What a heart warming story.
PRUE LEWINGTON FASHION EDITOR THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH JANUARY 18, 2015
AFTER four years of apprehension, tears and hope, one of Australia’s most successful and influential fashion designers sat in a small plastic chair, dressed in hot-pink surgical scrubs beside an inflatable flamingo in a Bangkok maternity hospital, waiting for his universe to change.
Jayson Brunsdon and his partner Aaron Elias held hands and wept on January 5 as they waited for a Thai surrogate mother to deliver their son, who they had already named Roman Elias Brunsdon.
The maternity ward was thronging with expectant gay men, but the cacophony faded away as Brunsdon and Elias kissed Roman’s perfect little nose.
“It was kind of surreal and I felt really proud. I couldn’t stop smiling and Aaron was crying,” Brunsdon said.
“Roman is a little character, full of personality. He is a very good sleeper and feeding well. I see myself in him and a bit of Aaron too.”
A cousin altruistically donated an egg so Roman would be a genetic mix of the couple. While the biological mother will not be named on his birth certificate, she will see him at family gatherings.
“It was a beautiful thing because we can both enjoy that he is genetically part of us — but it wouldn’t have mattered if the egg came from somewhere else,” Brunsdon said. “It wasn’t until we brought him back to the apartment (in Bangkok) that we felt he was our baby and part of our lives.
“And as each day passes it’s like ‘wow, I’ve got a son’.”
Brunsdon, 50, and Elias, 42, who have been together for 16 years, said their journey to become parents was an emotional roller coaster. After three years of planning, they decided to go ahead with the pregnancy in April.
The initial joy of learning their surrogate mother had become pregnant gave way to the nightmare news their newborn son may be trapped in Thailand after last year’s baby Gammy scandal, when an Australian couple left their son with his Thai surrogate mother after it was revealed he had Down Syndrome.
It was a beautiful thing because we can both enjoy that he is genetically part of us — but it wouldn’t have mattered if the egg came from somewhere else
– Jayson Brunsdon
Surrogacy Australia advised there could be a problem. While there are still no laws governing surrogacy arrangements in Thailand, the Thai cabinet has voted to ban commercial surrogacy and draft legislation is before the parliament.
“I was in Sydney when the news came through and the following three weeks in limbo were hellish,” Brunsdon said. “None of us knew anything, we were very panic stricken and freaked out.
“We thought it might not happen, but we never lost faith and stayed positive.”
Then came relief: Thailand granted a grace period for expectant couples whose pregnancies were already in progress until 1 April this year.
While they don’t want to be the pin-up boys for gay surrogacy, Brunsdon and Elias believe the experience of having children should be open to everyone.
“Most gay people, we grow up slower because we have the Peter Pan complex and don’t take on parent responsibilities because we don’t have to,” Brunsdon said. “So, we had a long road of character development to think we are grown-up enough to handle this.”
Roman’s three godmothers are model Kristy Hinze, designer Leona Edmiston and Myer’s Nicole Naccarella.
“These women are close friends of ours and have had active roles in our lives. They are wonderful people and it’s a life changing experience for us, so we want them to be part of this, too,” Brunsdon said.
The name was chosen to reflect Roman’s strength.
“He has fought his way to us, hence the significance of the strong, powerful name – he is a fighter, warrior,” Brunsdon said.
Back home, his nursery is decked out with soft toys and a designer wardrobe with custom-made R.M. Williams riding boots and pastel blue suede driving shoes, a gift from Hinze.
“I had to put the brakes on Aaron because he couldn’t stop shopping,” said Brunsdon.
The couple spent the past nine months reading baby books and taking classes to learn about sterilising bottles, burping, bathing and swaddling babies, and dealing with the endless nappy changes.
“We had a baby whisperer come and give us a crash course in how to manage. I’ve never been this clean in my life. Every time I touch anything I wash my hands because I’m so protective,” Elias said.
In their perfectly egalitarian relationship nappy, pram and feeding duties are split down the middle.
“We take it in turns so we are both hands-on dads,” Elias said. “Plus there are lots of kisses, cuddles and singing — I’m making up the words to songs I’ve never sung before.”
This week they will organise Roman’s passport and a letter from the district office giving consent for the child to leave the country.
Like any new parent, nothing can prepare you for the emotional changes that come after having a baby. And this profound connection of unconditional love has impacted all areas of their life.
“Apart from the three of us now, nothing matters,” Elias said. “He is priority in everything we do from now on.
“When we are both together with him we have something to live for. Knowing there will be someone there at the end of our journey to carry on our legacy is wonderful. I just hope that he carries all our creative genes.”