If you’re a child of the 90’s, you’ll no doubt know Ian ‘H’ Watkins as one fifth of the iconic pop group Steps. Whether we were dancing to 5,6,7,8 or kareokeing along to Tragedy, the band’s songs were the soundtrack to many of our youths and lately, they’ve made a comeback in the charts. But alongside his musical achievements, H is father to his “perfectly imperfect little monsters” – twins conceived via a surrogate. He sat down with Gi to chat about his 15 year journey to fatherhood and the bumps he encountered along the way, and since with refreshing honesty and gorgeous enthusiasm.
For H, growing up as a gay man, he didn’t see many gay role models, let alone gay Dads, so he never felt there was anyone he could look up to in that respect. When he began exploring parenthood, he initially looked into adoption when this was very new for same-sex parents and found the experience to be quite homophobic. Eventually, he settled on the long-haul process of surrogacy – but there were very few examples of same sex parents within that community: “The only reference when I started to research was David [Furnish] and Elton [John]. They were the only gay parents that I knew of. After a long road we actually worked with the same team that Elton and David worked with and then after many many years of failed attempts, we ended up with twins.”
The twins were born in California. Having decided to pursue surrogacy in the USA due to the laws meaning he would be considered parent to the baby from 3 months in the womb. The day he arrived for a 2 week holiday when his surrogate was 38 weeks pregnant, he awoke at 3am to someone banging on the door, telling him his “wife” was in labour. “Then it was literally like a Hollywood movie. I was dressing frantically, headed out the door, tried to get a cab, the cab took me to the wrong hospital. I bombed it back out of the hospital, got another cab got to the right hospital. Walked into reception, they beeped me through security, I walked into a robe, into a room – and my children were born.”
Not long after the twins were born, H’s family situation changed and he found himself facing night feeds, dream feeds and everything else that comes with the early days of parenthood alone: “The family dynamic pretty much changed straight away but it’s hard to deal and accept anything like that because you’re in the middle of a tornado and you don’t have time to grieve or you don’t have time to reflect on the loss you just have to deal with the now – so I threw myself into my children.” But on fatherhood, he says “I never knew what true love was before. I never knew that i could love so deeply with every fibre of my being”.
Listen to H talk about Pride, living in Wales, being on stage with his kids, visibility and representation and the difference between being on your own and being alone in the YouTube video below below, or listen to the episode wherever you usually find your podcasts. We’re in all of the regular places! Check out all other episodes of Happy Mum Happy Baby here.