When I first set the IVF wheels in motion I was excited. I walked with my head held high and a smile on my face – I was a father. Having a child was no longer just an idea, but part of my my future. There was a plan in motion. I would fertilise a donor’s eggs with my sperm and my sister, Suraiya, would carry an embryo to term – simple, right? Not quite.
It was an emotional ride. The clinic had managed to produce five viable embryos from my sperm and the donor's eggs, two female and three male, but they were not clinging to the lining of my sister’s womb. We tried countless combinations of fertility drugs to make my sister’s womb more ‘sticky’ but lost two female embryos in the process. This is hard thing to go through because each time a transfer occurs you begin to think of that embryo as your child in the making. You start to imagine them as a little person and the life you’d have with them. You begin to live a little part of your life in that fantasy world where you have a daughter. Then when it doesn’t work that world disappears into thin air and you have to leg go.
After the last embryo transfer, a male, there had been no sign of pregnancy. My money was low and my debt was high. I was speaking to my friend Gustavo at my place one day and told him how sad I was that it wasn’t working. I was on the verge of tears. If this didn’t happen for me I’d lose everything. Then at that moment my phone rang and it was Suraiya on FaceTime. I asked Gustavo to excuse me and I took the call in the next room. Suraiya told me she was pregnant. I screamed the house down and had to fight back the tears of joy. I was happier than I’d ever been.
After the dust settled on the good news I refused to allow myself to be happy because I was afraid of losing him. As the months passed I received trickles of news from my sister – doctor’s visits, ultrasounds, movement in the tummy, morning sickness, finding out the sex, choosing the name etc. Then I was told the due date would be 1 February 2016. I began to relax and enjoy the moment. I bought a cot, a baby carrier and a Moses basket.
Each development brought me a little closer to fatherhood. Everything was going scarily well. Was this actually happening? And as the months passed, the realisation crept up on me – yes, this was actually happening.
Then came the fear.
I think I first felt it around October-time. I had that end-of-2015 feeling approaching and I knew Felix would arrive at the start of 2016. Don’t get me wrong, at no point did I ever once question if I’d made the right decision. But I began to question if I was father material. This haunted me.
Most of my adult life I’ve been a social butterfly. I have lots of friends and I enjoy spending time with them. I’m partial to the occasional dance and a drink or ten. I enjoy the company of gay men. I’m a flirt. I like to throw parties (see pic). I invite lots of people over and make a big bowl of punch with any old booze at the back of the cupboard, loving the thought of everyone’s head throbbing the next day. I enjoy holidaying with my friends, be it a week in Spain or a weekend at Manchester Pride.
Of course, as fun as all of that is, I’ve always known that I was ready for the next step. I wanted a child and no amount of gogo dancers or mojitos would get in the way. But as the time passed and the fear crept in, I began to wonder if I was destined to become one of those parents that was bitter for having given up a life for a child.
Was I truly ready to give my life up?
Well recently the answer dawned on me - it was no. Not because I wouldn’t give my life up for Felix, but because becoming a father is not giving up your life, its starting a new one. I have to remind myself of this simple fact every time that demon creeps to the surface. Becoming a dad isn’t saying goodbye to fun, it’s about learning a whole new type of fun, rediscovering the meaning of fun. I may not see all of my friends as much as I do now (I’m guessing they’d prefer to go to Soho than come and watch me clean poop) but I’ll hold on to a core few and even make new ones, perhaps other parents. Sometimes I get so caught up in what I fear the most that I forget about the thing I look forward to the most – holding him in my arms and seeing him look up at me with wonder, as if I’m the only thing in his world. I’ve imagined this a million times.
Of course it wont always be plain sailing and I can't promise I wont ever miss my old life, but I can promise that right here, right now, I want a life with Felix. Everything else can wait its turn.