We all have different types of families – and one has shown how wonderful it is to be different.
Stuart Armfield-Haugen, a native of Hayes, Middlesex, and Francis Armfield-Haugen, originally from Llandovery, Wales, have been together for almost 14 years. They met through mutual friends many years ago, and have been together ever since.
This year their dream came true as they welcomed a little one into the world. Their family was able to become complete thanks to a very special friend, and they now have over 1.1m followers on TikTok (@stuartandfrancis) who love to follow their story.
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The couple have a son named Rio who was born via surrogate in November 2021. They said: "The key to our relationship is that we have grown together. Being gay is our super power."
But their journey to parenthood hasn't always been easy, as they were about to go through the full process in America before their good friend, Sam, offered to be their surrogate.
Sam already had two children before agreeing to carry the baby, and both families continue to be in each other’s lives as their journeys progress. Only one month after having Rio, Stuart and Francis decided they wanted to go through the process again, but there were so many things to consider – mainly, they had to create more embryos and had to move quickly with this, as they wanted to use the same egg donor so the children would have a genetic connection.
At the time their close friend, Carley, watched their journey with Sam online and thought it was amazing. She knew it was something she would love to do for them.
Once she realised her husband and children were open to it, she reached out to Stuart and Francis, and said she'd love to do it for them. Perhaps seeing the couple so in love with each other sealed the deal, as the pair admit it truly was love at first sight.
Speaking exclusively to Daily Star about the time they met, Stuart said: "Picture this, we were seated at this long table, me at one end, and Francis at the other. The moment our eyes met it was like destiny had brought us together.
"Francis couldn't resist stealing glances, and before long, he made his way over to me. He said, 'I've heard so much about you.' Since then, we've been inseparable."
They had always wanted children but, growing up, they said it seemed "impossible" for a gay couple like them to make it a reality.
Stuart added: "We rarely saw any representation of gay couples with kids, so we assumed it wasn't an option. It all changed when we saw Neil Patrick Harris with his children – that was a turning point for me.
"In 2011, I placed a picture of him and his family on my vision board, hoping that one day, we might experience the joy of having a family. It felt like a distant dream, and we weren't sure if it could ever become a reality.
"Now, when I scroll through my Instagram and see our life as parents, I can't help but feel amazed. Being a parent is undoubtedly hard work, but I choose to focus on the incredible beauty it brings.
"It's so much fun, especially with Rio at his age now, discovering the world and experiencing everything for the first time. The excitement in his eyes is infectious, and we're just so grateful for this wonderful journey."
But the pair admitted that when a pal first offered to be a surrogate they were "uncertain" at first. They planned to go through the whole process in America, as they worried involving a friend may affect the dynamics.
Then, the unexpected happened, and the world went into lockdown. As there were so many travel restrictions in place, they realized that if they pursued the American plan, they wouldn't get to meet the surrogate until after she gave birth.
"That just wouldn't work for us," Stuart said. "As fate would have it, everything fell into place. We decided to move forward with our friend as our surrogate.
"To ensure there were no genetic connections with anyone we knew, we chose an American egg donor. The connection we've built with our surrogates is an incredibly beautiful thing, and both of them have cherished this experience.
"Having children is an incredible blessing, and I genuinely believe that Francis and I have become an even stronger team because of it. Working together to provide the best life for both of our kids has been an amazing journey.
"Rio, at this moment, is living proof of just how much he's enjoying life to the fullest. His boundless happiness and zest for life are truly inspiring. We're eagerly looking forward to instilling our positive values in both Rio and Rebel."
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