Hide me!

Graeme

I’m a gay single man of 32 living in Edinburgh. I recently became dad to a baby by Jane , and Fiona her civil partner. We named him Mitchell. Fiona is now also pregnant, expecting our daughter.

 

I first met Fiona through Michael, one of my best friends, around 10-12 years ago. As time went on, Fiona met Jane and they settled down together. Fiona had a house near Michael at the time, so we’d see each other quite often socially.

 

One night, after a few drinks, Fiona and Jane said they’d thought about having kids in the future and wanted to know my feelings on being a donor. It was quite jokey at first but I think they were sounding me out and wanted to know my initial reaction.

 

It was the first time I’d thought about it and I was quite receptive, although I didn’t think they were really being serious. I guess I had always wanted kids of my own someday but I’d assumed I would most likely be in a long term relationship at the time with a loving partner and a white picket fence! How wrong was I!

 

For the next year or so at parties or other social gatherings when we were all together, it was always there on our minds, what we referred to as “the elephant in the room.”

 

I was conscious it was on their minds but I still thought they weren’t that serious about me helping them. It was a massive life changing decision and something I didn’t think I was prepared for, so I didn’t actually think it would come to fruition.

 

Time marched on however and the girls wanted to know one way or another if I was willing to help them as they had begun to look into alternative methods such as sperm banks.

 

I didn’t know what to think. All I knew was that I was petrified of the outcome if I agreed.

 

I went to Michael’s house for dinner, which I tended to do on a regular basis. Thomas, Michael’s flatmate, was a bit older and would often see things differently to my peers, which I always liked.

 

I turned up this one evening and I had my list of pros and cons written down. This was the night a decision was going to be made once and for all.

 

I said, “I’m thinking about this but I think I’m looking for reasons not to do it.”

 

To be honest I was scared. I think when people are scared of the unknown their adrenalin kicks in and it’s time for fight or flight. (I was almost ready to fly!)

 

Then Thomas simply came out with, “Well, why do you not want to do it?”

 

That single line made me think: there are two friends in my life (Jane and Fiona) and I love them dearly. They were everything I hoped a mother could be and I was optimistic that we would all do a good job of bringing up our kids.

 

I wasn’t at a stage in my life where I was ready to settle down with one guy, therefore the prospect of having my own children was way far down the line. I figured, why wait until that time, why not agree to this and do it now?

 

If in the future, if I did end up having kids, I would most likely adopt or use a surrogate – however this way I’m able to help out two amazing girls whom I was loving more and more each day.

 

It was about helping the girls by giving them what they needed and getting something out of it myself, so I agreed.

 

Then we got into the more nitty-gritty parts: visitation rights, names on birth certificates, finances – who pays for the kids, what happens if someone dies or the girls’ relationship splits up?

 

Currently I’m working seven days a week with two jobs to pay off various debts so the financial side was a big issue for me. I know it sounds bad but I wanted to help the girls without being financially responsible.

 

I was paying out so much that I just physically couldn’t factor in such a massive financial outgoing each month in order to support two kids. I wanted to help and didn’t want to sound callous but…

 

The girls assured me that they would be financially responsible and I had nothing to worry about.

 

I was also worried about visitation rights, how often would I be able to see the kids, for how long and on what days? It all seemed like such a minefield.

 

I had to keep reminding myself that being a dad once a month may not have seemed ideal but the main thing was the welfare of the kids and how well they were loved and looked after, which I knew we were all prepared to do in abundance.

 

I like to know things are being done correctly so I looked into solicitors. I wanted to ensure that I wasn’t leaving myself wide open to future legal ‘loopholes’ so if things did go wrong with any aspect of the arrangement, we were all protected legally.

 

At first, I had no idea where to turn. I didn’t know if there were books on the subject, people you can go to, internet sites to look at, I didn’t know where to start!

 

Fortunately, a friend of mine who is a property solicitor put me in touch with a solicitor who dealt in family law. Initially we spoke on the phone and it felt great to have someone finally to speak to about the legalities. She advised me that this was a fairly new area for her but she was extremely interested in cases like mine.

 

We began to communicate via email. She said she’d have to look into the concerns I had and she would get back to me but it would take a few days. She kept her word and, shortly after, advised me that as Fiona and Jane had had a civil partnership and their names would be on the birth certificate, they would be financially responsible for each of the children.

