Arthur Gourounlian popped in to the Ryan Tubridy Show to talk about how much he and husband Brian Dowling are looking forward to becoming parents, the obstacles to their parenting journey and how Brian’s sister Aoife volunteered to help the couple out. The Dancing with the Stars judge is also full of chat about his new job as a "wedding dance creative", as he explains to Ryan what the job involves and how the most reluctant dancer can be persuaded to bust out a few moves on the big day.

Arthur says he and Brian always wanted to start a family:

"This is the most epic moment of our lives. We’ve been dreaming about this. I remember when we got married back in 2015, we said we wanted to build a family. We've said that since day one."

Realising their dream hasn't been easy, Arthur says, and he and Brian have had many setbacks. They are now looking forward to becoming dads via family surrogacy, with Brian’s sister Aoife volunteering to carry the baby. Arthur says that in the past, he was always personally against starting a family with a surrogate mother. He explains to Ryan that his refugee past makes him uncomfortable with paying someone to "make a kid", as he puts it:

"We wanted to have a kid; but you know, it’s expensive, and as a refugee, I always refused to pay all that money to make a kid; I always want to save kids. I wanted to adopt, like always. That was my goal, to adopt; I never wanted surrogacy."

Arthur and his family fled their native Armenia 30 years ago, when he was only 12. He always felt the urge to become a parent by helping children in difficult circumstances. His initial feelings about having a family always involved adoption, he says:

"Help those kids - I always wanted to do that. We started the procedure in Los Angeles and it was going well, but obviously with Covid and everything that happened, it stopped. We came here. But I was always against surrogacy. "

The couple looked into adoption when they came back to live in Ireland, but time was moving on and as they entered their 40s, age also become a limiting factor for Arthur and Brian. Arthur says it’s a great thing that there aren’t lots of kids in Ireland who are in need of adoption, but it also adds to the difficulty for prospective parents:

"Then obviously adoption didn’t work. It was very hard. And you know, being in Ireland, there are not enough children to adopt, which is an amazing thing. And also, we’re getting old and now I’m going to say this, being gay."

Arthur feels the response they got from adoption agencies once they mentioned that they were same-sex couple amounted to a kind of unspoken brush-off:

"So, they’re like, one of the agencies we called, when we said same-sex, straight away they said 'Yeah, mmm yeah …’ That’s all they said"

The couple had already ruled out the fostering option and so they had come to a point where doors were closing in their faces and they were getting nowhere, which was very upsetting for them, Arthur says:

"We cried; we did. We did cry. It was so hard because I was like, we’re living in Ireland, we’re building a family, oh my God we want to make something happen, but it’s not happening. What are we gonna do?"

One of Brian Dowling’s six sisters, Aoife, had volunteered a number of times to be a family surrogate for the couple. They always had a great relationship with Aoife, who lived with them in London at one point. Arthur says he has a special nickname for his much-loved sister-in-law:

"Well, Effidy, she’s Aoife, but I changed her name to Effidy. Effidy is one of the most amazing humans on the planet, honestly."

When Aoife first came forward and offered to help Arthur and Brian to become parents, Arthur says they didn’t take it seriously initially:

"She says one day, I don’t know if it was a joke but she said ‘I would like to help you guys. I know how much you want this and I want to help you."

At some point it became clear that Aoife was totally serious about carrying the baby, and Brian and Arthur were concerned that she was really OK with going through with it:

"Oh my God you’re actually serious. Effidy, it’s a big commitment to this. And she said ‘Guys I want to help you. You’ve been there for me since day one. I want to give ….’"

Arthur’s voice breaks off with the emotion of talking about his sister-in-law who is due to give birth in September. It was a huge moment when the news came through, Arthur says.

"We’ve been in this journey up and down, up and down and finally the good news happened and we were crying, we were laughing, we were howling – so many mixed emotions. Like all, like yeah, it’s the best news ever."

Arthur jokes nervously about the sleepless nights he keeps hearing about, and hopes that his "night owl" habits will get him through the baby’s first months. Meanwhile, he’s staying busy with his new role as "wedding dance creative" at Farnham Estate. The role is building on the ‘first dance’ videos which are all over social media in recent years:

"The first dance has become so famous the past couple of years. Like, even people walking down the aisle, they want something special. They don’t want to just walk down, just normally, they want their wedding party to be joined with them."

Having spent a couple of decades as a choreographer and a backing dancer to some massive stars like Kylie and Beyoncé, Arthur says he’s in a great position to whip the most reluctant newly-weds into shape on the dancefloor:

"My energy – I am out there. I am loud. So, whoever’s lazy or they don’t wanna or they’re grumpy, they will end up doing whatever we have to do. It’s always been successful so far – touch wood!"

If you’d like to hear more about Brian and Arthur’s parenting journey, which one of them gets papped more often and Arthur’s mum’s reaction to his performance as a judge on DWTS, listen back here.