Ep 5 | A family affair

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Ep 5 | A family affair

This decision won’t just affect Mohsin and Dalia, but everyone around them. Now, it’s time to open up the conversation to friends and family. When Mohsin first came out, there were times his mother wouldn’ even speak to him – but now, they’re having a heart-to-heart about the importance of family, with a few parenting tips thrown in. Meanwhile, Dalia opens up to her friend Emily, who provides insight from her own experience – and asks some challenging questions.

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RUTH (HOST): Hi, I’m Ruth, producer on Tiny Huge Decisions. This is a story about two best friends, and the life changing decision they are undertaking. If you don’t know the context of their relationship, and the conversations you’ll hear, you’re probably going to miss a lot. So it’s really best to go back, and listen beginning at Episode 1.

This is Tiny Huge Decisions Episode 5: A family affair.

MOHSIN: Hello, mum! What did you say?

MUM: You’re going to start of course.

MOHSIN: I think you should start!

MUM: Oh no, Mohsin, I feel a bit nervous!

MOHSIN: Do you really? Why do you feel nervous?

MUM: Oh, I don’t know!


RUTH: As their conversation about a potential surrogacy progresses, Mohsin and Dalia have some time apart to speak to friends and family about this decision.

So, today, Mohsin is in his mother’s cozy living room in East London to talk about the idea of becoming a parent, with some help from Dalia.

As they talk, there’s real love and warmth in the room. But it wasn’t always like this.

We’ve heard about Mohsin’s struggles coming out as a young man, and the pain that caused his family, especially his mother. At one point having an open conversation like this would have been unimaginable. But now, they’re sitting down, for a heart to heart between mother and son.


MOHSIN: And do you remember when I first told you about wanting to have children? I don't think you do remember this.

MUM: No, I don't.

MOHSIN: We were in the other room. And you were still struggling with my sexuality then. And I remember saying to you that I'd like to have children. And you said, you know, how would you, how would you do that? And I said well, you know I could adopt or I could go through surrogacy and you look winded, you know, you look like I hit you in the stomach or something.

MUM: Yeah.

MOHSIN: And I think it is because it was quite confronting.

MUM: It's confronting, but it's an alien idea for me. It was more-- surrogacy is very complicated.


MUM: And even though it seems quite a simple solution… but it's complicated.

MOHSIN: It is complicated.

MUM: And that's why when you said, for me, if you think about surrogacy, you think about adoption, I think adoption's less complicated. That's why I find it difficult. Because, you know, someone can agree, but having been there as a woman who's had-- been pregnant, carried a child for nine months… It's that.

So the intentions of someone who's going to be a surrogate are wonderful, but when they're actually in that situation, I think that's what I would be concerned about and I think that's what I worry that… it may go wrong at the end.

MOHSIN: Do you think there's a risk of that happening with Dalia?

MUM: My initial feeling is I want to say no, I don't think there is because I think Dalia's the sort of person who would not go into something at all--

MOHSIN: No, I don't think she would either.

MUM: --lightly, no. But when you are pregnant and your hormones play up and everything, you can't, you know, account for that. 


MOHSIN: Did you ever regret it? Be honest: did you ever regret having children?

MUM: No, I didn't regret it, never, never regretted it.

MOHSIN: What, even when they're being stupid? I'm talking about my brothers now. [LAUGHTER]

MUM: No, no, no, I never regretted it. I've always said to you, I don't think I was a good mother in the sense of how I've seen other mothers who are really-- because there was so much rubbish happening when I was a mother.

MOHSIN: But I think, I mean… you protected us from a lot of that rubbish though, mum.

MUM: Yeah, yeah, no, you know, because it was like not just--

MOHSIN: Because we didn't have any money. Let's-- to be clear.

MUM: Yeah, it was economics--

MOHSIN: We didn't have any money--

MUM: It was economics. It was--

MOHSIN: --we lived in a terrible area where there was violence. And--

MUM: Yeah. I was in a family where I was very different to who I was-- the family, I was married to a family. And I had to dumb myself down. And so really, I didn't have the luxury in some sense of being able to be a good mother, I think. I couldn't focus on just yourselves.

MOHSIN: I don't think so. I don't think-- I think it makes you a better mother. Because…there were more challenges in your way.

MUM: No I love being a mother, I'm not one of those earthy mothers, I never was one of those earthy mothers you know, [MOHSIN: Yeah.] “Well let’s get up--” I was a very functional mother, making sure you got food, making sure you were clean.

You were very good. you were caring. And people kept saying to me, you should have seen that he was gay because some of the characteristics, did you not? Did you not think like when I had my youngest, Raza…


MUM: You chose to stay at the hospital with me when everybody else had gone, because you wanted to help me with him.


