Thursday, October 13, 2011

Yesterday was Dad's Birthday

My father passed away last year.  I think there's a blog post about it somewhere.  Anyway I realised yesterday that I actually miss my Dad - it seems weird considering at times my relationship with him wasn't the best (nowhere near as bad as the relationship with my mother though!).  So I thought I'd get a little bit introspective and do a post about my Dad...

I have regrets - I have always tried to live my life with no regrets but I do have a few regrets in terms of my relationship with Dad.  I should have tried harder - I really should.  I think for most of my adult life I only ever spoke to Dad on father's day, his birthday and Christmas.  The rest of the year I pretty much ignored him.  Dad was a good man, he was, but he had a very large drinking problem which is partly what caused the estrangement between us.  That and in some screwed up way I always thought I was never as good as my brother in his eyes.  All I ever really wanted Dad to say was that he was proud of me - which a friend of his told us that at his funeral that Dad was incredibly proud of both us and would constantly talk about how well we were doing and so on (I suspect this applied more to my brother as Dad didn't have that many details of what I was up to...).

My relationship with Dad really did go sour because of his drinking.  The man was a heavy alcoholic from the age of 16 and I suspect that I have my own issues with alcohol due to that.  I don't know but I'm not going to blame him for it.  My father meant no harm ever.  He was a good soul but I think he was lost.  He tried to do the best by everyone around him and that's what once in a while went pear-shaped.  He was used and abused basically - people took advantage of his good nature and it was really sad to see it happen time and time again.  Old dogs, new tricks...

The bad:
- getting phone-calls from whichever bar Dad was at to come pick him up.
- getting into a fight with him at the bar I worked at because I was cutting him off.
- Dad not remembering who I was after he had a rather nasty fall and ended up in Hospital.  He was stuck a couple of years in the past, Edwin and I went to visit him and he absolutely no idea of who was (I had lost a considerable amount of weight by this point).  That was heart-breaking for me (and I did hold it against him).
- ringing Dad for fathers day or his birthday after a massive weekend and blacking out due to lack of sleep and he was still on the other end of the phone talking like nothing had happened (this I am actually ashamed of!).
- Some of the general things of living with an alcoholic... I won't go into details but they tend not to be pleasant.

The good:
- One of the fondest memories I have of Dad is bringing me a cup of coffee every morning when I woke up (I started drinking coffee at 14).
- I came out to Dad when I was 19.  I was so worked up and stressed over it.  Dad looked at me and quite simply said "as long as you are happy" - I was stunned and a bit surprised that it was that simple.  
- Dad buying me my first car and encouraging my interest in it.  I still don't know my way around the engine of a car but I can make a car look pretty ;)
- Dad's generosity - he was quite simply the most generous and genuine man I think I've ever met.
- Dad actively encouraged my interests - including cooking.  He hated me being in the kitchen though as the kitchen normally turned into a massive mess! But he was generally kind enough to clean up after me.
- Dad allowing me to hold my High School Formal after-party at home.  Almost 100 drunken teenagers!  The man deserved a medal for that one!  And we only had the police come past once.

The regrets:
- Not seeing Dad before he died.  I moved down to Melbourne in 2003 and I didn't go back to Brisbane until Dad's funeral last year.
- That Dad didn't get to meet the girls.  I tried explaining to Dad that Larry and I were starting a family (or attempting to at that stage).  And it's the only time Dad ever hung up on me with a very curt "I have to go."
- Dad not being there at our Wedding (but there was a very good reason for that too!).  If Dad would have been a bit more healthy mentally then it wouldn't have been a problem - but I'm not sure if Dad could have handled the concept of his youngest son getting married to another man.

My father in a lot of ways was a very admirable man and I do have a lot of respect for him.  He was born in 1940 during the War and in a lot of ways he was your typical European male.  Didn't show much affection to his kids (he loved us deeply though - I think Edwin and I both knew that).  I don't think he was ever expecting that he would be raising two children by himself.  Virtually unheard of in the 1980s.  But I think he did ok.  I'm not a complete screw-up... I've done ok for myself.  I've got a good education, stayed out of prison, I have a stable relationship and I have two amazing children.  I wouldn't be the person I am without my father.  I may not have always liked him but I do love him.  I have a much deeper respect for him now that I am a parent myself - I understand more of where he was coming from and the sacrifices he made.  

