Ep 4 | Meet Matthew
Ep 4 | Meet Matthew
There's someone we haven't spoken with so far... Mohsin’s husband, and the other intended parent, Matthew. Together, Mohsin and Matthew speak about the journey of their relationship. It’s an intimate insight that takes some surprising turns – through identity, race, and guilt. What does Matthew think about all this? Who’s going to be the biological father? And what happens if Dalia says no?
We want to hear what you think about Tiny Huge Decisions! Please help us out by filling out a short audience survey: tinyhugedecisions.org/survey
RUTH (HOST): If you’re starting with this episode, I’m here to tell you to stop right now, and go back to Episode 1. Why? Because in this podcast, you’ll hear intimate conversations that took place across months and years. You’ll get to know the people having those conversations: Mohsin and Dalia. These are conversations they’re having now, building on the past, with hopes and dreams of their future. And you can’t just skip forward through that.
This is Tiny Huge Decisions Episode 4: Meet Matthew.
MOHSIN: What's really funny is, Dalia and I have spent hours now talking about this journey to parenthood. But the one person that's been missing from it is you.
MATTHEW: Yeah, I just wanted to say thank you, to you and Dalia, for letting me be on this podcast about my future children. [LAUGHTER] That's really nice that I'll, that I’ll have some time to really explore the issues around that.
MOHSIN: Oh you're welcome!
MATTHEW: Thank you. Thank you, to you both for that.
RUTH: It’s May, 2022. Mohsin and Matthew are squeezed into a recording studio in London. Obviously these newlyweds have been talking behind the scenes about having a child for a while now. But this is a chance to go on the record with their thoughts and feelings as prospective parents. And their conversation takes some surprising turns. Race, guilt, identity--things get deep.
But Mohsin and Matthew begin by reminiscing about one fateful evening a few years ago, at a famous gay bar in the South London neighborhood of Clapham…
MATTHEW: Our eyes met across the dance floor.
MOHSIN: They did.
MATTHEW: You were very handsome. Your eyes were very twinkly.
MATTHEW: Yeah, I stand by that. [LAUGHTER] And when I went to say hello, you said--Oh, no, I said hello to you. And…but also pointed out that my friends had just arrived. So I said, I'll be back soon. And you said, well, you better hurry up because this girl here is trying to set me up with her friend too. That was six years, over six years ago now.
MOHSIN: And fast forward to--
MATTHEW: Look at us now.
MOHSIN: I know. Well, we got married--
MATTHEW: You're my husband.
MOHSIN: --two months ago.
MATTHEW: Yeah. That was really magical.
MOHSIN: People talk about it as being one of the best days of your life. And I remember thinking like, oh my God, if that's what people say is their best day of their lives, like what sort of lives are they leading? But actually, having gone through it, I now feel like it was one of the best days.
For us as a same-sex couple with the backgrounds that we have--I come from a Muslim background, you are from a Catholic background, from an Irish community--It's not been straightforward. You know, it wasn't a foregone conclusion that we would be able to marry the people we loved when we were born and for a long time as teenagers, in fact, well past teenage years, we couldn't marry the people we loved.
MOHSIN: Did you always want to be a dad?
MATTHEW: I didn't really think about it in my early twenties, but I think as I got a bit older, and more comfortable with myself, you know, it takes--coming out of the closet and becoming comfortable with the idea of being queer can take a while. And there's many layers to it. So you think, you know, when you come out, you have this great moment of self-acceptance, and you think you're like, “Right, I'm done.” And then six months later, you discover a new part of it. It's just a constant process, and I think the more and more on I got with that, and the more comfortable I got with who I was, and proud of who I was and that side of myself, then I think that started to…I'd say, I started to have those thoughts about being a parent. And--
MOHSIN: And do you want kids today?
MATTHEW: Yeah because, I think--I'm from a family of five. And I loved that. I loved the chaos of kind of growing up as the youngest in our, in a house of five siblings and all the kind of madness, and support and drama that came with that. So I think that must be hardwired into me somewhere that that's kind of also linked to the future that I imagine for us. [MOHSIN: Yeah.] I'm sure we'll probably not end up with five kids. But…
MOHSIN: I think I'd love it if we did.
MATTHEW: Oh my God, I'd love that, yeah. Yeah, I think--sorry I'm just really conscious of the fact that there's probably lots of parents listening to us laughing their heads off at us being like, “Yeah, we want five children. What a lovely life, and how great that will be for--”
MOHSIN: Oh my God, of course we're not gonna have five kids. But--
MATTHEW: No, no, yeah. Because it's--it would be, you know, it would be chaos. But…I think you can have a romanticized version of parenthood in your head as well.
