Hide me!

Meryl

I was in a stable relationship in England and we looked together at how to have a baby. It took 10 years for me to find out that I could not get pregnant. I tried home insemination with two donors, a clinic for sperm and hospital investigations.

 

The hospital ethics committee made the decision that I could not get IVF on the NHS as I was a lesbian and they would not allow me to pay for it within the hospital.

I finally tried to get pregnant by having sex with a man in a toilet, which left me feeling I had gone as far as I could. I had to face the fact that I would not have a baby.

 

My friend talked me into allowing her to have a baby for me, which she did and I now have a son. We followed the surrogate process. I gained parental responsibility and when he was over a year old I registered to adopt him. We believe we were actually the first in the North West – my son says, in the country!

 

My ex-partner was not out when my son was a baby and I refused to have him live with anyone who would deny his relationship or mine, or let him see any sense of shame for who we were or how we lived.

 

This was resolved when my partner changed jobs and came out. We then lived as a family and she adopted him once the law allowed. I had a lot of emotional difficulty with my partner’s adoption but ended this by seeing that it made a lot of difference to my son. We all changed our name so we have the same name. We separated but still share in his life.

 

I guess the emotional context is the incredible despair I was feeling through all the years I could not conceive. And of course the absolute joy when I held him in my arms, having watched him be born. Though I still have a sense of loss for not being pregnant.

 

The surrogacy process, health professionals, social services for the adoption and the legal process could have been fraught with discrimination but my fears were unfounded as they were all excellent.

 

The one thing I did learn was to be careful of solicitors fees – sadly learnt too late! The solicitor cost about £2,000 – the court process for parental responsibility. Social services assessment for adoption court cost £75. I was financially a single parent until he was about 5. We lived in a house with no central heating but we got through it.

 

Of course the process continues. I decided in the beginning to be honest at all times with my son and at each agency we meet in our lives. We have been ‘lucky,’ or maybe honesty prevents discrimination…

 

The next step is secondary education. I do have anxiety about the amount of people who will now have to be in our lives. I am lucky as other people have led the way and the school has several children with same sex parents.

 

Our situation is complicated by us being separated but my son has half-brothers at the school from his birth mother’s family (we are still very close) and from his birth dad’s new family. He calls them brothers and has a good relationship with them which, I think, gives him confidence and me some feeling of security for him.

 

From my family’s point of view, my mum was a little doubtful but they have all treated him as my child and I have had no difficulties.

Parenthood in Assisted Reproduction

This web page contains information about the legal definition of parenthood, about donor insemination using a clinic or “do-it-yourself” approach, pre and post 2009 law for civil partners, surrogacy and parental orders.

 

The information is adapted by the Equality Network from articles by Caroline L S Henderson, previously solicitor in the Family Law Unit at Maclay Murray & Spens LLP and now at MTM Family Law LLP.

 

 

Legal definition

The legal definition of parenthood in circumstances where a child is born by assisted reproduction, including donor insemination, is complicated.

 

The legal definition of the mother of a child is the one who gives birth to the child, whether the child is conceived naturally or following assisted reproduction. It does not matter whether she has any genetic connection with the child – in law she is regarded as the mother “for all legal purposes” at the time of the child’s birth.

 

The legal status of ‘mother’ will only be lost through adoption (or in the case of a surrogate mother, through the making of a parental order, detailed below).

 

The child’s other parent in a legal sense, whether male or female, will depend on the genetic material used in the assisted reproduction, but more importantly, will depend on the marital or civil partnership status of the mother.

 

The main determining factor of who a child’s other legal parent is at the time of the child’s birth is whether or not the mother is married or in a civil partnership. If she is, then it is her husband or civil partner who will legally be presumed to be the child’s father or other parent at the time of the child’s birth, irrespective of whether he or she is biologically connected to the child or not.

 

This means that if a woman gives birth to a child conceived by donor insemination, then if she was in a civil partnership at the time of conception, she and her civil partner are the child’s legal parents. The sperm donor is not a legal parent of the child.

