Expecting the Unexpected: One Man's Journey Through a Most Eventful Pregnancy
It is fair to say that I never really believed I’d ever publish a book about my first foray into fatherhood. Indeed, my only motivation for putting pen to paper at all was simply to keep a written account of this most special time for posterity. However, it is also fair to say that I (and my partner Sally) never thought our ‘go’ at pregnancy would be quite so tumultuous and eventful. Infertility fears, ectopic scares, relationship wobbles and anxiety-ridden relatives all conspired to make our nine-month journey a more difficult one than most. And as if that wasn’t enough, we also had to contend with the life-changing results of a 20-week Anomaly Scan which more than lived up to its name.
The purpose of publishing this book isn’t to make money (it won’t, believe me), or to get my name ‘out there’ (I write under a pseudonym anyhow). The purpose of this book is simply to reassure expectant parents who are being forced to go through really tough times that they’re not alone. Sal and I felt like our world had fallen in when we left our 20-week scan knowing our baby was going to be born ‘different’, and all we wanted at that time was to read something – anything – that would reassure us. More than anything we just wanted to know that someone, somewhere understood what we were going through and perhaps even had some reassuring words of wisdom that might help us get through our darker days.
If what I’ve written can provide even a little bit of solace or comfort to just one couple in a similar situation then I will consider the three-and-a-half years it’s taken me to get this book published completely worthwhile.
The First Trimester: Chapter 1
‘I think I’m pregnant!’
It’s 4.45am on Sunday morning and my girlfriend Sally is standing by my side of our bed in her winter pyjamas, waving what looks like a novelty pen under my nose and grinning from ear-to-ear.
She passes it to me, her eyes blazing with excitement: ‘If there are two lines then it means I’m pregnant.’ I focus my tired eyes on the sleek little home testing device’s monochrome readout and see one bold line and one very faint line.
‘Are you sure this is accurate?’
Sal, bouncing uncontrollably from one foot to the other, tells me that her pregnant sister’s “wee-pen” looked exactly the same eight-and-a-half months ago. We can find out for sure, she informs me, by braving the late-November chill and getting a digital tester from the supermarket up the road – when it eventually opens.
I start to smile: ‘So you really could be pregnant?’
She beams even more broadly, gives me a massive hug and proudly confirms what she’s been trying to tell me for the last two minutes:
My initial reaction is one of genuine joy, as we have been trying for a baby for nearly two years. My second reaction is one of achievement as multiple tests had indicated my sperm count to be less than half what it should be.
Indeed, I felt very joyous and extremely proud. And nowhere near as tired as I did five minutes ago.
‘So we’ll know for sure when Tesco opens?’
It’s now nearly 5am. Tesco won’t open its doors for another four hours yet so Sal climbs back into bed to keep the early morning cold at bay. We snuggle up and try to take in the enormity of it all.
‘Doesn’t feel real, does it?’ she eventually says.
I agree, and after what seems like an eternity, we both drift back off to sleep.
I sleep fitfully as all manner of predominantly selfish worries and concerns slip and slide around my sub-conscious. To my surprise, my initial feelings of joy and pride are made to give way pretty quickly for a very particular kind of anxiety, namely the type you get before you’re about to take a driving test or make some kind of a speech in public.
Not fear as such; but not far off.
Doubts begin to enter my head: Is this what I truly want? Am I really ready to take on such a huge responsibility? Does this mean that my life as a ‘young’ (ish) man is effectively over?
Suffice to say, the second home testing device Sal bought from Tesco seconds after it opened for trading confirmed the news we had been waiting so long to hear. We really are going to have a baby.
This time we treat ourselves to a joyous extended hug and get back in bed to share the realisation properly. I tell Sal about the anxiety I am now feeling and she agrees that the whole thing is “very scary”.
With that, my own selfish concerns take a back seat. Sally is one of the kindest, most caring people you could ever hope to meet, and she has waited a long time to be in this position. Working as a nursery nurse and nanny for much of her life, and now as a primary school teacher, she has spent many years looking after other people’s children. She even cared for her elder sister’s son and daughter full-time when they were both toddlers.
To know that she will now, all being well, have the chance to care for a baby all of her own makes me feel incredibly happy for her.
But then – not much later it has to be said – the warm feelings subsided and the selfish doubts returned…