Ep 6 | This is serious

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Ep 6 | This is serious

Is a vague idea between friends about to become a reality? A year into the process, and on the verge of a decision, Mohsin and Dalia sit down with a dozen pages of a surrogacy agreement, and hash out the details of exactly how this could work. There’s little decisions to make about conception, pregnancy and birth – and these old friends don’t always agree. Then, Mohsin drops a bombshell that could change everything.

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RUTH (HOST): A few things before this episode begins. Firstly, my usual warning. If you're jumping in now, at this episode, you should stop and start again at the beginning of the series. Otherwise, you'll be missing important context for some hugely significant conversations. And secondly, a heads up. This episode features some discussion of complications in pregnancy and childbirth, as well as termination. If you find these topics distressing, please take care while listening. This is Tiny Huge Decisions, Episode 6: This is serious.


A few weeks after their conversations with family and friends, Mohsin and Dalia meet at his place to catch up about what they've been learning. And Mohsin also has something to reveal. Something that could change everything. But first, there are some important things to talk through. Like, whose sperm are they going to use?

DALIA: And you decided that maybe for this first go... It would be Matthew's sperm.

MOHSIN: Yeah, I think so. I think on this, um... I think on this round, this being our first child, we would do it that way.

DALIA: How do you feel about that?

MOHSIN: I think if I'm honest, there's a part of me that just wants to adopt. And I know that Matthew doesn't want to do that.

DALIA: Did you discuss that?

MOHSIN: Yeah, we've discussed it a bit. Um, he's not totally ruled it out, but that's something that's on my mind. And then, I think if we're not going to adopt, we're going to have biological children, then I guess the logical thing to say would be to be like, well, if I want to adopt, then why does it matter?

But I guess it does matter because if the option becomes available to have your own biological children, then I guess you'd think, well, why wouldn't I? Wouldn't I want to have my own?

DALIA: Yeah, I mean, I think that's normal.

MOHSIN: But then I also really like the idea of, like, a little version of Matthew running around, you know? I'm not saying like, "Oh, I definitely want to adopt." I'm just saying that--

DALIA: But why would you maybe want to pursue that at the moment as well as surrogacy?

MOHSIN: I don't think so because Matthew's-- well I don't want to speak for him, but I think he's more keen to explore. And I am too, right? It's whether we can have our own.


DALIA: First of all, something that I still don't know the answer to, which is where are you planning to get an egg from?

MOHSIN: Doesn't the stork just deliver that? [LAUGHTER] So there's organisations that help match couples with potential egg donors. So, we would be looking at using one of those organisations.

DALIA: But you haven't started?


DALIA: Why not?

MOHSIN: Because, I don't know, I mean, no, we've done our research, and I think that we...I don't know why we haven't started. I think just because, you know, we got married recently, we moved house, there's been other stuff on. We've been trying to set our lives up to even think about having kids, you know?

Um...but we will. I guess the thing that was complicated was that egg donors tend to be white women. And if we want children that are reflective of our identities, you know, a mix of both of us, then it might mean...that might inform who the dad is, so whose sperm we use. But the thing is, I don't know.

It becomes more complicated if you think about having more than one. Then at some point we're going to have to face the fact that, if Matthew's going to be one of the parents, then we have to try and find, potentially, a South Asian egg donor.

DALIA: Because I know that when I spoke to the surrogates, like, something that I think a few of them said was, like, they asked about the egg and they said that often, like, that's actually the bit that takes just as long as finding the surrogate.

MOHSIN: What, finding the egg?

DALIA: Yeah, I think getting to the stage where you have an embryo. So like, a fertilized--

MOHSIN: Yeah, because you have to put the egg with sperm, freeze it, all that stuff--

DALIA: Yeah, so I think cause there are all these stages, they're a bit like until-- like I think a few of them had had conversations with intended parents who, you know, they wanted to then go forward with, but they weren't even like at that stage.

MOHSIN: Ready, yeah.

DALIA: And they were saying that actually took ages, that took them like a year or whatever to get to the stage where they literally had something ready to go, like, in the surrogate.

