The self-styled real dads of Melbourne share more than a love of reality TV and an Instagram account. Here is their story of becoming – and being – a family of three.
On their first date 16 years ago, Jarrad and Michael Duggan-Tierney talked about how they both wanted to become parents. Today, they live together in the suburbs of Melbourne, documenting their life with their six-year-old son Reid each day via their Instagram account (which now boasts over 35,000 followers) – and steadily disrupting the typical family stereotype, one adorable photo after another.
What inspired your Instagram account?
Originally, we started it to keep in touch with our interstate family, so they could see our daily activities (it was better than texting). The name ‘The Real Dads of Melbourne’ is of no reference to us being ‘Real Dads’, we’re just trying to navigate parenthood like any other parent, and it comes from the love we have for The Real Housewives TV series.
When we decided that international surrogacy was going to be the best option for us, we researched a number of agencies throughout the world.
What led you to have a child via surrogacy?
We have been together for 16 years, and from our very first date we discussed our yearning to one day be parents. Although it seemed like an untouchable dream back then, we still pinch ourselves that our wildest dream came true.
Tell us how you chose a surrogacy agency.
When we decided that international surrogacy was going to be the best option for us, we researched a number of agencies throughout the world. Race or skin colour wasn’t a factor for us – we would have adopted a purple baby with pink spots if adoption wasn’t so difficult! We fell in love with India on our first trip, it’s a fascinating country, the people are wonderful, we knew it was right.
We are very open and transparent about how Reid was brought into the world with love and with the help of some special people.
We had a shortlist of three agencies in India. We emailed and Skyped them nearly every day. We had hundreds of questions – this was a big deal, we needed to be 100 per cent sure that we were engaging an agency that cared for us, and more importantly, our surrogate. One agency in particular was very personable, honest and patient with us. They took the time to answer all of our silly questions (and the legal ones), they shone above the others. Naturally that is the agency we ended up using, however, being the cautious people we are, we spent a further 12 months talking to them whilst we built a relationship and gained the trust and confidence we needed.
How did you decide who the egg donor and surrogate should be?
We based our choices for egg donors on medical background. It was such a surreal feeling looking at photos and reading profiles of people who would ultimately be genetically part of our child. The egg donor we chose was born on one of our birthdays – that’s got to be a good omen, right? After that, the journey to IVF happened quite fast. It was only a matter of weeks before we flew to Mumbai to meet the wonderful lady who would give birth to our child. Our surrogate was university educated, a mother of two boys. Her reasons for doing this were to help us and give her children the best education she could afford. We remember fondly meeting her for the first time at the Hiranandani Hospital cafe – she ordered a latte, which was so Melbourne!
What have you told Reid about his birth and where he’s from?
We are very open and transparent about how Reid was brought into the world with love and with the help of some special people. We have a photo up in our home of his amazing surrogate and doctors. The older Reid gets, the more he understands IVF and surrogacy. It has always been ‘normal’ to him. One of us is the biological father, but we believe it’s Reid’s right to be the first to know, when and if he wants to know this. So, to avoid the obvious and have one surname on Reid’s birth certificate, in 2009 we signed the Victorian Same Sex Registry (as close as we can come to getting married in Australia), and we hyphenated our surname to mark the occasion. When Reid was born, we all proudly shared the same surname.