 

I had asked her about drawing up a contract between Fiona, Jane and myself but she advised me that a contract would be unlikely to stand up in a court of law if we ever had to use it, due to the fact that Fiona and Jane were the legal guardians of the children. My various legal concerns were all alleviated.

 

The girls both wanted to get pregnant using an insemination kit. We tried it with Fiona first but it was difficult to narrow down her cycle to the most fertile times. I had to travel across to their house (which is a 35 mile round trip) every other night for 10 days, only to find out eventually the test was negative. Ten days is a long time to go without sex when you’re a single gay guy in Edinburgh!

 

So we decided we would try with Jane as it was easier to pin down her ovulation time.

 

I hadn’t told my family at any point of the process so far. My mother passed away when I was six months old but I’m very close to the rest of my immediate family.

Dad brought my sister and I up on his own for seven years after my mother died but Julie (my stepmother) has been in my life since the age of 7 and for all intents and purposes took on the role of our mother.

 

Lorna (my sister) and myself have always been close and it was maybe the passing of our birth mother that made us develop such a close bond. I told Lorna first.

 

I took a Saturday off work one weekend and we took my nephew Aiden (who was two years old at the time) on a day out to a butterfly farm. I had a few things I wanted to tell my sister that day and it was almost a relief to tell her what had happened with Jane and Fiona and that Jane was pregnant.

 

Looking back on it, I feel guilty for telling her so much in one day but we have always been close and the fact that I hadn’t told Lorna up to this point was killing me. I wanted her approval and her advice/input. I was relieved to learn that she was thrilled at the news, although she had many questions.

 

But I still hadn’t told Dad and my stepmother Julie.

 

When Jane had passed the three month stage of her pregnancy, I went to see my parents, sat them down in the lounge and said, “I’ve got something to tell you.”

 

Julie always assumes the worst, so she thought there was something wrong with me physically or that I was in further debt.

 

I started to tell them the story of Jane and Fiona, who they’d never met.

 

After I had finished, Julie said to me, “So are you telling me I’m going to be a grandmother again?” She was thrilled.

 

My dad was slightly different. He stood up and went into the bathroom and started retching. I didn’t know what to think and when I questioned Julie as to why he was like this, she wasn’t really interested and wanted to know more about the baby and the good news.

 

When he came back through, I asked him if he was OK. He said his stomach was off and started asking me about my involvement and visitation etc, all the things that I had looked into previously. Then he went into the bathroom and started retching again! I’m not sure but maybe the shock brought on a bug because he was ill for 24 hours after that!

 

My parents have supported me all the way but they are very old school, a different generation. Some of my family don’t know I’m gay and my parents wanted to keep things to themselves.

 

I found that quite hurtful but my parents live in a different town and they see my aunts and uncles and grandparents a lot more than me, so I respected their decision. Finding out I’m gay and having two children would be quite a lot for my grandparents to take on.

 

Dad and Julie were keen to meet Jane and Fiona and likewise with the girls meeting my parents. I took a Sunday off work and the arrangement was that I’d drive across to Jane and Fiona’s from my place around midday and my parents would drive there from theirs. My sister and her son, Aiden had been invited as well, as they had never met the girls either, so I was looking forward to the day ahead.

 

I left my flat and went to buy cakes and muffins – I really wanted everything to go well and these were a nice touch for us all to enjoy.

 

We all got to the girls’ house at roughly the same time. I think I’m quite an open person so I’d told my parents quite a lot about Fiona and Jane and I’d told Fiona and Jane so much about my family that (in my opinion) it was almost as if they knew each other already.

 

We had such a great day. My dad talks to anyone and is very personable and likable. Everyone chatted away and it didn’t feel awkward at all, even when my dad started coming out with all his (made up) stories for the sake of laughs! He told Jane that I was a very heavy baby weighing in at 10 pounds when I was born, trying to freak her out that little Mitchell might be the same.

 

She was laughing and taking it in good spirit. When my sister gave birth to my nephew, he was 10 pounds 2 ounces, so I think that added to the panic!

 

My family left after a few hours and I stayed for a little longer discussing with the girls how we thought the day had gone. We all agreed it was a great day.

 

But soon after I started to get panic attacks.

