Author and journalist Alexandra Heminsley’s family set-up isn’t quite what she thought it would be when her son was born. Alexandra, aka Hemmo, conceived her son via IVF and when he was 6 months old, her world flipped on its axis when her then-husband came out as a trans woman. But the strength of their relationship meant that even though their marriage ended, they were able to become best friends and incredible co-parents.
Alexandra’s story and journey into parenthood is about so much more than her co-parent’s journey through transition and how that impacted the shape of their family. Her book Some Body to Love explores the depths of her experience and is an “open-hearted memoir about losing her husband but gaining a best friend, and together bringing up a baby in a changing world. It’s an exploration of what it means to have a human body, to feel connected or severed from it, and how we might learn to accept our own.”
Sitting down with Gi, there was so much to unpick. Alexandra explained that she had always wanted to be a Mum but that difficulty conceiving and experiences of miscarriage led to her going through the fairly “brutal” process of IVF. She said: “It’s really brutal, you know it’s hyper stimulation to make you sort of over ovulate and I think the thing that I found really challenging was that I sort of lost sight of what was going on and what was a hormonal response. Some days I’d be really sad and it was like am I allowed to own this? Can i just be really anxious about never having a child? Or is it just hormones and I should just assume that it will flow out of my body at some point? So I sort of lost a bit of connection with myself in that respect.”
Her son was the last of the embryos gathered via the IVF process. Because this pregnancy was a “last chance saloon” Alexandra was keen to make sure the pregnancy was viable so they paid to have a Harmony test and a lab results mix-up meant she was (incorrectly) told she didn’t share any DNA with her baby. She said: “I just felt like someone had thrown a bucket of cold water down my back because if you’d got pregnant “normally” – I mean it’s not that’s not the kindest word to use but you know what I mean – you would just laugh, you’d say “well of course it is” but with IVF, the possibilities are exponential. It could have been that it [the baby] didn’t share DNA with me but it might have shared DNA with my ex or it could have been somebody else’s baby entirely”. Despite eventually finding out that the baby she was carrying was hers, this experience took away so much of the joy Alexandra felt she was supposed to have around being pregnant and bringing a baby into the world.
Then, two weeks before her son was born, when she was almost nine months pregnant, Alexandra was sexually assaulted on a train. This, too, hugely impacted the way she felt about the later stages of her pregnancy and again, removed so much of the joy and positivity that is “supposed” to come with being pregnant. At a time when she just “wanted to be looking at Pinterest boards about baby mobiles”, she was having to deal with trauma and making decisions about going to court.
When her son arrived, “I just felt like I’d known him for a thousand years. It was that feeling of “oh hi, it’s you”. It felt like he’d always been there. I was very taken aback by that and the sense of already knowing him that I had was really profound.”
To hear more of Alexandra’s incredible chat with Gi, check out the video below, or listen to the episode wherever you usually find your podcasts. We’re in all of the regular places! Listen to all other episodes of Happy Mum Happy Baby here.