21ST CENTURY BOY
I was glad to be present at his birth as I wasn’t there for his conception.
To explain this statement I need to take you back over 5 years to the time my wife and I decided to go on the journey that resulted in the birth of our beautiful son Jon.
Now before you click away from this I promise this is not going to be all about how wonderful our child is and how he’s doing things quicker than others his age (which he isn’t) it’s more about what it means to me to be a father again 20 years after the birth of my last child and my worries and concerns about becoming a “new” Dad in my mid fifties.
My wife and I had been married for over 7 years and she was in her late thirties and I had just passed the big five ohhh. I already had two children from a previous marriage and thought my days of dirty nappies and school runs were in the past, but my wife really wanted to have a child and we tried….and tried….and tried again but nothing happened. It turned out, after a visit to a specialist, that one of my wife’s ovaries was blocked and the other wasn’t performing that well either and even though I thought I must be okay as I have two children already, it seemed that I wasn’t firing on all cylinders either, its an age thing apparently.
So we discussed our options and decided to go down the IVF route, a journey that was full of pain,discomfort and some strange situations but was ultimately worth it.
I’ll be honest, I was apprehensive about the possibility of becoming a father again, I thought its possible that I may be 70ish by the time the kid is a teenager or worse still will I still be around to see him/her grow up, would that be fair or was I just being selfish?
We first went to see if the IVF treatment may be available on the NHS, to cut a short story even shorter, it wasn’t in our area, even though government had just said it should be made available to women up to age of 40. So we looked at the cost and after I regained consciousness I agreed we could try once.
Then something happened that put everything on hold (and this is hopefully the only serious moment in the blog) in a split second both my wife and I had a life changing event which unfortunately resulted in the death of a young mother and physical and emotional injuries and scars to both of us that will remain for the rest of our lives. That’s all I will say on that but it meant our plans had to wait until we were both well enough to continue but on the plus side we were due some compensation that would more than help pay for the IVF treatment, but that would be a few years before we saw any of that.
Now I haven’t mentioned that my beautiful wife is Turkish and from Istanbul and it turned out that one of the most successful IVF clinics in Europe is in that beautiful city and, more importantly to my credit cards, the treatment costs were 50% less than in the UK, even taking into account flights etc.,
So in July 2013 the journey, in more ways than one, had begun and we both flew out to Istanbul to meet the doctor and discuss the chances of success.
“Less than 10% chance of success”
So we travelled over to Istanbul see the specialist at the IVF clinic. We stayed at my wife’s family home on the outskirts of the city. I asked my wife that when we go to the clinic could we go alone as her sister and Mother normally tend to tag along whenever anything medical is being considered in the family. I asked as I really didn’t want to have to do my “business” knowing the sister and Mother-in-law were in the waiting room knowing what I was doing, call me old fashioned but hey I needed to have my mind on other things and this was something private for just myself and my wife.
We had an appointment already booked before we left the UK and on the morning of it I was waiting for my good lady to be ready and noticed her sister seemed to be getting ready to go out also. I asked where was she going and my wife replied that she insisted that she was coming with us, I wasn’t impressed but I was assured that the appointment was just a preliminary meeting to discuss the procedure So I left it at that.
We arrived at the clinic, which was just off Taksim Square, scene of recent demonstrations and water cannons still evident. The building was very modern and on entering I noticed straight away a few men outside smoking and my mind concluded that they had probably completed their usefulness. Turkey as you may know is a secular country, and long may it continue to be, so I wasn’t too surprised to see women from all parts of its society and religions in and around the reception area. We checked in and were told to wait in the coffee shop area until we were called. Women are the same all over the world and they love a gossip and listening in to others conversations and it wasn’t long before my wife and her sister were whispering to each other and translating to me the life stories of other hopeful women in the waiting area, the men were either reading newspapers or making their excuses and going out for another cigarette.
After about 45 minutes we were called in and again the sister tagged along much to my dismay but I didn’t say anything as this was going to be just a prelim appointment, wasn’t it? Just outside the doctors office was a wall filled with photographs of babies, a very impressive mural to his and the clinics success. We were greeted by a smiling middle aged man who looked like a jovial and less threatening version of Saddam Hussain. His English was very good and he started to explain to us both (in English much to the annoyance of the sister in law) what the procedure entailed. Even if the couple were younger than us, healthier than us and had everything required for IVF (ie plenty of eggs and swimmers) then the success rate was just over 20%. For us, with the problems both my wife and I had explained to him, the chance of success was less than 10%. Now I’m not a gambling man but I knew those odds were not good.