MOHSIN: Yeah, I mean, I think that if you said no, we would crack on with that process. We, we become more attractive to a potential surrogate as intended parents if we are ready to go.

DALIA: Yeah.

MOHSIN: So then that, that puts more of a priority on being in the best position possible.


RUTH: As they sit together around the dining table, Mohsin and Dalia have a surrogacy agreement to go through line by line. It's a legal document that's basically a contract between the intended parents and their surrogate covering the whole process. Mohsin and Dalia have been hearing about these in their research and now they've got their hands on a sample agreement.

They've agreed to read through it together, as a test run through all the kinds of decisions they would need to make. It's a daunting task, but it's something they'll need to complete if they're going to do this together.

DALIA: Okay, so the first set of questions are about, um, STIs. [LAUGHTER] Why are you laughing?

MOHSIN: Just because, oh god...

DALIA: I can guarantee you that this conversation is a thousand times worse for me than it is for you!

MOHSIN: That's true, because you're more of a prude than I am.

DALIA: Yeah!

MOHSIN: Um, alright, are you willing to have an STI check, Dalia?

DALIA: Yes, I'm willing to have an STI check.

MOHSIN: I'm not.

DALIA: You are not relevant. [LAUGHTER]

MOHSIN: Of course I'm relevant.

DALIA: Oh yeah, you are. [LAUGHTER] Hang on, so is it all of us?


DALIA: Anyway, I mean, I'm happy to have all kinds of checks. I love checks. I love tests. I do. [LAUGHTER]

MOHSIN: Do you?

DALIA: Do you know that's actually a bonus for you? Totally happy with like, intervention, love doctors, love procedures, love drugs.

MOHSIN: Just don't like babies. [LAUGHTER]


DALIA: On Matthew's behalf, do you think he would agree to not smoke and to not drink?

MOHSIN: Um, he--

DALIA: And to keep himself healthy?

MOHSIN: He doesn't smoke. He does drink occasionally, but I'm sure that he would agree not to. Especially because I would police it the entire time. And maybe what I would do is say, the moment that alcohol touches your lips, you forfeit your right to be the sperm donor. And then--

DALIA: Okay, so you think Matthew would be fine with not smoking, not drinking, and trying to conceive. Remember that could also take quite a long time.

MOHSIN: Yeah, I think he'd be totally fine. I think he would be committed to doing this properly.

DALIA: Okay.


Um, how many embryos do you intend to transfer?

MOHSIN: All of them.


MOHSIN: All of them, I'm going to transfer all of them.

DALIA: Into my body?

MOHSIN: Yeah, all of them.


MOHSIN: And are you like a hard no on twins?

DALIA: Well, I mean, I guess this is what we have to discuss, but my preference would very much be to only have one at a time. Of these embryos.

MOHSIN: Um, but look, ultimately on this question, even though we don't know the statistics, this really has to be your decision.

DALIA: Okay.

MOHSIN: But I don't know that-- the only thing that's making me uncomfortable about this is that it can't really, there are certain things that can't be a negotiation, like you have to be in charge, because it's your body.

DALIA: Well, or the other way around, right? It's your baby.

MOHSIN: Yeah, yeah.

DALIA: Thank you very much.


DALIA: Um, how many cycles would you be willing to try...

MOHSIN: ...before reviewing the situation? I would say 10.

DALIA: Okay. [LAUGHTER] I, again, like out of ignorance, don't really know the answer to this question because I don't know how it would feel. So I don't know how you're like-- I find it quite hard to imagine in these agreements how you're supposed to stick to like, some kind of fixed...

I did it and it wasn't that bad. You know, you just keep going.

MOHSIN: Yeah, but there are...

DALIA: [INAUDIBLE] I mean, would you turn around and be like, "You said in our agreement that you would go through this."

MOHSIN: Absolutely. And I'd sue you if you tried to renege on any promises you made in the signed agreement. No, I think actually it is worth considering this because first of all, it is quite invasive, the procedure, but then also there's an emotional toll that it takes, right?

Because every time that it is not successful, like, it might just be quite complicated.

