Hide me!

Laura and Jean

Laura: We got together 8 years ago and we have a little boy who is 4 going on 14.

People want to know about the nitty gritty, like how did it happen? Generally turkey basters come into it somewhere.

 

Another common question is, “What does he call you?” We worried about that for a while, what he was going to call us. But we kind of left it and he decided for himself. So Jean is Mum Mum and I’m Mummy. Unless he’s having an attitude – then I’m Laura and she’s Jean!

 

People are very reluctant to ask about the donor. It’s like he’s a non-entity. Even for family, it’s a question they skirt around. But people need to ask these questions if they want to know what to do to have a child.

 

When we got together, Jean already had a son who was 18. She wanted another child and I wanted a child so we knew it was on the cards from early on. I think we even started buying baby clothes before we did anything else.

 

Jean: We started by getting a dog, a cat, fish, all that…

 

Laura: And we started looking on the internet, not looking for a clinic but to try to have a relationship with a donor. Not as a parent but because our child needed to know where they come from.

 

Jean: We didn’t use someone we knew because we thought it could go horribly wrong. We went through everyone we knew thinking, “What if this or that happened?” We ruled it out pretty quickly. It would be too complicated.

 

Laura: We were looking for the donor for 12 months. This was the longest bit. We found him through the Rainbow Network Forum. It took us a while to check him out.

 

You feel quite vulnerable. This was the internet! Who was this person? But once we met him, we knew. We met a couple of other guys before him but it didn’t feel right. With him, we just clicked – it was instinct.

 

He donated for a clinic. He’d been challenged on the forum for donating privately – he’d done campaigns about donating. He’s straight but passionate about fertility and anyone being able to have children. He believes that if he can help anyone overcome barriers to having children…

 

We were clear with the donor about what we wanted and he was laid back. He was clear too. He also had a wicked sense of humour like us which is great because you can’t approach a situation like that [turkey baster] seriously.

 

He lived six hours away so that was a barrier but we were really lucky in that I got pregnant straightaway. We called up and told him I was ovulating and he said, “Fine, OK,” and we did it and went to work next day as if nothing had happened.

 

We’ve been lucky. In the hospital when I went into labour, the midwife had had her kids the same way.

 

We’re from a rural area which can be very backward but we’ve been very open and people accept us. The more you make of something, the more of an issue it is. We just said, “Laura is having a baby in so many weeks – does anyone want a coffee?” and got on with it. Now we just say, “This is our family” and people accept it. If we were uncomfortable or embarrassed it wouldn’t be so easy.

 

After our son was born, our donor had two children of his own. We wanted our son to know where he comes from so we kept in touch with our donor and our son has met his half brother – a bit weird as they look quite similar.

 

We have kept all the correspondence we’ve had with the donor so our son can see it. It’s important to be honest and open with him. When he was three, he was talking to a friend who had a daddy. He was, like, “You have a daddy? Really?”

 

I asked him what he thought about having two mummies. He – looking puzzled – said, “I don’t have two mummies. I have a Mum Mum and a Mummy.”

 

Jean: It’s been an incredible journey. I’ve seen it from both sides – I’ve given birth and I’ve been a supportive mum and it really is a privilege.

Hazel

I didn’t think about having children until I was married. My husband was probably keener than I was. We had two girls. I had Isla then we decided we wanted another. After Rosie was born, my husband had a vasectomy – that was one of the things thrown in my face when we split.

 

I’d questioned my sexuality when I was 28, prior to meeting my husband. I hadn’t had a full sexual relationship then. I’d been living as a single person.

 

I’d gone through a difficult situation at work with a gay woman. We became close as friends. I told her that I really cared for her and she freaked, saying I’d got the wrong end of the stick. It was excruciating. If her reaction had been different, I probably wouldn’t have got married, wouldn’t have had any children.

 

When I met my husband, I thought, ‘This is fun, this is all right,’ so I thought that was that – that the woman at work was just a crush.

 

After six months, my husband was quite seriously ill and I did fall for him then. It probably pushed things along. We got married. We had the kids after three years.

Time passed then a couple of things happened and when I was 39 or 40, I realised I was gay but I’d been supressing it.

 

I went away on a work thing and met a Swedish woman. I thought, ‘Wow, she’s lovely.’ Nothing happened but I wondered why I hadn’t felt like that with anyone else – like my husband. It was quite funny. I went home on the plane thinking, ‘What was that all about? Forget about it, Hazel…’

 

Then I met another woman. We had some residentials through work, so it happened. We slept together and suddenly it was real. It was like comparing apples and oranges. It was right.

 

It explained why I’d never been very interested in boys at school. I hadn’t been interested in girls either but boys didn’t have that added wow factor they seemed to have for other girls. I just lived a single life throughout my teens and most of my 20s and was quite happy. I just didn’t go there.

 

I came back from the residential feeling dreadful. I had never strayed, hardly even looked at anyone else. I wasn’t worried about the kids at that point. I was worried about my husband, about committing adultery – and with a woman. Did that make it better or worse? What was I going to do?

 

I met up with her a couple of times after but she lived too far away for us to be together. It carried on for some time as a phone relationship but it got messy.

Her long-term partner found out. They split up. I think there were other things going on.

 

My husband didn’t know but he sensed something. I was more distant. I didn’t want a physical relationship with him. I knew I couldn’t go on with a heterosexual relationship.

 

I told her my marriage was on the rocks but she couldn’t cope with the idea of breaking a family up. We talked at length about my children, and I thought a lot about breaking up the family unit, leaving my husband, causing pain. She felt guilty, didn’t want the responsibility of the children, who were four or five and six or seven by then.

 

It was all a big change for me as I hadn’t had a troubled life before that. I’m easily contented.

 

I knew Alex at work and I confided in her. She’d had her own experiences of a family splitting up. It wasn’t the same but she was very supportive. Gradually we grew closer. It’s complicated because Alex and I got together as me and my husband were splitting up.

 

I told my husband the marriage was over and he moved out. The girls stayed with me. They were five and seven. They were devastated.

 

It was very stressful. There were lots of hurdles, different levels of complexity – my husband, the children, work.

 

I was Alex’s boss’s boss so I had to come out at work. I had to go to my head of department and tell them what was going on. They were good. They said, “People have relationships at work all the time,” but eventually I did have to move as the director wasn’t comfortable with me having line management responsibility for Alex. Now I wonder if there was a bit of homophobia there, you can’t know.

 

When I split up from my husband, I didn’t tell him I was gay, I just said the marriage was over, that I didn’t love him anymore, because I didn’t want him to be the one to tell the children. If I’d told him, it would have been out of my control.

 

Alex said it’s how the adults act that matters, so the children have always had contact with their dad. Alex has experience, as she had to fight Jaz’s dad for custody. Jaz is her sister’s child.

 

It took six years before Alex and I moved in together properly and that was really dictated by the kids, not just the timeline of selling our respective houses and buying one together.

 

Jaz has always known Alex is gay but I don’t know if she ever spoke to my kids about it. She’s a great kid and she gets on great with my two. They knew each other before we got together, because they met at a show.

 

We created situations with the children – visited each other, met up to see Santa at Christmas. It was gradual. They had the opportunity to become good friends. It helped that we lived in a really safe place, so we could give the kids a pound and send them off to the park together while we had some time alone.

 

As time progressed, we knew the children would begin to question the nature of our relationship. We were spending a lot of time together, going on holiday twice a year, seeing Alex more than any other friend.

 

One day, when Isla was about 11, we had friends visiting and the kids were upstairs. Isla came in as I was embracing Alex – nothing passionate, just kissing her neck. The next day, Isla was really quiet. She had a really long chat with Jaz and I think they discussed it.

 

I sat down with her later and asked her why she seemed troubled. Was it about me and Alex and whether we were together?

 

She burst into tears and said, “No, no, please say it isn’t true!” She was worried about being bullied at school but what troubled her most was her father finding out.

He and his family have quite bigoted views. “Gay people are all right but why do we need to see them kissing on EastEnders?” – that sort of thing.

 

I said there was no need for her father or people at school to know. It wasn’t a deeply guarded secret but it wasn’t any of their business. Things were not going to change on a day to day basis. I said Jaz knew about Alex and she was really cool about it but Rosie didn’t need to know yet because she was too young.

 

Once she got over the shock, Isla bounced back really quick. A few days later I was doing something in the house and she asked if she could help. Then she said, “My mum’s really cool, she’s good fun and she’s gay!”

 

She’s an intelligent kid. It was like a nine-day wonder.

 

Gradually she told some friends. I have to say that so far, none of our kids have had any problem. We did worry they’d get a bit of bullying but no, not once.

 

About two years later, we decided Rosie needed to know. The two older girls were worried about not being able to speak freely and said, “She needs to know.” Besides, Alex and I were sleeping in the same bed.

 

I just picked Rosie up from the after-school club one day and said, “There’s something I need to tell you” as if it was, “We’re going to the pictures.”

 

I said, “I’m gay” – and she reacted the same way as Isla. She burst into tears, saying, “Please, please, please say it’s not true, I’ll get bullied, I don’t want Dad to know.”

