Hollie Blakeman-Armstrong, a member of Cambridge Street United in Lindsay, Ont., says the idea of surrogate motherhood first came up in a conversation with her adult daughter. “I always thought there was something missing in my life — that I didn’t feel important somehow,” she says.
The 46-year-old personal support worker has six children ranging in age from 11 to 25 and four grandchildren. Wanting to do more, she decided to contact a Canadian organization that manages surrogate arrangements.
She was connected with Andrea Cappelli and Gianfilippo Gangitano, a gay couple from Italy. After two weeks of intense Skype and email conversations, she and the prospective fathers decided they were a match. Blakeman-Armstrong became pregnant through in vitro fertilization with a donor embryo and gave birth to Bianca Hollie in early December.
At one point during her pregnancy, Blakeman-Armstrong sent Cappelli and Gangitano a photo of one of her children singing in a church choir, which had an LGBTQ2-friendly rainbow flag in the background. The two men, who were raised Roman Catholic, asked if it would be possible for their baby to be baptized at Blakeman-Armstrong’s United church.
“We never could imagine the love we found in Cambridge Street that Sunday morning: an entire community was waiting for us with a wonderful surprise party after the ceremony.”
She broached the subject with her minister, Rev. Craig Donnelly, who was delighted by the idea of a baptism that could show how family and love take many forms. The congregation was in the midst of the Affirming process, whereby churches learn how to best welcome and support LGBTQ2 people. Donnelly says the baptism was “a real positive step in that direction.”
At the service, the dads thanked the congregation. Blakeman-Armstrong also spoke movingly about what being a surrogate had meant to her. “There wasn’t a dry eye in the church,” Donnelly says.
“We never could imagine the love we found in Cambridge Street that Sunday morning: an entire community was waiting for us with a wonderful surprise party after the ceremony,” write Cappelli and Gangitano in an email. “But most [meaningful] of all [was] the interest of the people in our story.”
Bianca Hollie is now home in Italy with her dads, but Blakeman-Armstrong says they’re all still in touch. “We consider each other family now.”
This column first appeared in the May 2019 issue of Broadview with the title “Beautiful Baptism in Lindsay, Ont.” To read more of Broadview’s award-winning content, subscribe to the magazine today.