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DNA Magazine – "From Disco to Dribble" by Robbie Fells

April 30, 2008 Leave a comment


The road to gay fatherhood is paved with trials and tribulations. What could possess a gay man to start his own family?

Have you ever thought about what it means to be a man? Have you ever thought about what it means to be a gay man? For many of us, that question lies quietly under the surface, not being faced.

For most, being gay means being raised in a straight world where the social norm is still to get married, have kids and have a beer with your mates – without lusting after the sexy ones. But like all gay men who are brave enough to face up to their sexuality, I had to transcend these social pressures and, as you know, that wasn’t easy.

Living your life beyond the expectations of family, friends and society is a huge hurdle. The challenge for me was how I would reconcile my need to be a dad and have my own family with the fact that this was near impossible given that I had no knowledge of any gay men having children. The essence of being a man, I believe, is an innate need to create a legacy to continue on in the world after you’re gone. The fact that two men cannot reproduce makes me wonder whether gay men are an evolved breed of human that don’t need to reproduce or whether we’re just missing a crucial factor of reproduction. Whatever the answer, I wasn’t going to miss out on the chance of being a dad.

Why? What made me so determined?

I asked my partner this question and he said, for him, there was no difference between straight men and gay men and men that want to father children are men that want to create family structures of their own because of positive experiences in their family of origin.

One of my motivations to be a father was to be a better dad than my own father. I know he did the best he could but, to me, it wasn’t great. This motivation wasn’t a good reason to go and produce a child, though.

Having my own family is a nice side effect of my need to have children, but not the core reason, as is with my partner. I realised, through the discussion, that I wanted to be a father to keep learning about myself. I constantly reflect on how I function as a person during interactions with my kids and the dynamics of my new family. These dynamics have catapulted me into a learning curve that is constantly redefining who I am. My threshold for patience, managing frustration and working with difference has changed. My understanding of how we become who we are as people is becoming deeper as I learn about how children develop. It’s an amazing journey that keeps promising new and exciting chapters.

There was a time when I wondered if I’d become a father to be validated by the straight world. I think this may have had some influence but, like trying to be a better father to my kids than my father was to me, I believe this is not a good enough reason to create another human being.

My partner and I were financially secure before kids. The decision to give up this security was an easy one to make, though. It gave me a chance to relive my childhood experiences and reflect deeply on what they were like compared to my kids’.

I now know the meaning of altruism. Your kids become your unselfish concern. Though I get so much in return, it can’t be true altruism.

If you have a question for Robbie email features@DNAmagazine.com.au.

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Categories: gay, Robbie Fells

DNA Magazine – "Make or Break" by Robbie Fells

March 31, 2008 Leave a comment


Gay Dad with Robbie Fells
The challenges of raising kids can bring you and your partner closer together or, if there are unresolved issues, drive you further apart.

My partner and I recently visited Sydney and while my mum was minding the kids for the night we started wondering… Why did we have children? Without them we could sleep in together, have sex on tap and travel to glamorous cities. Why did we give up our overseas trips, go-out-whenever-we-want lifestyle and financial security?

The answer is that we both wanted more from life. While we enjoyed our recent free time, it was bittersweet. Ask most parents and I’m sure they’ll admit to not being able to live without their kids. I just came back from a two-week stint in the US and it’s scary how much I missed my family. I found myself in tears just looking at their photo. They become part of you and you miss them like crazy when separated.

How did my partner and I traverse the journey from kid-free and fun loving to doting dads? Firstly, we both wanted children equally. If one of us was female we’d probably have had four kids by now. I really doubt that being parents together will work if one person in the relationship is only partly committed. Put simply, you won’t get through the tough times. And there are many.

Imagine this: your new baby has woken up three times during the night, you’ve had one to two hours sleep and the baby wakes up yet again. Your partner has to go to work tomorrow so you have to get up again while every cell in your body screams, “No! Just go to sleep!”

What about differences of opinion? I want my children to go to a public school but my partner prefers private. My partner and I have more mundane arguments about what’s good for our kids, too. One thinks the child needs to sleep, the other thinks he’ll be okay, etc.

All this means that we’ve lost the spontaneity in our lives. Going out for dinner or popping out to a café now requires planning. Accepting invitations to parties becomes a serious logistical business if you have a child who needs to go to bed early every night and who needs food, milk and sterilised bottles at regular times. All this can cause more tension in a relationship than you might expect.

How are these difficulties navigated? Firstly, it’s a great idea to accept that conflict is okay. Ignoring or avoiding conflict is a relationship killer. Not discussing how you feel and bottling up tension is dangerous. My partner and I have learned to live with difference and to compromise.

You’re not always going to get your own way. Preparing yourself for managing and rethinking your own needs is part of this process. Sometimes the other parent knows better and you simply have to defer to them.

No matter what, you have to work as a team – one organises bottles and the other organises drop-off at day care. You should change things around, too. If one person gets to sleep in for a day or two, it should be reciprocated. You have to keep an eye out for your partner and make sure that you’re both getting a fair deal.

Children magnify any relationship gaps you may have and you have to deal with those gaps in productive ways. It’s worth discussing how you intend to parent your children early. Start the conversations between you and your partner well before the baby arrives. Consider discussing parenting with a specialist.

For my partner and I, becoming parents has only enriched our relationship. When I see him unselfishly giving to our kids it only makes me love him more.

If you have a question for Robbie send it to features@DNAmagazine.com.au.

Categories: gay, Robbie Fells

DNA Magazine – "Immediate Family" by Robbie Fells


Surrogacy is one option towards fatherhood for gay couples, but finding the right mum can be complicated.

