Joe Tang is not your stereotypical dad. He became a single father by choice to his son, Aaron, at the age of 55 with the help of an egg donor and gestational carrier through Egg Donor & Surrogate Solutions. In honor of National Single Parent Day (March 21), Joe was inspired to share his story to encourage other single men to pursue their dreams of parenthood.
“I don’t think having a child should be limited to couples or single women,” Joe says. “I want other men to know that it’s never too late. So, don’t think it can’t be done, or you can’t have a happy ending because in my case it very much is.”
While Joe says that before having Aaron, he didn’t consider himself to be a “kid person,” he still contemplated what it would be like to be father.
“I always thought it would be wonderful to pass on my family legacy and have a child of my own,” he explains. “I figured I would learn whatever I needed to along the way.”
The timing was right
Joe says he was inspired to pursue fatherhood on his own after witnessing his cousin become a single mom with the help of a donor and surrogate. In late 2017, as he was approaching retirement, Joe knew the timing was right to start the process.
“I waited until I was at a stage in life where I was more mature, and I had the financial resources necessary,” Joe says. “I don’t think I would have been a good dad when I was younger because I wasn’t mature enough.”
A Google search for egg donor and surrogacy agencies led Joe to an article about a doctor in the Dallas-Fort Worth area who had worked with Egg Donor & Surrogate Solutions and was a single parent to twins. “When I reached out to the agency and mentioned the article, they actually put me touch with the doctor,” Joe explains. “I was able to talk to him about his experience, and it was really helpful.”
Regarding his own personal experience with Egg Donor & Surrogate Solutions, Joe says, “It was all very positive. The process was seamless; there were no hitches.”
Finding an experienced surrogate
Intended parents have various criteria for what they look for in a gestational carrier. For Joe, experience was the most important factor. He wanted someone who had been a surrogate before – someone who was reliable and that he could trust. And that’s exactly what he found in Melinda – a five-time surrogate in her late 40s who lived in San Diego.
“My case manager recommended Melinda, and it worked out very well,” Joe says. “My fertility doctor was hesitant because of her age, but he couldn’t find a reason to say ‘no.’ Melinda is very type A, fastidious and detail oriented. I never worried because I trusted her judgement. She could teach a course [about surrogacy].”
Joe met Melinda and her husband, Shawn, twice in person during the surrogacy journey – first when she came to Texas to be evaluated by his fertility doctor and the second time when he flew to San Diego for Melinda’s sonogram at 20 weeks.
“We communicated a couple of times a week throughout the pregnancy,” Joe says. “Melinda’s husband is a great guy, and I consider them both friends. We still communicate via social media and texts, and I share photos of Aaron.”
An early arrival
Joe traveled to San Diego two weeks before the delivery date to be sure he would be present for the birth and stayed at a hotel near the hospital. It was a wise decision as Aaron arrived 10 days early on
“Melinda texted me and said, ‘Remember how we joked about a July 4th baby?’ Then she said her water had broken, and she was in labor,” Joe recalls. “They expected the labor to take a while, but it progressed very quickly. When I arrived at the hospital, Shawn came running out of the room saying, ‘Hurry – your baby is being born!’ It was a matter of minutes.”
Joe was able to see Aaron being born and got to hold him right away – an experience he describes as “surreal.”
“I’d love to say it was like heaven and very emotional, but I was in shock,” Joe explains. “I handled it pretty well and was calm about it. For me, the experience felt matter of fact, like ‘he’s here, it’s happened.’ It wasn’t a fairytale. That was my honest experience.”
Becoming a “kid person”
Now at two years old, Joe describes Aaron as “scary-smart, hilarious, outgoing and high-energy.” As Aaron has gotten older, Joe has become more confident in his role as a father, and his love for Aaron has grown exponentially.
“Watching Aaron become his own little person has brought me so much joy, more than I ever anticipated,” Joe says. “He’s talking a lot now and has his own personality. I absolutely love him and would do anything for him. When he’s sick, I’m upset about it. His pain is my pain, and his joy is my joy.”
Aaron has also brought great happiness to Joe’s parents as their first and only grandchild. “One thing I didn’t contemplate was how over the moon my parents would be with Aaron,” Joe says. “My dad was ill and passed away 14 months after Aaron was born, but he was so proud to have a grandson. After his passing, I moved my mom to be closer to us, and she loves spending time with Aaron. She’s here several days a week.”
As a single parent, Joe has been intentional about creating a support network for himself and Aaron, which includes his mom, a full-time nanny, his church community and friends. “I’ve never received any negativity about being a single dad,” Joe shares. “Everyone has been wonderful and accepting.”
When asked what advice he has for other men considering single parenthood, Joe says, “First and foremost, be sure it’s what you want. Also make sure you’re financially prepared because egg donation and surrogacy is an expensive process. If you can say yes to these things, I would definitely recommend it – for single men or women. Even if you think you aren’t a “kid person” you will become one. I didn’t think I was, and now I’m happier than I’ve ever been. Aaron amazes me every day.”