When Wes and I first met, I made a point of wanting to know if he wanted kids. I use the plural as I've always wanted a house full of children. Thankfully he did, and he already had a daughter when I met him back in 2012. Fast forward 7 years and we're now married and have two children of our own together.
Talulah has been the star of TwoDads.U.K since we started blogging about our UK Surrogacy journey when she was born in October 2016, her expressive facial expressions keep everyone entertained and the fact she's growing up in front of everyone is also interesting for others to see. It's also important that others see how we parent, the mistakes we make, and the similar issues we face as parents vs our straight counterparts. The feedback is glowing — in fact we very rarely receive negative comments from trolls, unlike some of our friends who have family accounts which is really sad.
So we decided to extend our family back in the summer of 2018, but after a failed transfer we took a 3 month rest, and our surrogate was ready to go again in December after a clinic change to the renowned surrogacy specialists, CRGH in London. On New Year's Eve we got the news that we were pregnant, and a smooth and trouble free pregnancy followed – we found out at 10 weeks that we were having a little boy, and shortly after we revealed this live on Facebook – which was a disaster as Talulah was a typical toddler and ruled to roost – much to my embarrassment.
We had an excellent pregnancy and the hospital were amazing. It was the same hospital and specialist team where Talulah was born - Burnley Women's and Newborn Centre. Since Talulah's arrival, the hospital management team have rewritten many policies around the care and support to Intended Parents (IPs) and surrogates based on our journey and feedback, which is a great move for the surrogacy and same-sex IP community. So this time our birthing plan ran smoothly and it was agreed at our 20-week scan that Wes and I could witness our son being born, as well as allowing our surrogate's husband in the theatre too. Something which many UK hospitals disallow, but this is something we're tackling to change — watch this space!
So on the 19th August we drove north from our home in Worcestershire to Lancashire and took our surrogate out for dinner to spend some quality time with her and reminisce – looking back since 2015 when we first met, appreciating our journey and exciting for the next chapter: a sibling for Talulah, and a son for us.
I was more nervous this time around as I had a better understanding of the risks of having a C-section. The fact we were in theatre again made me respect the surgery more this time, and the risks surrogates take for doing what they do. Before I knew it, it was 6am and we had to be up, out and at the hospital as our surrogate and her husband were arriving for 7am. We arrived onto the Ante Natal Ward, met her, chatted to our midwife and our consultant and before we knew it we were heading to the Birthing Suite, where our surrogate was being prepped for theatre by the amazing team.
The time came to put on our scrubs, a gorgeous peach tone oversized garment, not the most attractive outfit I've worn. Friends of mine would surely have a catalogue of trends I've displayed and failed at - my attempt at low crotch baggy jeans from 2006 comes close to this moment - and they looked similar too! We sat in a waiting room with other expectant dads, all looking like extras from Teletubbies with our peach blancmange colored garms. We waited for our name to be called to head to theatre; it felt an age, but was only around 20 mins. And then they called us, and we headed to Theatre 1, the same theatre Talulah was born in.
We entered the cool, chilled theatre, which was brightly lit, ablaze with staff and technology and bleeping sounds. I counted 16 staff from our consultant O&G to consultant anaesthetics, theatre practitioners, several midwives, a PICU nurse and a number of junior doctors and other healthcare professionals. Our surrogate lay there – suitable numb, screen down (as this time she wanted to see the baby being born), looking calm and beaming. Her husband went straight over to her, kissed her on the head and Wes and I gave her a wink and blew her a kiss too. At 09:14 'Knife to Skin' was recorded on the large white board, at 09:15 'Uterine Incision' was made, and then at 09:16, as if by magic, love and science our baby by entered the world, crying, with more hair than me and Wes put together and not looking happy with us all. Duke Johnson-Ellis 20/08/19 (we list the date different than in the US!)
Our surrogate's husband took the most powerful photograph which is Time Magazine worthy in my opinion, it captures the emotions perfectly. To us, it captions 'Love through Surrogacy'.
Weighing 7lbs and 4.5oz our son, Duke Johnson-Ellis was here and was safe and well with a great set of lungs on him too. I (Michael) cut the cord after a delayed period where he lay in a towel right on our surrogate's chest, just as she wanted (she didn't do this with Talulah and she regretted not seeing her more at the birth), he was sucking his thumb and seemed quite content. Once the cord was cut the staff brought him to Wes and I and we observed his checks and they gave him his vitamin K injection. He was perfect.
Our midwife then got our room prepared for us on the birthing suite, and there we took him for our first precious moments together, having skin-to-skin, holding him tight - both crying with sheer happiness – our hearts had grown a little more and Duke has his own reserved space, right alongside Katie and Talulah. It's like he's always been with us, holding him for those first precious minutes felt silent, feeling his warm body on my chest and his tiny heart pounding onto mine creating our own new rhythm – it was magical.