I had the opportunity this weekend to attend a parents’ symposium at my daughter’s school. The event allowed me to immerse myself into the valuable insights and learnings from experienced people in education and parenting.
The audience comprised people from all walks of life – mums, dads, people of different colour and religion – but this difference meant nothing. We were all there for the same purpose, and that was to be the best parents we could be to our children.
To be amongst people where, regardless of your story, you were accepted as an equal, was an amazing experience. Because for me, as a father of two, and a gay man as well, I realise that the difference for some can be something to embrace or quite polarising.
I have pondered for some time about whether to write this story – I mean, why would anyone want to hear my journey? But, as time has gone on – and possibly a reflection on life as I turn 40 next year, I realised that sometimes having a voice may contribute to change.
It is probably worthwhile at this point to fill in some of the gaps – in particular, how did I come to this place of being a dad, or in my case, papa?
I met my partner Greg nearly 10 years ago. Like all new couples, we did the storm/norm/perform in our relationship – and during that time we laid down our cards – what did we want on this journey together?
One of the things that Greg wanted to be was a father. Well, let me just say of all the things I was expecting, that wasn’t on the agenda. I mean, how were two guys going to have a baby? Whilst I didn’t do human biology at school, I still understood the mechanics of creating life – and for us, one piece wasn’t part of the equation at hand.
We researched widely, spoke to many people – and received supportive and dissenting views – all of which were important in making our final decision. We were breaking new ground here.
It all finally came together nearly 5 years ago, in a birthing suite in Salem, Oregon. Together with our amazing surrogate, Mary, we welcomed into the world our first miracle, Eliana Rosalee De-An.
I reflect back on that moment – and like all parents – it is a true epiphany. A moment when something beyond words is given to you. This moment is permanently etched into my memory. When Eliana was passed to Mary, I stood with Greg in absolute awe, speechless and so emotional. It was at that moment that her little head came up, turned, looked me straight in the eye and grabbed my hand – as god is my judge that is what happened. My immediate thought was “that’s my girl”.
Still to this day, it moves me. We were blessed with nurturing this little life and soul.
Just over 2 years later, we welcomed our second daughter, Saraya Avalee De-Xuan into our lives. It was as amazing as our first journey. To be blessed with two miracles into my life to date, I am truly a lucky man.
So back to the purpose of penning this story, which was about the notion of being a parent and what family is? It astounds me when I look around and see the diversity of “family” that is in our world – it is an amazing thing and something which I think should be embraced and celebrated.
What does concern me is the minority who voice dissenting views, who say what Greg and I have is not family – that somehow – what we have, is wrong. Whilst I respect we all have our right to a view, I can say without hesitation and know in my heart, that these views are wrong.
My belief is that where there is love, where there is an emotional desire and readiness to be a parent and a family, then regardless of the make-up, that is the best place to start and most importantly, it is right. Whether this is a single person, a man and a woman, two women or in my case two gay men, if the right foundations to be a family are in place, then we should all be saying – it is ok.
I hope for this, not to prove a point and to say I was right; but to ensure a future for our daughters where because of who they are and whom they love, it will not impact their desire to be a parent and have a family. I want them to know that if they find the person they love and want to create a new life or, if they fill the want (and are ready) to walk this journey on their own, it’s ok.
So, invigorated by a weekend of learning and reflection, I know in my heart, this was always the journey I was meant to walk. To enrich the diverse tapestry of the world we live in.
If everyone’s family could have the love, joy and sense of purpose that Greg and I share with our girls, the world would be a much more beautiful place.