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Family

Tāmati Coffey and husband Tim Smith introduce their baby boy and open up about parenthood

The doting dads share what life is like with wee Tūtānekai.

By Julie Jacobson
When the Weekly walks into the cosy home of weatherman-turned-MP Tāmati Coffey and his husband Tim Smith, it's immediately clear just who's running the show.
At six months old, wee Tūtānekai Smith-Coffey already has his dads – and some of the nation's top politicians – wrapped around his little finger.
Sitting in his beloved Jolly Jumper as he intently gazes at all of these new people in his house, Tūtānekai is happy as Larry as his fathers chat to us – and it's very obvious this little man is the centre of their world.
As he shows off an adorable video of his son bouncing around in his jumper to Destiny's Child, Tāmati tells of the pair's journey to fatherhood, admitting it's been a huge adjustment for them both.
"It really does feel like growing up," he says.
"We are suddenly responsible for this other life, a little person who needs us... and we look at him and go, 'Can you believe he's ours?'
"Six months ago he wasn't there, now he's here and he's looking at me and he wants to play or he's hungry. It's this whole new world of parenting that we've suddenly become inducted into that, previously, we knew nothing about."
It's fair to say Tūtānekai's introduction to the world hasn't been typical – he's already made headlines around the world after being photographed in Parliament's debating chamber last year as Speaker of the House Trevor Mallard gave him his bottle.
Born in the early hours of July 10, the bright-eyed cutie has since spent numerous hours in the parliamentary precinct, charming MPs and staff alike.
Tells doting dad Tāmati, whose office becomes a home-away-from-home nursery on sitting days,
"Tim and baby come down to Wellington and Tim camps out here while baby sleeps on the couch. It's really nice that we have a family-friendly environment. And that's been led from the top – the boss kind of dictated that it's an okay thing to do," he laughs, referring to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (39), whose one-year-old Neve is also a regular around the precinct.
Tim and Tāmati have recently celebrated the eighth anniversary of their civil union – which the Weekly was invited to in 2011.
The pair decided back then they wouldn't wait around to see if the Marriage Amendment Bill would be successful – they wanted to commit to each other and celebrate their love with friends and family.
"Tim and I had a talk about it and we both thought, 'You know, we might die tomorrow, let's do what we can now!'"
Given that the bill has been successful, the pair can apply for an "upgrade" to become officially married, which they intend to do when their "kids are old enough to remember the occasion".
Tim and Tāmati recently celebrated the eighth anniversary of their civil union.
But for now, the pair have a lot on their plates!
When Tim (40) and Tūtānekai are not in Wellington, the trio stay in touch by phone, so there's been negligible working parent guilt, says Tāmati.
"This morning when I left home I gave Tim and baby a kiss and said, 'See you later', knowing I probably wouldn't see them for four days. But we talk on the phone every day and there's video calling, so I still feel like I'm part of the journey, as opposed to the dad who just pops in and out."
Tūtānekai, whose namesake features in one of Te Arawa's most famous love stories, was carried by a surrogate, Natasha Dalziel (31), who the couple knew of through common friends.
Another woman, Danae Bernard, agreed to be the couple's egg donor, with Tim and Tāmati fertilising seven eggs each.
Tāmati (40) knows the process well, having previously helped another couple conceive.
"It's kind of like a hotel where you check in and once you've checked in, you're in the fold. A lesbian couple asked for help, and I put my hand up. So yes, I have another biological child. I did it knowing I was giving them the gift of having a family. And probably in there as well, I was espousing my values that one day someone would look after us in that same vein."
Tūtānekai Smith-Coffey, born July 10, 2019
Publicly-funded IVF isn't available to gay men in New Zealand, so the pair had to jump through innumerable hoops to kick-start the process and, by the end, had spent close to $50,000.
Finding a surrogate (by law they are not allowed to be paid) was a challenge.
They first approached a fertility clinic years ago, but were scared off by "how big it seemed", Tāmati confides. His Improving Arrangements For Surrogacy Bill aims to make the process easier.
"It's about ensuring couples aren't having to go through what we went through… It's a huge thing for a woman to give over her body and then a child. Part of the changes I want in my Bill is a surrogacy register, so you don't have to go around Facebook chatrooms, or cap in hand to everyone you know asking whether they'd be prepared to be a surrogate."
As if having a baby by surrogate wasn't upheaval enough, the family has also recently moved into a gorgeous new home just a stone's throw from Lake Rotorua.
And they've also just celebrated the formal adoption of wee Tūtānekai - another hurdle Tāmati hopes his Bill will address.
Yes, much like fellow TVNZ alum Toni Street (36), who had her third child Lachlan via a surrogate, Tāmati and Tim have had to legally
adopt their own baby.
"Tūtānekai is Tim's biological son, yet we've had to go through this process of Tim adopting him. It's crazy. We're not bringing a 'foreign' child into our family. This baby is actually ours!"
Still, despite all the obstacles the two dads love being parents, with Tāmati describing the trio as "quite chilled".
There have been a few lifestyle adjustments, of course, with Tim taking on the role of full-time dad, as well as managing the admin side of the pair's restaurant business.
He's also usually the one who gets up for the midnight feed, principally because Tūtānekai's cot is on his side of the bed. However, Tāmati will often pick up the early morning shift to give his husband a lie-in.
Their new home, where they spent a very special first Christmas, is close by to Tāmati marae, Owhata.
The move was prompted by the couple's wish that Tūtānekai grow up knowing his tūrangawaewae.
"The whare at the marae is called Tūtānekai. It seemed right for him to grow up next to the meeting house that bears his name and learn about our tribe," Tāmati explains, adding that the "aunties and nannies adore baby and swipe him off us the second we walk in."
He adds, "I've always bought into the idea that it takes a village to raise a child, and if that's the case, you need to share him with the village. We've bought him into the world but we are also part of this wider network of people and they are part of his world too."
The couple announced their son's birth with the hashtag #modernfamilies.
They admit it's been a sometimes stressful journey, but wouldn't change a thing.
"Would I recommend fatherhood?" muses Tāmati.
"Definitely! But I know there are plenty of couples that can't have kids and I often think of them and about how much of a gift it's been for me.
"I think about my friends who are gay male couples that have never been able to experience fatherhood. I think about people who have fertility problems. But bloody hell, now that we're here, we wouldn't give it up for anything. Everything we've been through – doctors, counselling, ethics committee, adoption agencies – who cares?
"We've got this little bundle of joy looking back at us!"

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