MUM: And then when I came home and my husband, your father took his duvet and pillows, and said, “Right, I'm out of here,” (the bedroom) and you moved in. Because you said you wanted to help me with the baby when he woke up at night.

MOHSIN: I remember changing a nappy.

MUM: Yeah. And there were just things that I just thought, “Oh, what a lovely young boy!” [LAUGHTER] You know? And not many 13-year-olds would have done that.

MOHSIN: It's funny, because now when I look at Raza--I'm not his dad, and I wouldn't, I wouldn't try and claim to be--but even when he's being such a little shit…

MUM: Yeah.

MOHSIN: I just-- because I used to change his nappy, everything he does is adorable. And he's like a smelly 24-year-old now, it's not like he's--

MUM: Cause you, yeah, you both were very much father figures for him, you know? And then I think that, you know, when you did first tell me you were gay, one of the--obviously apart from not being able to cope with it--I think there was an element of this sadness in me because I thought, well if he's gay he can't have kids.


You know, and, and, you know, I love you. And everyone loves you. And I wanted babies from you! [LAUGHTER] For there to be more people like you, you know? Little clones of you! And I think the realization obviously, when, you know, I'd accepted, was that “Oh, my God, that's not going to be able to happen.” And that…that was horrible.

MOHSIN: Do you think that was part of why you found it so hard?

MUM: Yes, because that goes hand in hand almost, doesn't it? That you know, because it ends these-- that sort of, I don't know, whatever that reproduction of you know, that…you. And yeah, I did find that hard.

MOHSIN: Because a lot of people think it was religion, but I don't think for you, if I'm gonna be honest, it was religion, actually. [MUM: No.] I think it was to do with family.

MUM: It was, it was, yeah, if I'm honest with you, because yeah, the thing that I thought about was, “I'm not going to have that wedding.” And then with that wedding, a year later would have come babies. And they're the sort of things that you know, you think about when you--or, I thought about--and you know, and because you were such a wonderful young boy and a young person and a young man, and of course you associate that this person is just gonna go and have some lovely young little boys and girls of his own! And I think it was that finality, that, “Oh my God, that's not going to happen” that you know, it was hard and--

MOHSIN: And so you talked about the wedding. How does it-- how did it compare to what you had dreamed?

MUM: Oh, I loved it. It was--

MOHSIN: Because we got married two, two and a half months ago.

MUM: Yeah, yeah. No, it was amazing.



MUM: Um, I mean I know that Mohsin is a very warm and caring person, and Matthew, I’m just so proud that he found you. If there’s anyone I wanted him to spend his life with it would be you, so thank you for that as well. 



MUM: I got a bit emotional there. I thought, “This is it now. This is it. You know, you're married!”

MOHSIN: But not like, “This is it. Oh, God. He's married to a man”?

MUM: No, no. Now I've got to the point where man and woman doesn't matter anymore. I don't know if that makes sense. 

MOHSIN: No, I do. I do understand. 

MUM: Because the only reason it matters is because you can't reproduce!

MOHSIN: I know. Tell me about it! [LAUGHTER]

MUM: But, it's all the other barriers that are there. That's, you know, because there's no way of sorting those out. But no, I loved the wedding. It was more than what I could have expected. And you know, I had a great time.


MUM: You know, like when we're talking about this, what upsets me as a mother, is you're having to try so hard to have a child.


MUM: And I think when you talk about it, you know your surrogacy and you know why you're asking me how I feel, but inside I feel sad that you are having to jump through hoops to possibly get something that comes so natural to other people, it happens to them.


MUM: And that, that I think about and that really saddens me.

MOHSIN: Yeah but, you're-- I mean, you're right. Sometimes it's quite frustrating to think about the amount of…just the, the difficulty. The difficulties, the hurdles that you have to jump over. But I guess what I would say to that is…You have raised me to identify obstacles, and jump straight over them or move them out of my way.

And so, although it is hard, and it sometimes it makes me honestly, it makes me want to scream. Because you know, I love Dalia, right? She's one of my closest friends. So do you remember when I first told you that she was thinking about doing it for us?

MUM: Yeah. I just thought how wonderful that she was even contemplating this. And it just made me feel what a good friend she is, well more than a good friend to go over and above, you know? That…I think it's more than just a good friend. I think that it's this love.


I just think that I would say to Dalia, and if, you know, is that you're doing such a selfless thing. And you're giving the gift to somebody to be a parent. And that's amazing. I’d even thank her for even actually considering it. Because I think even considering it is amazing. And I think at the end of the day she would make the decision that I know she has to live with.


RUTH: While Mohsin talks to his mother, Dalia has a video call with an old friend Emily.

