Mothers day twist: Pugs and kisses

“Daddy”

“Yes Wil”

“You know mothers day?”

“Yup”

“Can I send Aunty Lorna a card?”

“Of course you can Wil”

Now that might seem like a strange conversation to some…unless of course you’ve been following our story and then you’ll realise it’s not quite as odd as it seems.  You see our son Wil’s Aunty Lorna is actually his birth mother.

Being gay, my husband Ivan and I can’t have kids the usual way. I mean don’t get me wrong. We’ve tried and tried, but never quite succeeded….and that’s where my sister Lorna, AKA ‘our angel from above’, stepped in. Oh that sounds wrong on so many levels! But it’s not. Back in 2008 she offered to act as a surrogate for us. Wil was subsequently born in 2009 and the rest, as they say, is history.

Lorna never wanted more kids. She has two beautiful daughters of he own (they’d better thank me for saying that) and that was enough for her.  Lorna didn’t want any more of her own children, but she did want one for us! Completely selflessly Lorna was willing to go through god knows what to enable us to have a child. If that doesn’t make her an angel I don’t know what does. It certainly went some way to making up for how mean she was to me when we were little!!

When we started talking about the why’s and where fore’s one of the main discussion points was how we approached the situation around him knowing how he was created.  As I said, Lorna didn’t want another child of her own – as far as she was concerned he was going to be her nephew and she his Aunty. We were all comfortable with this. If it felt right for Lorna it felt right for us.  And that’s how it’s always been – Wil is just another of her many nephews. But we were never going to deceive him. We were adamant, and Lorna was in agreement, that Wil would always know where he came from and how he was made – age appropriately of course. Should Wil wish to identify Lorna as his Mum we would have to accept this. And, should it come to it, Lorna would have to accept that Wil may wish to identify as her child and she would have to have her door open to this possibility. Despite not wanting more kids. Of course she shared this view too.

I recently wrote a blog about the birth parents of our other children, who are adopted. I wrote about the support that  we would offer them, when the time came, if indeed it did, when they wanted to meet and form relationships with them. It was much the same with Wil and Aunty Lorna.

We can’t, won’t, never shall deny who she is or where he has come from. It’s part of his history. Part of what makes him Wil.

Wil knows her as Aunty Lorna – but is well aware that she’s his Tummy Mummy – that she carried him as a special gift to us….a baby that we wanted so much but couldn’t create without the amazing gift from Aunty Lorna.

Naturally we want to be the only ones that matter to him as parents, as with all of our children we want to be the ones that they need above all others. But I can’t deny, there’s always been a bit of a niggle at the back of my mind – that their relationship could overtake ours…insecurities slipping in. Then I kick myself and realise that it’s not something that I need worry about. Our children, each of them, know that they are our world. We love them above all else and nothing will come between that.  Part of that love though is accepting that we have a duty to encourage them to know where they have come from, even if that’s a little bit scary sometimes.  That’s my problem, not theirs. If it means that they form healthy relationships with significant others then I just need to suck it up and be confident in their love for us.

As kids have a habit of doing, Wil kind of simplified things for me.  I asked him if he wanted to make a special ‘Tummy Mummy’ card and he said no.  Just an ordinary mothers day card will be fine.  To him it’s a no-brainer. Let’s not complicate things. You’re my Dad’s. I’m lucky to have two Dads. Aunty Lorna’s my mother. It’s a simple fact.  It doesn’t matter to him how this happened or the why’s or where fore’s. He’s just content in the fact that he has two (great!) Dads and a lovely mother Aunty Lorna.

He astounds me all the time in his maturity and openness to life.  Wil I am so proud of you, we’re proud of you. I’m proud to call myself your Dad.  We must be doing something right.

So Wil, let me join you in wishing your wonderful Aunty Lorna a truly brilliant happy mothers day!  Thanks Lorna. Love you.

pugsandkissesCard

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A big gay wedding: Ivan made it!

 

Ok, so I’m sure it comes as no surprise. Despite Ivan’s accident, which I wrote about in my last blog, we made it down the aisle.

Details of the big day to follow, and just how close it came to being cancelled.IMG_197188038062892_20140617180932375

Marie Claire: Lights, camera, action!

Once Marie Claire had approached us to feature in an edition of their magazine we sat down as a family and debated whether to get involved or not. The brief they provided us with was that they were doing a segment on gay surrogacy. It was a hot topic again because Elton John and David Furnish had just had their baby using an American surrogate. To this day incidentally, we’re at a loss as to what happened to our invitation to their baby shower. Surely it must have got lost in the post or something? Elton if you’re reading this, no hard feelings. Anyway, Marie Claire assured us that the feature they were doing was a pro-surrogacy piece and that we would have full approval over the finished article.