DALIA: The problem is that it's not that simple, right? Because also for you, you can't just be like, yeah, just try once. If it doesn't work, nevermind, we'll find another surrogate.

MOHSIN: I understand the point that you're making. And I'm not saying, "Oh, look, once is fine."

I'm saying that, look, if you do it once, and you decide that the emotional and physical toll is too much after that, then that's fine.

DALIA: Well, I think the nice thing maybe about doing this kind of thing with somebody you know is that you can have these kinds of like...

MOHSIN: Conversations. But do you think so?

Because it might be that you do it once, you decide actually I don't want to do it again, but because I've already said yes to doing, to doing this process, and I've tried once and it failed, I feel now obliged to do it again. Because it's an easy ask.

DALIA: Yeah. But then that's why maybe it's useful to put things like numbers down, right?

MOHSIN: So, assuming that it's, worst case scenario, let's be prudent, assuming that it does take a physical toll, there are sacrifices you have to make while we're doing it, and emotionally it's hard if it's not successful, how many times would you want to go through that?

DALIA: More than once, less than many.

MOHSIN: Okay, that's--


MOHSIN: Three? Three, are we putting three? Alright, fine. Fine, great, good. It's in black and white now, it's too late to go back.

DALIA: So I guess, like, as intended parents, you'd want to be there for the scans, right? The other thing is, like, when you go for your scan appointments, which they're not that many... They're also the ones where they do the testing--

MOHSIN: yeah, I think we'd probably have to be there for those because, well, not necessarily in the room, but we'd have to be in the building.

I think that those ones we should be there for, because if you're, if you're happy for us to be there.

DALIA: You need to be there for them.

MOHSIN: I think for me, the scans, the scans would be like, important for... to be there. I think for the rest, I would want to be there if you felt like it would be the support that you needed, but I wouldn't want to invade on your privacy.

DALIA: Yeah, but what I'm saying is, like, you know, there's a difference between, like, being in an appointment and just, like, turning away for a few minutes, or, like, not being there altogether, is all I'm saying. Like, I don't know, I feel like maybe as, the other thing is that... I think it's quite important in terms of your, like, bonding process, and like, getting used to the idea that you're literally going to have a child.

MOHSIN: Gonna be a parent, yeah.

DALIA: Like, part of it is all this rigmarole that you go through. But also, I think there's, like, maybe there's an idea that, in terms of, like, burden of work, it's your child.

MOHSIN: Absolutely.

DALIA: Not mine, so even though, you know, it's my body, you need to be there.

MOHSIN: We need to turn up.

DALIA: You need to turn up, you need to be there.

MOHSIN: Absolutely. I agree.



DALIA: During the pregnancy, do you agree not to smoke, not to drink, not to go on holiday, not to go on long distance holidays, avoid dangerous situations? But actually there's one about holidays I am more interested in. The long distance thing is relevant to me because of my work, because it was one thing that I wasn't able to do when I was pregnant was to go overseas, which actually really was quite--

MOHSIN: Impeded on your ability to do your research.

DALIA: I'd kind of forgotten about that. I'd actually had a plan to go to the Philippines that summer.

MOHSIN: And you couldn't go?

DALIA: And then I got pregnant, so I had to cancel all of that. So that is actually something I hadn't quite thought about, which is that I would have to like, put a hold probably on some.

MOHSIN: Some of your trips.

DALIA: Work related trips.

MOHSIN: Yeah. Would that be...

DALIA: I mean, you can't, it's not like you can't travel--

MOHSIN: Would that be while you were pregnant, or is this while you were...

DALIA: Well, I think it...

MOHSIN: Oh, yeah, it's during pregnancy.

DALIA: But actually, it's relevant in the sense that, like, you know, for example, part of it is about vaccinations and drugs, like, to the kinds of places that I would go to. Zika virus, like, that kind of thing. So that is a consideration I would have.

MOHSIN: So it's during pregnancy this is, right?

DALIA: Yeah. It's just something I have to think about in my... Anyway, career terms.


RUTH: As they confront the real impact a surrogate pregnancy would have on Dalia's life and career, these two have come a long way from that half joke, half serious offer so many months ago.

