Well, three children down and just the final two to go. As things were going in Thailand with the IVF clinic having closed its doors, we thought that our embryos stored in their cryo facility must have perished. Ausa was still in hiding and the email address we had for the clinic just bounced back all of our attempts to contact them. Our despair turned to delight however, when we finally heard from Nancy, the clinic receptionist and administrator. We heard that Ausa was fine, as was the cryo facility. The staff had managed to flee the premises with most of the client paperwork and essential equipment, including the cryo tank containing the frozen embryos. Our quandary was, what to do with our frozen embryos. How things played out as with Ausa, our surrogate and the birth of baby Thor, I mentioned in the last portion of this chapter, but with regards the remaining embryos – to cut a long story short, we heard that an Israeli agency (we knew of) was beginning a new venture based in Nepal and it was possible to preserve our embryos by flying them to Kathmandu. Seemingly, no paperwork was necessary for the import of human gametes into Nepal, well who’d have thought it! For a fee we were able to put the next chapter into motion, though with this option, we had to sign a brand new surrogacy agreement with the Israeli Fertility Clinic! One that would put the wheels in motion for another attempted surrogacy in Kathmandu. I didn’t mention earlier that we had a few failures when it came to ‘getting pregnant’. In all, three non starter pregnancies and two miscarriages. We obviously thought a first attempt at a new pregnancy was unlikely to take, so even before the birth of Thor, this new attempt at pregnancy seemed to us highly unlikely. We just imagined there would be a second attempt six months down the line. However, we were soon to be very surprised. With the embryos now in storage at the newly built hospital in Kathmandu, we surprisingly learnt that two of the embryos had been thawed and an attempt at pregnancy had occurred. There was a test for the pregnancy hormone and it had proved positive. We later found out that we were once again blessed with another twin pregnancy. On this occasion our children would be born at the top of the world, under the shadow of Mount Everest. We would soon enough become a family of two dads, two spotty dogs, two sets of beautiful twins and a little bolt of thunder who went by the name of Thor. That is the short version of the story of ‘How did we become to be’. Whatever the logistics, nature, within her blossom and beauty (with a little human intervention) has truely flourished…
It was some time before fortune blessed us with our next child, baby Thor. In fact he was conceived on or around the girls first birthday, but the girls would have to wait another nine months (and some) to receive the gift of a little brother. India was closed to us as an option regarding this pregnancy as the Indian government had earlier implemented rule changes that banned single people (essentially gay couples) from using surrogacy services. The new rules stipulated that only heterosexual couples married for a minimum of two years would be permitted to use the services of surrogacy in India. A moral crusade you might ask? Hooey – the moment the girls and I returned from our stay in India, the country re-criminalised being gay. How very twenty first century. I suppose their government, had to stop gay couples coming to India to use the services of surrogacy if they were about to reassert a Dickensian law banning homosexuality completely. I believe that the law has only just been repealed, once again decriminalising the re-criminalising of being gay in India. My heart does go out to the repressed peoples of all nations, not just to the people of India. Now I am starting to sound slightly political! I really don’t want that to be the case in this blog. Though I guess politics ultimately affects everything we do or don’t in life.
Politics were at play in India and indeed at play when Ausa, our surrogate in Thailand was pregnant with Thor. He was born in late December 2014. Thailand, just like India, had made international surrogacy illegal. Not an easy time for us. Remember the baby Gammy scandal? Many women working as surrogates, fearing retribution from the Thai Military Junta that had taken over the government in a coup simply went into hiding. Our IVF Clinic was closed by the authorities and our paediatrician at one point had gone into hiding. Yes, a very uneasy time for us. As a family we persevered and got through the ordeal. We were now a family of two dads, two dogs, two girls and a little bolt of thunder named Thor.
Part five of this chapter will just have to follow later as it is time to prepare dinner for five hungry mouths.