It's also funny a flickr contact of mine a couple of months ago posted a self-portrait of himself in the mirror and asked who do you see when you look in the mirror.  I see my father... as I have gotten older I look more and more like my Dad.  Not completely obviously as there were two people involved in making me.  But the resemblance is there.  Once upon a time I used to think I took more after my mother in terms of my looks but that was based purely on memory.  I can now see how people think I look like Dad...

I do love him and I do miss him.  And I do only hope that I can be as a good a person as he was.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

so we moved back to the city...

Ok getting back on track with all this....

Your father found a job - huzzah!!!! Took a lot of financial pressure of... A LOT! But it added a whole series of new pressures.  To get to work he'd be getting up at 6am to try to get out the door at 7 to catch a train at 7:30 from Woodend.  I'd then be keeping you guys up until around 7:30 so he could spend 10 minutes with you before I put you to bed.  This was actually hard on both of us.  Your father didn't get to see you.  And I felt more and more isolated and alone.  So I felt particularly stressed... as did he.  And I was a fair monster to be around during this period too (I will admit to that...).

So unbeknownst to me... your father had seen a house and went had a look at it.  And then suggested that on Boxing Day 2009 that we all go look at it as "something to do" so we came had a look and I will be honest I fell in love with the house.  There was a rather large stumbling block.  It was pricey... (still is!) so we would become quite familiar with the term mortgage stress - which we have.  We weren't sure if we could afford it, we weren't sure if we could get a mortgage but we put in an offer all the same - 10 month settlement, rent-back for the 10 months.  And surprisingly the vendor accepted!  We had a new house, in a location that we loved and a brand-spanking new townhouse.  Next part was selling the other two houses and moving back into the city.

So on March 19, 2010 we moved back to South Melbourne.  Well we did... it's your first house in the area.  It's funny going from a town of under 1000 people back to the inner-city I instantly felt more comfortable.  Anonymity has a lot going for it.  I think it's much easier to be someone faceless in a larger population.  In part and as friendly as the folks in Trentham are - I did feel a little bit like a freakshow.  Here it's not that much of a problem, we're much more readily accepted, people generally don't blink at two men with kids.

Also it suddenly became easier for friends to drop around and visit.  Granted we're just around the corner for most of them now, than being a 3 hour round trip.  So that did and has had made life much more comfortable.  Although the flip-side of that now is that we've made it much harder for our dear friends Chris & Ian to visit us - they now face a 3 hour return trip (as do we when we go visit them!). 

I miss the garden at times though and I know your father does too.  But we've discussed that as well.  This was a decision we made (not particularly lightly) for our family.  It's easier having one property at the moment rather than having two and the expense of two.  And at this stage in your lives we can't ferry you up and back every weekend and then spend the whole weekend in the garden.  That's not fair on you! 

I also find that raising kids in the city is generally a bit easier.  There's more things to do.  Swimming lessons (a bit of a failure), gymbaroo (the woman who ran it was an absolute nutjob), there's your music classes that you, me and your father absolutely adore.  Everything is so much more convenient.  I suspect as you get a bit bigger we'll miss having a backyard for you guys to run around in though.  But we'll cross that bridge when we get to it - on the plus side there's a few parks you can and do terrorise.

It's also funny the sale of the houses in Trentham and Port Melbourne were relatively stress-free for me.  Every other time your father and I have sold a house, I've been a right emotional wreck... not sure why.  But this time around it was actually very easy and it was all done with perfect ease for me - I even took control of most of it (which is quite unusual for me!).  And in a slight brag moment I had a couple of my photos used for the marketing of the property in Trentham, it was one of those moments where I felt like a real photographer (they are few and far between these days).

For the most part we settled back into city living very easily.  Everything was suddenly (again) so convenient.  We could walk to the supermarket - rather than having to drive 20 minutes... we didn't need to jump into the car to go everywhere!  It was brilliant and something I really quite honestly missed.

