Ref plays science card to reach dadhood goal

Surrogacy, egg donor net 'straight, single' man a son of his own

22 April 2018 - 00:00 By SHANTHINI NAIDOO

Rugby fans know Jonathan Kaplan as the celebrated international referee with the highest number of test caps under his belt.
But in the past 22 months Kaplan has earned a different feather in his cap - that of a single dad.
Single parenting might not often be a choice made actively and consciously by a single, heterosexual male.
Baby Kaleb, whose conception journey and life have been documented on social media, and now in a tell-all book, was conceived by IVF, via egg donation and using Kaplan's DNA.
The baby was carried by a surrogate mother.
In the book released this month, Kaplan shares the story of why he chose the scientific rather than the traditional route to parenting, the harrowing first months, his support structure and how his own complex childhood figured in it all.
"The point I wanted to share was that I never lost the dream of having a family despite not having a typical 'happily ever after' relationship. When I retired at age 47, I decided to start looking at different options. I decided I had waited long enough and it wasn't working out conventionally, so I made a call," he said.In December 2013, he decided "it was time to go out and get it". A day after a personal relationship ended, he contacted the egg donation agency.
"It was all science fiction to me and I didn't think of it as something that guys did ... it was for women who couldn't conceive," he writes.
After the lengthy fertilisation process, then the surrogacy search, Kaplan told the world he was going to have a baby in a Facebook post featuring an in utero scan.
In the book, he wrote: "No, I'm not gay. But people do have their suspicions because I've never married. I'm a straight, single 50-year-old having a kid on my own."
Kaplan wrote, with author Joanne Jowell, that his prior relationships with women were not long-lasting.
"My view is that you don't necessarily have one soulmate. You may have numerous people with whom you have a soul connection. I've had them and it doesn't mean you end up marrying them."
Kaplan said part of the book's purpose - and that of the 500 Instagram posts of Kaleb growing up - was to educate people about their options.
"I was that determined to have a baby but to also put it out there to the public that there are other options available. Having a child is a great blessing and it doesn't always have to be from a relationship where the parents have a happy ending. I think that the best structure for human beings is a [nuclear] family, but in the absence of one or more parts of that, it is to create an environment that will bring out the best in my son," he said."I am very aware of the need for female energy around him. His night nurse, nanny, my mom and my girlfriend are my support structure.
"My partner is a pretty exceptional mom, but I am a solo dad," Kaplan said.
He shared how he consulted an astrologer and numerologist when deciding on the child's date and time of birth.
"Time of birth is important, because it can indicate areas of strength and weakness in life. For my baby I wanted to select ... the rising sun or ascendent and which house his sun would reside in on his natal chart," he said.
Kaplan described the first skin-to-skin contact when Kaleb was born: "I held him and he was mine and he was alive and he was healthy and he was a big, strong, chunky boy. He is quite smart, he is robust, the sort of child I dreamt of.
"I am really grateful to the surrogate and donor who contributed to my life. These were two quality beings who helped me."
Kaplan said he wants to add a sibling to the brood "by hook or by crook".
Winging It: Jonathan Kaplan's Journey from World-Class Ref to Rookie Solo Dad is out now..

This article is reserved for Sunday Times subscribers.

A subscription gives you full digital access to all Sunday Times content.

Already subscribed? Simply sign in below.

Registered on the BusinessLIVE, Business Day, Financial Mail or Rand Daily Mail websites? Sign in with the same details.

Questions or problems? Email or call 0860 52 52 00.