It’s not easy putting your money where your mouth is, but equality advocates, sustainability darlings, and self-titled ‘wild wives’ Jessi and Millie are getting very practised at it. To wit: they didn’t just want to be entitled to legally marry in Australia, they campaigned for it with gusto, including appearing in TV adverts for the cause. And living an eco-conscious life isn’t just something they espouse; rather, they’ve figured out a way to make their new abode function completely off the grid. We spoke to Millie (with Jessi peppering in her commentary occasionally, while busily finishing setting up their new home) about the trials and tribulations of IVF, the push and pull between normalising their sexuality by speaking about it versus not feeling the need to, and the dos and don’ts of eyebrow dye.

Millie (left) and Jessi (right) on their wedding day in 2019

“The word journey is so overused, but it’s the best one to describe our experience with IVF. We have been very open about our struggles with it – it’s been a long one, and has included miscarriage.

We have embarked upon it with our community, which feels amazing. We face different hurdles as a same sex couple, so we particularly wanted to talk about it. It’s too lonely to do it alone. For us, it has turned out to be the right decision to be so open with our friends and family and also with the public about what we’ve gone through.

We want anyone to be able to hang out with us and this community. Whether they are trying for children, have lost children, or are childfree by choice, we’ve created a safe space. We understand deeply that someone announcing baby news can be so upsetting if you’re struggling yourself. That’s why we mentioned that in our pregnancy announcement, saying “we get it, we’ve been there”. We’re not saying sadness won’t happen if you come to our page, but we try to create a space where everyone feels welcome to talk about whatever they’re going through.

I am an eternal optimist, so after a tough time in life has passed, I usually find it hard to lock onto it and really feel what that was like. My IVF and fertility experience has been very hard, though.

Everything about it takes longer than you could possibly imagine. 99% of the time you are just waiting for things to happen, and I am a terribly impatient person. There is a lot of anxiety that comes with all the waiting, and unfortunately you carry it with you into the pregnancy. I have so much anxiety before every scan.

We both experience anxiety generally, not only related to my pregnancy, and to assist with those feelings we use Earth Jiinda Anxiety essential oil roller most days. I love it so much that I keep one in my car, one in my bag and one at home! We find it really helps with easing nervousness and tension, and promoting relaxation throughout the body. I’ve just bought their Birthing Kit for my hospital bag. (Ed. note: Earth Jiinda’s online store is being restocked 8 September 2021.)

I grew up just outside London with very left-wing, working class, hard working parents, who were passionate about equality and doing the right thing. I have been guided by them a lot in life.

From the time I was little we were growing veggies in the garden. I even had my own miniature tool set for ‘helping’, which now I think about it was probably nothing more than digging up the lawn, but I loved it! I became a vegetarian when I was 11, and our primary school, which provided our lunches, didn’t have any options for me to eat. All they had was a hot roast, so I went on a hunger strike – I guess reflecting my parents’ sensibilities, as they’d always been taking me on various marches and things for different causes. It forced the school’s hand to introduce veggie school dinners, though, so it worked! Jessi’s parents were similarly minded, though I think perhaps not to quite the same extent. She had a pretty idyllic Aussie upbringing, with lots of time outside spent being active and nature-focused. She was into surfing from early childhood. It’s funny that that can just seem like it’s a season of life you’re passing through without thinking much about it as a kid, but it means everything to us to live a similar way to that now.

Jessi tending to the garden of the couple’s off-the-grid home

I think people do call us influencers and activists. Neither are what I’d necessarily call us, but I get it. Influencer is a term that’s been coined to describe people who put themselves out there publicly, and who have a following. We try to exert our influence for a greater good; it’s always very important to us to try to do that.

