Column: Diary of a dad (to be)

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Becoming a first-time dad is a momentous occasion for any man, filled with a whole new world of women’s body parts, assembling tiny furniture and the meaning of “trimester”. nelsonlive.co.nz editor Andrew Board is learning all this and more as he prepares to become a father for the first time. He will chronicle his journey to fatherhood in this regular column exclusively on nelsonlive.co.nz

 

I remember the moment of our conception very clearly. It wasn’t a night of passion at a far-away hotel, nor a drunken rumble in the hay.

It was in a fertility clinic in Christchurch and the list of pornography options on screen in front of me started with “Asian” and made their way alphabetically across three pages. I won’t go into details, but it ended with me rather sheepishly placing a plastic bottle of my finest on a counter in front of the clinic’s embryologist.

A brief background leading up to that point includes two miscarriages, thousands of tears and a monthly heartache between my wife and I when another pregnancy test was negative.

The decision to go ahead with IVF was made considerably easier thanks to my grandmother who offered to cover the cost of treatment after seeing us at a family wedding with no children and asking why.

No, it wasn’t a choice. Yes, we know we’re getting older. Thanks for the advice.

Fortunately, my Nana wasn’t just full of advice, she also had a solution – possibility the most incredible gift anyone can give another.

So we started in the journey of injections, tests and an excitement that we were actually able to do something after years of frustrating inaction and a lack of the answers we craved.

Moments before my part of the deal, my wife had eight eggs sucked from inside her and put on a dish. I sat next to her and watched it thinking once again us blokes definitely got the better end of the deal.

The next day we began to drive home to Nelson and got a call to say two of the eggs had died, the other six looked good – hugely positive news.

Two days later we hit the jackpot. All six eggs were in superb condition. Sarah could head back down in a few weeks and have one inserted [I still haven’t found the right word to describe that] inside her.

All was going well until our seven-week scan. The same scan that had tripped us up twice before.

Once again heartache. It hadn’t survived.

I lack a deep enough understanding of the English language to fully describe the feeling. But imagine being in a sterile room and sitting on a chair next to a bed, on top of the bed is your wife laying in the most vulnerable of positions. Now picture looking at a screen with an empty circle displayed on it, a circle that should contain the beginnings of your child.

Your thoughts immediately turn to your wife, who at this stage has been unable to contain her grief. You kiss her forehead. You hold her hand. You try to hug her but the angle is too awkward to manage it properly.

The person doing the scan leaves the room and you’re left to try to gather your thoughts. All this with a pain in your stomach that feels like Mike Tyson landed a jab while you were looking the other way.

You leave the building and [because it’s Nelson] you catch a glimpse of someone you know on your way to the car. You’re holding your wife and she sobs uncontrollably.

The drive home is agonizing. It isn’t fair.

At home you help your wife into bed where she curls up in a ball. Then you walk to the lounge and for the first time, you cry yourself.

Then you have to start texting those closest to you and the thought of their reactions makes it hurt even more.

In short, it sucks.

But we were lucky. We had another five good eggs. So when the time was right Sarah headed back to Christchurch and had another inserted [doesn’t sound right, does it?].

Seven weeks later we headed back for another scan, shaking and expecting the worst. On the way to the scan we were walking along and I soon realised I was by myself. I turned around and Sarah had stopped in the middle of the footpath with tears welling in her eyes.

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A blob! A scan at seven weeks shows a growing embryo. It was the first time we had seen a heartbeat, despite three previous scans for pregnancies that turned out to be miscarriages.

We got into the room, the gel went on her stomach, the image appeared on the big screen and there it was! A blob! It was a blob with a heartbeat. It was there!!!!!! We couldn’t believe it, I scrambled to confirm a million questions with the lady doing the scan. Is that normal? Is it ok? Does that mean we’re pregnant?

It was a wave of euphoria. Incredible. All those heartaches made this one so special, it was a feeling I hadn’t experienced before.

We went through our usual ritual, a kiss on the forehead, holding the hand, the awkward hug. But this time the tears were of pure joy.

We were able to tell our families the good news on Christmas Day, including my shell-shocked Nana. It was an incredible moment but as I’d soon find out, it was just the start. I sort-of figured that the father’s role would be sidelined until it actually came along – I was wrong.