 

If a woman who is not in a civil partnership gives birth to a child conceived by donor insemination, the situation is more complex. The other legal parent depends on whether the donor insemination was done through a licensed fertility clinic, or was ‘do-it-yourself’.

 

If a licensed fertility clinic is used, the mother can nominate another person to be the child’s other legal parent – typically this would be her partner.

 

If the donor insemination was not done through a clinic, but was do-it-yourself, then if the mother is not in a civil partnership, it is the sperm donor who is the child’s other legal parent, not the mother’s partner.

 

Donor insemination

The legal position of donor insemination is complicated. Whether or not your donor has any legal rights to a child conceived by donor insemination can depend on a number of things, including whether the sperm is used within the regulatory framework of the 2008 legislation or not (and that can include whether or not the donor is known to the woman), and how the insemination took place. But most importantly it depends on the legal status of the mother at the time of conception.

 

Clinics

If a woman gives birth to a child conceived artificially by donor insemination through a licensed clinic in the UK then the sperm donor is not a legal parent of the child. The child will have one legal parent at the time of birth, that is, the birth mother.

 

If the option of a licensed fertility clinic is used, a single lesbian mother can nominate another person to be the child’s other legal parent. Typically, this would be her partner.

 

If however the woman who gives birth is married or in a civil partnership at the time of artificial insemination through a clinic, then her husband or civil partner will automatically be regarded as the child’s father or other parent in law (provided they have consented to the treatment). In these circumstances a child will have two legal parents at birth.

 

Anonymity of the sperm bank donor (at the time of conception, but only insofar as the legislation provides) ensures that if the donor insemination is carried out at a licensed fertility clinic then the donor will not acquire legal rights to any child born as a result of this method of conception and will not be regarded as a legal parent to the child.

 

If a woman gives birth to a child conceived artificially by insemination from a known donor through a clinic then the most important factor in determining legal parenthood is the marital or partnership status of the recipient of the donor’s sperm.

 

If the woman is single, the donor may still be regarded as the legal father even if he has signed donor consent forms. The known donor can be named on the birth certificate.

 

If the birth is registered jointly with the donor, he will automatically acquire parental responsibilities and rights in relation to the child. He will be relinquishing any treatment in law of him as a licensed sperm donor and will have identical rights and responsibilities to the child as that of the mother.

 

“Do it yourself” donor insemination

A sperm donor who donates sperm outwith the regulatory framework of the 2008 Act (not through a licensed clinic in the UK) is the legal father of any child born as a result of artificial insemination. This is the case if the woman is single, even if she is in a relationship.

 

If this is not the intention of the parties then conception should be undertaken at a UK licensed clinic and the relevant parenthood election forms should be completed.

 

 

The partner (rather than civil partner) of a lesbian conceiving at home would have no legal rights to a child born by these means and would require to apply for parental responsibilities and rights as a “relevant person” in terms of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 or consider adoption of the child.

 

Pre and Post 2009 law for civil partners

The law for donor insemination affecting civil partners changed on 6th April 2009. If a child was conceived after 6 April 2009 in cases where the woman is married or in a civil partnership and her husband or civil partner has consented to the treatment, it would be the husband or civil partner who would be regarded as the second legal parent. They can be named on the birth certificate. The insemination must be by way of artificial means, either through a licensed clinic or “do it yourself”.

 

If the child was conceived through “do it yourself” insemination before 6 April 2009 the civil partner has no automatic recognition as a legal parent. She would be in the same legal position as the partner of a non civil-partnered lesbian and would have the options referred to above.

 

Finally, it is important to note that any person who is involved in parenting a child may apply to the court as “a relevant person” to be granted at least some legal parental responsibilities and rights, for example the right to have contact with the child. The court will only grant this where it thinks such an order would be in the child’s best interests and that it is necessary for such an order to be made.

 

There have been cases where a sperm donor who was not named on the birth certificate has later been granted parental responsibilities and rights by the court after he had played a role in looking after the child. The court can grant such an order even if the mother and her partner oppose it.

 

In such circumstances parties may wish to consider the legalities of such an arrangement in advance by considering a Preconception Agreement. This can limit any legal responsibilities a donor may have or, conversely, a Co-parenting Agreement can ensure the donor’s status in respect of the child he intends to father.