We decided to do it. We’d debated long and hard but eventually decided enough time had passed that it was no longer sensational, or of interest to the tabloids. We also reflected back on the amount of good and positivity that the story had actually generated last time. A year on we were still getting messages from people, some of whom had gone on to be parents themselves, all as a direct result of seeing us have Wil. There’s something amazing about that. Something that fills me with pride and also generates hopes that society is changing and, that somehow, in a small way, we have been part of that. So, with that in mind we felt that our family being in such a glossy, mainstream magazine would help bring it to the attention of a different stream of people and also go some way to normalising it. After all being thought of as a normal family, as well as showing people that it could be done, was our ultimate goal.

Now I started to let myself get excited. We turned down a fee, asking only for travel expenses as we didn’t want to be out of pocket. Once we had decided to go ahead with the feature, Marie Claire wanted us there as soon as possible. Initially they wanted to come to our house. And we were tempted, we love where we live but we have 6 dogs and busy lives – we take shabby chic to a whole new level!  I just couldn’t face the idea of having to clean and tidy and make sure that everywhere was perfect. These photos were going to be in dentists’ waiting rooms across the country for god-sake. It had to be perfect.

We opted for plan two. Meet them at a shoot location in Southwark, London. How posh does that sound?

The one thing dampening our excitement was that Lorna was unable to make the date or time that Marie Claire wanted. They wanted to talk to her too but Lorna decided that if she couldn’t be there in person then she would rather just let it be about us. We were gutted that she couldn’t join us but she told us to go ahead anyway.

We took a trip to the shops and bought new outfits for us and Wil. I posted a picture the other day of Louis in the same shirt that Wil wore to the Marie Claire shoot. We had no idea at that time that our family would grow so much only a few years later.

The day arrived and excitedly we got on the train to London. When we arrived in London we were met by a car and driver. I can’t deny, I was like an excited schoolboy at his first disco. I had never been met by a car and a driver before! I decided straight away that I could get used to this. The car whizzed us from Waterloo station to the apartment that was going to be our home for the day. It was amazing. I could easily have had it as a weekend apartment, if I lived that sort of life. It was a loft/warehouse style building, with large, open-plan rooms beautifully furnished and it had a really homely feel to it. Up a set of ladders was also a magnificent roof terrace with the most stunning views across the city.

We were met there by the team from Marie Claire, led by the reporter doing our story, Andrea Thompson. Andrea introduced us to the photographer, stylist and others (who seemed to be there just to make tea, but who I am sure were an integral part to the day).  At first it all felt very unnatural, Andrea kept her distance whilst we all had our make-up and hair done. The photographer then followed us around the apartment and we were asked to play with Wil as though it was our home. They had provided some beautiful toys and props to use. We talked and played and laughed and tried to make it all look as natural as possible. Wil was amazing. He loved the fuss and attention he was getting from everyone. He was such a natural. Me on the other hand. I’m clearly a ‘proper’ man because I certainly can’t multi-task – you try smiling AND holding your belly in at the same time, I definitely failed at it!

The photographer was brilliant and literally took thousands of shots. When she was done with us it was time to be interviewed. We did this separately, one talked whilst the other entertained Wil. Andrea Thompson was clearly very good at her job. She was a senior reporter from Marie Claire and, when I googled her, I found that she had interviewed the prime minister a few weeks before. We were in good hands. Andrea had a great ability to make you feel relaxed enough to tell everything.

When the day had finished, and with us slightly on a media high, our driver conveyed us back to Waterloo station. As I stepped out of the car, onto the red carpet, Gerard took my hand. Oh shit! Mind wandering again. I think the media was going to my head. But actually, better than that, in a rare display of public affection, the real love of my life (sorry Gerard), Ivan, took my hand and together, with Wil, we departed London as a family united. The interview had clearly reminded Ivan what an amazing family we have.

We were more than happy with the final draft of the article.  And about 6 weeks later we received our copy in the post. There it was, we were in a glossy magazine! It was really fabulous. So well written and the pictures were just beautiful, despite my inability to hold my gut in.  Andrea had sent us a signed copy of the magazine, which takes pride of place in Wil’s memory box.

We definitely had no regrets about doing the article. It was done at the right time, for the right reasons. We felt also that by having no fee, we weren’t selling out. Hopefully it has changed at least one person’s mind about gays being dads, or shown them that they too could have a family if they want one. And if that’s the case, it was absolutely worth doing.

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And, in the spirit of complete honesty, I adored the fuss and attention that day. Such a stark contrast to the media experience we had been subjected to before. Maybe I could be in the spotlight after all…….

Me and my boys hit the beach and a thank you.

