Oh, the paperwork.
I mean, I expected paperwork. You’re getting someone to produce a human being from your harvested genetic material, of course there’s going to be paperwork. (side note: as a sci-fi fan, you realise that you’re living in the future when a concept that would have made HG Wells’ head spin is a routine medical practice).
I just didn’t realise there would be so damn much.
A small telephone directory’s worth of health questionnaire, for me, for her, for both of us, legal disclaimers, permission slips, waivers, post mortem egg/semen/embryo storage forms, all of which have to be signed and countersigned at the bottom of every single page. By both of us. Every single damn page. Even more surreal is the legal stuff. The “I agree to be the legal parent of any offspring produced” bit. Yes, that’s why we’re here, and I appreciate they need our permission to do anything, but signing that you’re willing to be a parent and you will accept responsibility if it all works is a tad odd. In previous employment, I had to sign for everything: new pair of boots? Sign here. Work trousers? Sign there! Radio? Sign and sign. I’d be responsible for any damage caused, even if it wasn’t my fault. Now I’ve signed for a baby, a tiny human being, and that’s just goddamn terrifying. Nowhere does anyone inform you of this. If you become a parent by accident, or through the normal chain of events, at no point does anybody sit you down and sign said new born infant over to you. It’s just implied. I plan on being a good parent, but at the back of my mind is the secret nagging doubt that one day I’ll be taking him or her to A+E because they’ve fallen out of their treehouse, or come to some other form of calamity, and I’ll be confronted by a health professional in the manner of a disgruntled military quartermaster, brandishing paperwork from ten years previous –
“Mr… Astronomer, I believe? I understand you are the legal parent of this child?”
“Yes, that’s me. Erm, look, which way is A and E? She fell out of the tree in the garden, and I don’t like the look of how swollen that ankle is”
“This your signature?”
“It is, but I don’t see what that has to do with anyth- hang on, where do I know you from? Aren’t you the nurse from the fertility clinic in – Oh! I mean, no! No, it’s not my signature!”
“Thought as much. Mr Astronomer, you are responsible for damages incurred to one times infant, female, human, signed for in Dec 16, issued some time later. I am therefore legally empowered to inform you that you are officially a crap parent.”
Come to think of it, perhaps everyone who becomes a parent should have to sign to accept responsibility for their kids. Exams, too, and not just the practical.
The nurse who actually walked us through the paperwork was lovely, but I still worry. They can be fairly blunt and to the point – I wouldn’t want to get on their bad side. Mrs Astronomer was having blood taken for screening just before Christmas, when I happened to say, in an offhand manner that I was not, in fact, a fan of needles. I’m not a fainter, or anything like that, but to my surprise and protested reassurances I was unceremoniously turfed out of the nurses’ office –
“Out! No, it’s my last day before Christmas, and if you faint, there will be all sorts of paperwork! Out out out!”(or words to that effect, anyway!).
I can see why she’d do that, though. Paperwork’s a pain.