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I’m a 39 year old man with a good job that I love, and a large home to call my own. I’m desperate to become a father before I’m “too old”, but there isn’t a partner on the horizon. What are my options?

Written by our mental health expert, Emily Koert, Ph.D. Candidate and Registered Clinical Counsellor.

It’s a common assumption that once women reach a particular age, their biological clocks start ticking, and they develop “baby fever” – the desire to have a child. Although men’s “baby fever” isn’t as socially recognized, in a similar way, men can yearn to have a child and become concerned when they do not have a partner with whom to parent. If you’ve thought this through and feel ready to get on with being a dad via a non-traditional route, you can do so through adoption, third party reproduction, or co-parenting with a female friend.

In terms of adoption, there are two options: domestic (within your country) and international. If you’re interested in expanding your family through one of these routes, start by contacting your local adoption agency to explore what is involved in the process. There are different rules and regulations across countries in terms of their openness to accepting single men as adoptive parents. Agencies often hold information sessions that are a great way to learn some basic knowledge about this option.

If you want to have a child that is genetically related to you, you may consider using an egg donor and/or surrogate. In the case of traditional surrogacy, a woman agrees to be inseminated using your sperm and uses her own eggs to conceive the child. She carries the child and relinquishes the child to you when s/he is born. In the case of egg donation and gestational surrogacy, eggs are donated by a known or anonymous egg donor, then they are fertilized with your sperm in the laboratory of a fertility clinic. The resulting embryos are transferred into the uterus of another woman (the gestational surrogate) who carries the child and relinquishes the child to you at birth. This second option is considerably more costly, as it requires the egg donor to go through the first half of an IVF cycle, and the gestational carrier to go through the second half of the cycle. There are also important legal implications involved with egg donation and both types of surrogacy. For example, most countries require a surrogacy agreement created with the assistance of a lawyer. If you’re considering this option, consult with a lawyer with expertise in third party reproduction to make sure that you’re covering your bases.

In some countries such as Canada, egg donation and surrogacy is legal, but must be “altruistic” – meaning that paying a woman for her eggs or for carrying the pregnancy is not allowed beyond reimbursement for related expenses. In this case, often a woman known to you may agree to be an egg donor or surrogate to help you become a parent. In countries such as the United States, fertility clinics and agencies connect individuals with egg donors and surrogates for a fee, and the egg donor and surrogate are paid for their services, offering you more options. Laws regarding payment differ across countries, so you need to do your research.

Regarding the third option, some single men choose to co-parent with a single female friend who also wants to have a child but also has not found a suitable partner with whom to parent. In this case, your friend could be inseminated with your sperm. Before entering into this type of co-parenting arrangement it is very important to discuss your preferences and expectations regarding roles, boundaries, and responsibilities  – to ensure that you’re both on the same page. Involving a lawyer in drafting a parenthood agreement is highly recommended, as well as speaking with a counsellor.

Whatever option you choose, I invite you to embrace it as a viable alternative, not a “second best option.” Although your path to fatherhood may be different than you expected, if becoming a dad is important to you and you feel you are ready and willing to make a commitment to raising a child, that’s what matters most.

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