 

It helped that Isla could say that she’d known for two years and when I said, “Hadn’t you guessed?” she admitted that part of her knew.

 

I didn’t want to hurt them, to inflict this pain on them. It was something they would have to live with for the rest of their lives. But I knew they needed to know and it was a huge relief once they did.

 

Rosie had a bit of a harder time than Isla as she was closer to the local community and she was worried about the school having to know. I said if someone asked, she could tell them but they didn’t have to know, it was none of their business.

 

We were worried about Rosie because she’s a softer personality. She was getting bullied by boys at school anyway and some of her friends came from families who were gossips, so we gave her advice on who to tell.

 

Eventually, her friends and their families were quizzing her so we said, “It’s OK, just do it.” Our house was on the market by then and we knew we were moving anyway – but actually, it was completely fine. It was no problem.

 

One wee girl went up to Isla and said, “Is your mum a lesbian?” and she said, “Yes” and the girl just chewed her gum and said, “I like that.”

 

Another thought that because the girls referred to each other as cousins, it was worse. They thought that we were related and lovers! We had to put them right.

Another time, Rosie was a bit worried about having a friend over for a sleepover because she didn’t know. I said, “Well, if she asks and she doesn’t like it, you have plenty of other friends.” She thought about it and said, “OK.” The girl stayed over and it was fine.

 

The girls have had so many positive experiences that if they had a negative one they could cope with it.

 

The time that it all took, bringing the two families together, has been good for the children. Jaz still defers to Alex and mine defer to me but I’ve had no problems with Jaz. Whereas with my two, their mum and dad split up – for Jaz, I was an addition to her life.

 

We took some time choosing our new house because we knew we’d need to accommodate so many personalities. Alex and I are very different. She likes peace and quiet and she plays the piano, I like the TV on and the kids chatting. The girls all needed to have their own rooms because they’d had them in their other houses and we couldn’t take that away from them.

 

The last person to be told I’m gay was my ex-husband. We timed it so I got divorced first, before I told him. The girls were really scared about him knowing but he was, well, OK. It helped that I had been out of the marriage a few years by then. A lot of the anger and bitterness had gone and it helped him to understand why the marriage had gone down the pan.

 

The person who reacted worst to me being gay was my sister. I told her before telling the children and she threatened to tell them. She blamed Alex. She thought Alex had ‘turned’ me. She said, “How long have you been that way?”

 

That was really difficult for me. She has a mild learning disability and I think that means she can’t work out our relationship. She loved my ex-husband and really missed him. She said vitriolic and hurtful things but she doesn’t cope with change well and she was in shock.

 

Now, the girls see their father every Saturday and they each go for tea on a different night during the week, so they can each develop their own relationship with him.

 

At first, he’d only take them overnight once a month as when we split, he was: “You want this, you look after them, don’t expect a penny from me.” There’s still a bit of that, even after all this time.

 

I don’t think the kids have been damaged by it all. I think they’ve grown, that they are richer people in many ways. They just laugh at things now.

 

If there’s ever a “Why do you do this?” or a “How do you do that?” – like how Alex does a great Louis Armstrong impression – it’s always, “It’s because she’s a lesbian!”

 

 

Read Alex’s story

Alex

Never before had I considered children. Now I’m guardian to Jaz, my sister Reyne’s daughter.

 

Reyne first became unwell about 12 years ago. I can remember picking up the phone one night and her telling me, “I’ve just fallen over.” She started putting things in the wrong place. She couldn’t get her head round things. There was clearly something not right.

 

Eventually, she had a brain scan. It was a kind of brain tumour. It wasn’t cancerous but where it was in her brain was extremely difficult to manage.

 

I started looking after her. We were close. My mum was in her early 60s then and had been doing a huge amount of childcare for her. Reyne had got divorced three or four years before, when Jaz was just a few months old.

 

I think Reyne pulled me into supporting Jaz because she thought my mum couldn’t cope, would be too upset, because Reyne was in fact my mum’s support system. My other sister lived a considerable distance away.

 

Reyne had her initial surgery when she was 34. Initially it seemed to have been successful but she developed meningitis so she was in hospital for a long time. It took a while for things to right themselves. She also spent a bit of time being rehabilitated.

 

Ten months after her surgery she started to go back to work part-time. Jaz was just starting school at this point. I began to take more of a back seat in the caring but not for long.

 

Reyne found it very difficult to be back at work and she got quite distraught about that. She didn’t have the energy to make what she wanted to happen, happen, at home either. She’d say, “I don’t want Jaz to do this, can you sort it?” or “I don’t want to see anyone for a few days, can you sort it?” so I had to be a ‘bad’ person. I certainly didn’t become flavour of the month.

 

Reyne was only at work for a few weeks when she was due to go in for a one-year scan.

 

She went in for the second bout of surgery just over a year after the first lot. Over the next four months, she must have had two dozen different interventions, to drain fluid from her brain, to remove more bits of tumour. She kept developing different types of brain infections.

 

That’s when I started thinking as a parent, not just for Jaz but for my sister too – sitting down with her and having a serious talk, then getting a solicitor to draw up a living will.

 

Probably my sister’s greatest fear was that there would be issues with Jaz’s father. She wanted Jaz to have contact but she didn’t want her to live with him. I was a bit of a decoy, a way to prevent that happening, so Jaz didn’t go from our mum to her other grandparents and then to her father.

 

Reyne wanted more stability for Jaz’s future than she actually had in her present life. This was a wee girl who had already learned how to wear different hats. The divorce was acrimonious. When Jaz would go to her grandparents, they would take her out of the clothes she was in and put her in others without thought of the impact on her.

 

I never thought of myself as a strong personality, but I had to become an extremely strong character who was quite blinkered in my vision. My sole purpose became not just to look out for my sister but to care for and look out for Jaz, to make decisions about every aspect of Jaz’s life because her life shouldn’t be any more difficult than what she was having to go through anyway. To retain a sense of normality.

 

I went to the nursery and said, “OK, here’s the situation with her mum… I need a full-time nursery placement so that I can go to the hospital, look after this small person and work at the same time.”

 

Reyne died five months after her second bout of surgeries.

 

Jaz and I were together all that time, while Reyne was in hospital, me living in her house, ensuring as per Reyne’s wishes that Jaz maintained contact with her father for… I think it was one overnight per fortnight or per month and a couple of tea-time visits a week.

 

He knew Reyne had a brain tumour and that she was in hospital. He was just told what Jaz had to know, to stick to the story.

 

There were days before she died when I would go to the hospital to see if Reyne was having a good day before taking Jaz in to see her and it was an hour each way. I spent my life on the motorway.

 

You can’t bequeath a child in a will but Reyne’s wishes had always been that if anything happened to her, Jaz would be brought up by me – which sounded easier when Reyne was alive. By the time she died, I’d been supporting this wee girl for two years and seen her growing up.

 

A couple of weeks before she died, I got a sense of what was about to happen and I went to see a solicitor, to get advice on what my situation would be. The solicitor was not particularly hopeful as her father was alive and around in her life, on a pretty regular if not active basis.

 

So I had to prepare for what would happen to Jaz from the moment my sister died – of what would happen as a family, albeit a family who were poles apart. I would have to think about everybody who might feel they would have a vested interest.

 

One of the things in the background was Jaz’s father’s absolute dislike of gay people. His family’s approach was the same. I said to Jaz’s father, as soon as Reyne died, that we needed to sit down and talk about Jaz but he said, “No way. Jaz’s going to come and live with me.”

 

Within a couple of days of my sister dying, I had to get an interim order to make sure Jaz wasn’t removed before time had been given to thinking about what was best for her – not just what we all thought, but what might be right. It was up to me to start the process because without doing that, I had no legal right to look after Jaz.

 

A couple of weeks later, I took Jaz for one of her usual tea-time visits to her father’s and when I went back to get her, she wasn’t there. I was met by her father and his father, to say that they’d taken her and she wouldn’t be coming back. They said I wouldn’t be seeing her again, that I was a horrible lesbian and all that kind of stuff. That’s putting it very simply. You can imagine…

 

It was six weeks before it was resolved. I didn’t know where she was. I was devastated.

 

We went to court for residency. There was an interim order that Jaz would return to live with me until custody was resolved, as I had been the significant adult in her life for the last two years but we had to maintain contact with her father.

 

What followed was two years of heavy artillery fire. I tried to keep things as normal as they could be for Jaz, though what she was being faced with from them was, “Your aunt’s a dirty lesbian.” (Imagine… she was only six!)

 

I wanted to make sure that this wee person’s life was as safe and secure as it could be and I felt that I was probably in a better position to offer that than anyone else.

 

Her father, her grandparents on that side of the family were, I learned, absolutely horrible people. It became really obvious to me why my sister had divorced herself out of that situation and been so clear in her wishes, that while she wanted her daughter to have contact with her father, she didn’t want him to bring her up.

 

When I would go and collect Jaz after a couple of hours at her dad’s, he’d start ranting. I’d take her to the car as I wanted to spare her from it. He’d say things like, “You’d better check your car, they can be very unreliable.”

