Frankie and BJ: Raising A Child In An Interfaith Home
BJ Barone and husband Frankie Nelson from Toronto became unexpectedly famous when their son’s birth photo went viral on social media and led to their story being shared around the world. They later created the website, Family Is About Love, that documents their journey as a same sex family, and also published a children’s book called Milo’s Adventures which is told through Milo’s perspective: how he became a part of their family.
“We are still very surprised and deeply humbled that this photo has become a symbol of equality, love, family and acceptance,” says BJ. “Our birth photo was captured by fluke, and the fact that it has been shared millions of times over the world is quite amazing. We are honored that our birth photo is used for educational purposes, can help people learn, open their minds and hearts that all families are all created differently. Love is love.”
Milo is now three and a half years old, and both Frankie and BJ have kept up the documentation of their family and are still frequently interviewed in the media. One thing that stands out on the family’s Instagram page is their interfaith household in which Frankie and BJ raise Milo. “Being a mixed faith family gives us the opportunity to celebrate our own customs and traditions, and create new ones with our son Milo,” BJ explains. “Frank is Jewish, and I grew up Catholic, so we celebrate Hanukkah and Christmas, and we will raise Milo to know both his Jewish and Catholic roots. Ultimately, it becomes his decision which religion he will chose, but we are teaching him to be kind, supportive, and empathetic towards others and really that is what every religion should be about.”
Before Milo was born, the fathers discussed the religion issue among themselves. “We talked about whether we should raise Milo Jewish, Catholic or a little bit of both,” BJ says. “In retrospect, our decision was to raise Milo predominantly Jewish. Milo had a Bris, and we observe the Jewish holidays. We hope to send Milo to synagogue and learn about his Jewish roots. When it is time for his Bar Mitzvah, we hope to have it in Jerusalem at the [Western] Wall. We both discussed this prior to Milo being born, and we decided that we would want to raise him in a religion that accepts his parents and family for who they are. Religion should be about love and acceptance, so our choice was an easy one.”
But just as the fathers want to continue their own families’ old traditions, it’s also important to them to create new ones. “Both being teachers, Frank and I are lucky enough to have the same working schedule, so family trips are well planned out in advance,” BJ says. “Travelling and going away somewhere warm during the winter break is a tradition we hope to continue. Now we will trade the white snow for the white sand…”
Frankie and BJ had Milo via gestational surrogacy. Though they signed up with an agency, they separately looked for a surrogate individually and on the Internet. They ended up finding an egg donor through the agency (surrogacy.ca ) and the surrogate through the website surrogatefinder.com. “We matched with an egg donor almost immediately, which was amazing,” BJ shares, “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. 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.”
Milo was overdue by 10 days and was born during World Pride in Toronto. “Kathy’s friend is a birth photographer and offered to take pictures of the birth. She posted a picture of us meeting Milo for the very first time on her Facebook page 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.”
What was the adjustment period like for you?
“When Milo was first born, he probably was one of the most easy going babies ever. We were very lucky! Frank and I are relaxed, easy going guys, so I also think that reflected on Milo. He was chill and rarely fussed. The adjustment period was not that bad. We read many parenting blogs and articles about how to take care of a child, and had a lot of advice from family and friends. The hardest part I feel about being a parent is seeing your child sick or in pain. It breaks my heart knowing that there is physically nothing I can do to take it away or help but let medicine do its job and wait it out. “
And you just passed the “Terrible Two” stage.
“We were really lucky with Milo and his ‘Terrible Two.’ For the most part he was really good! There were very few tantrums, and over all he was a really good boy! We are now in the ‘Threenager’ stage, so life is becoming a little bit more demanding. Everything is, ‘Why? Why? Why?’ and we are pretty much on Milo time! Life has its moments at times, which trust me is very difficult, but overall Milo is teaching us a lot about ourselves as parents and how much patience we need to have.”
Has your “gay life” changed since having Milo?
“Not really. We were not big into going out to clubs or anything like that. We enjoyed having friends over for dinner and drinks, which we still continue to this day. When our friends come over, Milo is really excited to show them his toys and he is a very good entertainer! We enjoy travelling, which we did a lot before Milo, and now we are fortunate enough to continue this and bring Milo along on our adventures!”