MATTHEW: But I think we've got lots of friends around us who are very real, when it comes to talking about what actually being a parent is like day to day and stuff. So, I mean, we've talked about this a lot, and sometimes I wish, or I think that there is a benefit to being a couple who are readily able to have a child naturally, quote, unquote, “naturally”.
MATTHEW: Because you don't, like maybe you don't have to go through all of these thoughts and fears and feelings, or you do but that happens after the fact. So, you know, you're in a loving relationship, like we are, you..you know, one of you--you know, this has happened to so many of our friends, where, you know, they're not really planning for it or trying for it, and next thing--
MOHSIN: It happened.
MATTHEW: But they…if they were kind of in any way wanting it, they're, they're really excited by it, and--
MOHSIN: You know, you're totally right.
MATTHEW: And I think as a gay, as gay couples, or any couples sorry, that don't have access to…to having a child so easily, then you have to do all of this upfront, which is excruciating!
MOHSIN: It's not fun either. [MATTHEW: No.] Like, if I'm honest, like, I hate--obviously, I'm not talking about, you know, the conversations I have with Dalia now, necessarily--but I hate that we have to do all of this. Like I hate that we have to think it through so much and talk about it and kind of weigh up the pros and cons and then think about how we're actually going to do it, if we're going to do it thinking about the cost, the time, the process, like it just takes--
MATTHEW: The cost thing is such a big part of the conversation where you know, we will have conversations where people will ask us--oh, you know, children are very expensive, and what are you going to do about X, Y and Z, and I'm like, well, everyone just makes it work.
MATTHEW: My parents had five kids and they made it work, and we all had a lovely time. But, you know, we're talking about at the minute having one kid, but you know, it would be fine. We'd make it work. And the thing is, if Dalia walked--this would be very weird--but if Dahlia walked in right now and said Mohsin I'm pregnant with your baby, we'd both be over the moon, I just--
MOHSIN: You're right. That would be--
MATTHEW: --her husband would have a lot of questions. [LAUGHTER]
MOHSIN: I think you might too, Matthew.
MATTHEW: Well I'd just be like…free baby! [LAUGHTER] Great! But you know, if that were to happen, then that kind of cuts through all of this preamble, and I think you…Yeah, you just don't have to question yourself too much.
MOHSIN: Do you remember when I first came home and said, “You'll never guess what Dalia has suggested”? Or like, well, how you…like what your first thoughts were about it?
MATTHEW: I think going back to Dalia, and she is one of those really amazing people who is just incredibly warm and open, and giving. So I think when I met her it was very obvious, straight off the bat that you know, she was a wonderful friend to you.
MOHSIN: And you're both quite mischievous, together as well, aren't you? You quite enjoy teasing me, actually.
MATTHEW: Oh do you think so?
MOHSIN: Yeah, you gang up on me!
MATTHEW: Yeah, but I need all the help I can get, really. [LAUGHTER] But, yeah, so I think we…we had a strong connection kind of straight off the bat.
I sometimes think is Dalia a female version of you, in some ways?
MOHSIN: I think we're both quite honest with each other and with the world.
MOHSIN: So I guess that's probably the thing that makes us--I mean, a few things that make us similar, but that's definitely chief amongst them in terms of the bond that we share. And I think the bond that you and her share as well, actually.
MATTHEW: Yeah, and I think, um, whenever you told me that she was up for entertaining the conversation about surrogacy, I think I was just really excited and thought that it made…In some ways it makes perfect sense. Like, because there's so many friends that we have, where if you said, if you said that to me, I would--
MOHSIN: You'd be like, no way--
MATTHEW: I’d be like absolutely not. [LAUGHTER] We can't go through that all together.
MOHSIN: Actually, you know that's true. Like, I haven't thought about that. But that's true of you. That there are so many people where if I came to you and said, “This person would like to do this for us,” it would make you uncomfortable or you'd say “No, no, no. I just don't--I'd rather do it with a stranger than do it with someone we know.” Whereas with Dalia you didn't have that reaction at all. You just felt almost instantly comfortable with the idea.
MATTHEW: Yeah, I think, I think that comes down to your friendship with Dalia has always felt slightly effortless to me. It’s never felt like there's been really difficult moments that you've had to traverse or…and so for me, it's been kind of like lovely to come into. And I think--I think that's really important when it comes to…separately, when it comes to surrogacy, you want to be going through that with someone that you feel like you're gonna be able to navigate a lot of tricky conversations. Hard times. And I think with Dalia, I wouldn't worry about having to do any of that.