The draft agreement has taken them into the nuts and bolts of that dream. And this is where the dream becomes difficult.

MOHSIN: Decisions during pregnancy.


MOHSIN: So this one is quite serious, and I must confess that this is the conversation I've been probably dreading the most. Because it's hard, this is hard. Um...

DALIA: Well, these kinds of conversations are hard, like when it's, you know, your own child.

MOHSIN: Yeah. I just don't know, how do you navigate this--


Absolutely, yeah.

DALIA: So the questions are about options, um, for termination.

MOHSIN: Or taking medical advice, or no action. Yeah, so there's three options for each one. Terminating, taking medical advice, and no action. And then they've got, like, a list of, like, six scenarios. Shall we just go through each one?

DALIA: Yeah.

MOHSIN: So, birth defects such as cleft lip, palette, or club foot. Do you want me to go first? I feel like...

DALIA: Yeah, I feel like, again, these are slightly more, like, I suppose the termination thing is different, but, like...these are questions about the child, right? And ultimately... You are the parents.

MOHSIN: So I haven't spoken to my husband about these things, so this is only my view. But my view is, I would not want to terminate a fetus if there was a birth defect such as a cleft lip, palette or clubfoot. But actually, my overarching thing is...if it was going to lead to the child leading a much, a significantly shortened life, or a significantly impeded life, then that would have an impact on whether I would want you to consider termination.

But ultimately, I feel like, I don't know, I feel like, how can I tell you to terminate a child?

DALIA: It's not my child.

MOHSIN: I know, but still!

DALIA: Well, I don't know, I mean, it is really interesting, right, because, like, again, part of me just feels like this is not my decision in any way.

MOHSIN: Oh, my God. You don't think that having an abortion would be--

DALIA: I'm not saying that it wouldn't, like, affect me, and I'm not saying that I wouldn't, like, have opinions on that decision. I just... feel that like, doesn't there have to be an ultimate kind of line here, which is like for me, and maybe it's like a defensive thing. It's like, I am the person who is carrying somebody else's child. It's not a scenario of me carrying like, my child and having to make the decisions. Having said that, I think it's probably broadly because I have a feeling we kind of agree on like where the lines are.

MOHSIN: Would be.

DALIA: Would be. And maybe if you said to me, like... that you felt like you would consider a termination for something like a cleft lip, then I'd be like, hang on. Now this is my decision. I remember having to face these decisions when I was pregnant and my feeling was just like I didn't know how to make a decision beforehand I would want to have all this information, but I didn't feel like, “Okay, having a termination is an absolute no no.”

MOHSIN: Okay, so I mean I think--

DALIA: That I felt like it was something that would-- But saying that, I did, like, for me personally, I felt like there would have to be, like--

MOHSIN: A serious issue.

DALIA: Like, and I mean, like, serious. Issue.

MOHSIN: I feel similarly. But I think it's not enough to say that, actually. I mean, I don't know... In some ways we have the luxury of knowing each other so well, that we... maybe take it for granted that we would navigate this in a way that felt respectful to the other person.

The fact that you've said that termination is not entirely off the table is probably an important indication. I guess from my side, it's an important indication for you to know that it would have to be something really serious before I'd even consider it.

DALIA: Well, I suppose it's important for us to know that it's not off the table for both of us, right?


DALIA: I wouldn't necessarily take that for granted that, I mean, I don't know even what Matthew thinks.

MOHSIN: No. But then also like what if, you know, what if...?

DALIA: Could be the opposite.

MOHSIN: Yeah, exactly.

DALIA: I guess this is where the legal stuff comes into it, but then--

MOHSIN: You're carrying a child that you're told has got 10% chance of survival, and I say I want you to have it anyway.

DALIA: And then when this child is born, it's legally the responsibility, and the child, of me and my husband.

MOHSIN: [DEEP BREATH] God, this is serious.


RUTH: Going through the surrogacy agreement, Mohsin and Dalia have had to face the huge range of significant decisions they might need to make together. But in the background of these conversations, Mohsin and Matthew have been making another decision, and it's a big one, with serious implications for how they start a family.

