“Under pressure” – that’s how I feel right now.

What's it like to be a gay dad through surrogacy,
Finally a father

The shock and amazement at the birth of my daughter has been replaced by the daily pressure that surrogacy debts, my daughter, my extended family and now my new bf bring to bear. On the face of it, my prospects have never been better and I’ve never been happier until someone brings one of these pressures to bear.

My daughter was born at the start of December 2017. In my last piece I was worried about hospital bills that hadn’t been (in my view) prepared for, the filming that had caused such a rift with my parents, how I would cope, would my daughter cry continuously, would I get any sleep, and would I be a good father? Thankfully, I spent six weeks attending the NCT course and I am pleased to say that it gave me confidence. (Sadly, I didn’t tell my parents I was going, as they kept on insisting that I go on the course, so I did, but didn’t tell them – a small act of rebellion…)

The first meeting of the NCT course was a bit terrifying as we were all asked to explain who we were and our situation. I was (understandably) the only single male in a room of male/female couples. But one of my friends had said, ‘tell them everything at once, they will take so long to process it, there will be no time to be nasty’, and he was right. ‘Hi, I’m a single gay man, going through surrogacy in the United States of America, my daughter is due to be born in seven weeks and I will fly out in six weeks time’ and then onto the next couple. I feel warmth towards those on the course with me now. The mothers to be, were all highly protective and this included me and my situation, for which I am very grateful. So, I highly recommend an NCT course if you are expecting a baby.

On the course we went through birth, labour, what happens, feeding, crying, changing nappies, looking after our own mental health, and settling into a routine. Most importantly it gave me the confidence to accept that I wasn’t going to be the perfect dad, but that I could be the best dad that I am capable of being. It taught me that you can’t make a baby stop crying, start feeding or to go to sleep. It also taught me that provided my daughter had had her nappy changed, was fed, burped and cuddled, then unless she had a temperature and extreme crying, she is good and well and she could happily carry on crying. -My daughter developed this ‘low level’ crying, which I knew meant that everything was okay. I think for the first few weeks she had this low-level crying expressing shock at no longer being in the womb of her tummy mummy.

I also changed my mind about the filming. I spoke to the film team a couple of times and on the continuing basis of ‘you can tell us not to air this at any time’, we continued to film. I flew out at the end of November and essentially from then through my daughter’s birth, until the day my parents arrived, the film crew filmed everything. We had a fantastic time: BBQ ribs with my surrogate and her family, shopping in Wal-Mart, cruising in a Ford Focus on the Las Vegas strip (!), to dinner at home and going to the doctor and paediatrician consultations. I really got to know the team and I know that they will produce something sympathetic, in-depth and caring, for airing this autumn. I’m really pleased about it.

Reality struck with my daughter’s birth, apparently (the film crew said) I was a picture of complete shock. I watched my surrogate give birth up close and, thankfully, there were no complications. A painkiller given to injured Marines and an epidural were ‘all’ that was needed and 20 hours after entering the hospital my daughter was born. We did delayed cord clamping, skin-to-skin, gently talking and giving lots of love and attention for my daughter, as she was passed around all present. She was then weighed, washed (“she loves the water, doesn’t she”), measured, reactions checked, and dressed in a tiny nappy and hospital issued baby grow. We were then separated (this was discussed and agreed in advance) from my surrogate and placed in individual close by post-partum rooms.

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I just went with the flow. I didn’t have work to go to, I didn’t have to sleep or have any commitments. The only thing I had to do, was to concentrate on was my daughter. So from that day until I returned to work, it was all about my daughter. I had the light on, in the room we were in at the hospital and at home till I re-started work. So I got used to sleeping with a light on. To begin with, it was: change nappy, feed, burp (after every ounce) and then back to sleep every two hours. Then when my parents arrived, I’d hand my daughter over to them at about 8 am to sleep for two to three hours myself. My parents were anxious but got back into being baby carers quickly. And, this is where my relationship with my parents started to change again…

My mother had always wanted a daughter and although I am my daughter’s father, there was, has been and continues to be “you must do this”. As I agreed to live under their roof for four months following the birth, it has been what they want most of the time or; we have an argument, my mother cries and eventually concedes. It’s been great having their support, so much so that I am allowed to date someone and go out with him once a week. But, it’s also claustrophobic and in line with my parent’s expectations about how a daughter should be brought up and their needs. So I continue to just go with the flow. I will now be moving out in six week’s time. I am counting the days…

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And this brings me back to pressure. I have a loan, credit card debt in the UK and the States and a further loan from my father. My job pays well, but it’s tight. Also, my father essentially demanded repayment once we had returned to the UK. Unlike a credit card company who e-mails, texts or posts letters to you, dad is there when I get home or at the weekend. Thankfully I’ve reached an arrangement after a heated conversation, but ironically it’s my father, not the bank that is crippling me financially. So, that’s two types of pressure that I am literally living with currently.

Add to this: pressure at work, which we all experience, to deliver results; and paying attention to, and being a good bf; and strangely, the pressure that my daughter adds is minimal. At three months she has stopped her low-level crying, she smiles and is engaging, she has started to make sounds with her mouth and she sleeps (hallelujah!) from about 10:30 pm to around 6:30 am / 7 am each night. Every fifth or sixth night she will wake at 3 am or 4 am to keep me on my toes, but otherwise, she is (mostly) a real joy to be around. What she really is, is intoxicating. I could and do spend hours cooing, chatting, bouncing and talking to her. So my favourite TV programmes come and go, my PC and tablet computer games barely get a look in, and apart from the pressures, all is going well.

About the author: simonxhill@gmail.com
A dad to be on the journey to parenthood

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