Age at interview: 43
Background: Matthew has a 2-year-old daughter from a surrogate mother in India. Matthew is a public servant from an Anglo-Australian background and identifies as gay. He and his daughter live in a large city.
As a single parent, Matthew felt confident and capable but struggled with lack of family support and inflexible work. He received support from other single parents, his new parents' group and a gay fathers' playgroup he set up. Matthew also briefly saw a counsellor which was helpful.
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More about Matthew
Matthew described always having loved children and experiencing a 'driving instinct' to have a baby. This made coming to terms with his sexuality difficult when he was younger, as he thought being gay meant not being able to become a parent.
Fortunately, as time went on, 'people's ways of having babies changed'. In his mid-30s Matthew tried to have a baby with a lesbian friend using IVF. They conceived twins but miscarried at 12 weeks. Eventually the friendship ended and Matthew decided to pursue surrogacy.
After researching surrogacy clinics in India, Matthew chose one with international affiliations and responsive and communicative staff. He selected an egg donor himself while the clinic chose the surrogate mother. The clinic updated Matthew about the health of the surrogate mother and baby throughout the pregnancy via email and Skype conversations. He described this as 'pretty amazing', yet also 'surreal'.
Matthew arrived in India just in time for his daughter's birth. Due to meconium on her lungs his daughter spent a few days in intensive care. Arranging citizenship for his daughter and other legal requirements for their return to Australia took Matthew another two weeks. Fortunately he was able to hire a day nurse to care for his daughter during this time.
Matthew described feeling unwell and 'absolutely exhausted' on returning to Australia after a tiring few weeks in India. His baby's 'easy-going' nature and Matthew's previous experience working in childcare helped them both adjust to being at home together. Matthew taught his daughter to sleep through the night from nine weeks, as he knew that as a single parent, getting enough sleep would be important to how he 'felt about things'.
The first year of parenthood was additionally challenging for Matthew because of his parents' negative reactions to him becoming a father, and difficulties at work. As his father hadn't accepted Matthew was gay, Matthew's mother struggled to tell the rest of the family about his baby. 'Really stressful' problems due to inflexible employment also meant Matthew had to return to work earlier than planned. When his daughter was one, work and family tensions prompted him to seek counselling. This helped Matthew keep 'focused' on the future, and over time things gradually improved.
Matthew said he had 'clear ideas' about communicating with his daughter about her family and has created a photobook that includes the story of her conception. Although he has lost contact with the surrogate mother, Matthew still keeps in contact with the egg donor, which he said was 'really important'.
Matthew said becoming a father helped him become less egocentric and more assertive. Having a baby has been an 'incredible' experience, but 'more relentless' than he expected. He appreciated the support and practical help from friends, other single parents, his new parents' group, and a gay fathers' playgroup he set up. Matthew believes that each parent should do what feels right for them, and recommended new parents 'expect the unexpected'.