As a parent I still had my ups and downs and I was still struggling with dealing with two infants and my own issues.  We had a couple of scary moments which were mostly resolved by getting a nanny in to help me for two days a week (I'll touch on that in my next blog post).

I do miss the country.  I miss the peace and quiet.  I miss the beautiful surroundings.  I miss the fantastic roads I used to take the Mini out on (there's some absolutely brilliant roads between Trentham, Kyneton  & Daylesford).  But I do think we made the best decision.  We're happy here - it's a beautiful house, we've got good neighbours.  There's a bit of a sense of community - which is always wonderful.

A note on the photo - this is a photo I took last year at the front of the house.  The developer planted a variety of Jacaranda in two of the townhouses and as I was doing a 365 project at the time... this is what I came up with for that particular day.  It's probably the best macro photo I have ever taken.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

a response to "Double trouble or twice blessed? "

I was reading Melbourne's Child which had a feature on Homophobia in Schools and I was looking for the article on their website and I couldn't find it.  Instead I stumbled across this article which was about raising twins.  Now I realise it's only this woman's opinion and I actually found myself mostly disagreeing with it... 

As a mum of three-year-old twins (almost), I'm often asked, "How do you cope with two?" My honest answer is neither straightforward nor simple, and I all but have a mild panic attack, gasping for breath, the minute I meet a prospective mother who believes that having two at once is the perfect instant family.

I get asked the same question a lot as well - how do you do it?  How do you cope?  My answer is different - I don't know any different.  All of my experiences are wrapped around having twins.  Yes it's hard, but I also suspect having one child is hard.

But I guess the bit that really surprised me in the article was this:
Those early days before that were filled with scrubbing bottles, changing a dozen nappies a day, waking one baby to feed when the other one cried out in the night and getting our babies in a routine as early as possible. It sounds harsh but it was about survival and functioning. I never read for hours a day to my inquisitive wide-eyed babies, nor did I rock them to sleep or spend hours gazing into their eyes humming lullabies. I just didn't have the time and yes, I feel guilty about this too.

Now I have twins - they're almost two years old.  I've spent hours reading to them, I've scrubbed bottles, I've changed more nappies than I ever care to remember.  I've rocked them to sleep, and I still occasionally do.  I don't feel guilty that I didn't have much time to spend doing the things that parents of singletons do... but that's because I made the decision that my children came first.  The house could (and still every now and then does) look like an absolute bombzone but I was going to get down on the ground and interact with my children, I was going to play with them, read to them, wrestle with them.

The one bit I will agree with and I think any parent with twins will tell you this - ROUTINE IS KEY! Get them into a routine as soon as possible and stick to it.  Babies respond surprisingly well to order and it does help keep you sane...

Some of my happiest moments have been when one of the girls has fallen asleep in my arms.  Or there's the other bit which is the absolute delight on my day - getting tandem cuddles on the couch watching TV - to my mind life doesn't get much better than that.  And I get double the cuddles :)

I think that's maybe the difference.  I wasn't afraid to let other things slide.  Hell I shower at night because it gives me more time to spend with the girls and I try to do everything that I didn't do during the day while they are down for their nap.  

Twins really are a blessing.  This I think becomes more apparent as they get older.  They are more socialised, more confident in social situations and they have each other!

I was very lucky that Larry was around for the first 6 months so we didn't have as many dramas in the first 6 months or so. But it was still hard... now it's no so much hard - it's just a different set of challenges.

It hasn't all be rosy.  I have broken down and lost the plot.  I have been in absolute tears due to the frustration and the anxiety.  But I am also blessed with two incredibly amazing children.  They are happy and healthy - I think that's all anyone can ever ask for.

As a random stranger at the supermarket said me to a while ago - double the trouble, three times the fun.  And you know what - he was right.  I wouldn't change having twins for anything.  I love my children, I love my family and I think it's just right as it is :)

Link to the article here -> 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

2 years ago my life changed...