MOHSIN: Do you ever feel…like guilty or worried about what she would have to go through in order to give us what we want?
MOHSIN: Like you know, there's obviously…pregnancy is not straightforward, there's risk of like, serious medical conditions…
MATTHEW: Yeah, I think that's a really good question. But I also--my mind hasn't gone there yet. Because I don't naturally jump to-
MOHSIN: The worst case scenario.
MATTHEW: --the worst case scenario.
MOHSIN: Well that's one reason I'm with you--
MATTHEW: --unlike some people in the room.
MOHSIN: I know. I mean, that's one of the reasons I'm with you, right? Because I always jump to the worst case scenario. And you pull me back.
MATTHEW: Yeah. Like I--I don't know whether--but you know, I said, the reality of it is probably somewhere in the middle. But definitely at the minute, I'm just thinking about it as a potentially very exciting opportunity, situation, adventure.
And I think were Dalia to agree to go ahead and were Dalia to get pregnant with our child, then, then some of those thoughts would, of course, come into it, you know, in terms of what's the reality of that situation? What might that look like? You know, we've had friends who have had really difficult pregnancies and births. And so, yes, of course, that will come up later. But right now, no.
MOHSIN: I think one of the questions that we've had to bat back and forth, and it's still something that I don't think we are totally on the same page about or at least haven't made a decision on is how we become parents.
MOHSIN: So surrogacy is one option. But really the reason for this conversation, the reason that we're having this recording now is not because we're thinking about surrogacy, it's because Dalia and I accidentally stumbled upon the idea of her doing it for us. And in some ways, that's almost forced us down a path of surrogacy, because that's now what we're thinking about. But actually, you know, there are good reasons to adopt. And I know that we've had some back and forth on this already about our feelings towards adoption.
But I just think like, looking at it logically, I can see why people would say, well, actually, you should adopt. And I'm not just talking about gay couples here. Like, I think gay couples are forced to ask themselves that question, because of the things we've just discussed about how much more of a challenge it is to have your own children. But I think almost every couple, regardless of sexuality, or how easy or difficult it is to have children. Shouldn't every couple ask themselves like about adoption first?
MATTHEW: Yeah, I think every couple should have the conversation about it. But that doesn't mean that you should be forced to feel one way or the other around it. And I think there is a lot of couples, you know, across the spectrum, who are starting to have the conversation now. Especially--maybe it's been prompted by some environmental conversations as well--but as you said, it does, it does feel sometimes like we're supposed to think about it a bit more. When I say “we're,” I mean, any couple who can't naturally have a child, you know, it's almost supposed to be something that you're supposed to consider a bit more heavily when--if we decide to and can have a child by a surrogate, that's lovely and fine, too.
MATTHEW: So it's just…I think it'll be down to other factors.
MOHSIN: Like what?
MATTHEW: Well one if Dalia is--will be able to do it for us.
MOHSIN: Because if she doesn't, we're back to the drawing board, right?
MATTHEW: If she doesn't we'll have to--
MATTHEW: Yeah, reassess the conversation. And then I think, from that point, we'd probably have to think about it from a much more emotional point of view in terms of is that…is that something that we'd both be up for, adopting a child?
MOHSIN: I think there is…there's something that's on my mind, which is…feels like a strange thing to have to raise in this context. And that's race. Because with Surrogacy UK or an alike organization, what you have to do is go to events where you meet other people who are interested in surrogacy either because they're intended parents or because they are potential surrogates. And we haven't been to one of those events yet. We've been to an online event.
MOHSIN: And I think one thing that I find safer about Dalia doing it, is the idea of not having to put myself through that process of turning up to something and being on display. I guess it's the idea of turning up in a room. And ultimately, we're being scrutinized, right? We're under scrutiny, because somebody is deciding whether or not they're going to carry our child or not. And there are so many things that they're going to be looking for, you know, does this person seem smiley or kind? Or do they love each other enough?
But for me, the other thing that's on my mind is, are they looking at my skin colour? And is that a barrier? Is that something that's going to get in the way of somebody saying yes to me, maybe because we're going to have a South Asian child, and the person doesn't want to do that, or because they never imagined carrying a child that might be a bit South Asian, or they never imagined carrying a child for somebody that's South Asian.
MOHSIN: And I know that there's a risk of overthinking this. But when you, when you are somebody who grows up in a society that to my mind is systematically discriminatory towards ethnic minorities, you can't help but walk into any given room and think about that issue. So I guess there's one way in which going with Dalia feels safer. And that's--I wouldn't have to worry about any of that.
