When Natasha Bakht, from Ottawa, Canada, conceived her son Elaan through sperm donor back in 2009, her best friend and neighbour Lynda Collins, who was considering the same path herself, offered to be her birth partner.
When Elaan was born in early 2010, it quickly became apparent that things weren't going to be straightforward – a knot in Elaan's umbilical cord had deprived him of oxygen and nutrients, and he was delivered by caesarean. A few months later, it was found that several portions of his brain were dead as a result of the knot. He has been left with spastic quadriplegia, meaning he is unable to use any of his limbs.
Caring for Elaan can be difficult; he vomits at least once a day, has asthma, epilepsy, and visual problems, and doesn't speak.
As Elaan's condition became more apparent, Lynda became more involved – she moved in upstairs and accompanied Natasha and Elaan to most medical appointments. The trio began shopping together, eating together, with both women taking care of Elaan's feeding and bedtime needs.
Eventually, it became clear that Lynda adopting Elaan would make all sorts of sense. She would have jurisdiction over Elaan's medical issues if Natasha were away, and could share financial responsibilities. Natasha also spoke of the "sense of joy" that she felt at the prospect of another parent being involved.
The trouble was, because Natasha and Lynda weren't romantically involved, there was no legal precedent – Lynda couldn't formally adopt Elaan and so she had to apply for 'declaration of parentage'. They hired their friend, lawyer Marta Siemiarczuk and, in January, two years after the women first sought legal help, Elaan's updated birth certificate arrived, listing both Lynda and Natasha as mothers.
"I'm not a single mom anymore," Natasha told CBC. "I have a partner in this journey and I'm so grateful for that. This is my co-momma."
The 'traditional' family isn't a clear-cut thing anymore. From 2004 to 2014, the number of cohabiting couple families in the UK grew by 29.7% and, in 2014, there were more than 2 million lone parents, 91% of whom were women. In other words, in 2017, nuclear families are far from being a given.
Thank goodness, then, for people like Lynda and Natasha exploring alternative legal options to extend parenting rights beyond a child's biological parents. One day, their case may come in useful for any of us.