 

I kept doing what I’d promised to support her and continue her relationship with him but every week I’d take her with my heart in my mouth, not knowing if she’d come back.

 

She loved her grandparents so I even let her go with them to their caravan, as she’d done before – but one day, they didn’t bring her back. They gave her back to her father who absconded abroad with her on a false passport. I thought I’d never see her again.

 

Again, through the courts, we got her back. He kept trying to show I wasn’t fit but by taking her out of the country despite the interim order, he was interfering with the legal process.

 

I had to go through all sorts of psychological interviews but he never had to answer to things he did, like sending anonymous letters to my employers, saying I was selling drugs to young people, because we couldn’t prove it was him. I was called up in front of my boss at least twice, because they can’t just ignore accusations like that – but even when we got a handwriting expert in, who said it was Jaz’s father’s handwriting, the courts wouldn’t take it seriously.

 

At one point, two weeks after my sister died, I had to call my boss in the night, after dodging reporters at my house when Jaz was with me. Because of the job I did, I had to tell him what the papers would say next morning.

 

My mother through all this was devastated. Not only had she lost one daughter but her other daughter had been outed on the front page of a tabloid newspaper. My mother never rejected me but she was a devout Catholic. It must have been really hard for her.

 

My friends were absolutely outraged on my behalf, saying, “I wouldn’t let them do that to me” but it wasn’t about me. It was about Jaz. I couldn’t retaliate; it wasn’t in Jaz’s best interests. Nothing to do with me wanting or not wanting children, I was fighting for this wee girl.

 

After a couple of years, Jaz and I moved to a small town nearby. She kept going to the same school. I was always careful to change only one thing in her life at a time. Her mum had died, then – a while after – my other sister, her aunt, had died and a year later my mother, her grandmother died, so she had all that and she was in the middle of a court battle.

 

Not long after we moved, her father leafleted our street and a couple of streets close by with a copy of one of the newspaper articles and an anonymous note saying, “A lesbian has moved in. Watch out for your children, she’s a predator” – or words to that effect.

 

It was only when Jaz decided that she didn’t want to live with her father and went to court, on her own, aged 9 and said that she didn’t want to see him that it was resolved.

 

At the end of it all, I finally became her legal guardian. We can’t find a precedent for a child being awarded residency with a gay guardian when there’s a biological parent still alive. Maybe we are the precedent?

 

The court told Jaz’s father to keep away from her.

 

She was still seeing her grandparents on trust that they wouldn’t force her to see her father. What I didn’t know was that they were constantly drip-feeding her: “Your father misses you so much. It’s not nice of you, not to see him.” They bought her pencils with her name on but it was his surname, which she’d never used in her life.

 

A couple of years ago, she was due to go to stay with her grandparents and she asked me to put some things in her bag. At the top was a diary and I looked at it, thinking, ‘What’s this?’ and it was full of Jaz writing her concerns about things her grandparents said and did. Lots of stuff that was really anti-gay.

 

I asked Jaz about it and she broke down. There had been a lot more like that and she just couldn’t take it. They didn’t think they were doing anything wrong. It was very subtle.

 

In the end, we wrote to them saying it couldn’t go on and now Jaz doesn’t see them.

 

Actually, it was more complicated than that. At one point, they told Jaz they were thinking of moving to our town and it freaked her out. They didn’t see anything wrong with it but Jaz was so upset I had to write to them and say they were free to do what they liked but if they moved here, we would need to move away.

 

One of the good things about the house we’re in now is that Jaz is safe. She can go to school and we know she’ll come back.

 

By “we” I mean me and Hazel and her girls. I met Hazel through work.

 

After my sister died I took some time off work. I have to say that throughout all this, my employer has been great, really supportive. I went in to see my line manager, in preparation for going back to work. The conversation I was having was, “I don’t know if I’m fit to be a parent” and that’s when Hazel walked in, my new senior manager.

 

The first thing I thought was, ‘She looks so gay.’ As far as I’m concerned, Hazel was the last person to know she is gay.

 

I was in a relationship at that point or just coming out of one. I’ve always been gay. When other young people were going off to see their boyfriends, I was going off to see my girlfriend.

 

I came to know Hazel as a fantastic person, great fun. I knew my job well but we were just getting into a new area of work, so we had opportunities to get to know each other. I thought her outlook – “mañana!” – was great.

 

We had a work night away and she had too much to drink and told me that she was married and in a mess.

 

We had a few coffees together and I said she needed to take a step back. She thought she might be gay and she had a kind of old fashioned presumption about what people would think. I said that until that point in my life when I had found myself in court and on the front page of newspapers, being gay hadn’t affected the way my life had gone so maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to take an honesty trip.

 

I tried to support her but I tried to hold her at arm’s length until I saw she was sorting herself out. If we were going to develop a relationship, it had to be serious. I didn’t have the heart for an affair. I had enough going on in my life; I didn’t need to be caught up in another mess.

 

By the time we got together, my other relationship had dissipated. Once Hazel split up from her husband, we started to get close very quickly.

 

Our involvement wasn’t overt, even in front of Jaz, who knew I was gay. She just saw my friendship with Hazel as bringing two new friends for her – Rosie and Isla, Hazel’s girls. We took it very gradually. As Hazel says, it was six years before we really moved in together.

 

I did sometimes think, ‘Oh my God, what am I doing?’ I’m a very quiet, peaceful person and I thought, ‘Can I do this, take on another two children?’

 

I’m not a very confident parent. Part of me thinks, ‘None of these children are physically part of me so what right do I have to parent them?’ I think that’s why I parent from a practical perspective, rather than a mothering perspective. So although we have two cars, I’m insistent that our girls need to know how to catch the bus, whereas Hazel might think, ‘I’m their mum, I’ll do that.’

 

Parenting has changed me hugely. I’m always worried about the next thing. It’s hard to know whether that’s about parenting or the experience we’ve been through.

 

I look at our three girls and they are wonderful kids, really well balanced, brave, and feisty. I think we are so fortunate. Then I look at Hazel and we are such polar opposites that I wonder if somewhere in between our differences we have been lucky enough to strike a balance. Hazel chose to have children – I was the kind of person who would just get up and go travelling.

 

I think as gay parents, people think we must be liberal but I’m quite strict. They are not allowed Facebook, I don’t want that in my house.

 

Is it different if you’re a biological parent? When I think what I went through to get Jaz, would I have thought differently if I had been her biological mum?

 

Isla and Rosie have their father, too. We hear them say, “My dad says…” but I can’t imagine them saying, “Alex says…”

 

I know I have invested a huge amount of time and effort in my girls, more so I think sometimes than some other parents. I deal with all three of them the same, because they’re not mine. I am intensely aware that because I’m not a biological parent, I have to work super hard to be a good one. Instead of just saying, “Go to bed,” I jump through hoops thinking if it’s the best thing for them, where most parents probably don’t think twice about it.

 

I don’t want anyone, ever, to be able to turn round and say, “You were crap at it.”

 

You don’t need a licence for a child – Jaz’s father didn’t – but I had to prove myself. If I’d remotely stepped out of line all that time with Jaz’s father, the sky would have fallen in.

 

Jaz is 16 now. She has always been a lovely person. I am so glad I went through those years of heartbreak because if I hadn’t just kept my head down and kept taking the punches, maybe she wouldn’t have had the chance.

 

 

Read Hazel’s story

 

Ryan

Throughout my childhood, teenage years and adulthood, I had always thought I would be a dad. It was only in my early 20s when I first came out that I realised it might not be as easy for me as it was for other people. I saw my friends and family growing up and having their own families and knew that at some point, I’d be doing the same thing.

 

I didn’t do anything about it for a long time though; I had done bits of research into it every now and again, and I’d known it would be a costly experience so I couldn’t really do anything until I was in a strong position financially. I hadn’t even mentioned it to my family or any previous partners as it didn’t seem there was any point until I was in a position to start taking things forward.

 

I moved to Scotland early in 2005 with work, and shortly afterwards I met Rick.

 

I remember that during the first few times we met, he mentioned he had a daughter, Marie. I saw this as a positive thing. I’d never had a relationship before with someone who was already a parent (apart from a brief thing with a woman when I was in my teens). It was never a given that Rick and I would get together and have a long-term relationship but once we moved in with each other, I looked forward to having Marie in my life, even though she lived 100 miles away.

 

As it was, Rick would go up to Aberdeen every other weekend and stay with her, so any real involvement I had with Rick’s family was pretty limited.

 

I did feel quite excluded for the first two or three years. I wasn’t included in birthday parties and family events and I probably only saw Marie four or five times a year, generally when she came to Edinburgh or on the odd occasion that I went to Aberdeen with Rick. It wasn’t really until she was able to travel by herself and started coming to Edinburgh more that the two of us built up quite a good friendship.

 

 

It’s never been a stepdad-type thing, we just got on well and had a laugh during the times we saw each other.

 

Rick and I had been together probably about 18 months before I initiated the discussion about having a baby. By this point, I was doing well with work and was in a position where, financially, I could afford to go through the whole process and give up work when the time came to bring up a child.

