Who’s your daddy?

Since Fletcher was born, many of our friends and family have asked us questions like “was the dad tall?” or “what colour were the dad’s eyes?” Harmless questions asked with nothing but good intentions. Cognisant of the fact that no-one has ever meant any harm by any of these questions, we’ve always responded as diplomatically as possible – “the donor had blue eyes” or “the donor was over 6 foot,” but the fact remains that Fletcher doesn’t have a dad. For better or worse, he has two mommies.

Some people might think that statement is completely ludicrous – how can he not have a dad? Surely, it takes a mom and a dad to make a baby? Yes and no. Yes, it takes genetic material from both a man and a woman to make a baby. But no, you don’t need a “mom” and a “dad”. “Moms” and “dads” raise children. They kiss boo-boos and patch up skinned knees. They do school runs and plan pirate-princess themed birthday parties. They lie awake at night agonising over which school to enrol their kids at, or how they’re going to pay for college. They beam like Cheshire cats at graduation day and snap a thousand photos a minute. Moms and dads raise children.

It may sound trivial, but if I have learned from my time at my current employer, it’s that language matters. Words define meaning and meaning defines experience. If someone describes a delicious meal to you using only bland and benign descriptors, your experience of that meal is tainted. You might go to a “hairdresser” for a boring old cut, but you’d go to “stylist” for something funky and cutting edge. You’d go to a “clothing retailer” for your everyday wear, but you’d go to a “boutique” for that drop-dead-gorgeous, one-of-a-kind, stop-you-in-your-tracks, knockout dress.

So no, Fletcher doesn’t have a “dad”, but he has two moms who love him more with each day, who will dote on him throughout his life.

“Undocumented”

Our son is a month and one day old and the poor, little soul is undocumented, that is to say he still doesn’t have a birth certificate. “Why?” you may ask. Well, quite simply bureaucracy and systems that haven’t kept up with the times.

Fletcher was born during the festive season, meaning that Home Affairs was closed until January. This meant that we had to come back to the hospital early in January to register his birth and apply for his birth certificate, or go to Home Affairs ourselves. Anyone who’s ever been to Home Affairs knows that would just have been silly – taking a newborn baby to stand in the queues at Home Affairs for hours on end. So we opted to come back in January.

Armed with all our paperwork, we arrived at the hospital to meet the Home Affairs rep on 9 January. Two certified ID copies, one certified marriage certificate copy, a letter from the doctor who performed the IVF to say that the donor (or “father” as they like to call him) was anonymous and therefore unknown to us “in terms of the National Tissue Act”, all the necessary forms, signed and stamped by our gynae, the hospital and the nurse who completed the form, as well as the completed official registration of birth form from Home Affairs. We thought we were totally sorted. And so did the Home Affairs rep, who optimistically told us we would be able to collect his birth certificate the next day.

When Becs arrived the next day to collect the certificate, however, she was greeted with a look of incomprehension from the Home Affairs rep, who simply said, “Didn’t they call you?” When Becs responded in the negative, the Home Affairs rep went on to explain that someone from “head office” was supposed to have phoned us to tell us that the birth certificate wasn’t ready. But no one had. (And incidentally no one did.)

When we enquired as to why it wasn’t ready, the Home Affairs rep told us that when they put the second ID number onto the birth certificate and it registers that the second parent is also a woman, it breaks the system. And there is only one person at head office who can manually override said system, to change “father” to “parent B”. And she is on leave for another two weeks. WHAT? Are you flipping kidding me?

In a country where same sex marriage has been legal for over a decade are you seriously trying to tell me that the system cannot handle an exception to “mother” and “father”? Ludicrous! But there you have it. Our wonderfully antiquated system cannot compute a same sex relationship, even in today’s day and age. Basically, “computer says ‘no’.”

So, the moral of the story is, if you are a same sex couple, expecting a child, (a) make sure you’re married first or your partner will have to legally adopt the child (which requires social worker visits and a shitload more paperwork) and (b) make sure you have some time before you need the birth certificate for anything. (Oh, on the off-chance that your child has to be admitted to the NICU, as ours did, and you need to submit a claim through medical aid for said NICU visit, there is a way around this birth certificate debacle. After over an hour on the phone with Discovery, I was finally able to register Fletcher on the medical aid as “Baby” until such time as we get his birth certificate, which means they are at least able to process the NICU claim.)

Anonymous, but not entirely

After we’d selected our donor of choice, we moved forward with the process of artificial insemination. The process itself has the future oven mommy (in this case me), taking a variety of hormone supplements to ensure the production of a good healthy egg or two. Once the doctor is satisfied that you’ve got enough eggs in the slow cooker, you have an injection into your tummy, which triggers the release of said eggs down the tubes an into the uterus. The next day, and the one following that, they implant the swimmers and you hope for the best.

And then, you wait. The most agonizing two-week wait of your life. Then you have a blood test, the results of which either makes you jump and shout for joy or make you close your eyes and whisper, “maybe next time.”

During that first two-week waiting period we were chatting to friends, who casually mentioned they’d been chatting to other mutual acquaintances (one of whom I happened to date in a past life), who had mentioned they were also trying for a baby. The conversation had progressed to the point where they had shared the code assigned to their “anonymous” donor by the cryobank. Heart stopping shock – we’d used the same donor! Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there are hundreds of couples out there right now considering using the donor we were eventually successful with, the difference is we don’t know them and we definitely didn’t date them.

Although sad the attempt was unsuccessful, I was – at least in part – relieved. Both couples agreed to choose a new donor and move on from there. We’ve had a good laugh about it subsequently, but at the time, the thought of our child and the child of one of my exes sharing biology was one to make us shudder.