Patrick and Jon Coyle are the proud parents to seven month old Wren, who was conceived using a donor egg and carried by Patrick’s sister Charley.
Patrick said: “When you’re having a drink people say they’ll have a baby for you but it’s just a throwaway comment. My sister Charley had mentioned it when we were talking about fostering and adoption and she said she would love to have a baby for us. We didn’t know how serious she was about it until she said it again a few weeks later. She said she wanted to finish her own family first. She had a wee boy then, Charlie, and then about a year later she had a wee girl, Cerys. We started looking into it when Cerys was one and she’ll be five now in March.”
Patrick described how they had to go to counselling first and then undergo a series of tests and cycle tracking to find the optimum time for implantation.
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“That takes about a year and a half. By then they had stopped using the egg donation clinic in Kiev that we were initially going to use. Things were put on hold until someone from the clinic phoned and asked if we wanted to talk about options,” Patrick said.
“She said you can ask people you know if they want to donate eggs or you can advertise in local papers, which I found very strange! I didn’t think that was something you could advertise. They had a nurse there who was responsible for finding egg and sperm donors so she put it in a Belfast newspaper and about a week later, someone came to donate their eggs and specified that they wanted it to go to a gay couple. Our first insemination was on July 2019 and we lost our first wee baby. In January 2020 we decided that this year was our year and then Covid happened, so everything was stopped.”
They returned to Belfast in October 2020 for another insemination but didn’t tell anyone until Christmas Eve. “Charley was three months then so we went round all the houses and told everyone.Then, we were just looking after Charley and making sure she was alright. I would come and help get the wains ready for school because her fiancé works early. I’d say we were in her house probably five or six times a week. Her wains have grown quite fond of seeing us, although sometimes they were probably dreading seeing us coming too!”
Baby Wren Coyle was carried by her auntie, Charley Mellon, using a donor egg.
Her two daddies, Patrick and Jon want to share their story to show it is possible for gay couples to have a baby.
Patrick said: “Our families are both really supportive, which is great. Not everyone has that but it makes it a whole lot easier for us. It seems like it’s a fairy-tale but that’s how it was to be honest!
“It was difficult around the hospital and going to appointments because Covid was going on and we were trying to explain to the doctors that Charley is not the parent of this child so, God forbid, if something were to happen, Charley would have had to come out of the hospital and tell us what was going on. We got in touch with the Head Midwife on the wards, Brenda McClafferty, and she was amazing. She looked at our case from start to finish and she put a pregnancy plan in place and made sure there was no issue with us going in. She wasn’t working the night Charley went into labour but she came in the next morning and heard everything with some other nurses to congratulate us. It was so lovely. “
The couple took Wren for a routine test weeks after she was born and when asked where the mammy was explained their baby was born through surrogacy but were told the mother was needed for the appointment to go ahead. They rang Charley in the corridor and the person “spoke to Charley and said, ‘I have your baby Wren here.’ And Charley told her, ‘that’s not my baby,’” they recalled.
“That was the only bad experience we had with the NHS, everything else was brilliant, especially the Head Midwife.
“We have so much admiration for Charley now. She had already been through the pain of labour and carrying a baby before but she did it again for us. Even to look at our own mothers and understand what they went through, it’s an unbelievable thing to do.”
“Wren is seven months now and she’s doing brilliant. It has been a very positive experience and everyone has taken so well to it. I never ever thought that two gay men would be able to have a baby. It probably cost us about £30,000 but it is achievable. You can save for it if it’s something that you really want. We want to tell our story so people can get a guideline and to let people know what to expect. We want to let people know that although it’s hard going, the reward is unbelievable. Seeing it all happen and watching her grow up is just amazing.”
Charley said she knew that she wanted two children.
“I had said that if everything went okay with my second, which it did, then I would be happy to have a baby for them. Jon and Patrick never mentioned me carrying for them but when Cerys was one, I sat them down and talked about getting the ball rolling. I never knew it was going to take as long as it did.”
“The thought of losing a baby never crossed my mind. I always had healthy pregnancies and it seemed great that we got pregnant first time. I was quite naive to not think about that. I had never experienced infertility. I was going through IVF, yes, but I never had the same emotions attached to it that other people did. So, it really resonated with me how those women feel who have been through it.
“Around Christmas, when we made the post online that I was having the baby, the classroom assistants in Cerys’ nursery couldn’t believe it was true. Cerys had been telling them that I was having a baby for Patrick and they thought she was mad! People thought it came out of the blue but it was a long process before that.
“Sometimes I sit back and think ‘I can’t believe that I did that.’ I went to the hospital and had Wren and I was back at the kitchen table at 5.30pm with my mammy drinking tea. It was so surreal but so lovely too. Every time I look at them I think they deserve it so much.”
Patrick, Jon and Wren’s story can be followed on Instagram at @2dadsjourney.