 

I wasn’t quite sure how to approach it with Rick, and really can’t remember the words I used. We had probably four or five discussions about it until we reached the point where he said he would be happy to have a nipper around the house.

 

For me to embark on any process which led to having a child, it would always have had to have been surrogacy. I wanted a child who was genetically linked to me. It would have felt very different adopting a child, compared to going through the whole process of being involved in a pregnancy and birth.

 

Even at that stage I knew it wasn’t going to be an easy process but I’m such a determined person, I knew I’d end up being a dad.

 

My first step was to start looking into how you go about it. Internet searches led me to a few straight organisations. This was five or six years ago, before the law changed and two gay men could be intended parents. Back then they basically said they wouldn’t entertain supporting a gay couple through the surrogacy process and were only there to support straight couples. It was the first time in my whole life that I had ever felt disadvantaged by my sexuality.

 

After these initial knock-backs, I contacted some gay charities in the UK, who also couldn’t help. Then one contact gave me the name of a company in London who, amongst other things, had set up a commercial agency for arranging surrogacy. I wasn’t convinced that it sounded like the most professional set-up, but at the time there was nobody else I could go to, so I made contact with them in the hope that they would be able to help.

 

The man who ran the company, Kevin, agreed that they could support us through the whole process, although there was a cost implication for us. He said it was something they had done before and to initiate the process, we had to go down and see him in London. It wasn’t long before we headed down there.

 

The general plan initially was that they would arrange for us to meet potential surrogates who would be happy to have a child for us. We explained that in terms of the surrogate, we wanted someone who was open and honest, had a supportive family around them and someone who would obviously be a good candidate for in-vitro fertilisation (IVF). We also wanted to make sure it was someone we could get on with and at least develop a positive relationship with.

 

We also made it clear that we wanted to use an egg donor. I had been certain for a long time that I didn’t want to have to ask a surrogate to give away their own flesh and blood, as the risk of them wanting to keep the child in those circumstances was far greater. He assured us that they could arrange that and that it was quite a common approach.

 

Kevin explained that we would meet the surrogate(s), get to build a relationship with them and then go through the IVF process. He didn’t talk about any of the legalities or additional costs, like travel or IVF medication, at that point.

 

Not long after our first meeting with Kevin, we went to meet the first potential surrogate. This was in June 2007.

 

I was full of excitement at the prospect of this meeting, although that soon disappeared. We were introduced to a woman called Cora, but sadly within the first 20 seconds we knew this was the first and last time we would see her. She was 42, so not a good age for IVF, and when I asked her the question, “So what does your partner think of this?” she said: “He doesn’t know, it’s none of his business.” That put us off altogether, and overall it felt like a totally wasted trip down south.

 

Still, she was only the first potential surrogate we had met, so I wasn’t too downhearted.

 

Kevin arranged for us to meet someone else quite quickly. This time is was someone called Pauline, who was 25, married and had two kids of her own.

 

We met Pauline, her husband and Kevin all together in London and this time it was a good meeting. Pauline seemed quite sensible and her husband seemed supportive which was a bonus bearing in mind our experience with Cora. We came out feeling quite positive. Rick and I had a talk about the meeting on the way home and we agreed to give it a go.

 

Over the coming weeks we started to build a relationship with Pauline and her husband. We talked on the phone a few times, getting to know each other and discussing the whole process. We also made a 400 mile round trip to go and meet them in their home town which again was a positive meeting.

 

Later on, in what was to be the last of our conversations over the phone, Pauline started to discuss the financial side of the process and we, as instructed by Kevin, explained that she would need to take this up with him initially. She also started to express concern about Kevin and his company and sadly, shortly after this conversation, the whole thing fell apart.

 

Kevin called us and told us not to contact Pauline again because she wanted more money. My impression was that there were other reasons why it came to an end which, I expect, related to her mistrust of him and his company.

 

Next we met someone called Rosie. Her situation was that she’d been through surrogacy before but the IVF had failed. She had a supportive partner, son and stepdaughter and seemed to know what was involved. She was in her late 20s.

 

Again we got on well. We started to build up a relationship with Rosie over the phone before going to see a consultant in Harley Street in London. The purpose of the trip was to talk about what characteristics we would look for in an egg donor and also so that Rosie could have a scan, to make sure she was healthy and had nothing wrong with her inner workings for the IVF process.

 

In terms of characteristics we said we were looking for a tall, white European with blond or brown hair, to fit in with my family traits. I was just asked about physical characteristics, not education or anything like that.

 

All was fine at that point and I was starting to feel like maybe this whole thing was going to gather momentum and bring us a positive outcome.

 

Then, to our total dismay, Kevin was sent to prison for 16 months for stealing all the money his investors had put into his other companies. We hadn’t even known he was due to appear in court and only found out about it all when we saw his picture in the papers.

 

That caused major panic. We thought the surrogacy was going to fall flat on its face but Kevin had been working with someone called Jill who took over the process. She said Kevin was no longer part of the company. Still, we weren’t feeling overly confident.

 

Despite this hiccup, we thought that things would go ahead with Rosie but then she and her partner split up. They got back together after a brief spell but he decided he didn’t want her to go through with the surrogacy and that was the end of that. So, back to square one yet again.

 

In summer 2008, Jill contacted us about someone called Rula. Looking back on all this now, it makes me laugh. She had seven children of her own and we were told she knew someone who was going through the same process, so we could be sure of the amount of support she had. She also had the support of her sister who lived close to her in South Wales.

 

Jill brought Rula and her sister up to Scotland and we met them at the airport one lunchtime. When we met Rula, we got on well with her: she seemed to have her head screwed on and although she probably wasn’t someone we would usually choose to mix with, we liked her. She had a sense of humour and could talk – endlessly!

 

For the next few weeks we had a lot of contact. She was constantly texting and phoning, asking how we were, saying how excited she was about it all. But then when the process was due to start, it all went pear-shaped again.

 

For example, when she was due to go for her scan in London, she didn’t turn up. There were lots of excuses. When she did finally go, we had to pay for the pre-IVF medication. The arrangement was that we’d send her the money and she would get the prescription…

 

You can see where this is going, can’t you?

 

As far as we were concerned, it was all happening according to plan and she was taking the medication. The doctors had lined up the egg donor, who’d go to the clinic, which was in Cyprus. I’d have to go on the same day to give my sperm so they could make the embryos. Rula was due to get to Cyprus the same day or the day after so that the embryos could be implanted.

 

Then, about two weeks before we were due to fly out, Rula cut all contact. She didn’t even bother to tell us why. We subsequently found out that she hadn’t been taking the medication at all, she hadn’t even cashed in the prescriptions. She’d just taken the money – about £1,000 – for herself. It turned out that this had been going on for about six weeks.

 

We were then left with a situation where the egg donor, who had been taking her medication, was gearing up for the process, but we had no surrogate. We couldn’t at that point halt the process without incurring further costs.

 

So on 8 November 2008 I went to Cyprus on my own to play my part in creating the embryos. It was probably one of the most lonely weekends of my life. Rick had decided he didn’t want to come along, so I had to make the trek to Manchester to fly out from there, driving south from Scotland.

 

The good news was that as a result of my trip, 11 eggs were retrieved from the egg donor and eight embryos were frozen. It was just a shame at that point that we didn’t have a surrogate to help us put them to use.

 

Then in late November, Jill told us about a potential new surrogate called Claire, a woman in her late 20s who lived in Middlesex. She had a child of her own and although she was single, she had a really supportive family around her and she really wanted to be a surrogate.

 

Instead of meeting we arranged to talk over the phone initially, which we did in early December 2008. We chatted a few times leading up to Christmas and we arranged to meet up in London in late January with Jill. But, on 28 December, I got a voicemail on my mobile from Jill, saying Claire could no longer participate as she’d fallen pregnant.

 

It was now getting like a Carry On film, only nowhere near as funny.

 

In the middle of January, Jill came up with someone else. The next woman was called Jamila. She was also in her late 20s. We arranged to go and meet her in London on the day we’d originally planned to meet Claire. By this stage I was feeling pretty run down but I kept on going as I was determined that at some point it my life, this whole thing would result in a positive outcome.

 

We met at Heathrow with Jill, Jamila and Jamila’s mother and thankfully we got on fine. She was a really nice, strikingly beautiful woman, part Egyptian. I had a really positive vibe about her, although I was thinking by now that I wasn’t such a good judge of character, bearing in mind the previous people we had trusted.

 

Again, we agreed to go forward and things seemed to move really fast.

 

We chatted quite a lot over the phone and Jamila started going through the medical part of the surrogacy process. This time, Jamila was sent the medication after it had been paid for. I would just pay for her expenses as they arose, like travel to London or Cyprus.

 

Jamila went for her last scan in March and on 12 April she flew to Cyprus with a friend to have the embryos implanted. I was in a state of disbelief at this point, not believing we could end up with a baby at the end of this.

 

They transplanted three embryos. Jamila stayed there two days and when she came home she told me she thought she might be pregnant, and that she had a metallic taste in her mouth (which it seems can be an indication that you are pregnant).

 

I was on edge for the next two weeks until she had her first pregnancy test. Sadly the result was negative. Even though that was massively disappointing, Jamila had restored my faith in human nature.

