I think that deep down I always knew that I wanted to have children one day, but like so many others it was not something I thought much about until my wife Susan and I decided we would start trying. After all men don’t think about these things, do they? We worry about our cars and home renovations and who will make it into the grand final, not when we will have babies and what we might call them or who they will look like!
At 25 it felt like we had all the time in the world and there was really no rush. I don’t think that it really occurred to me how important having a baby was to me until it became apparent that it might not happen. My happy, easygoing life rapidly changed from looking forward to the future, raising a family and enjoying life, to feeling the rising tension and watching my wife fall apart month after month when there was no pregnancy. I would try to be positive for her and keep her hopes up but it was fading fast and I could feel her starting to resent it and push me away.
We finally got a referral to a fertility specialist only to have my worst fears confirmed. The problem was me. I had only 4% morphology meaning that only 4% of my sperm were correctly shaped. The likelihood of conceiving naturally was very slim and IVF treatment, we were told, was the only real option. As we left the doctors office I felt like I had been stripped of every bit of my masculinity. All our hopes and dreams had been torn apart. By me it seemed.
We made the decision to sign on for treatment, but it was harder than either of us had anticipated. It was hard on Susan physically with all of the injections and hormones and egg retrieval, but it was harder mentally and emotionally as, time after time, we failed to conceive and slowly chewed through all of our savings.
The disappointments began to take their toll on our relationship. Susan was filled with despair and I was riddled with feelings of guilt and failure. We argued about how long we could continue and how much was enough and I worried for her ability to continue and deal with the disappointments. Her desire for a child outweighed anything else in her life and she felt that I perhaps did not want this as much as she did.
She couldn’t have been more wrong. I wanted a child more than anything. I just didn’t want to watch her suffer anymore. Whenever we would see babies, baby clothes or anyone around us became pregnant she would break down. After much thought, I decided to just shut up and support her without question for however long it took.
We had more failed attempts than I can count, and then our final frozen embryo was transferred. As the day drew near for the blood test to check for a pregnancy, the tears started to flow and Susan felt the usual cramps setting in. On the morning of the test I braced myself for the fall out. It was going to be so much worse because it happened to be her birthday. At 10am the phone rang and I answered it anxiously. Susan was crying hysterically and my heart sank, but through the rambling I heard the words, “I’m pregnant”.
My knees went weak and surrounded by 100 or so men in the factory where I worked I burst into tears. I was happy and confused and shocked all at the same time and I felt like the weight of the world had been lifted off my shoulders.
Over the next nine months I watched my wife throw up, feel exhausted, deal with her swollen feet, grow substantially, eat everything in sight and love every minute of it!
When she went into labour we were scared and excited and had no idea what to expect. It felt surreal and I hoped that I was up to the challenge.
The labour was hard and lasted four hours, but in all of my preparation I was not ready for how it would make me feel. I could not have loved and respected my wife more than I did in that moment – what a champion. When the doctor put my daughter into my arms and she looked at me with those big beautiful eyes every piece of me loved her instantly. I knew that I would love and protect her for as long as I had breath. The tears streamed, the world stopped and it seemed like there was only us. We studied every little perfect piece of her and with one look at each other we knew that all the trauma, heartache, treatment, tears and of course poverty had all been worth it. ISABELLA was worth it.
We watched her grow and two years later headed back to the clinic to do it all again. Strangely I thought it would be easier this time, but the road was just as hard and almost as long. When Jay finally arrived we were ecstatic. Two perfect little angels and our family felt complete.
Twelve months later as we planned our future and enjoyed our kids my wife became unwell. The symptoms were strangely familiar and the doctor confirmed that baby number three was on the way. We were astonished to say the least! It took a long time to sink in but when Dominic arrived safely we were so grateful for our perfect little miracle.
How amazing it seems to think that only six years ago we thought that we would never have any children and wondered what life would hold for us and now our house is a hive of activity. Isabella is 5, Jay is 2 and Dominic is 9 months and we couldn’t be happier.
“A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.”*
I’ve always been aware of gender conditioning and actively tried to combat any lingering prejudices or stereotypes in my own parenting, even down to encouraging dolls with my boys when they were little. It’s great to read people writing about gender issues they’re experiencing with their kids. For too long these subjects have been discouraged or silenced. I’d love to publish some more creative writing on this topic, especially if you are struggling with a child who actively tries to move away from gender normative preferences. A society where everyone can be themselves – thanks Gloria for those aspirational words.
* Gloria Steinem