Parents to be | 

Brian Dowling and Arthur Gourounlian reveal surrogacy struggles ahead of baby's arrival

In the wake of their Instagram pregnancy announcement, they were flooded with well-wishers but there was also a small but disturbing number of “homophobic-fuelled hate”.

Brian Dowling and husband Arthur Gourounlian (right); and Hayley Cunningham from Boomerang Youth Cafe in Drogheda at the launch of the Coca-Cola Thank You Fund

Lynne Kelleher

As part of Arthur Gourounlian’s preparation for the arrival of his first baby with partner Brian Dowling in their Kildare home, he is musing over taking up a GAA sport.

Half a million people viewed their emotional pregnancy announcement on Instagram with the popular couple later revealing that Brian’s younger sister, Aoife, is carrying their baby as a surrogate.

The Dancing With The Stars judge has thrown himself enthusiastically into life in Kildare — and impending parenthood in September — since the couple settled down near Brian’s childhood home.

“When I came here, I was like, I’m married to an Irish guy. I want to be myself, but also follow the Irish culture”, said the renowned choreographer, who learned to immerse himself in new cultures from a young age from his experience as a refugee fleeing war in Armenia.

“It’s funny, I went to see my niece, they were playing GAA, I’m calling it Gaa.

“I was like, as a dad to be very soon I might actually start doing the GAA. Why not? it’s a good sport, going to keep me fit.”

“Ah God, don’t do that!”, laughs his Irish husband adding that Arthur can’t believe GAA stars aren’t paid the same wages as soccer professionals.

Arthur, 41, and Brian, 43, took to social media to share the exciting news

With the impending birth of their first child in September, their roles as advocates for the 2022 Coca-Cola Thank You Fund which hands out grants totalling €100,000 now available for non-profit organisations to empower young people is timely.

As the eldest of seven, and the only boy with six younger sisters, Brian knew he wanted to return home to have a family when they got married in 2015.

“I have such a support system here with my family and my sisters.”

He never imagined Arthur — who has shared the stage with likes of Beyoncé and the Spice Girls — would be anything but welcome in Kildare, but he has been heartened by the way his flamboyant husband has been so fully embraced especially with his newfound fame on Dancing With The Stars.

In the wake of their Instagram pregnancy announcement, they were flooded with well-wishers but there was also a small but disturbing number of “homophobic-fuelled hate”.

“Before people realized it was a domestic surrogacy and it was Aoife, people just jumped on this bandwagon of, you know, the abuse of women and women being forced into pregnancy and, you know, the hire of a womb and white privilege”, said Brian.

But the popular TV presenter said the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive.

“We live our lives transparently on Instagram, so we’re happy to do that. We’re also happy for people to see a different version of what they see as a family.”

But some of their story is “very personal and very private” with the TV presenter receiving DMs and Instagram messages asking about the identity of the biological father of their baby.

“I think that’d be up to Arthur and I, if we want to disclose that, it’s strange because I don’t see the relevance.”

“Both of us are fathers. There is no one dad, two dads”, adds Arthur.

They are currently revelling in the joy of sharing the pregnancy with Brian’s younger sister, who approached the couple around 2019 to suggest that she carry their baby.

“Aoife has been living with us. I’m able to rub stuff on her legs, I’m able to bring her shopping, I had a massage yesterday with her.

“We’re able to treat her to a blow-dry to save her washing her hair in the shower.

“I didn’t want to feel like we’re missing out on the pregnancy. Thankfully she’s not been sick but when baby moves or kicks, we’re able to be there with her and share those moments.”

In the beginning, they had fears about the legalities and the complications of getting maternity care, but they have all been relieved by Irish legal and medical professionals despite the ongoing and slow-going government process of legislation for surrogacy.

With hundreds of thousands of followers on social media and their public profile, the couple want to be advocates for new laws on surrogacy to allow parents like them to have both names on their child’s birth certificate and equal parental rights.

They are also the public face of domestic pregnancy which may inspire more relatives or friends to carry a child for their loved ones.

“We have gotten messages from family members who didn’t even know they can help their families”, said Arthur, “It’s amazing people would do that because of our story.”

Brian Dowling and Arthur Gourounlian were speaking at the launch of the 2022 Coca-Cola Thank You Fund. With a grant share of €100K once again available to non-profit groups across the Island of Ireland.

  • Coca-Cola Thank You Fund ambassadors Brian and Arthur are encouraging youth oriented groups committed to developing the next generation of change champions to apply for funding before 20th July. For more information, check out

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