This is in part the first change to my life... the major change obviously was the girls being born but there was something that happened before then.  I used to be employed once upon a time... 2 years ago I was made redundant - my employer gave me a nice big cheque to go away.  Not something I was going to argue with - really it wasn't.  It was one of the funniest moments of my career I think.  I went from a job I absolutely despised to a job I enjoyed with an amazing group of people.  I used to work on an application support helpdesk and went into a UAT job on a secondment that was made permanent which was then the role that was made redundant.  My entire team got called into a meeting at head office to be informed that our team was being let go... I rang Larry to let him know and he said to basically take it.  I was due to go on parental leave two weeks later anyway.  SOOOOOOOOOOOOO I eventually get into the meeting with the HR officer and my National Manager and I'm asking to see the package.  "No - think about it, talk to your partner and see what your decision is."  My response - "I've already spoken to him and he's happy with my decision."  They insisted that I take 24 hours to think about it and call them in the morning and let them know what my decision was.  This really was a no-brainer.  Give me a big fat pay-out to leave my employer... duh! Although I did have to quietly (internally) chuckle at how uncomfortable my National Manager was with the concept of a gay employee talking about how soon his children were due to be born.  My former employer did very fair by me I have to say - they did pay out the parental leave that I would have taken had I remained with them as it was booked...  I really did honestly want to go "SHOW ME THE MONEY!!!!" during the whole meeting.  But I knew I really couldn't!

Mind you this was really the point behind this post.  It's just a part of what's been on my mind.  I'm starting to find myself in a situation where I am starting to think what's going to happen when I do go back to work.  Admittedly it won't be for a while yet as to be honest - my wages wouldn't cover full-time childcare costs (we get nothing back from the Australian Government - I'm not complaining btw!) so I get the joy of staying home and raising the girls until they start school.  But that does introduce the dilemma of what am I go to do?  What's going to happen to my marketability in the workplace?  What can I do to find a job?  I know these are questions that women who drop out of the workforce to raise children face.  And I am a little bit worried about how do I explain that to a potential employer?  Am I likely to face discrimination because I'm a male care-giver who's taken time out of his career to raise children or has the world moved on to a point where that doesn't matter anymore?  So many questions...

I'm worried about it yes and I'm sure at some point I will find an answer... but up until then I think I will just continue enjoying raising my children :)

Monday, August 8, 2011

depression and parenting

I was going to do a very long-winded blog post about suffering depression and being a parent. I deleted it. It's funny - I don't feel comfortable sharing that much but it did get me thinking - there's so much research on post-partum depression for women but there's not much done on men suffering from post-partum depression. Maybe it's the general societal stigma attached to men suffering depression... I don't know.

"On average the studies showed, 10.4 percent of new fathers became depressed during the gestational or postpartum period. In the subset of studies that looked at paternal well-being three to six months after the baby was born, 25.6 percent of fathers were depressed."

I guess also from my own perspective I'm in a bit of a unique situation. Maybe not unique. Maybe uncommon is more correct. I know there is a rise in stay-at-home Dads worldwide - economic realities being what they are...

But for me:
- I had lost my financial independence for the first time in my adult life. I was completely and absolutely reliant on someone else to survive. And that took some coping.
- I lost my sense of self-identity. I stopped being Michael and I had become Louise & Olivia's Dad (or Mummy as some people have said).
- I battled with my new role as a parent (I will admit I do have more of a maternal role in this family)
- I had gained a substantial amount of weight and I hated myself for it (I've had body issues most of my life!)
- I felt isolated, I felt very much alone. And that was probably the hardest part of it all. There wasn't really anyone I could turn to and I felt that I had to be strong for the girls. There were moments where I did physically break down and cry because it was all just too much.
- I felt I was never going to bond with the girls. From having spoken to a few other parents (even mothers) they've felt the same way.

There are still elements of the above that I battle with but I suspect it's going to be that way for a long time! But I have strategies to deal with them. And I guess that's probably the main thing especially for men. Know that you are and get help - it doesn't make you any less manly (I don't think so at any rate) especially when there are other lives at stake.

I will say this much though. When I bonded with the girls - I bonded. Those two beautiful little girls are mine and I will do anything for them. I guess it's what unconditional love is.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

And so now the real fun begins...