 

Jamila went through the whole process again on 20 June and three more embryos were transferred. Yet again, two weeks after she got home, she found out it hadn’t been successful.

 

It was more disappointing this time. We agreed with Jamila that after the second one failed, we would have a break. It wasn’t just about the money, for Jamila it wasn’t an easy thing to do and, having failed twice, she wanted to take a step back for a while. We were comfortable with that.

 

We agreed to reconvene in September but Jamila decided she didn’t want to put herself through the whole thing again. I understood and didn’t make an issue out of it. I had appreciated all the way through that this wasn’t an easy process, both physically and mentally, for any woman going through it.

 

So, back to square one again, looking for another potential surrogate. I think by this time I just tried to take any emotion out of the whole process, as I was finding it increasingly difficult to remain positive.

 

Finally, in November 2009, we moved on to someone called Samantha, who lived in Scotland, was married and had three kids. She was in her mid 20s.

 

Initially we chatted over the phone and we seemed to get on fine. She’d wanted to act as a surrogate for one of her aunts but that hadn’t happened because her aunt lived so far away, and it would have been impossible.

 

After a few phone calls we agreed to meet on 27 November. Rick couldn’t take the day off work so it was just me and Samantha, meeting up in Buchanan Galleries in Glasgow. We got on fine and had a laugh, learnt some things about each other and parted company that day on very positive terms.

 

Rick and I went back to meet her in February and the whole process restarted.

 

We used an IVF clinic which was local to Samantha for the scans and medication, rather than going down to London (which saved a fortune!), although the scans were sent to Harley Street (by this point my funds were running out!).

 

Things moved on very quickly. Before I knew it, plans were in place for the IVF process. Then on 8 March I picked Samantha and her mum up and drove them to Edinburgh airport so that they could fly out to Cyprus. The day after their arrival, three embryos were implanted. Samantha and her mum returned on 11 March.

 

I picked them up at the airport and drove them back to their place. It was all a bit of a surreal time for me. The weekend before, my best friend of 18 years had died suddenly, only two days after I’d been chatting with him on the phone. In the middle of the airport runs with Samantha, I’d had to drive south to his funeral in Blackpool, and then rush back to get to the airport in time to pick them up.

 

Just after the weekend, Samantha texted me to say she’d been feeling sick but she didn’t want to get my hopes up that it was morning sickness.

 

She wasn’t supposed to take a pregnancy test until two full weeks after the embryo transfer, but on 17 March she phoned me while I was at home and asked, “Are you sitting down?” My heart jumped as I knew what was coming next… She told me she had taken a pregnancy test and it was positive!

 

It was very early days and she said she’s do another test to make sure but she said she felt pregnant. As far as she was concerned, we had a baby on the way! I had to run around the house for the next 10 minutes to try and calm down!

 

Once I had caught my breath, I phoned Rick to tell him and then my mum. My mum was over the moon.

 

Rick’s initial reaction was, “Oh, jolly good.”

 

There wasn’t much emotion in his voice, no real positive reaction. I had really hoped for a much more enthusiastic response but then I supposed it was a big thing to take in, particularly as this had been going on for so long.

 

For the next few weeks, Rick wouldn’t engage in any real conversation about the pregnancy. Whilst I wanted to talk, get excited, plan ahead and look forward to a future with a child, I didn’t feel able to because of Rick’s general mood. He had been quite distant since the day we were told about the pregnancy. This all continued for quite some time. I was massively disappointed but had to accept that the news of the pregnancy had affected our relationship in a negative way.

 

Faced with the enormity of what was about to happen, and after much soul searching, I decided I didn’t want to bring a child into a relationship where it wasn’t wanted by both people, so we split up at the end of April.

 

I didn’t want Samantha to know about this in case it made her think twice about the pregnancy going ahead, and Rick agreed. He hadn’t moved out at that point.

 

After the initial pregnancy test, I had a couple of chats with Samantha to see how she was feeling. She was texting a lot. We arranged to meet about a month into the pregnancy. We agreed again that we didn’t want to be living in each other’s pockets but that we’d keep in touch regularly.

 

We had a fairly positive meeting and then after that we went along for the first scan. It’s not like you see much – just a blob on the screen – but it confirmed that there was a child in there (and that it was one child, not three!) It was good to see it there and to be part of that process.

 

It was after that, that things started to go a bit bizarre. That whole period, when I was single, was really scary. I was heading towards being a single dad and I only had a few friends in Edinburgh. It was a very stressful time and I had a total lack of support around me.

 

Samantha started to raise questions about the legalities of surrogacy. She thought her husband’s name would have to go on the birth certificate (it didn’t) and that it was illegal to be a surrogate (it wasn’t).

 

She was also worried about the money: if the baby died or was born with any sort of disability, would she still get the money?

 

Sometimes she would send me these cold text messages. Sometimes she was like a wailing banshee about things which could be resolved in a second.

 

It was at that point that I thought I should get a lawyer involved, to reassure her with official answers. He spoke to her and came up with a surrogacy agreement which dealt with all the concerns she had.

 

I also got in touch with surrogacy.org and explained that we were going through this process but we didn’t really have the support, expertise or knowledge that we needed. I asked them if they could put us in touch with other people who were going through the same thing – for Samantha more than me. They said yes so I phoned Samantha.

 

When I got no answer, I sent her a quick email saying they could help.

What I got back was a text saying, “Don’t tell me what to do. You’ll get the baby but I don’t want to hear from you again.” Obviously that was very worrying so I contacted Jill. She couldn’t do much but she started acting as a go-between, between Samantha and me. This was probably month three or four.

 

The cold silence went on for about a month, then she started phoning me up saying she’d been rushed into hospital because she was having a bleed. She thought she was going to lose the baby. She would get checked out though and the scans would be fine.

 

By the time we went along to the 20 week scan in July, everything was OK and Samantha and I were at least chatting again.

 

Rick had moved out in June but we were still in touch and he came along to the scan.

 

The nurse carrying out the scan couldn’t see the sex of the baby as the umbilical cord was in the way but she said she was 99 per cent sure it was a girl. Seeing there was a real baby – everything else just paled into insignificance.

 

Shortly after that, I started planning to move house to one of the small flats I owned just about a mile away from where I was living (this was me starting to tighten my belt!).

 

Rick and I had a weekend away and started talking about the baby thing. He seemed to have come round to the idea and wanted us to be together again. We had a number of discussions about it and at the end of August, I was feeling reassured that he was committed to this, so I agreed to give it another go.

 

As all that was going on, Samantha got in touch to say her social workers had found out she was going through the surrogacy process and had major concerns about it, so they wanted to talk to us.

 

It was a massive shock, even to hear that there were social workers in her life!

 

What you have to remember is that we had no right to know anything about Samantha apart from what she chose to tell us.

 

Samantha passed on my details to the two social workers and they phoned me and arranged to come and see us. This was early September, about five months into the pregnancy.

 

They came to the flat and explained that although they were in Samantha’s life, they couldn’t say why.

 

She said she’d chosen to have her child at the hospital she’d chosen because it wasn’t her usual hospital – in other words, she’d thought she wouldn’t have any contact with her social work team there.

 

They said that if they’d known about Samantha’s plans to become pregnant, they would have done everything they could to have stopped it – but they also gave us the reassurance that nothing would go wrong in terms of handing the child over. If at the time of birth Samantha refused to hand the baby over, there would be an immediate child protection hearing and the child would be given to us anyway.

 

Our next struggle was with the staff at the maternity unit at the hospital.

 

At the 20-week scan, Samantha and I had discussed the fact that we needed to go and see the staff, to agree what would happen when Samantha went in to give birth. So we went in to see them. Samantha was probably about 30 weeks pregnant.

 

The staff basically said that their process, when a child was born, was to hand the baby to the mother, where it would stay until it was ready to leave the hospital.

 

Obviously I wasn’t best pleased with this and neither was Samantha. I said to them that in a surrogacy arrangement, the child needs to be handed over to its intended parents as soon as it’s born.

 

We didn’t get any further that day but afterwards I phoned Samantha’s social workers and explained the situation to them, knowing they wanted the right outcome. The social worker said she’d speak to the hospital. I also phoned the hospital and said I wanted to see the senior manager of the maternity unit, as I wasn’t prepared to accept what they were telling me.

 

Rick and I had an appointment to see the senior manager. They arranged it to coincide with a parenting class with a nurse and a midwife, where they tell you how to feed a baby, change a nappy and put it to bed.

 

When we talked about what would happen at the birth, they reinforced what had already been said about handing the child to the mother. They hadn’t had to handle a surrogacy before and didn’t want to step away from their usual procedures.

 

I asked them to get their manager and told her that she was at serious risk of facing a discrimination claim because they weren’t prepared to do anything to recognise the fact that Rick and I were the intended parents.

 

She went away and made a call to the social workers right there and then. She already had their number. I think the social workers put her right in terms of what needed to happen.

 

The social worker phoned me and said they’d come up with a plan for the process, from when Samantha went in to give birth to when she handed over the child. Samantha would need to agree to the plan but they thought it would suit us all.