 

I had already mentioned my situation to my line manager in my main job. I had told her when the girls had asked me to help them conceive, as she is very level headed and grounded, an extremely calming person. I valued her opinion and advice.

 

She was very supportive but unfortunately, around that time, the realisation set in that I was going to be a father and the panic started. I began to make silly mistakes. I work in a large office and nobody except my line manager knew what was going on in my life. I knew that my mind wasn’t on the job and as a result, I had to take some time off.

 

I have never had a panic attack before. I wouldn’t wish them on anybody. It was like a veil came over my mind – I couldn’t think of anything else but the reality of something massive about to take over my life.

 

There was one particular day that I remember, walking into Tesco with a list of five things that I needed to buy, which should have taken me 10 minutes. However I walked out of the store 45 minutes later with not one of the items on my list. I just couldn’t focus on anything apart from the fact that I had a child coming soon and I had no idea how I was going to cope. It was a horrible feeling and I felt so isolated.

 

Jane suggested I go to the library to see if I could find out more. There were books about men who had unfortunately become single parents due to bereavement. It was all a bit negative. I read a few books on being a single dad and as much as they were some comfort to me, they didn’t mirror my situation. There were three parents in our relationship, not one.

 

The girls were a great help as I guess they had had similar emotions to me at some point and they gave me good advice and support. Talking things through definitely helps and I would recommend this as one of the best solutions to any problem.

 

I realised Jane’s pregnancy was going ahead regardless of my emotional state. I had to accept it mentally – and I was sure there were worse parents in the world than me, so I guess that gave me some comfort.

 

I also thought about my dad. He’d brought my sister and me up, single handed, for a good seven years after Mum died, before Julie came on the scene. I took inspiration from him. He’d done it, so could I.

 

A couple of months passed and Jane was growing ever bigger. I hadn’t yet met many of Fiona’s family so Fiona’s mother and stepfather decided to throw a Hallowe’en fancy dress party one Sunday afternoon. There must have been around 20 people there in total. I had a great time and I was made to feel really welcome, which was great as I was a little apprehensive before going in.

 

The day ended well and we left to drive back to Fiona and Jane’s house in the late afternoon.

 

At this point Fiona was not yet pregnant. We had taken a break from trying recently and we were due to resume with the inseminations in the weeks ahead. In the meantime, I had been having the sex life of a normal, single gay man in Edinburgh – which I was enjoying.

 

I know what I like and it definitely did not involve a sterile cup so I felt aggravated that I had to start the process again. However, I knew that was what I had agreed to with the girls, so I would uphold my part of the bargain.

 

I mentioned to Fiona that I felt it would be wise to get myself tested at the gay man’s clinic for any sexually transmitted diseases (STIs) as the last thing I wanted was to pass on any infection I may have picked up.

 

Then Fiona said she didn’t think I should be seeing anyone else nor having sex while we were trying to conceive.

 

I took great umbrage. I understand where she was coming from when she said this but I also felt that I was being dictated to and I didn’t like that at all.

 

Part of me felt very selfish and I thought, ‘You asked me to provide the sperm that you needed but I don’t remember agreeing to not living the life that I choose to live’ – which I took it as what she meant.

 

That was another milestone for me, realising that I can no longer just think about myself anymore.

 

I had two wonderful girls in my life and I wanted to make them happy and give them what they wanted – and an STI definitely wasn’t it!

 

I had myself tested (all the results came back negative, thankfully!) and we resumed trying for baby number two.

 

Time passed. Jane was getting bigger and I was due to go across to the girls’ house for Fiona’s insemination but I was ill. I had man flu. I did what I needed to do on the Sunday and was meant to drive back over on the Tuesday but I felt so ill, I couldn’t. I just didn’t have the energy.

 

Fiona was very disappointed as it was not what she had planned. We had a few choice words but we’d never stay mad at each other for long so we chatted on the phone on Wednesday and I asked her across for dinner and we did the insemination at my house.

 

Two weeks later and Fiona was pregnant! That was such a relief for me (and to us all) to say the least. Because Fiona has such an irregular cycle we could have been trying for more than a year.

 

Things settled down for me in the lead up to January which was when Mitchell was due to be born. Fiona on the other hand started to have terrible ‘all day sickness’ rather than morning sickness and I felt so sorry for her.