Me and my boys hit the beach and a thank you. One of these days we’ll all be looking at the camera when it goes off. Still, any pic with the boys and me in it I love. Just a quick thank you to all of you reading my blog.  I’m loving writing it, and awed at the support you guys are giving it. So thank you. Hope you all have a fabulous week, after such a gorgeous weekend. Lots of love, S X

Country life: Breaking the prejudice

So following on from the birth of our Son, Wil, who was the first baby ever to be born to a gay couple (us) by a UK surrogate (my wonderful sister), following a change in the law, we try to settle into family life (see previous blogs for full story). Instead a move is forthcoming and a challenge on our own prejudices…

We settled into parenthood with suprising ease,  reiterating to me that we could not only do this, but could actually be good at it. Wil really was a contented baby, and still is a contented child. He ate, played and slept well, and stuck to a rough 3 hour routine. This didn’t seem to change whether he was at home or out and about. Oh, and to the frustration of a few Mums we know, he slept through the night from about 6 weeks. We can’t really take credit for this however, with Wil, we were just along for the ride!  He was really making it easy though, and we loved being fathers. We still do, more than ever. Wil slotted straight into our life, like he was truly meant to be there.

Our family and friends were, and still are, truly amazing. Even though for them it must have been a shock when we announced our intention to be Daddy’s. Not one of them (obvious exception in media mole here), were anything but supportive, happy, and excited for us. The way that our friends and family weathered the media storm too still humbles me now. After all, the decision that we had made to be fathers had caused the newspaper intrusion, as out of our control of it as we were, the fact that it affected those we care about most was devestating to us. The reaction and support that we had from those closest to us definitely demonstrated their utter quality to us. Thank you.

The one thing that seemed to be putting a dampener on things however,  was where we lived. I can’t deny that I have always wanted to move back to the country. I was raised in rural Cambridgeshire (big up the Fens) and I loved it. I loved the freedom I had. The sense of space and adventure everyday. Where we lived in Southampton however suited us at that time. The house was beautiful and big enough for another 6 children or so! The location was great too – there was space near by where we could run the dogs and we had the convenience of the City close by. It had been spoilt for us though.

From the day the reporters forced their way into the garden, into our life, we just couldn’t shake the feeling that our home had been violated. The reporters had infiltrated our sanctuary and poisoned it for us.

It wasn’t just the home however. I think that paranoia had started to set in and when we walked to the shops, or the local park, we couldn’t shake the feeling that we were being watched, stared at, judged. I’m sure that as much of this was our imagination as it was reality. It didn’t help though that local paper had printed the story, along with where we lived. OK, so they didn’t print the street name and house number, but were specific enough to be a cause for concern. The worst bit was, the comments that they received on our story were so nasty and twisted that they had to withdraw the comments page. The negative aura that this created at the time did nothing to help us feel comfortable in our home. It was the last thing we wanted, It didn’t change the fact that we were ecstatically happy at being parents, we just didn’t need that negativity.

We were far from ashamed or even afraid. In fact, quite the opposite. We are damn proud of being parents, not shy about who we are or where we’re from. This is our Son. We are his Dad’s. Love us or hate us, but you will never part us.

One moment sticks in my mind. Wil was a few weeks old and we had ventured to the local supermarket. As old people do, they would often approach us, so that they could coo over or newborn. This one lady in particular. Really sweet she was. Very complimentary about Wil and how adorable he was. And then she said “Who’s the Daddy?”. I must admit at this point I giggled like a school kid and almost asked her, wasn’t it obvious? But when she followed it up with “Are you giving Mummy a break?” I realised that she wasnt asking about the dynamics of our relationship, but questioning Wils parentage. Dragging my mind back from the gutter I told her that we were both his Daddy. I can still see her look at me and blink in confusion a few times saying “I’m sorry?” Assuming she wasn’t apologising for us, I told her that he had two Dads, and that he didn’t have a Mum (not in a practical sense anyhow.  Wil will always know where he came from and be free to make his own choices as difficult as that may be for us).  But anyway, the sweet old lady was now backing away with a look of shock on her face. With a final “Oh” she turned and hurried off. Now I don’t think for one minute she was judging us. In fact my over-riding sense was that she was embarrassed, flustered, and just didn’t know how to react. It took me straight back to the hundreds of times that I have had to tell someone I am gay, after they made the assumption that I was straight (yes, it does happen you know.) Someone once told me, probably quoting someone famous, that as a gay person you have to come out every day. Its true. We all make assumptions about people and live by ingrained stereotypes. Rightly or wrongly, it always happens. And I always feel awkward when it does.; “So what’s your wifes name?” When they see my wedding band. “I don’t have a wife. I have a husband.”  “Oh, right.” I hate that look that comes over their face and the awkward silence that ensues. I’m never cross, not at all. We all do it. I’ve considered avoiding the truth, but dismissed that notion quickly. Without openess and honesty, the world is never going to change or know that there is another way.  It was the same with the old lady. I felt bad for her. But we’re not ashamed, we’re not embarrassed and, though we’re far from intentional spokespersons, we realised that we were in a position where we are influencing people, challenging their ideas about family, parenthood, and love. We might not want to be there, but we had, have, a responsibilty to start to ease the way for others who are in a similar position, or contemplating starting a family such as ours.

