Published February 4, 2014 | By Greg Hodgson-Fopp
At the beginning, when my husband and I first started talking about the possibility of having children at all, I was the first one to say that I felt a paternal, genetic link was something that I really wanted to have.
I cannot fault his reaction. He didn’t even blink, or think about it for two minutes, or even hesitate at all and think of himself. He was utterly selfless and went “Well, you can be the Daddy then”.
I think I had half expected a tussle.
I mean, this is two people who can manage to have a meltdown if the waitress brings 3 pieces of bread to that table, or when there is only enough rice left for one of us to have seconds. We’re not a couple who are particularly prone to taking the moral high-road and just letting the other one have their fair share.
In a lot of ways, I think that’s healthy. It means neither of us is ever really in danger of becoming a doormat. If anyone is, to be honest, it’s me. When my husband inevitably reads this and decides to protest, I will feel it is necessary to remind him about the our experience with airlines meals.
This is how that works:
Step 1. The air hostess asks us what we want. He takes his first choice, and I am required to choose whichever hot meal he didn’t choose.
Step 2. We will both defoil our hot meals and examine the sundries and sides. If he decides that my hot meal looks more appetizing than his does, then obviously we swap. If he doesn’t like what he was served, then he offers it to me.
Step 3. He takes my bread roll.
Step 4. He takes my dessert.
Step 5. He offers me the slimy seafood and over-dressed salad that he didn’t want anyway as recompense for pillaging my dinner tray.
Step 6. The drinks trolley arrives and he asks me to make sure I get myself a beer as well as anything else I want to drink, so that as soon as the trolley dolly has moved on, he can have both beers.
Step 7. He takes the cheese and biscuits, but only if they’re cheddar.
Does this sound like someone who selflessly offered to let me be the paternal father of our children? And yet, when it came to something really, really important he was totally up for me to be the father, and he didn’t even seem to think about it much.
I am incredibly proud (and more than a little bit surprised) at how beautifully generous my husband can be when it really matters.
So… I’m the Daddy?
So when we started the process, we had determined that I would be the paternal deposit provider (such a romantic term). So we decided to specify egg donor statistics and characteristics that would optimize the chances of the eventual children looking something like the two of us.
Which is why we had a list of surrogates all of which were fairly short, blonde, blue-eyed, petite-framed and with perfect teeth. Our initial goal was to make a baby which looked a little bit like both of us.
Then we spoke to the Doctors
At the time of our first appointment with Dr. Ringler, we were still quite firmly set on this course, and we told him exactly that on our initial consultation. He then patiently explained the process, which I am sure you are all now aware of thanks to my helpful posts, and we absorbed it and moved on.
Part of this explanation was where he explained to us that he recommended implanting two embryos, so as to maximise the chances of success in the first cycle. This came with the increased chance of twins, of course.
I don’t know whether it occurred to Matt, but the implications of what he said hit me pretty much immediately.
An incredibly selfish 24 hours
Over the next day or so after we had that consultation, I kept dwelling on what Dr. Ringler had said in his session with us. I wasn’t sure that what I had imagined could be done, and once I had spent some time researching the answers on the internet, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to mention it, or talk to Matt about it.
I don’t mind admitting, I was pretty overwhelmed with the whole thing. We had settled comfortably and amicably on me being the father of our child. We had tentatively said that we would probably go for a second child afterwards, with the unspoken implication being that the second child would be fathered by him, of course.
If I said nothing, then we would proceed as planned. I would be the father of our first child. Which, when matched with an egg donor who looked like Matt, would mean we would probably never bother to tell anyone who was the biological contributor. In fact, Matt and I had agreed that that would be the case – we imagined that people might guess, but we would never condone such guesses by giving them air. We would always refer to our children as “ours” and never let people think otherwise.
But further internet-based research told me that the chance of twins with a double implantation was also quite high. If we ended up with twins from just my contribution, we would have two little mini-me’s and we’d be quite unlikely to go back and have a third child. Two really is twice as many as we’d hoped or expected, let’s be honest.
