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'At the hospital where our son was born in Scotland, we were the second parents to start a family through surrogacy, so it was all very new. ..Try to gather as much information as you can and don’t be afraid to ask questions.'

Father. Artistic Director & Choreographer. TW: @marc_brew IG: @marcbrew @marcbrewcompany

What is the most challenging aspect of working in dance and being a parent for you?

As a freelance Director, Choreographer, Dancer and Teacher, a lot of my work is travelling away from my home base and being on tour. The most challenging aspect for me is being away from my new born child and the difficulty of not having the support needed to be able to tour or travel with my child. As a new parent, my child is 5 months old, I started working again after 3 months and there wasn’t the financial support of infrastructure in place to take my child with me on work trips. I also had to take time off work with no pay and then go back to work after 3 months because that’s all we could afford as I needed to earn money for my family. Naturally I wish I could have stayed longer at home or if it was financially viable to take my child with me while working away from home.

What support did you feel you had from work when your surrogate was pregnant?

Being self-employed, I did not receive any support and my partner being an employee did receive flexibility of work hours when needed to attend medical appointment and scans. All our focus was to support our surrogate the best way we could.

What support did you feel you had when you were on paternity leave?

As mentioned, I took my own time off for 3 months. My partner was able to get government support to take the equivalent of adoption leave for same sex couples in regards to our surrogacy which is up to a maximum of 12 months off but of course that is at a reduced rate and the last 3 months is no pay. It's already now 5 months so we are now looking at Matthew having to go back to work due to needing more financial support.

We also did receive support from the NHS having our Health Visitor come to visit. Our son was born premature so we were seen by a midwife quite quickly once we were able to leave the hospital, which was 6 days after he was born. We then had our Health Visitor come to us once a week and that turned into a monthly visit and are now waiting for our 6-month visit.

Was there anything that may not have been in place that you felt could have been useful?

I think being a same sex couple starting a family through surrogacy is still uncommon in some places. At the hospital where our son was born in Scotland, we were the second parents to start a family through surrogacy, so it was all very new. The staff and midwives were amazing but there was still some learning needing to be done. A lot of people had assumptions and perceptions and we were often told only one of us was allowed in the room with our surrogate as they assumed that our surrogate was with one of us. We had to continually explain that our pregnancy was through surrogacy and eventually we were both able to go into the room for the scans. But it was a challenge at times, so I think more information and support for people seeking to start a family through surrogacy would be helpful.

Do you think being a dancer/ working in the dance industry made you think differently about your surrogate's pregnancy/recovery?

As we started a family through surrogacy, it wasn't a traditional pregnancy as such, so in some ways we had to learn a lot to not be overbearing. All we could do was trust and support our surrogate with whatever they needed. As a dancer I was conscious of health and fitness and just wanted to provide the best support we could for our surrogate carrying our child to ensure our baby was growing healthily and would have the best start being born.

From your experience, what advice would you give to an expectant parent regarding leave?

I would say research, join family groups on social media or in your local area. We were able to join Surrogacy UK ( which was a great resource for us, so we could ask any questions in regards to surrogacy. Building your network and being as informed as you can be because every pregnancy and birth is different. Try to gather as much information as you can and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

What changed most for you on your return to work?

I didn't want to go back to work! I was so immersed in the experience that I didn't want to leave my son. I wanted to be there, I am sure every parent feels that way but then reality kicks in and we need money to survive, we didn't have access to any government support or financial aid so I had to go back to work. The first time I had to leave, I had to travel to the USA for a 2-week commission. I said goodbye to my son and partner at the airport and I just broke down in tears. It was extremely emotional, I felt like I was letting my family down, I knew I needed to go but I wanted to stay. A big change was that my priorities shifted, I've always been very focused on my work and career and now it's about my family and my son and what he needs. Naturally caring for a newborn there is also sleep deprivation so then going back to work it was hard for me to adjust to regular long working hours, trying to accomplish everything I used to do but then having to prioritise and making sure I am home and having quality time with my family.

Does parenting help you in your work?

It's definitely helped me after all these years to try to find a better balance. Even when working abroad, as I am now, I have to make time to be able to speak to my family and see my son on facetime and check in with my partner to make sure that he feels supported as much as possible while I am working away from home. Working away I am always thinking about them and worrying about them but parenting has definitely helped me in my work not only to find balance but also to prioritise what is important and to have more patience and finally to find rest/sleep when I can.

Does dance help you in your parenting?

Definitely, as a dancer with a disability I'm always trying to find solutions to obstacles in my daily life and as a disabled parent who uses a wheelchair, I'm having to adapt and find other ways to raise my child; how to pick up my child up and change his nappy. Being a dancer who is versatile and adaptable has definitely helped me as a parent to be able to do things differently that work for me and my child.

Do you know of any resources that already exist for parents who work in dance?

I was aware of parents and carers in the performing arts (PiPA) but I don't know of any resources specifically for dance or disabled parents who work in dance.

Any other thoughts?

I believe there could be more conversations and resources around parenting in dance for non-traditional forms of parenting such as with same sex couples, parents who have gone through surrogacy journeys, adoption and parents with disabilities. These would be great support groups to have.

More abour Marc

Acclaimed International Dancer and Choreographer Marc Brew trained as a professional dancer at the Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School and The Australian Ballet School. He has been working in the UK and Internationally for over 24 years as a director, choreographer, dancer, teacher and speaker; with the Australian Ballet Company, State Theatre Ballet Company of South Africa, Infinity Dance Theatre, Candoco Dance Company and AXIS Dance Company. Marc was Associate Director with Scottish Dance Theatre, Associate Artistic Director with Ballet Cymru in Wales and was Associate Artist at Tramway Theatre in Glasgow and Artistic Director of AXIS Dance Company from 2017-2021

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