I refer to our surrogacy journey as finding two angels. The first was our surro-mum, the second was our baby, who was born last October.

I still remember our first phone hook-up. We were in Melbourne, our surro-mum was in Ohio. We were extremely excited and had prepared our questions thoroughly. The biggest question was whether this woman would give us our baby after the delivery. I’d seen the Glenn Close film [Immediate Family] where the surrogate couldn’t give up the child and the heartache it caused. We did not want to go through this.

Picking your surrogate or being matched with the right surrogate is crucial. We were lucky, but, somewhere in my heart, I couldn’t help but wonder whether she was really going to give up this being who had grown inside of her for nine months. Gay or not, when you go through this process you can’t help but wonder whether or not you’ll get your child.

We paid a hefty price to find our surrogate, going through one of a few agencies in the US that specialise in surrogacy for gay men and women – and they are expensive middlemen. Without them, however, we would not have met our surro-mum. Whether we needed to spend an extra $60,000 or so for this privilege, I’m not sure. However, for anyone that is at the start of his or her surrogacy journey, the fear that you may not get your child at the end makes you willing to pay anything for some guarantee.

The process is lengthy and requires a lot of stamina with paperwork, legal hurdles, agency hiccups, the surrogate and the egg-donor. You have to get two women’s reproductive cycles to line up, the right amount of embryos created and the right conditions for pregnancy. Then, if you get pregnant, you must have the right conditions to keep the pregnancy. And that’s just step A.

Beyond Step A, you must organise the necessary insurance, accommodation, flights, hospitals, mountains of legal work and administration with the agency. The agency makes the process easier but, like anything in life, it helps to know a little about what you are signing up for. Knowing what I know now about surrogacy, I reckon we could have had three kids for the price we spent on our first! Your biggest hurdle is finding your surrogate. The rest is easy by comparison. If you can trust the surro-mum then 90 per cent of the work is done.

It’s almost three years since that wonderful hook-up and we’ve had one child and hope to have another sometime this year. Our surrogate is not just a surrogate. She is the mother of our second child and we regularly meet up and will hopefully continue to do so in the future. We hope to see each other at least once a year face-to-face. We talk over the phone and email each other regularly. She is an amazing woman who breastfed, loved and cared for our child then gave him to us. She was upset at letting him go in the beginning so she came to Australia a few weeks after we left. We also flew her and her family to Australia during the pregnancy. Her family is an extension of our family. Her kids will spend time with us in the future and our children will spend time with her family. Our family is a little unusual but I suppose this whole process is, too.

Last November my partner and I secured parenting orders by consent, which recognises us both as legal parents of our son, regardless of his biological beginnings. This was a landmark decision in Australia and an extremely positive sign for gay parents everywhere.

[Link: Original Article]

Categories: gay, Robbie Fells

DNA Magazine – "Deserving Dads" by Robbie Fells

February 1, 2008 Leave a comment

Don’t let the excitement of becoming a father cloud your vision and enter an arrangement you might regret.

You’ve recently met your co-parent mum. She’s a single lesbian and you say to yourself, “Our kids would look gorgeous. We share similar views about parenting, neither of us believe in private schooling and we’ll work out the rest… I’m going to be a dad!”
Well, I did become a father and have an amazing three-and-half-year-old son that my partner and I parent five days a fortnight and during the school holidays. The rest of the time he spends with his mum and I pay child support just like any separated couple. But five years on, the person my partner and I had our child with is still a stranger.

Not everyone’s co-parenting experience has to be rocky, though. I’ve come across a range of co-parenting situations, some that work well and others that don’t. So what are the ingredients for success?

1. Think about the level of involvement you want raising your child. Be honest with yourself and be clear about this with the co-parent.

2. Do you expect to make decisions about the child’s welfare with the mother? Do you share decision making with your partner as well? What about the birth mum’s partner?

3. Are you matched in your views on raising children?

4. How do you relate to one another? Are you friends? Do you avoid conflict or deal with conflict together?

A lot of co-parent dads accept what they think they deserve rather than what they want. What a lot of gay fathers think they deserve is grounded in religious guilt, societal attitudes about homosexuality and a belief that gay people aren’t supposed to have children anyway, which can lead to an “I’ll take what I can get” mind-set. This is counterproductive. Remember that you have the ability and the right to be a great father.

The best co-parenting arrangements I’ve seen are those where the dad/s have limited involvement during the infancy and the mum/s determine when time with Dad occurs. The most common contact in the early years is visiting the child at mum/s house with overnight visits occurring once the child is around school age. If this does not meet your expectations then it’s helpful to discuss this with the mum/s. Don’t tiptoe around your needs.

Most arrangements I’ve seen have had changes to original agreements at some point. If you don’t have the ability to resolve conflict then you may feel compromised as a result of expectations not being met, so it’s important to find a match that meets your expectations.
While difference is great, there are some fundamental issues that need to be the same. For example, if your co-parent does not want the child immunised and you do that’s a recipe for disaster.

If there is unresolvable conflict you need to identify it before entering into the relationship and find a more suitable match. However, you still need to be able to bounce back from conflict. As in all relationships, regardless of how long you’ve known the co-parent, conflicts still arise. You need to be able to discuss these rationally and constructively, keeping in mind what is best for your child.

Your dreams do come true when you see your child for the first time. I believe it takes a village to raise a child, not just one or two people, so co-parenting can be an ideal situation.

Just remember not to rush in to being a father. The excitement of the possibility is intoxicating and can lead to poorly thought-out decisions, which can have dire consequences. Think about what’s best for yourself, your partner, the co-parents and especially your child so you can make the reality of fatherhood an amazing, rewarding experience.

[Link: Original Article]