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Two Women, Two Babies, One Family

An inside look into how a beautifully unconventional family came to be.

By Arianne Cohen
Two women, two babies family portrait Juliana Sohn
Kristen Henderson and Sarah Ellis have been asked the question a thousand times (and they probably will be asked it a thousand times more). Their answer is always this: No, they didn’t set out to get pregnant at the same time.
Back in early 2007, only Sarah, 37, Real Simple’s marketing director, was trying to have a baby. And after a series of artificial inseminations, she succeeded. But after the pregnancy ended in miscarriage, she wasn’t able to try again for a while for medical reasons. “It was really difficult,” Sarah says. “After you miscarry, you’re almost afraid to give it another go.”
So her partner of four years, Kristen, 38, a guitarist in the rock band Antigone Rising, decided to start artificial insemination herself. Several cycles went by and Kristen still wasn’t pregnant. So Sarah decided to try in vitro fertilization, a different process, using the same donor as Kristen. “We figured we’d roll the dice,” says Kristen. “One of us had to get pregnant, right?”
One week later, they got the news. Pregnant. Pregnant. “My first response was to be terrified,” says Kristen. “We were due three days apart! I kept thinking, Who is going to be the not-pregnant one?” From that jaw-dropping moment, Real Simple followed the duo through their incredible shared pregnancies, documenting the experience in photographs and the words of the happy mothers-to-be and their loved ones.

The Announcement: June 2008

Kristen: We agreed not to tell anyone until the second trimester. That worked for about one week.
 Jeanne Henderson, Kristen’s mother: Here’s how I found out: Kristen came over to my house unannounced with her dog and said, “Mom, I’m so tired, can you watch the dog? I’m going to take a nap.” This is so not Kristen. We are quite close and always know what the other is thinking. So I asked her if she was pregnant. She confessed that she was three weeks along and that Sarah was three weeks and three days along. But she didn’t want anyone to know about Sarah yet. So I kept her little secret. I thought, This is awesome! This is also incomprehensible! Then I started remembering my own pregnancies, and how needy I had felt, and I thought, Oh, my God, how are they going to do this?
 Sarah: I have a nonbiological child, Georgia, from a previous relationship. She’s five and lives with my ex-partner. I wanted Georgia to be one of the first to know. I told her that Kristen had a baby in her belly and I had a baby in my belly, and they were siblings. And that if one was a girl, she would get all of Georgia’s hand-me-downs. She was so excited.
 Barbara Ellis, Sarah’s mother: Sarah called me one day and told me that she was pregnant. We were happy because her miscarriage had been so devastating. And then she said, “Are you sitting down? Kristen’s pregnant, too.” That was a surprise. From the beginning, we called the babies “the twins.”
 Sarah: From the minute my mother found out, she hasn’t stopped crying. Just tears of joy and excitement. She knew we’d face some rough patches, but my parents know what a strong support system Kristen and I have, and that we could handle this.

The First Trimester: June to August 2008

Sarah: Kristen and I reacted to our pregnancies in different ways. She would read all about pregnancy and birth, and I wouldn’t pay much attention. That said, I made sure we had our appointments and the hospital tour. And I organized the babies’ bedroom―clothes in bins by the month, diapers in 0s and 1s and 2s. Can you tell I work at Real Simple? When we weren’t getting ready, we were resting. It was actually a good time of year to be pregnant―we watched a lot of The Biggest Loser.
 Kristen: I wanted to experience pregnancy naturally; she was practically scheduling a C-section right out of the gate. She was more stable. I cry-laughed at things that were barely funny on a daily basis.
 Sarah: We were both green from morning sickness most of the first trimester, but oddly we never got sick at the same time. We were convinced the babies were communicating with each other, because if I was a mess, she would be fine. And vice versa.
 Kristen: We both had cravings at the same time, but they never lined up. Hers were bizarre. Like tomato sandwiches on Wonder Bread with mayonnaise and salt and pepper. She also wanted Chinese food or chocolate. I was obsessed with fruit. I would eat apples with cheese, while she would eat Ben & Jerry’s with pizza, and she would say, “That was the most delicious thing.”
 Sarah: One of the advantages of a dual pregnancy is that no one is skinny. After an awful lot of restaurant meals, we would order an enormous chocolate banana split and not think twice about it. You don’t get self-conscious―it’s shared pighood.
 Spencer Ellis, Sarah’s brother: They didn’t hold back: snacks, then appetizers, then a full-course meal. One night they ate with us, then headed home for a second dinner―and they took something to eat on the ride home.
Read More About:Kids & Parenting

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