The year was 2004. I became a FATHER for the first time. Father’s day that year happened to fall on June 20, 2004 – the third Sunday of June. For all my life, I had been looking forward to becoming a father. I became a father for the first time on June 17, 2004 but I was FORBIDDEN to tell anyone till June 24, 2004. I had to keep the birth of my first born child a secret and forced to lie about it. My first father’s day, June 20, 2004 passed by solemnly with NO childfare or fatherfare. There was NO CELEBRATION on arrival of my first born child, there was NO CELEBRATION for a first time father. That was our first father’s day. For what? It is not about words of “Happy Fathers Day” but the action behind it and it is important for someone to speak up against the slavery to secrecy and lying and ask for equal rights for IVF children and families. Sometimes, we all need a spark like Rosa Parks. I was left for dead but am happy to have come out alive instead through the love and support of my family.
Secrecy and Lies for What?
I was living in the US as an immigrant as an Indian citizen and was in an infertile marriage. I did not see the “I” in infertility during a marriage. Thats what marriages are about, you experience everything together as a couple. As a result, we had to opt for an expensive procedure called in vitro fertilization (IVF) in India. The other option was adoption which was not possible as immigrants in the US and there are other reasons too complicated to dive into here and requires a separate discussion. Suffice it to say, going for IVF was NOT an easy choice and was full of struggles, anxiety, uncertainty and so many other things which are hard to capture in words. Given our situation, I used my biological sperm and with help of some very compassionate women used an anonymous egg donor and surrogate to have an IVF child like a single father or a gay father would. However, I was forced into secrecy and lies under threats from the spouse and family to NOT utter the TRUTH to anyone. Everyone was led to believe that the spouse was the biological mother when it is IMPOSSIBLE. This resulted in staying SILENT when my first child was born instead of jumping up with joy and celebration and not to mention breaking of the laws. Anyone who has known me long enough knows how much I love kids and what a great celebration I had when my first niece was born. You can only imagine what it felt like being oppressed, abused and silenced when your first child is born. The SECRECY and LIES have cost us bitterly.
The Birth of the First Child – Is it a Crime?
The due date given to us by the fertility clinic for the IVF child was July 12, 2004. We were planning to leave on June 19, 2004 for India anyways and be there a few weeks early just in case and be sure to witness the child’s birth. On June 17, 2004 at about 2 am Houston time the phone rang and I thought what could be the emergency? It was a CONGRATULATORY call that the IVF child came early and I had just become a FATHER for the FIRST time. I was so overjoyed. And also sad that could not be there for my son’s birth. I was not AWAY at war or I was not AWAY on a business trip on why some fathers who miss a child’s birth. It is not that I did not care for the child and so missed his child’s birth. I missed the birth of my first child because I did not see the “I” in infertility during a marriage. I treated it as a “we” issue.
Rather than jumping with joy and distributing sweets and making phone calls to everyone you know and inform them of the wonderful bundle of joy that you have been blessed with, half a world away, we sat there brooding at our kismat. Our physical health was NOT great either. The spouse had broken her leg and had got ACL surgery done on the knee and was in recovery with use of one and a half leg and needed assistance in getting around. In the process of caregiving for her in silence and alone with NO help or support, maybe the stress got to me and I had shingles which had paralyzed my left arm. There we were, two people – one with a broken leg and the other with a paralyzed arm, who had just been named parents of an IVF child half a world away but could not see him, hug him, hold him and WORSE could not tell anyone of the joy. We had to LIE and be SECRETIVE about the first born child, had we committed a crime?
First Father’s Day
June 20, 2004 rolled around, my first father’s day but I did not get anything as a father, not even a wish. I could NOT tell anyone I was a father. I had to HOLD everything in because it would be “insensitive” somehow to say anything to an infertile, intersex spouse who is FORCING you to LIE and remain SILENT in her best interest. There was NO CELEBRATION on arrival of my first born child, there was NO CELEBRATION for a first time father. That was our first father’s day. Five years later, we were blessed again with a lovely IVF daughter born in the same way whose birth ALSO I missed. She came into this wonderful world after 3 years of trying and several failed IVF attempts. The trauma for an IVF father through this times is often misunderstood and misinterpreted or rather “stereotyped”. IVF fathers are also human beings and happen to care for their children just as much and protect them like a lion. I am living in EXILE with my IVF daughter and separated from my IVF son. Whether IVF fathers and their IVF children have human rights more than cats and dogs is a discussion for some other time.
Today, I cannot even participate in my IVF son’s life. I am FORBIDDEN to tell the TRUTH to my IVF son.II am alienated from my son. I was his primary care provider for his infant years for reasons too complex to get into here. But because I look like a man (reminds me of the SNL series from the 90s), I have NO rights and me and my IVF children are treated as slaves of secrecy and lying. It is NOT the intersex or INFERTILITY which is the issue but the SECRECY and LYING and breaking the laws with NO legal repurcusions. Incidentally, the birth date reported as on the birth certificate is of June 24, 2004 to satisfy the needs of the infertile spouse and family. Why are we still lying? Are we human and do we have rights too? It is time to speak up against the abuse, torture, forced silence under threats and just say the TRUTH.
EQUAL Rights for IVF Children and Families
Natural born children are just as beautiful as IVF children. Then why the difference in the laws? I love all children but the case for IVF children takes special precedence because no laws exist. It is dealt with secrecy and lies hurting the innocent, voiceless children. It is time to end the slavery to secrecy and lying and start saying the truth so we can get EQUAL laws like many other social justice issues that have come before us. Sometimes a spark like Rosa Parks is needed. I was left for dead but am happy to have come out alive instead through the love and support of my family.
Father’s Day come and go since then. But the dreadful memory of the first father’s day is hard to erase. It is offensive to be “stereotyped” as a male and as a parent just as much as a woman is “stereotyped at work”. The fact is that my innocent children are separated because of their parent’s gender – A MALE. Asking for EQUAL laws in the best interest of the children is this father’s dream. Is it OK to stand up against prevailing laws for equality – a page from Ms. Rosa Parks?