 

Behind the scenes they got together with Samantha and worked out what would happen, which was that we’d be there in a room in the maternity unit and the child would be brought to us within minutes of the birth, not given to the mother at all.

 

Rick and I had a holiday at the end of September and by early October we were in fairly regular contact with Samantha.

 

She had been having problems with her husband and they’d separated. It was clear that she wanted the whole pregnancy over and she wanted the money. (You pay ongoing expenses as they are incurred but you also agree an overall lump sum that won’t be paid until everything was done and dusted, including the parental order, which takes place after the birth).

 

It turned out that Samantha had been going to the hospital and asking them to induce her early and the hospital had been refusing. She would then change her consultant and ask her new consultant in the hope that somebody would eventually agree. Her due date was the end of November – this was now early October.

 

Eventually the hospital staff and social workers agreed they should induce her two weeks early just so that the whole process could be brought to an end. There was no medical reason why she needed to be induced.

 

Going on separately but alongside all this was that I thought I was going to have to leave my job, because there was no legal requirement to give a father anything more than two weeks paternity leave, and I wouldn’t even qualify for that as I had only started my job at the end of March.

 

The unexpected good news was that my work agreed to give me three months’ paid leave from when the child was born, which was great! Statutory paternity leave is only two weeks and you can also get 13 weeks’ unpaid parental leave, neither of which would have been much use at all.

 

In the week before the planned birth, Rick and I finally had some real discussions about names. We probably had about five or six different options for boys and girls, but I think we generally knew she was going to give birth to a girl, so we focused more on girls’ names.

 

Although we had no proposals for first names, we agreed that the baby would get my mum’s middle name and Rick’s middle name as her middle names. It wasn’t until we were watching telly one night and saw the name ‘Erin’ appear that we both looked at each other and smiled.

 

That was it, her first name was decided!

 

Probably twice during the week before she was going to be induced, Samantha phoned me saying her waters had broken so we were hanging by the phone. Her waters hadn’t broken.

 

We eventually got to the day they were going to carry out the procedure to induce Samantha. It was taking place at 7pm and from talking to Samantha a few times, we expected the baby to be out in a few hours, so we headed to the hospital about 9pm with the car seat, baby clothes, miniature nappies, and everything else we thought we would need.

 

When we got there, we met Samantha at the door to the maternity unit, smoking. She’d started having contractions and it was a freezing cold night. It was difficult to believe that I’d be leaving this place with a child!

 

After that it was a case of waiting around for what seemed like an eternity. Samantha went back into the maternity unit and we kept in touch by text. Her mum also turned up and we chatted with her every now and again. At different times Rick went home to let the dog out and then bring her back to the hospital, I went to Samantha’s mum’s for a coffee, we sat and killed some time in the Asda car park eating snacks and trying to sleep (which I just couldn’t do!).

 

Then at 6.30am, we returned to the hospital car park, co-incidentally at the same time as Samantha’s mum – who’d had a text saying it was happening (I hadn’t!).

 

We went into the maternity unit together where Samantha’s mum explained to the hospital staff who Rick and I were. Rick and I were shown into a sort of remembrance room, this place where people sign books to remember babies who had died. It was an odd place to be, considering we were expecting something positive to happen imminently.

 

Luckily within 10 minutes Samantha’s mum came in to say, “You’ve had a beautiful baby girl! Come and cut the cord!” We’d talked about doing that when we first met Samantha but things had been so difficult that I hadn’t ever mentioned it again.

 

I went in and there was Erin, lying on her back on the bed, screaming. I just said, “Hello, beautiful” and they gave me the scissors.

 

I have to say: in some respects cutting the cord wasn’t a pleasant experience, like cutting a bit of gristle with all the blood going through, but I was glad I did it.

 

I was back in the remembrance room within minutes. Rick and I had a hug and then I called Mum to give her the news, though I could hardly speak by that point. All I remember saying when Mum answered was “She’s beautiful!” from which Mum assumed she had a new granddaughter!

 

Rick and I were then shown into a room next to the delivery room and within five minutes, Erin was put in my arms.

 

We had a few minutes alone with Erin, and it was all quite surreal. There was this beautiful, peaceful child wrapped in a blanket, in my arms, and I finally realised why I had been so determined to have her.

 

Apart from an overwhelming sense of love, I also felt a massive sense of achievement, relief and fear (I had no idea what to do next!). After four long years, I finally had this beautiful little baby!

 

Looking back at the photos now, she looked like a little wrinkly thing with eyes, but at the time the only word I could think of was ‘Wow!’

 

Before long, one of the nurses came in and talked us through what would happen over the next few hours. We’d give her some food, she would be weighed and we should be able to take her home. As simple as that!

 

The hospital gave us some little bottles of milk and changed her nappy a couple of times as they don’t like to let them go until they’ve peed and poo-ed. In the end, one of the staff said that she might not poo for another day so we could take her home and let them know if there were any problems.

 

We got her back to Edinburgh around 6pm after a very long day and my memory of the rest of that night is all a blur really. I remember looking at her a lot, thinking, ‘Oh my God’ a lot and speaking to my mum and my sister.

 

So that was that, I had someone else to think about now apart from Rick and me.

 

Aside from learning how to look after a new-born baby, the one main task for that first week was registering the birth. On the Thursday, Rick stayed at home with Erin and I travelled to Glasgow to meet Samantha and go to the registry office.

 

We were seen quite quickly, went through the paperwork, confirmed Erin’s names – and then Samantha confirmed that she was married, but not to me. That’s fine in Scottish law but then Samantha said something like, “Not only is he not my husband but the baby’s not mine either.” Argh!

 

I really wanted to have a go at Samantha about making matters complicated but I managed to bite my tongue.

 

The registrar – this young girl who’d obviously never had to deal with a surrogacy before – had to go away and check things out before she would register Erin but she did eventually do it.

 

Samantha’s and my names had to go on the first birth certificate. Later on, after the legal process, the parental order takes parental responsibilities away from the mother and gives them to the intended parents.

 

The weekend after Erin was born, we went to see my family and Marie. My family were thrilled to finally meet Erin, and Marie said to both Rick and I that she wanted to call Erin her sister. It made me feel really proud and Rick seemed really pleased. And that’s how Marie treats Erin, as her sister.

 

We applied for a parental order six weeks after Erin was born, posting it off to the courts in the Christmas holidays. This process seemed so easy compared to everything else! Basically a court reporter comes to visit you to check everything’s ‘kosher,’ writes a report to the court and then you go along for a court hearing. Ours was in the sheriff’s court and it lasted all of three minutes.

 

We got there, the judge followed us in, the clerk said what we were all there to do, the judge said he’d read the report and everything looked fine, so he announced that Rick and I were Erin’s parents – and asked us if we wanted a picture! We were a bit taken aback. We hadn’t even thought about a photograph but we said yes.

 

And that was that. Erin’s been a doddle ever since!

 

At the time of writing, Erin is now 20 months old. She has been such a pleasure to have around and by all accounts we have been quite lucky as she’s always such a happy thing. She’s never really been ill, her sleeping routine overnight has been great and she has settled in really well at nursery.

 

People close to us have just accepted her as one of our family. She gets spoilt by all the attention and presents she is given but she thrives on it. She’s walking, talking, singing, laughing and generally a bundle of fun. I really am the proud dad I always wanted to be and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

I don’t have any particular worries for her future. I sometimes think that she may be treated differently because she’s got two dads but we’ll deal with it if and when it happens. Our approach with her will be that she’s special because she’s got two dads, to be proud of it, and that it’s good to be different.

 

 

Read Rick’s story.

 

Find out more about assisted reproduction and parental orders.

 

 

Rick

I’m from a family of four. There’s 10 years between me and my brother. I’ve always had family around, the house was always busy with folk coming and going.

 

You always know you’re gay but growing up in the 80s in a council estate in Aberdeen, life wasn’t like it is now. Twenty, twenty-five years ago the whole gay thing was different. It wasn’t as socially ‘acceptable’ as it is today. I didn’t know there were gay bars where you could meet people and in my teenage years I wouldn’t have got in, let alone got served anyway. There weren’t any of the support groups around. There was the Gay Switchboard but it was only open once or twice of an evening during the week.

 

I had no gay friends to talk to about my feelings and I couldn’t talk to my straight friends or any of my family about it, I didn’t even know another gay guy. I lived under this cloud of ‘I’m gay but what can I do?’ So I did nothing, hoping it would all go away.

 

My family wasn’t down on gay people but I remember the odd comment in the family about poofs – not derogatory but enough to make me feel it wouldn’t go down well if I came out as gay.

 

I met Anne, this girl who I worked with and it all just sort of happened. I got engaged in 1990, aged 23, and a year later we got married. I lost my mum the year before to cancer so it had been a difficult time. She was only 58.

 

I went with the flow of get-engaged, get-married, have-children. It seemed a natural process and I thought the gay thing would go away, or I would hide it, or because I was married I wouldn’t have any urges.

