The moment you first hold your baby in your arms is overwhelming. I can remember feeling a great sense of love, joy and happiness when I first held my kids, Oscar and Poppy. But with those feelings comes a great sense of responsibility. Iain, my husband, and I were suddenly responsible for making an enormous number of decisions.
Some are a no-brainer - of course they support Fremantle Football Club, of course we will use reusable nappies, of course they will be bottle fed, and of course they'll be vaccinated. But, there were an abundance of unexpected questions still to answer.
Oscar had breathing difficulties at birth, so the decisions we had to make for him then were particularly overwhelming.
We had more time to think about other things, like their names. The kids took Iain’s surname, so I chose their middle names. Poppy’s middle names are to honour our own amazing mothers, while Oscar’s is my name (and is a shout-out to Iain’s granddad).
Iain has a strong bond with his sister, so Poppy is named after her. As a flower name, it was also a perfect way to respect our surrogate, whose name meant flower. We chose Oscar on the plane on the way to India. A sleep deprived, last-minute decision that will determine how he interacts with the world for life. Whoa.
"I was active in the Church growing up and no matter where I live in the world, I always find a church to go to. Even when it came to selecting our wedding venue in New Zealand, we were married in a church."
Then, of course, there are the more controversial decisions.
Iain and I believe in God; I was active in the Church growing up and no matter where I live in the world, I always find a church to go to. Even when it came to selecting our wedding venue in New Zealand, we were married in a church.
There are, however, a vocal group of Christians who actively campaign against the idea of Oscar and Poppy's existence. Their response to, well, pretty much anything involving the LGBTQI community is enough to make you question your own faith, let alone whether you want to introduce your kids to an environment filled with hate.
But this minority aren’t representative of the majority.
There are many Christians who support our family. For example, Nobel Peace Prize winner and retired Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu said, “I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven… I would much rather go to the other place”.
Each year in pride marches around the world, there are large contingents of religious groups who reassure us that we are welcome. Last week, a group of 50 religious leaders called on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to abandon the planned plebiscite on marriage equality because they are worried about the impact on LGBTQI people.
So, we put those reservations aside and chose a welcoming Anglican Church, and Oscar and Poppy were christened alongside my nephew. We chose to focus on the loving and community-minded focus of religion, rather than the intolerance of a few.
But we will have to be selective. I don’t want to send my kids to a Christian school that, during their impressionable, formative years, will tell them that they are "wrong", that they have been brought up in an environment of anything less than love, or that their parents are shell-fish eating "abominations".
In addition to the christening, we also had a special Hindu blessing for the kids - in recognition that our surrogate’s own faith is part of the reason why our kids are in the world today.
I have accepted that no matter how hard I try, I won’t get every decision right for my kids. I am a worrier and, like any parent, decisions I get wrong do genuinely upset me.
I also have the unfortunate added bonus of making these decisions in a world where people I have never met hold a great, unjustified prejudice against me. But all I can do is reassure myself that Iain and I aren’t the only people to make decisions in complex parenting scenarios. Between Iain’s family and mine, we have incredibly special people we can turn to to ask for advice, help and who will always support us.
One thing I am sure of, though, is that becoming a dad was the best decision I have ever made.
You can read James McDonald's surrogacy journey with his husband, Iain, here.