 

Jane’s due date arrived so Fiona and I texted back and forth each day. However, I was aware they had two other families all vying to know what was happening so I didn’t want to text every hour on the hour.

 

It had been agreed that I wouldn’t be at the delivery, which I was fine with. Since I came out as being gay at 18, I haven’t seen many parts of women’s anatomy and I didn’t particularly want to be in the delivery room witnessing such an ordeal.

 

Four days had lapsed since Jane’s due date when I got a text message from Fiona saying Jane had been taken into hospital. I was visiting family when I was told she was in labour.

 

That’s when the emotional pain started, alongside Jane’s physical pain.

 

Fiona said not to come to the hospital because there were complications. It was a difficult birth and in the end they had to use curved forceps to reach inside her to get the baby out. It sounded horrific.

 

I got a text from Fiona to say Mitchell had been born, Jane was out of the operation and in the ward so I set off for the hospital which was only a short drive away from where I was.

 

Then I got a text to say Mitchell had stopped breathing, don’t come!

 

At this point I was outside the hospital. I didn’t know what was going on. I didn’t want to phone but at the same time I felt I had a right and a need to know.

 

I parked the car, went to the maternity reception and explained that I was the father of a newborn. I went up to the ward and into the bay behind the curtains to find Jane and Fiona in floods of tears, staring into each other’s eyes and looking distraught. I immediately thought the worst.

 

Fiona told me Mitchell had been put on Jane’s chest and then he’d stopped breathing. Two nurses had taken Mitchell away to resuscitate him and give him oxygen. The girls hadn’t been given any information since.

 

The consultant came in around an hour after I arrived and said that Mitchell was in the intensive care unit. He was breathing through respiratory machines.

 

While we were waiting on further information and consoling each other, I looked at a few pictures that Fiona had managed to take of Mitchell shortly after he was born. We asked the consultant if it was possible to see him, so she made arrangements for Jane and me to go.

 

There must have been around seven babies in the unit, all in incubators, only a few with their parents nearby. It was all so quiet and still. All I remember was the sound of the machines, the various beeps and the intermittent alarms going off. I had no idea what to expect and was so apprehensive, it was such a bitter sweet moment.

 

We were taken over to Mitchell’s incubator and we both looked in on him. He looked so tiny and so frail. He was connected to so many wires it seemed like he was covered in them.

 

He was awake and alert but we were told that we couldn’t touch him or talk to him because they were testing him for brain damage, to find why he stopped breathing. We couldn’t do anything that would stimulate his brain.

 

That was particularly difficult to hear but he was in the hands of the experts and I guess they knew best.

 

We went back to see Jane in the ward and I was conscious that she and Fiona wanted to spend time together during these difficult hours, so I didn’t stay long.

 

It must have been about 1am by the time I got home. I went straight to bed but I didn’t get much sleep. I phoned my work in the morning to let my line manager know what had happened and she said I could take as much time off as I needed, which was good of her.

 

I went back to the hospital. It was a waiting game. The test results would be back in 24-48 hours…

 

Fiona is such a worrier that she seemed to be contemplating every eventuality: would Mitchell have brain damage? Would he have epilepsy? Would he have reduced functions? Things I would never even have thought of.

 

I just wanted to get the test results back and deal with whatever we had to deal with then. Jane was more: “He’s a fighter, let’s wait and see what happens.”

 

Thankfully the results all came back negative. No brain damage, no abnormalities, which was such a relief to us all.

 

The consultants couldn’t explain what the root cause of Mitchell’s problem was and why he had stopped breathing. They suggested a blocked tube or some mucus in his throat, it was “just one of those things.”

 

It really didn’t matter to me as long as the test results were all clear and Mitchell was OK. I just wanted to see him and the girls out of there.

 

I went back to work. Jane and Mitchell went home a few days later. It was such a relief to know that he was out of the hospital, in a clean, sound environment, with his two mums.

 

I went to see him a day or two later. I was concerned for Fiona’s welfare because there had been so much drama with Jane and Mitchell that it was easy to forget that Fiona was pregnant and at an important stage in the baby’s development. She was getting morning sickness (most of the day still) and she was not eating much as far as I knew – but they were all happy to be home.

