Eighteen Moons

Same-sex surrogacy (single) had been banned in India, so Andi, still longing to father a child, turned next to Thailand. With the news of a successful pregnancy everything looked rosy – until the Thai government also clamped down on surrogacy, the clinic was closed. For several heart-stopping days they didn’t know what had happened to their surrogate, or their baby. Finally they heard that all was well and Andi said goodbye to John and the girls and went to Thailand to be with his child. A son was born and a delighted Andi hoped to take him home within weeks. But what followed was an extraordinary saga of delays, denials and, eventually, Andi’s arrest on trumped up drug charges. Given the option by the arresting officers of waiting three months for a court date and a guaranteed three, month sentence, a second option was put on the table. No criminal record and the chance to be the first westerner to serve in the Royal Thai Army. This would take him to an army barrack’s deep in the Thai jungle, he had just one phone call, to tell John what had happened.

On the day he was freed Andi found John, and their son, waiting for him. Days later, after five long months of waiting, they flew home, to introduce the girls to their new baby brother.

When the surrogacy clinic in Thailand had closed Andi and John’s remaining embryos had been transferred, with the help of an Israeli agency, to Nepal, where surrogacy was still possible. At that stage, unsure of the outcome in Thailand, they had given the go-ahead for a surrogacy attempt. Now they heard that once again twins were expected, this time on the roof of the world. The massive 2015 earthquake in Nepal devastated much of the surrounding area of Kathmandu, plus many ancient temples and monuments in the city itself and for some time Andi and John didn’t know whether their surrogate or their babies had survived.

With the happy news that all was well, once more Andi kissed his family goodbye and set off, hoping that this time all would be well and he’d be home again soon with a new brother and sister for the children. But once again his attempt to bring the children home was thwarted by delays and difficulties and it was five months before he was able to bring the babies home. The babies passports were only issued after locals organised a ‘Witch Hunt’, his own Nepali visa had expired and the unexpected death of his mother.

It took Andi and John three and a half years to fulfil their dream of a family and during that time eighteen full moons passed while Andi remained stranded in India, Thailand and Nepal, waiting to bring their children home. As he waited the moon was so often his comfort and companion. He would sit and look at it, thinking of home and trusting that all would be well and that, no matter what it took, the children were coming home.

For John, holding the fort at home, it was a long, painful wait, while the other side of the world Andi went through hell – frightened, alone and facing hostility, prejudice and obfuscation. But he also found friendship, kindness and support and it was these that he would remember. And when he finally arrived back with the twins in December 2015, the journey over and the family together, it brought with it a wonderful sense of completion. All five children became British citizens and at last Andi and John could look to the future.

A Winters Day

The big thaw in the Shires has left a patchwork green and white lawn on which the squirrels are playing. That was before Remus stormed down to the bottom of the garden, Gracie hot at his heels. You’ve got to smile as there’s never a victory for poor Remus or Gracie. They speed up the nearest tree, that is the squirrels do, not the dogs. It’s cold, but not like it was at the weekend. Six inches of snow dissolved to almost nothing within forty eight hours. As quick as it had fallen, it had gone. I also see that the birds have discovered the newly filled feeder. This afternoon I even spied one of our resident robins having a peck at the supersized peanuts contained therein. Shamefully I admit that the feeder has not been filled since the squirrels vandalised it last year, in their vain attempts to gorge on the contents. Naughty squirrels as they get to feast on the majority of seeds and kernels of the many trees and oaks in the general vicinity. I guess desperate times call for desperate measures!

Everyone here is fine. We made home made chips last night with Cumberland sausages. Caleb was absent as he had an appointment for his hearing at the hospital. They are considering that his slower learning rate may have something to do with slightly impaired hearing. He has got to go back in six months. I am not too worried as he has come on a lot in the last six months, though still a long way to go to catch up with his sister Aaliyah. John and I ate Indian last night as we often do. A medium tempered chicken curry and a Dahl That I wrestled from the freezer. We had basmati rice and chapatti, with mango chutney on the side. The provisions cupboard boasts home made mango jam, but I think I might fuse my love of Indian cookery with jam making and make my own mango chutney in the coming weeks. My two hours whilst the little ones were at preschool gave me the time to make six jars of Rasmelon Berry Jam. And with the left over gravy (curry sauce) from last nights chicken curry I made a mutter (pea curry) for the children tonight. Sindy is just collecting the girls from school and I am watching CBeebies with the little ones. We Just had milk and cookies, the dogs are circling the table in hope. A pretty average winters day really. The girls just arriving home, so that’s all for now.

Eighteen Moons

Eighteen Moons is the extraordinary and moving story of Andi and John and how they brought together, against huge odds, the family they had longed for. Today they are loving fathers to five beautiful children including two sets of twins, all of them under the age of six. But the story of how this very special family came together is a tale filled with heartache and frustration, determination and courage. It’s also a story full of humor, human frailty and, above all, love.

