Alexis & Ben & Ian
Alexis Howell, 40, high school physics teacher Ben Liu, 42, director of a university careers centre Ian Wineberg, 44, telecom product manager Joshua Howell-Wineberg, 5
Alexis: In the spring of 2010, I was 32 and single. I’d always wanted to be a mom, but I’d never had any luck with dating. Then my friend Jaimie told me she had a friend named Ian, and wondered if I’d like to meet him and perhaps have a baby with him. It was the craziest thing I’d ever heard. I replied: “No.”
Ian: Jaimie said the same thing to me! I was 37 and my long-term boyfriend and I had just broken up. I wanted to be a dad, but I didn’t want to do it alone. I also wasn’t ready for a romantic relationship. I’d accepted a future as a devoted uncle and godparent, but not as a parent.
Alexis: When I told my friends about Jaimie’s idea, they all said I should consider it. So six months later, Ian and I met for lunch at Sushi Island on College. Jaimie came too. I was wearing my Firefly shirt, and we ended up talking almost entirely about sci-fi TV.
Ian: We talked about everything but having a baby. It’s like dating—you don’t show up and talk about dating.
Alexis: I liked Ian. He seemed trustworthy, and I decided I wanted to get to know him better.
Ian: We agreed to meet again, this time without Jaimie, at a Starbucks at Sherway Gardens. I brought a coparenting binder from the 519 Community Centre.
Alexis: We shared our thoughts about parenting, and we went over logistics: how someone gets inseminated, co-parenting agreements, and so on.
Ian: We discussed where we would live, schooling, religion, finances, future partners. And we decided that in the case of major disagreements, we would have a cooling-off period. If that didn’t lead to a resolution, we’d have someone mediate.
Alexis: We probably saw each other once every two to three weeks for the next six months. In the summer of 2011 we started to try, using an ovulation tracker and a DIY insemination kit. We got pregnant after our first attempt, but I miscarried eight weeks later. It was more devastating than I could have ever expected. I kept to myself for two months.
Ian: In January 2012, we tried again. I was coming back from Costa Rica a month later, and when I landed, I got a text from Alexis saying, “Congratulations, Dad.” It was nice. That was around the time that my friendship with Ben was starting to grow into something more.
Ben: On one of our early dates, Ian told me he was having a kid. I was okay with it.
Ian: Ben was so blasé that I thought there was something wrong with him!
Ben: I’d never thought about being a dad, mostly because I was never in a position to consider it. When Ian told me, I thought, Well, what else would I want to do at age 37?
Alexis: I met Ben at Ian’s place on my 35th birthday. I was six months pregnant. Ben made me a birthday dinner—pork in lettuce wraps. They were really good.
Ben: Alexis can be hard to read. Ian: I knew it wasn’t going poorly, and I told Ben that.
Alexis: Joshua was born in October 2012, after a pretty easy pregnancy. We divided our parental leave—I took six months and Ian took four.
Ben: I moved in with Ian just as his parental leave began. It’s a good thing, too. Thawing frozen breast milk isn’t so simple in the middle of the night.
Ian: I knew that Ben was the one. We married in 2014.
Ben: Today, Joshua calls me “Papa.” I’ve always liked the idea of being called “Pop,” and it stuck.
Alexis: Before Joshua started kindergarten, we all moved to Etobicoke, so we could be close to his school. We live a five-minute drive apart.
Ben: Our arrangement is essentially a 50-50 split. Alexis has Joshua on Monday and Tuesday, we have him on Wednesday and Thursday, and we alternate weekends.
Ian: We’re in touch constantly. Someone took Joshua’s shoes while he was at jiu-jitsu, so Alexis texted us. Ben ran out and bought a new pair, and Alexis picked them up before school the next morning.
Alexis: We log all of our expenses on an Excel spreadsheet, and we have a joint account for Joshua-related purchases, for everything except food.
Ian: Ben and I talk about Joshua a lot because we live together. Alexis and I sometimes have challenges because when I text, I expect a response right away.
Alexis: It can take me a day. I like to think things over. Ian: I’m learning to be more patient.
Alexis: The other day Joshua asked me if I was going to marry Ian. I said, “No, Daddy is already married to Papa.” Then he said, “You can all be married together.” When he asks again, I’ll explain that this is what we wanted, and that everybody loves him. We don’t all live together, and that’s fine because every family is different.
Alexis and Ian connected through a mutual friend in 2010 and soon decided to have a child together. Ian’s partner, Ben, entered the picture a few months later. Joshua was born in October 2012
Ian and Ben live a few kilometres away from Alexis in Etobicoke, and they split time with Joshua evenly. Joshua calls Ian “Daddy,” Alexis “Mommy” and Ben “Papa.” They track all expenses except for food on an Excel spreadsheet and communicate through Slack