I don't think anything can really ever prepare anyone for being a parent... People will tell you until their blue in the face that it's hard. And I don't think until you are in the midst of it - you don't actually realise how hard it is. The sleep deprivation, the constant cycling of feeding, changing etc... It's bloody hard! I think also being a man and trying to come to terms with all this psychologically is very hard.

There's probably tomes I could write on this and one day I may... as a friend suggested I should title it How to Raise Children with Style, Grace and a Sense of Humour. Looking back at it now - I think having a sense of humour when raising children is probably the most important thing.

Larry and I never really fought. The girls were born and home and all of a sudden we were fighting almost every day. Part of it was probably the lack of sleep, the stress of dealing with twin infants, the stress of dealing with Larry trying to find a job, feeling isolated in the country. The people who promised us they'd help never really came through (I'll touch on this later too).

At this point in time it's very easy to look back and say we were very lucky. Which we were. The girls weren't sick - they had no major health complications (which for premature babies is a very good thing!). They both gained weight at the correct rate (Olivia a bit slower but she was getting there gradually... funny thing is she still won't really eat!).

So we fought and fought and fought - generally over really stupid small inconsequential things, like tracking how much the girls were eating at each feed. Why dinner was always so late (we were eating at about 9pm), the lack of sex, the amount of time Larry was spending in the garden. I will also admit I was stressed about the impending visit of my mother (which I pulled the pin on as I couldn't cope with the idea, and I honestly think if my mother and I would have been under the same roof - it would have been a complete disaster [gay men and their mothers!]). Pretty much the usual things that parents fight over.

But at the time it did just feel very hard. And I guess on the plus side we got through it!

Friday, August 5, 2011

the trip home and sundry India...

India is a weird place. Not in a bad way. I found it very warm, friendly and spiritual but we were also very much in a middle-class enclave which does come with a fair degree of security and comfort. There was a couple of funny moments. There's a couple of gift shops in the lobby of the Ramada Powaii (like most hotels worldwide) and because we have to vacate the room once a day for the cleaners to come through and do their thing we'd hang out in the lobby or the games room (they had a Wii... lesson learnt I'm crap at games!). So one of the things I found a bit weird. Babies in India are generally not taken out in public until they are 40 days old (from my understanding) and here we are with twins that are 2-3 weeks old. So we're talking to the folks in the gift shops - and they asked how old the girls were and we told them - the looks on their faces were a bit shocked! But I think being foreigners you're forgiven slight irregularities to custom...

So... the shenanigans of the trip home!
I would like to say this was easy. I would like to say something for once in India was easy. It wasn't. Far from it. So it's the 22nd of October - we get notification that the girls emergency passports and citizenship certificates are ready (you're now little Aussies - very little Aussies!). So we start the process of getting the Indian exit visas. Now of course the office to get your exit visas is located somewhere in Mumbai that if we didn't have a good driver (a few other couples had used him previously) who knew where he was going - we would have had no hope! It was in the back of Mumbai somewhere with no street signs. So anyway we find it - get our ticket/appointment etc... start the process, pay for the visas and asked to return a couple of hours later for the exit visas.

I'll backtrack for a second as this is where the real fun is. So we received your passports and citizenship certificates via courier to the hotel that morning. Something was missing though. Namely your fathers passport... as far as we could tell his passport had been sent somewhere else in Mumbai. Cue the appropriate panic from me as all of a sudden I could imagine me flying home solo with the two of you while your father was stranded in Mumbai trying to find his passport that was somewhere between Mumbai and Delhi... as per usual I needed have worried as it was delivered to our hotel later that day.

So we had a couple of hours to kill while we waited for your exit visas to be processed. So we went off the Taj Hotel in Mumbai for lunch. It was a very nice lunch - including the appropriate me ducking into the men's room to do nappy changes. It was a bit sad to see there were still parts of the Taj Hotel that had been boarded up from the terrorist bombings (that made me a bit nervous about actually being in Mumbai).