DALIA: So we were basically sitting in a pub a couple of weeks ago. And I asked you, if you would mind being part of this podcast, and then obviously had to tell you what it was about and what I was considering. But I don't think before that we had spoken about this topic.

EMILY: And I think it's amazing! I am like, in awe of the fact that you've kind of like, gone down this journey and embraced it. But I also, one of my next thoughts was, “Gosh, that's going to have an awful lot of…questions to answer, and maybe potentially even implications for not just you guys, but other people around you as well.”

RUTH: Besides being a close friend, Emily brings some personal experience to the conversation, as she is currently on her own fertility journey: trying to have a baby with her wife Lucy using a sperm donor and IVF. Emily has also never met Mohsin, so she’s a neutral sounding board and has some challenging questions. Dalia begins by filling her in on how far she’s already come.

DALIA: One of the things that I've now I think overcome is some of the anxiety and worry that I had about like the physicality and the practicality of being pregnant, given what I went through. I think I'm kind of over that, and I've decided that actually I'm not that worried about it, and it would probably be fine. And that doesn't worry me, but I think some things that are worrying me now are like… issues like well, what is it just kind of setting yourself up for potentially quite a lot of disappointment? So how far would we continue pursuing this, if it didn't work?

I think there are loads of like, really difficult questions as well, that we haven't confronted yet about what happens, like not only if it doesn't work, like at the conception stage, or what then happens, if, you know, there are decisions that need to be made about, you know, like abortion, for example? Like, that's something we haven't talked about yet. And I don't know how I feel about that. I don't know how they feel about that. And again, like what are the limits? Who makes those decisions?

EMILY: Yeah, I think that was one of my least favorite parts of what Lucy and I have had to do so far, is that every decision has to be considered, careful, thinking about the doom and gloom aspect of it.

What I'm trying to do with my wife is very-- is a different method. So different questions are involved. But we are essentially in the process of going through IVF. And that involves decisions. And it’s really stressful! And I think in the end, we were just like, we’re just gonna have to be really light hearted about these really big questions because it was the only way to not get very, very stressed.

And our current decision about the way to move forward is that we have both had IVF to retrieve our eggs. And both of our eggs have been fertilized, and they are chillin’ out in a freezer. And in a few weeks time, one of Lucy's fertilized eggs is going to be implanted into me.


EMILY: So I guess that's the bit that's most similar to what might happen to you.

DALIA: Yeah.

EMILY: Which is really, it's very exciting, but I can't-- I don't, I really want to, I really want us to have a family, but I don't feel excited emotions, because I realize how…It's basically self preservation, like, I realize how many things can and already have gone wrong. So I probably feel more stressed and apprehensive than excited.

And it is hard not to look at, like couples that don't have to worry about fertility issues and be like “God, you do not know how easy it is! You just have a glass of wine!” And I know it's-- I know it's not that straightforward, but having to, having to think about worst case scenarios, or not even worst case scenarios, but it almost makes you have to question your own values.

DALIA: Yeah.

EMILY: Cause you're suddenly like, well…for us it was even, because when you choose sperm from a donor website, you see pictures of lots of children. And it's like Tinder, but looking at kids. And there's like, there's one, there was one donor on it, and he had like this little fez hat! And I said, “Well I don't want a kid who loves a fez hat!” Obviously, I'm just using a slightly lighthearted example. But it makes you-- you start to think that you're an awful person.

Because you think well, “What if that happened? I don't know how I'd feel about that.” Or “If that happened, I didn't know how Mohs would feel about that.” Like, it's really hard. You have to-- or your husband! Or even your parents? I don't know if they--

DALIA: Yeah, and that is. So that's something that I haven't even like, really, to be completely honest, I've just put it to the side, because I think actually thinking about my family is too… is even too complicated. So for now, I feel like I want to try and make this decision between at least the four of us.


DALIA: And then think about it. And I think the other complication is that although like my husband has basically said: if you decide that this is something you absolutely, like really want to do, then I will support you. Which is really nice, and it's great. But there was a big “but” to it, which is that I think he actually, weirdly, more than me, like what I went through in pregnancy I think scared him more than it maybe did me. And I think he just thinks it's not-- It would be like a really big risk.

And again, maybe it makes us probably sound really negative. And like we're like really worried people and I don't think we are, but I think he's probably thinking like, “Now your priority is to almost like preserve the family that you've got,” which is me, him and our child, which is you know, I think it's right for him to think on those terms. Right?

But then the other side, I suppose we haven't really talked about the other side of it is that actually, like, I am really convinced that it's, it is genuinely like a really amazing thing to do, like it's amazing to think--

EMILY: Yeah, we're being quite doom and gloom. 

