Couple share happiness and hurdles of LGBTQ+ parenting in Johnson’s Baby film
Author: Will Stroude
A same-sex couple who recently celebrated the arrival of their first child are sharing both the incredible highs and occasional hardships of pregnancy and parenthood in an affecting new film from Johnson’s® Baby.
New mothers K’Anna and Hannah are one of eight couples who are being followed throughout the first 12 months of parenthood for Johnson’s® Baby’s A Parent is Born, a four-part docuseries directed by BAFTA Award-winning filmmaker Liana Stewart that celebrates the diverse experiences of parents today, 125 years after Johnson’s® Baby first began supporting new families.
K’Anna and Hannah’s love story began while they were working at a summer camp for children with disabilities in Minnesota. “There was a night where we sat on a pontoon on a lake under the stars for hours, talking about our lives and sharing the sort of stuff we’d never shared with anyone else before,” Hannah tells PinkNews in an exclusive interview following the release of the first instalment of the A Parent is Born series.
The couple readily admit that it sounds like the plot of a “very corny” high school movie – but, while the pair had to contend with a seriously long-distance relationship, they knew they had each found someone incredibly special. “Even though we hadn’t known each other for too long, it just felt right,” K’Anna recalls.
While K’Anna always knew she wanted to become a mother (“I’ve always loved the chaos of a big family and I’ve always imagined myself with kids,” she says), the same cannot be said for Hannah, who grew up an only child.
“I thought I’d never settle down”, she says, adding: “But everything changes when you fall in love, and K’Anna laid the ground rules when we got together.”
Six years after they met, they were married. And, nine years later, they welcomed their baby son – named after the musician Amos Lee, whose dulcet tones blasted out in the delivery room during “The Lion King moment when the doctors held him up to us,” jokes K’Anna.
Their journey to parenthood as a same-sex couple, however, was far from simple.
“We knew adoption and fostering could come later,” says K’Anna, “but we knew IVF [In vitro fertilisation] or IUI [Intrauterine insemination] had to come sooner, as they have to check your age and physical health. We decided IVF over IUI as the percentages were higher, and I just didn’t know how many rounds I could go through, physically or emotionally.”
“We said we’d do one round and then reassess,” says Hannah. “As a gay couple, you can’t get IVF on the NHS, which is rough. So there’s a lot of money and financial planning that goes into having a baby – and that, for us, was one of the biggest hurdles.”
Choosing who would carry the baby, however, was incredibly simple. “Despite there being two wombs, one was strictly off limits!” jokes Hannah. “And I always wanted a little K’Anna.”
Incredibly, the single round of IVF worked (“We know we’re incredibly lucky,” the couple says). It was by far from a straightforward pregnancy, however: K’Anna was diagnosed with hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), a condition characterised by excessive nausea and vomiting which can affect a small proportion of expectant mothers. Her weight plummeted dramatically, and she was hospitalised around 20 times.
“It was a lot. But I think caring for me kick-started you into…” begins K’Anna.
“…into having the responsibility of caring for someone,” finishes Hannah.
K’Anna ended up going into hospital with reduced movements when she was 39 weeks pregnant, assuming the staff would run the usual tests and send her home. Instead, she had late onset preeclampsia, and was told that labour would need to be induced. Three failed inductions later, she was prepped for an emergency C-section, and Amos finally arrived.
“The pregnancy was so traumatic that having a baby seems a bit of a breeze,” laughs Hannah.
“I second that, because I was stuck in bed 24-7 for almost nine months,” agrees K’Anna. “I couldn’t do anything, so having him was a relief. We definitely struggled with sleep deprivation, though. The first month was just crazy because we were getting used to the new routine and catering to a brand-new human being.”
Thankfully, their family rallied around: K’Anna’s mum and sister came over from the US and Australia respectively to stay and help for the first few weeks, which meant there were four people divvying up the night shifts and feeds. Once they left, though, it was just the new parents and Amos – but they soon found that sticking to the Johnson’s® Baby’s 3-Step Bedtime Routine, which blends bathtime and massage, proved hugely helpful.
“I do bathtime, Hannah does massage, and then we come back together to settle him down into bed,” says K’Anna.
“We’re actually reading Twilight to him at the minute,” adds Hannah.
K’Anna’s family might be based all around the world, but they are always FaceTiming with advice and to check in on how the new parents are doing. Hannah’s mum, meanwhile, is always popping over to help with babysitting – and the couple have plenty of friends going through their own parenthood journeys, too, so they have lots of people to reach out to for advice.
“In the beginning, we were just so in our bubble,” says K’Anna, “but now we’re at a place where we can WhatsApp and ask, “Is this OK? Is this normal? Did you do this?”
“It also makes me feel terrible, as I realise I never checked in on my friends enough when they had babies,” admits Hannah. “You only see the good parts on Instagram, don’t you? Nobody shares the hard parts.”
As demonstrated in the first Johnson’s® Baby’s A Parent is Born film, it’s been an intense three months. K’Anna has started to reclaim her identity after feeling like a “source of food” for a while, Hannah has wrangled with the isolation of being “the other parent”, and both have missed one another like mad. “When you have a baby, 99% of your time is dedicated to keeping a tiny human alive,” says K’Anna. “We’ve started to plan date nights, but even that feels exhausting sometimes.”
Still, the little family of three have already had some incredible adventures together: they’ve travelled all the way to Australia, for starters, and attended a big family wedding. “Some parents will stop their lives for a baby, but I think it’s important not to do that,” says Hannah. “He comes with us, he fits into our lives.”
Of course, there are times when the pair have to fend off unwanted and unsolicited advice, but they’ve also been offered plenty of incredible pearls of wisdom. The best? Do what works for you – particularly with regards to sleep – and record as many memories as possible.
“I read something that said dads often don’t take pictures of mums in traditional couples, so I wanted to make sure I take lots of photos of K’Anna and Amos,” says Hannah.
It’s also been incredibly important to the couple that they are prepared for all the questions that Amos might have in the future. “He will need to know where he came from, and the steps we had to take to have him, and the science behind it, and how cool it all is,” says Hannah. “We have a video of him when he’s just four cells big. I can’t wait to show him that when he’s older.”
Being a same-sex couple presented other unique challenges: The couple decided to opt for a sperm donor who is happy to be contacted when Amos turns 18. “He’s still too young for us to think about what we’ll say on Father’s Day when all the kids are making cards at pre-school,” adds K’Anna.
“Stuff like that will come when it comes. But hopefully kids will be more educated about someone having two moms… because I don’t want to feel like we have to come out again at every occasion. I felt that way during pregnancy: they’d always ask about the dad or my husband, and I’d be like, “You mean my wife”.”
“These little assumptions will disappear eventually,” adds Hannah. “It gets better with every generation – and kids today don’t even have to have the coming out conversation: they are just themselves unapologetically. Hopefully, when Amos is older, it will be even more amazing.”
Whatever Amos’ first 12 months holds in store for him – and it’ll all be documented in the next three instalments of Johnson’s® Baby’s A Parent is Born docuseries – it seems safe to assume that this little one will be more than prepared for anything life throws at him. With K’Anna and Hannah guiding him every step of the way, how could he not?
For information, guidance and 100% gentle, improved baby products from Johnson’s®, head to johnsonsbaby.co.uk.
Actual Story on Pink News
Author: Will Stroude