My children love toys. When they were little, they crawled towards them and chewed them….
In our Summer Love series, Ginger Gorman explores different kinds of heart-warming Canberra relationships.
Well. The old moniker is you find love when—and where—you least expect it.
The first date Natalie and Andrew ever had in March 2014 was not a romantic affair. It was a practical meeting. Natalie, then aged 43, had been single for eight years and wanted a baby. Her biological clock was ticking.
She was scoping out Andrew, a friend of her sister Katrine’s, to see if he might be a good person to platonically co-parent with her. He was there for the same reason.
Reflecting back on her state of mind at that point in time, Natalie says: “I wasn’t happy single. But I also wasn’t looking for a relationship. I just thought I can’t be bothered. I’d been engaged when I was in my late 20s. I just didn’t want to go there again.”
Even so, Natalie admits that “deep down” something about that first meeting at the well-known Canberra haunt Tilley’s Divine Café in Lyneham, lit a tiny spark in her.
The pair talked about their views on parenting and, according to Natalie, “…appeared to be on the same page about everything.”
But ever the romantic, I want to know: Did she fancy him, though?
“I really liked him,” Natalie replies, “I think…I harboured little fantasies that it would turn into something. But I didn’t really express that view, because I didn’t think it really would,” she confides.
Andrew was more forthcoming about his feelings. The next day, he rang Katrine.
“He said, ‘I’m going to marry your sister.’ And she said, ‘God, no, my sister would never fall for you. You so not her type. She goes for the office type. She goes for people who read books’,” Natalie recalls.
Laughing at her own prejudice, Natalie explains that Andrew is a tradie and she’d never dated anyone like him before.
Thinking back to his life right before he met Natalie, Andrew says that psychologically, he was in a similar place to her. He had broken up a 15-year relationship and was living with some mates in a share house. Finding a life partner was not on his mind.
“I was having a good old time and going out and socialising and having a party every night and doing what single people do. That was great!” he says with a laugh.
Natalie had been living in Sydney. She’d left Canberra, the town where she grew up, as an 18-year-old. Like so many of us, she gravitated back to her hometown later in life.
Natalie’s dream job as a book publicist turned out to be deeply disappointing—and suddenly Canberra started to look far more attractive.
“I was pretty dissatisfied with my life. Sydney is just such a rat race. I wasn’t happy in my work….I just wasn’t enjoying life at all. I came back here and got a job with the Federal government.”
A fortnight after their first meeting, Andrew was heading to the NSW town of Orange to meet his family. And he invited Nat.
“I thought. ‘Oh well, I’ve got nothing to lose. I’ll see if she wants to come along.’ Next thing I know, she’s in the car with me powering up the road.”
“It was really fun driving up there and back. And I got on so well with his family. And they told him they liked me,” Nat says, “It [the relationship] just completely felt right from the very beginning for me.”
Although the pair quickly starting to develop strong feelings for one another, their baby plan didn’t develop quite how they planned.
“I couldn’t get pregnant. Turned out I was a bit too old. And we fell in love anyway. We were married within 18 months,” Natalie explains.
Andrew isn’t one for crowds, so they ended up eloping in Hawaii. But the story doesn’t end there.
“We didn’t have the baby the traditional way. It was a long road to getting the baby. I got pregnant in 2017 and we have a beautiful daughter by egg donation,” Natalie says (The egg came from her cousin’s partner, Tracey, and the couple are so grateful for this magical piece of the puzzle.)
When we speak over Zoom, Ally, their young daughter, sits between the couple. She will turn three the day after Natalie turns 50. Andrew is now 51.
“I can’t even imagine a world without her in it. I’m so in love with her. I’ve never felt love like this before,” Natalie says.
Andrew nods, adding: “It’s been a lot of fun, just watching her grow and develop.”
For Andrew, being an older parent is a bonus: “I think it’s better. You’re more mature. You’re a better provider.”
However, Natalie has one bugbear: “The one and only thing that bothers me about being an older parent is that I don’t want my children to lose me too young. On the night Ally was born, I promised her I will live to 97, so then I will make it to her 50th birthday.”
At this point, we need to mention that Andrew has another daughter from a previous relationship, Ella, who lives with them 50 percent of the time.
So, when I ask what makes Natalie and Andrew’s relationship work, the pair talk with passion about both their kids. Natalie says: “That binds us together—our love for our kids. We absolutely live for our children.”
Before we stop recording, Natalie has a word of advice for those who find themselves unhappily single: “It’s never too late. You never know what’s around the corner. Just be open to possibilities. Before I met Andrew, I had no idea that I would have a baby or have a baby via egg donation. I thought I’d missed the bus.”
“Me too,” Andrew agrees.