Every morning when my nearly two-year-old boy wakes up he goes though a list of everyone in his life that is important to him. “Amy?” he’ll ask and I’ll say, “She’s still in bed sleeping.” She’s the homestay student who has stolen his heart. “Butch? Emma?” “They’re outside — we’ll let them in!” They’re our puppies. Then without doubt will come “Gunkle?” Yes, Gunkle. He’s a whole other story!
Gunkle (our joke — stands for Gay Uncle) is one of my best friends, and I probably have my son to thank for that. He’s a gay guy I met when I was busy being a crazy lesbian stand-up comedian. We’d only known each other a few months when I decided to go exploring men. He stuck by me. Then the shock — like some middle-aged Juno, I’d gone and got myself knocked up the first time I’d had sex without a condom.
The pregnancy wasn’t planned, and I wasn’t aiming to be “some sperm stealin’ dyke” like some had only half-jokingly claimed. I had just got carried away with lust. The father didn’t want to know anything about it, but I thought it sublimely ridiculous that after two long-term lesbian relationships had ended just before children (one ended four days before IVF) that maybe this was meant to be. My child was finally demanding to enter the world.
I didn’t expect someone I had just met to become involved, when even the biological father wanted nothing to do with us! But Gunkle started turning up with nappies and chocolate for me while I was pregnant. Ridiculous sequinned onesies and fake leather pants for babies. Tattooed dolls to play with for the bub-to-be, who he would refer to as either Coco or Magnus, depending on if he thought girl or boy that particular day.
It seemed natural then to invite him to the twenty week ultrasound to find out. From there it wasn’t a big step to ask him to the parenting and birth classes where he insisted on signing in as Roger for the fun of it. Every time the teacher called his name out we’d both fall about in hysterics.
As birth day approached I decided to ask him along as birth partner. And Gunkle, who’d never seen a naked woman, endured a 58 hour labour with me every second of the way (although there were times I later learned when he’d needed to have a bit of a lie down and a Bex to cope with it all). Thus he was the first person to hold my son other than me, and even cut the cord. Afterwards when I was in the shower, too exhausted to stand, blood still pouring out, he dressed me and helped me into a wheelchair.
I get nights out to date while the boys do what boys do. Dance, eat gourmet sandwiches for lunch, and have tickle fights, I’m guessing.
Those few weeks after birth he cooked and cleaned, shopped, and changed nappies. Even if it took him an hour or more in peak hour traffic to reach my house. As time went by and sleep deprivation took a toll he did overnights with bottles of expressed milk while I collapsed sobbing in other parts of the house wondering how on earth I’d manage to raise a child alone.
Now… two years down the track, my son goes on coffee dates with Gunkle and his gaggle of other gay boys in the coolest streets in town. We get invited to beachside retreats. I get nights out to date while the boys do what boys do. Dance, eat gourmet sandwiches for lunch, and have tickle fights, I’m guessing. We go to roller derby in rainbow colours and for Pride we had a onesie made that says “My Gunkle is single.”
Of course I’m scared. Especially now my son calls him by name. What if Gunkle moves countries? Disappears for good from our lives? Settles down in a relationship with no time for a single mama and her kid?
But as everyone knows, blood ties are no guarantee of family or commitment either and so I can only be eternally grateful that at the time of my greatest need in life, the universe delivered me a red-haired, freckled, go-go dancing guy with fabulous hair and blue sparkly sneakers to love me and my boy.