Honestly, we turn down more work than we accept. Sometimes you say no to a cheque and think afterwards, ‘oof, that hurt’, but how we feel matters more in the long run (and we know we are lucky to be in the position to choose who we work with). The bigger brands have the big budgets, but those brands often don’t align with our values and so we have to say no. We only ever work with brands we genuinely love, use, or would use. It’s exciting to be introduced to new brands that are start ups or smaller companies. It often means they have smaller budgets, but if they’re purposeful in what they are doing, then that’s way more important to us than loads of money.

Neither of us are very money driven, which makes choosing who we work with easier. We are very happy to make do with what we’ve got and try to reuse, repurpose, and recycle.

Some people are sustainable without thinking about it and don’t need to make a big song and dance about it. For instance, growing up in England, my nans both went through the war; they grew veggies for the land army, and were very affected by rationing. The notions of saving and repairing things were passed down from them to both my parents and then to me. There are lots of lessons we can learn from earlier generations, from serving only the food you need each day, to repairing our socks and making our own dresses. We’re doing our best to repurpose things for the nursery that we’ve found lying around: we actually found our cot in the bin, and we’ve made a mobile from driftwood! Living this way has started to become more fashionable, but we all need to make sure it’s more than a trend.

A reclaimed driftwood mobile, a rehoused cot (and a fluffy kanga) awaiting the new arrival
IMAGE: INSTAGRAM @JESSI_AND_MILLIE

We’ve been in our new house a few weeks now. It’s our first home that we have owned, which feels amazing, and it’s completely off the grid and sustainable.

Our power comes from solar panels, water from rain tanks, our waste water (including bath water, grey water, and sewage) is processed by our worm farm and we compost. The worm farm has the most incredible output of nitrogen-rich run off that is completely sterile. We use it to grow more veggies!

There hasn’t been one definitive moment for either of us where we became eco-conscious. Both our parents brought us up in ways that were focused on sustainability, so we were both deeply passionate about it when we met and it has become part of our relationship. Our passion for it has definitely grown during our parenting journey, as protecting the planet for generations to come has become something we have a stake in.

We don’t consider either of us to ‘have settled’ – what an awful concept! – or that creating this home means we are settling down.

We have always been passionate about celebrating all of life’s events. There are a lot of gender-stereotypical events like marrying, buying a house, having children, and the things that go along with having a traditional family. We like to make it abundantly clear that these aren’t the only milestones which should be celebrated! Being married is important to us and we were thrilled to celebrate that with our wedding, but we think there are many life events that should be celebrated: going to therapy for the first time, the passion you bring to your business, wearing a bikini if it scares you! Too many life events get passed by.

IMAGE: INSTAGRAM @JESSI_AND_MILLIE

Our sexuality is the least interesting thing about us, and yet we talk about it a lot. This is something we both struggle with.

In some respects, our profile and the reach of our Instagram account has come about through our sexuality. There’s been a lot of focus on things extrinsically linked to our sexuality: we appeared in adverts for marriage equality, which started it all, and then there was a lot of excitement and talk about our wedding, as we were one of the first same sex couples to get married in this country. We are so grateful for our platform, and know not everyone around the world is able to talk about these things. The fact that we can shows the progress we have made in Australia, even very recently. It was only four years ago that IVF was afforded to some lesbian couples, and three years ago that LGBT couples could adopt in all states. We have a lot of hurdles to face, so it does matter that we talk about it. At the same time, though, we’re just normal people who want to raise their kids in a loving way, make a home, and look after our pets, so it’s a struggle between those two avenues. The fact that some people don’t have those opportunities to live the life they want, can’t speak to their experience, are frightened to come out, or live in countries where being who they are is dangerous are definite reasons we need to keep having the conversation about sexuality… but it’s not the only conversation that matters to us.

We share all of our beauty products, even when it makes no sense to, haha! We have similar skin types and similar taste, but being focused on sustainability, it’s also a great way to buy less. (The only caveat to us usually using the same skincare is that since I became pregnant, I have had to stop using certain products.)

