Care and Feeding

I’m Concerned About My Husband’s Specific Genetic Requirements for Our Baby

Among other things, it’s going to make things way more costly, and I’d be happy just to adopt.

Two men, one with his arm around the other. An image of embryos behind them.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by the-lightwriter/iStock/Getty Images Plus and glade/iStock/Getty Images.

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Dear Care and Feeding,

My husband and I (also male) both want to have at least one child. I think we’d both be fine with just one. The issue is: I am totally fine adopting, while my husband is adamant that we do IVF surrogacy. He has strong feelings that the child needs to be his genetic offspring (he has made comments about how he doesn’t think he could stand dealing with the annoyances of “someone else’s child”), and he insists that IVF means we could choose to have a boy (because he wouldn’t know how to raise a girl).

We are still likely a couple years away from parenthood, so we have time to discuss things further, but my biggest concern with IVF surrogacy is the cost. My research shows that for one child, it can all add up to $150,000-200,000, and while adoption isn’t cheap, it’s about 10 percent of that cost. We are both relatively high-earners, but I still see it as a waste of money just to say this kid has his genes.

Additionally, I worry for someone who claims they want a kid as much as he does about the fact that he feels like he couldn’t put up with “someone else’s kid;” even through adoption, it is “your” kid. If, say, we wanted a second child but did IVF surrogacy with my genes, would he treat “my” kid differently than “his” kid? I also think raising a kid—boy or girl—presents many challenges for any first-time parent, and who’s to say a son of his would be anything like him or have the problems he had? Odds are that our son would be straight, so how is my husband going to help him with girl trouble or other issues he hasn’t personally faced? I don’t think the gender issue is all that important in how best to raise a kid.

Any advice on how to work through these differences or come to an understanding? Or am I being unreasonable and cheap and should more strongly consider IVF surrogacy?

—Babies Are So Expensive

Dear B.A.S.E.,

It sounds like some pre-parenthood counseling would be ideal for you two. You each have very different priorities as it relates to having a child, and they are bound to cause some tension if you aren’t able to manage them. You are not being unreasonable and cheap, but your husband’s “my kid” versus “a stranger’s kid” attitude is not terribly uncommon, unfortunately—it stops a lot of families from considering adoption. However, you don’t want to twist his arm and convince him to agree to something he isn’t really comfortable with, because the last thing an adopted child needs is a parent who is not able to fully recognize them as his own family. Also, while the need to have a biological child may seem frivolous to you and others, it’s important that you don’t trivialize that in your conversations with your husband; it will not make him more open to having children by other means and is likely to only make things worse. And as far as the possibility of a second child born with your DNA…have you discussed this at all?

I think your concern here is valid. It seems that the two of you have very different attitudes about what makes someone a father, and perhaps about the role fathers play in the lives of children who are not boys as well. You all should continue to have some meaningful conversations about family in advance of speaking to a therapist, both as a means of working towards better understanding on your own (and ostensibly, some compromise) and so that you are as prepared as possible for the dialogues you will have with the counselor or doctor.

—Jamilah