer, and creative producer with 10 years of experience on my ticket. I’m currently working with Huffington Post Canada, producing their 2017 slate of web series and co-founder of a feminist, lifestyle and humour blog, launching this Summer. Today I’m taking over! Come along on this fantastic ride. Photo cred: @theangelalewis@buttonsmcleod #takeovertuesday


10AM: shedoesthecity At 36, I walked away from a secure, fabulous (as my wife likes to say) job, that wasn’t feeding my creative or activist soul and stepped into the freelance world. This new gig is both scary and exhilarating. Current motto: It’s never too late to do what makes you happy. – @buttonsmcleod#takeovertuesday

MIDDAY: 

3PM THE ARTICLE AND VLOG LAUNCH

4PM BACK TO WORK – on set.  

And by 7PM: WE ARE SO READY TO RECONNECT AND TALK ABOUT OUR DAY OF going to fight a parking ticket (a first for me), my foray into micro-blading, and Allia’s writing debut on HuffPost. Time to cuddle up after making dinner together. 

Gratitude – week 2

Love

Back with the gratitude. I’ve been tuning up my frame at the body shop. By body shop I mean pole dancing for fitness. So to recap this past week, I am grateful for: 

8: pole fitness and the fact that I just got the move called – the flatline 

9: the Fabfitfun box. Look it up! #fabfitfun

10: so grateful for downtime, and hanging with this feline, all thanks to our housekeeper, Zulena

11: dinner with Helen and Gabe. Yes he is cooking with goggles. Yes the kitchen got that smoky from the roast chicken 

12: rain boots that are also snow boots


13: getting to do super cool stuff, like see films, go onset, and other behind the scenes fun – because my wife has a kick ass job and it is an all-around dynamo 

Note: she even makes time for yoga after a full day at work

14: so very grateful that I am still inspired to paint and do art 

What are you grateful for this week? Today? Every day?

Gratitude

Love

 Our bed, that is always so soothing with perfect layers of pillows duvets and a cat 


Healthy food and a sweet person to share it with. 


iPhone airplay: and the fact that when I’m hanging around the house my wife’s photo gallery is projected as a screensaver on to our TV, reminding me of all the fun we’ve had. 


This Chester cat


Getting pampered and taking some me time

Ridiculous make up tutorials. Which I actually quite enjoy trying to replicate.


Self-care, patience and allowing myself room for error. This first week of the new year has been about unwinding, winding up, indulging and starting the first steps of our new journey. Stay tuned for more.