DALIA: Well I'm always doom and gloom, I've realized that in this process, that I’m constantly like--

EMILY: Well, I'm gonna start being upbeat, it's very exciting!

DALIA: [LAUGHTER] Like yeah, this definitely, like talking to the people and stuff has really made me actually feel like quite excited about it. Like, it is an amazing thing to do!

EMILY: It is an amazing thing to do.

DALIA: I don't mean like for me to do, I mean, it's an amazing thing to do as a group of people, is to like--

EMILY: Yeah, like, it is a beautiful thing, it would be in like, a, like, a cemented bond forever, and probably you are the types of characters that would just deal with it anyway, whatever happened. But I think, I think if anyone was the right set of characters to do it, it's you guys. Yeah and imagine, like, imagine all the good things, but then it's, maybe you don't get carried away, do you?

DALIA: Exactly, yeah!

EMILY: But maybe that suggests that you are coming to a decision, because you're starting to go, get a little bit excited about--

DALIA: Yeah but I've always had those two, those two things have always sat there--

EMILY: Right, okay.

DALIA: But I just, what I think, what I keep saying is, I'm just not sure what then tips the scales. Like what is it that then-- that's then like, okay, yes, you've got all these things to consider and anxieties or whatever, but it's-- just do it.

And I think where I'm at at the moment is that I think I'm in a position to say that yes, this is actually something that I would like to pursue and would like to carry on. But I need to consider the people around me and this isn't just an individual decision. And I don't think I'm of the view that like, this is my body only and I'm the only person that has, like a fundamental decision making process in this, because I actually think there's two other people completely disconnected who I think definitely have a stake in my body and what it does. I think my husband and my child do have an equal say, to some extent, in what I do with my body because it implicates them!


RUTH: Through this whole process we’ve mostly heard Mohsin and Dalia talking to each other. But as they open up this conversation to other people, they’re facing new, difficult questions. Questions that they can’t necessarily answer together


EMILY: My one worry for you as your friend is that-- because, because you've clearly thought about this from every angle. So my main worry would be what it-- like, is it even possible to say no?

DALIA: Do you know what, that's really interesting, because no one else, so no one has actually broached that. Yeah, that's a really interesting point. And I haven't thought about that. Mohs is very, like, “I don't want to make you feel pressured, and there's no pressure and blah, blah, blah.” And, sorry I shouldn't have skimmed over that. I mean, that's very good of him to say that. And I believe that's genuine.

EMILY: That's funny, because in my head, I was going, “Yada yada, yada, of course he's saying that.” [LAUGHTER]

DALIA: But yeah, you're right. And I do think now I'm a bit like, “Why did I start this when I wasn't sure?” because now you're right. Like, what happens if I do turn around and say like, I don't think this is something that I can do.

I think we've talked about it. And I think like my sense is that I think it's okay, in a relationship to also feel like, let down and disappointed. And I think it's…I would hope that if that was the case that it would be okay for him to feel that. And I totally understand that. I don't know what impact it would have. But like, I would hope that even if he did feel bad, because I think that would be inevitable, even if he is like, “Oh, there's no pressure and blah, blah,” like of course he's going to feel…they both are, they will feel really disappointed if I do say no! 


And that might affect our relationship. But I hadn't really thought about it from the other way around, which is like do I feel like I can't say no, now? I don't know, Emily. What have I done? [LAUGHTER]


Okay, final question. What do you think I should do?

EMILY: I think you should make sure that your husband is going to be okay with you embarking on this journey. I think that's really important. Because if it wasn't the case, it-- you just don't know how that might play out in the future. So I do think that they need to be your priority.

DALIA: Yeah.

EMILY: I don't think you should give, like, one tiny fraction of a second of time to consider what anyone else might think. For example, we didn't get to it but like, family.

DALIA: Yeah, although that does have like, annoying implications, but yes.

EMILY: Here are what I think are priorities because I feel much more than I thought I would be, that you've really come to terms with a lot of the implications of this. And you're doing it for an amazing reason. And you have people around you who will support you through it! Like we, you will, and you always will have.


I think you should just really have those conversations with your husband and consider what he genuinely is willing to support or actually get-- he needs to get on board with it, as opposed to say do what you want.

DALIA: Exactly, that's what I think.

EMILY: I think that's important. And then secondly, even though we've hardly spoken about it, I think you need to know that you don't want to have a second child anytime soon. Because this is really going to take its toll on your body and your emotions. And one thing I've realized is it takes ages, this sort of process. Even if it works every step of the way, because you have to give your body time to respond to hormones to readjust, et cetera.

So all that to one side, if you can kind of make your peace with those things, I think it would be a wonderful adventure to embark on. And I think you're the right person to do it.


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 Mohsin’s mum and Emily.