The doctor started to speak in Turkish to my wife and I could see her sister beginning to smirk slightly and looking at me, then the translation……it seemed that I was expected to make a deposit (and I don’t mean a down payment) there and then and before I could say I had a headache or can we have a romantic kebab first, the doctor leaned over his desk and said in slightly sleezy Del Boy Turkish voice “We have dvd’s to suit every need” followed by a wink! (and I did mean wink).
So I was led away from the smirking sister-in-law and my apologetic looking wife to an hotel like room without a bed or window but consisted of an armchair (slightly threadbare) and fairly modern flatscreen TV, with some dvd’s to the side and a shower room. The Manuel like attendant showed me in and left me with a couple of towels and a plastic container with a screw lid. I said I’ll never fill that up in one go, but this went on deaf ears as he couldn’t speak a word of sarcasm.
Then I was on my own….
***Warning*** This blog has sexual content…..readers are warned that they may be disappointed!!
“If the baby looks like the doctor then I want a refund”
There I was, alone in a room, 1500 miles from home, while my wife and her sister, knowing what I was about to have to do, waited. I wondered how long was a decent enough time to keep them waiting. I had to get myself mentally prepared and decided that the only chair was not an option as I didn’t want to think who or what was done on there previously. The dvd’s I didn’t even consider as remembering the doctor pointing out that they had something for everyone and being in a secular country I really didn’t want to pick the wrong one and see a fully burqa’ed woman showing a bit of bare ankle or revealing a possibly unsexy looking nose.
The other problem I had was due to the accident I mentioned previously, the result of which meant my left hand, which is my dominant hand, was full of metal and screws and I couldn’t grip properly anymore. Now in some pursuits I am ambidextrous and luckily this came in useful in this situation. I’m not going to go into the in’s and out’s of what happened next but I can honestly say that, hopefully, I had a hand in getting my wife pregnant.
Anti climax I’ll admit it was but that was what was expected of me and I left my, unfortunately not large, deposit to be collected by the orderly and went to re-join my wife, after firstly nipping outside for the customary cigarette.
We men have it so lucky really, even in a normal pregnancy the poor woman suffers but that is nothing compared to the anguish and pain and what the woman has to do to try to make ivf a success, I didn’t realise at that time what the next few months would bring for my poor lady.
My wife and her sister were waiting in the coffee shop area of the clinic for my return. While I was doing my “business” my wife had been examined by the doctor and would have to return in a few days after pumping herself full of hormones to fool her body to produce more eggs. We were called back to the doctors office again and I noticed something slightly strange about the mural of baby photographs, a lot of them seemed to bear a remarkable resemblance to the doctor, maybe it was the moustache and particularly hairy babies, but I said to my wife that if we were lucky enough to have a child, if the baby was born looking like the doctor then I’d want a refund!
Now that is really the end of my input in the ivf process but my support and hopes were just beginning as it should be with all the partners of women going through this, everyday is a challenge and worry, these days were to come for us but that was the end of my first and last appointment at the clinic in Istanbul. I flew back to the UK a couple of days later but the ordeal for my wife was just beginning.
After about a week of a hormone supplemented diet my wife returned to the clinic for a sort of Easter Egg Hunt but on a smaller scale and the person looking for the eggs knew where they were to be found. It wasn’t brilliant news. Only 5 eggs were found and a couple of days later they were retrieved. Then after another couple of days when she returned for the “insertion” (there is a technical name for all these procedures, in fact a whole new language, but I’m a Dad and really didn’t need to know them), it turned out 3 of the eggs had successfully been fertilised and were transferred to my wife but afterwards the doctor said that two of the eggs they were not hopeful about but one was strong and hopefully would grow.
This wasn’t great news, we were told before that our chances of success were less than 10% now with the fact that only one egg seemed to be viable made the odds drop to below 2%.
Hormone patches and daily injections were now required, self administered, with the injections into the tummy and patches also in same area which slowly release the required dose to boost the chances of the embryo growing.
My wife returned to the UK a week after the transfer, with a suitcase full of a months supply of the hormone cocktails she was required to take. I was slightly concerned that she may have been stopped by customs and asked why she had 30 needles and syringes in her luggage but thankfully this never happened.
The next step was to have a blood test about 10 days after the transfer, which proved more difficult than it sounds as we had to find a private test centre as we were outside the NHS on this and one that could give the required results the same day. Then we sent the results back to the clinic in Istanbul and waited…..
