Media madness: A shock to the system

You know, I always thought I’d enjoy being in the limelight; a focus of the newspapers and the TV. Who hasn’t??  In my imagination though it was to celebrate my acting prowess or promoting my first album. Neither of these were anymore likely than being asked on a date by Gerard Butler. Mmm, Gerard. Definitely a close second to Ivan. What I could do with Gerard…

Oops, sorry. Where was I?

Oh yes, media. Well I can’t act, and I sure as hell can’t sing, so I’d given up on the whole media attention thing many moons ago. Imagine my surprise,  horror in fact, to wake up a few days after Wils birth to discover we’d made the front page of The Sun.

We’d been warned by our legal advisor, Natalie Gamble, that the media loved a surrogacy story and that this one would be of particular interest to them. Natalie had advised us at the time that we either had to be very cautious, or embrace the media and approach them ourselves. We were unanimous that we had no interest in approaching the media. The decision for us to have a baby was a private one. To be shared with family and friends. The people that mattered.

If I’m honest, I don’t think we really believed that us having a baby would be of interest to anyone. Despite that however, we were very careful. We told close family and friends who we trusted only. We asked them to be mindful of what Natalie had said and to not share the news until we’d made it public. We told our work of course, we needed to make plans after all, but only on a need to know basis. We felt we’d done everything we could to keep things under wraps.

It was a couple of weeks before Wil was born that things changed a bit. At the time we lived in a detached bungalow in Southampton. The property was surrounded by 6′ fencing and was accessible by key coded gates only. Ivan walked out into the garden one day and was shocked to find a reporter stood in the back garden outside the door. The reporter said that he knew we were having a baby through a surrogate and that he wanted to tell our inspiring story. He said that he was there to give us that opportunity. Ivan saw red. This man had trespassed into our garden. Trespassed into our life. He was threatening what already meant the world to us. Ivan told the reporter to fuck off out of our garden, telling him we had no interest in selling ‘our story’.

You know. We still genuinely thought that there was nothing interesting in what we were doing. We were just having a baby for crying out loud. People do it every day, in every which way. Yes it was special to us and our families. But why the hell would anyone else be interested? Naively we thought that this would be the end of it. We worried for a bit, but when no article was forthcoming we thought that Ivan had scared him off.

A couple of weeks later to our utter delight Wil was born. Healthy. Happy. We were so ecstatic. The day Wil was born we slept for a few hours at Lorna’s. I say slept, but that’s not entirely accurate. Wil slept at the foot of our bed in a moses basket while we gazed on. We were so in love with him already. He was, is, perfect. When it was late enough in the morning to be able to sensibly leave we took Wil home. We knew we’d have to return the next day for a health check, but we just wanted to get home. Start family life as we meant to go on. It was so amazing walking into our home with Wil.  Introducing him to the dogs. To the house. To us. We cherished being able to enjoy our amazing new son without distraction. Probably selfish of us really, but we felt it important as a family.

The next day we headed back to Sussex. The health check went well. After that we wandered up to the registry office with Lorna to register his birth. It was a blissful couple of days. We were shattered from it all, god knows how Lorna must have felt, but though we were exhausted we were definitely floating on a high. After showing off our beautiful son to our family, Ivan and I headed home to Southampton.

The next morning I woke early. I checked the computer and saw I had a new message on Facebook. I didn’t recognise the name, so interested clicked on the message. “I have just read your story in the Sun and wanted to say what a wonderful thing you have done. All the best to you and your family.” I can still feel my heart sink. My pulse raced and my hands shook as I processed what the message said. I could feel the tears threatening to spill over as I started a Google search…

Gay Policeman have baby using sister as surrogate. The headline screamed at me from the computer. There was a picture of us with Lorna, when we’d registered Wil’s birth the day before, clearly taken with a telephoto lens. WTF! I could feel everything shaking as I read the article. It was detailed. They knew things that only a close friend could. Down to the colour we’d originally painted the nursery. We’d been betrayed. That’s what hurt the most.

I went downstairs to Ivan. I couldn’t hold in the tears as I told him what I’d found. He held me as I shook, the shock too much. Once we’d both calmed down we re-read the article. Ironically it was beautifully written. Pretty much spot on in terms of accuracy. It was very pro us and talked about what a joyous occasion it was. It even went into describing Ivans army service in Northern Ireland and a Royal Humane Society award he’d been awarded for saving a man’s life a few years earlier.  They had plenty of detail. We’d clearly been sold out. And that’s what we were finding most difficult to get over. We tortured ourselves trying to work out which of our trusted friends had betrayed us. And for what reason?  Money, greed, jealousy?  We couldn’t believe that any of them had done this to us, but there was no other explanation.