So we got your exit visas and were pretty much all set to go - barring any other disasters... delayed flights etc. But again not something we needed to have worried about. Our flight from Mumbai to Singapore left on time. No major hassles or glitches. The stewardesses on Kingfisher were all wonderful and very curious about the two of you! They were more than happy to help us - which is always a nice touch. As per usual you were both an absolute joy on the plane - but hey you were three weeks old... you didn't do much beyond sleep, eat and do what babies do!

So we change planes at Singapore. Went from Kingfisher to Singapore Airlines. We requested the bassinets but missed out on them and then we ended up with Aisle seats and you guys would have to flown home in our laps... I'm not sure if that would have worked for anyone. But the customer service manager was lovely. She had 5 babies on the flight and asked people to move so she could free up some seats so that your Dad and I could sit together and have a seat between us for the two of you. As we had your little carry cots - we used that on the seat between us for the two of you and it worked perfectly. Again you were both absolutely brilliant on the way to Melbourne.

A funny aside. We were going through security in Singapore to get on the plane. And the security guard saw that I was carrying one of you. "Oh a baby..." - she grabbed the cocoon and off she went. She sees your Dad come up with the other cocoon "and another baby..." and grabbed the cocoon and off she went again. I thought it was a rather cute moment. Then all the female security guards were clustered around the cocoons ohhing and ahhing (you had that effect on people).

So we get back to Melbourne International after the 9 hour flight from Singapore. Get through customs (took longer than we would have liked). Then we had the joy of trying to work out how to get you guys into your baby seats in the car. We'd never done it before. So um... yeah... we got there in the end.

And now one of my first parenting mistakes. We were living in Trentham so probably just over an hour from the airport. And I thought I had enough time to get you guys home before you were due your next feed. I was wrong... So we had to pull over at a service station and get some water to make up your formula. You were both howling by this point. All they had was cold water... ice cold water. It was a struggle for everyone. You guys were hungry and you were trying to feed but you ended up in pain because the water was that cold! It was a mistake and a lesson.

So we got home and you guys had your first night in your cots. Your father and I were exhausted... it had been a very long three weeks.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

I want to get married in NYC

Ok so during this week I discovered that I can not get married in NYC. This particularly offends me for a number of reasons. I know I'm not a US Citizen, or even a US resident (that's a different issue and fight all together and I'm hoping that DOMA does get repealed so that I can live in the US with my family).

Now Australian same-sex couples have de-facto rights. So Larry and I have the same rights as a heterosexual couple that's aren't married but living together (property, inheritance etc). Now this is where it gets funky. If I was to apply for a marriage licence in the state of New York - I can't get married - the Australian Government would deny me a Certificate of No Impediment to Marriage. Because the Australian Government views marriage as being between a man and a woman. Now the problem here becomes, if we were to move to NY and we were denied the ability to get married - I'd not be able to access the state rights that NY has extended to same-sex couples. It's a mess.

So rather than do nothing as I would normally do. I've emailed my Federal Member in the House of Representatives. I expect nothing to come of this (apart from a polite form letter which will say nothing) - but for once in my life I feel like I have to do something...

My email:
Dear Mr Danby,

I reside in South Melbourne with my partner Larry and our twin daughters Olivia & Louise. Larry and the girls are both dual American-Australian citizens and we as a family are looking at relocating to the United States in the near future.

Now as you may know the State of New York has allowed same sex couples to marry. We were looking at getting married and residing in New York, mostly as we would be granted state benefits by the State of New York and it would be easier for Larry and myself to locate work in New York City.

I have since found out that we can not in fact get married in the State of New York as the Australian Federal Government will not grant us a Certificate of No Impediment to Marry. Now the Prime Minister has come out saying that she's proud of her government's track record on same-sex rights but the real problem as I see it for any Australian citizen who wishes to marry in New York - we are then denied the state rights that New York has for same-sex couples. So effectively we'd be back to square one in terms of our rights, as I would not have any rights in New York as I would not be officially recognised as Larry's partner or the girls' parent.

I'm requesting your help on my own behalf to have this matter investigated and if possible to have a Certificate of No Impediment to Marry issued.

Thank you for your time - I honestly appreciate it.

Michael Verhoef

Friday, May 13, 2011

I had my parenting orders granted

The folks who follow me and Larry on facebook already know about this... but this is here now for the girls (and it's a much more detailed explanation).

