Happy Pride Month! At Le Village, we have always had many member families who are part of the LGBTQI+ community. I hope that this is because we purposefully foster an open and inclusive environment, but I honestly think that is only a part of the equation. I have long felt that families that not only sought parenthood but fought for it, make up the majority of our membership. They choose to show up for their kids in a more present way–and that categorization would most certainly include many of the LGBTQIA+ families that I know.
Enter Abbey Bigi-Prow. She was one of our very first members and toured the space before it even opened. Abbey radiated warmth and energy throughout our Irving Park location while her kids were in our care. I was thrilled when she decided to take the leap and open her own Le Village location. What’s more, as I continuously work on Le Village’s community building and inclusivity, Abbey is my go-to for open and honest feedback, especially as it pertains to helping LBGTQIA+ families feel supported. She is a wonderful friend, and I am grateful to learn allyship with her in my corner. As you can tell, I think Abbey is pretty great, and I wanted to share her story with you!
Q + A with Abbey Bigi-Prow
Tell us about yourself and your family!
I am technically a transplant from the suburbs of St. Louis but I have been in Chicago for over 20 years so it is officially home. And even though I lived in Wrigleyville for almost a decade, I will forever be a Cardinals fan. As the kids say, “Sorry not sorry” ;). I graduated from Columbia College Chicago in 2007 and have been freelancing in the graphic arts ever since. Freelancing also means that I have done some additional part-time nannying and babysitting along the way. Lol. I have been a full-time photographer for over 12 years and officially started my business Abbey Lauren Photography in 2014. Although I specialize in newborn and family but have photographed a little bit of pretty much everything from real estate and product to branding and model shoots. I absolutely love my job and the creativity and flexibility that it provides, especially now that I am a parent. It definitely hasn’t always been easy and there have been so many learning and growth opportunities that I came about the hard way but I wouldn’t change a thing. The support from my family, communities, and my partner is 1000% responsible for any success I have had.
Speaking of, I have been with my beautiful wife for almost 11 years and we are about to celebrate our 6-year wedding anniversary. She is all things kindness and strength and just the absolute best co-parent I could have ever asked for. We welcomed twin boys Charlie and Louie in May of 2019 and they have been the biggest blessing. I am so incredibly proud of our family.
Will you share a little bit about your motherhood journey?
The journey to parenthood can be a weirdly technical process for a queer couple. Well, for anyone who has faced infertility challenges. Our infertility journey started from the get-go because as two cis women, we lacked one vital ingredient, and we were hyper-aware of this from the beginning. Also, it had to be a very planned and deliberate decision to start a family, which can be a mental and financial burden for a lot of people to get over. I know it was for us. The very finite and definite decision that you are about to put a lot of time and money into changing your life forever. Are you mentally and financially ready? The short answer is “no”. Lol. But no one is ever 100% “ready” but you take it day by day and you always make it work. So while it is an exciting and emotional journey, it can also be or become a little technical and clinical. The best part about having to plan everything is that you are forced to have the hard questions with your partner. You examine how you were raised, and how you feel about so many aspects of parenting and the “what ifs” that may arise.
For us, it was a conversation from the beginning of our relationship. Alexis knew from the get-go that she wanted to be a mother. I think I scared her because I am a little younger and while I knew I wanted to be a mother, I was a little flippant about the timing or how that it might occur. Ultimately after our wedding, we both knew that babies were something we both very much wanted. Due to our ages and our own beliefs about donor options, we decided pretty quickly that we would seek medical intervention to start a family. In retrospect, it seems like a short timeline. We had our first meeting with the fertility clinic in February of 2018 and were pregnant with the twins in September of the same year. But going through it felt very long and emotional. Through planning and some extreme “luck,” we had 3 tries via IUI, and then our IVF was covered via insurance. We experienced a couple of early losses and did ultimately conceive via IVF. While we transferred 2 embryos only one “took” and then that one split giving us our identical twin boys. My wife likes to remind me that we could have/may have been pregnant with triplets at one point. I always say that I am very happy for what we have and what we do not have.
What is your favorite part about being a boy mom?
The chaos!!! I actually love the energy and it makes you cherish the quiet times that much more. Haha.
It’s interesting because, in all my experience with children, I have
mostly looked after girls. I don’t think I was prepared for boy life. And I definitely wasn’t prepared for the twin life. Lol. While I absolutely don’t think sex dictates gender and definitely not behavior I have also worked with children long enough to know that some generalizations can be made. Whatever “boy” is, I have two. It’s fun and crazy and having two little bulls in the china shop of life has allowed me to let go of any perfectionism or control I may have had otherwise. They are fun. Pretty much all the time. It’s wonderful to watch them process.
