Fashion designer Jayson Brunsdon and his partner, Aaron Elias, built the Jayson Brunsdon fashion label into one of the most recognised in Australia. In 2015 they became parents via surrogacy in Thailand but faced a devastating setback when the country stopped surrogacy in the wake of the Baby Gammy case and the IVF clinic they were using was closed. The couple open up to me about the struggles they faced, Elias’ motivation for writing his new book, Designer Baby: A Surrogacy Journey from Fashion to Fatherhood, and Brunsdon’s fashion plans.
What inspired you to write your book?
Aaron: [Roman] was the biggest inspiration. It is about love. So it is about love for him, our love, when we first met, and it’s about our careers and fashion. It’s about … our journey into parenthood and what went on [in Thailand] and how we managed to bring him home.
What were the biggest issues you faced in your surrogacy journey?
Aaron: Surrogacy issues here are hugely controversial, so the law hasn’t really changed much over the years … We used an altruistic surrogacy because my cousin donated her eggs to us, so we had to actually bring her to Thailand … to start the process there.
Jayson: She had to inject herself daily and it’s about three weeks to get it done because she didn’t have enough eggs and it just kept going on and on and on … [Later] I turn on the television one morning and I saw this whole Baby Gammy story and they said the Thai government … have illegalised the whole IVF.
How did that make you feel?
Jayson: I didn’t even know what to do … I couldn’t contact him until the night, so I sat there all day on my own just thinking, “Oh my God, we’re not going to be able to get him out. What’s going on?” … [Later] we were very panicked.
What was that moment like when you finally got to bring him home?
Jayson: It was pure joy … There was a lot of bureaucratic stuff you have to go through.
Was the journey home how you expected it to be?
Aaron: No, we were almost arrested at the [Thai] airport. The embassy told us that we would have no problems whatsoever and that we just needed the exit permit … We got to the airport and we were fine; Qantas had organised a chaperone to take us right through … And then it all just started – [Customs] started making really horrible jokes about us, about our sexuality.
Jayson: As we walked towards immigration, all the officers came around towards us and that is where we were detained [for nearly three hours].
Aaron: They said they wanted the surrogate mother there and started screaming at us …
Jayson: They were accusing us of human trafficking … I thought I was going to go to jail … Finally the Australian Embassy [assisted us] and they were fantastic.
What were your objectives for the message of your book?
Aaron: I think it is a very imperative conversation that needs to take place in Australia because, not just about surrogacy itself, but also about gay marriages, equality, all of that. [We have been] together for 18 years … We want to paint a picture that we are not villains, we’re normal people … and we shouldn’t be treated like second-class citizens.
Jayson: We think surrogacy needs to be seriously looked at.
What do you hope has changed in the world when Roman grows up?
Aaron: I really want him to be able to live in a country that his parents could get married and let it be a happy environment and to help people – childless couples and parents that have been going through the strains of motherhood and pregnancy.
How are you going to explain things to him?
Jayson: We’ll just explain it completely the way it was. We already have. We’ve started because his mother lives here, she lives in Bondi and we see a lot of her and her children, and he plays with his siblings all the time. He is really close to them.
How has parenthood changed you?
Jayson: Completely. I think it brings out the best. It brings out a better version of yourself.
Do you guys have plans to have more children?
Aaron: No. We get asked this question every day of our lives. But initially it was about having another one at least, so that Roman could have a brother or a sister, but I think we’ve been so blessed, blessed with Rebecca, blessed with her children.
How is everything going fashion-wise?
Jayson: I’ve kind of just stepped away from it quite a bit. I found it really hard to try and concentrate on both because … when you fashion design it’s like a six-day-a-week job and it’s 24/7 … I knew that at my age, the time was precious and I really wanted to experience as much of it as possible. So I stepped back a bit from it … I’ve started painting again … That’s how I started 30 years ago – I was a fashion illustrator … I’m going to turn that into a bit of business.
What has been your biggest career highlight?
Jayson: I guess showing in New York fashion week, the first time. That was fantastic.
You’ve had so many celebrities wear your clothes. Who stands out in your mind?
Jayson: Princess Mary [of Denmark] … There is something about royalty that seems to transcend celebrity somehow … She is so fabulous.
Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
Jayson: I see myself painting more, just looking after Roman, he will be six by then.
Aaron: I see ourselves in a Spanish villa!
Have you always been passionate about writing?
Aaron: Always … but I never really thought that I was going to write a book. It was always the intention to write a journal for Roman and I wanted him to see the whole thing when he was old enough to read it. I wanted all the facts in there, every single detail that happened, just in case if I’m not around or something happens to us … I was fortunate to have it published and … we never expected it, but it’s happening.
We went to Reuben Hills, Surry Hills
We ate French toast with bacon crumb, charred banana, bacon custard, basil black pepper gel & berries and sourdough with jam
We drank a cappuccino, soy latte and flat white
Jayson wore UNIQLO and Aaron wore H&M.
Kate wore a Trenery shirt.
Designer Baby: A Surrogacy Journey from Fashion to Fatherhood is now available on the shelves.