MOHSIN: There is something that I wanted to talk to you about. And... We have-- I told you this might be on the cards, but I needed to tell you that it's now been confirmed that Matthew and I are moving to New York. U. S. of A.

DALIA: [LAUGHTER] Thank you for clarifying which country New York is in.

MOHSIN: Very, very, very soon. And I'm trying not to get emotional talking about this. The thing that I'm going to find hardest is leaving behind the people that I love. And I think that...actually not being on the same time zone as you, being able to see you more regularly is going to be hard.

But yeah, so we are moving. And that's going to have an impact on, potentially on your decision, but it also will have an impact on the practicalities of your decision. You know? Because you'd have to think about-- would you only be saying yes after we got back? Or would you be saying, "Yeah, I'll do it, but you won't be in the country." So [it's] going to all be done remotely.

DALIA: I'd like it to be on tape that I'm really upset that you're moving to New York. [LAUGHTER] I'm really angry with you. But I just had a thought as you were talking.


DALIA: If I said yes, would you stay?

MOHSIN: Uh... [LAUGHTER] Oh my god.

DALIA: If I said like, yes, but I want to do this right now.

MOHSIN: Well, but you could do it right now while we were in America.

DALIA: Oh, thank you very much! I'll just sit and like, harbor your child while you're on the other side of the world.

MOHSIN: I mean, I'd fly back for appointments if you wanted me there.

DALIA: Oh my God!

MOHSIN: No, but that's the thing, right, is that's...that's one way it could work. But I mean, I suppose if you said, I will only do it if you're in country...

DALIA: Can I basically blackmail you out of going?

MOHSIN: Emotionally blackmail me out of going. I mean, maybe? What happened with New York was, when we were offered it, I didn't want to pressure you into making a decision.

But one of the reasons why we, Matthew and I, decided that we should go is because we couldn't rely on you. And like, not in a, like, a bad way, but our thinking was, "Okay, well look, there's no way we-- Like, I'm not going to come to you and be like, Dalia, Dalia, hurry up and make this decision because we might go to New York."

So I think the way that we saw it was we would like to have that experience anyway. And if you said no, then we would potentially be in a better position to do it in America, although it's way more expensive.

DALIA: Yeah, which I think is totally right, and actually it would be really silly of you not to have taken the opportunity. And actually to proactively do that, partly because of you guys trying to have a family.

Like, it would be stupid not to have taken that opportunity. Um...I'm just thinking now, like, because it's soon, right, so it's in a couple of months, so. Maybe, I, I really, like, I know it sounds really stupid, but I haven't really thought about how it would affect this decision, because I think I've been trying to think about this decision separate from that fact.

So I need to make this decision soon, but the decision about New York has already been made. It's happening.

MOHSIN: It is.

DALIA: And it sounds like what you're saying is that if I was to say, "No, maybe it's a good thing that you're going to New York," because we might be a bit upset with each other. Well, I won't be upset with you.

MOHSIN: Why would you be upset with me? [LAUGHTER]

DALIA: Well, I'm still upset with you for going to New York!

MOHSIN: And I'll be upset with you for--

DALIA: And you can be upset with me for not having your child. [LAUGHTER] Yeah, so it's good that we'll be-- Actually, it's true, so it's good that we'll be... And I actually think those things are equal, by the way. [LAUGHTER]

MOHSIN: I don't think that I will need--

DALIA: They are definitely equal.

MOHSIN: I don't think I will need space from you if you say no.

DALIA: Well, you might do. We've talked about this before. Like, it's okay to be upset and disappointed, right?

MOHSIN: Yeah, I think... I think so, but I don't know, I just, maybe it's easy for me to say this now... especially because-- well maybe not, with you know, the next conversation we have is going to be about whether you're going to do it or not.

I guess I feel like, either way, everything will be fine.

DALIA: I think either way everything will be fine too.


RUTH: Tiny Huge Decisions is a Chalk and Blade production for APM Studios. At Chalk and Blade, the executive producer is Ruth Barnes, the showrunner and story editor is Louise Mountain, and the producer and sound designer is Matt Nielsen, 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 Dahlia, Mohsin, and Matthew.