We chose to have our first surrogacy in India. We had to wait over a year for the ivf clinic to find two separate women who could prove that they were single. India is a world away from the one we know. There was no women’s liberation in the 1960’s. Very sadly women are second to men on the social scale, whatever cast they’re fortunate or unfortunate to be born into. There are very few single women in a country of over a billion people. Younger women are just in waiting for their marriage, the vast majority of women are married and a very, very small number of women, who might be widowed or divorced can prove it with the relevant paperwork that the U.K. government will accept. For the genetic father to have any rights as the father of a baby born through surrogacy, the surrogate needs to be unmarried. If she is married, her husband is regarded as the babies father in U.K. law. Anyhow, with our Sperm already on ice, embryos were produced and two separate pregnancies were attempted. One surrogate had the embryos created from Johns sperm and the other surrogate, embryos that were biologically mine. All of the embryos shared the same egg donors genetics. One pregnancy was a success and sadly the other pregnancy was not. An ironic twist added to the story was that the successful pregnancy was going to be a twin pregnancy. Of course, one of us was saddened that there was a significant failure, but as potential, committed parents, the genetics were not everything. We were both going to become Dads. And we learnt at this early stage, things seldom go as planned! Remember it was john and I who planned the family and to be the children’s sole parents. The egg donor wasn’t planning on being a mother to our children and as for the surrogate? She wasn’t doing this for us to be nice, remember we chose compensated surrogacy in India (not legal here in the U.K.) and she was very well paid to carry our babies to term. There was no genetic connection. Our children only have two parents and we both happen to be men! Thirty five weeks later, we were suddenly a family of two dads, two dogs and now, two little baby girls. The family was growing.
Okay it’s time for bed now so there will have to be a ‘part four’ of this chapter tomorrow. Upstairs the girls have all been shouting and running around, now two hours since going up to bed, they have finally just settled. I went up an hour ago and changed Aaliyah’s stinky nappy and finally things are quiet. Then the boys were fast asleep. As will I be very soon, Goodnight.
Thor and Aaliyah were both on the ‘Thinking Chair’ in quick succession, four times yesterday for fighting and threatening to bite each other. They were asked to be quiet for two minutes and then they could get off. It was on Aaliyah’s fifth sitting, Thor said to Aaliyah ‘oh Aaliyah, we’ve done this five times now (and he sighs loudly) can you just keep quiet for two minutes’.
Caleb was on ‘Thinking Chair’ later that day and left alone for five minutes. John walks back out to the dining hall and Caleb is nowhere to be seen. John investigates further to find him hiding behind the big oak dining table amongst the boxes of wine. John asked him what he was doing there and Caleb replies ‘I’m in my house daddy, I want to stay here please’? He was marched back to the ‘Thinking Chair’.
Sorry for the two day delay in the continuation of this story, but as I had earlier explained, I have had a few days off from family life and I have only just resurfaced! John has done a sterling job coping without myself or Sindy on Thursday and Friday. I do appreciate him and what he does regards family life. His main time with the children is obviously the weekend, so with Sindy off off on Thursday and Friday and me in London, he has been run ragged. But has come through it and all is well.
So back to our story. There were a few small instances that lead to the realisation that we could father our own children. The first one for me was, if Remus could manage it, well why couldn’t we. We’re fairly intelligent people and if you plan for something carefully, most things are possible aren’t they? However the main epiphany was a late night program on the TV. John has gone to bed (as he does) with Remus and Gracie and a program came on called ‘Made in India’. It told the story of a perfectly normal boy/girl couple and their journey through IVF, resulting in a third party surrogate carrying their genetic child to term. The surrogate was well paid, the Clinic was well paid and the result was one happy family! Now, at that time we had all heard of celebrity surrogacies like Elton John and David Furness having a baby. So I thought, what is so different from John and I experiencing the possibility of using an egg donor (much like sperm donation) and a surrogate to carry the child. I was full of apprehension and felt too scared to share my thoughts with John for several days after, but the following week I did.
And that was the beginning of how we came to be. But five children later, from that moment to this, an awful lot has passed. Perhaps enough adventures and indeed misadventures, I thought the story worthy of my efforts to document it as a memoir. Watch this space, but in part three of this chapter, I will sum up in brief how all five of our children came to be. The remainder of this chapter will be continued this afternoon! I hope you’re looking forward to the read.