How does your family celebrate Pride Month and/or keep the dialogue going year-round?
We do and have always celebrated with friends. Pride month used to mean going big at the back lot bash and the parade and now it’s more quick, daytime visits to the festivals or backyard parties. This year we may hit a friend’s pride brunch and then take the family strawberry picking on the day of the parade.
As for how we incorporate our pride into our lives, community has always been at the center of my identity as a gay woman. Unfortunately, there aren’t the same public spaces as when I was coming out but I am back to playing sports on the gay sports league and the boys have so many influences and examples of queer community and family. None of it is overt. Just us living our lives with our family of friends. I don’t think our four-year-olds could tell you what gay is - mostly because they really don’t care about defining roles beyond their worldview. They have no interest in who or who is not a couple but they do like to find out about different kinds of families. It’s been really helpful to point out others with two moms or one mom, or step-parents and siblings, etc. We talk a lot about how all families are unique and beautiful and that love makes a family. That is an ongoing dialogue in our house. We have always always been very open about how they came into the world because that is their reality and there is nothing shameful or secret about it. They know they have a donor, not a daddy and we are in contact with half-siblings. It’s all very age appropriate but also very honest. They talk about the way their embryo split to make them just like they talk about how Earth is the fourth planet from the sun. The biology is what interests them now at four and anything else we will talk about as it comes up. Finally, as a family, love a drag queen or king and female sports, but neither of those things are inherently “gay” to me and definitely part of our year-round culture. As a parent I really just want my kids to respect all people and families and be kind.
What books or resources have you found useful for introducing the concept of LBGTQ+ families to young children?
So many good ones!! Some of my/our favorites are Mommy, Mama, and Me, And Tango Makes Two, A day in the Life of Marlon Bundo, Pride Colors, All Kinds of Families, Julian the Mermaid, and You Were Made for Me (There are many different versions for alternative families.).
How did you find out about Le Village and what was your experience like?
I found out about Le Village through a new mom’s group and knew I had to check it out. I had been searching high and low for any sort of help that was reliable and affordable for two babies at one time, and I just was not coming up with anything. No one wants to nanny share with a set of infant twins, a good home daycare was the white elephant of child care, and I did not need or want enough hours to keep a nanny for myself. So when I heard about Le Village it sounded so perfect, that I immediately stalked the website for an interview, tour, and to sign up. When I toured the space it was still under construction but after meeting Dani and Lily I was immediately at ease. I signed up right there and was happy to do so.
What inspired you to open your own Le Village?
I still consider joining Le Village as one of the best parenting decisions I have ever made. My boys thrived and were so cared for and loved. I got to do motherhood my way and be present with them while still getting work done which wasn’t happening even with a nanny or sitter at our house, I could never fully relax. Also, I grew as a mom with the community and people that I met and bonded with. And my business and network grew from the other small businesses I have encountered there. I’ve taken on at least a dozen as clients and hired probably half a dozen for varying services, and get countless recommendations from everything from our accountant to the best brand of a weighted straw cup (bbox, btw). The community experience is one that I miss and will forever cherish. But also, the learning and care, my kids, got was absolutely top-notch. I did not realize how top-notch and lucky we were until we left. I wanted to bring both of those with me when I moved from the neighborhood. With my work history in customer service and working with children it just seemed to be the best fit all around.
We’ll do another Q+A closer to your location opening, but anything you want to share about the space now?
We have been FIGHTING for the perfect space in Lyons. Lol. I am trying to be patient in the knowledge that this is the right building and everything happens in the time it is supposed to, but I am just so excited for this to come to fruition. We are hopefully very close to closing on the building and starting construction! *Crossing All the Fingers*
Finally, do you have any advice for new LBGTQ+ parents or people considering parenthood?
About the process: Be patient, be present, be honest with your partner and yourself about your feelings on all the things…Connect often and enjoy the process. Also, find your community! This was very much my experience as a somewhat traditional, mature (or old;) lesbian couple. But there are so many ways to make and be a human and a family. In the end, parenthood is so rewarding and hard! No matter your experience or views there are people out there for you. Forget the ones who aren't your people :)
Le Village Cowork, Old Route 66 in Lyons, Illinois is slated to open in late 2023. More information about the space and how to join the waitlist will be available closer to the opening date.