The real purpose of this example though was to demonstrate why we wanted to get away from Southampton.  Amazingly the gods aligned and we had the opportunity to move to a village close to where Ivan was raised, in the New Forest. It was perfect and we snatched the opportunity with both hands. When Wil was 3 months old we moved to our current home. A 3 bedroom, detached cottage in the middle of the woods, in a beautiful, small, New Forest village. It was the perfect place to raise Wil, and any subsequent children that came along. Our dogs would be able to run free. We could get chickens and grow vegetables. It was idlyic. We had an immediate sense of coming home when we stepped through the door. I had made it back to the country.

Despite our eagerness to grasp this opportunity, we couldn’t help but be a bit worried about going to such a small vilage. A community that was sure to be close-knit, judgemental, narrow-minded? After all, a multi-cultural area such as Southampton struggled. Maybe it would be worse? We decided the risk was worth it and we would keep ourselves to ourselves.

I’m cross at myself now. Cross and ashamed. There I’d been harping on about changing peoples views and pre-conceived notions and I was as bad as any of them. Judging people, putting them into boxes, not even giving them a chance. Mostly I’m a bit embarrassed. The village couldn’t have been anymore welcoming. Not one person battered an eyelid or questioned our family with anything other than genuine curiosity and acceptance. I tell you what. They’ve certainly taught me a lesson. We have been embraced into the heart of the community. We’re not special, or different, or a novelty. We’re normal. Normal people demonstrating that anyone can have a normal family. They had given us what we had always wanted.

I love it when that happens. When people don’t live up to my pre-conceived expectation and stereotype, but instead challenge it. Challenge my opinion, and start to chip away at the bigot that lurks deep inside of me. Deep inside most of us. We all have some small part to play in challenging what others think is normal. My village did it for me. I hope that we as a family are doing it for others.

So, sorry to my fellow villagers, sorry and thanks for teaching me a lesson in love and acceptance. Thank you for breaking my prejudice.

Lots of love, S xx

Finding Gold

wineI was sitting in the garden the other evening with a glass of wine having just put our gorgeous sons to bed. The sun was setting over the fields and as I felt the glow of the evening sun warming my face I took a few moments to reflect on just how lucky I am.

I love my life. I am a gay man. I’m 34 years old this September. I have an amazing husband in Ivan and I am the proudest father of our 3 wonderful boys; Wil 4, L, 2 and C 1. We live in a beautiful cottage in Hampshire which overlooks fields and woodlands. We share this with our range of animals from dogs to chickens and horses to turtles and numerous others in-between (more about them in another post!). We adore where we live and are always out in the garden with the kids. We also grow our own vegetables, well if I’m honest, Ivan does most of the growing!

I really am living my idyllic existence. I have found my pot of gold at the end of the Rainbow. My children. My family. My life.

Ten years ago I would never have imagined myself where I am now. I was young(ish), gay, and carefree; living the life that suited me at the time. I could be found most weekends drunk at the local gay bar where I lived at the time in Sussex. I would be at the gym all the time and holiday as and when I wanted. My meals were mostly take out or eat out. If I wanted something I bought it. I worked to fund my carefree life and I loved it – I still look back on it and smile. I imagined that this is how I would always live my life. After all I had the pink pound. The option of kids would never be open to me. My money would always be my own! How wrong!

Roll on 10 years. I have no money. Time is not mine, it’s the kids. If I want it I can go whistle. A holiday is a weekend camping up the horse field. Getting drunk is an evening in with my better half and the TV and an early start with the kids and a bleary head. Do you know though, I wouldn’t change it for a second. Yes I would love to have more money to make those stresses easier and yes I would love a weekend just me and Ivan in a nice hotel, with a nice meal and a bottle of wine and more than anything I would love a holiday lying on a beach somewhere getting tanned. But, if it meant giving up anything I have, its not going to happen. Nor would I want it to.

After all. Those things don’t matter. What really matters to me now is that the kids are happy and healthy and clothed and fed and exposed to a life that is full of adventure, fun and opportunity. This makes me happy. Hey, I can always lay on the decking next to the kids paddling pool with a glass of red can’t I!

Wil our eldest was born through surrogacy in 2009 – an amazing gift from my sister and the first child born to a UK surrogate ever.  L joined our family through adoption in 2012 and C by the same route in 2014.

My god I have so much more to say , so this will have to suffice as an introduction for now. Rest assured that I will be boring you with the wheres and why fors in the days and weeks to come. In the meantime if there’s anything you want to know or any areas you want me to touch on in this blog, please email me at pondersigston@aol.com or comment below.

Lots of love

S xx