Name: Frankie Nelson and BJ Barone
Occupation: Both High School Teachers in Toronto
# of kids and ages: 1 son, Milo age 3.5 years
Please give us the Coles Notes version of your birth story.
We created our family via gestational surrogacy. We matched with an egg donor almost immediately, which was amazing, but finding a suitable surrogate was a much longer and stressful process. We had numerous meetings, phone calls, medical appointments with some women, and nothing seemed to work out. After months of looking with no luck, we decided to email a woman named Kathy, who we had spoken to months before but at the time she was tentatively matched with another couple. It must have been fate, but she said things were not working out with the other couple and agreed to chat with us. After our initial meeting with Kathy and her family, things felt right and we just clicked. She agreed to be our surrogate and the rest is now history.
We matched in April and decided to do the IVF at the end of the summer. We didn’t get pregnant with our first embryo transfer, which was devastating, but tried again 4 weeks later and this time it was a success!! We drove up to Kingston, ON for medical appointments, and she would travel here to Toronto for appointments as well. Milo was overdue by 10 days and was born during World Pride here in Toronto. Kathy’s friend is a birth photographer and offered to take pictures of our birth. She posted a picture of us meeting Milo for the very first time on her facebook and it went viral on social media. We ended up being the poster boys for surrogacy and gay families, something we are very proud of to this day. We created a website, Family Is About Love that documents our journey as a same sex family. We also wrote a children’s book called Milo’s Adventures. Which is told through Milo’s perspective how he became a part of our family. It is a story that young readers can understand how families are created different but they all share love.
What’s the most useful baby product you had and why did you love it?
We love to travel to sunny destinations, and having a good sunscreen for protection is paramount for us. Growing up, Frank and I neglected to use sunscreen as often as we should have, and now know of the ramifications of UV damage and lack of protection. That being said, we make sure Milo is covered from head to toe and is protected as much as possible. We use a sunscreen called California Baby SPF 30 for sensitive skin. It is free of added fragrances, common allergens, and irritants so it’s perfect for allergy-prone, sensitive skin. It blocks sun rays by creating a physical barrier and is NOT absorbed into the skin like chemical sunscreens. Milo has sensitive skin and this sunscreen does not irritate, or gets in the eyes when in water.
How do you practice self care?
Being a parent gets busy, and taking care of our child is our number one priority. As important it is to make sure Milo is taken care of, we also must remember to take care of ourselves. Having some alone time is vital to our overall well being and mental health. Ways we practice self care is going to the gym to work out, going for massages, having date nights and our favourite is going to a beach somewhere and chilling together as a family.
Can you share your toughest memory of being a parent so far?
Our toughest memory of being a parent so far is when Milo had to have surgery when he was only 5 weeks old. He had a condition called pyloric stenosis, where his pyloric muscle constricts food from passing from his stomach into his intestine. So every time he ate, he would vomit everything up. This was very stressful on us, being new parents we didn’t know what was wrong. We took him to see three different doctors, who all told us the vomiting was normal, but we new in our gutt something was wrong. We finally decided to bring him to SickKids, where they admitted him immediately. He had a tube in his nose and was not allowed to eat anything for risk of vomiting. It was heartbreaking to see your child in this state. We are his parents and are here to protect him, and in this moment we felt vulnerable and felt like we failed. As much as we were concerned about him, there was a sense of relief when the physicians came and took him away for surgery. We knew he was in very good hands, and after about an hour of waiting, the doctor came out and said everything was fine and the surgery was a success. We were very relieved and couldn’t wait to see him in recovery!
Can you share one of your best experiences of being a parent so far?
One of our best experiences of being a parent so far is watching Milo in swim classes. He goes on the diving board with his floatie on his back, and without fear jumps off! It really is amazing seeing your child develop and learn new skills. Not long ago he was just a little baby, now he talks up a storm and has us chasing him all over the place!
What is a coping strategy that you use that you can share with new parents?
It definitely takes a village to raise a child. Having a supportive network of family and friends in place is a key coping strategy. We were lucky that Frank’s parents would watch Milo a night a week so we could have alone time and reconnect with each other. Taking care of your child becomes your number one priority, but it is also important to take care of yourself. Whether it be your partner taking care of your child so you can have a relaxing bath, or even go for a walk by yourself, having some “me time” helps.
If you could go back in time what would you tell your new parent self?/What do you wish you knew when you first became a parent that you know now?
If we could go back in time, we would tell our “new parent self” to stick to your gut instincts. You know your child best, what they need, or when something is wrong. You can read a lot of parenting tips, but you know your child the best.