“I’m pretty sure I’m not pregnant”
The earliest and more importantly more accurate test for pregnancy is, and excuse the technical term, the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin better known as hCG (as if that helps) blood test. This can detect increases in hCG levels as early as 11 days after conception. As I wasn’t present at the conception we followed the doctors dates and got the test done privately. Apparently the levels of hCG double every 72 hours when a woman is pregnant so we had to go back 3 days later to confirm (or not) the fairly positive first test results. Being a typical female my wife was obviously excited, nervous and impatient and insisted on getting some home pregnancy test products, these can give false hope we discovered as one was inconclusive but showed a slightly higher chance of a positive result. This would have been fine but as it was my urine I was pretty sure I was not pregnant!
The second blood test showed that hCG levels had increased dramatically and although it was early days, the one egg that was viable and the one strong swimmer I supplied had done its job, it was confirmed, via Turkey, that my wife was pregnant.
Now the hard part began, not for me I should point out, but to give the embryo every chance of growing, a twice daily, self administered, injection of progesterone into the tummy area is required. My wife had been doing this ever since the “transfer” and its to help the womans body to do what it would normally do if the pregnancy had occurred normally. Now IVF isn’t normal so the injections are very important to prepare the womb for the little life to live and grow in over the coming weeks. (Here endeth the lesson)
Excited….apprehensive….worried…scared….in fact just like watching Chelsea play every day. The next step would be the early scan after about 8 weeks to check for a heart beat but before then both our heart rates increased dramatically as we received some news from the clinic in Turkey.
As mentioned in a previous blog, we were given a months supply of the progesterone injections by the Turkish clinic, but it was recommended by the doctor that these would be needed the first 8-10 weeks. The remainder of the syringes were to be sent to us direct from Turkey. Now this was the problem, either Turkish customs would not allow this or UK customs wouldn’t, it didn’t really matter who was to blame what mattered was we had a weeks supply left and needed to source these urgently. Its not something you can get on ebay (although plenty of creams) but after a quick search on line I discovered you can get them in UK…..as long as you have a prescription and at about £6 per jab (twice a day) it was double the expected cost from Turkey. So we made an urgent appointment with our GP to try to get a prescription sorted. We explained the problem and without hesitation he filled in the form and said that the NHS can pay for that now as you are pregnant after all (I even detected a slight wink) and he included the patches that were also required.
Problem solved and I’m sure my credit cards breathed a sigh of relief also.
The days over the next few weeks were pretty much the same apart from my wifes tummy looking like I’d been using her as a punch bag and having more needles and syringes than an addict in the home. We had the early scan and yes there was a heart beat, its really amazing to hear the sound of a new life that I, literally, had a hand in making.
It would be another month before the decision to know the gender of the baby, I wasn’t bothered but the wife wanted to know and said she wouldn’t tell me if I didn’t want to know but that would never have worked as she is an addicted ebay buyer and wouldn’t be able to resist buying pink or blue items before the birth.
The day for the scan came and after a couple of attempts, we had to go for a jog to wake the little one up to help move a little, we were told it was a boy. We had discussed names before and if it was to be a girl she would have been Lily Sou (pronounced Sue and means water in Turkish, so water lily) but if a boy and as due date was early in May then straight away I said Jon.
My brother John was taken from us at the much too young an age of 56 a few years before and his birthday was 3rd May and in his memory I wanted to call our son after him (but without the ‘h’) and my wife agreed.
Now throughout all this IVF process we hadn’t told anyone on my side of the family or friends, as we didn’t want to have people asking how things were going in case the things weren’t going. The time was right now though to let my son and daughter (from previous marriage and 22 & 20) that they were to have a baby brother. I wasn’t sure how they would react to this bombshell so we invited them both over for a meal and I just dropped it in between mouthfuls of the roast beef. “Open mouthed” and “gobsmacked” and “stunned silence” all followed before my daughter broke the silence “Ooooh that’s great news and I’ll babysit for you…£15 per hour!” They were both very pleased with the news and my son said he’d babysit for less!
We rang my brothers wife to tell her our news and decision to name him in memory of John, that was an emotional phone call…..the rest of the family were duly informed but we didn’t want it circulated on social media just in case, and there were a few more worrying moments to come.
“I’ve got an actual brother from another Mother”
Some pregnancies can be uneventful and I suppose normal, as in the woman just gets bigger by the day and may have the odd craving for strange combinations of food. Others can be traumatic and even life threatening, to both the unborn and the mother. Apart from the “un-normal” daily injections into the abdomen, for the first 3 months my wife was carrying on with daily life as she had done before. The plan was that she would give up working about a month before the due date, so that would have been early April. This plan was, and excuse the phrase, ill conceived, as we were to discover a few weeks before Christmas.