 

I didn’t go and see them for a while after that because I know what it’s like, having so many visitors coming and going all the time, trying to get baby into a routine without becoming too stressed yourself. All my friends were busy buying Mitchell clothes and asking when they could see him. I had to be honest with them and say that we weren’t in a ‘normal situation.’ The girls were keen to show him off to our families but as for my friends, it would be a few months before they would get to see him.

 

Mitchell has two other families and my friends were further down the pecking order.

 

I saw Mitchell the week he came home and have basically followed the pre-birth agreement we made. I’ve seen him once a month since, sometimes twice a month which has been great.

 

On Daddy Day I see him at Jane and Fiona’s house. I wouldn’t have it any other way at the moment. He needs his time with his mums. He needs his own routine and there’s no way I could look after him on my own at my place. He’s still breastfeeding for one thing!

 

He has blue eyes which are a different colour from mine (brown). I learned from my sister that all babies have blue eyes when they are first born and they may change in time, but I still can’t see my resemblance in him. I can see some of Jane’s features in him, such as his nose and mouth but I’d never thought of him as my son until recently.

 

The latest visit I had with him changed all that. It was the May Bank Holiday when I was due to visit.

 

In the past, I had made fleeting comments to Jane that I would love to take Mitchell for a walk in a baby papoose. (This idea came from a time when I was much younger. I always watched ‘Absolutely Fabulous’ and I have this vivid image of Edina Monsoon walking down the street with Saffy’s baby in a papoose looking very chic – it’s something that’s stuck with me for years). We were going to take Mitchell out for a walk and Jane said, “Why don’t you put him in the papoose?”

 

When I put the papoose on and he was sitting comfortably, it was great as I’d never really felt that ‘close’ to him before. Even before he went in the papoose, as I was carrying him, he gave me a very distinguished familiar look – Jane said I have the exact same facial expression. I knew exactly what she meant and it was then, at that point when I thought, ‘Yes, you’re my son. I love you and I have definitely made the right decision. It’s all been worth it.’

 

I’m not saying it’s all going to be ideal or easy in the future but I would do it all over again. A massive life-changing decision and not one I regret. Jane has said she’s never regretted it either and that’s another affirmation for me. However, I don’t think Fiona would want to go through that traumatic labour a second time!

 

Dad and Julie met Mitchell one Sunday afternoon when I wasn’t there due to work commitments. I wanted them to see him sooner rather than later but it would have been better if we could all have managed the same day. My sister couldn’t do that day either so I was a bit vexed but nevertheless, I was happy that Dad and Julie went.

 

I wouldn’t say my dad is a particularly emotional or tactile person but even he had Mitchell on his knee and cradling him in his arms! The girls said Mitchell was mesmerised by my dad – maybe it was because he has a masculine voice and Mitchell’s usually surrounded by female voices (mothers, nurses, grandmothers, aunties etc). Or maybe it’s because he has a moustache, I’m not sure.

 

I really wanted Lorna to see/meet him. She went along with Aiden one afternoon. They had a great time. Fiona was at work but Jane said she should feel free to come and visit any time, which I hope my sister does.

 

Lorna and my parents live very close to each other and they had been speaking a lot about my situation. Lorna mentioned to me one day, “I feel I’m not going to be a proper auntie to Mitchell. I want a relationship with my nephew but I think there’s going to be so many people in his life. You have to take a back step, so we have to take a back step too.”

 

Julie had said something similar to me as well, that she’s not going to be a proper gran to Mitchell.

 

I had to put it in perspective, so I said, “I’m not going to be a ‘proper’ dad either but what’s the lesser of two evils – not seeing your grandchild/nephew that often or not having a grandchild/nephew in the first place?”

 

I think that was a turning point for my family, that realisation. My parents and sister now have a grandson/nephew. He is literally a 20 minute car journey from them. Surely that’s better than no grandson or no nephew at all?

 

It was still difficult to hear it from them, though. You want to give your family everything. But without me doing this, they wouldn’t have a grandson or nephew in the first place.

 

On the day Fiona and Jane were going for the scan to find out the sex of baby number two, I was in the gym. Fiona phoned as I was just finishing the session so I said I’d phone her back. We’d discussed the sex of the baby before and not really been too specific about what our preference was. You always say the most important thing is that it’s healthy – but secretly I wanted a girl, because I’d had such a good relationship with my sister and I wanted the same for Mitchell.

