by chris singer
“I think we’re very fortunate to have lived in communities that are supportive of same sex rights…”
— Sonia Ruyts
Fourteen years ago, when then Idahoan Leslie Hammond first laid eyes upon Sonia Ruyts drinking a Dr. Pepper in the Albertson College cafeteria, little did she know that one day they would be married, let alone be the loving parents to a beautiful two-year old girl.
The Corvallis couple had a wedding ceremony in 2002 and become legally married in Connecticut in 2008. Both are professionals in their early thirties. Leslie is a professor while Sonia is a downtown business owner. Both have always wanted to be parents and decided to begin their journey four years ago.
“I’m one of those people who always knew I wanted to be a mom,” says Sonia. To make their dream come true, they knew it was going to be tough. The couple decided Sonia would carry the baby and they attempted ICI (Intra-Cervical Insemination).
ICI involves artificial insemination directly into the reproductive tract, near the cervix, to achieve pregnancy. When ICI didn’t work, the couple moved onto IUI (Intra-Uteran Insemination), where insemination is again done, but in the uterus instead. Sonia and Leslie went through many attempts of IUI without success.
It wasn’t until they attempted IVF (In-Vitro Fertilization) when they final achieved success.While it took four years to get pregnant, it only takes someone a few minutes to see how their patience has been rewarded. Their daughter is a little bundle of energy and it’s immediately obvious that all three are simply crazy in love with each other.
“She [their daughter] is just this incredible gift of love and fun and surprises. We love sharing experiences with her and seeing her encounter the world; it sounds corny, but there is really nothing so cool as re-discovering the world through the eyes of your kid,” says Leslie.
As parents, the struggles they discussed with me mirror those of most parents we know. Sleep deprivation, worrying about kids getting sick, mourning the loss of freedom from our childless days, not to mention the constant worrying about whether we’re good parents.
Then there’s the whole “work-life balance” piece of the parenting equation. “There’s also that classic struggle to achieve this idea of balance between work, your relationship, friends, time for yourself, and doing a good job parenting. I say ‘idea’ because I’m growing increasingly skeptical as to whether such a thing exists or not. Some weeks or days, one area of life gets more attention than others. As much as I’d like to have a wildly productive day at work, a get together with friends, a romantic date with my wife, time to myself, and quality imaginative play time with our daughter, it just doesn’t seem possible to have it all in the same day,” says Sonia.
She goes on to poignantly add, “In other words, being parents is difficult and wonderful at the same time, no matter who you are or are not married to. We are honored to have the opportunity to parent our amazing daughter. The fact that we can do so openly as a couple, is an amazing journey, and as long as we face the challenges of parenthood together we feel we can handle just about anything.”
If you think about it, their love story isn’t any different from those of different-sex couples. While there remains a vociferous opposition to gay marriage in the United States, that group is now in the minority. Credible polling numbers in countless surveys over the last year are consistently showing the majority of Americans supporting same sex couples having the right to get married.
Still, I expected to hear Leslie and Sonia share at least one negative reaction they’ve experienced when people learn they are a married couple raising a child. Surprising, yet fortunately, that just hasn’t been the case.
“If people have issue with it [gay marriage], they’ve certainly kept to themselves and been very polite. So far, the only people who’ve had anything negative to say about my family are politicians running for president. And I can’t put too much stock into what they say,” says Leslie.
“I think we’re very fortunate to have lived in communities that are supportive of same sex rights. It was all fairly straightforward when our baby was born because we lived in Connecticut where we were able to be legally married and they allow second parent adoption. Other states are not so friendly and actively oppose same-sex adoption,” added Sonia.
Leslie adds, “It is important to us that we are married. We had a wedding in 2002, and it wasn’t legal. When we lived in Connecticut, marriage for us became legalized in 2008, and we immediately went to the courthouse and were officially married. It was more important to me than I realized, having that marriage certificate. It is a commitment and a security and an acknowledgment that we’re in this thing together.”
While negative reactions have been nonexistent, there’s certainly no denying people are curious about their relationship. (Count me as one of the guilty and hence one of the reasons for writing this article). It’s just interesting to hear what people are in fact curious about.
“People are mostly curious about how we got pregnant, and for a while, people (particularly people in our family) were somewhat obsessed with what our daughter would call each of us,” says Leslie.
It doesn’t take long to find out the answer to the second question. After spending some time with the family, one soon learns that Sonia is called ‘Mama’ and Leslie is called ‘Mommy.’
The fun part is learning that their little girl came upon this naturally. She wasn’t taught to identify one parent as Mommy and the other as Mama. It all happened organically, which should tell us something right there.
I think Leslie puts it best here: “Our experience is similar to most other parents, and I think the parenting experiences and milestones are pretty universal regardless.”