I didn't even realise that yesterday was Black Friday. As they say lucky for some - unlucky for others. I guess for me it was a lucky day!

I had my parenting orders granted by the Family Court (a Federal Court in Australia). In March this year Larry and I engaged a law firm to seek parenting orders that would in effect recognise me in the eyes of the law as the girls other parent. In very basic terms - it's like I've adopted the girls as my own children, except that we can't adopt here and also I think it's highly unusual for the children of one partner to be adopted by the other partner, even in heterosexual relationships. I could be wrong on this but of course I've never looked into it this side of it.

So a parenting order basically means that I have the ability to sign forms, authorise medical treatment and do everything that I need to do for the girls as a parent. That most parents tend to take for granted. All because I don't appear on the birth certificate. I think we're the second couple that has children through surrogacy in India to go through this. Yay, we're groundbreaking again...

For me this was probably more important than Larry as it gives me piece of mind that my authority as a parent cant be questioned and I have legitimacy as the girls father. It was an interesting process. About two months of working with the lawyers to get the paperwork together. The court appearance yesterday which was fun. It was interesting to hear the judge talk about sperm... but anyway! It was a reasonably short hearing - about 15 minutes in total and the judge was pretty cool. I was slightly nervous that there was going to be something that prevented the orders being granted which I know was foolish as it's a pretty straight-forward matter but there was just the concern that something... something... could go wrong. So the first thing she said was that she was going to put everyone out of their misery and that the orders were granted. I officially become the girls Daddy and I honestly can't tell you how that makes me feel - I teared up, so I'm basically this emotional wreck sitting behind the lawyer trying to not make it sound like I'm crying (my lawyer even admitted that she got a bit emotional about it all).

Larry had insisted that we include a family photo with the affidavit to make it all a bit more personal. And the last thing the judge said to was to go home and enjoy those beautiful daughters of ours! It was an amazing moment.

Michael xo

Thursday, April 21, 2011

and the next 3 weeks...

So while Olivia was still in NICU - your Dad and I took turns in visiting Olivia, while one of us stayed at the Hotel to look after Louise.

We met some really nice people while we were dealing with the hospital. There were some heartbreaking stories though - mostly of people who couldn't get their visas sorted out in time so their babies had been in NICU or the hospital for weeks on end. That was a bit sad :(

To the readers of my blog if you are ever in Mumbai - the Ramada Powaii is a very good hotel, a lot of gay dads have ended up staying there, the staff is fantastic, the rooms are clean and modern.

We had some comedies getting too and from the Hospital to the Hotel though. I usually let Larry speak when when we are overseas in Asia as people generally understand an American accent better than they do an Australian accent.
  • Anyway, there's a part of Mumbai called Lamada (or it sounds a lot like Ramada) so we'd end up in a completely different part of Mumbai to where the hotel was. And then of course you are trying to explain where you should be to someone who speaks Hindi and not English. It took us a while to smarten up to the idea of getting the hotel to write the name and address of the hotel in Hindi on the back of one of their cards.
  • Then there's what I describe as our Bollywood moment. We were coming back to the hotel in an air-conditioned car and there's a traffic jam about a block away from the hotel. The driver asks us if he minds if he gets out as he's seen a Bollywood actor on the corner (the reason for the traffic jam) - he comes back thanks so much and he's beaming like a little boy on Christmas morning. He got to shake the actors hand.
  • Then there's just the general trying to ferry two babies in an autorickshaw or a cab without baby seats. You just go with the flow.
So we basically spent the 3 weeks in the hotel watching 5 english language channels, basically a lot of really bad movies... and dealing with the fact that all of a sudden we were responsible for these two very, very tiny people. Incredibly, beautiful but incredibly tiny... I think we were both staggered by how small you were. We would go down for breakfast in turns (I miss the breakfasts... I love Asia for the fact that most breakfasts tend to be savoury!) and we all go down for lunch (we had to vacate the room to allow the cleaners to come in). We got bored - a lot... we would also try to sleep when we could. You guys were getting fed every 2 hours.

