He was brought up in a close-knit family and community, on council estates in Manchester, by his parents Fran and Fred Barlow. He spent his youth trying to adopt the heterosexual lifestyle with his mates. He did not come out as gay until the age of 23 when he stopped at a petrol filling station to ask for directions and met Barrie Drewitt. They became a couple one year late, in 1988. They moved in together in Bicknacre near Chelmsford in Essex.
They tried to adopt a child in England but were turned down by Social Services. They became wealthy when they sold their company for £4 million. This broadened their opportunities to acquire children. They investigated surrogacy in England but decided to go to the United States which they thought to be more sympathetic to gay couples. In 1998 they contacted a surrogacy agency in the USA and they attempted to have babies by one surrogate mother but the pregnancy failed. They set up an agency to help gay, lesbian, and single people to become parents.
Their surrogate mother was Rosalind Bellamy. The conception was achieved using donated eggs from Tracie McCune and sperm from the gay couple. Twenty-three eggs were obtained from Tracie McCune. Eggs were fertilised in turn by both of the gay men and then transferred in batches to Rosalind Bellamy. It was arranged that one of the men was the biological father of the girl, and the other man was the biological father of the boy. When Rosalind Bellamy became pregnant they knew which was the biological father of each child. The birth was four weeks early by caesarean section.
Aspen and Saffron were born 9th. December, 1999, in Modesto, California, USA. The original birth certificate contained the name of the surrogate mother and the biological father. However, the registrar sealed it in an envelope and replaced it with a certificate naming the two men as the fathers, with no mention of a mother.
After the birth a doubt arose about whether the British Home Office would allow the children to live in Britain. After some legal wrangling the two gay men arrived at Heathrow on 27th. December 1999. However the children were given 28 days to stay, pending a decision from the Home Office. On 25th. January 2000 the Home Office announced that the children could stay in Britain.
On 14th. May, 2000 the ITV South East news reported that further scandal had been caused that day by the christening of the two four-month-old twins. The newspapers were full of the story the next day. The christening took place at their local church, the 13th-century St John's, in Danebury, Essex.
On 31st. May Barrie Drewitt and Tony Barlow announced that they were planning to arrange to have a third child. The newspapers all covered the story the next day with The Sun making it a front-page banner headline. On 27th. June 2000 ITV showed the program The Gay Dads which outlined the story up to the christening.