It’s June 15th 2018, and we have an appointment with the UZ Gent reproductive team.
We make it on time and sign in. It’s a warm day, and Jo eats her lunch while sitting on a wall just outside the hospital while I twitchily play with my phone. I hate hospitals. Every fibre in my body is screaming that I don’t want to be here.
This is an audition, I tell myself. The hospital has to convince us that we want to do this, not the other way around.
It’s not true, of course. They can deny us treatment for any number of reasons. If they don’t like us. If we don’t look right. If we’re not healthy, or thin, or rich enough.
It’s May by now. I’m staying in Jo’s flat in Liverpool to help her pack up before she moves to Ghent.
Along with her moving, everything else seems to be up in the air right now as well. After finding out about the legal implications of co-parenting with the father, we decided to give up on that dream completely. But where do we go from here?
Late at night, we sit on Jo’s faded red sofa and talk and talk. And eventually, we give in and Google ‘sperm bank’.
We send an email, and he answers.
Over the next few hesitant back-and-forths, it becomes clear that I managed to find someone in that disaster of a baby-making speed date that is actually kind, realistic, and funny.
I agree to meet him again in person in December. We sit across from each other and talk about co-parenting, and our families – who had cancer? Any other illnesses? Do you have good teeth? Eyes? What is your relationship with your mother like?
It’s all out there, right from the beginning. We can’t hold any of those bits back, and that makes it intense and odd and so far beyond the usual way of getting to know another person that we can’t do anything else but laugh. We find out we’re both massive nerds. We chat about Game of Thrones, discuss our favourite authors and films and board games, and then consider the fact that we might end up with a sporty kid despite all of that – what if they (heaven forbid) want to play football?
Amongst some awkward laughter we also discuss how he would have to ‘make the donation’. When do we start trying? How could we ensure we would have the best possible chances of getting pregnant? (Did you know it’s best to have an orgasm right after insemination? I DO NOW.)
Next time, he comes to my flat.
We set up the laptop and Skype with Jo in Liverpool in a slightly comical three-way conversation. Hello, how do you do, care to be the father of our future child?
It’s November 2017, and I am about to do one of the strangest things of my life: I’m going on a baby-daddy speed date.
I signed up as soon as I heard about this event from Meerdangewenst (a Dutch organisation connecting queer people interested in co-parenting). But somehow that all seemed a lot more idyllic from behind a computer screen than actually meeting these men. In person.
Jo is in Liverpool, so I’m on my own. I’m wearing her Nana’s ring she gave me so that she’ll be here in some way tonight, and I catch myself playing with it nervously as I walk into the building.
The location – somewhat anticlimactically – is similar to a school cafeteria. It smells like it, too, like watery soup and damp. There are cheap tables and chairs, and an assortment of people already seated and waiting. Some are in couples. Most came alone, like I did.
The nerves are clear in the room. So are mine. Looking around, I realise that I might not look like any of these people’s idea of an acceptable mother. Is my hair too much? Are my clothes too bright? Should I have worn makeup?
And then it starts.