A deep breath
I decided I needed some perspective, so I took a long walk home from work one night, and I called a friend and had a good chat. It was with a good friend, someone I can trust to air the selfish side of my psyche, and who I knew wouldn’t judge me for exposing that. I explained that if I said nothing, I would soon be the father of one or two children, and that Matt would have his turn to be father in a couple of years time.
I also expressed my fears. I worried that if I suggested we change our course, and that it turned out that I wasn’t the father of our first child, that Matt might get over the idea of having a second child. That it would be something that we perhaps couldn’t afford to do a second time, or which, once scarred by the first-born, we decided not to do again.
If we only had one child, and it wasn’t mine, would I be resentful? Would I be more than slightly disappointed? People who adopt seem to love their children just fine. As do people who co-parent children from previous marriages. They seem to wear their non-biological-parenthood as a badge of pride as far as I can observe from outside. It almost feels like their love for their children is somehow purer because it isn’t biological and hormonal.
I’m more selfish than them, I think. I think if I didn’t get to have a child of my own lineage, that I’d be actually totally gutted. I see traits in myself that I inherited from my parents and grandparents. Things like my Dad’s eternal optimistic outlook (that he shares with his brothers and my brother as well). My Mum’s enormous capacity for love. My maternal Grandmother’s resolve and explorer’s spirit and my paternal Grandfather’s love of music. I want to create a mini-me that encapsulates and picks and chooses from these traits and makes their own unique mix of the above and all the rest on offer in my DNA.
So I had a choice to make. Possibly one of the biggest I’ve ever made.
Do I stay quiet and be the only father of our first child? Or do I suggest to Matt and the Doctors that we both fertilize one embryo, and in doing so, take the risk that I wouldn’t get to be a father at all? Maybe not ever?
Fertilizing one each, the chance of me being a father dropped from near 90% to near 60%. I know that sounds cold and analytic, but sometimes cold and analytic is who I am. I’m not quite sure which grandparent I get that one from. My maternal Grandfather, I suspect.
As I walked home in the freezing cold, in my head I just kept remembering how amazing he had been when I had said it was important to me. Right at the start of this whole process, he had been completely understanding of my needs, and my urges to be a father, and he had been utterly, completely selfless.
Admitting Selfishness, and accepting the risk
As soon as I got home, I mentioned to Matt the thought processes that I had been going through, and suggested to him that we both fertilize one egg from the initial two embryos being implanted.
As I knew he would, he happily and gleefully jumped on the idea and was really stoked that I had been the one to suggest it. And so that’s what we did. We would let nature decide.
It was a step for me, emotionally. I took a deep breath and let it out, and accepted that I might not be the biological father of our child when it arrived. I accepted that if life took different turns, I might never actually be a biological father. There might not be a little mini-me to carry on my Grandfather’s love of good carpentry and have his flawless ear for music, or my Dad’s robust optimism that has carried me through all of life’s corners and spills. I would still be a father, and a parent, but it might be to a little mini-Matt instead, with his unique quirks from his family and not mine.
And I let that breath out, and accepted that I was fine with that.
But I think from that moment onward, I was secretly, desperately hoping for twins. With twins, there was no downside. There was no “We might decide to stop at one”. There was no “We might not be able to afford it”, and there was no easy out clause for whoever didn’t get to be Daddy the first time around. I didn’t even really hide it much, I think everyone in the relatively small circle of friends I was able to talk to about this knew that I was dead keen for twins from the moment we went through this thought process.
I mean who doesn’t like a bargain, right?
There was, of course, at least one down-side to this process. We had already selected our egg donor profiles, and we were already sifting through the options and so forth. It didn’t make much sense to turn down perfectly good candidates simply because we’d chosen them for physical characteristics that matched Matt and not me.
So while we had stacked the odds in one respect, in another respect, some things were less certain.
I’m fairly sure we’re going to have blondes.