Their quest for children took them across the world and brought them up against seemingly impossible challenges. But as the whims of officials and government directives thwarted their every move and sent them on a wild adventure which took them from India to Thailand and on to Nepal, Andi and John refused to give up.

Extraordinarily, Andi and John’s first twins were the last British surrogate babies to leave India, their son was the last to leave Thailand and their second twins were the first British children to be born through surrogacy in Nepal.

Happily together for twenty years and the besotted owners of two daft but loveable Dalmatians, Andi and John longed for children to complete their family. Two, they thought, would be perfect, ideally one fathered by each of them.

After looking at surrogacy options worldwide, India seemed to offer everything they hoped for and in 2012 they went to India to begin the surrogacy process. A few months later, they heard that their surrogate was expecting twins.

Andi went to India for the birth; the plan was that John would join them and together they would bring the babies home. When two gorgeous daughters were born they couldn’t have been happier. But what followed was a nightmare of bureaucracy and obfuscation, as John, the twins’ natural father, was refused a visa and the Indian Government refused to let Andi leave with the babies. For month after month Andi lived in India, caring for the girls, while he and John struggled to find a way to bring them home. At every turn they were thwarted until they became so desperate they considered smuggling the girls out of the country by boat. Their daughters were eight months old when, finally, John was able to go and bring them home.

The Weekend

A reunion with one of my oldest friends Sarah on my way to the Stag rather waylaid me as we talked and talked and supped away on the finest champagne! She doesn’t realise just how great her company is. Anyhow, my apologies to the lads at the Stag as the following day, I slipped in the ice and twisted my ankle. So I missed out on the weekend of alcoholic oblivion. In favour of struggling to the train station and buying another ticket to bring me home. Any sympathy there for my poor swollen ankle? I think not. The snow really had fallen some six inches in the Shires and the garden looks like a winter scape from a Christmas movie. Though they didn’t build a snowman, the sleigh was popular and there were lots of snowball fights with our neighbours and their families. I believe that our crew won (overall). Good for them. So here I sit hugging Amritsar and watching a dinosaur movie called ‘The land before time’. Aaliyah was just hugging Gracie and the boys have just put on their shoes thinking that they are going outside to play in the snow. John is responsible for tonight’s dinner of Moroccan shoulder of lamb with cous cous. The fire is radiating heat and everything is snuggly and warm.

We just spent the last hour or so shelling monkey nuts, to fill the bird feeder, which is now hanging on the wisteria on the terrace. Job well done. All five children worked really hard and we are hoping that the birds enjoy eating in this time of difficulty, as the snow is still deep. No little worms to dig up on the lawn. Remus is also snuggling in now. We all feel warm and fuzzy. Roll on dinnertime.

The Stag Weekend

Friendlies ‘Glen and Victoria’ are finally tying the knot at the end of the month. Good for them, wishing them a very happy future together. Now I know that Victoria had her hen weekend a couple of weeks ago, Glen however has opted for a boys boozy stag at… wait for it, sadly not Marbella, rather Weston Super Mare on the Costa del Zummerzet in the West Country. A themed weekend with local entertainment (ooh are) being held at the Pontins holiday camp, called Incider! What does that entail you may ask? To be honest ‘What happens in Weston, stays in Weston’. I think that only fair. I am only doing two of the three nights as I’m missing the children like crazy. I will get home at 4pm on Sunday. Sadly I will miss the fancy dress party (finale), but I hope there are a few photos of the crew!

Back to the children, though I am travelling to Weston from London Paddington, I received a text from school this morning, saying that there is no school today, so I guess Sindy will be having fun in the garden. I am expecting a snowman that is a bit of an improvement on last years poor soul. Sat on the train at present, next stop Reading. Just received a phone call from John saying that he also has taken the day off. ‘ Snowed in’ he said and four to six inches he concluded. He is working from home but he let me know that they are all going into the garden shortly for a snow ball fight. As adults, we have to hark back to what a snowfall here in the U.K. meant when we were children. A magical thing completely.

I remember a video I took of Remus and Gracie playing in the snow (they also love it) back in 2013. It was the day before I travelled to Mumbai for Amritsar and Tara’s births. That year the snow was very late. A flash cold spell dusted the garden on 22nd March. I’m sure all the children will love the snowball fight, but I am expecting that snowman. The countryside through the windows of the train looks as white as snow! Funny that.

Back to my journey, I am seeing a very good friend Sarah from Bristol who lives in Weston Super Mare. She lives there now and it has been absolutely ages since we last got to spend time together. I am hoping that we can get her an armband for the event and she can become an honorary ‘Stag’ for the weekend. We are going to meet at the station and take it from there. To be honest, I feel a bit hung over as I write this and we haven’t even started on the serious drinking. I believe the bar is well priced, so there’s gonna be a few comatose cider drinkers needing paramedic assistance for sure before the end of the weekend. And I wonder what plans the lads have to play a prank on Glen! We will just have to wait to find out. More later, that is if I’m not feeling too inebriated.