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.
Now I guess, not every small baby is assigned a ‘Baby Name’, well maybe not officially, but I’m sure that most little bundles of joy get called a myriad of cute sounding words and no doubt a certain one will stick as the parents get accustomed to the sound of it.
Our children’s baby names started with Tara. It was on our car trip, driving up from Candolim in Goa, back to the raging metropolis of Mumbai and its suburbs. I have to add that Bharti’s (our nannies) mother wouldn’t fly, so a long road trip was the only option. It is a very mountainous journey at times through the western Ghats of India as well as deep ravines and hair pin bends there was woodland and paddy fields aplenty. I remember, it was a thirteen hour journey. Bharti was our nanny back then in India. Her mother had come down from Mumbai to help out and her husband had joined us a few days before the journey. I had paid for the SUV (4 x 4) and he was our nominated driver! I of course do not drive. We passed all kinds of flora and fauna along the way, including elephants, monkeys and green parrots. I always smile when a troop of monkeys cross the road and take absolutely ages to get to the other side. The little ones stopping halfway to play. Naughty monkeys. We also gazed on a dead dog, it’s entrails looking as if they had exploded from its blooded, petrified body. There were a mass of very large, black ravens fighting over the spoils. Anyhow, we stopped a couple of times in the thirteen hours and the lunch stop was what I am going to talk about now. Bharti’s husband and I were in the front seats and Bharti and her mother were in the back holding one baby each. We stopped at a pretty basic shack besides the road for some food (curry served from a plastic chill box) and to use the hole in the ground that was the W.C. We were in a fairly dense area of woodland. I jumped out and opened the rear door for Bharti’s mother, holding a smiley Tara. I grabbed her, missing her hold and started making coo’ing sounds to generate a giggle as I walked with her to the open door of the shack. Oooh oooh I was sounding whilst holding her close to my face and to my surprise, she replied aaah oooh, to which I reactively said boo boo. Putting two sounds together, constitutes a word as far as I’m concerned. And that was how Booboo was named! Now we have twins, don’t forget. So if Tara got the oooh in booboo, Amritsar had to have the aaah in aaah oooh. Amritsar became Baabaa. Thor on the other hand, being quite the screamiest of baby’s, his name was obvious to imagine. He would wail about banging down loudly with clenched fists. Start thinking Barney Rubble’s son in the Flintstones? Bambam was a clear winner as a baby name for Thor. When it came to the youngest of the brood, I wasn’t planning on ‘Baby Names’ but I did think we should keep it in the same style of the others names. Bimbop, boopsnoop! Lol. Only kidding – Beebee and Bobo were named. Caleb’s name being shorter as he was our littlest one. A very calm and chilled out little baby, when he was first born, he was the wrinkliest of all our children. It kind of looked as if he was frowning with all the lines on his forehead. But he flattened out and no Botox was required…
So there you go. Booboo, Baabaa, Bambam, Beebee and Bobo, our not so famous five.
The final night away was a whirlwind of thanking our hosts over a Pinot Noir and a chilled Chardonnay. And my food offering was a Roast Pork and bacon joint, pigs in blankets, lard roast potatoes, glazed carrots, butter sautéed Savoy cabbage, fine green beans and a jus (gravy) made with pork stock and the juices from the meat!
We were woken this morning by Amritsar tapping Sidmouth pebbles together at 6.15am and our bedroom invasion happened at 6.45am. Another breakfast at the farmhouse of eggy bread and crepes, then a mass cleanup before we said our goodbyes at 10.30am.
The journey back was smooth. ‘Are we there yet’ only resonated a handful of times, there were no toilet stops and the children slept for seventy percent of the trip. A far cry from our outward journey. The dogs went crazy on our return and we are now finally home and settled.
No doubt more to add tomorrow…