We’re a bit hopeless when it comes to makeup: until literally last month we used the same foundation, and let me tell you, our skin is not the same colour! I am very pale and Jessi is a fair bit deeper, and yet for six years we have been buying one foundation somewhere in between our two shades. We recently thought, ‘why on earth are we doing this’, so we finally really splashed out a month ago on our separate foundations! I just need someone to sit me down and tell me exactly what to buy, basically.

The most important part of my beauty routine for me is dying my eyebrows. I look at photos of myself from a few years ago and all I can see is that I have no brows!

They’re naturally absolutely white blonde, but there’s a lot of them. (As the trend has come back for bushy brows, I have been ready, secretly preparing, just knowing it’s my time to shine!). I know henna might be more eco-friendly, but I really like using 1000 Hour Lash & Brow Dye, which gets them to just the right colour. I’m all ears for any more natural suggestions, but in the meantime one application to my lashes and brows lasts me three to four weeks, during which I don’t need to use any mascara or brow makeup, so it works out pretty well. One packet lasts me six months to a year, too.

You might assume I’m quite girly, in the way I look and present myself, but I was a shocker when it came to beauty. I used to wash my face with shampoo, if at all! Otherwise I’d sleep in my makeup and just layer on more in the morning.

I must say since meeting Jessi I am much more into skincare. She has taught me so much, and my skin is better, what a shock! I actually have a routine now. I basically never want to go too harsh. We work with Edible Beauty a lot, and I really like everything I’ve tried from them. I like Essano too, which is a skincare based around rosehip oil. Revery make these great reusable bamboo rounds, which are so easy. I use Clémence Organics Protect + Clarify Daily Face Lotion every morning and night. We both use Sun Bear Sunscreen (they donates 80% of their profits to caring for sun bears) and we like the tinted Sunbutter Skincare Surf Zinc for when we’re out in the water. Sometimes after a surf I absolutely cover my face in Edible Beauty’s & Coco Bliss Intensive Repair Night Creme and use that as a mask.

I think coconut oil solves all of life’s problems.

You can use it for oil pulling, all over your body as moisturiser, and on your hair. And as lube! We have to talk about sex more. Having good sex (with yourself or others) is so important for your mental health. We love Slippery Coco lube.

All the products that go down the drains at our place have to be grey water safe, which limits what we can use in the shower. We really like the body wash by an NZ company called Only Good. A’kin and Sukin both make some good grey water-safe shampoos. And The Body Shop! Why have we all been sleeping on them? Their Banana Truly Nourishing Hair Mask is everything, and I still love their Mango Body Butter I have bought since I was a kid.

IMAGE: INSTAGRAM @JESSI_AND_MILLIE

Neither of us are loyal to any makeup brand, really; there are just occasions where we need to put on some face and we run out and buy whatever we find.

Sometimes we use MAC Cosmetics Studio Fluid Fix SPF15, it’s definitely one of our faves when we’re feeling a bit splashy or have a special occasion. I like that putting Hoola Bronzing Powder by Benefit on top: it’s such a good colour, it’s packaged in cardboard, and it lasts forever. We still have some MAC lipsticks we bought for the wedding and still use. I know you’re not meant to use makeup after a certain date but they’re holding up just fine. Eco Minerals makes a natural mineral powder that I use sometimes over foundation for extra coverage or to make it more matte, or just on its own over moisturiser if I want a little bit of coverage. I love Benefit BADGal Bang Volumising Mascara in the big black tube; I get that for myself sometimes as a treat. Oh, and I did buy a big Too Faced eyeshadow palette before a Pride parade one year, as I really wanted to have some colours (Ed. note: discontinued). Now I have a couple of those, one with more wearable natural tones (Too Faced Born This Way The Natural Nudes Complexion Inspired Eye Shadow Palette) and one for Pride!

I am finding myself a bit more at ease with how I treat my body during pregnancy. I have always felt the struggles of maintaining a certain size, and wanting to look a certain way, and I do feel like I have let some of that go.