 

When I phoned back they were en route back from the hospital. Fiona said everything was fine… baby was growing normally… the heartbeat was normal…

 

I was hanging on to every word she said. When she didn’t mention the sex of the baby (intentionally toying with me!), I was like: “Come on… so is it a girl or a boy?”

 

When she said, “A girl,” I was so exhilarated! It was such an amazing feeling to know that it was going to be a little girl and a sister for Mitchell.

 

Mitchell’s my first born and now I’m having a girl, too. It’s so amazing.

 

I’ve still got worries. Am I going to be a good parent? Am I going to be able to teach them right from wrong? What if I’m a bad parent?

 

However I think these are normal anxieties for parents.

 

I love my parents but you think, ‘I’m not going to do things the way they did, I’m going to do it differently.’ In my opinion, my generation is so diverse in attitudes compared to my parents’ generation, I think you have to do things differently. We all make judgements about people in today’s society – about their skin tone, their sexuality, what they wear. We can be quite harsh. You can’t be prejudiced, you can’t be discriminatory. At least, I don’t think these qualities should be passed on to your children.

 

As much as my parents loved me and accepted me, it’s still an issue for me that the rest of the family doesn’t know about what I have done for Jane and Fiona.

 

I was in a long-term relationship with a previous boyfriend for just under four years. My parents had met him, accepted him and thought he was great – but when I wanted to take him to my uncle’s wedding as my partner, Dad said, “If you’re going to do that, I don’t think you should come.” So I didn’t.

 

My sister was annoyed at my dad for saying that to me but she was also annoyed at me for not going. The best thing was, another member of my extended family turned up with his partner at the wedding and Dad seemed to have no problem with them.

 

I understand now on hindsight that he was trying to protect me. He was worried about what people might say to me as we have a very volatile family and the slightest catalyst could have sparked a riot. But if someone did say something derogatory to me and I did get into a fight, would it have been that bad? Would he have defended me if I had needed help? I don’t think he wanted to be faced with that situation. I won’t bring my children up like that. Sometimes you have to expose yourself to the harsh realities of people’s views. You have to cut the cord sometime.

 

Dad was a single parent for seven years, with two jobs at times and a two bedroom house. Once he was made redundant with no idea where his next wage was coming from and no idea of where to find work. He never took benefits but somehow managed to find work and he instilled that ethic in me.

 

Fiona has said, “Do you think there will be an end soon to you working seven days a week?” because they would like us to have days out together, to go to a park or the zoo.

 

I think there will be. I’ve paid back most of my debts and don’t have that much to go.

I haven’t really thought about looking after the kids on my own just yet. I thought I’d have my Daddy Days but I’ve never done this before. I’ve looked after my nephew for a few hours but never looked after two children on my own. I’m not sure how I’ll cope!

 

The girls have said that the way they hope it’ll work is that we’ll look after them both together and when I’m ready, I might look after one or the two of the kids. Before Fiona said that, I just panicked. I never thought I’d have that.

 

I remember when we were young, having great holidays in the sun with my family. That won’t happen until they’re older but hopefully it will happen so we all have some great memories together.

 

I hope the relationship with the girls won’t change. I love them very much and enjoy their company. Laughter is such a remedy sometimes and I can always be sure of that whenever I see the two of them.

 

I don’t think you can do something like this half hearted. I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t want Fiona and Jane in my life forever. They are two people that I will be connected to for the rest of my life, two people that I can be sure will make excellent mothers. I would confide in them as much as I hope they would confide in me, any aspect of our lives.

 

It was three years from the first time we spoke about that elephant in the room until the birth of baby Mitchell, so it was a long slow process – not one to be entered into lightly.

 

For me personally, it would have been so much better to have spoken to more people about my situation in the beginning of the whole process. It took just that one line from Thomas for me to say yes, so Mitchell might have been two or three years old by now, if I’d spoken to more people.

 

You can’t keep something like this to yourself. I found I closed myself off to friends, shutting myself off because I thought my situation would be different from theirs. But you should listen to their views, draw on their experience. Any information is a starting point.

 

Search for avenues of information, even books on heterosexual relationships, it all helps. This is just the beginning for me…

 

If you’re a gay man thinking of having children and find yourself in a similar situation to mine then do it, either with people you would trust with your life or do it anonymously.

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