"It took four long years of soul-searching, researching, considering various options - and progressing down paths that didn't work. Finally, we found the route that was right for us." Mum-of-four Vici shares how she and her wife Anna found the right path to parenthood for them.
As a parent, I am, in the majority of ways, absolutely no different to all other parents the world over.
There are, however, specific individual nuances to both my journey to parenthood and the way in which my family - and my role within it - is perceived by those around me and by wider society.
I am Vici and I am the mother to four amazing, little human beings: five-year-old twin girls Mollie and Lola; my son Stanley, who is two-and-a-half; and the newest addition to our family, five-month-old Hattie. I am a full-time working mum and, over the last twelve years or so, have established a successful career within HSBC UK.
I am also the wife of Anna, who runs a specialist emergency unit for women in a large university hospital in the Midlands. Yep, we have our hands, our house, and our days certainly full!
My wife and I have the added challenge of being a family with two mothers. This wasn't just on the journey to become parents; now that we are parents and have children there are still daily prejudices we have to manage.
For us, two key 'drivers' are wanting to protect our children from facets of society that we feel could negatively impact them, and wanting to instil in them the skills, morals and values we both feel are fundamental to them succeeding and being who they are. In these though, we are no different to all the other parents I know.
Since I was a child, the perceived 'traditional' family unit has changed fairly considerably. I grew up as part of a fairly middle-class, liberal family in the UK. Most of my friends throughout school, university, and beyond were lucky enough to have both parents playing active roles in their upbringing, in the main, as part of a married couple within the family home.
I had been lucky enough that I have never really had to face significant issues around my sexuality, unlike many from different generations, cultures, religions etc. may have. It is just a part of who I am; it's just nature and I am just me.
My overwhelming desire has always been to have a family of my own. However, that idealised dream, the one that goes, 'one day, you'll find someone you'll love enough to want to spend your life with - and then you'll start a family of your own' - well, if only it were so easy.
When Anna and I were lucky enough to find each other and fall in love, we both knew we shared the desire to have children. It was something we had both wanted as individuals, previously, but yes, it was something we wanted as a couple who loved each other and wanted to spend our lives together.
For us, the path to parenthood involved four long years of soul-searching, researching, considering various options we might have been able to take, and progressing down paths that didn't work. Finally, we found the route that was right for us - and that we believed would be the best for our children - to be able to start a family of our own.
There were times when we were confronted with our own preconceptions and misconceptions, our unconscious biases, challenges to our faith, and the perceptions of society around us. We'd face questions from the sublime to the utterly ridiculous and at times we drew a line under actually going any further because of it all.
I think the questions like 'Which one of you would be the dad?', or 'Can't you just have a one night stand?', and 'What would your children call you?' from other people, were actually easier than some of the personal internal battles and dilemmas we both had around whether - in our society as it stands - it would be 'fair' or 'right' for us to progress starting a family of our own.
Not many parents have to field those types of questions around something so personal to them, and I am not sure how many parents think about their future responsibility so deeply that they consider every aspect of what they are doing to such an extent that it nearly breaks them before they actually even have any children.
You may think we were wrong and selfish in progressing our own desires to have children. You may think it is wrong to bring up children without a male role model within the home 24/7. You may think that our children will be subject to other people's prejudices as they go through life.
However, there is nothing you could throw at either of us that we didn't consider and confront ourselves in those early years prior to us embarking on our IVF journey.
What all the soul-searching did, was to help equip us for the journey we had ahead; as individuals, as a couple and as a family.
Vici Lowrence-Rudkin; full-time working mother of four