First it was the dizzy spells when standing then they were happening when sitting and even lying down. So on the doctors advice work was given up with about five and a half months to go. The cause wasn’t low or high blood pressure but a lack of iron. The baby drains the mother of nutrients while growing in the womb and my wife was never a big eater so even though the baby was “doing well” there was not enough left for my wife. So supplements were the order of the day, we had so many pills and strange mixtures of liquids in the kitchen it was like Holland & Barretts had merged with Boots the Chemist!
Now I mentioned before about the tendency for the women in my wife’s family insisting on being present at anything medical involving one of their own. This apparently included child birth. I wasn’t that keen on this tradition especially as neither her sister or Mother understood English so I didn’t think that being present at the birth would be any help to anyone as my wife wouldn’t be in any fit state to translate and I wasn’t going use the services of the internet to explain what was going on especially as Bing translated a Turkish post on Facebook to “God bless giving out blowjobs I hope”….now I wouldn’t want to risk saying that to my Mother-in-law! It was a good thing that Turkey was not part of the EU as any visitors require an invitation letter and a return ticket before a visa would be issued. I was in charge of both of these requirements so no prizes for guessing the outcome.
Even with all the supplements my wife was taking, her iron levels were worryingly low still, so much so the doctors decided to give her an iron infusion, which was not, as I first imagined, a procedure which made her have some sort of super human traits. We were warned of the possible side effects of this which included muscle cramps, nausea, vomiting, strange taste in the mouth, diarrhea, constipation, headache, cough, back pain, joint pain, dizziness, or swelling of the arms/legs may occur….so no difference to pregnancy really or the morning after a heavy night on the Guinness!
The risks to the baby not to have this infusion outweighed the possible side effects so this was done in late February and I must admit that after the iron infusion I was disappointed that fridge magnets didn’t stick to her.
The rest of the pregnancy passed fairly uneventfully and she was bruise free (as no more daily injections) and had very few dizzy spells, in fact she was “blooming”
Because of my wife’s young 40 plus age it was decided to induce her if the little one decided he didn’t want to meet anyone on the due date. The reason for this is the older the woman the quicker the placenta degenerates after the a full term pregnancy. We went into hospital on the 1st of May (day before due date) and it was decided that it would be best for a natural birth, even though my wife had asked for a caesarean, and the first stage of inducement was introduced. Nothing happened, not a drop of water broke, so the following day it was tried again but still he seemed to be happy to stay where he was. In the next not so few hours we had said goodbye and hello to the same midwives and I had found the quickest route to a smoking area. The pain management my wife had chosen (basically she had the whole pick n mix) didn’t seem to live up to its billing of managing pain but the gas & air took the edge off of my bad wind.
Saturday the 3rd May 2014, my late brother John’s birthday, and still his namesake to be was refusing to make an appearance but soon he wasn’t going to have a choice. It was early afternoon by now and I had just returned from another bout of fresh air to keep me awake (ok another ciggie break) and my wife was missing! I was ushered into a small room and told to dress appropriately. The last time I had this type of outfit on was when trying to get into a private party at the nurses residence at a local hospital.
I entered the delivery suite, all scrubbed up and not sure what I was suppose to do. It was a scene of calm chaos, my wife was in good hands I thought, at least 6 pairs of them. Wires from machines seemed to be everywhere and I was tempted to ask where the machine that goes “ping” was but decided best not to. The next 45 minutes were surreal, a mixture of me telling my wife to push like she was having a poo to seeing three and sometimes four doctors and midwifes pulling together like a game from “Its a Knockout” and I wondered if I should have played my joker.
Then at 12 minutes past four on the 3rd of May 2014 our very own 21st Century Boy came into the world. All my worries and concerns about becoming a father again in my mid fifties evaporated on the first sight of him, and holding this tiny life in my arms for the first time took me back to the birth of my two older children over twenty years before and the joy that they have brought me.
The miracle of childbirth is pretty easy for the father, and as I said in my first blog, I was really pleased I was present at my sons birth as I wasn’t there for his conception. IVF is something that has helped many couples achieve their dream of having a child but they are still a small percentage of those who go down the IVF route. Many couples try multiple times and are destined not to have a baby and I cannot imagine the heartbreak and disappointment that this must bring. We were extraordinarily lucky as the odds were very much against us but Jon Emir is a testament to the skill of doctors and scientists in the field of IVF and I was also pleased to note straight away that he didn’t bear any resemblance to the Turkish doctor and had the Huntley chin and earlobes! It would be a few months before Jon would go over to Turkey and be one of the few people alive to actually meet his maker.
