I am the youngest of four boys. My dad is one of three siblings and my mum one of twelve – the joys of an Irish Catholic heritage. Suffice to say I grew up in a large family! When we were young, my brothers and I would go out playing after school (or more usually fighting with each other), at weekends and during the holidays we would visit one of the many cousins’ homes and play (or fight) there, Sunday was always church in the morning and a roast in the afternoon followed by a trip to the park. It sounds idyllic, and in many way it was, but there were traumas and hardships that we somehow saw each through.
The point is, growing up with a family of that size I always assumed I would add to the number myself. I would be uncle to my brothers’ children, my children would play at their cousins’ homes in the holidays, and though my children might not go to church, a Sunday roast would never be missed given the opportunity.
Even when I came out as gay at the tender age of fourteen, it never occurred to me that I wouldn’t have a family of my own. As the years went by and my brothers started settling down and having their own children, there was no doubt in my mind my own family wasn’t far away. (I should point out I understand where babies come from and knew I wouldn’t necessarily have my own biological children.)
Despite my dad having only two brothers, between the three of them they had eighteen children (my eldest uncle had fourteen children!) so there was no doubt that the family name would carry on. But for my dad, with just me and my older sister, his name lineage would end with me. A fact that bothered me a lot back then - and maybe still does a little bit now - but one that I have come to accept.
When I was twenty-four I met Tom. Within a year we’d moved in with each other, I’d come out to my Dad (most of the rest of my immediate family had known for some time – as had my Dad it turned out), and life was great…
…except Tom didn’t want children. Not in the past, not now and certainly not in the future. When we talked about it, he said he just wasn’t sure what he felt about two men raising a child. What would they miss out on by not having a mother? How would other children react to them at school? It was a non-negotiable part of Tom. But despite that, we were (and still are) a perfect match for each other (I promise I won’t gush too much!).
Having said that when we first met he didn’t want to get ‘married’ either. Again he couldn’t see why two men should have to sign up to something that’s like marriage but isn’t. But after a long process of negotiation - I won’t say nagging although Tom might well do - we entered into a civil partnership exactly six years after the day we met. Even then Tom was adamant that he didn’t want a family and I should be aware of that before I signed the register. I suppose in the back of my mind I figured that I’d convinced him to do this I could convince him to have a family too.
Fast-forward four years and my ‘negotiation’ skills hadn’t worked so well this time, and despite both our families and friends asking when we were going to have children, Tom hadn’t changed his mind. And I’d just about come to accept that. Between us we have eight beautiful nieces and nephews and another eight brilliant godchildren – more than enough to keep us busy, and surely one of them would remember us in our old age. But then one day, we were talking about children and he said the words I’d waited to hear for so long – “Let’s do it…”.
Aghhhh! We’re going to try and have a family.
My husband and I have adopted two wonderful children. Duckling is 5 and Gosling, her little brother, is 3. I'll be keeping track of our journey here...