Alexis & Ben & Ian

Toronto Life - - The 2018 Self-Care Guide -

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

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