MATTHEW: Yeah, I mean, I know that I know, that's something that you do struggle with, you do point it out quite a bit whenever we are walking into new spaces and you realize very quickly that you're the only minority in the room, which happens a lot. And, yeah, I think I think the whole surrogacy process of having to go to these events and meet people where you're being very quickly judged. I'm sure...I'm sure in some instances, race is going to play a part in that, it’d be very ignorant for anyone to assume that it wouldn't. [MOHSIN: That it wouldn’t, yeah.] So I totally see that that goal with Dalia would, would take all those fears away and make that process really simple. And that would be great.
MOHSIN: I suppose race is relevant more broadly, though, right? It's not just relevant to the surrogate and who carries our potential future child. It's relevant to like our discussions about who's going to be the biological father, who is going to be the biological mother.
MATTHEW: It's a big part of the conversation, in terms of what the racial makeup of our child would be, because we don't have a natural option open to us. You know, because we do have a lot of people who sometimes say, I can't wait to see what your children look like--
MOHSIN: I know!
MATTHEW: And we have to gently remind them that that's--
MOHSIN: That's not physically possible.
MATTHEW: Maybe in 2085?
MOHSIN: Yeah, who knows?
MATTHEW: But, yeah, no, it's a big part of the conversation, in terms of who the father would be. Where the egg would come from, and how…how you bring both of these things together to make a child that feels reflective of us.
MOHSIN: I mean, I think we're probably on the same page about the idea that we'd like the child to reflect us both.
MOHSIN: And then, and maybe that's--maybe that's the best starting point, because it almost doesn't matter what we decide when it comes to biological mother and biological father. The point is, we want the child to be reflective of us. So that informs the decisions we make about those things.
RUTH: Mohsin has done his own research, before speaking with Matthew, to help bring another point of view into the conversation. A journalist friend of his, Paul, and his husband had their child, Sully, using a surrogate.
MOHSIN: How did you decide who the biological parent was going to be out of the both of you?
PAUL: So we…So I am not Sully’s genetic Father. We decided--we made embryos with the egg donor and we ended up with six embryos that were frozen. And we both gave sperm so that kind of half of the eggs were fertilized with my sperm and half with Robin’s and then we ended up with six. And we decided to take all kind of, decision out of it and just asked the fertility clinic--they could list them according to their kind of, what they thought was their kind of…What was the most likely to lead to pregnancy in the child. So we did like that, and we were very lucky the first transfer worked.
And again, this is something you can think about for hours and hours and days before you go through this process and think, you know, “Will I be fully content as a father from not the genetic father” and things like that. And again, in the daily reality of having a child, you just never think about it. And I remember hearing other gay dads say that and not believing them. And I'm going to be another one of those gay dads who is just--I just can't tell you how little--I mean, sometimes I get flashes of Robin in his face and I love it. And actually I talk about it more than Robin does, because he kind of…I don't know, he's…You get that question from other people, kind of, “Who's the real dad?” and things like that and that kind of drives you mad.
But yeah, people kind of ask silly things and it's--at some point, some sperm did something with an egg. Now there's a child in front of you, and you just love the child and do anything for that child. And you know, we have the most amazing bond. And I can just 100% say, it doesn't matter.
MOHSIN: Do you think you'd need that connection with the child?
MATTHEW: Um…I think I thought I did. But I don't know, as it becomes more and more real, if I actually would? And actually hearing someone like Paul talk about it, you know, because it's something that you're actually a bit scared to admit out loud, because it makes you sound really shallow that--
MOHSIN: I don't think it’s shallow.
MATTHEW: Well, maybe shallow is the wrong word, but it sounds a bit superficial. It's like, “Well, I need to have that genetic connection, to have an emotional connection with the child.” But I think everybody, on some level, maybe has a feeling like that.
MATTHEW: And what Paul's saying is like, “Yes, everyone does talk about that. But when the baby comes along”-- which I can also imagine those feelings just go out the window, and all of a sudden, you just have a lovely child.
But also it's just--I think it's okay to just, you know, in a very simple way to just want kids that are reflective of us. And them being reflective of your race is a huge part of that. So I want a child that's half South Asian as well, because, you know, I'm just at that point where I want it to look like our kid. And, I'm sure the further we go down this process, we will realize that we have to make sacrifices, we might not be able to find a South Asian egg donor. Or, because I've already thought about if it was the other way, and it was your sperm, who would the egg donor be then?
But, you know, and that's, but then for me, then it's like, oh, well, they'll be white, but will they be…Will they have other attributes of mine? And then what does that even mean? And how far like deep down the rabbit hole do you go with that? Like, what, ultimately, like, what do you want from…What do you want to be reflected of yourself?
