WHEN Jayson Brunsdon learnt he had to muster the strength to fight cancer as his fashion empire crumbled around him, he was at breaking point.
Luckily for him and husband Aaron, a saviour was on the way — in the form of a beautiful brown-eyed angel — their son, Roman.
In a heartfelt interview with Wentworth Courier ahead of the March 30 launch of their book, Designer Baby, the couple shared their tumultuous journey to bring Roman home to Australia after he was born to a surrogate in Thailand.
Watching their faces light up as the now two-year-old Roman gleefully dives under a mountain of pillows on the couch at their Elizabeth Bay apartment, it is easy to see why they describe him as “the light at the end of the tunnel” after what they have been through.
And the couple has held nothing back in telling their amazing story of survival, hope and determination in the face of unbelievable adversity.
Their world came crashing down in 2008 when the global financial crisis delivered a devastating blow to their Jayson Brunsdon label, a darling of the fashion world, worn by Crown Princess Mary of Denmark and Jennifer Hawkins.
“Most of our business was international, in America and England … and we lost all that business overnight,” said Jayson, 52.
“It was around the same time that I was diagnosed with (testicular) cancer.”
He faced a three-year battle, including four months of intense chemotherapy, after surgery had failed to stop the disease spreading.
“It’s very difficult to be creative when you can barely get out of bed and you’re deliriously ill and you feel like you’re dying,” he said.
“It was a really hard time and it went on for a long time so we had to downsize and we had to get rid of our stores.”
Aaron, 44, said the cancer made it impossible to keep the business afloat.
“Jayson was the creator of the brand but my time had to be devoted to his care as well and so … everything started to suffer and it kept going down and down until we reached rock-bottom,” he said.
“It was the GFC, it was the cancer, it was everything and one day we woke up and lost everything, we lost the entire business.”
Rather than give up, Jayson fought the cancer and won — a process which caused him to reflect on his life to the point where he questioned whether he even wanted to be part of the fashion world.
“Cancer was life-changing because after you’ve been through it, you just can’t deal with ******* and there’s so much of it in the fashion world, it kind of revolves around it and I thought; ‘I don’t know if I can do this any more’,” Jayson said.
“But what else was I going to do? We had the business and … when we downsized, I could kind of get away from it all.”
The couple has since rebuilt the business and the Jayson Brunsdon black label is in 40 Myer stores.
When Jayson went into remission, the couple of 18 years could finally pursue their dream of having a family together.
“We had wanted it for a long time but (the cancer) meant we had to put the whole thing on hold,” Jayson said.
“At that time we started to realise there was a lot more to life than working seven days a week and struggling every day,” Aaron said.
“We wanted something more and I think one of the most important things in our lives was having a family.”
After doing a mountain of research, the couple began eight months of preparation work with the All IVF Center in Bangkok and they were matched with their Thai surrogate ****.
They were over the moon when she fell pregnant with Roman, using Aaron’s cousin Rebecca’s egg, donated altruistically, and Jayson’s *****.
But their excitement turned to panic when the Thai Government announced it was going to outlaw surrogacy in the wake of the Baby Gammy scandal, when an Australian couple left their son with his surrogate mother because he had Down syndrome.
The couple was told the chances of bringing Roman home were “almost impossible”.
“At the time, it was the worst news any parent could face — we were five-and-a-half months pregnant and at that point we knew there was going to be a fight and we just didn’t know how long the fight was going to be,” Aaron said.
“It was one of the most tumultuous times in our lives because we had gone through so much to get to this point and we’d had so many challenges.
“When we finally got pregnant, we thought there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
“And then for the bombshell to drop on us to say that ‘you can’t bring him home’, that was the most frightening thing that had ever happened to us.”
In the wake of Gammy, the Thai Government ordered an audit into IVF clinics.
This led to the forced closure of the All IVF Center after authorities allegedly discovered links to the human trafficking of surrogate babies.
The fate of about 50 Australian couples — including the Brunsdons — was thrown into limbo.
After much political wrangling, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop arranged a pact with the Thai Government who agreed to grant a grace period for pregnancies already in progress.
Jayson finds it difficult to articulate the relief he felt.
“It was just sheer joy, it was like, ‘thank God’, it’s difficult to describe really because it’s about our child and if you can’t get him home, you don’t know what to do,” he said.
“When it was all clear, we were just ecstatic and we could get on with living again. We were just on hold, we were holding our breaths.”
But they were not out of the woods yet.
Despite being assured they would have not issues leaving Thailand after Roman was born on January 5, 2015, they were detained at the airport for human trafficking.
“Initially they said, ‘we are not going to let you go until we see the surrogate mother’ and they asked us all these questions and they were screaming at us,” said Aaron.
“It was awful, we were so terrified.”
Eventually they were allowed on the plane — Roman had an Australian passport and Jayson’s name was on the birth certificate.
Jayson has spoken out for the first time in response to accusations that he saw Roman as a commodity akin to a buying a fashion accessory.
“That’s kind of pathetic really. Who has a child so they can have them as an accessory that they can dress up?” Jayson said.
“I just think it’s just really bigoted, discriminatory, really ill-informed and it’s unacceptable.
“Some people are just really ignorant people and they don’t understand that when you’re gay, you’re born gay. It’s like being born black … you can’t help it.
“So if you want to have a child, why shouldn’t you have a child?
“If we got him as just an accessory, we would have been over him by now wouldn’t we?
“It’s part of the joy of being a new parent, to buy the cot and decorate the bedroom and all that kind of stuff.”
Jayson said Roman had “enriched” their lives.
“He makes us so much more responsible, patient, caring and loving and we are very lucky because he is just a gorgeous little angel,” he said.
“(Parenthood) is such a fantastic experience. It’s the hardest thing you ever do, but it’s the best thing you ever do.
“It’s the best thing we ever did, it’s better than showing in New York Fashion Week or anything, it’s a much more heart filling experience than anything you’ve ever done.”
Aaron said they would ensure Roman was not deprived of anything.
**** said she would do it all over again if they ever wanted a sibling for their son Roman.
“One day in the future if you want to have a sister or brother for Roman, if she can help and do again, she is happy to do,” said an interpreter responding to questions.
The mother, who had never been a surrogate before, said she discussed her decision with her husband and family, including her two children Jonus, 16, and Nicky, 6, “so everyone knew and agreed”.
Her motivation was to help the Australians, “fulfil a family that would be the most wonderful gift to them that they can never forget”.
“She also believed this is a very good thing she did, to give life,” the interpreter said.
“She look after someone’s baby for them. She want to make that couple also very happy.
“She loves and talk to baby and let her kids and family touch and talk to a little boy inside. “Because she believe her love and care will be the best vaccine for baby to grow well.”
When she met Aaron and Jayson, she understood how they felt.
“You two very good people. She knew you are super fathers who will raise a little boy surrounding with love, good education and all good things,” the interpreter said.
“Buddha teach her to be good people, to help other people and bring happiness to people.”Read more at:http://www.marieaustralia.com/short-formal-dresses | www.marieaustralia.com/red-carpet-celebrity-dresses