This is a story about my family. Not my parents and brother and his family in Western Australia, but my family in Sydney.
Back in August 2000, I met a wonderful woman when I started a new job. We were introduced by our mutual friend Sonja who said “you must look up Louisa – you will love her”. She was right. It wasn’t long before I met Louisa’s partner Kerri and we all quickly became great mates.
In 2005, after much debate, Louisa and Kerri decided that they wanted to have a child together. However, there was the small issue of a bloke and his necessary contribution. The girls weighed up the pros and cons of a sperm bank or a known donor, and eventually decided that someone they knew would be best. For two reasons – family medical history; and so that when any child asked “who’s my daddy”, they could point to someone and say “him”.
So they asked me. My immediate gut reaction was “of course – the girls would make wonderful parents”, but perhaps I should think about this a bit more. So we talked. A lot. We used an excellent document called “Talking Turkey” put together by the Inner City Legal Centre which outlined dozens of issues we needed to discuss. From that, we put together our own agreement that outlined the dos and don’ts, the wills and won’ts of what we would do if we had a child. The girls’ expectations matched mine, so we signed on the dotted line and started this amazing journey.
Zara was born less than a year later, ironically on Father’s Day. As the due date approached (and passed!), Kerri (the co-parent) and I had a number of conversations about how we would feel when this baby was born. What would I feel when I saw her/him for the first time? Would Kerri bond with this child? And a thousand others. Luckily for us, what we hoped and expected would happen when Zara finally arrived did happen.
The Motherish team share their first thoughts upon seeing their newborn baby (post continues after video):
In the beginning, as far as the world was concerned there was no father. We knew, of course, but we felt it was important for the world to see that the family unit was Louisa, Kerri and Zara. So for that reason, and to protect both myself and the girls, my name was not on the birth certificate. That left the question of what to call me? It was Louisa’s mother that came up with “Dash”, as that was exactly what was on the birth certificate: a hyphen. It was the perfect name, and it sticks to this day.
So what was in it for me? My reward at this point was the joy I received from giving a gift to the girls. Sure – it was a pretty unique gift – but the joy is also extraordinary. This was only further highlighted at Zara’s christening six months later when I realised it wasn’t just for Louisa & Kerri, but the large extended family of grandparents, uncles & aunts, cousins etc. I cried like a baby at the christening when it really hit home what an extraordinary thing I had done.
But one wasn’t enough. So in 2009 we tried again and Zachary soon arrived and we were now five.
Babies grow up into children. Children develop personalities and start to form opinions of their own. And there comes a time when it doesn’t matter what we agreed to back in 2005 because the kids will make their own minds up about how our family should work. So we roll with that. My role as a donor dad has changed and I am now very much part of our family. I may not live with the girls (although I do live nearby), but I’m there whenever I’m needed. For special occasions, or when an extra adult with a car might be required for school trips or babysitting. It’s very handy to have a third parent, and the kids consider themselves lucky in having two mums AND a dad. I’m also very handy as a scapegoat. The words “donor’s fault” are frequently bandied about the house.
It’s also true that my relationship with the kids has changed. I never expected how much the kids would come to mean to me (does any new parent?). I am incredibly lucky – to be asked in the first place, and for our relationship to work as successfully as it does. Families come in all shapes and sizes and extend far beyond the walls of a home. This is the shape of mine.
Allan appears on tonight’s episode of The Feed on SBS 2 at 7.30pm, which investigates how Australian family law is struggling to legitimise and protect rainbow families.