A teacher has become one of the first single fathers by choice in the UK after a change in the law which previously restricted surrogacy to couples.
David Watkins, 42, from Southampton, was the first man to become a solo parent through Surrogacy UK, a not-for-profit surrogacy organisation, since the rules were reformed in 2019.
Having grown tired of waiting to meet a man who shared the same dream of becoming a dad, Watkins decided to go it alone.
Fortunately in January 2019, a law was passed which gave him the ability as a single person to become the legal parent of his own child conceived through surrogacy.
Thanks to a surrogate and anonymous egg donor, Watkins welcomed his son Miles, now six months old, into the world on 19 July 2020, weighing a healthy 7 lb 8 oz.
“I have always wanted to be a dad,” he says.
“I am a teacher and love being an educator and role model.
“I used to envy dads who came to pick their children up at the end of a school day and put their kid on their shoulders.
“I became completely struck with the thought of becoming a dad but never met a man who shared the same desire.”
As he started to approach the age of 40, Watkins decided to start looking into how he could become a father without a partner.
“I thought it may not be possible as it was very expensive for a surrogate abroad and I didn’t want to fake a relationship to have my name on the birth certificate,” he explains.
So when surrogacy laws changed for single people in the UK, Watkins says he was “elated” and immediately started his journey to fatherhood.
Things started to develop when he met Faye Spreadbury, 37, from Leicester, at a Surrogacy UK social event.
The married mum-of-two, reached out to Watkins as she was keen to help him pursue his dream of becoming a dad.
“Faye and I met in July 2019 and we instantly clicked,” he explains. “She didn’t want to have any more children of her own but wanted to help others.
“I was so grateful that she approached me and wanted to help as she was amazing.”
Watkins says it was important to him that Spreadbury’s husband, Lee, was in favour of the surrogacy.
“I don’t think it would have worked if her whole family wasn’t on board,” he adds.
After three months of getting to know each other, they began the embryo transfer process in October 2019.
Watkins had four embryos “ready and waiting” at CRGH fertility clinic in London.
He chose an anonymous egg donor who had similar characteristics to himself such as Caucasian background and blue eyes.
“I wanted to match the donor's characteristics to mine. At the time I felt it important my baby looked like me,” he explains.
“I had this need to be instantly recognisable as his father.
“Having that clear biological connection was one of the reasons I choose surrogacy instead of fostering or adoption.”
But Watkins notes that now that Miles is here, those things seem to matter less and less.
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In November 2019, a pregnancy test revealed Watkins was on his way to becoming a father.
During the pregnancy, Watkins and Spreadbury kept in regular contact and paid regular visits to each other’s hometowns.
Watkins also left voice recordings for Spreadbury to play to Miles whilst he was in the womb.
“It was quite strange describing my day to my unborn child but I think it definitely provided us, father and son, one-on-one time to bond,” he says.
“I will always remember the first time I felt him kick inside Faye - it was amazing.”
Watkins says he never felt concerned his surrogate would change her mind.
“It was obvious she was just looking after him for me,” he adds.
“It is like an extreme form of babysitting.”
Watkins planned to stay in his surrogate’s hometown two weeks before and after the due date, but the day after he arrived, she went into labour.
“I was in the pool when Faye gave birth and he came straight into my arms,” he says of his son’s arrival.
“I instantly felt a connection.”
“I first noticed how curly his hair was - I was like ‘wow that doesn’t come from me’.”
Now, six months on, the proud father couldn’t imagine his life without his son, though, he admits parenting can be tough without a partner.
“It is exhausting and there have been times I’ve wished for someone to help with the night feeds,” he explains.
“I am grateful to have supportive parents who help me.”
Watkins keeps in contact with the Spreadbury family and says they will always be in his and Miles’ life.
“I have already told Miles about how he got here - I am very open,” he says.
“My mother created a book for him with pictures of all the important people in his life so far. The Spreadburys are there and I go through the pages with him explaining his special journey.”
“It is hard being a single parent but I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Watkins adds.
“I’ve had a very positive experience and I want other single men to know they can do it too.”
Watkins has launched his very own website to support other single dads by choice read more Dad Be.
Additional reporting Caters.