I do feel beautiful, but it’s also really weird to be what seems like a new size or a new shape every day! I think some of us are always going to feel a level of pressure when our clothes don’t fit. I am purposefully trying to avoid that feeling as much as I can now. I want to be healthy, but also properly listen to what I feel like eating. In my first trimester I would have a smoothie and then a croissant with cheese every day, which I haven’t had for years, but one day I woke up and had to have one and thought, ‘this is everything I need right now’! I am honouring my cravings and what I truly feel like, which so far has been plainer food, carbs, and salt. I am trying to bear in mind eating nutritiously, too, though I hold no shame towards however anyone eats any time, let alone when they’re pregnant. There is so much mum shaming out there, and it starts in pregnancy! There are so many pressures to be eating a certain way and to be exercising and to be conforming, but you have to do what’s right for you; what you do is your choice. We mustn’t stigmatise any behaviours, because all that does is encourage people to do it in secret. You need to be honest with yourself and others about what you want, because there might even be an underlying reason behind it which you haven’t addressed, a physical deficiency or a psychological or emotional issue. I think our bodies try to tell us what we need, so we need to make sure there’s an environment to openly talk about what we’re eating and feeling.

Millie prepping in the nursery

Pregnancy is an anxiety-producing time, where suddenly it’s not just about you anymore, and you become this publicly available figure. I’m someone who is always open to awkward questions, but I know there are other who people would find it disconcerting to be asked (or told!) the things that get said to pregnant women.

It’s hard on your body image, too, whether your bump is big, small or somewhere in between. It’s an odd transition period as a woman, where many of us have spent our teen years being very self-conscious and often hiding away, and then one day it seems like the world feels as though they can come up to you and comment on your body. For the most part my response to pregnancy advice (even if I just say this in my head) is ‘thanks but no thanks’ – I will figure out what’s right for me and my family, even if that’s a process of trial and error.

I think everyone finds it hard to switch off these days.

For the most part, we really do enjoy everything we do for work, and we are very good at saying no to things we don’t want to do. We’re both very forthcoming: you get what you see with us and see what you get. If there’s an element of a job we don’t want to do, we probably say no. Of course, sometimes we do end up doing some things we enjoy less than others, but on the whole it’s the beauty of working for ourselves, that we get to shape our own jobs.

We’re sort of the world’s worst influencers.

In three years, we’ve only done 300 posts; we’re lucky if we post once a week. We are trying to work on that, because people are so interested in what we’re doing, but we don’t do it if don’t feel like it. We do very much feel as though we have made a promise to our community, and want to put in the effort to our DMs and comments. As our number of followers grow, so do the number of these messages we get, and they often require very in depth, emotional responses. People want to talk with us about IVF, miscarriage, and areas of life which are complex, so there’s a different answer for every scenario. We do spend a lot of time on that, and it’s the one area of our work that’s harder to turn off from. In general, we try to make some time each day to just have our phones down or not be on a screen. Funnily enough, that’s both a pro and con (depending on how you look at it) of living off the grid… on a cloudy day, there’s only so much solar power available to us, so we have to pick which device to use!

Jessi snuggling with one of the couple’s adored rescue dogs
IMAGE: INSTAGRAM @JESSI_AND_MILLIE

Generally our favourite ways to recharge are by being outside, but we definitely love just hanging out on the couch watching a favourite show, too.

TV is tricky, isn’t it? I think it can be good and bad, and of course that depends on what you watch and how often. There are studies that say when you’re familiar with what you’re watching and you know what’s going to happen, it doesn’t produce any anxiety, even if it’s seemingly stress-inducing viewing, which makes me feel better about my love for true crime shows! In a world with so much complexity, and where we all spend a lot of time watching whatever latest awful news is unfolding, it can be very refreshing to switch off and zone out in front of The Office. Science says so!”

Interview and story by Zoe Briggs. Images supplied by Jessi and Millie, including header image. Some images via Instagram @jessi_and_millie.

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