My number one son told the world via social media “I’ve got an actual brother from another Mother” and the world had a new Jon Huntley born on the same day as his late Uncle John…….it was meant to be I suppose.
“Mega Poonambi’s and Cbeebies”
So he arrived, our own 21st Century Boy, and life for a mid fifties Dad changed immediately….for the better I must say.
When a new baby comes home, family and friends seem to state the obvious….”sleepless nights ahead” being one of the favourites. I’ll admit that I was expecting this but fortunately for myself I didn’t really experience very many, most mornings I woke up as usual, to be confronted by a tired and usually emotionally drained wife who hadn’t slept all night…..it turned out though that it wasn’t the new addition that was demanding her attention during the night but a certain 50 something male who kept her awake with his snoring! I was confused as my snoring was never a problem for myself as I always slept through it….in fact I slept like a baby but rarely wet the bed. So I banished myself from the bedroom and hoped this would help. It didn’t.
Now regular readers may recall that I successfully deterred any of my wife’s family from coming over from Turkey for the birth. I couldn’t stall them anymore and after a month her sister arrived for an extended stay. The first car trip we did was stressful…not because the little one was crying a lot but because wife and sister were insisting we should stop every time he cried. I did point out that he was crying when we were in traffic jam and once we started moving quicker he would settle, my previous experience of this proved correct but still a 1 hour journey took over 2 hours. It didn’t take me long though to realise that agreement with the two sisters was probably my best course of action, especially if I ever wanted to wake up from a deep snore filled sleep again!
One thing that changes overnight when you have a child in the house is the choice of daytime viewing on the TV…..I used to enjoy, when no work commitments were available, watching the History Channel and other educational and fact based programmes that were on. Not anymore….now its Cbeebies….Disney Junior…..Nickelodeon and constant replays of “Little Baby Bum” and “Its Baby Big Mouth” on YouTube (worth looking these up Dad’s to be as minutes of entertainment can mean you’ll have a break for whatever you can do in a few minutes). Now this constant intake of TeleTubbies, Mr Tumble (I’m sure Operation Yewtree must have him on file) and the brain numbing confusion to an adult of In the Night Garden. The latter I had never seen before as it came into existence after my previous children had graduated to Power Rangers and Saved by the Bell. Whoever came up with the In the Night Garden concept must have been on some type of medication. To me it seems like one of the main characters, Igglepiggle, is always trying to get into Upsy Daisy’s bed even though it is stated that only Upsy Daisy is allowed in her bed. What this is teaching our young generation I dread to think but as we are due to see a “live” version of the show in the next few weeks and I paid extra for the little one to meet Igglepiggle after the show, I fully intend to confront him and hopefully sell the story to the highest bidder, or get Jeremy Kyle involved.
I hadn’t realised how having childrens TV on, albeit in the background, had effected me until I was working one evening and sometimes I need to get the names of people I had photographed. I asked this lady for her name and she said Michelle, it was a bit noisy and I wasn’t sure what she said so asked her to spell it for me and she obliged “M..I…C…” and before she could continue I apparently said out loud “K…E…Y…M…O…U…S…E”
Whenever I was with little Jon I worked on his “first word” constantly saying “Dad Dad” or “Daddy” to imprint on his developing brain this important word, his Mother would try “Mum Mum” or “Ma” or “Anne” (pronounced annay and is Turkish for Mum), apparently the ma ma or da da sounds are most commonly the first “words”…..Jon’s first word was “car”. Everything was “car”….I was “car” his Mum was “car” and when he actually saw a car he got even more excited “Carrrrrhhhh!!” Its been two years now and his word count is increasing, mum…..ball….cat….carc carc (for anything from eggs to chocolate) but still no “dad”, in fact I’m sure he’s doing it on purpose just to annoy me as when I say “daddy” or “da da” to him he seems to smirk and says “mum”.
I have, I hope, managed to be a good parent so far, sharing the responsibilities where I can, I have changed my fair share of nappies, including many that were filled with a mega poonami and his first undigested piece of sweetcorn!
My wife returned to work four months after his birth and I have been at home looking after him the majority of the time when work allowed. This is my final blog about Jon and the IVF journey that brought him into our lives. He makes me and many more smile every day and is a joy to both his parents and we look forward to watching him grow and develop over the coming years. I hope I will be there for him, as I have tried to be for my older children, to be “Dads Taxi” when required….I’m even looking forward to “school runs” again.
Thank you for reading and hope my 21st Century Boy has entertained and in places educated you on the IVF process and how difficult it can be for many couples. As I said before we were and are very lucky many couples are not so please spare them a thought.