If we’d known the madness to come, I think we’d have made more of that day. Instead we ventured out only to buy a copy of the paper and then dwell on it. Sure, Wil counteracted this somewhat, but when he was sleeping I went back to worrying. I took to trawling the comments on the Suns website. I was heartened to see many congratulations included in the comments. Strangers wishing us the best. Then there was the dark side. The hundreds of people saying we were evil and selfish to bring a child into the world in the way we had. We were monsters that were cruelly bringing a child into our life when we knew he would be bullied and ridiculed throughout his life. One comment in particular stays with me; “How dare these selfish people be so selfish as to bring a child into the world knowing that he will be teased. I pity that they are so desperate. If they want something to look after they should get a pink poodle.” I was so angry. How dare they. I fucking hate poodles and can’t bear pink. But seriously,  it was one of many comments that really made me see what bigoted, narrow minded idiots there are in the world. I had to shut the computer down and go and hug our son. A son we bought into this world out of love and with serious consideration. Knowing that we could provide a home full of love, warmth and happiness and provide him with the tools to deal with the narrow minded bigots, that he would inevitably encounter, with strength and dignity and a quick jab to the throat if needs be.

After a sleepless night I again woke early the next day. This time it was the buzzer going off. I went to the gate and was gobsmacked to find reporters and photographers crowding the house. I just slammed the gate and went back indoors. They continued to shout over the fence and take photographs into the garden and the windows. It was madness. What the hell was going on. We’d just had a bloody baby for godsake. Leave us alone to enjoy it.  That day we had to visit the children’s center for them to weigh and check Wil over. We’d been really excited about this, but now we were just worried. We rang ahead to let them know in case they wanted us to avoid coming down. They were brilliant and said they’d lock the doors and for us to come on down. We got Wil ready and secured him in his car seat. As the electric gates opened to let us out of our garden the press crowded in. Their cameras bashed against the window and the flashes exploded in our faces. I tried to cover Wil’s face as Ivan edged out through the crowd. As we turned into the road and started to pull away we realised they were jumping into cars and following. We were being paparazzi’d for crying out loud!  It took all of Ivans driving skills, but he managed to lose them before we reached the children’s center. The appointment was amazing and the staff fantastic.

Unfortunately when we returned home the reporters were still there waiting. Calling. Hounding. In the end we had to call our colleagues in the Police to try and get them moved. It seemed to work for a while. The story had been taken up by all the local and national papers. In fact, in the weeks to follow we found out it had gone worldwide.

Our messages and email went crazy. We had offers from newspapers, magazines, television, radio. Lorraine Kelly wanted us on her show. C4 wanted to make a documentary on us. Lily Allen got in touch. Ok, that was cool. For 24 hours she was my friend on Facebook… And she added me I’ll have you know. I think my crazy messaging might have scared her off though as she disappeared from my friends list.

Truth is. We were offered thousands of pounds to sell our story. Trouble is. It wasn’t a story. It was our life. Our family. Our son. We turned it all down. We just weren’t interested. Sure, there was a certain temptation…great savings fund for Wil. But it felt wrong. If nothing else it would fuel the interest in the story and things were far too stressful to do that.

When we wouldn’t talk,  and the press were getting no joy from Lorna either, they started to hunt down our friends and family. Luckily no one else spoke to them. The fools even turned up at Ivans parents. The image of his dad chasing them down his driveway still sticks with me as though I was actually there! Priceless!

We had to start screening out the hundreds of horrible, nasty, threatening messages that were there. Instead we took strength from the many more messages that told us of the hope that we had given people. The hope that they too could have a family. People who said that until they’d read our story they had no reason to live. They didn’t want to be gay they wanted a family, but now they saw that both could go hand in hand. We heard from people all over the world. Messages that gave us strength and made us realise that good easily kicks bads butt. We never did find out which ‘friend’ sold our son out. I don’t care now. Thankfully, in the days, weeks and months that followed the press grew less interested. The story died but the change that had occurred and the hope that it had given people could never be changed.

The thing that makes us proudest of all is the realisation that, in one small moment, at 05:09hrs on 11/07/2009 our son William had made history. He was a first and that couldn’t happen again. He had changed the world for good without even knowing it.


4 thoughts on “Media madness: A shock to the system

  1. How can this make me cry? It’s not like I didn’t know it was happening! I was, am and will always be very proud of you. And all my family. Give those beautiful boys and Ivan a big hug from me. 🙂 x

  2. I cannot contemplate what you all go through. I know your story as Lorna, my very good friend has outlined it to me.. You are all truly wonderful people and I want to wish you, Ivan and the boys every happiness. Adding how I enjoy, with tears of varying emotion in my eyes, keeping up with yor news. Thank you x

    • Thank you for your kind words. To be honest, that side of its in the past thankfully. Just felt it was time to share. Really moved that people seem to be enjoying it X

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