 

Surrogacy and parental orders

Surrogacy is where a woman carries and gives birth to a child on behalf of another couple, with the intention that parenthood will be transferred to that other couple shortly after birth. This transfer is done by a ‘parental order’.

 

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 (‘the 1990 Act’) introduced the concept of a parental order. A parental order is the legal mechanism for transferring the status of ‘mother’ from the surrogate to the commissioning parents. The 1990 Act only provided for cases in which the commissioning couple were married.

 

Since 6 April 2010 under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008, the category of people who can apply for a parental order was extended so that civil partners, and mixed-sex or same-sex couples living as partners in an enduring family relationship, as well as married couples, can apply for parental orders.

Before a parental order can be made various conditions require to be fulfilled. Parental orders will only be made where:

 

  1. The application is made by a married couple, civil partners, or two persons who are living as partners in an enduring family relationship and are not within prohibited degrees of relationship in relation to each other (that means, not closely related, eg brother or sister, parent and child, etc);

 

  1. The child has been carried by a woman other than one of the applicants as a result of the placing in her of an embryo or sperm and eggs, or through artificial insemination;

 

  1. The egg or sperm of at least one of the applicants was used to bring about the creation of the embryo;

 

  1. An application for a parental order is made within six months of the birth of the child;

 

  1. The child’s home is with the applicants at the time of the application and at the time the order is made;

 

  1. Either or both of the applicants are domiciled in the United Kingdom, Channel Islands or Isle of Man at the time of application and at the time the order is made;

 

  1. Both the applicants have attained the age of 18 by the time the order is made; and

 

  1. The woman who carried the child and any other person who is a parent of the child have freely, and with full understanding of what is involved agreed unconditionally to the making of the order. A mother cannot give agreement to a parental order less than six weeks after the birth of the child.

 

Other rules about surrogacy

The Surrogacy Arrangements Act 1985 prohibits the entering into or negotiating of a surrogacy arrangement on a commercial basis. In other words, the surrogate mother cannot be paid a fee for being a surrogate, although all her expenses related to the pregnancy can be paid by the commissioning couple.

 

It is criminal offence to negotiate a surrogacy arrangement on a commercial basis. It is not an offence for somebody to enter into an arrangement, but it is an offence for a third party brokering a surrogacy arrangement and to profit by helping someone else make a surrogacy arrangement.

 

Non profit making organisations such as COTS are legal so long as they do not charge for their services, although they may charge a membership fee. It is also a criminal offence in the UK to advertise that you are a third party willing to facilitate the making of a surrogacy arrangement, or that you are looking for a surrogate mother or are willing to act as a surrogate mother.

 

The Act also states that surrogacy agreements entered into in this country are unenforceable. This means that the surrogate mother always has the right to change her mind about the arrangement, and keep the child, up to the point where she agrees to the parental order, which will be at least six weeks after the birth.

 

If the surrogacy arrangement fails and the surrogate elects not to hand the child over following birth, an application to court (by either party) may be made to determine with whom the child should reside and what would be in the child’s best interests: would it be in the best interest of the child to reside with the surrogate or with the commissioning parents. Although unenforceable in the UK a surrogacy agreement can demonstrate the clear intention of the parties at the time the surrogacy arrangement was entered into which may be of relevance in determining a later dispute.

 

It may be possible to enter into a surrogacy arrangement in a country outwith the UK. However, there have been numerous cases which highlight the difficulties of dealing with the laws of two different countries, which may not be compatible. There are many countries in which a surrogacy arrangement is enforceable domestically, unlike in the UK. There are also countries where surrogacy agreements are illegal. This can effectively mean that a child may be regarded as ‘stateless’ and have no rights in either country.

 

There are very complex rules about bringing a surrogate child into the UK. The child will not automatically be a British citizen and in some cases parents may have to apply to the Secretary of State for special entry clearance – a time consuming process preventing the return of the new family unit back to the UK to start their new family life together. Specialist advice should be sought at the earliest opportunity.

 

 

 

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?