 

It’s not that you don’t want to be with a woman, it’s that – at that stage, for me – you don’t really know, because you haven’t had your first gay sexual encounter. I felt under a lot of social pressure to get married and have children. And then you do that, and nothing changes – you’re still definitely gay.

 

It wasn’t until about a year after I was married that I had my first gay experience. I didn’t have any gay friends or know anyone who was gay. I realised I couldn’t sit on being gay anymore and that I’d have to do something about it. I stumbled across a gay chat line and arranged to meet someone. That was it. It just happened.

 

I’d thought that, because I was married, I’d be able to suppress it but once I’d done it and realised, ‘I am gay,’ I couldn’t suppress it. Before, it had been locked up but now I knew what it was like to be with a man, I wanted more. I thought, ‘It’s not going to be easy to put these feelings away’ but I kept trying.

 

Anne and I had been trying for a child but she wasn’t pregnant at that stage. I knew that being with a man was what I should be doing but I was too chicken to do anything about it. So I just carried on with my wife, thinking, ‘It will all go away. I’ll just do it a few times and get it out of my system.’ But that never really happened.

 

Anne fell pregnant but then she had a severe bleed, a miscarriage. It was fairly distraught stuff. No-one prepares you for that. You don’t get a handbook. Although the doctor says it’s nature’s way, when nature says you’re not going to have your baby when all your friends are having their babies, it’s a difficult time.

 

I felt I had a decision to make – do the socially correct thing and carry on or stop, stop it all and come out as being gay. Despite thinking about it for days and weeks on end I couldn’t do it.

 

When Anne had a miscarriage, I thought it was a sign, like a ‘get out of jail card.’ The right thing to do would have been to leave Anne then – but I didn’t. There was an element of me wanting children but it was tied up in thinking that having children would make it (being gay) all go away.

 

Anne fell pregnant again and Marie was born in September ’93. That turned everything upside down. The focus was on Marie and the gay thing was put on the back burner.

 

Marie was here and taking her round to see all the relatives, doing all the dad things that you do, felt natural. I was absolutely over the moon.

 

But you are what you are. You think getting married will make it go away and it doesn’t. You think having babies will make it go away and it doesn’t. You may think bungee jumping off the Eiffel Tower will make it go away but it won’t. You’re brought up to think you should do this and you should do that but another part of you is telling you it’s not right.

 

Eventually I plucked up enough courage to tell my best friend Michael. I let him into my secret about four years after Marie was born because I’d started to get very depressed. I wasn’t getting involved in family life. I wasn’t interested in anything except myself – very selfish.

 

Michael was very supportive. He was a similar age to me but he had no experience of being gay so all he could do was listen.

 

Probably around April ’95, I met a guy called Keith who was also not out. We started seeing each other on a casual basis every now and then. He wasn’t married, didn’t have any children. We got on really well, not just as casual partners but on a social level as well. We clicked. So I had that going on as well: being married, being a dad and for want of a better phrase, having a bit on the side.

 

Keith had been away for a month with work when I decided I’d tell Anne I was gay. I’d say to Michael, “I’m going to tell her tonight, I’m going to tell her tonight” and then I’d get a phone call from Michael saying, “Did you tell her?” – and, no of course not. How could I do that to her?

 

Anne and I used to work together but I’d left the job the year before. Once I’d started working for another organisation I had my own routine and that gave me more opportunities to meet men. The more I met, the more I wanted more and more.

 

Eventually the guilt got too much. I couldn’t deal with the lies I had to tell on a daily basis. I realised, if I didn’t do something about it quickly, I’d risk ruining not only Anne’s life but Marie’s as well.

 

I thought, ‘If I get out now I won’t ruin her life,’ so I left in the summer of ’96. I just came home one day and said I’d been to see a solicitor about a divorce.

 

I couldn’t tell Anne I was gay. I thought she’d say I couldn’t see Marie again, that I’d be shunned by my family. I didn’t know how it would affect my work.

 

I left Anne, went through all the legal stuff and changed jobs again. It meant working away Monday to Friday. It got me out of the house during the week but I’d go back home at weekends to see Marie.

 

We made a separation agreement which said I’d have Marie every second weekend and continue to support her financially. It was all very difficult, very difficult for everybody. Anne wanted to know why I had left, Marie wanted to know why Daddy didn’t live at home any more. I didn’t have any of the answers. I didn’t even know what was going on myself.

 

About three months later I was still working away but I’d come home one weekend to see Marie. I’d bought copies of ‘Gay Times’ and they were in my bag, which I’d left unopened in my room. It was a Saturday afternoon and Anne phoned while I was out shopping and said Marie had found something in my bag and did I want to go home and discuss it? Of course, Marie couldn’t have got into my bag.

 

Anne’s first question: “Why didn’t you tell me?”

 

“Well, I didn’t know how to tell you, how you’d react.”

 

I think it was a bit of a relief for Anne because now she knew the reason, though she was still quite upset.

 

It didn’t change things as we had agreed from the start that for the sake of Marie we didn’t want to make things difficult for her. Looking back I was quite lucky really. The whole saga could have turned into a very nasty split but that didn’t happen – no point – it would only have been Marie that would have suffered.

 

I eventually returned to Aberdeen to work and got myself a one-bedroom flat around December ’96. Anne and Marie managed to get a nice council house where she grew up, so she had a lot of her friends and family around her. We started living as separate entities, with Marie staying with me most weekends.

 

Marie would have been three by then. It was difficult for her because once I had a flat, it wasn’t a case of “Daddy’s working away.” It was, “Daddy’s at his house, why’s he not here?” I didn’t have a proper chat with Marie about my sexuality until she was about 10. It was just, “Mummy and Daddy aren’t living with each other anymore” and she accepted this.

 

I was finding my feet being a gay man, discovering the scene, meeting new guys, developing new relationships. Eventually Keith moved in with me but I wasn’t openly gay and there was still a lot of pressure.

 

After about a year I tried to take my own life. It was an overdose. I can’t remember much about it thankfully. But obviously it didn’t work and I’m glad that I’m still here. I did it because I couldn’t cope. I didn’t want people knowing I’d gone from being married, being a dad to being a gay man with a child.

 

My boss came round to see me afterwards. I explained to him what had been happening in my life. He was very supportive and said if I had any trouble at work, to tell him and he’d sort it. (Ironically, about 10 years ago he came out but he made no mention at the time).

 

Eventually there was a work’s night out and someone asked me if I was gay and it all came out. Surprisingly no-one had a problem with it. It was quite an eye opener. Obviously things had changed in the past five years.

 

As I became more confident about being gay, I started to tell more people about it. I told my brother and my sister. The only person I didn’t tell was my dad. There was a 40-year age gap between us. I wasn’t as close to him as I was to my mum. I took the view that it wouldn’t make any difference to his life so he didn’t need to know.

 

My sister died in the summer of ’96 before Marie was born. If I’d been going to confide in anyone back then, it would have been her but it was not to be. Life just carried on.

 

I moved to Edinburgh with my job in 2001 and settled here. I still had the flat in Aberdeen and I went back every two weeks and Marie came to stay.

 

Keith and I had split up before I moved to Edinburgh and being a single man I was enjoying exploring the scene in Edinburgh. I joined a support group called Gay Dads as I wanted to get to know other people who were in my situation and how they coped. Marie was getting older and I thought, “How do I tell her about being gay?”

 

I was very nervous going to my first meeting, and for the first few months I just sat there and listened to what others had to say. There are a whole lot of different experiences and I was amazed at how, after all, I wasn’t the only gay guy who had been through the getting married/having kids cycle in an attempt to make the gay thing go away.

 

Eventually, I plucked up the courage to say, “This is what I’ve been struggling with.”

I went on to explain I was worried about how to tell Marie I was gay. What would she say or think? What if she didn’t want to see me again? What if her friends at school found out and she got teased or bullied? Lots and lots of questions.

 

The advice the other gay dads gave me was: don’t make it into a big deal; don’t sit her down and say, “There’s something I want to tell you” – just bring it up in conversation and see how it goes. So I did.

 

We were walking to the supermarket one day and I can’t recall how I started the conversation but I said, “Normally boys fancy girls and girls fancy boys but now and then you’ll get boys who fancy boys and girls who fancy girls. Those boys are called gays and the girls are called lesbians.”

 

I said that sometimes people don’t know who they fancy or they get a bit confused about girlfriends and boyfriends. I said I fancied boys but I didn’t know that I fancied boys until just recently. I went on to say that no matter what happened I would always love her very much. I said it didn’t change anything but it’s not something to go telling everybody because not everybody would understand.

 

She said very little. She was: “Well, all right, I see.”

 

I’d said, “You’ll probably need to think about it and you may not know how to deal with it so if you have any questions, ask me or ask Mum because you don’t want to keep any questions to yourself.”

 

I think she did speak to Anne about it and since then she’s slowly told her friends, who have all been quite accepting and supportive.

 

I met Ryan in 2005 and we moved in together quite quickly, within four or five months. Marie knew who Ryan was and what our relationship was but I’d take her out on my own or all three of us would do things together, rather than Marie and Ryan doing things on their own, until I was sure things were going to last.