Well, John and I actually met some twenty five years ago. We were attracted to one another and had a snog after much eye contact, in a very well known and notorious gay bar in West London, the Coleherne in Earls Court. Thinking back to those days now, they seem a world away from where we are today! The bar did boast a multitude of gay celebrities that frequented it over the years, not necessarily at the same time of course. To name a few that I am aware of, not necessarily in chronological order, Kenny Everett, Mark Almond, John Paul Gaultier, Michael Barrymore, I even saw Evan Davis from newsnight in there one afternoon. There were many more, even the long term suffering boyfriend of Freddy Mercury spent his latter days at the bar! Finally, I can’t forget the notorious serial killer, Colin Ireland frequented the bar, not so long before John and I met there. Those certainly were interesting days. Moving on, after that first stolen kiss, that was it for a couple of years. We later met up in 1995 and decided to become an item. Three years later we moved into our first home together in Hammersmith. Now that was almost twenty years ago to the day. A few years passed, as they do. We were both working very hard, having started our two separate businesses. The hankering for the patter of tiny paws was brought up! We would have gone for it, but it was just before Christmas and my sister in law Louisa brought us one of those Disney soft toys and gave it to us. The present came with this advice ‘you guys are so busy, dogs are a responsibility, almost as much as children, are you sure you can manage a needy puppy as well as cope with the day to day stress of running your own businesses’? Of course she was right. So the soft toy took on the name already chosen for our spotty puppy, Remus. Now don’t laugh, but we didn’t just put the soft toy in the cupboard, come on, we had named him after all. The Disney toy called Remus came to bed with us each and every night. Well this was a practical reality that we could live with. But the thought of a real dog, to start our family remained and in 2008 we travelled out to Fittleworth in West Sussex, to a breeder of Dalmatians named Mrs Bennet and we chose our puppy. He was one of two boy puppies from a litter of twelve. Well there we have it, After officially being a couple for thirteen years at that point, we had finally become a family. There is a significant story here about Remus’s early years, though I’ll leave that for another time. But will conclude that just like the soft toy Dalmatian, Remus ultimately managed to gain access to the bed and the bigger he got, the more we were pushed to the sides. Now Gracie, our second Dalmatian came along three years later. She was not acquired through a breeder, rather gifted to us as ‘pick of the litter’ after Remus had joined a dog studding website and started bringing in a small wage for himself. We called the puppy Gracie as that was the name of the mother. By calling her the mother’s name there would be no emotional attachments, well we had to call her something while we looked to find a new home for her. And look and look I did. But to no avail. John always said that I didn’t look hard enough as I secretly wanted to keep her. Well in my favour, I did try to rehouse her but it wasn’t to be. So she became part of our slowly expanding family. That’s all for now, part two tomorrow folks.
That is the question! Well, I am sure all bloggers have asked this of themselves. What to write and what not to write. I will intersperse that as I go.
School half term is upon us and yesterday, the children had a play date at a friend from schools house. They were all invited and Sindy went along with them, leaving me to my own devices at home. I chose to stay in and correct one of this years Jammin’ disappointments. All of my endeavours thus far this year have set very well. But one of my recent ‘Jammy combos’ is still resembling a chunky fruit syrup after two boils and two lots of jam jar sterilising. More about that another day.
Back to what this diary is all about! I have set this up to document my ‘Big Family Life’, but it is also an insight into my interaction with it all, my life, my history, my likes and indeed, my (only very few) dislikes. I have decided to only use our first names. The handful of friends we do have who visit us in ‘The Shires’, I will introduce as and when, also on a first name basis. I am avoiding school friends names and that of their parents unless later on they tell me they are happy for me to name them in my writings.
I have a couple of nights off now as I am sat on a London bound train. I said my goodbyes to the children this morning, so lots of ‘hugs and a kiss’. I will not blog about these two nights off every fortnight as they are not so relevant to my family life, just a bit of R’n’R really. But when I am away I might just find the time to reflect and consider the past and indeed, hopes for the future. As I earlier mentioned, it’s about ‘the little things, but also about the bigger picture.
Writing my memoirs meant a lot to me. I completed the novel when we were holidaying in Provence in August. I’m not really sure where to go with them, find a publisher, self publish, both options are on the table. But for now, I am continuing the document right here, right now! I’m smiling as I first wrote the memoir using fictitious names. I was Dillon and his partner was Gabe. The children’s names were kind of spun from our daughter Tara’s name, having our first son and my fascination with the moon. The name Tara means Star. So hence the names were all a little celestial. Star, Sky, Sonny (sun), Chandra and Terran, all had a certain ring to them, but I ended up thinking that I was in some way fictionalising or dramatising the account. So I decided we all deserved our actual names. More on the memoir later. My train is about to arrive at its destination.