Ellen didn’t plan to be a single mom. But finding herself without a romantic partner in her late thirties led her to move forward with insemination of her previously frozen eggs. Choosing a donor was the next challenge. Ellen made the decision after picturing a scintillating conversation with potential candidates in a virtual bar.

After giving birth to identical twins, Max and Theo, Ellen created an entire ecosystem in which to raise them—including friends, family and her ex-girlfriend. And while complications continue to arise, they find ways to sustain a loving and playful environment for the boys.

My family consists of two twin boys who are almost four, Max and Theo. I have a village of women taking care of them, and myself, I guess. I have a live-in nanny. I have a live-out nanny, and I have my ex-partner, and I have my sister, who lives sort of in a back unit of our house.

Did I ever think that I would be a single mom? I would say, okay, honestly, no. And I’ll start with that, because my mother was a single mother. So, I mean, she divorced, and then she was a single mother. And you know, she’s still a single lady. She hasn’t remarried. So there was a part of me that thought, “I don’t want that.” But somewhere in my mid-30s, like, it became—you know, it dawned on me that if I don’t do something about having kids, and it wasn’t working on the timeline of my romantic relations, I could end up being a single mom, yes. I wanted children, for sure.

I froze my eggs when I was 35. And about three years later, at 38, not finding myself with a partner; I had started a non-profit. I was working about a 108 hours a week. I was like, “This isn’t, you know, the partnership may not happen, when I don’t even have time to date.” So I decided to freeze embryos at that time. Then a little later on, found myself in a relationship with another woman, and we were along about four months, and I had a fertility doctor, and she said to me, “Well, you might be freezing your embryos, but listen, if the embryo quality isn’t that great, let’s consider, perhaps, we’ll just transfer your embryos, and maybe you’re gonna have to get pregnant at that time.” My wonderful fertility doctor—we did an ultrasound. I think it was probably 20 days or something like that, after—she told me I was pregnant. And she was doing the ultrasound, and she—I could see two little floating things. And she goes, “You’re gonna have identical kids.” And I was like, “Are you kidding me?”

When I was first presented with the kids, it was like, “Wow.” It was like, “Hello,” you know, right away. And it was a lactation nurse coming in and trying to figure out how to—I remember double breastfeeding in the hospital while somebody was feeding me chicken soup. And I was like, “This is—this is insane.”

You have to have a village. You really do. And then we all have to work, like an ecosystem. We have to talk to each other, communicate, pass the baton. Did the kids have a bath? What did they eat? Okay, I’m taking over now. You know, did they get a nap, so I know whether they’re gonna be alert, or if they’re gonna be sleepy at the end of the night. Like, you have to communicate. It’s a lot.

Megan and I, having been in a very short relationship before I got pregnant—I think by the time I got pregnant, we’d only known each other for six months. So it was a very shotgun, fast thing that happened for us. And I think the stress of it was just too hard for us, it really, really was. I think Megan had two choices— either leave and start her own life again, outside of all of us, or stick it out with the kids. And she has truly stuck it out. So we weathered it by focusing on the kids, and that we both wanted the best for them. I think my kids have adjusted really well. I mean, one of the things that people say when they notice, and talk to my kids, or interact, or see my kids, is they see how happy they are. And I think a lot of that comes with stability, and consistency that’s built because we don’t have a whole lot of conflict in creating this ecosystem.

My kids, Max and Theo, are really different. They’re identical, but they’re really different. And I think some of that is sort of inherent. Like, I think one of the wonders of watching kids grow up is like—how would they have actually had an affinity for this, that it wasn’t socialized; basically, you know, like, Theo is really into basketball. And he has an affinity for trucks, and comic books. And Max is really different. He’s very—he’s really into his ABCs, like he’s very academic. He likes to draw. He likes the color pink, and Dora, and he’s just really different.

When I was choosing my donor, the criteria I used was, I really wanted to imagine myself at a bar, and meet somebody who I would really hit it off with— which to me, is sort of somebody who is scintillatingly brilliant, you know, somebody I could just really—has a lot of self-awareness, has a lot of consciousness, and is well rounded. I really like that, somebody who might bring some surprising elements to this virtual bar conversation, right. So when I looked at my donor, I noticed he was President of a fraternity. I never belonged to the Greek system, but I thought, “Oh, that’s interesting.” And he’s an Asian man who’s a President of a fraternity. And then between an open donor, and a – anonymous donor, it was important for me that my kids could maybe someday, at their age of 18, decide whether they wanted to meet who that donor is, just so they get a more grounded-ness of knowing why they are who they are.

How my sexual orientation, or my bi-cultural, bi-sexuality came into play was that I actually was considering having a male baby daddy, really, prior to my own journey of fertility. Like, I was thinking perhaps maybe I could form a co-parenting family with a gay man. And it was important for me to have, for whatever child, and if that child was a boy or a girl, some sort of male role model in their life. I think they do need some modeling of men. And now I’m sort of desperate to find some guys to function as uncles—you know, to come into my village, really.

We have this ecosystem and you know, Megan, my ex-partner, like, she’s dating other people, as well. And the idea of bringing in new people into the ecosystem is one that we have to be very careful of. It does take discussion. Does this person fit? Is this person—are my kids going to take to this person? Is that person going to be comfortable with the way we function as an ecosystem. Megan and I still take trips together with the kids. Like, we go to Disneyland together. We will go—we went to Porta Vallarta together one time. So like, are these partners of ours gonna be okay with that? And I think that’s something to be considered, as well.

My favorite thing to do with them, because I’m a full-time working mom, is come and just hang out with them, and sometimes crawl into their beds. They have these little twin beds that are shaped like racecars. And so in the morning, I like to cuddle with each one of them. And then the other one will say, “Mommy, Mommy, come over here.” So I have to go to the other bed. And it’s sort of back and forth.

I’m so blessed. You know? It’s been hard, really hard. It’s been really hard to go through a separation, and having so many—basically trying to build a house of cards with different caretakers, and twins, and working full time, and being a single mom. For sure, like, it just—you know, it’s hard. But the reward is unbelievable. You know. Lucking out and having two little boys that both want my attention, I can’t tell you, like, what that feels like.

I would love to see that anywhere in this country, that we value diversity, and diversity in our families, including LGBT families, and that there’s not going to be eyebrows raised if you’ve got two men as your parents, or two women as your parents, or you know, two parents who are the same sex who are divorced and co-parenting. You know, like, that that’s not gonna be an issue anywhere. I think in the end, people will realize, so long as the children are loved, and they have consistency, and stability, that that’s what really counts—not really the makeup of who are the parents.