 

When we realised the relationship was something bigger, we looked for a larger house with a spare room which Marie could use when she was down or so we could have friends to stay. I had given up work to go to university for the first time. It was time for a complete change.

 

We lived quite happily. Marie was a frequent visitor, coming down for a couple of weeks in the school holidays, bringing herself down on the train as she got older.

 

Ryan and I had been together about 18 months when he first mentioned wanting a child. It had never entered my mind at all, having a child again. I was graduating soon. I was happy with the lifestyle we had – no ties. We could do what we wanted, when we wanted, go on holiday, go out.

 

It was quite serious in that Ryan had always wanted to be a biological dad but I had reservations about it all. We spoke about it and spoke about it and spoke about it. I was very undecided. Two men bringing up a child on their own? Would we cope? Would we have support? Would they be bullied at school? What would Marie think? How would the rest of the family react?

 

All the ifs, buts and maybes just kept going round in my head and I didn’t really have anyone other than Ryan that I could speak to about it.

 

At the back of my mind was, ‘Well, I know what it’s like to be a dad… but I can’t deprive Ryan of that, it would be unfair.’

 

Ryan did a lot of research into the legalities and all the different methods of conception, like getting a friend involved or surrogacy. From there it was a case of, ‘Surrogacy is probably the preferred option’ and we met an agency.

 

I didn’t say, “Let’s do this,” I didn’t say, “Let’s not do this.” It just happened with Ryan’s determination.

 

There were a lot of ups and downs, a lot of hoops to go through. I tried to support him through it the best I could.

 

As things went on, the process wasn’t going to plan or how we had hoped, being let down by prospective surrogates and an agency that didn’t know its arse from it’s elbow.

 

I could see all the distress Ryan was going through and I didn’t want to open myself up to that. I felt it was more important to support him than to generate another roller coaster.

 

I kept my feelings fairly locked up, even from Ryan, which in hindsight wasn’t the right thing to do.

 

It all seemed to go on for years. Because of all the problems with the agency and then the surrogacy, part of me was a bit: ‘This is never going to happen, we’re never going to get there.’

 

Once I had met Samantha, the final surrogate, a few times and we had a confirmed pregnancy, it all became certain that it was definitely happening – that’s when the realisation kicked in.

 

We hadn’t been doing the happy ‘going out and looking at prams or buying clothes’ thing. We’d been through hundreds of ups and downs, then bang! It was going to happen.

 

And that’s when I started to open up my emotions. Ryan had the excitement, I knew what it would be like in practical terms. But, how were we going to cope? How could we afford it?

 

And what would people think? The child growing up, nursery, school, becoming a teenager… I remembered what it was like for me, growing up on a council estate in the 80s when ‘gayness’ wasn’t as accepted. I thought we would be shunned.

 

Samantha was somewhere between three and five months gone and I thought, ‘There’s going to be a baby here by the end of the year.’ Time was progressing and it was becoming more real. Money was an issue. We were living in a rented house. Something was just not right.

 

The stress started to affect the relationship. We even split up for a while.

 

A lot of my fear was about what was going to happen in terms of becoming a parent.

I know that’s strange because I was a parent but I knew what was involved.

 

I told Marie that Ryan and I had split. I was up in Aberdeen for the weekend and I didn’t build it up, I just came out with it. I said we were splitting up, that we hadn’t been getting on for some time and that Ryan was having a baby. I had to go into the details of the surrogacy arrangement and some of the story of what had been going on over the last few years. It was strange, I had gone from not really getting involved, then to getting involved and excited about it, to not wanting to be part of it at all.

 

I think Marie was quite taken aback and surprised by it all, because two guys with a baby is a fairly rare thing. It’s not something she would have known about where she lived, even if she’d seen that documentary ( http://www.channel4.com/programmes/my-weird-wonderful-family/episode-guide/series-1/episode-1. ) about the two guys down south who’d had children by surrogacy. It was a lot to take in.

 

Her reaction to the split was mixed. Ryan and I had been together five years and they got on well but Marie was older now. Being a teenager, it was difficult for her to express her emotions and for me to understand them.

 

Ryan and I spent May to September apart but we were still in close contact, in touch nearly every other day. We had the odd weekend away too, to celebrate a birthday. We gradually came back together again. I think that once we’d split, the pressure was off and we could talk about things again.

 

We moved back in together at the end of August, and then moved into a one-bedroom flat before going away on holiday for two weeks. Then it was me, Ryan and the dog in this small flat. It sounds a nightmare but we saved a fortune and one of the stresses, money, had been taken away.

 

After we got back together, it was only two months before Erin – the baby – was due. We didn’t really have much time so it was all about getting the flat ready, getting stuff into storage and getting the place decorated, buying prams and all the other things you need. It was a fairly brisk two months but it was enjoyable, plenty going on to keep us occupied.

 

There was still a bit of nervous apprehension there – like how are we going to manage in a one-bedroom flat – but all the fears about how people were going to react had gone. It had all come out when we had split up.

 

When we split there was surprise, and when I mentioned the baby, there was more surprise – but nobody had had a bad reaction to it, which was a relief for me and made the whole process of telling people a lot easier.

 

One of the pressures I’d felt was knowing how Marie would react: would she reject the baby? How would my wife react? When Marie realised Ryan and I were back together and this was going to happen, she was like, “Right, fantastic, I’m going to have a sister.” That pressure had gone. It was all out there. There wasn’t the worry of being shunned.

 

The people at work were quite excited for us and with all the equalities nowadays, when I talked about paternity and parental leave, it was fine. In a normal couple, if there’s a baby coming along, mum gets maternity leave and dad gets paternity and parental leave.

 

Despite equality laws, there was the fear that they would say I wasn’t the father because my name wasn’t on the birth certificate – but colleagues and senior management have been very supportive. I had normal paid paternity leave plus time off for antenatal appointments, scans, visits to hospital.

 

I didn’t have to push very hard but the way I pitched it was that in normal circumstances, the father would get to go to antenatal and parental support but I didn’t need all that, I just needed certain half days off to go to these particular things.

There weren’t policies at work for what I was going through but there were policies for adoption, fostering etc. If your employer is not very supportive, it’s worth mentioning that.

 

After that the worries were just about how we were going to cope with bringing up a baby, of taking her to nursery and saying, “Hello, I’m Erin’s dad and he’s Erin’s dad.” Obviously she’s in nursery because we both work and we both hate that. If Erin’s ill and has to be taken out of nursery, there’s no problem if Ryan can’t take time off and I have to.

 

Yes, there’s the worry of what happens when she goes to school and what the people in the playground might say – but once we finally had Erin in her cot in the hospital, the biggest part of the apprehension was over.

 

There was a bond in the hospital. Ryan was there and he knew what to do as well as any new father does but I was able to step in if it all got a bit chaotic.

 

Marie was two-and-a-half or three when I left, so I have some knowledge of what it was like, before I left and only had her at weekends.

 

In the early days, Erin would just eat, sleep and poop as they do but as she’s got older, if there’s a night when she’s not sleeping and Ryan’s, “What shall we do?” – well, there’s things they don’t teach you that you just pick up. Like, when you’re winding her and it’s not working, you try a different position or leave it a while and try again. Or if she’s crying and there’s no reason and Ryan’s like, “Why is she crying?” I say, “She’s just crying.”

 

Now we’re like a normal family. The only difference is the difference that other people might make out of it – “Oh, you’ve got two dads” – but that hasn’t happened yet. The fact that it’s two dads doing the cooking, changing the nappies, it doesn’t really matter.

 

Not long after Erin was born, a neighbour brought a present over for us and said something like, “Where did you get her from?” or “Who’s she?”

 

I thought, ‘You’re just being a busybody and said, “Oh, she’s ours” and kept walking.

 

That had been one of my fears, having to say about the surrogacy, “Well, we’ve not stolen her.”

 

When Marie was Erin’s age, it was new, it was my first child – and in the back of my head I had all the gay issues going on. It’s different this time. It’s just like having a baby but without that unexplained side of things. Maybe I’m an ‘experienced’ Gay Dad now compared to 18 years ago.

 

The other difference is that Marie is quite involved with Erin. She looks after her, sees her very much as a sister. You wouldn’t know she wasn’t a sister. From day one it was “my sister.”

 

One of the whole psychological things for me is that if I’d known about being gay before I met Anne, I would never have got married and never have had Marie – but then I’d never be sat where I am today. It’s been a hell of a roller coaster getting here but it’s alright now. Marie comes down a lot which we all enjoy. I think it’s a bit strange for Marie having her family life at home and her family life with us.

 

As the years have gone on, things have been more settled and relaxed. There’s more support for gay men. It’s more accepted and with famous people like Elton John and David Furnish doing the same as us, it’s not as bizarre. I’m just glad we did it before they did.

 

My brother hasn’t met Erin yet because of where he lives but he’s seen pictures and my sister and my nephews and nieces are completely accepting of her, making a fuss of her and all the rest of it.

 

Anne dotes on Erin almost as much as Marie does. When we go up, we stay with her. Anne is very much a part of the family. Technically, we’re still married.

 

We’re not a disjointed family. We see each other a lot. We may not be the norm but what is the norm nowadays?