So we'd be doing nappy changes, boiling water, cleaning bottles in a bucket, hanging out with you two on the bed, attempted bathing you (that was not a lot a fun! you two hated baths! this has been a recurring issue but we're having fun with it now!!! to the point where Olivia keeps trying to flood the bathroom and I have to strip down to my undies or get absolutely soaked).

It took roughly a week to get your birth certificate and then another week to finalise all the paperwork with the Australian Consulate to get your emergency passports so we could come home.

Before I get onto the trip home - I thought we went through an amazing experience. We were in Mumbai for Diwali (the festival of lights) and it was amazing. The hotel invited all the guests onto the rooftop of the conference centre for their Diwali celebrations and it was a hoot! I loved it - apart from when one of the fireworks didn't light properly and pretty much exploded. We thought it was then best to leave - IN A HURRY! ;)

I was trying to upload a photo to go with the Diwali portion of this but blogger is hating me at the moment... so here's the photo -> - it's my favourite from the night :)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

i had a nice moment today...

it's weird but funny.
The background:
One of the dogs is blind (poor thing!). Miniature poodles have a genetic predisposition to going blind apparently and Penny unfortunately has gone blind. So anyway we see an eye specialist for Penny about every 6 months.

One of the doctors rang me today. She knows that we have the girls and that we had the girls through a surrogate. Her sister-in-law has friends who are quite keen to become Dads (through surrogacy) and they wanted to speak someone who has gone through the process so Chloe (the eye specialist) rang me to ask if that was ok - as in would I be happy to speak to them. Mostly and did this give me a bit of a giggle (but I can relate) they want to know what it's like raising girls as they are a little bit clueless, which to be honest we were too :)

But this made me feel a little warm & fuzzy!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

and here we were...

We moved from the house in Port Melbourne to the house in Trentham. That was planned. The intent was that we thought it would be nicer for you guys to grow up in the country (I'll revisit in this in a later post) and it seemed like we were going to have more support in the country than what we were going to have in Melbourne. It was a beautiful house and it is such a beautiful part of Australia. Your father still misses it.

We were both unemployed. This was the strange/funny/weird thing. I had planned to take a year or two off work to raise you guys before you went into childcare. The week after your father and I moved to the country I was made redundant. Your dad has some short-term contracting gigs but nothing permanent (this was both a good thing and a bad thing).

So on a Friday evening your father and I were just sitting around at home watching TV and we get a phonecall congratulating us on the birth of our twin daughters. You guys had arrived, early! 5 weeks early!

Twins generally arrive early - we knew that and we were originally planning on getting to India two weeks before we thought you would be born. And so started the frantic phonecalls to see if we could get on the next available Qantas flight to get to Mumbai. No... the next available flight was the 3rd of October which would have gotten us to Mumbai on the 5th. That to me wasn't acceptable. We felt bad enough that we had missed your birth. So a couple of more phonecalls and we were on a 12am flight to Singapore to then catch a Kingfisher flight to Mumbai. We arrived in India on the 3rd of October and went straight to the hospital.

Now the general process for surrogate births is that you are meant to check into the hospital and stay there until the babies are discharged. So your father was on the bed and I was on a fold-out couch... so, so very uncomfortable. You were both in NICU because you were such small, fragile things. You were tiny!

Ok let me backtrack for a second...
We spent the flight over finalising names (as we knew had two girls now). So that was easily done and as soon as we saw you both we knew your names fit. We were happy with that.

So back to the hospital...
Louise is the elder out of the two of you by a whole minute! She was 1.96kgs at birth. Olivia you were so very small - you were only 1.36kgs. We were constantly worried we were going to break you both!

You were both in the NICU and we weren't getting a clear answer as to how long you were likely to be there for - could have been up to 2 weeks and we weren't quite prepared to stay there for 2 weeks. So we went and checked into the Ramada in Powai... and then made the trip twice a day to the hospital until Louise was released from NICU - 3 days later. Olivia was in NICU for another couple of days....

it's funny i was selecting the two photos for this post and i was in tears remembering just how small the girls were... almost 16 months later and it seems so very hard to believe they were in fact this small!