'Family' means something different to everyone, and for 25-year-old Maddie Ross it means herself, her baby, the baby's dad and his new boyfriend.
Maddie had been high school sweethearts with her son's father, Dion Negrea, and in 2015 the pair rekindled their romance and began dating again.
The couple were both 18 at the time, and they went on to welcome a son Braxton, who is now six years old. However, Maddie has claimed she always suspected Dion might be gay - suspicions which grew when she found flirty texts with men on his phone.
Throughout their time together, Dion struggled with addiction to methamphetamine, and while Maddie initially stuck by him, they eventually decided to go their separate ways in August 2020, when Maddie decided she needed to 'put herself and Braxton first'.
The following month, Dion came out to Maddie.
He explained: "I fell hard into drugs because I was hiding my sexuality. It was really difficult. I thought there was such a stigma around it but it’s not the case anymore.
"I’m a concreter and a ‘real bloke’ so people didn’t expect it - but all my friends and family have been so supportive.
"I was a little bit excited to get it off my chest. [Maddie] sort of knew as she’d asked me a few times. I finally decided to tell her and it was a relief. We’ve always been so close.”
Maddie, a therapist from Berwick, Melbourne, Australia, said she has 'always been in love with Dion', explaining the pair have a 'really strong connection'.
“I always forgave him and saw the good in him but I believe the reason he turned to drugs was because he suppressed his true self," she said.
"The first time he told me, he came to my house and said he slept with another guy. The guy he slept with was someone I always thought was hot, so I was laughing because I couldn’t believe it.
“I think if it was a girl I wouldn’t have been so happy."
Dion checked into rehab for 15 months after getting into trouble with the law, and while in the programme he met Leigh, who went on to become his boyfriend.
Though they now live six hours away from each other, the three adults have become firm friends, with Maddie saying it's 'the best' the former couple have 'ever been'.
“Dion is still learning to be a parent and it’s amazing to watch Leigh help Dion with how to parent Braxton," she said. “He has all three of us wrapped around his little finger - we’re all family and best friends."
Leigh admitted he was 'so nervous' to meet Maddie the first time, and explained that while they have a 'unique family dynamic', they decided to pursue the relationship 'for Braxton'.
After her own experience, Maddie has urged others to be 'open, honest and accepting', saying: "It's so important for the child."
Though Maddie initially felt insecure about herself after Dion came out as gay, she can now rely on him to tell her she's 'amazing' if she's feeling down.
If you’ve been affected by any of these issues and want to speak to someone in confidence, contact the LGBT Foundation on 0345 3 30 30 30, 10am–6pm Monday to Friday, or email [email protected]