The road to fatherhood
‘Let’s have a baby!’ But it’s not always as easy as that, this dad recalls.
After about two years of being married, we decided to fall pregnant. Should have been easy, right? After all, we were both healthy and in our 20s, and we’d always been taught how not to fall pregnant; the opposite seemed like a no-brainer.

The pill got ditched. The first month shot past with shared daydreams of how we’d have a baby by ‘this time next year’. Then came the first milestone in the journey - she got her period. We shrugged it off. Assumed it would take time for her body to adjust after using the pill. So we continued to try and make a baby the old-fashioned way. It didn’t work. Brutal monthly reminders. She was getting her period with depressing regularity, and the timing seemed about right for fertilization, but it just wasn’t happening.

After several more months, we started to worry. It didn’t feel like our decision any more. She made an appointment with the gynae, who said there was nothing physically wrong. So she got a second opinion from a doctor called, ominously, a fertility specialist. (Immediately brings the word ‘infertility’ to mind).

Sir, we’ll need some sperm

When you’re struggling to fall pregnant, both partners have to be tested to rule out physical issues. You can see where this is going: Without going into too many details, I had to produce samples on two different occasions.

Samples. Nice, clinical word. No indication of the humiliation of sitting in a featureless doctor’s office whilst trying to ejaculate. Or the time I was allowed to do it at home and then charged across town on the train, with a warm sample bottle in my bag in order to get it to the pathologists in time.

All the while we were picking up a new and terrifying language: hysteroscopy, laparoscopy, sperm motility, unexplained infertility, intra-uterine fertilisation… Say what you want, but it’s very difficult for a man not to feel depressed if he’s told his, uh, boys aint jumping. Mine seemed to be moody - much like my partner was getting with the Clomid injections she was taking to induce ovulation.

Perhaps our well-meaning friends had been right all along, and her body just needed to ‘relax’. Wrong. People had given us loads of advice, with the best intentions, but often causing lots of hurt. We’d had to watch our friends having babies, and eventually it had been incredibly difficult just to walk past someone who was pushing a pram without feeling upset and betrayed by our own bodies.

She was able to cope by developing a network of support on the internet - websites and chatrooms where the challenge of fertility could be discussed without making people uncomfortable. I struggled. I found it difficult to talk to male friends about something so private and instead wrestled on my own with the sense of feeling emasculated. How could something seemingly so simple be so difficult? Was it because I wasn’t meant to be a father?

After nearly 3 years of this, it was suddenly over. She fell pregnant the old-fashioned way, and we felt proud and a little foolish. She miscarried, though, and then we faced having to try again in the aftermath of that devastating experience.

There’s a happy ending: We had 3 children together, each one a miracle, and each one a separate trip on the journey from infertility to fertility.

What was the trying-to-conceive phase like for you?

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