MOHSIN: There is one final point I wanted to make and that is about the sperm that we choose. We live in London, and my family nearby and a lot of our lives--or our collective lives--have been centered around what has been my life since I was born. Because everything is London based, and your family are in Ireland and mine are here. And one of the points that you have previously made is that sometimes it can feel like our relationship is centered around my history. Because all of my history is so proximate to where we live. And I think that's actually something important that by having your biological child, it might rebalance things in some way.
MATTHEW: Yeah, I think…It does make sense, right? Because I moved to London. And no, like moved to actually East London to be with you and--
MOHSIN: And near my family.
MATTHEW: --and I'm now surrounded by your family who I love--
MOHSIN: [WHISPERS] Surrounded by them.
MATTHEW: No, surrounded by your family who I love, like, in the area that you grew up in, so yeah I think there's something to that, yeah.
MOHSIN: Yeah, I think I'd love the idea of having your child. Because I'd just get to see parts of you reflected, you know, like, you being really grumpy in the mornings, and taking your time to make decisions, and not wanting to commit straight away to one thing or another.
MATTHEW: I have no idea what you're talking about.
MOHSIN: And being really artistic, and not always being the most logical? Can I say that? But like, you know, like, I think--
MATTHEW: That’s really rude, that’s really rude.
MOHSIN: But like, it would be so wonderful to see that come to light. And I wouldn't need, in that child to see me, you know? I wouldn't need to see the traits that I would probably best be described as. But if that's true, then maybe it's also true that I don't need to see skin colour either.
Like maybe, maybe there is a risk that this is over-intellectualizing something. And that the main thing is that it's ours. And maybe one of the other risks that we are running is of drawing too fine a distinction between your child and mine. Because actually, once it's born, regardless of whether it's your sperm or mine, or whether it's white or half white, or full brown, like it will be our child.
MATTHEW: Yeah. And that's something that you do hear actual parents talk about, [MOHSIN: People say, yeah.] you know, you have all of these fears and questions about, about your…your future child and future children and family, but actually, when and how you get there, whether it's surrogacy or adoption, but once you're, once you have a child, it's just your baby, and you just look after it and you love it.
MOHSIN: It would be interesting to see what my mum thinks about it all. So I remember when I very--when I first came out to her, I tried my best to say I can still have all of the things that you want, they'll just be with a man rather than a woman, and I said that I wanted to have kids. And then she looked at me. And she said, but how would you do that? And I said I would do it with my future partner, mum, and it would either be adoption, or it could be with a surrogate and it was like I'd punched her and winded her, you know? Like she felt so confronted by that image. And I don't--and I know for a fact that that is not how she feels today, because she gave this beautiful speech at our wedding, the same way that your mum did, and it was all about our future. And I think that for us, she does see that but I do--I think it would be interesting to talk to her to see how she feels.
Like I remember having a conversation with my brother about this years ago even before I met you. And he said he loves the idea of me being a parent, but he worries about what it would mean for the child and whether the child would be bullied for having two gay parents. And I said to him, look, times are changing and so although I hope that my children are never bullied because they have two dads, I also hope that instill them with enough love and confidence in who they are and where they're from, that they can stand up to that prejudice and they can lead by example, if they are forced to.
MOHSIN: Well, the thing is, is regardless of what colour they are, I'm going to teach them Urdu, which means that we'd gang up on you.
MATTHEW: Well, I'm going to teach them Gaelic.
MOHSIN: You don't speak Gaelic!
MATTHEW: I'll learn!
MOHSIN: I try and get you to learn Urdu and your response is always “Well, you need to learn Gaelic,” and I'm like, “You need to learn Gaelic, you don’t speak it yourself.”
MATTHEW: Look, that's besides the point, my children will also know a secret language that we can communicate about you, in front of you. [LAUGHTER]
[MUSIC FOR CREDITS]
RUTH: Tiny Huge Decisions is a Chalk & Blade production for APM studios. At Chalk & Blade the executive producer is Ruth Barnes, the show runner and story editor is Louise Mountain, and the producer and sound designer is Matt Nielson, with original music by Ian Chambers. Special thanks to Jason Phipps. At APM, the executive producer is Erica Kraus, the senior production manager is Nick Ryan, and the executives in charge are Joanne Griffith, Alex Schaffert and Chandra Kavati. With thanks to Dalia, Mohsin and Matthew, and special thanks to Paul Morgan Bentley, who’s head of investigations at the Times and author of The Equal Parent.